Briar was a tornado from the moment I knew she existed. From 22 weeks gestation until her birth at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation, she was monitored constantly in utero, at McMaster Children's Hospital. She cartwheeled and hid from nurses as they tried to view her on ultrasounds. Each additional day, each hour, became a blessing to have, as she was worryingly tiny. The biggest concern immediately after birth would be whether the smallest size intubation tube would still be too large for the "baby's" airway. As I passed the 24th-week gestation mark, this concern was ever-increasing, as she was not growing as hoped. Doctors were certain we were running out of time. She was given a 1% chance of survival, and while I hoped for the best, I prepared for the worst. As a newly single parent, I wondered how I would tell her 3-year-old sister that her baby wouldn’t be coming home.
One day Briar’s oxygen levels in utero, and the blood flow she was receiving, were less than optimal. If left in utero, she would be at risk for a severe lack of oxygen. She was delivered by a fantastic team, with the NICU team awaiting her arrival. Briar cried aloud, strong cry at birth. She was able to receive delayed cord clamping for 45 seconds before being rushed into a room beside the operating room, where her NICU team worked to stabilize and intubate her. I remember listening to her cry, not even asking the sex of the baby until they were rushing her off. I was told she was almost unable to be intubated. One very last attempt-wiggle and the neonatologist was successful. I was told she had been weighed and was 450g and 10 ¾ inches long. Later I was informed that that weight was taken with 50g of equipment on her. Her eyes still fused shut, her skin so thin and translucent that the wrong rub could break her skin open. Despite being so tiny and so fragile, she was so extremely beautiful and perfect.
Briar spent a total of 257 days in the NICU. Her first four months were filled with many terrifying and surreal moments. Briar received many blood transfusions, IVs, PICC lines, lumbar punctures and pokes. She has fought through several lungs collapses, sepsis, bacterial infections, intubations and extubations, blood gas worries, pneumonia, apneas, bradycardia and tachycardia, a PDA and coding more times than I'd like to remember. I waited a month for her to be safe and strong enough to be held. As she continued to grow and become healthier, she was able to be extubated and this was such a happy step forward for her. She did, however, remain on oxygen.
Briar received a diagnosis of Retinopathy of Prematurity and on two separate occasions, received injections in her eyes to help preserve her vision. She began to learn to eat orally, however, this suddenly halted one day. She was diagnosed with reflux disease. Briar was unable to orally eat; any attempts resulted in her vomiting. She continued to push forward, surprising everyone when she weaned off oxygen shortly before her discharge date. She received a G-tube and a few days later, she became a NICU graduate!
Briar is now 2½ years old. Her first year and a half home were quite rough for her while her system strengthened and the right medication and feeding schedule was adapted to suit her needs. Her tummy is now in a much happier place and although she still has her struggles, she no longer vomits and with medication, her reflux is under much better control. We have an amazing team at Kids Ability. She continues to be closely monitored by her many teams at McMaster.
She is a feisty, sweet girl who squeals and laughs at Peppa Pig and loves to be outdoors. Her sister is her real-life hero, and she loves snuggles, playing and being silly. Briar is now eating some chips and crackers, and works hard to drink water from a cup and has taken a few steps on her own! She has made so much progress! I have no doubt I'll be struggling to keep up with her in no time! Briar is working through speech, communication and developmental barriers.
Me and my girls are so thankful for the Guelph Wish Fund for Children. Briar has received a few wishes: a jumparoo to ignite her now love of jumping, an indoor climber to strengthen her body on crummy weather days, and developmentally helpful toys and books. One day I would love to take her somewhere she will really enjoy and tell her yet again how amazing she is, and how much she inspires me daily. We are so grateful and appreciative of all the hard work and love that goes into this incredible organization. Everyone who cares about these kiddos they've never met, those who donate, those who help spread the word, you are all in our hearts. You have helped make happier the life of a such a special warrior and helped take the load off this Mama. We could never say thank you enough.