Our foster child was in the ICU for 12 days. During that time, Andrew, Allyn (my mother-in-law) or I stayed at the hospital. There wasn’t much we could do for her – she was definitely well cared for by the nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors. But, we felt like we needed to be there. I was able to take 2 weeks off using baby bonding time and Andrew took off 1 week.
We were supposed to be assigned a SW through our agency; however, since Danielle had worked with us so far, they decided to keep her as our contact person throughout this process. I have to say that I could not be more grateful to her for her support.
A week into our youth’s hospital stay, we got information from Danielle that I still don’t understand. She told us that the county was terminating the child’s placement with us because she was being cared for by the hospital staff (the hospital SW stated it was to save money).
I explained to Danielle that we were not there for the money – they can keep it for all we cared – but if they terminated placement, this baby would be left in the ICU by herself. Her mother had limited means to come to the hospital and we were the infant’s only support. I further explained that once the breathing tube was removed, she would likely be transferred to the pediatric floor where she would have a nurse with three other patients.
Danielle spoke with the county SW who eventually agreed to let us stay at the hospital only if the mother said it was ok. Thankfully, the mother agreed.
The infant began to get better and it was time to pull the breathing tube to let her breath on her own. As a PICU nurse, I know this procedure can be tricky (especially in babies) so I wanted to be there.
My mother-in-law stayed the night so I could get some rest but, she called us at 4am to tell us that they were going to pull the breathing tube at 5:30am. Andrew and I got up, showered and got dressed. We arrived as they were about to pull the tube. She did great at first except she didn’t have much of a cry. Sometimes, the trauma of the tube being in the throat can make someone hoarse but my concern with her was she made almost no noise.
She was breathing ok at this point and I got to hold her for a little over an hour. It was time to change her diaper so I put her back in her crib. That’s when it happened. She stopped breathing – she was trying but her airway completely obstructed. She turned blue. I opened her airway and her nurse began to bag-mask ventilate. Her nurse pressed the CODE BLUE button and staff came in the room to help.
I moved over and let them work. As I watched her VS drop and recover, drop and recover, I felt this weight in my chest. I couldn’t breath. I’ve watched children go through this many times and nine times out of ten, they recover. Children are unbelievably resilient. But, I knew there was a chance she may not because I’ve seen it. And I couldn’t take it. I had to leave and just let the staff do their thing.
They were able to put the breathing tube back even though her airway was super swollen and bleeding. The doctor said they would keep her on the ventilator a couple more days and give her steroids to help with the swelling in her throat. We didn’t care she would be in the hospital longer – all we cared about was that she was safe.
They were eventually able to get the breathing tube out and keep it out (steroids are amazing). They thankfully kept her in the ICU her whole stay which is unusual but it meant we stayed with the same nurses we knew and who knew us.
At the time of discharge, it was time to involve the county SW’s. The oncall hospital and county SW’s tried to figure out social situation and who she would be discharged to. It took them 5 hours and they eventually had to call her county SW. We found out that day that they had identified a family member who they were in the process of trying to approve to care for her. This family member was not ready, though, and so they asked us to take her home for a couple of days.
While, we were of course willing to bring her home, we were extremely disappointed that it was only for a couple of days. She came back home on Sunday and on Tuesday, we brought her to meet the new caregiver.
I don’t know even how to describe the feelings of that day. I was definitely sad. I was also concerned because this family member didn’t even know how the baby’s age or how sick she was. Handing this child over to someone who clearly had no knowledge of this child was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Then came the aftermath. The emotions from the hospitalization, watching this child have near death experiences, the disregard of our attachment to this baby by the county social worker, and then the transition of care to someone else. On top of everything, our grief from our recent miscarriage came flooding back as well.
I, unfortunately, don’t know where she is now or how she’s doing. Our agency SW felt that in this circumstance, it was best to cut ties completely. We reluctantly agreed but looking back on it now, we realize she was 100% right. Of course, we wonder how she’s doing but we can only hope that the foster care system has made sure she’s happy and healthy.