spikegifted.net - Archive Q2 2010
Home: Just how do you socialize then you have two infants who are on very rigid feeding cycles? A couple of my friends came up with an ‘innovative’ solution: bring the ingredients to our house and cook the meal there. Over the course of a couple of weekends, two of our friends decided to come and visit. As I have previously mentioned, our social life since the arrival of the Masters have been closed to nil. So, for the guys to show up, it was a massive help for us! Hats off to them for organizing and cooking the meals which provided some much-needed variety to our average weekends. It was great fun for the boys also, as they saw some new faces and heard some new voices. Needless to day, the food was excellent in quality, but even more important, the company was fantastic. Huge, huge thanks to them for coming up with the ideas and for entertaining the whole family.
Home: While the signs of an operation were minimal, I had to concede that I obviously felt the operation. When I bent my knee, there was a slushy sound coming out, not something you would normally associate with the flexing of the knee. I was informed by the nurse that the sound was owed to the saline used to wash out the wound and the excess liquid should be absorbed by the body over the next 24 to 48 hours and sound should disappear in due course. The swelling, however, would tale a lot longer. While the immediate swelling would have calmed down after a couple of weeks, it would take up to four to six weeks for swelling to fully disappear. There was little I could do to accelerate this process; it was simply a case of allowing nature taking its course. While I was on paid medical leave from work, there was very little respite at home because of the demands of looking after the boys. With the help of the Ruler_of_spike, we tried to achieve the best balance between the need to rest my knee and the needs of the two Masters.
Home: The appointed day for the knee surgery arrived. I was admitted to the hospital as a day case at 7am. I was shown to a room where I got ready for the operation. Although it was a relatively small surgery, I was placed under general anesthetics for the procedure. Before I knew it, I was waking up from the surgery. The only other time when I had surgery was when I suffered a fracture to my left femur, which happened back in the mid-1990s. While I recognized that this surgery to my knee was nothing like the fracture, it was impossible not to compare one experience from another. I have to say that the keyhole surgery was a lot less unpleasant. The whole point of the keyhole surgery was that the incisions would be relatively small and hence caused less collateral damage in the process and shortened the recovery period. I was genuinely surprised by how little pain I felt around the area of the operation. Apart from the obvious swelling around the knee and the two small bits of stitching where the incisions were made, there were no other signs of the operation. After being checked by the consultant, anesthetist and various nurses, I was allowed to leave. I arranged a cab to come and pick me up from the hospital. Although I had a pair of crutches, I really didn't need them. Prior to the operation, the consultant mentioned that 95% of his patients didn't feel any effects from the operation. I was glad that I was not one of those who fell outside that statistic.
Home: I have been really struggling with my right knee lately. That particular knee has been giving me minor problems on and off for over three years now. However, it has been more of an irritant than anything else. However, not long after the arrival of the two Masters, it swelled up and caused a great deal of discomfort. Although anti-inflammatory help reducing the swelling and relieve so of the pain, it did not resolve the underlying problem - wear and tear from years of sporting activities. So I was referred to a knee specialist in a local private hospital. The consultant was hugely experienced and pretty much identified the problem even before any scans were done on the knee. I was referred to have MRI scan to be completely on the knee. For anyone who has been near an MRI scanner, they will be able to tell you how noisy it was. However, given how tired I was from the lack of sleep, I managed to sleep right through the whole scan, which took over 45 minutes. I felt really refreshed after this unexpected bit of rest. Anyway, the scan provided the necessary hard evidence of the damage to the cartilage. Luckily, this type of damage was very common amongst athletes and sportsmen and the consultant appeared to be very knowledgeable about injuries to the knee and how to treat them. So, over a follow-up appointment, it was decided that I would indeed have surgery on my right knee.
Home: I am fully accustomed to sending Father's Day cards, but not receiving them, so it was a real novelty to receive one this year. Of course, this was the first year when I became qualified to receive one. I mentioned to the Ruler_of_spike that many years ago, I fantasized that I would be father to pair of twins. This, of course, became true. Interesting, she 'confessed' to me that she always knew that she would have twins. How strange our intuitions have been. To those who believe in their gods, I supposed this was what they'd call 'god's will'. For those who dig pre-determination, this would classify as 'fate'. Whatever you choose to call it, it is our luck and our family’s blessing that we ended with the two Masters.
