Tag Archives: book

on the opposite of cold and santa, sauna and sisu.

a local author, michael nordskog, has written a wonderful book, “The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition” on the history, culture, and practice of finnish sauna in the lake superior northwoods region.

as most know, odin has been enjoying his grandparent’s sauna in the upper peninsula of michigan since he was small enough fit ina sauna bucket. and as most regular visitors know, a few years ago, we built our own so we could throw steam and douse ourselves with buckets of water in our own backyard with friends.

so, of course, i had to catch a reading at a local bookstore and pick up a signed copy.

as luck would have it, i was running late and missed the reading, but i did have time to chat with michael and invite him to spend some quality time in the ol’ snowdeal sauna which is a bit intimidating since one presumes he has spent time in many saunas with interesting histories.

but i’m guessing that only exactly one sauna was visited by santa when a boy named odin – who embodies the very essence of sisu – was 2000 days old.

the eric update – day 43: readin’, feedin’ and nicu noise.

day 43: creased palm

another day of quiet recovery, which is a good thing these days. slightly frustratingly, we still haven’t heard the results from the echocardiogram which will tell us if his patent ductus artierosis has closed, but his blood gasses are so good that i think everyone is assuming that it’s closed. also, they are apparently having trouble determining what the bug was that showed up in one of his blood samples and haven’t been able to find any more of it, so it’s likely that we’ll never know for now if it was contamination or is simply lurking in the background at undetectable levels while he’s on the antiobiotic regime. or maybe it’s gone for good.

day 43: feeding again!

they started eric’s breastmilk feedings again, which means that they are getting more confident that he’s recovering from his recent “troubles”.

technically, they aren’t really feedings as they are giving him such a small amount – only 1 cc every 3 hours, but it’s a start. rather than sending the food directly to his intestines via an “o.j.” ( oral to jejunum ) tube, they’ve decided to see if he’s can tolerate sending the milk directly to his stomach via his “o.g.” ( oral to gut ) tube. this is another small sign that they believe he’s getting stronger, despite his pneumonia.

day 43: ear clasp

the nicu is packed these days and when it gets packed it gets noisy. it’s a small nicu with only 15 beds, but it’s a small space and can get quite crowded when all the beds are filled, if all the babies have visitors. there’s and ebb and flow to visitors and during peak hours it the constant din of conversation and bells ringing can make it sound like a surreal cocktail party.

if you’re paying attention when it’s noisy, you’ll notice eric sending little signs that things are getting too loud, such as grasping his ear tightly in an attempt to block out the sound. subtle signal, no?

day 43: jonathan livingston seagull. I.

kris finished reading eric jonathan livingston seagull. he liked it a lot.

“poor fletch. don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. all they show is limitation. look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”

day 43: jonathan livingston seagull. II.

the eric update – day 37: more of the vent. and a little levity.

day 37: more gagging on the vent

more of the same today, by which i mean gagging on the vent endotracheal tube. hopefully he won’t have to put up with it much longer, although the staff is being a little cagey about when they might take him off. the party line is that it might be tommorrow, or maybe the day after that. so it’s time for another exciting round of The Waiting Game. of course, there’s not much to do in this round because being on the vent means he doesn’t have many alarms since the vent is doing all the work, and there’s no holding or kangaroo care to be had. apparently some nicus allow some ‘roo time while babies are on the vent, but ours isn’t one of them, because of the risks involved of moving an such a little thing around while being intubated. watching him as he tries to launch the tube out of his throat, i can see how they might come to that conclusion. eric is still gaining weight despite being only on intravenous fluids; tonight he weighed in at 1040 grams or 2 pounds 4.7 ounces, although it’s tough to know how much of that is “fake” weight due to the transfusions and water retension.

day 37: foot sore

they are taking a lot of blood out of eric to track his progress on fighting his infection, which means lots of blooding of his blood and pricking of his foot to get blood to test his sugar levels.

