Patient Story: Beth and Carter, A Preemie's Story




In November 2003, my life changed. My husband and I were preparing for the birth of our first child. At 29 weeks, my water broke and my husband and I were told to go to Labor and Delivery hoping for the very best while bracing for the absolute worst.

After I was admitted, the doctor determined that I was in fact in labor. I was given several medications to impede the labor and prepare my baby’s lungs in case of a premature birth. That evening, the labor stopped and the plan for me was to stay in the hospital and make it until 32, 34 and 36 weeks. I needed to get comfortable being in the hospital, as I would be there for a while.

Early the next morning, our nurse came in to check on me. She stated that she could not find the baby’s heartbeat on the external monitors. I could feel movement, so I just assumed that the baby was being “wiggly” and making it difficult to find a heartbeat. After a few moments, she stated that she wanted to bring an ultra sound technician in just to “see the baby.” When the ultra sound tech arrived, our nurse gasped and put her hand over her mouth and said “wake up your husband, you are having an emergency c-section!” My husband lay asleep in the chair next to me, oblivious to what was happening.

Before I knew it a medical team was wheeling me out of the room, rushing me into O.R. I was already in the hallway before my husband even sat up from the chair next to my bed and realized what was happening. It was surreal. In an instant I was thrust from my quiet hospital bed, next to my husband and prepared for an extended stay, into what seemed like the most chaotic place I’d had ever been in my life. Doctors and nurses were preparing for the worst.

We later found out that what had made our nurse gasp was that the baby’s heartbeat was in the low 30 bpm’s. To put this in perspective, the baby’s heartbeat had been consistently in the 160 per minute range throughout my pregnancy.

While in the operating room, the only person who would speak to me was my anesthesiologist. He spoke to me calmly amidst the chatter and noise of those around us . He asked me if I had ever had anesthesia before. I said yes and he asked me if I had ever had any problems. I told him that I have a small mouth and that when I had surgery before, there were some issues getting the tube inserted.

When my son , Carter, was born, he had no heartbeat and was not breathing. They had no idea how long he was “down.” Although it was difficult, my husband and I had prepared for the worst as they told us that he would probably not survive the first 12 hours of his life. Carter had an APGAR of 1 and the only reason he scored at 1 was because he was “slightly pink.” We were told that If (and it was a big “if") he survived, we should prepare ourselves for a long and difficult road ahead as the parents of a brain damaged child.

We spent the next three and a half months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We spent 12+ hours a day sitting by Carter’s bedside. We spent his first Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve with our son and the nurses at the hospital. We couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

While in the NICU, Carter had several procedures done which required anesthesia. The anesthesiologist was always patient with us as we asked questions and voiced many of the concerns that any parent would have prior to sending their child into surgery. Our fears were heightened, however, because Carter was only 3 pounds and we knew that the risks were higher on smaller babies. What was comforting about having a baby in the NICU was that there was not a “post op” room for neonates. Their recovery room was the NICU, so we were always able to be with our son as he woke up from anesthesia.

Today, Carter is a healthy and happy five year old who is about to start Kindergarten. The beautiful news is that at this point in his development he has no side effects as a result of his early arrival.

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