Home: Catching up on sleep on the way home was a lot trickier than the commute in the morning. The most obvious difficult was finding 'the seat'. There was a lot consideration going into which was the best seat. The most obvious difficulty was the competition for seats in the evening commute. The seats which I ranked most favorable could very well be the ideal seat for a number of others. What I really wanted was somewhere I would not disturbed by people getting off the train before I did, which means a window seat. However, I wanted this seat to be in one of the carriages that had a good number of people getting off at my stop so that if I was still asleep, the movements would wake me up. I have discovered that, if uninterrupted, I would sleep for just under 30 minutes, which would bring me 80% of the way home. However, I would confess that I have woken up a number of times when the train was sitting at the platform of the stop I needed to alight.
Home: Since the arrival of the two Masters, we pretty much ceased to have a social life. It was particularly difficult for the Ruler_of_spike, as she bore the main burden of looking after the twins, and her daily schedule was just relentless. She often barely has time to have small amounts of food during the day. I could see the relieve on her face when I return home after work. From that point onwards, I largely took over the feeding the boys. After dinner, which was dictated by the Masters' feeding schedule, the Ruler_of_spike would soon retire for the night. This typically left me alone with the boys until 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning. At this point in time, they were on a three-hour feeding cycle, so I was responsible for three feeds on my own. While this did not sound like a lot, once all the work involved has been included, this would allow me typically two hours of sleep before getting up and going to work. As a result, my commute to work has evolved to become an extension of my sleep. As we lived relatively far from the center of London, it was almost always possible to find a seat on the train. The train journey was ideally suited for catching up with some sleep as the trains end in the main terminus, either London Bridge or Victoria, which means there was very little risk that I would miss the stop. (However, there had been times when I woke up, the train was completely empty.) While there was little sleep to speak of, at least this way seemed to, somehow, got me through the days, although if I was completely honest, there we're many afternoons when I struggled a great deal.
Home: it was hard to believe, but the two Masters were two months old! However, it must be discounted that they were born seven weeks premature, so in terms of actual development, they were closer those babies of around two to three weeks old. They were putting on weight and we continued with the punishing three-hour feeding cycle. Although we were trying to give them 120ml of milk per feed, they were not taking that amount in full every meal. We could see that they were often struggling with the sheer volume of liquid. Master Cheeky was coping well with his feed, but he still required the addition of 'Colief' to him overcome his infant colic. Master Chill was even more remarkable. Since being diagnosed with cow's milk intolerance and switching to the special milk, he was taking on his food with increased enthusiasm. There is no greater joy to your baby happily taking on his food, and there is no more painful sight to see him struggle to feed. We were glad that we were seeing much more of the former than the latter.
Home: As it turned out, the cultures all came back with negative results. Moreover, Master Chill's temperature returned to the normal range quickly. So he was discharged after roughly sixty hours after being admitted. They put his temperature down as 'unexplained'. While the whole episode has been rather stressful and frustrating, at least we knew for certain that there was nothing wrong with him. It is often with infant's health that whenever something appears to be going wrong, it is a process of elimination that moves the diagnosis. As babies are incapable of telling us what is wrong with them, we have to rely on the thoroughness of the medical professionals to eliminate the likely causes of discomfort one by one, until a time when they are confident that all possibilities have been looked at and there are nothing else left to give cause to ill health. Fortunately, at least in this occasion, things returned to normal relatively quickly, Master Chill did not show any further signs of illness, he was allowed out of the hospital. However, we appreciated the concerns the doctors showed. A massive sigh of relief all round.
Home: Being the 'taxi driver' for the family was a good reminder how much stuff we needed to sustain our normal daily existence. Master Chill needed his special milk powder, vitamin supplements and various other additions to his diet to help him with his digestive system. Additionally, there were the diapers and the clothes. Of course, these were mirrored my Master Cheeky's own. Then Ruler_of_spike has her needs also - eating, feeding and entertaining. I was ferrying various things forwards and backwards between places. Obviously, there was the weekly family food shopping. The main lesson was that having the family in two locations was very demanding on our time and required lots of careful organization. The most basic things like toothbrush and toothpaste has to be thought of ahead of time. It was a good job that the Ruler_of_spike has all these thing on her mind and she could rattle off lists of thing I needed to get in each trip. Otherwise I would be lost.
Home: Another week, another little problem. When I got home on one Friday evening, the Ruler_of_spike informed me that Master Chill has been rather agitated the whole afternoon and has been difficult to calm down. While trying to calm him down, an idea crossed my mind and I used the thermometer on him. Those ear thermometers are not the easiest to use, especially for infants of the boys' age. After double checking and triple checking, we determined that Master Chill has a temperature of 37.9c. We have read somewhere that we should take the child to hospital if infants of up to three months with a temperature of 38c. So I drove Master Chill to the children A&E, while the Ruler_of_spike stayed at home to look after Master Cheeky. The nurse at A&E confirmed Master Chill was having a temperature of 38c. He was examined by a paedatrician. A battery of tests was carried out on him: blood test, urine test, chest X-ray and taking fluid from the lower back (to check for childhood meningitis. Fortunately, all tests came back negative. However, as he still had a temperature, Master was admitted for further observation while we wait for the results of the culture growth. The Ruler_of_spike decided to stay over at the hospital with Master Chill, so I spent the long weekend running to and fro our house and the hospital.
