Life is a funny thing. We have ups and downs, peaks and valleys, joys and sorrows, calmness and fears. We all certainly experienced these emotions in 2020, and 2021 hasn’t given us much of a break either. As crazy as 2020 was, we did receive news that brought us great joy. We were going to be grandparents.
Our blessed middle child Mallory got married in June of 2020 to a great young man named Kasey. Their wedding was of course all jacked up because of COVID, but it turned out to be beautiful and my little girl was happy. Their plan was to try and have kids pretty quickly and it certainly happened much quicker than anyone expected. On October 23rd Mallory and Kasey came to the house for dinner and surprised us with this exciting news.
We were very delighted, although I was dumbfounded as you can see in the video. This was the beginning of a new stage of life for us and we were certainly ecstatic. Through the rest of 2020 we watched Mallory grow with the little blessing inside her. In January we purchased and moved into a new house out in the country with a pool and a little acreage. Mallory swears we bought this place because she was pregnant with our first grandchild. I can’t deny that she’s probably right.
It’s a Girl!
We soon after found out that this little blessing was going to be a girl due June 24th. Peyton Jewel; I immediately called her PJ. We also had to choose our grandparent names and oh the pressure involved in this! We finally settled on KK for Kellye and Grumpy for me. Those of you that are grandparents understand the silly stage we began to enter and it still continues to this day. Of course at this point the buying spree began, clothes and diapers and toys oh my. It was a lot of fun to be sure. This continued for the next few months. I also began to get the outside area and pool ready for our little girls arrival. Fast forward to May 16th.
We received a phone call from Kasey on the night of the 16th around 10pm. He told us they thought Mallory’s water had broken. She was leaking fluid and they weren’t sure what to do. They went to the hospital and sure enough she was in labor. Our little PJ was on the way, 5 1/2 weeks early. This is where being in the medical profession can be a curse. I know too much to just relax and let things happen. Of course my mind went to all the bad things and I had to fight to keep those fears suppressed. Eventually Mallory was settled into her room and pitocin started. Our baby girl would probably not make her entrance into this world anytime soon so Kellye and I went home to get some rest.
I got to work the next morning, which was a Monday, a little after 6 and stopped in to check on Mallory. She had begun to feel the contractions and she was in the process of getting her epidural when I stepped in the room. I looked at her and then looked at her blood pressure. She looked miserable, had a horrible headache and her diastolic blood pressure was 118. That was way too high but I attributed it to pain and stepped out while they finished the epidural. I walked over to the surgery center to get my 7 am case started, and waited for updates. Kellye got there as the epidural was finished and hoped relief would happen soon. It didn’t. Her doctor was called and came in immediately. PJ’s heart rate was too low, Mallory’s blood pressure was still too high, and things didn’t look good. Dr. Ward placed a scalp electrode to monitor PJ’s heart rate better and to stimulate her to get her heart rate up. That didn’t work, so the next step was an “emergency c-section”.
Anyone working in anesthesia or labor and delivery knows the fear that is radiated from that phrase. The patient is rushed to the OR, prepped, draped and then put to sleep fast. Not the safest situation for mother or baby. Kellye texted me this news and Dr. Ward called me to tell me what was happening. Of course I happened to be putting my patient to sleep. Needless to say I was a bit stressed.
My PJ is here!
I was able to get relieved from my case and run upstairs to OB. Dr. Jon Lee, one of our anesthesiologists, texted and told me PJ was out and doing great. The tears were sure flowing at that point, tears of joy. When I arrived to the labor unit all of the nurses were smiling and telling me congratulations. I must have looked a little stunned and not sure what to do so they escorted me back to the c-section OR. There I found my beautiful daughter awake and smiling and showing me my PJ. The OR team was wonderful, the whole labor and delivery team to be exact. I couldn’t have asked for or received better care for my daughter and granddaughter.
