Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Different World

I wanted to do this post last year, and the year before, but I have always been busy. This year I'm making time (even though I have other things I'm supposed to be writing about).
When I was younger October was one of my favorite months of the year. In early October all the trees are in their final, colorful hurrah, with golds, reds, and yellows adorning them in sprays of leaves about to fall, like shooting stars exploding from the trunks of trees, still a bit of green at the base turning to yellow, gold, and then flaming red as the leaves trailed away from the trunk. In the fields the harvest is heavily underway, mornings are cold, days are brisk, and the sunsets are beautiful as the occasional storm clouds gather and the sun sets them afire. The urge to ready for winter is overwhelming, and the animals everywhere, gathering, foraging, and generally not as shy as usual, distracted from their fear of humans by ripe grains, heavy laden grasses, bushes, and trees. People are infected as well, making sure hearth and home is ready for winter. Animals raised for August fairs have been sent to the butchers and home grown meat is done aging and the smell of it cooking brings children in from playing in the leaves. Hunting season is here and wild game is hanging in the yard, assuring food for the winter.
As the month progresses the leaves fall, gathering in piles to temping for any kid to pass up. The wood stove fills the air with the homey scent of woodsmoke, and warms the home through the frequently colder nights. In the stores piles of round pumpkins sit next to colorful apples, the last of the season and sweet from the cold. Multicolored Indian corn sits next to decorative and eatable gourds and squashes of all shapes, colors, textures, and sizes. At the end of the month there was the first snow fall, which, where I grew up, always came before the end of October. I'm sure it helps that its also my birth month (Oct 4Th) but to me October is hard to beat.
When I was young October meant other things as well. No one is born a Christian, they are reborn. While some people are born into Christian families, I was not. My mother came to the Lord when I was about 6, my father, brother, and I followed when I was 9. Before I was 9 the last week of October also meant costumes, candy, and trick-or-treating. Now you see Halloween decorations starting to go up in some stores in September, but then, it seemed at least, that Halloween really only popped up on people's radars about October 20Th. Even when we were little it wasn't that big of a deal, we weren't one of 'those' families that went Halloween crazy. We went dressed up for school with our classmates, went trick-or-treating, and ate enough candy to put a hummingbird into a diabetic coma.
For a few years after we became Christians we still 'dabbled' in it, dressing up for class and some years going to the school's Halloween carnival, which was more about trying to hit the principal in the face with a cream pie than it was about the small 'haunted' house set up in the corner. And there was never any big discussion about us not going trick-or-treating, once we were Christians, children or not, it was just apparent to us that Halloween was not your typical holiday. There was never a fight, my brother and I never felt pressured or commanded to not participate in those first few years, it just seemed natural. But I wouldn't say right then that we were really anti-Halloween, it just seemed somehow wrong for us to celebrate it, I don't know that any of us could have really explained it those first couple of years. Then something happened.
Our church had a Halloween meeting, it was mostly for grown-ups, but my parents never tried to 'hide' us from the world, so we all went. The main part of the night was taken up with a video from the "Occult Invasion" series about Halloween. (I can't remember if its called Occult Invasion: Halloween or Occult Invasion: Trick or Treat, I own it but its currently buried along with the rest of our stuff still packed from the move) It went over real life, first hand accounts of how Halloween isn't just some fun, frighteningly funny, family-friendly, good-time holiday. It spoke to current and ex wiccans, satanists, general occultists, druids, witches etc who talked about how, to them, Halloween was a high festival, a solemn part of their religion that included various practices. And that's all very interesting, but the part that has stuck with me all these years later, that hit us all that night, that made me find and purchase the video myself as an adult, was the segment on how serious crimes, many to children, are overlooked or not believed by authorities and the general public because the general public refuses to believe that such things happen. Halloween, after all, is about children dressing up in costumes, adults trying to scare themselves with ghoulish hunted houses, parties, and scary movies, and some 'harmless' adolescent pranks. Its about cartoonish witches on brooms, creepy ghouls, fake spiderwebs, and sheet-draped ghosts that go 'boo'! Things like ritual abuse, animal and human torture and sacrifice, murder, pagan orgies, and black magic are for horror movies and books, not real life. And if a bloody diaper turns up in the woods on Nov 1st its obviously some sick high-school prank, not proof that some group sacrificed a baby.
