Jess did so well during her first two weeks. She started off as a whopping 5lbs 5oz baby, which sounds tiny but for a 33 weeker, it was good. She spent only 11 days in the NICU and fed and gained weight well. The only thing she couldn't keep on top of was her jaundice. Myself and my husband, Matthew, had a new arch enemy - called Billy-Rueben (elevated Bilirubin levels indicate jaundice).
While we were in NICU, Jessica's levels went over treatment levels and she was treated using UV light. This was always gutting as it was a step backward in terms of bringing her home. She was just under treatment level when we were discharged and we were so happy to be going home, we practically forgot all about it.
A few days passed and Jess had her normal checkups. She was frequently changing colour and looking yellow for a few hours and then back to normal. It was at one of these checkups that they decided she needed another blood test to check how her levels were doing. We didn't think much of it and carried on with our day.
I had a phone call later that day and, unfortunately, we would need to come in and be seen. It was then explained that we would not be able to come back in to Southmead NICU as we had been discharged and Jessica was over 8 days old. We were advised that we should go to the A&E department at the BRI. They would send over the relevant information and Jessica would be given immediate treatment.
Unfortunately, they had recieved no records for Jessica on arrival, and so we had to wait to be seen and her treatment was not started. Despite all this, both Jessica and my son, Finley (21 months at the time), were amazing. My husband had to take our son home, despite being anxious to know what was going on with Jessica, which must have been challenging for him.
Eventually, a consultant came to see Jessica and advised that she needed to start the treatment ASAP and not wait for all the information to come through. He explained that both premature and breastfed babies had higher risk of developing jaundice and it was completely normal for up to three weeks. Since Jessica was nearly three weeks, he suggested taking some extra blood tests so that they could do further investigations more quickly if she was still struggling past three weeks.
It was a few hours until we were moved onto the ward. It was different at the ward at the BRI, compared to Southmead NICU, in that I was solely looking after Jessica. She was under the lights and so this meant that I could not leave the room at all for the entire time I was there. As mentioned in my previous blogs, I was also struggling with lockjaw due to a impacted wisdom tooth. I was completely unable to open my mouth and therefore unable to eat anything, so I had been prescribed fortisip. At the BRI, they provide free meals to all breastfeeding mothers (which is brilliant), however, being unable to eat anything solid, I ran into a problem when I ran out of my fortisip drinks. For about two days, I was only able to consume yoghurt, protein shakes and coffee. Not a brilliant diet for a breastfeeding mother.
The second night that I was in the BRI, Jessica was very agitated. As pictured above, the bed was not within reach of her cot. I had to hold her hand and stroke her head to get her to sleep as I could not pick her up to cuddle her. This was due to her being under lights. I was actually very lucky at the BRI, as in the NICU, babies under lights were still in incubators and so it is even more difficult to touch, feed and change them.
The third night that she was under lights, I noticed her looking significantly more healthy and the whites of her eyes were no longer yellow. I also was given a pop up bed in the room to allow me to be closer to her and soothe her without having to get up and walk over every few minutes. However, due to a condition I have which makes me extra sensitive to specific UV rays (PMLE), I developed a rash where my skin was exposed to the light.
Matthew and Finley came to visit us every day. It was more of a struggle with Finley as he didn't have much to do in the room and as I explained before, we couldn't leave the room with Jessica under the lights. It was the only time that me and Matthew could spend time together as well, as he took Finley home in the evenings and for naps, so we didn't want to split up.
Over the course of two days, the doctors and nurses contemplated whether to discharge us. When we were finally discharged, I was so relieved and nervous at the same time. I had felt that I had got my hopes us about keeping Jessica at home the first time and then this had happened. What if it happened again?
I'm happy to say this was the last of our hospital visits with Jessica and she is now almost one year old and is happy and healthy!