When Tristan's mom went in for one of her routine ultrasounds, they found out his intestines were forming on the outside of his stomach, rather than the inside where they belonged.
As it turns out, he had his intestines on the outside, but he also had a hole in his heart, a hole in his diaphragm, his sternum (chest bone) didn't form properly, and his heart and lungs weren't in their proper locations because of the sternal defect and the hole in his diaphragm.
Tristan spent the first two months of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), undergoing surgeries and learning how to breathe and eat on his own. Once he got home, he had few issues other than a large scar across his stomach and he needed to have his feeds thickened with some rice cereal so it didn't go into his lungs when he ate.
When Tristan was two, he went to his cardiologist (heart doctor) for an appointment. It was at this time that someone finally put all the defects he was born with together and he was diagnosed with Pentalogy of Cantrell. When we heard this diagnosis, we immediately turned to the internet to do some research. What we found was that there just wasn't a whole lot out there. Between what his parents were told by the cardiologist and what we found on the internet, we realized this was a very rare condition, and it was even more rare for him to not only be alive, but to be developing normally. He was eating and breathing on his own, he was quickly growing and showing us how smart he was. Aside from that scar, you'd never know anything was wrong with him if you looked at him and spent time with him. Sure, he's been through more medical problems over the last few years than the average child, but nothing has kept him from being a "normal" kid.
Before being blessed with Tristan in my life, I never thought I could work in the NICU. Sure, I loved babies, but I just thought it would be way too sad all the time. I got to spend time with him in the NICU and see just what went on behind those seemingly scary doors, and I realized it really wasn't all that scary. Sure, some babies died or went home with severe disabilities, but then there were babies like Tristan. Those nurses got to help give those babies a fighting chance at life that they wouldn't otherwise have. They got to see those miracle babies struggle, overcome their battle, and go home. What could possibly bring a nurse more joy than that?! From that time, I knew my heart would always be in the NICU!
Through my nursing school clinicals, I kept open eyes and an open mind to see if there was somewhere else I'd like to work once I graduated. Nothing tugged on my heart the way the NICU did. As graduation approached, I applied for jobs and went to interviews, but on the day of graduation, I had no leads for a job. I was sitting backstage waiting to go out and begin the graduation ceremony when a friend of mine mentioned she had been offered a job earlier that day! How exciting for her! But it was what she said after that that stuck- the recruiter mentioned she was posting some NICU positions! A NICU job at this hospital was truly my dream job! The next day was a Friday. I submitted my application at 1 PM that afternoon, and at 3 PM my phone rang. It was one of the managers from that unit. I literally laughed at her and asked if it was a joke. I told her I had literally just applied 2 hours earlier and she laughed too. She wanted to see me Monday! She still had a few more people to interview after me and was not allowed to officially offer me a job at that time, but she said "If I were a betting woman, I'd bet you get the job!" The next day, I got the call and was officially offered my dream job right out of school! I could not have been more ecstatic!!
NICU nursing is the only nursing I truly know. Lately we have had a low census, which is great for the babies in the community, but not so great for us! We have been floating to other units to help out. The more I go to other units with older patients, the more I realize just how much I love my babies and how I couldn't imagine not being there with them! I truly feel like I won the job lottery! Even when I'm exhausted, I always love going to work. :)
Tristan will soon celebrate his 5th birthday and has recently started T-ball. With every new milestone he hits, he serves as a constant reminder that I'm helping give hundreds of parents the same opportunity to watch their children hit milestones throughout their life. My job is amazing!
Laugh often and love always,