Home: Master Chill was having a difficult time with his feeding. To make things more complicated, we found small amounts of blood in his stools. We knew the drill by now - straight over to the children A&E at the hospital to get access to a paediatrician. What a world of difference speaking to a medical professional who was knowledgeable. Even as a layman, I could see that the paediatrician was giving a thorough examination of Master Chill. This was totally different from less-than-enthusiastic eyeballing from the out-of-hour doctor. Master Chill was diagnosed with cow's milk protein allergy. I was told that this was a relatively common symptom amongst babies. So Master Chill was prescribed with Nutramigen. In addition to being lactose free, it is hypoallergenic and is made of proteins that are extensively broken down. However, this stuff tasted horrible. On occasions when I was making Master Chill’s meals, I tried and tasted this milk while testing the temperature, I found it tasted really awful. Despite that, Master Chill seemed to like it and didn’t seem to get enough of it. So at last, he could enjoy his meals again and resume putting weight on.
Home: After the initial bout of feeding problems, the boys have settled into a vigorous feeding routine to boost their weights. Master Cheeky has Colief added to his milk which helped him breakdown lactose in the milk. Master Chill, on the other hand, has Infacol for his colic as well as Gaviscon Infant to treat reflux. All these meant preparing their meals was less than straight forward. In addition to the medicines, the boys have to have daily doses of multivitamins, folic acid and iron supplement added to their milks, owing to their premature birth. On the other hand, it was gratifying to see the boys were putting on weight - Master Cheeky has just reached 3kg while Master Chill was near 2.85kg.
Home: The boys were having some feeding problem. Master Cheeky has baby colic, while Master Chill was suffering from reflux as well as colic. At the same time, we have our first experience of the NHS’s paediatric healthcare. We first noticed that they were having trouble on a Saturday morning, when our GP surgery was closed. We first encountered the out-of-hour GP service in the hospital which was staffed by disinterested doctors. The doctor who examined the boys almost made his prognosis without touching them. The whole experience left us feeling less than confident regarding the level of care the boys would receive. The guy was out of his depth and it showed. We later found out that the most effective way to gain access to a specialist paediatrician was via the children accidents and emergencies in the hospital. Unfortunately, we were never informed of these things, but only found out by trial and error, which meant a lot of time wasting and frustration.
Home: We had the first visit from the Health Visitor, who was dedicated to help us looking after our boys and to look after the Ruler_of_spike. On the day of the visit, I was still on my paternity leave from work, and as I happened to be close to the front door, I opened the door for her. She was a pleasant lady and seemed to know she was talking about. Then, as the boys were sleeping, we took her to their room to see them. Here, she made one of the more interesting comments I have heard: “Oh, I can see one of the boys have infant jaundice.” (I thought she was referring to Master Cheeky, who has my skin color.) Someone must be missing something or have I acquired a good tan lately? Did she think I was the handy man or some friend staying over to help out in the house? I would assume that had she check out her files before her visit, she would have notice the boys’ surname is not that of a typical British one, and might actually be Asian. Anyway, her mistimed statement has now become a family joke, and something to tell the boys when they grow up.
Home: What would be considered as normal life has been suspended indefinitely and has been replaced by endless cycle of feeding, winding, changing and getting the boys back to sleep. Please don't make the assumption that all this was boring, not at all. However, given that we spent over 18 hours out of 24 looking after the boys, there was very little else to talk about. They were two amazing babies - small though they were, they were full of life. Master Cheeky was living up to his name - he has his way of doing things and that was how it would stay. Master Chill was just taking things easy.
Home: For the folks who don’t have kids, you have to take my word for this: neatness and kids don’t mix. For us, our problem was effectively doubled. Imagine our three-bedroom Victorian semi-detached ‘cottage’, and then stuff it with two each of all the things you would associate with children: child car seat, rocker, cot, etc, and the double-width stroller. The place was full in no time.
