Just a note that this post talks a lot about intestines, if that grosses you out you should skip! Also not a post with a happy ending, but we’re getting there!
We last left off with D readmitted to the NICU with plans for exploratory surgery in the morning since he had some kind of abdominal issue.
Mr. Tiger and I arrived at the hospital just in time to see D off before the surgery (although he was already intubated and drugged up on morphine). The surgeons got our consent and explained they were going to go in through his belly button with a small camera, and see if they could tell what was wrong. They warned us that the worst case scenario would be that they would have to remove a section of the intestines, and that if the remaining intestines were too inflamed, they’d have to stay disconnected (outside of his body) for several weeks until they could be reconnected. I consented without really understanding what this meant, since what other choice did we have?
When the surgery was over and the surgeons brought us back into the mini conference room, which is always the longest 30 second walk I’ve ever had – what if they are bearing bad news? They explained that although the surgery went well, they did have to deal with the worst case scenario. D had developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis, or NEC, which meant that part of his intestines had actually died – hence the abdominal distress and bloody poops. They had removed 15cm of intestine, so now he had an ostomy bag (for the part of the intestines that came from the stomach, to empty out) and a fistula (the part of the intestines going to his butt which would be unused until reconnected).
I later was researching NEC and discovered that 1 in 4 babies who get it, die from it. Although the specific cause isn’t known, preemies are the most susceptible, although the vast majority get it while pre-term and still in the NICU. Preemie parents may remember a lot of belly measuring — identifying stomach bloating caused by NEC is one of the reasons why.