life in critical care

Ronald McDonald House is lovely people with a lovely concept, but we couldn't hack it. Home is not quite far away enough from the hospital to inspire the tolerance that shared space demands. One day I walked into the kitchen through the den, jaw-dropped at the sight of a 300-pound ten-year-old kneeling in front of a video game with his nose squashed against the TV like a dog one window away from a parade of all-squirrel marching bands.

The sight of this kid (intially and then three hours later, unmoved) instantly made me want to take up jogging. Even without a motivational pack of snarling rottweilers.

Accompanied by Augustus Gloop's relentless BADABEEEEPing and another guest's apparently near-deaf enjoyment of The Simpsons on big-screen, we shuffle around in the common rooms, hunched over like inmates in the prison yard.

Given the choice, we'd rather be home each night. Comforting, anonymous and with peanut-buttery Evan hugs to boot. I'm so appreciative that a place like Ronald McDonald House exists, but we need to be where we belong.

For the next three months, we'll commute. We'll keep the highway robbers at Petro-Canada neck-deep in Krispy Kremes and Cristal. But if that's what it takes to have our own space again, so be it.


So far, the boys are game. We walk in each morning, breath held, exhaling as beloved nurses give us the goods on the previous night.

"Liam's off the dopamine, pressure's stable. Vent rate's at 55, tonight we'll push it down to 50 and see how he tolerates. Oxygen's at 34, sat's at 98 so we've been lowering that too. Blood gasses were a bit high. Fentanyl came off the other day, a good sign. He doesn't need it anymore now that he's had a couple of days to recover from the surgery. His TPN is at 6.4, lipids are on hold at 1.18. He's getting 1 cc of breastmilk every 6 hours, but given the triple-antibiotics we'll give the feedings a break for the next day or two. He sounds wet and crackly in his chest without suction, so we're on top of that. No murmur, temp is fine. He peed 61.8 for 4 ccs per kilo, and his chem strips were 7.6, 6.4 and 8.1."

<blank stare>

"He's a happy boy."


Apparently the parent population of the NICU is weighted heavily with fans of the musical equivalent of cats in heat: Top 40 Radio. I go into the feeding room, fluorescent and sterile, almost comically so. The previous pumper has almost always left the radio on Z103.5 THE HITMIX.

Picture it if you will. Your bosom, sucked purple by the Lact-Eze 3000. A pile of two-year-old InStyle magazines that lie there, mocking you, your hands too full to turn pages. A teddy-bear poster that reminds you to Think Of Your Baby. A tear and snot-streaked shirt that should have been laundered three days ago. Bags under eyes. Sweatpants. And the funky stylings of Usher. Usher?

Pssshtkoff. Pssshtkoff. Pssshtkoff. Pssshtkoff.

What cha doing
You know I'm coming over right
(now baby tell what you wanna do with me)
Now you got it hot for me already baby
I'll be there in about uh, give me ten minutes
Be ready
ear that little thing I like

Pssshtkoff. Pssshtkoff. Pssshtkoff. Pssshtkoff.


Then again, maybe I'm the weird one. I let down to CBC. Maritime Noon. Cross Country Checkup. March of the Valkyries. This guy's voice makes my nipples tingle.