Christmas of 1976 was coming fast. It was only a few days before Dec. 25 and the snow had arrived in the city of Ottawa. It was cold morning. The air was crisp outside and anew snow had fallen. Up in the NICU at CHEO my Dad was visiting me and was about to ask the doctor a very important question. “Dr. MacMurrary my wife and I would really like to have Aime home with us for Christmas. She’s pretty stable now, breathing on her own, and eating relatively well. The nurse staff ae heading out on their Christmas breaks and there are other babies in here that need more support. Let us take Aime off your hands and home for Christmas. We’ll come right back if things go south.”
With a raised eyebrow at my Dad Dr. MacMurrary looked at my Dad and replied “Well, Barry there are two rules in the NICU that must be followed in order for our patients to be discharged to go home. One is that the baby must be going home to immediate family only. No outside guests or extended family are allowed to your home.”
My Dad smiled, nodded “Yes that will not be a concern, Aime’s Grand Parents and other Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins live at least 8hrs away by car. And they are not coming for Christmas, and we will not be traveling there.”
“Okay, the second rule for our NICU patients to be discharged to go home is that the baby must weigh over 5 lbs. Has Aime been weighed today Barry?”
“No, we’ve not had Aime on the scale yet today.”
The nursing staff wrapped me up in blankets and brought me over to the scale to be weighed. The scale was cold, grey, and sterile. Taking me out of the blankets and placing me on the cold scale must had been a shock to my system. My Dad saw the numbers flash on he scale, and it read 4.87 lbs. My Dad quickly without the nursing staff seeing, put his thumb on the scale to raise it just above the 5lbs marker.
“Look Dr. MacMurrary! Aime is over 5lbs! She can come home with us!” Over joyed my parents were to bring me home. Although very well knowing that being outside the safety and security of the hospital, things could be scary and stressful all at the same time.
I arrived home on Dec. 22, 1976 to no celebrations of grandparents, or other family. Only my Mum and Dad. The journey had begun.
Those first few days home were a trying time for my parents. Before coming home my parents were curious about a couple of things. “Mr. Hutton to have Aime come home we must ask, how are you going to and your wife going to sanitize the bottles that Aime will eat out of? The bottles need to be sanitized at a hot temperature.”
“We are going to wash them by hand, and air dry them. We do not own a dishwasher.” My Dad said with a smile.
With a very stern look the nurse answered “Mr. Hutton, you do realize that any germ, even the extreme micro ones can have the potential to kill your daughter.?”
My Dad took a breath, clearing his throat. “Oh, then we’ll have to get a dishwasher.”
“Wendy, she’s growing which is what we want. She will keep improving on skills such as reaching, and grasping.” One of the nurses who was visiting the home had done some exercises with me to test my skill. Premature babies most of the time need to catch up to their body and abilities. They may be behind in skills the first few years of life. They will need to catch up on their weight too. A pre-term baby may be six months old, yet the weight of a 4 month old, and developmentally, physically will be at a 4 month old. Most pre-term babies though catch up with help early on in life. Eating is one of those tools to help the baby grow and develop properly.
“She’s not eating!” My Mum was on the phone again with the nursing support staff for home care. I was a rather fussy eater when small and didn’t always et all the food my parents wanted me too.
“Wendy, take a breath. Aime will eat in time. Do smaller meals more frequently.” The nurse calmly said to my Mum “Don’t rush this, have patience.”