Some things you will read about: "Glucose," a form of sugar. "Incubator," apparatus used to maintain controlled conditions such as temperature and moisture. "Neonatal," having to do with newborn babies. "Respirator," mechanical device to aid in breathing.
Jenny would be dependent upon the special equipment and trained experts at Midland Hospital for the first month and a half of her life.
Jennifer Hall was born on April Fool's Day, but the circumstances of her premature birth were no joking matter. The helicopter ambulance touched down on the landing pad on the roof of Midland Hospital, and the special medical team went into action. Time was a critical factor here, crucial to Jenny's survival, since just seconds could mean life or death for her. Jenny was one of three hundred babies transferred to Midland's neonatal unit each year, and like the others, Jenny would begin her life dependent on modern machines and trained medical experts.
Upon her admission to the hospital, Jenny was placed on a temperature controlled bed in the intensive care section of the neonatal unit. Tests were made to determine the best treatment for her. Wires attached to Jenny's tiny body by little "smile face" stickers led to a set of monitors which displayed green lines and numbers measuring her vital signs of respiration, pulse and temperature. If a vital sign measured in the danger zone, a buzzer automatically sounded to notify the staff. Being too weak to digest a formula, Jenny was now being nourished by tube feedings from a bag of glucose, and once again she slept in an environment similar to the one she had for seven and a half months while inside her pregnant mother.
Meanwhile, sixty miles away in the maternity wing of Southside Hospital, Jenny's parents anxiously awaited news of their daughter's condition. Peggy and Bill Hall spoke softly to each other, trying to reassure themselves that everything would be all right, when Mrs. Hall's doctor came into the room.
"Dr. Edwards at Midland just phoned. Jenny arrived safely about one hour ago and she's doing just fine. Don't worry about a thing. She's in capable hands, and if you feel strong enough, Dr. Edwards wants both of you there on Friday."
When Friday finally came the Halls, dressed in hospital gowns, prepared to enter the intensive care section. As Dr. Edwards explained how premature infants have a low resistance to infection, the Halls scrubbed their hands and arms to keep conditions as sterile as possible for Jenny's and the other infants' sake. Then they followed the doctor to Jenny's incubator.
Peggy Hall stared at her baby through the transparent case, then reached through the armholes the way Dr. Edwards showed her and made her first attempt to get acquainted with her daughter. She held Jenny's tiny hands while her husband discussed the technical apparatus with Dr. Edwards. The more Peggy looked at her baby, the weaker her knees got.
"Is there a place I can get a cup of coffee?" she asked.
Dr. Edwards sat with the Halls in the lounge. After several cups of coffee, Peggy was composed enough to speak. "All the time I was pregnant, I dreamed of the day I'd hold my baby in my arms. Now I can only look at her through a glass and feel like I'm window shopping ... just for the looking not the taking."
Dr. Edwards spoke sympathetically, "Yours is a natural reaction, Mrs. Hall. Although, the equipment seems somewhat overwhelming, it's actually quite simple. What we are attempting to do is to duplicate as closely as possible the environment you provided for Jenny while you were pregnant. Once she's off the respirator and ready for nourishment, you'll be permitted to hold her, and before you know it, she'll be home."
After that first visit, Peggy went to see Jenny every day and Mr. Hall left his office early each day, stopping at the hospital before traveling home. At night they compared notes on Jenny's condition. In the beginning, the only visible change was the name tag on Jenny's incubator. Since she was an art teacher on maternity leave, Peggy welcomed the opportunity to utilize her talents by designing a new tag for each day. The tag-changing ceremony was a reminder that Jenny was one day closer to homecoming. During that first week, Jenny slept most of the time and showed hardly any facial expression. While connected to the respirator, her mouth was always open because the tube through her nose made her exhale through her mouth. Then, on Jenny's fourteenth day at Midland, the respirator was removed and for the first time the Halls saw Jenny's whole face.
The next stage in Jenny's progress was when Dr. Edwards instructed Peggy to collect her milk and bring it to the hospital in sterile bottles where it would be refrigerated for feedings around the clock. Although Peggy's plans to breast feed her baby were not possible yet because of Jenny's premature birth, she was comforted knowing that her milk instead of glucose would nourish the baby.
One morning Peggy was in the market buying more bottles and the cashier smiled at her while ringing up the items.
"Looks like there's a new baby at home. Boy or girl?"
"A beautiful baby girl," said Peggy proudly, "but she's not home yet. She was born prematurely and has been at Midland Hospital for three weeks."
"Oh, I've heard about 'preemies.' Gee, I'm sorry. I hope she comes
home soon," the cashier said.
As she drove to the hospital that day, bringing her milk to Jenny, Peggy had mixed feelings. She was angry at the cashier who casually labeled her baby a "preemie" as if she had a disease, and then she began wondering if perhaps she had caused Jenny's condition. She became tormented by feelings of guilt. Maybe if I had been more careful, less active; maybe if I had stopped working sooner, maybe if....
Tortured by these thoughts, Peggy Hall decided not to visit Jenny one day. She knew her husband would wonder why she had not come to the hospital and waited with prepared answers to his questioning. At home that night Peggy tried to explain her feelings to her husband. She needed a break for just one day and promised her husband she'd visit Jenny the following day.
The next morning she sat at the counter in the hospital coffee shop and wasn't sure if she could keep her promise. Her thoughts were interrupted when a woman sat next to her.
"Haven't I seen you upstairs talking with Dr. Edwards?" the woman asked.
"Yes, my baby was admitted three weeks ago," replied Peggy.
The woman continued, "My baby came here four days ago. Her skin was as yellow as a lemon. Now she's in the special incubator with the blue lights."
"What was wrong with her?" asked Peggy.
"She was badly in need of a blood exchange so they ordered a transfusion right away. Luckily, there's a good blood bank here. Having the transfusion immediately was crucial to her survival."
The women continued to talk about their babies' health. Peggy left the coffee shop with a great appreciation for the special care available, and thankful that Jenny was not plagued by complications, she headed for the elevator to go up to the neonatal unit.
From then on, Jenny's condition improved and as her digestive system developed, she was able to take more nourishment and gain weight. When she weighed four pounds, she was moved from the incubator and placed in the nursery where the Halls participated actively in their daughter's life by feeding, bathing, and changing her. The more time they spent with Jenny, the more they felt like parents. Soon it was a matter of days before Jenny's homecoming. In preparation for the special occasion, the Halls readied everything in Jenny's nursery at home and planned a gathering for family and friends to welcome her.
Homecoming day arrived on May tenth which happened to be Mother's Day. Dr. Edwards greeted them with a warm smile and reviewed with them his last instructions for Jenny's home care. Then he formally named Jenny as an official graduate of the unit.
"Would you like the pleasure of entering Jenny's name in our baby book?" he asked Peggy.
"I think her father should have the honors," she replied.
Mr. Hall proudly signed the book and the name of JENNIFER HALL was listed with hundreds of other infants' names. The April Fool's Day baby smiled and Peggy Hall beamed with joy as she looked at her baby bundled in a soft pink blanket. With her baby in her arms and her husband walking beside her, she was the happiest mother alive.
1. Jenny was born __________
2. Dr. Edwards and the staff at Midland Hospital _______
3. First, Jenny was brought to Midland Hospital's neonatal unit. Then, she was placed on a temperature-controlled bed. Next, ________
4. The respirator _______
5. Mrs. Hall had to reach through armholes to touch Jenny because _____
6. The conversation between the two women in the coffee shop ______
7. Jenny's mother _______
8. Mr. and Mrs. Hall _________
9. Another name for this selection could be ______
10. This story is mainly about _______