day 37: reading An Innocent, a Broad

in one of those small pieces, loosely joined moments, i was reading susan dennis’ post on how she had become so enthralled with following eric’s progress ( or lack thereof, as the case may be ), while also reading An Innocent, a Broad by ann leary, who happens to be dennis leary’s wife. as soon as i learned that the book is her account of having an micropreemie while on a business trip in london, i knew that i had to run out and immediately get the book to help me pass time while playing The Waiting Game. jeez louis. we managed to get to page 11 before kris and i broke into hysterical fits of laughter complete with tears rolling down our faces, as ann and dennis try to come to grips with the fact that she’s just has a premature rupture of membrane ( PROM or, simply, her water broke too early ).

“It’s true that at times like this we learn of what we’re really made. I used to think that if I were in a major disaster – say a plane crash or an earthquake – I would be the one to take charge. While the weak-willed people with the small brains ran shrieking into the burning wreckage, I would be the one to stop them and lead them to safety. In my mind most people were handwringers, unable to take action, while I was a doer, the who could coolly Heimlich the choker and tourniquet the bleeder. It was easy to hold these beliefs about myself, as I had never actually been involved in any kind of real-life crisis. I identified with the heroes and heroines in literature and felt sure that I would have been able, for example, to deliver Melanie’s baby in Gone With the Wind or rebuild a plantation with nothing but my bare hands and razor-sharp intellect. It never occured to me that nobody sees herself as Prissie the useless slave girl, and that it’s easy to feel brave when the most immeninent threat is an overdue cable bill. So it came as a bit of a surprise that afternoon in central London to learn that I am, in fact, the shrieking, running-into-the-burning-wreckage type.

“Maybe you just peed your pants, “Dennis offered hopefully, between my wailing cries.””

day 37: quarter sized

it’s hard to remember exactly how i held up on the day that this all began. i think i started off as more of the calm, cool and collected type than even i thought i was capable of, but slowly as the day wore on, i’m fairly certain i transmorgified into the shrieking, running-into-the-burning-wreckage type. luckily, at that point we were already surrounded by a cadre of trained professionals and not standing on the corner with nobody to turn to but dennis leary 🙂

the eric update – day 22: a day of the (extra)ordinaries

day 22: lounge act

here’s to hoping that i can continue with weeks and weeks of posts that are as boring as this one. nothing much extraordinary happened. well, nothing much beyond a relaxing day filled with five hours of kangaroo care with kris, a diaper change from yours truly ( the second one! kris is not exactly quick draw mcgraw with the camera so we don’t get to see any pictures of me changing him. sniff. ), a bit of eye contact now and then and some quality reading time. of course, he still likes throwing out the occasional “a’s” and “b’s” ( nicu lingo for apneas and bradycardias ), but none of them were long enough to make him turn gray or blue, so that’s progress.

i don’t know how he does it, but he seems to spend a lot time trying to impress upon you just how comfortable he is despite it all. trust me. you know when he’s not comfortable. like when he gets done with kangaroo care. then he turns into a writhing mass of clenched fists and thrusting feet while emitting little squeaks.

day 22: watcher

i like how he tends to open his eyes when i come to his beside to visit. his eyesight is probably no better than 20/600 so it’s best to stand 6-10 inches away. he’s getting better at staying focused on the center of your face when you talk, but he also tends to let his eyes wander around the periphery of your face, which is fairly “normal”. i think in about 3 weeks he’s going to have a set of tests from an eye specialist who is going to be looking for signs of a common problem in micropreemies known as retinopathy of prematurity, which is caused by abnormal blood vessels in the eyes. as with most conditions, there are many different stages and manifestations and variable degrees of success from a cadre of treatment options.

it’s my understanding that he’s at a decreased risk for ROP because his “oooohs” ( nicu lingo for the percentage of oxygen that is added to the air going through his CPAP mask ) have always remained remarkably low. in other words, the staff doesn’t have to add much oxygen for him to have and adequate supply in his blood. while oxygen is obviously important, too much of a good thing can cause abnormal blood vessel growth.

