This story is probably less about my NICU experience and more about how I learned what a hero a doctor can be even if he can't save a life and the legacy a tiny little guy can leave for his family!
On April 3, 2008 I was 20 weeks pregnant when my water broke. We went straight to labor and delivery where I was told that my baby boy could be born at any time and that there was nothing that could be done to save him before 24 weeks. 24 weeks is considered the point of viability. (Although, I have read many amazing stories of survival at 23 weeks). I was sent home on strict bedrest to wait and see. I went to the doctor every few days for an ultrasound to see how the amniotic fluid levels were and to check on the baby. I basically just kept loosing fluid but baby seemed to be doing well. On April 30th at 24 weeks, I was miraculously still pregnant and was admitted into the hospital so that if my little boy decided to come into the world, the nurses and doctors could take immediate actions to try to save my baby boy's life. For 3 more weeks I remained on bed rest in the hospital. In the early morning hours on May 18, I began to have contractions and was sent to labor and delivery where they tried to stop contractions to no avail. I was in labor! I was sent to emergency surgery for a C-section just before 3pm. At 3:26pm Lucas James was born at 27 weeks, weighing 2lbs and 13 1/2 inches long. I remember thinking that if we could just get to 2lbs, everything would be okay. Again, I only got a glimpse of my little warrior baby before he was whisked away to NICU. Once he was stable, Dr. Michael Lenhart came to talk to us about our son's condition. Because he went so long without enough amniotic fluid his lungs were not able to develop properly. He would never be able to run and play like most kids because he would never have enough lung capacity. He was a very sick baby, but we had so much hope. We had made it so far since my water broke 7 weeks earlier. My husband Jim and my son, Matthew (10 yrs at the time) went to see Luke, but they couldn't go in because we didn't have a copy of Matt's immunization record on hand. ( I understand why they do this, but still, I was not happy about it!) They stood outside the NICU looking through the glass watching this tiny little boy giving the nurses a run for their money. He was letting them know how unhappy he was to be in an oxygen tent, tethered to tubes and wires! He was fighting a good fight! Matt told me he thought his baby brother was gonna be in trouble because the was punching the tent. LOL! And again because I had a C-section I couldn't go immediately to see my baby. Late that evening, I still didn't even have a picture to hold on to. Fortunately, my dear friend, Jessica Brown, went down to get pics for me. That would have to do til I could see him for myself. Around 3:30 in the morning on May 19, I was preparing to go see my son for the first time, when a nurse from the NICU told me that we needed to come to NICU right away, they didn't think my son would make it through the night. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. How could we possibly go through this again? I called Jim. He had taken Matt home to get some sleep. I went straight to the NICU. When I got there, there was Dr. Lenhart and, I think, 3 nurses working intensely around my tiny little fighter. One nurse came over to me and told me my husband needed to come immediately because they didn't think they could keep him alive much longer. (Jim and Matt were on their way) She told me they would have called sooner, but Dr. Lenhart had spent nearly 3 hours doing all that he could to keep my son alive. I could see it in Dr. Lenhart's face. He had truly given all that he had but it wasn't enough. The pain on his face was almost worse than the pain I had in my heart. At that moment he was my hero, he wanted my son to live and he was heartbroken that he couldn't make it happen. I knew without a doubt, he had done everything that could be done and I appreciated that more than I could ever express. Jim and Matt finally arrived right about 5 am. We were taken to a private room to be alone with Luke, to hold him without wires and tubes, tell him good bye. 14 hours and 7 minutes after he was born my little Luke, my little warrior, went to be with Jesus. He was perfect, had his daddy's nose, his mommy's eyes and his brother's long legs. I was so heartbroken,
I started counseling to learn to cope with this loss. I remember the therapist asking me what I thought Luke's life purpose was. At the time I could only feel the pain what purpose could such a short life have? It took almost 2 years for me to be able to see that God had used Luke's life to put me where he needed me to be to fulfill His purpose. I am so thankful for the time I had with my son and miss him terribly, he is one of the driving forces behind Project NICU. Also I want to mention that the following week after we were home, in the mail came a note from Dr. Lenhart and attached was Luke's birth announcement from the Tulsa World. I hadn't even thought about clipping it from the paper. The fact that Dr. Lenhart took the time to do that, meant the world to me. Thank you, Dr. Lenhart! You are a hero and so is my son, Luke!