Home: I had two weeks worth of paternity leave and I used it to the full. Having a pair of young twins on a three-hour feeding cycle pretty much put an end to ‘normal life’ - their needs come first. The basic assumption is that it takes an average an hour to feed, wind, change the nappy and put the baby back to bed. Now, we have two babies on similar schedules (an hour apart) and you can quickly work out that we spent two thirds of a day on the two Masters. As I am a ‘night owl’, I volunteered for the night feeds. From nine o’clock in the evening until five in the morning, there was hardly a minute of rest. In between all the action with the boys, we had to somehow fit in our meals, our rest and somehow bring some kind order in the house.
Home: The stay-over was a rather sharp reality check for us and a reminder that we were coming to the end of the honeymoon period. The boys were coming home and our lives were going to be changed dramatically. While this sounded intimidating, we were terribly excited by the prospect of their home-coming. This was the result of what we have been working very hard for. And, oh, by the way, the house was not ready for them! There was just that little bit more to do, honest! Waking up from the stay-over, not trying to suggest that we slept much, I knew there was work to do. Thankfully, they were primarily finishing touches, which, of course, took the most time. When I returned to the hospital after the ‘finishing touches’, I drove with the children car seats for the first time. It was hard to describe how exciting that experience was. Dressing the boys in their new clothes, scrapping the boys in their seats, gathering all the bits and pieces (and there were a lot of them) and finally leaving with them, was an incredible rite of passage. The boys looked so small compared to the car seats. They looked so fragile and needed all the protection we could offer out in the real world. We had been ‘playing’ parenthood while the boys were in hospital, now it was for real! While I am not a fast driver, I was being super careful on that first trip from hospital to go home.
Home: There were simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. I was due to join the Ruler_of_spike on the second night of the hospital stay over, but no matter how hard I was working, there were simply so many things that needed finishing. Eventually, I ran out of time, but it also meant that the boys would be coming back with the house still not being ready for them.
Home: The walls in the living room and dining room were finally painted. By that I meant the paint on the old and new plasters were finally blended and any division became invisible. Once the paint was dried, the paintings could be re-hanged. It took a little time to get the rooms back into their previous states. These rooms had not been in these states since the damp proofing started. It has been a long process, one that was interrupted by the arrival of the two Masters. However, despite the interruption, the redecorating work was finally done. When all the things were put back to their original positions, I am proud to be able to claim that it would be hard pressed to notice that any work was actually been carried out.
Home: One of the things that needed be done rather urgently, amongst all the other things that needed to be done urgently, was getting the room ready for the boys. All the bits that were needed were in the room: cots, mattresses, changing mats, diaper bin, etc... The problem was that all these things were in their packaging and were not yet put together. To add to that, there was stuff in there that belonged to the living and dining rooms, which, of course, were still work-in-progress. So there was a lot of juggling around for space. By the time I was done, I could barely walk out of the room as I threw all the packaging out into the hallway. It was a mess of cardboard, Styrofoam blocks, plastic bags, etc. The result in the room was, however, totally different. Aside from the two cots, there was very little else in there at that time. How quickly things were to change.
Home: In between applying the coats of paint, I built and mounted the new cupboards in the utility room. The difficult part was making sure that they line up properly and were level. The rest of the operation was comparative straight forward. Replacing the old worktop was a lot more demanding as the new piece was over 1.8m long and was quite heavy. Ideally, the piece should be maneuvered by two people, but I had to get the job done on my own. But I am making a big deal of it, it turned out to be relatively uncomplicated. All these bits were time consuming, which was just fine as I was doing all of these things while waiting for paint in the living room and dining room to dry. So as I arranged the work around the painting, I managed to get quite a bit done.
Home: Painting the living and dining rooms was a big job. However, I invested in a Dulux PaintPod and that proved to be a life saver. Also, the fact that when we first decorated the house the Ruler_of_spike decided to have white as the main color in the house proved to be really beneficial. After a couple of coats of paint, the fresh plaster was already fully covered. The most difficult part of the paint job was the junctions where the fresh plaster met untouched parts of the walls, the contrasting colors seemed very difficult to cover up. However, given the existing untouched parts of the walls were still white, there was no need to repaint them. This proved to be real time saver. The paint was non-drip, so I didn’t leave a mess to clear up. Additionally, it quick dry and didn’t smell too bad, so I was able to apply four coats of paint in one day.
Work: My boss has been very understanding and he has lightened my work load ahead of the Masters coming home. The fact that his wife was expecting a child also helped, I thought. I was going to take the full two weeks of the available paternity leave and it would be neat for me to work on things that have comparatively manageable time frames rather than open-ended projects. However, the boys were ready to come home a lot quick than we anticipated and as there was a lot of work to be done at home, I decided to take a additional couple of days off so that I could complete the work at home.