PJ was here 5 1/2 weeks early so they took her to the nursery pretty quickly, which is standard. When Mallory got back to her room PJ got to visit for just a short time. Her respirations were pretty fast so she needed to stay in the NICU for a couple of days. Mallory healed well, was discharged on Wednesday and stayed as a boarder for a extra day to be close to PJ. On Thursday PJ was doing well enough to go home, so we loaded everything up, well almost everything, and got the excited young family to their home in Vilonia. And they all lived happily ever after. Well, not exactly…
The happy new family was home and wanted to handle things by themselves the first night and we were happy to oblige. Needless to say they had a rough night being first time parents with a premie baby. Mallory called us first thing Friday morning and we were excited to hear how their night was. It was not good. Mallory wanted to talk to me. When I got on the phone she was very short of breath, so dyspneic she could hardly talk. She sounded just like I had sounded a couple months earlier, when I was very anemic and short of breath. I tried to reassure her and tell her it was probably the anemia, as her hemoglobin did drop from 10 to 8 while she was in the hospital. I also advised her to call Dr. Ward’s nurse and let them know.
What is wrong with my Mal?
After a couple hours, Mallory hadn’t heard back from the doctor’s office, so I texted Dr. Ward myself. He immediately called back and told me to get Mallory to triage as soon as possible. He was worried that she might have a pulmonary embolus so he wanted to have a cat scan done of her chest. Not an uncommon occurrence, but very serious and potentially deadly. Of course all my medical knowledge kicks in as does the fear. I immediately started praying for my little girl. “Please God, take care of my Mal!”
On arrival to triage, her pulse ox was 97%, which was a great sign. She seemed pretty stable but still very dyspneic. The CT of her chest was negative for blood clots, great; but she did have a lot of fluid in her lungs. I once again began to run through a list of differential diagnosis based on this new information. Her hemoglobin had actually increased to 9 so we could probably rule out anemia as a cause of this. Next step was an echocardiogram.
Mallory has never had any heart issues, no health issues at all really in her life. She does have a history of pretty bad migraines, which her mother so graciously gifted her through DNA. The only serious health issue she had was an incidence of apnea and cyanosis as a two day old shortly after getting her home from the hospital. I clearly remember doing mouth to mouth and suctioning her to get her breathing again. As a result she spent four months on a home apnea monitor but hadn’t had any issues since. She used to tell people when she was a little girl; “when I was born I couldn’t (breath) so my daddy (breath)ed for me”.
We have a diagnosis…
All the while that these events were taking place I was working in the OR, trying to balance my patient’s life with my little girl’s life. Needless to say, I was again a little stressed. The echocardiogram was completed, and blood was drawn for lab work. The cardiologist didn’t like what she saw on the first echo so she ordered another one. In the meantime I am starting a case on a sick little old lady with a broken hip. Texts started coming in. BNP over 3000, EF 20-30%. Oh Lord!
From a medical point of view, these numbers are terrible. From a fatherly point of view, they are terrifying. My little girl was in heart failure. Brain Natriuretic Peptide, BNP, is a lab test that basically gives you an idea of how well the heart is pumping. Under 100 is normal, my baby girl’s was over 3000. The Ejection Fraction, EF, is a number obtained from the echocardiogram expressed as a fraction that tells you the amount of blood pumped from the left ventricle with each contraction. Normal is 60-70%, Mallory’s was 20-30%. Peripartum cardiomyopathy, PPCM, was the diagnosis that was reached from the multitude of tests and numerous specialist’s consultations. Okay, we have an answer. I am somewhat familiar with this having learned about it in school. What I didn’t know was what happens next. Mallory was admitted to the telemetry floor and given lasix, a diuretic, and metoprolol, a beta blocker. She began to feel better rather quickly, as the lasix helped remove a lot of fluid over the next several hours.
We were awash with emotions to say the least, a mixture of joy and fear. But the emotion, if you can call it an emotion that was highest in us, was faith. Faith in our God, faith in our Creator, faith in the Great Physician. Amidst all the medical knowledge, the presentation of facts and the gravity of the situation, our faith was high. We fully believed that God had not brought this miracle pregnancy, this miracle birth, and the miraculous restoration of our family to end in tragedy.
