Saturday, March 22, 2014
The POD 1 Elder
Today, I noticed that you had become the POD 1 elder. The upper classman. In the NICU, there are numerous PODs: little subsections where groups of babies are kept. Typically, the PODs that are closest to the front door house the babies that have the fewest problems and need the least care. The PODs closest to the surgical doors on the far end of the NICU typically house the babies with the most severe problems. This makes sense since you can generally expect the sickest babies will need to go to and from surgery the quickest. As a baby gets better, they "POD-hop" closer and closer to the front door until, eventually, they slide ride on out those double doors and head for home.
As of now, it's nearly been two months since you were born. You are still in POD 1, closest to surgery. You haven't moved. POD 1 is part of the NICU 3, where all of the "sickest" babies start their journey. Right now, there are about 7-8 other babies here in POD 1. Every few days, a few will come in and a few will go out. From the beginning, we've seen dozens of babies pass through this POD, but you have always remained.
I've seen babies appear here in the morning that were incredibly tiny like you. I'll think that you have some new, long term neighbors, but a day later, they are gone. Were they moved to a new POD? Or are they gone forever? None of the staff talk about these things so its hard to say. Occasionally we'll see a mother or a father--- who we've noticed in the NICU for awhile--- crying. The next day, we don't see them anymore.
Most of the babies that pass through POD 1 aren't even micro-preemies like you. There are plenty of 28 weekers and above along with full term behemoths who have pressing, but temporary problems. Sometimes, we'll get to know the parents a little bit. More often than not, a week or two after they arrive they are on their way home with their babies. "This has been the hardest week of my life," they'll say, and I'll think behind us to the months you've suffered already and the many more to come. I would smile through my envy and congratulate them, but I don't envy them anymore. A few days ago, I heard about another 24 weeker that was still on the oscillator ventilator after 2 months. It only took you 3 days to move off of the oscillator, so I know that poor child will probably be here a lot longer than you will.
When you were born, there were two other babies here in POD 1 long enough to get to know. One was a girl, who's twin had died. The other was a boy, who had severe respiratory problems. A month ago, the girl moved on to another POD. A few days ago, the boy did as well. Now its just you.
I feel as though you are a permanent fixture of this community. When I walk in and see your isolette in the same place that its always been, its almost like seeing an old lighthouse or an ancient, venerable tree growing in a town square. You watch as generations march by you, love one another, have children, grow old, and move on to the nether. The landscape shifts around you. Buildings are assembled and torn down during disasters. And through it all, the only thing that remains is you.