Posted by HCGH on Mar 26, 2013 in Eating Right, Parenting | 0 comments
Children are notoriously finicky when it comes to food, plus my kids’ taste buds change faster than I can say chicken nugget. So how do you make your picky eater feast on enough nutritious calories to keep him revving? It’s not easy, but it can be done with a little creativity:
8 Tips to Expand Your Picky Eater’s Palate
1) Encourage the Artist Within: To make vegetables more fun, I present them as “appetizers” right before the main course is ready. I set out a cutting board “palette” with a glob of organic creamy Caesar and thinly sliced veggies and let the kids paint. They consume less dressing, too, when the carrot sticks finally reach their mouths. (Portion tip: a serving size of vegetables is one tablespoon per age for kids five and under.)
2) Presentation is Key: I’ve used dinosaur sandwich cutters, Mickey Mouse imprints on toast, Batman plates and Hello Kitty cutlery—whatever it takes to make the meal fun. But you don’t have to buy fancy gadgets to get a nibble out of your little one. Remember ants on a log? There are enough food art recipes out there to get your kids reaching for more.
3) Nutrition Alternatives: My kids aren’t big meat eaters, so to sneak protein into their meals I’ve done the trial and error method and landed on eggs and nuts as alternatives, even Greek yogurt (eight grams of protein in Chobani Champions®) served with a side of oyster crackers.
4) Send Them Away: While visiting a neighbor friend after school, my daughter’s friend not only shared his toys but his pistachios and mango as well, two healthy treats I hadn’t considered. So when your child finds a new food on her own, celebrate by making it a staple in your house.
5) The Two-Bite Rule: (known as the Ms. Mel rule in my house after our day care teacher): If you’re serving something that makes your kids squirm, instruct them to take two bites before they reject it. Sometimes they discover it’s not so bad after all. (Go the extra mile: I’ve once read that it can take several weeks of introducing the same food before a child will learn to like it. So don’t give up.)
6) Make Them Take Ownership: Next time you cook dinner, ask your kids to help measure and pour. They’ll be excited to get their hands dirty as they roll chicken through the breadcrumb sandbox. It gives them a vested interest in eating the meal they helped prepare. Another way to pique their interest is to plant a garden together. Perfect timing, since it’s spring! My kids don’t eat squash now, but they may once they pluck it off the plant later this summer.
7) Routine Rally: Make sure meal times start about the same time each day. Routine is important. Also, snacks should end two hours before dinner to ensure an appetite when you sit together at the table.
8) Nonconventional Meals: Since my kids are fond of breakfast food, dippy eggs, toast and berries for dinner work just as well as nuggets and carrots. And they think it’s hilarious to eat breakfast at night. A change of pace may make mealtime more fun in your house as well.
For more on nutrition and portion sizes, follow these links:
Portion sizes for toddlers
Portion sizes for children (4 to 8 years)
Portion sizes for all (toddlers through adults)
Posted by HCGH on Mar 19, 2013 in Parenting | 0 comments
The Story of Benjamin Burton
Benjamin Burton and Garrett photo credit: Mary Catherine Cochran
Benjamin Burton is a bright and lively second-grader. He wrestles with his brother Josh and teases his sister, Meghan. He loves the Ravens, especially running back Ray Rice, and continually tosses a football during our conversation. He is well informed about super heroes, and when he gets bored, he snuggles with Garrett, the family’s golden retriever. But it has been a long road to get to this happy, normal point that most families take for granted.
Baby Benjamin was the third child of Chris and Kerry Burton. Although Ben’s birth was uneventful and the first moments of Ben’s life were average, things quickly took a scary turn. Blissfully unaware of what the future held, Ben’s mother, Kerry was able to hold and nurse Benjamin before he was taken away for his routine exam. Ben’s grandmother, Cathy Lundy recalls “I was aware that the baby wasn’t coming back right away and then things happened so very quickly.” The Burton family, including grandparents Cathy and Harry (Chip) Lundy were told that Benjamin had stopped breathing while sucking and although the suck-swallow-breathe incoordination in infants is not uncommon, it is an automatic ticket to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for further examination. Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) was fortunate to have a level IIIb NICU and Dr. Tuvia Blechman, Director of the NICU, coordinated Ben’s care in the nursery, performing a standard battery of tests and assessments to determine his overall state of health. Immediately a flag was raised when one of the tests indicated that Ben was missing several ribs – in and of itself not life threatening but a potential marker for more serious conditions and more detailed assessments. Suddenly “uneventful” and “average” took a back seat on Ben’s journey.