Mallory was excited to be a new mother and was doing a fantastic job, in spite of her current health conditions. She was enthusiastic about breast feeding and the bonding that takes place. She was doing very well with milk production and latching and all those things that go with it. I was watching my little girl turn into a mother and it was amazing. I was filled with a sense of pride and joy. She was feeling so much better and we were confident things were going to turn out great. She had an amazing team of doctors that cared for her.
Mallory had been admitted to the telemetry floor which happened to be across the hospital from the Women’s Center. And now COVID once again reared its ugly head, and due to these restrictions PJ could not be with her mother on that particular floor. Unfortunately telemetry was not an option at the Women’s Center. Here is where the labor and delivery nurses once again shined. They gave Kellye a boarder room at the Women’s Center so she could take care of PJ and still be close to Mallory. This meant I got to be the “ milk man”, running fresh milk from Mallory’s room to PJs room. And of course I didn’t mind.
Saturday morning Mallory was feeling even better. Her vital signs were still not where they should be, but a slow correction is best. The lasix and metoprolol were at work, and we were confident they would be successful. The weekend cardiologist came to visit her and brought news we weren’t expecting. Mallory would need to continue the lasix and metoprolol for at least 3 months, but another drug would need to be added, Entresto. Once this drug is started Mallory could no longer breast feed and with this diagnosis of PPCM, her heart may not be healthy enough for her to have another baby.
The emotions once again washed over all of us. Mallory could choose not to take Entresto and continue to breast feed, but this medicine was vital for the health and remodeling of her heart. We cried and talked and talked and cried. Mallory had her heart set on breastfeeding, but she knew she had to recover so she could take care of and raise this new little bundle of joy. Ultimately Mallory and Kasey chose for her to take the medicine for her health and would worry about future pregnancies at a future date.
Mallory was amazing. Once they had made the decision, one that I totally agreed with, Mallory began to plan for formula feeding and all involved in that. She had a couple more days to pump for PJ, so she did. The biggest problem now was that Mallory and PJ were separated. Kellye and Kasey would face time Mallory from across the hospital so she could see PJ, but that just wasn’t enough. It was time for Grumpy to step in.
Mallory is a rule follower, Grumpy not so much. PJ needed to get some blood drawn from the lab on Saturday morning. The lab happens to be close to an elevator that goes up to the telemetry floor, so I decided that we would just engage in a covert mission and take PJ to see Mallory, as a surprise. I carried her from the Women’s Center and up the staff elevator to the telemetry floor. Kasey went into Mallory’s room first then we followed shortly after. When we walked into the room Mallory’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. When she held Peyton, her heart was healed. I believe miraculously healed. She held her and loved her and we all cried. She stayed with her about an hour and Mallory began to get nervous, “rule follower”. Kasey took PJ down for her lab work and then back across the hospital to the Women’s Center.
I truly believe that Mallory started rapidly improving after holding her precious baby girl. The doctors were very encouraged by her progress but weren’t ready to discharge her just yet. Mallory was doing better but was still missing PJ. That evening Grumpy led another covert mission and reunited Mallory and PJ and more healing ensued. That night Kellye once again stayed with PJ, Kasey stayed with Mallory and I went home. We were all very optimistic and expected Mallory to be discharge the next day.
Sunday morning, Kasey and Kellye just brought PJ to Mallory’s room where she stayed all morning. Mallory was feeling even better and PJ was doing great. As we hoped for and expected, Mallory was discharged home that morning. We helped them get everything home once again, hopefully for good this time.
As of this publishing, Mallory is doing great and PJ is growing and getting cuter everyday. The love we have for PJ is indescribable. I am incredibly thankful for the staff and doctors at Conway Regional. The care they gave and the compassion they showed to my family cannot be properly expressed in words. I’m very proud to have been a part of this hospital for the past 27 years.
Becoming Grumpy has been an adventure, a roller coaster ride to be exact. I am very thankful that I’ve been able to be a part of it. A few short years ago this wouldn’t have been possible. Without the love and forgiveness of my beautiful wife Kellye, and the grace and mercy of God, I perhaps would not have been included and able to enjoy any of this wonderful time. Maybe more on that later.
One final thought to leave you with, Grumpy is blessed.