She had been in the NICU for nearly 100 days.
It had been such a long, long road. We had hardly dared believe the suggestions that (maybe?) we’d get to go home. For so long, her care had been provided by medical teams involving nurses, respiratory therapists, neonatologists, and all manner of other specialists. That her care would be falling into our hands was both thrilling and intimidating.
“After we bathe her, I’ll have you insert the NG-tube,” Kathy said, matter-of-factly.
I loved this particular nurse, but I raised a brow at her.
“I’M going to put the tube in?”
“Sure,” she continued, shifting our little girl. As she did, C. let out an enormous toot and Kathy laughed, “making your first jacuzzi, little girl?”
I went back to gently wiping her tiny little limbs with the washcloth, lost in my thoughts.
I don’t know how to put this tube in. I’ve never done anything like this before. This tube needs to go all the way down to her stomach. What if I do it wrong? How will I know when to stop? What if I don’t hold it right, clean it right, angle it right? What if… ? How… ? I don’t think I can.
We finished up C’s bath and gently dried my not-yet-five-pound and three-month-old daughter.
Kathy took out a piece of tubing and a stethoscope. She laid materials out in front of me. I stared straight at her, committing her words to memory, hoping and praying I could get this right. Still, the doubt crept in.
“What if I can’t do it?” I finally asked, my voice soft and tentative.
Her blue eyes held mine steadily.
“You will do it. You’ll do it because you have to do it. You’ll do it because it needs to be done and you’ll rise to occasion and get it done.”
I took a deep breath and began.
For about four months, I would have to thread a skinny tube down into my child’s stomach. I would check its placement by listening through a stethoscope as I pushed a tiny bit of air into her belly. I would then remove the air and attach a a syringe the other end of the tube. I would tape it, cap it, check it, clean it, and repeat the process as necessary.
People used to say to me all the time, “How do you do that? I couldn’t. I don’t think I’d be able to do that.”
And to that, I replied, “Yes, you would. You’d do it because you’d have to do it. You’d do it because it needed to be done and so you’d learn.”
Nurse Kathy taught me that.