On the third day Kerry received the call that Benjamin had more serious problems than originally anticipated. Although tests indicated that Benjamin’s heart and lungs seemed fine, there were serious issues with his spine. Whole cervical (neck) vertebrae and ribs were missing and many of the existing ones were malformed. Kerry recalls meeting with her father, Chip Lundy, and Dr. Blechman and poring over medical books and journals trying to get a handle on what was wrong with Ben. Dr. Blechman called in specialists, including a pediatric cardiologist from Hopkins who, within a day, performed an echocardiogram and gave reassuring results. More tests were ordered and more specialists contacted, including a geneticist from the University of Maryland and pediatric neurologists and pediatric orthopedic specialists from Johns Hopkins. As specific syndromes and diseases were ruled out, Kerry remembers thinking “Was he going to live? Was he going to die? We didn’t know.” Despite the uncertainty, Kerry remembers feeling reassured. “When everything happened it was so quick. It went from a couple of missing ribs to a significant health issue and we just didn’t know what it was. Dr. Blechman was able to pull everyone and everything together so quickly.” Cathy Lundy agrees, “It alleviated many days of worry for us to have such immediate access to the specialists.” Throughout their ordeal, the Burtons and the Lundys were aware of the other families struggling through similar, difficult issues in the NICU. Ben’s father, Chris Burton says, “While we were there, Benjamin was parked next to another child who had been there for months and was finally able to go home.” “The level of care and attention from the entire staff just struck me,” Kerry says. “The NICU had a great, homey feeling with caring nurses… I mean, they really cared.”
After three days in the NICU and after all other potential health issues were ruled out, the diagnosis of cervical kyphosis was limited to Benjamin’s certical spine in his neck. With an appointment scheduled for three months later with the head of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center pediatric orthopedics, Dr. Paul David Sponseller, Benjamin was finally able to go home. Chris Burton recalled, “It was a seamless transfer in care from HCGH to Johns Hopkins. It was this, this and this and we were on our way to Hopkins. We weren’t taking duffle bags of x-rays with us; everything was already handled by Howard County.”
Kerry talks about her revelation in the NICU, “When you come so close… when you think is everything okay? Is the baby going to live…? When you don’t know what’s wrong and you are surrounded by other babies in incubators in the same situation, you can really relate to these parents. We connected as parents. We are all together in the same scary boat.”
Kerry credits their faith in helping them through and she knows that her life has forever changed. “These experiences have made the little things not so important anymore.”
Chip Lundy adds “Everyone in Howard County talks about how good the schools are, and the great libraries and parks – and they are. They are all great, but one of our greatest assets is our hospital. As a community hospital – it is in its own right one of the finest community hospitals in Maryland, but then- on top of that – we are associated with a world class hospital and we have ready access to the best specialists – which a lot of community hospitals don’t have and can’t offer.”
The family felt called to help families who were experiencing similar experiences. A generous, historic donation was made through the Lundy Family Foundation of Columbia, Maryland, which is led by Harry L. “Chip” Lundy, Chairman of the Williamsburg Group, LLC, and his wife Cathy, and includes their children Laurie Lundy, Dianne Heeter, and Kerry Burton. Just as the NICU will always hold a special place in Benjamin’s history, the Lundy Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will now hold a special place in hospital history. Speaking of his family’s support of the hospital, Chip noted, “The future of our health care system primarily depends on giving back to it. We all want our hospital to be the very best it can be. After all, HCGH touches more of us than any other nonprofit. We consider it a privilege to serve others in this community by getting involved in philanthropic organizations – I think anyone would agree that by serving we get back more than we give.”
The Burton Family
Where is Benjamin today?
For the six years following his birth, Ben was under the care of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center specialist, Dr. Paul David Sponseller, who measured his progress, assessed his condition and made plans for the surgeries that Ben would need.