Home: This was a serious milestone! Both Masters were free of feed tubes. That’s right, they were fully bottle fed and they were both gaining weight. With the removal of the feed tubes, and provided they continued to take their milk without trouble, the hospital was looking to discharge them in the near future. The boys’ home coming would be imminent. Looking around the house, there was still a lot of work to be done in the house before it was ready for the boys. The Ruler_of_spike was schedule to spend 48 hours in the ‘transitional care’ to accustom her with the spending extensive amount of time with the boys before they were discharged and I was due to join her on the second evening. That gave me an opportunity to get the work done in the house.
Home: The floor in the utility room and back toilet was a right mess. There were actually two layers of lino on the floor and I could only remove one of them. The older layer of lino was firmly glued and it would have been too big of an effort to remove it. The tiling took a long time as there were a lot of things in the room and I had to stop and move things around to get to complete the tiling. Once the tiles were firm, the grouting again took a long time as I had to repeat the moving things around exercise. What really did not help was that my knees were hurting a lot and bending down and maneuvering was not the easiest thing to do. But in the end, the job was done. Given the limited time available and the uneven floor surface, I thought I got good results.
Home: As the Easter weekend was interrupted by the birth of the two Masters, I was trying to find time to catch up with the DIY that was originally planned that long weekend. The biggest job was utility room and back toilet, which required tiling, changing the work top and cupboards, and a lot of painting. Additionally, there was a lot of painting to be done in the living room and dining room areas. All the painting stem from the damp proofing work carried out back in March and the new plaster work has taken a long time to thoroughly dry. All the walls that received treatment were left with bare plaster below a meter in height which was a real eye-sore. However, I decided to tackle the tiling first as that was the most difficult job and would have taken the longest to complete.
Home: There was no understatement to say that the two Masters were making massive progress. The Ruler_of_spike was spending every afternoon and early evening with the boys, with me joining her after work. We were in a 'honeymoon' period - we were parents to a pair of twins, but we didn't have to deal with them 24 hours a day, not yet anyway. This arrangement eased us into parenthood. We were under no illusion that things would be very different once they come home. However, their extended stay at the hospital, while we were emotionally attached to the boys, they were still physically detached from our lives. In the mean time, we got to know the boys. It was interesting to notice that Master Cheeky was very impatient, especially when it came to his food, while Master Chill was pretty lay back about things. They were getting more and more interesting, and we just couldn’t wait to have them back home.
Home: So far everything that has to do with the boys have been rather unexpected: arriving early due to the Ruler_of_spike suffering from pre-eclampsia and having to be moved to a different hospital due to insufficient neonatal intensive care cots at Kingston Hospital. Yet, they were making massive progress. We now got the first pleasant surprise regarding them: they we're being transferred back to Kingston. That was a massive step in the right direction. Kingston was only a bus ride from where we lived and it was entirely feasible for the Ruler_of_spike to make the trip, even with her trouble hip/pelvis. The boys had to be kept in isolation after being transferred back for the purpose of MRSA screening, but otherwise they were doing just fine. As they did not any assistance or monitoring, they we're not being kept in the 'pink nursery' (intensive care) but the blue one. Our relief in having them closer to home was immense. What it meant to have them closer to us was immediately obvious: I would finish work and rush home, and could be with them after a half hour drive. After spending some time with them, the Ruler_of_spike and I would return home, have dinner and then rest. This, of course, was a lot less punishing than my previous regime of visiting two hospitals, 20 mile apart, every day.
Home: Having to travel to northwest London to visit the boys came as real reality check. They were still a long way from us. Going to Northwick Park was a car trip that took slightly over an hour with no traffic. With average traffic load, it was a trip that could take nearly ninety minutes. To go via public transport (train to London Victoria, tube to Oxford Circus, then to Baker Street and finally to Northwick Park station) could easily take two and half hours. Also, there would be a lot of walking. The Ruler_of_spike was complaining her pelvis hurting while she was still carrying the two Masters, and that deteriorated having gone through the Caesarean section. Also she could drive for at least six weeks. All in all, Northwick Park seemed a long way away, and it really was. The boys have to be transferred back Kingston and that has to happen soon!
Home: Alas, it was getting late and the day has been an emotional rollercoaster. It was only when we left that we realized that we have not had dinner yet. At that kind of time at night there were few options available and we could not see ourselves consuming kebabs. So the only option was the McDonald's drive-through. I haven't had McDonald's for months and the Ruler_of_spike has probably had McDonald's once or twice in her entire life, so this meal was kind of extraordinary. We parked nearby and consumed our 'meals' in the car. It was not the most romantic of meals we have ever had, but strangely it was one of the most satisfying. It was well past midnight before we got home. Only after we got back home did we realize the Ruler_of_spike still had the hospital tags on her wrists. Having the two Masters made us rather forgetful of our own needs.