But in this video were testimonies from the people who had been intimately involved in such things. There were also handouts passed out that night with further statistics and testimonies. Three stories still stand out most vividly in my mind. A child (now an adult) in the UK who approached a police man in a public square and told him that she had been molested and raped by her family's coven (who called themselves 'witches' not 'wiccans') during their Halloween celebration as part of her introduction into their 'priesthood'. He didn't believe her and there was no follow up. A woman recounting how she ran from her satanic coven when they asked her to bear that years sacrificial baby. Apparently in that satanic group female members would conceive, carry, and bear a baby without seeing a doctor or official so that the baby would be born 'off the books' so to speak. That way, when they were sacrificed on Halloween, which they celebrated as 'Satan's birthday', no one would know the baby was missing, no one would expect a murder because no one expected a life. According to the information provided that night (and that I've seen many times since), the practice isn't uncommon. Finally, the one that made the most impact upon me, was the man, now a Christian, who recounted his ascension to the hereditary priesthood within the satanic occult group he had been born into. When he was a child, a few days before Halloween, he and a girl were taken to a van and kept there until Halloween, repeatedly sexually assaulted by their adult 'keeper' and made to have sex with each other as well. On Halloween night they were separated and when the soon-to-be boy priest was brought before the group, the girl was bound on the alter. The head priest slit her throat, and the boy was given some of her blood, collected in a ritual chalice, to drink.
The reason why this one stuck with me was not actually the extreme detail or graphic nature of it. I, even at the time, was familiar enough with what 'sacrifice' meant that I had a perfectly good understanding of what 'human sacrifice' may or may not include. The graphic detail of his recount hit me no harder, realistically, than did any other story of human torture and/or sacrifice. What struck me, and stays with me to this day, was what he said afterwards. He said that he feels betrayed by society, that every year at Halloween he feels victimized again, betrayed by a society that pretends Halloween is nothing but fun and games, that promotes it to children and uses the 'ghoulish' nature of it to sell costumes, candy, and trinkets. He feels that the real Halloween, a night of pain, death, and occult/pagan religious ceremonies, is being hidden from the world by the 'secular' acceptance of Halloween. He asked that we not participate, that we not help society and businesses to keep victims silent by covering up what Halloween really means to so many people.
There was no discussion that I remember, no long talk about what we should or should not do. We just knew that we had found why it felt wrong to celebrate Halloween, and we haven't participated in any part of it since. Its not just that man's story that troubles me every time I see a Halloween decoration, its not just that I know somewhere out there on Halloween night someone, probably many someones will die, be brutalized, or raped, and that the promoting of it as a 'family friendly' holiday will help to silence their voices, its also what that 'family friendly' holiday has become in the last few years.
When I was young I remember cartoonish witches, sheet draped ghosts, childish depictions of ghouls and goblins, bloodless mummies, fake cobwebs, and grinning pumpkins. Haunted houses or horror houses were places where adolescents shrieked in girly voices over brief frights and grown-ups giggled and teased each over startled jumps and couples found an excuse to cling to each other. Costume stores were filled with row upon row of cute kids costumes, smiling pumpkins, flamboyant pirates, cute puppies, princesses and princes, and cartoon characters. And, in general, stores started advertising and decorating for Halloween in mid October.
Now many stores start October 1st, some in late September. Costume stores are filled with row after row of costumes for adults, most sexually suggestive, some overtly or even pornographically sexual. Those that aren't are in a section so grotesquely violent or graphically gory that many stores post signs so that parents don't accidentally take their children in those areas. And those children's costumes? Regulated to a single wall usually, and no longer are the majority of them cute and harmless. Prostitutes, pimps, geisha, villains from t.v., movies, and cartoons, vampires, gory ghouls, demons, 'sexy' demons, and even Jack the Ripper for boys and Lizzie Borden for girls now fill the wall where ladybugs, princesses, Tom Sawyers, and He-Man costumes once stood. In the haunted houses, instead of Igor-like evil scientists with bowls of spaghetti intestines, there are movie-quality horrors. Upright pigs, splattered in dripping gore with mouths of sharpened tusks twisted in demonic glee, butcher human remains so real looking they could be mistaken for such in a photo. Horror movie quality corpses hang from spikes and chains, trashing even in death as they are electrocuted, or, even worse, scream with wide eyes and blood dripped wounds as they are torn slowly apart. Grotesque semblances of the human body are twisted, stabbed, and broken on torture devices that make the Inquisition look campy. Instead of a robed figure leaping out, hands dripping red jell-o, to raise a startle, a demonic witch flies down from the ceiling holding a gory knife, blood spilling from ragged teeth, mouth open in an insane scream, and her torso raggedly ending at the ribcage. White bones peak and purple-red ichor drips from tattered and molded clothing. Instead of people getting frights, leaving the haunted house laughing and giggling, haunted houses now have paramedics on sight, ambulances on call, to treat those who have panic attacks while inside, even heart attacks aren't unheard of in today's day and age.