Because Ben’s curvature forced his head forward and down towards his chest and because his spinal cord was unprotected, Sponseller suggested a two part surgical solution that would help straighten the spine and raise the head. The first step was the surgical insertion of a halo, or metal ring that surrounded his head and was bolted directly into his skull. The halo combined traction with steadily increasing amounts of weight – and would gently pull his head back, decompress his spine and make room in his neck for the vertebrae and special titanium rods that Sponseller would insert and fuse in a second surgery. All told, Ben would be in the special halo and vest for more than two months and stay as an inpatient at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for several weeks.
On August 17, 2011, Benjamin left behind his faithful Golden Retriever, Garrett, packed up his special stuffed puppy, Blueberry, and went to Johns Hopkins for the first hour-long surgery. After recovery, Ben was immediately moved to a room to begin the traction process. Traction required weights to be hung from the back of Ben’s head. Ben’s father, Chris, says, “To see Ben in such a high-tech setting, and still using traction- which seemed like a throwback to older days was pretty odd. But Sponseller explained to both parents that just five or 10 years ago, the procedure would have been much more risky. The evolution in treatment had evolved in just the short amount of time that Ben had been around.
Benjamin wearing his specially-made Ray Rice Ravens jersey
A family friend made custom clothes that Ben could wear over his hardware, including a Ray Rice jersey. In the next two weeks following surgery, weight was gradually added to Ben’s traction, increasing from zero to fourteen pounds. And if wearing fourteen pounds on your head wasn’t enough, Baltimore experienced the strongest earthquake in 100 years on August 23, which was followed by Hurricane Irene on August 27. It was a rough patch for Ben. Despite the kind nurses and private room, the IVs, pain medications, immobility, and nausea made his stay difficult. Because he was in traction, watching television or movies was difficult so his father and grandfather rigged an iPad on the metal triangle “pull up” bar over his head which allowed him to watch videos. He could only listen to the Ravens, though, but he tuned in for each game during those days and the Ravens wins over the Chiefs, Redskins and Falcons made his stay just a bit more bearable. One morning as the resident was making his rounds, he asked Ben to stick out his tongue. There on the tip of Ben’s tongue was a tooth. Ben had lost one of his baby teeth. Kerry recalls, “When Dr. Sponseller came in an hour later and Ben was sleeping, the doctor quietly slipped a dollar under Ben’s pillow, just in case the tooth fairy would not be able to find his way into Hopkins.”
Unfortunately, the treatment was not without problems. Ben developed a complication in the nerve to his arm and the arm lost some functionality. The amount of weight was reduced and the second surgery was delayed. “Perhaps this was just too much weight for Benjamin’s little body, his anatomy just couldn’t stretch and change that much without affecting other functions,” Kerry writes in the CaringBridge journal she kept throughout the experience. Ben returned to surgery to be fitted with a special vest that was not removable and was attached to his halo by rods that kept his neck stable until his arm improved and the second surgery could take place.
Kerry says “When I saw Benjamin in the recovery room I was surprised yet again about how much hardware you can attach to a human-body – especially a little boy who only weighs 38 pounds at best!” Ben returned home for a couple of weeks to give his arm time to recover and to gain weight. Garrett, who had been keeping his spot in the family room warm, while he was away, was glad to see him.
On Sept. 27, Ben reentered the hospital for the big surgery. Dr. Sponseller and Dr. George Jallo, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, operated. First, Jallo made room in Ben’s spine and then Sponseller took bone from Ben’s hip and, using titanium rods for stability, fused it to his neck. The surgery went well, but when Jallo emerged first from the surgery he told the Burtons that Ben did not have much in the way of vertebrae. “He thought it was amazing that he didn’t have physical limitations as he grew including problems with walking,” Kerry says. “I suppose I am glad that I was unaware of how unstable his neck truly was and I am so thankful that God protected Ben for all those years.” After one week in the hospital, Ben returned home for another month of recovery in the halo and vest. With the help of physical therapy, Ben learned how to balance and walk with his hardware and teachers visited the house to help him keep up with his first grade studies.
Benjamin and his mother, Kerry.
On Oct. 27, Ben returned to Hopkins to have the vest and halo removed. Kerry asks Ben, “Do you remember what the first thing was that you could do after they removed your halo and vest” and Ben grinned and said, “I could hug you!” and Kerry responded, “That’s right! For the first time in months I could feel your little arms around my neck and I could squeeze without all of that hardware in the way!”
