Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Drinking and Breathing

The other night at dinner Asher drank his water so fast and for so long that when he finally came up for air he was panting because he'd been holding his breath. We all laughed and Asher replied "I'm just drinking and breathing".

A totally innocent statement that should have passed without me even really noticing. Should have passed without noticing. But it didn't.

At birth Asher and Nolan couldn't breathe or drink. They were ventilated, with total parenteral nutrition running through IV and a feeding tube inserted up their noses and down their throats. Their digestive tracts needed to be primed with about a tablespoon of breast milk, very slowly throughout the day, as they weren't supposed to be "eating" anything other than nutrients from a placenta for three more months.

After they came off the ventilator they were still a loooong way from breathing on their own. They needed CPAP to force air into their lungs to tell them to take a breath and they were on a dose of caffeine to remind their brains to even have a respiratory drive. They eventually got weaned off nutrition via IV and onto full feeds, but still through a feeding tube.

They then spent a long time being tube fed, while on CPAP. Let me repeat: A long, long, long, long, long, long time. Seemingly forever.

Eventually they moved to high flow nasal cannula. And then back to CPAP. And then back to high flow. And then back to CPAP. During that time they started taking small amounts of food by bottle. But that God forsaken breathing got in the way because you know that whole suck...swallow...BREATHE part of drinking from a bottle? That was a difficult skill to master.

From high flow, they finally made it to low flow nasal cannula. The light at the end of the tunnel was near on the breathing front. They were drinking full bottles but still had the feeding tubes in because sometimes finishing an entire bottle was impossible. And ever actually drinking full bottles and breathing without desats? Ha. Not a chance. Drinking and breathing - so not easy, even after months of practice.

And then, the final step. The nasal cannula came off. The caffeine was weaned. They were breathing. BREATHING ON THEIR OWN. At "only" five months old. And you know what that also included? Drinking a full bottle. Breathing on their own while drinking - the final step towards discharge from the hospital.

A NICU stay that endured horrible, dramatic, life threatening complications, but in the end the magic ticket to get them home was something the rest of us get to take for granted - drinking and breathing.

So Asher, you go ahead and guzzle that water. Hold your breath. Come up for air and laugh about it when you're done. Because you've got this, buddy. You're drinking and breathing. Just like the rest of us.


  1. Awwww............that picture..........the second one........I LOVE HIM :) I just want to put him in my shirt and cuddle him! The suck, swallow, breathe days I'm so glad they are over!

  2. Your little ones seem so precious! I have had serious breathing problems in my family with nearly everyone is using a cpap machine for sleep apnea. Great picture of your extremely cute ones! :)

  3. So cute baby! How is he now?