The pretense of civility grows increasingly thin in regards to Halloween. The demonic is celebrated, the horrific laughed at, and the more realistically gory and grotesque something can be made the better people like it. It is more and more a holiday for adults. Children now trick-or-treat in daylight, their parents too afraid to let them out past dark for all the violent adolescent pranks now pulled, for fear they will see the adult crowd come out in all their terrifying 'glory' once dark descends. Other children, their parents oblivious, cry and hide their face at horrific store displays. Instead of campy 'Scooby Doo' Halloween specials t.v. stations run uncensored horror films, specials on medieval torture, or profile how Hollywood special effects are being used in this years 'all new' haunted house.
There is still no acknowledgement for the real dangers, the real people who are brutalized on Halloween night, but people now delight in the most graphic of brutalized 'entertainment'. Movies like Seven, Saw (in all its sequeled gory), and the Rob Zombie 'Halloween' reboot drench the watcher in the most horrific representation of the darkest parts of the human mind; all with sickeningly realistic visions of torture and torment that many theaters and movie rental stores make no attempt to actually restrict to the R audience (over 17). Children whose ages have not yet hit double digits are able to see these fantasies that could only come from the worst demonically-induced nightmares.
Now this is were we come to the title of the post 'a different world'. The average person looks at Halloween and sees make-believe. 'Demons' are borrowed from myths, 'witches' from historical misunderstandings, 'monsters' from nightmares, 'goblins' from medieval superstition, and those accounts of ritualized torture, abuse, rape, or sacrifice are just someones idea of sensationalism, false memories fueled by nightmares and rumors, or, at worst, singular occurrences carried out by people like the Dalmers, but probably nothing more than an urban legend, brushed off and given dark life on Halloween night.
I look and see real demons, spiritual powers capable of possession and destruction of those who call to them in ignorance or jest. I look and see real witches, who will be chanting to powers they don't understand, laying in orgies to build their strength, and sacrificing animals to work dark blood curses on those that have angered them in the past year. Where the world sees cute ghosts I see a very real spirit world full of demons who would love to appear as a dead loved one to lead people astray. Where the world sees superstition I see real reason to fear. I look and see candy covering blood, costumes covering wickedness, manufactured fright covering mortal fear. Halloween is not fun, its not family friendly, its not some party to play dress-up. Many people laugh, mock, scorn, but the world the Biblical Christian lives in is full of dangers, powers, and consequences that the secular world rarely, if ever, see, acknowledge, or believe. And those dangers, those powers, those consequences are real everyday, but on Halloween society itself, with all its mocking unbelief, gives these things so much more power, so many more opportunities on Halloween with their play acting and pretend to reach into their 'safe' little lives and destroy them. I can not look at a child dressed as a sorcerer out to trick-or-treat without wondering if that child will, in all innocence, call upon some power in play that will be more than happy to respond in real. I can't look at a teenager, dressed up like some gory corpse on their way to a graveyard to try to contact the spirits with a ouiji board without wondering what they will contact, wondering if they will be the same person tomorrow, or be indwelt by something they foolishly thought either didn't exist or they could control with a ring of salt and a white candle. I can't look at an adult, on their way to a party where they will get drunk and/or stoned likely while listening or watching something truly demonic or playing some Halloween 'party' game that 'pretends' to call upon the ghosts of past murderers or victims, without wondering if a demon will take the opportunity of a drugged out mind to make itself at home.
The world sees Halloween as a safe time to pretend, to revel in a darkness they won't admit even exists, to play at violence, depravity, and horror. I see Halloween as a terrifyingly dangerous time, when the minions of darkness revel in the minds of the unwitting, when the darkest elements of pagan and occult societies will actively invite real violence, depravity, and horror into their midst, when the only sane thing to do is hide from the storm, praying that all the non-Christians you know will still be in full control of their own minds come dawn, that all those children and babies about to be destroyed will leave their bodies to find themselves in God's presence, and all the adults whose lives will be taken repented in their last moments, that those whose lives will be ruined by horror and violence will eventually find healing, and those who ruin, will have their eyes opened so that they may find forgiveness and atonement.
