What Is a Medical Mama Bear?
Medical Mama Bears are a different breed of mama bear. While all moms can love fiercely, Medical Mama Bears are many times created in the midst of trauma while fighting for their child’s life. And the fight never stops. I’ll never forget the moment I became a Medical Mama Bear: there I stood, in the middle of the busy NICU yelling at Rowan’s doctor. Rowan had coded the day before due to something entirely preventable, something I had been warning them about for days. I’m normally the painfully quiet, introverted type, but that day I realized that I was the only one who could advocate for my child, and that I’d have to get my claws out to make things happen. There was no more room for meekness; this mama bear would protect her baby at all costs.
How I Became a Medical Mama Bear
We had just switched NICUs a few days prior because Rowan needed surgery. He was just two pounds at about 2 months old, and was not doing well. He needed a PDA ligation (a type of heart surgery). Since we had switched to the new NICU, water had constantly been pouring down Rowan’s face from condensation from his nasal cannula, and even going into his lungs. I had been talking to his doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists about it, but no one seemed to care or think it was an issue. However, it was an issue. He had a hard time recovering from events caused by these “drownings” that were happening multiple times a day.
This particular day, Rowan had a nurse who was not very attentive. I was at his bedside and his oxygen had been dropping down to the low 80s on and off. He was having bradycardia events more than normal that day and they were lasting longer than normal too. As he was having these events, no one was coming to check on him. No one was putting their eyes on HIM, just on the monitors.
Rowan’s oxygen dropped to the 60s. From across the pod filled with five other babies, his nurse called out to me, “his probe just isn’t picking up!” I reached my hand into his isolette to hold the probe firmly on his foot because I knew something was wrong. It was not the probe. Next, Rowan had a brady and desat that lasted a long time. Still no one came to check. But I was there. And then another desat and brady, and I could see he was struggling. I cannot forget what he looked like laying in his isolette struggling to breathe, his little body squirming and his lips trying to suck in air.
I yelled across the large room to his nurse, “He’s gasping!” Finally, this got their attention. He continued to decline. The nurses had to bag him to help him breath, but it wasn’t helping. His oxygen sats continued to drop. They sat him up and blood ran out of his mouth. This is when they called the code. I can still hear them say over the speakers, “Code Blue, Pod 6, Bed 6.” The code team of at least ten people rushed into the room, and they saved his life that day.
But it didn’t have to be that way. Mama bear shouldn’t have let it get that far. I should have demanded better care. I should have reported that nurse that wasn’t attending to his needs. I should have fought harder for a solution to the humidity issue (that we did NOT have at the previous NICU).
On the morning that I yelled at the doctor, I had simply asked for extra checks by the respiratory therapist to clear the humidity from his tubing, a simple request. A NEEDED task. And she refused to put orders in for it. Instead she explained to me how humidity works and told me that I could shake the humidity out of the tubing myself. I can still see her pinch her fingers in the air as if holding an oxygen tube and pretend to shake it. How condescending is that!
This is when I lost my patience. This is when all the nurses, parents, and sweet little babies in the open-floor-plan NICU heard this Medical Mama Bear roar.
I may have been labeled the crazy NICU mama, but I got things taken care of. We contacted the hospital’s patient care advocate. This step led to much better care for Rowan, including our FOUR primary care nurses who we love! Though I love 99.9% of Rowan’s nurses and doctors, I still 100% stand by the fact that he was not being cared for properly that day.