Born at 22.3 weeks and weighing the same as five sticks of butter was definitely not the easiest way to begin life. Eleanor had a few things going in her favor, she was a stubborn little girl, born in the right place and at the right time. We were told when labor started that there was little chance she would survive. She was simply not developed enough. There was just one thing, nobody told Eleanor. I can still see this tiny baby, covered with blonde hair trying to breath. That first night seemed like an eternity. Would she survive, would someone come into my room with bad news or good news?
The next four months, Eleanor would call C-bay her home. Her nurses were all very nice and took very good care of her. Of course because she was so small and premature, Eleanor was assigned to the same nurses as much as possible to keep the continuity of care. One of these nurses was Kelly. She worked on the day shift and was my lifeline. Eleanor also had Cindy on second shift and Dayna on nights. Eleanor was given Servanta to help her lungs mature faster. She was on a ventilator for the first few months. It would be a long time until we heard her faint little cry, but it was a beautiful sound when we finally did hear her voice!
At ten days old, we were told that surgery was needed to correct a problem with her heart (PDA ligation). The next day, I got the call. “Please get here as soon as possible.” There was a problem. Eleanor’s belly and legs were turning black. The blood was not getting to her lower extremities. Eleanor needed more surgery. The surgeons had to remove a blockage from across her aorta with a second surgery. We did not know if the damage was reversible or not. I remember being excited that the catheter bag was filling up with urine. Yes, her kidneys were still working, a good sign.
After weeks of ups and downs, eventually we were told that Eleanor could be transferred to St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. She was there about a week when she had another setback with a seizure. It was back to C-bay for us. We don’t know why the seizure happened, and there were no more. On Christmas Eve, and weighing less than five pounds, we finally go to take home our little girl. She was almost four months old. We ventured out with our precious little baby and an oxygen tank, cardiac monitor and phenobarb. We called all of our family to wish them a happy holiday and to say that this year we had all that we could ever want for Christmas.
This year Eleanor weighs about 70 pounds and will celebrate her eleventh birthday in September. Eleanor will be entering the fifth grade in the fall. Eleanor has been a typical student, with special interests in the arts. She is a member of the chorus, plays piano, and takes dance lessons. She has also served on her school yearbook committee, and taken part in various art shows. She likes to swim in the family pool and has learned to ride her bicycle without training wheels. When asked, Eleanor often says that she would like to be a veterinarian some day, but she doesn’t want to give the animals shots … we’ll have to see if she changes her mind later on.
Submitted by Katherine Minnehan