Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The NICU Roller Coaster

Dear Ellie,

Have I mentioned the "NICU Roller Coaster" yet?  If I haven't, its probably because I hate that phrase.  It's a phrase used by anyone who has ever been touched by the NICU experience.  The doctors, the nurses, the parents of patients...  and yes, its also a phrase that I use, too.  It's an irresistibly helpful abbreviation for the wild range of emotions that you feel while you have a baby in the NICU, especially a micro-preemie.  There good days and bad days; days where you are certain that your child will be okay and other days where you are certain they are in deep, irreparable danger.  These good days and bad days tend to accompany one another, one after the other like the ups and downs of a roller coaster, hence the phrase.

The term is usually used as a euphemism every time something bad happens so that you don't make other people feel awkward.  If I go back to the Quantum House to rest, people ask how you are doing, and I don't want to bum them out by saying "my daughter almost suffocated today!" I can instead say, "oh, you know, NICU Roller Coaster!  Ups and downs!"  The reason I dislike the phrase so much, though, is because its a flawed descriptor.  A roller coaster is ultimately an innocuous, harmless thrill.  Every down has an up.  In the NICU, it's possible to go down, but not come back up. 

Your most recent down here in the NICU, however, did have an up.  Yesterday, you went from 60 percent 02 all the way back to 35.  Granted, you are right back to where you started a week ago on this trip we so often call a roller coaster, you've moved away from that dangerous part of the ride where all of the bolts are loose on the track.     

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