Four days later, sans halo and vest, Ben dressed up as Dr. Benjamin Burton, Hopkins surgeon, for Halloween. Wearing scrubs, gloves and a stethoscope, Ben blended in with the other trick-or-treaters.
Ben will have further surgery in the future. The screws holding the rods in place will be loosened to allow for growth. But Ben continues to grow and progress and last winter he went skiing for the very first time!
Posted by HCGH on Mar 5, 2013 in Parenting | 1 comment
The story of a micro-preemie’s fight for life in the Howard County General Hospital’s Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
By Moira Mattingly
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, not to say it had ever been easy. I’d awoken that night in October, 24 weeks pregnant, with some cramps. Uncomfortable and not able to sleep, I decided to watch television downstairs to take my mind off them. They were not very painful so I wasn’t too concerned. For some reason as I watched the clock on the DVR player absentmindedly, I noticed that these cramps were happening very regularly – every seven minutes in fact; time to call the midwife.
Not long afterwards, my husband and I were in the car on the way to the Howard County General Hospital where my doctor would meet us. It was 3 a.m. I was numb, scared but also very, very angry. It had already been a long road – now this?
When my husband and I decided to start our family, we knew it wouldn’t be straightforward. He had suffered from Stage 2 Testicular Cancer as a teenager but had fortunately frozen his sperm – but that was 21 years ago. Turns out, even in the world of cryogenics, that is a long time for sperm to stay healthy. What we had always perceived as a straightforward session with a ‘turkey baster’ was not an option. We had to go straight for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with two additional procedures called Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), (a procedure that uses microscopic instruments to inject a single sperm into the egg ) and assisted hatching (a form of embryo micromanipulation that involves creating an opening in the outer covering of the embryo).
On top of it all, it turned out that I didn’t produce many eggs – they wanted at least a dozen, I was lucky to give them four. I felt like a failure. However, on our second IVF cycle, 57 stomach injections later, I did get pregnant, identical twins that I miscarried at 11 weeks. One day their heartbeats were there on the ultrasound, flickering rapidly like little beacons – the next day they were gone. Dimmed. Vanished. My body failing us all once again. The weeks after that were a hard time, overwhelming sadness washing over moments of normalcy. After a few months hiatus from anything baby related and much soul searching, we decided to try IVF one last time; our third attempt. After that, we would move to adoption – my husband’s sister was adopted from South Korea and it was something we had always planned to do when building our family.
Which brought us to that night, driving to the hospital. Scared, angry and numb. We went straight to Labor and Delivery, and they immediately started a cocktail of drugs to keep me from delivering our baby. When my doctor checked me, I was already 10cm dilated. My husband later told me they brought the ‘crash cart’ into the room as they thought they would not be able to stop the delivery. I’m glad I did not know that at the time.
The next week was a bit of a blur, I was fairly looped from the large amounts of magnesium used to try to stop my contractions. One of the side effects is that you feel unbearably hot – the nurses turned my room’s thermostat as cold as it would go and wore sweaters or cardigans whenever they came in to see me. Friends and family that would visit sat huddled in their coats. My doctor told me I would be in the hospital until my baby came, I remember thinking, ‘wow, what am I going to do here for the next 15 weeks, guess I’ll catch up on some reading’. In retrospect, I don’t think that was the timeframe the doctors had in mind….
When you are in a situation like this, everything becomes a series of small steps and milestones. The first one of those was to keep my daughter inside me for at least 24 hours so that the steroid the doctors had given me to develop her lungs could have some effect. If I could keep her inside me 48 hours longer, even better.
I made it 5 days, and then our daughter’s heart rate started dropping. Time to get her out. She was 25 weeks old. We were so early in the pregnancy that we had not even picked a name. We named her in our room in the labor and delivery ward, oxygen mask on my face, wired to too many things, drugged. She would be Emily.