but one must always remember that decreased risk does not mean no risk; for now, it’s impossible to know if he has any manifestation of ROP, so it’s strange to look at his beautiful eyes and wonder if there are problems lurking ahead. it’s just one more thing that you try to prepare yourself for, while still attempting to enjoy the moments you do get to look into his eyes.

day 22: call of the wild

in addition to some reading about pooh, eric very much enjoys being read “call of the wild”. for some reason he identifies with buck, a courageous dog, who is ripped from his cushy surroundings and forced into a life-and-death struggle in the alaskan wilderness where he must learn how to use his wits to survive.

day 22: footsie

after all the heaviness inherent in buck and his amazing adventures, eric finds the time to enjoy a light game of ‘footsie’. well. o.k. it’s not really footsie, but it’s the best we can muster at the moment.

notice that piglet really, really wants to play along too.

the eric update – day 11: The Call on A Very Small Animal

day 11: back on the vent

the phone is ringing.

you awake with such a start that you actually have to remember that you were just sleeping.

after remembering where you are and that phones ringing at odd hours are A Bad Thing, you’re off the bed and launching yourself out of the bedroom and into the hallway, heading towards the place where the cordless phone should be, but isn’t.

you wonder why the phone is never in the first place you look, as the answering machine that’s cleverly located down three flights of stairs picks up the call. your adrenaline is pumping now, but not quite enough to stop the asinine thought from entering your head that it might have been a wrong number.

after navigating the byzantine phone menu you finally see what you knew all along – a missed call from st. mary’s hospital.

you discover that it’s clearly not going to be a good day when you try to dial the number revealed on caller-id, only to find that the number has been disconnected. it doesn’t make sense in that way that only makes sense at this hour. defeated, you toss the phone to your better half who somehow manages to get a nicu nurse on the line.

efficiently, it’s relayed that nothing tragic has happened.

“o.k. he’s back on the vent?”

“you had to ‘bag’ him twice in the night?”

“his bloodwork indicates that he might have an infection?”

you wonder if there are any negative side effects to repeated and prolonged episodes of fight-or-flight syndrome as the conversation ends with a succession of “um. yeahs.” and “o.k.s” and a final “o.k. we’ll be there as soon as we can.”

and so coffee is made, dogs are walked and breakfast is skipped, but a shower is not.

as you walk into the nicu, you can see all the nurses looking at you kindly, but observantly, out of the corners of their eyes. they know you’ve received your First Serious Call and they are observing you for signs of A Major Freakout. you think you feel fine but you wonder if maybe you don’t know yourself as well as you might like to believe.

as you walk up to his bassinet, you hear the acronym soup that is suprisingly comprehensible: a ‘PIP’ of 15 and ‘PEEP’ of 5. his backup respiratory rate provided by the ventilator is 40 and his ‘oooohs’ are set to 35%. he got ‘bagged’ twice in the morning even after going on the vent and his wbc went up to 11 from 1, which means that he could be developing an infection; consequently, they’ve begun giving him vancomycin and genomycin.

you watch in one particularly unsettling episode as your child turns gray as your wife and the nurse attempt to get him breathing again.

as they’re telling you all this, you notice that your new social worker, jennifer, is emerging from the background and trying to calmly assess you. you imagine that your reactions might even become part of your permanent record. you reassure jennifer that, indeed, you have the mental fortitude and steadfastness of character to weather the most perfect of storms.

day 11: an ear and hair, a shoulder and a bit of tape

later. with no kangaroo care to be had and him spending much of the day sleeping on the vent, you find yourself studying your son’s head for quite some time and decide that today is a good day to begin teaching him about pooh.

you might not be able to touch him, but you can certainly still read him his first book.

“”it is hard to be brave,” said piglet, sniffing slightly, “when you’re only a Very Small Animal.” rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said: “it is because you are a very small animal that you will be Useful in the adventure before us.””

day 11: his first book