Sunday, July 20, 2008


Six years ago today, my little family experienced the most wonderful and most terrifying experience we have yet faced together.

My wife Darlene had given birth to our first daughter Alannah a year and 4 months earlier. Her birth was pretty normal with little complications. But Darlene did have to have some surgery afterwards to simply set things correct again.

I guess in the medical biz they refer to this procedure as "dusting and cleaning".

As we celebrated Alannah's first birthday the following February, we found out that she was again pregnant and the baby was one month into the gestation process. And we were happy about it. But the first go around with Alannah had taken a toll on Dar's baby making facilities.

In July, the days were passing as normal. Darlene was working as an Emergency Room RN in Detroit in a part-time capacity, and working for a respiratory services company outside of Windsor as well, again in a part-time capacity. But one day, she noticed that she her tummy was not as taught, and she thought ... well … to keep the conversation civil, she thought she was leaking.

Her pediatrician put her into the hospital. Grace Hospital on the west side of Windsor. And for two weeks, Alannah and I continued our daily routines of work and baby-sitters while the doctors and nurses at Grace kept an eye on Darlene's leaking uterus.

On one particular Saturday, six years ago today, Alannah and I went into Windsor to visit Mommy – bringing with us a huge McDonalds lunch of Big Mac's the Mommy had requested. We sat in that hospital room, a corner room with windows on both sides on that bright sunny Saturday, eating our lunches and hanging out with the leaking Mommy.

The doctor came in to make his daily rounds, and noticed that Darlene's fluid had dropped beneath a significant amount – meaning (if I understood him right) that the baby room in the uterus was too small, and now the baby had to come out. This was confirmed by a quick ultrasound.

So they prepped the operating room, while I rushed to take Alannah to the Grandma's house. When I returned they rushed me into a blue set of operation scrubs – a hat and those little scrub shoe covers. And they led me into the operating room.

There on the table was Darlene. They had begun and they had her covered on the table with a blue blanket that had a window open to her abdomen. I did not look at the opening. Instead they sat me up by Darlene's head. There was a screen set up like a tennis net that kept me from seeing the real activity of what they were doing.

It was very surreal, as Darlene was wide awake. And her medical experience was coming to the top as she monitored her own vital statistics. Mean while, on the other side of the tennis net, I could see the elbows of the doctors pushing, shoving and digging away. Darlene was talking to everyone, almost enjoying the rare experience.

But then as she monitored her own vitals, she said to one of the assistants, "hey look at my pressure starting to drop! I think I need ….", and her head rolled over to the side and for a few seconds she closed her eyes while in mid-sentence. The assistant came over, and poked a needle in the IV tube and pushed a drug into her. As soon as he did so, Darlene's eyes opened back up, her head raised back up and she continued: "five mgs of <some drug I can't remember>! Hey no it's back up!".

"I already did it", smiled the technician. "You were right."

"Darlene turned her head to look at me smiling – proud of her correct diagnosis of the situation.

Darlene talking on the one side of the tennis net, and the doctors pushing and pulling fixing on the other side of the net happened for a couple more minutes. Then suddenly very tiny blue body was extracted from the other side of the Tennis net. I only glimpsed it for a second – as the doctor said "It's a girl!" and they quickly moved her into the next room. I kissed Darlene on the cheek and she told me to go take care of our new little daughter.

In the next room they were working hard on this tiny baby the size of a Barbie doll. Her little head was so small and the skin was so tight to her skull. After urgently working with her for what seemed to me like minutes, a cry came out of my new little girl, and her skin turned quickly from blue to pink.

I held her for a second or two, and we weighed her. A picture was taken with her next to my finger to show how tiny she was.

Ashley-Rae stayed in that neo-natal clinic at Grace Hospital for almost 3 months. For three months, we would go and spend all our free time as a family with Ashley- as she lay in her incubator with tubes to feed her and ventilator tubes to help her breathe.

Within the first month, Ashley suffered a horrible set back. Somehow, poop from her diaper had gotten into her blood. The infection was horrible and she had to have a full blood transfusion. She actually received two.

And she survived both.

One day, early in September, we arrived for our daily afternoon of time with Ashley-Rae. As we came in, a pretty nurse named Holly had Ashley-Rae all dressed up in pretty clothes and was taking pictures of her. And for the very first time we say some enthusiasm – smiles – and laughing coming from our little daughter. And that was the day that I think Holly saved Ashley-Rae's life. After that day, Ashley grew quickly to become more and more like a big pink beautiful happy little baby girl. In early October, we were finally able to bring little Ashley-Rae home.

Today is Ashley-Rae's sixth birthday. And every year for me, I sit in amazement as I watch my beautiful youngest daughter turn more and more into a smart, compassionate individual. And I remember those early days with her six years ago, and I thank my stars that she is here.

Because it could have easily been a different story.

Happy birthday, Ashley-Rae!

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