As we prepped for the C-Section, I was scared. Scared Emily would die, but also scared of how she would look. After all, she was only 25 weeks old. Would she look like an alien from one of those tabloids you see at the supermarket? All this fears went through my head. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team was there in the operating room, standing by, waiting for Emily. They had been aware of her since the time I was admitted – the NICU always being alerted when a premature or distressed baby was imminent. Dr. Radzin from the NICU had talked to my husband prior to the surgery to give him some idea of what to expect with Emily. As soon as Emily was removed from me – the NICU team immediately started working to save her life, all I saw was them wheeling our new daughter out in a glass box I would later learn was called an isolette. It was just a fleeting glimpse. They told me Emily was 13 inches long and weighed a pound and a half – 690 grams. The size of a telephone.
I finally got a good look at Emily several hours later. I was out of the recovery room and they wheeled my bed down to the NICU. There was Emily- small, red, wizened, eyes fused shut, a tiny, bony bundle of wires. In her isolette, untouchable, frightening, frightened.
There are things people take for granted that I always resent. I know I shouldn’t. After all, we are one of the lucky ones, our daughter lived. I know this. But I also know that selfishly when I see or hear people talk about their pregnancies, or baby showers, or cutting the umbilical cord, or holding their baby for the first time after delivery, or just how cute their babies were when they were born. I smile and mouth the right words, but inside I feel that tight knot of resentment tinged with sadness. I’m not proud of it because I have seen parents go through much worse than us, but it’s there nonetheless.
I remember when I was still in the hospital recovering in the maternity ward. Whenever I would walk back to my room from the NICU, I would have to pass by the room full of healthy babies. They looked huge, like Sumo wrestlers.
My heart broke for Emily, seeing her in her isolette. Ventilation tube down her throat, taped to stay in. PIC line, feeding tube, IV lines, electrodes, monitoring equipment, lights, beeping, buzzing. All the things needed to keep her alive, but so far removed from the gentle arms of a mother. I always felt guilty at not being able to carry her to term – I still do. I used to wonder if she could feel all the discomfort, the pain, after all she couldn’t cry and tell us – the tube was in her throat. The nurses assured me that she couldn’t, her brain wasn’t fully formed, she couldn’t register it. I still wonder if it’s something they would just tell a mother to keep her sane. I still think about it.
There is no feeling more unnatural to a new mother then going home from a hospital without your baby. I think that’s when it all hit me. My husband and mother bringing me home. Emily still in the NICU. When I walked into the empty house, I lost it. The numbness was gone, replaced with raw, heart wrenching grief. I let it out. Then it was time to get on with it.
It’s hard to describe the 131 days that Emily spent in the hospital. But it soon became our new normal. As normal as the roller coaster ride of prematurity can ever be. Initially, we couldn’t even touch Emily. Her skin wasn’t fully formed, so it could tear easily. The isolette she was in was humidified for that reason. So we would sit there, hoping to add some comfort just through our presence. Emily couldn’t feel us or see us (her eyes were still fused shut), maybe she could hear us.
This was when we started to get to know the Howard County NICU team, Emily’s doctors, nurses and the respiratory technicians that would come by to ensure the ventilator was working as it should. They were kind to us. We must have looked like deer in the headlights when we first got there. Shell shocked and not sure what to do. I know this because I later saw it myself. As we became the seasoned veterans of the NICU, rookie NICU parents always had that look too.
I kept a diary during those 131 days, dutifully writing Emily’s status for the day (am and pm), the milestones, the setbacks. It’s a battered old spiral notebook, every date marked with Emily’s age that day; two ages – her gestational age and her ‘real’ age from birth. Until you get to day 120. We thought she might come home that day. This was really going to be it, Emily was finally well enough to leave the NICU. Then nothing. 10 days of silence. I see that gap in my journal and remember how in despair I was at the news Emily couldn’t come home due to a setback on eating and breathing. Finally drained of all my emotional reserves. That gap says it all. Then Day 131 – a simple entry, “Emily finally home!”.
I had drawn a table in my NICU journal, a table of all the bad things that could happen to a micro-preemie. Things to rule out. As time progressed, and tests were run, I would place an X or a check next to these illnesses. Brain bleeds got an X; Chronic Lung Disease got a check, Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) an X, Retinopathy of Prematurity check. And so on…..