For those of you reading from my world, can you, knowing what is true, truly feel comfortable participating at all in Halloween. For those of you from the other world, can you even imagine the difference? Can you look, this Halloween, from a different perspective and perhaps see the world of which I speak, can you allow God to open your eyes to the light, so that you can see the dark? Because the really scary part isn't that Christians see demons, see that people are generally bad (even if they might wish to do good), see this world of souls, possessions, spirits, and eternal consequences, its that the secular world, which has turned its back on the spiritual world and believe only in the material, who believe themselves safe in the physical world of flesh and blood, where people are generally good, who live in the 'here and now' where consequences rarely exists and, when they do, are fleeting at best, is the world of make believe. No more real, solid, or safe than the make believe worlds of children, oblivious to all the trials and dangers they will face as they grown to adulthood.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

William Orion Part Two

(This is the continuation to William Orion Part One found in the previous post. Some names have been changed. Some of the exact timing and order of events may be slightly off since my memory, like most peoples, divides 'days' by sleep cycles and I went somewhere between 5 and 7 days before I slept for more than 2 hours at a time. In general the order should be correct but the timing is likely suspect on several points. Part Three, which will conclude the story, should be along shortly. I had hoped to get it done in two but this is getting long, its late, and I came to a convenient stopping point, although I'm sure at least some of you will disagree with that last part.)

The first night we were hopeful, scared certainly, and disheartened, distressed, and pretty much every other negative you'd expect given the situation but also hopeful. After all, I had a cousin who had spent 10 days in the NICU after birth due to aspiration who came away untouched, and we were told that night about at least 3 others only one or two connections removed from us that were the same. So we were hopeful and prayerful that after the doctor's expected 10 days we'd be on our way home. But that night they weren't able to turn his oxygen down, in fact they kept having to bump it back up to keep his O2 sats from dropping too low.
By the time the next night rolled around he was the only baby in the NICU to have a personal nurse all night long. The sickest baby in the NICU. Then his lung collapsed.
They put in a chest tube but they still couldn't keep his oxygen saturation up. Less then 36 hours after admittance the doctor came to speak to me. My husband and his mother (who had flown in to be with us and the baby) were out of the hospital, getting food, clothes, and medication.
The doctor told me if he crashed again there was nothing they could do. He had to be transferred to Legacy Emanuel were they could put him on ECMO if he continued to decline.
I was familiar with it, not from personal experiance but from study, and it terrified me. Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation is in effect a heart/lung bypass machine. It takes the blood from the body, runs it through a machine that oxygenates it, and then pumps it back into the body. The risks are many, the statistics aren't great, and, if you are in a position to need it, it means there isn't anything else they can really do but hope the body takes the rest to heal and get better. And our baby already had a hypoxic brain injury. That increased his risk for inter cranial bleeds from the ECMO treatment, which, due to the high amount of blood thinners required for it, would mean an almost immediate death.
He said that Orion was stable for now, and it would be much better to move him while he was stable then risk an emergency move while he was in the midst of a crash.
I was sitting on my hospital bed, still needing a wheelchair to move around, staring at a consent form to move my critically ill newborn across town to another hospital where he may or may not need a treatment that in and of itself was life threatening. The doctor said I had to make a decision now, the transfer process was lengthy and needed to be put in motion as soon as possible before Orion crashed again.
I told him I had to call my husband, had the doctor explain it to him over the phone, but I was the one who ultimately had to sign the form and get the process started.
Moving him was terrifying. Just getting him ready to be moved from one crib to the transport crib, with his cooling blanket, intubation tube, oxygen supply, chest tube, and various I.V.s took hours. They let us touch him right before they moved him. It was reassuring, the brief contact, but it also had that cold finality to it, knowing they were allowing it because, if something went wrong, it would be the last time we would touch him alive.
My husband had ridden with him in the ambulance from home to the hospital, so we decided I would ride with him from St. Vincents to Emanuel. He would follow with the rest of the family in the car.
It was hard to even breath during the ambulance ride, my eyes always glancing backward, turning around to try to see the transport team and my son every time someone shifted or a monitor changed pace. It wasn't a long ride, in good traffic the two hospitals are about 7-10 min apart and, even though we didn't go lights and sirens, most people give way when they see an ambulance trying to merge or change lanes.
When we got to the hospital though they parted him from me. They had to get him transferred to the new NICU, everything set back up, and let the staff reevaluate him. And they wanted to do all that before they spoke with us. So we waited.
I should make a note that I had been discharged at this time, realistically too early. I still couldn't make it around without a wheelchair, although I did my best with a walker for short distances if I had to, and, while I was in the hospital I was taking 15 mg of oxcycodone. When they discharged me they gave me a prescription for 10mg of oxcycodone and told me my insurance only covered me for 3 days of post-partum care (it didn't really matter that the 1st 'day' didn't start until around 11pm or that I had a medical condition that had made giving birth particularly stressful for my body and left me in a great deal of pain). The nurse at the new hospital kept telling me "we can get you transferred over if you like", "we can call your doctor to have you transferred" etc. When I told her I had been discharged she was surprised.