Home: In an illogical kind of way, it was actually good that the Ruler_of_spike did not see the twins when they we're all wired up to the monitors. Like I said before, it would be a shock no matter how prepared the person was, never mind ones own flesh and blood. It was, therefore fortunate that by the time she was discharged, the boys were largely free of tubes and monitors, even Master Chill was off the CPAP during our visit. Additionally, the boys were doing so well that they were taken out of the incubators and put in open cots. The improvements were large enough that it was an excellent contrast to the photos I have been taking while they were still in the plastic boxes. The look on the Ruler_of_spike was worth a million pounds! Finally, after being separated since giving birth, she was reunited with the boys. The joy in her eyes was impossible to put into words. In the brief couple of hours we were there, we could not stop our sense of wonder how well the boys have done so far. Our lives have been totally transformed and these are the results of our dreams.
Home: Finally, the Ruler_of_spike was allowed out of the hospital. I got the call late on Friday afternoon - eight days after she was originally admitted and a week after she gave birth - that she was going to be discharged. The first thing we did after leaving Kingston Hospital was to drive up to Northwick Park Hospital to see the boys. The Ruler_of_spike was desperate to see them. Although I have been taking a good number of photos and the occasional videos of the twins for her to see them, there was no substitute to seeing them in the flesh and holding them in her arms.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike was getting better, but not as quick as she would like. The pre-eclampsia caused a good deal of damage. Luckily, they were not permanent, but the organs took time to recover. Being impatient and desperate to see her boys in the flesh, she was getting frustrated. Here, we saw the best and the worst of the National Health Service in the UK. The NHS is staffed by many wonderful, helpful people. Many of them will take the extra step to help you, within the limited time available and if you are being polite and reasonable. We are grateful for their understanding and kindness. On the other hand, we saw the ineffectiveness of the whole system. Owing to the shift system and high turn around nature of maternity wards, we seldom saw the same crew more than once. The Ruler_of_spike had to repeat her story over and over again to different people many times a day. The frustrating thing was that while she saw many medical professionals, few of them have read the full set notes that has built up in her file. They have the tendency to just read the last line of the last entry with making reference to earlier entries. The worst bit was caused by those few people who make the whole NHS a nightmare. These people fell into two types: those who thought because they have the medical knowledge, they had power over the patients and they made information proprietary and even refuse to disclose or discuss information which the patients had the right to know about; and then there were those who have no idea how to treat the patients, they just waited for time until the patients gave up and asked someone else. These people were disgusting and should not have ever been allowed to work in the medical profession.
Home: With the end of the long Easter weekend, my life was to return to 'normal'. Normal meant going to back to work. This added an extra dimension to the travel routine established over the Easter weekend. On its own, traveling to work was not a big deal. We have been living our house for nearly four years and I knew my commute well. The tricky part was the additional traveling after work. A typical day would see me leaving the office between 5:15 and 5:30. I would get back to our house around 6:45 or later. It followed a half-hour drive over to the first hospital to see the Ruler_of_spike. After spending around an hour or so with her, I was off to northwest London to the boys. That trip took between 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic. There, I would typically stay up to an hour. Finally, I would leave the hospital around 11:15 and spend another hour driving home. That was really draining. After a couple of days, I was given permission to work from home, so I could reduce the amount of time I spend traveling by cutting the commute. The amount of time saved by not having to travel to and from work was a godsend.
Home: Home was a very confusing place. With the family members being in different hospitals and the time it took to travel from one place to another, our house was reduced to performing the function of a hotel. It was also helpful that there were some leftovers from the week that I could consume instead of getting takeaway meals or cooking things from fresh. Ready meals in the freezer also contributed to my diet. During the long Easter weekend, I typically got home after midnight feeling hungry. After consuming whatever was available, I needed a while to digest the meal and attempted to relax before going to bed. Whenever I got up, it would be another 14 or 15 hours of running around. While this appeared hectic, there was great excitement and anxiety. Great changes were happening to our lives and I was at the eye of the storm.
Home: The most amazing thing was how much progress they we're making every day. The Masters seemed to like milk and were not showing any ill effects. The nurses were slowly reducing their dependence on the glucose drip as well.