The first days were the most tenuous. Only 1 ½ pounds when she was born, Emily soon dropped to 1 lb 5 oz. The Doctors assured us this was ‘normal’. It was still terrifying. They worked to balance her glucose levels, started lipids and “TPN”; giving her milk too soon would cause serious complications. Feeding was done through a stomach tube. Emily was also jaundiced so was under a special light. She developed anemia, and received the first of many transfusions. I remember the Doctor calling us at home that first month; it must have been about 3 in the morning. I was terrified to answer as I was afraid they would tell us Emily had died. The doctor spoke to my husband to let him know there seemed to be an infection and that they needed to do a spinal tap to check for sepsis. That was a phone call you never want to get. Fortunately it was not sepsis but it was still a bacterial infection; one that caused a huge setback in Emily’s ability to get off the ventilator as she started to need more oxygen support again.
One of the scariest conditions for us during Emily’s time in the NICU was the “As and Bs” – apnea and bradycardia (bradys). Emily would stop breathing (apnea) and her heart rate would drop (brady). Alarms would sound when this happened and sometimes you could just jiggle her to get her breathing started again. Other times the nurses would have to ‘bag’ her. I remember vividly a terrifying moment when Emily was 10 days old. My husband’s parents and sister had come to visit Emily for the first time. She had been having a rough day with apneas and bradys. She had one particularly bad spell when the nurses had to ‘bag’ her 4 times to fix the brady. It seemed that her heart rate just kept slowing and wouldn’t come up. I thought that was it; she wasn’t going to make it. But, as Emily always did, she pulled through.
Feeding and breathing seemed to be Emily’s challenges. Born so small, it would take time, and much balancing of medications and treatments to help Emily’s lungs grow stronger while ensuring breathing wasn’t such a struggle that she would burn through the few calories she could safely take in to put on weight. Emily’s other big challenge was her eyes; she developed Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) with Plus Disease in both eyes, a disease that can ultimately cause the retina to detach and cause blindness. It sometimes resolves on its own in the early stages, but if it doesn’t, surgery is required to halt the disease. In true Emily fashion, we went right to the brink with the disease’s progression; surgery was scheduled but on the day of surgery the ROP began to spontaneously resolve - so a reprieve. Now she is just extremely near sighted.
And so it went on like this, every day checking to see if Emily had put on any weight, how was feeding going, was it drip or bolus, could the stomach tube be removed yet and replaced with a feeding tube down her throat, was she breathing better, what were the ventilator settings, could she regulate her own temperature yet, how many bradys did she have, was there an infection, what were the x-ray results, the bloodwork results, etcetera. It was exhausting for her, exhausting for us.
But there were times when we got to be ‘normal’ parents for fleeting moments.
I helped the nurse change Emily’s diaper for the first time when she was 3 days old; the diaper the size of a Post-It note but still going up to her chest. I held her for the first time when she was 13 days old; briefly, her ventilator cords draped across my shoulder, awkwardly trying not to pull out the other monitor leads and wires. It was wonderful.
I got to hold Emily again 9 days later. These moments were precious but infrequent due to Emily’s instability in the early stages at the NICU. We usually had to settle for putting our arms through the isolette with one hand on her feet and one on her head. Sometimes if you touched her back she would have an apnea, a brady; we always had to be so careful.
We kissed Emily for the first time when she was 31 days old. You see, you couldn’t reach her to do that in the isolette and when you held her, the ventilator and tape blocked you. As my husband held Emily for the first time, I was able to lean over, kiss her head and feel her soft downy hair on my lips, breathe her in.
We held Emily for the 4th time on Day 33. These are the moments that get you through; the moments that you long for. The moments that you feel everyone else takes for granted.
When Emily finally came off the ventilator on Day 55 and was moved to a CPAP mask, we heard her voice for the first time. It was wonderful but heartbreakingly sad, little mewing sounds of discomfort.
And so it continued, all these firsts: first outfit, first crib, first bottle feed; all the setbacks: the infection, the breathing, the eyes, the feeding issues; a roller coaster progression.
But aside from the medicine, monitors, and machines my notes of Emily’s time in the NICU also belied beautiful actions of humanity and warmth from the Howard County NICU team; the nurses taping little bows in her hair, draping a Halloween shirt across her for the holiday, making a plaster cast ornament of her feet, taping a “Grammy Award’ to her isolette when she finally weighed 1000 grams, hanging a Christmas stocking on her isolette, taking a photo of her and leaving it for me when I came in. Simply just telling me what Emily was wearing when I would call at midnight for a final check before bed. They weren’t just doctors and nurses. They were teachers, advisors, surrogate grandmas, and a shoulder to cry on when things just got too much. They were there for your baby; they were there for you.
