Memo From Mac



The Burlington Hawk-Eye
The Hawk Eye
Burlington, Iowa

Race Against Time Goes to Joey 
November 24, 1992

No wonder the Seven Years War took seven years, I grumbled, groping my way in leaf-curtained autumn gloom up the east shore of Lake Champlain looking for Grand Isle and the ferry across to the New York side. On the unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar rental car, my anxiety kept recalling all those French and British and their Indian hirelings chasing one another in foolish fury up and down this wondrous valley, in futile pursuit of a continent they all lost.

The ferry crosses above where Benedict Arnold's fleet was defeated in the Revolution and where the US Navy won in 1814 for this was traffic way and battleground for all the wars. It was easier on the west side, over a rolling plain of apple orchards, and after only one missed turn, we spied Megan through the lighted window of her lakeside house. "I knew we'd find it," Peggy sighed.

When Megan and Chris had come through Iowa in August, on her move from a US Public Health Service hitch in Alaska to join a private family practice group in rural North Country New York, her baby was due in mid-December. We were all excited about a Christmas visit to a new grandchild.

By the time they'd found a house and Chris got started in a new job, and before Megan could begin on the staff of the Plattsburgh, NY hospital, she was a patient there. The problem was HELLP; a complicated blood pressure-liver condition I won't explain except that if left alone it would kill both mother and unborn baby.

The race against time was whether the baby, its growth slowed by the condition, could develop enough to survive the premature birth necessary to save Megan. It was close, but the little lungs tested strong enough to predict a fighting chance (at 30 to 32 weeks). The ambulance and ferry rushed them across Lake Champlain to Burlington and the University of Vermont Medical Center's superb neonatal intensive care unit. The swift C-section delivered a 2-pound, 11-ounce boy with all his apparent parts, a head "the size of a tennis ball," who was promptly given the formidable Old Testament moniker of Joseph David. It also delivered Megan of all her symptoms.

(Without waiting for permission, I named him Joey, who seemed appropriate for a fighter, but Megan was ahead of me. A "Joey" is a baby kangaroo, all of whom are born early and have to live in a pouch a couple of months before they can actually be "delivered.")

Joey would be in his pouch his "$1000-a-day condominium" as Megan calls his life-providing isolette in the neonatal ICU for an indefinite time. Megan was home from the hospital in three days, but had to deliver breast milk every day to be tubed and eyedroppered into Joey until he was big enough to suck.

When we learned we could help, we went to the courthouse to cast our absentee ballots and got our airline tickets. Scrubbed and gowned we got to go in one at a time to visit each day with Joey through the clear plastic walls of his "condo." About the size of a quart of milk "in both length and weight," Megan had said. Stark naked except for some wires and tubes, he wore a knitted blue cap with white stripe at a rakish angle. He kind of looked like a little old man very old in a wrinkled brown suit three sizes too big for him. Like Rip Van Winkle, with a quizzical look why shouldn't he wonder at all these goings on? Other times, when he'd peek with one open eye from under the edge of his cap, he was a playful elf, who knows lot more than he was letting on. Some days he made very small sounds. I told him about the election, what little I knew, because after we'd cast our ballots, I hadn't paid much attention. Joey wasn't too interested either, except that I explained to him he was a native born constitu
ent of the only socialist member of Congress.

There were grand, special days when his mom got to take him out of the box and hold him in the rocker, just like other moms, although he's still too small to nurse.

He'd lost most of that 11 ounces at first and it took his digestive tract a while to start operating. But by the time we flew home, he'd regained his birth weight. Then came the bulletin: he'd reached three pounds a veritable Refrigerator Perry! And then three and a half. And lastly, only three weeks after the election, Joey took another ferry ride back to New York and the Plattsburgh hospital. Out of intensive care. Close to his Mom and Dad. If he hits five pounds, he could be home for Christmas, as originally planned.

Anyway, that's what we did over the election.

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