Home: The two Masters were getting better by the day! Master Cheeky was able to breath unaided after a couple of days. Master Chill was a little behind. He was breathing 26% oxygen via CPAP to start with, but he soon managed with just normal air (21% oxygen). They were both on glucose drips, milk was slowly being introduced - roughly 1ml per hour to start with, going up to 2ml after 12 hours, then additional 1ml every 12 hours. They were being kept in incubators to help them regulating their body temperatures. There were also a whole bunch of monitors being attached to them: heart beat rates, blood oxygen levels, blood pressures and breathing monitors. They also have antibiotic drips to help them clear any infections. On top of all those, they have their feed tube: Master Cheeky had his through his nostril while Master Chill had his through his mouth (because of the CPAP). For those who were not prepared, they were not pretty sight. The point was that each one of these 'attachments' was performing a function - to monitor and to help them through their early days. The boys were getting stronger, but there was no getting away from the fact there were 7 weeks premature. They needed all the help modern medical technology could provide.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike was recovering from pre-eclampsia and from the Caesarean section. However, pre-eclampsia is a really nasty condition and it's not something that you can just sleep it off. Although the Ruler_of_spike's blood pressure and her kidney functions were gradually returning to normal levels, her liver functions were taking much longer. The difficult part was that there were no drugs which could her, it was all down to her own body and it was a slow process.
Home: There is a saying that "timing is everything". Well, in terms of timing their arrivals, the two Masters have timed theirs to perfection. Although it was draining and wholly unexpected, being delivered during the Easter bank holiday weekend allowed me a bit of freedom in terms of visiting them and the Ruler_of_spike. While I have paternity leave lined up, we have decided that it would be best to take it when the boys left hospital and returned home, otherwise it would be wasted in car journeys. Having the entire weekend and the Easter Monday meant that, over a three-day period, I could at least get a grip of the situation and watch their early developments. Had they been born any other time, I was certain that there would have been a far greater sense of panic for me.
Home: For the next few of days, things were pretty full-on. I would typically stop off at Kingston Hospital where the Ruler_of_spike was recovering and then travel up to northwest London to see the boys. I took a great deal of photos and some videos to show the Ruler_of_spike the progress of the boys. They were changing from day to day. Then I drove back to Kingston to show the photos and videos to her. While looking at images and videos was no substitutes to the real thing, I hoped they help the Ruler_of_spike to become attached to the boys.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike was doing better - the shaking has stopped, but she required additional oxygen to help her breathing. For anyone unprepared, that could have been a discomforting sight. The most disheartening event was to be told by one of the nurses to leave the maternity unit as it was past 9pm. I wasn't allowed to stay with my wife. To be completely honest, I was really tired. The previous thirty six hours had been a blur and there were few opportunities to take stock of the fast-changing situations. That evening was one of the strangest I have ever experienced - I was father to two boys, who needed some help, but otherwise healthy little babies. My wife was seriously ill in hospital. To add spice to the situation, the Ruler_of_spike and the twins were in different hospitals, 16 miles apart. I was sitting at home, late at night, tired but could not sleep, trying to take in the whole situation... The next few days were going to be interesting.
Home: At last, something a little positive: they have found a hospital in the northwest of London which had the space to take both of them. Choice was very limited - it was either this hospital or another one in Southampton. Neither was particularly attractive, but I could envision myself driving across London. At least the twins would not be split up. This news was not easy on the Ruler_of_spike, but it was the best the system could do for us.
Home: While the Ruler_of_spike was recovering from the operation, a whole new situation was developing. Thanks to years of mismanagement and appalling resources planning, Master Cheeky and Master Chill had to be transferred to a different hospital. The problem stemmed from the fact that they required assistance in their breathing. While their conditions were not alarming, the very fact that they needed assistance means they require neonatal intensive care, which from a hospital organizational perspective, it was a major change. There were simply insufficient facilities in the hospital. There-fore they would have to be transferred to other hospital(s). For whatever reason, there were no hospital in our area (read: the whole of southwest London) that had the capacity to take on the pair of them. The doctors were making frantic phone calls to other hospitals to secure NICU space for our new arrivals. The nightmare scenario was for the boys and the Ruler_of_spike to be all kept at different hospitals. I was getting frantic.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike was not reacting well to the spinal injection. While the typical reaction post-operation was shaking, she was shaking quite violently. It looked like she was really cold - shaking, losing colors on her lips and cheeks, and nails turning blue/ purple. The anesthesiatist was at hand to keep an eye on her. It took a good couple of hours for the shaking to calm down. For me, it was a scary time as there was nothing I could do to help, it was just a case of trying to keep the Ruler_of_spike down (she was scared also) and keep communicating with the doctors to make sure we were fully informed about her developing condition.