At last, day 131. After months on the ventilator, CPAP, nasal canulas, feeding tubes, more transfusions then I could even count, bacterial infection, eye disease, apneas, bradys, anemia, jaundice, and the endless endless needles, we finally left the NICU – with our daughter. Hugs, tears, photos and goodbyes to the NICU Doctors, the Nurses, the Respiratory Therapists – the Team that had made this possible. Then Nurse Elaine wheeled Emily out the doors, we got in our car and went home.
Moira and Emily today. Photo by Keith Weller
I still worry about the future for Emily. During those dark hours of the night when a slight noise awakens you, then all the worries and fears tucked away in the recess of your mind come out to spin endlessly around your head. There has not been extensive research in long term health outcomes for extremely low birth weight micro preemies as it has only been fairly recently that they have survived in any numbers. But some of the health issues they have found ironically include infertility. This hits home with me. I hate to think she may go through some of the same struggles we have.
But then I push all the thoughts back into their dark corner, and go back to sleep – or I just get up. Sometimes I go into Emily’s room to see her sleeping; a tall, strong, healthy 8 year old, peacefully dreaming, the tiny needle scars on her wrists and heels a reminder of her time in the NICU. I lay down next to her and breath in the smell of her hair. No wires, no needles, no glass wall…. just us.
To learn more, watch this video about Emily’s struggle.
By Barbara Cornell
Pack your kid a superhero’s lunch. Image by adonis hunter/ahptical
We’ve kind of hit the doldrums of winter at about mid-February and I’m guessin’–just guessin’– that the mini lunchbox crowd has gotten a little tired of their usual lunch fare as have the parents who pack the lunchboxes. It has been a long time since I have been responsible for anyone’s lunch but my own, but I do remember the days when I would rather just throw my hands up and give the kids lunch money rather than make another bagged lunch for school.
Howard County Library System has some books full of ideas that might save the day! One thoroughly organized and well-written book is The Healthy Lunchbox: How to Plan, Prepare & Pack Stress-Free Meals Kids Will Love by Marie McClendon and Cristy Shauck, 2005. Lots of helpful sidebars and chapter intros and “over 60 nutritious recipes” are included. The recipes alone make this worth a check-out for your own lunch as well as the kids’.
I have mixed feelings about Lunch Boxes and Snacks by Anabel Karmel, 2007. Some of the recipes look wonderful and I’d like to see them on my dinner table, but in spite of the beautifully staged color photos, I’m not sure the author grasps the realities of the school lunch box. For her sticky drumsticks, a little “extra foil around the ends” might not be enough to keep hands cleanable. That said, her home made bars and muffins look unimpeachable!
How about something for the vegan family? Vegan Lunch Box, by Jennifer McCann, 2008, may be just the ticket with 130 “amazing animal-free lunches.” If you are used to eating vegan, none of the ingredients will throw you. McCann is also the author of Vegan Lunch Box Around the World and can be found at Vegan Lunch Box.
If you have the time and the inclination to, shall we say, “play with your food,” there is the too cute for words Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches by Crystal Watanabe and Maki Ogawa, 2011. Here just about everything has a face and a name. A bento is a Japanese boxed lunch and since the Japanese say it is important to “eat with your eyes,” these are tiny little feasts for the eyes. Some of the ingredients may not be in your local market, but we have Lotte Plaza nearby and many small local stores that will have what you need.
My last suggestion is Chris Butterworth’s 2011 How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? This sounds like what your child might say if he just discovered that there is nothing in his box that he can trade away for a candy bar. It’s found in the children’s side of the library, aimed at 5-8 year-olds, and is actually subtitled “The Story of Food.” Its whimsical cartoon figures demonstrate how your apple juice, your carrot, and even your chocolate are grown and processed and finally make it into your lunch. Simple and sweet, this book ends with advice on a healthy plate (not exactly USDA’s “MyPlate” but close).
The recurring piece of advice in each of the books I researched was to make sure the child is involved in the choice and preparation of his or her meals—including lunch—and they will likely eat a more healthy diet with much less stress and drama.