Home: Caesarean section is a very brutal method of delivery. All those people who claim women who give birth by this method are 'too posh to push' have no idea what women go through. It took ten minutes to deliver the boys, but it took nearly 45 minutes to mend the Ruler_of_spike. However, that was not the end of it. She would have weeks of discomfort. She won't be able to lift anything for several weeks. (Women who have Caesarean section won't be allowed to drive as insurance companies won't cover them immediately after the operation.) There was bruising near the wound. And then, there was always the risk of infection. 'Too posh to push' is a description for those who have never experience such an operation or too narrow minded to grasp the effects on the body.
Home: We knew all along that Master Cheeky and Master Chill are non-identical twins (there were two placentas and they were in two different fetal sacs), they looked so similar at birth. When put side by side, it was hard to tell who was who. Master Chill was slighter heavier, but there was only thirty grams difference. As they were premature, they were whisked away to the neonatal intensive case unit after we had been given a brief time to admire them. After carrying them around for seven long months, the Ruler_of_spike could at last see the result of the massive effort she made. Although they have been regularly scanned via ultrasound, those scans were nowhere near the satisfaction of seeing them in the flash. They are here! They are real! And they are ours!!
Home: I was the only person in the delivery theater who didn't have a defined job to do. In a normal delivery, the 'birth partner' would be there to give the mother support. As a Caesarean section has been planned along, I knew my role would be different. I was given the task of choosing some music (which we hardly heard any of it because of all the things happening) and tried to calm the Ruler_of_spike (she was very calm throughout). I ended up gently stroking her hair which she found soothing. The theater was a hive of activities. We were behind a screen so we could not see what was going on the other side, but frankly, we knew it probably wasn't going to be pretty. Before we knew it, one of the doctors said in a calm voice: "Here comes twin A." We heard the sound we longed for: a little cough and a cry. He was held over the screen. There was more work for the doctors as the second baby was still inside. Soon enough, may be little more than three minutes, the doctor announced: "And here is twin B." Before we could grasp, he has started crying as well. There was a collective sigh of relieve from both the Ruler_of_spike and I. For the first time in nearly 48 hours, we felt a release of tension. Things have been happening rapidly since the Thursday before Easter. The tension has been building and building - the Ruler_of_spike not feeling well, then the vomiting, then being told of her condition, and the urgency of delivering her, and finally the arrival of the two little ones. One thing seemed to have led to another. There was no respite, we were merely following the flow of events. Her pre-eclampsia pretty dictated direction and speed of the flow and we tried to relax and 'enjoy' the ride.
Home: At the appointed hour, we got ready for the operation. Inside the theater, there was a army of people... There were two doctors who would carried out the operation. Then there were the nurses how formed the support team for the operation. One of the more important people (not that there was anyone who was unimportant) was the anesthesiatist. He was the person who would ensure the Ruler_of_spike have a painless operation. However, the drug they used for the spinal injection has some side-effects which are quite unpleasant. There were teams for the twins consisting of an obstetrician, a midwife and a neonatal nurse in each team. All these people were either rushing around getting ready for the operation or were waiting for something to happen so that they could do their jobs. They were all very professional but friendly at the same time.
Home: A second set of blood tests were carried out and they were not improving. There were no alternatives, the twins have to come out in order not to endanger the Ruler_of_spike any longer. We were so unprepared for this turn of events. What we thought was going to happen in a few weeks' time, was happening in less than 12 hours. It was happening too fast to fully digest and analyze the situation. The doctors were very informative. They gave us as much details to allow a reasonable degree of understanding. The antenatal classes we went to had given us good preparation on what to expect. It was not perfect, but at least we did not panic. A lot of things were happening and labor wards are always busy places, especially at a big hospital, but we managed to have a quiet moment to ourselves to take onboard what was happening. As far as we could figure out, there were few alternatives and all of them have some nasty ending of one sort or another.
Home: One of the first things they did was to give the Ruler_of_spike a steroid injection. This injection was not for her but for the twins. Premature babies tend to have under-developed lungs as they are one of the last major organ to develop and the lungs are one of the more important organs to ensure independent survival. The steroid was used to help accelerate their development. Over the next 12 hours, she was given two injections. It was good that they managed two shots as that should have given their lung development a healthy boost.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike was not well! She has been having trouble keeping down her food. Whenever she ate, she was really suffering from a burning sensation in her abdominal area, stomach and the oesophagus. This was not simple heartburn. The alarm bells really rang when she vomited a few times over a period of 6 hours. I called the maternity unit at the hospital and they instructed us to go to the unit immediately for assessment. After a battery of tests, the doctors came to the conclusion that the Ruler_of_spike was suffering pre-eclampsia, a very dangerous condition. It was a condition that we have briefly read about, but not in any great detail. There was only one thing that could be done to remedy the condition - to deliver her as soon as possible.