We also learned, while we waited, that, while St. Vincents let parents of NICU babies stay in open rooms, Emanuel had no such arrangement. Oh, they had a agreement with the local Ronald McDonald House to house parents, but only those from out of town; we lived too close to count. Besides, the McDonalds house was still out of the hospital. We had a baby who was very likely dying and, if he did go downhill, would do so very rapidly. Going home, or even to a hotel, was out of the question. But, while Emanuel had it in their 'patient's rights' that parents had the right to stay with their children (except for during shift change), the most they guaranteed were chairs next to his NICU crib. There were 3 overnight rooms, available on something of a weighted first come first serve basis, but not only would we have to sign up for those every night, we wouldn't know if we had them until 9pm and, at anytime during the night, if parents from out of town got transferred in, or if a baby became sicker than ours, we might get booted out.
Finally we got in to see our baby, talk to the doctor, meet the nurse, and, thankfully, get one of the rooms for the night. Orion had made the trip safely and was now in the hands of one of the leading children's hospitals in the US. (and one of the best in the world for ECMO)
At 3 am that morning, after an hour or so of sleep, I woke up to go back and check on him and nearly screamed when I tried to move. I made it to my wheelchair and spent several hours in the ER getting checked back into the hospital. They didn't know where to put me. My problem was pain, brought on by labor sure, but also due to a pre-existing condition and ultimately a bone/joint problem. Plus I had a baby in the NICU. I ended back up in the maternity ward but I wasn't actually a maternity patient, so I had confused doctors and nurses coming and going for the next two days.
Meanwhile, the next day, Orion's lung, despite the chest tube, again collapsed. At St. Vincents we were allowed to remain (obviously outside the 'clean' area set up for the surgery) close to him while they had inserted the first chest tube. But when the doctor showed up to place the second one she told us we would have to leave. She "didn't want to get nervous due to parents looking over my shoulder". I was furious, as much as someone as stressed out, zombied, distressed etc as I was could be (still hadn't slept for more than a few hours since the birth). Our baby was about to undergo a surgery, one that could potentially be fatal, given his current state, and one that I knew did not require our absence, and we were getting kicked out. But what could we do? Getting hysterical at the doctor would just prove her point, and it wasn't like there was anyone to appeal to, so we left.
It was shortly after the second chest tube that the doctors informed us that they could not keep his O2 sats up any longer. Another crash was imminent and yes, it might be 10 min or 2 hours away, but it would be better to get him onto the ECMO now than wait to try to proceed while he was in the middle of a crash.
My husband and I sat in chairs, side by side, watching them prep our son. He was just coming off the cooling protocol, in fact, they speeded it up some so that he would be at normal temperature for the ECMO surgery. Since the risks of ECMO went up if he was cooled. We still hadn't held him, and, with the ECMO, he would have to remain perfectly still so as not to jostle the blood flow, so touching him while he was on it would be at a minimum and must be done with exceptional care.
We sat there holding the paperwork, the consent form and the sheet on the risks of ECMO, and prayed that God take care of our baby. We were honest enough, with ourselves, each other, and with God, to realize he was dying. The odds weren't in his favor, and, while we prayed and we hoped God would allow his healing and let us raise our son, we also prayed for acceptance to God's will, that if this fallen world of sin and death took our son away from us that God would raise him for us, keep him safe until we could see him again. We sat holding hands, feeling we had done everything we could. It was in the hands of the doctors to do their best, and ultimately in God's hands if Orion would beat the odds, or if he would go to be with his heavenly Father before us. I will not say we were content, we were not, we were terrified, fearful, heartbroken, and depressed in spirit. But there was none of that hesitation or distance that you hear about in some couples, when the illness or death of a child drives them apart. We were together, holding hands in prayer and in supplication to God, calm that we had done everything we could as parents and it was time to wait, and see what God would bring. I know both of us in that moment were waiting for him to die, not ready for it, certainly not anticipating it, but acknowledging the very real possibility and secure that God would guide us though it if it came.
They all but shut down the whole NICU for the ECMO surgery, it, unlike the chest tube, was a full blown, sterile drape, medical personel only surgery. The doctors said his heart was strong, which was good, it would continue to provide most of the pumping during the ECMO treatment, so they only had to insert a cannula in his jugular (most times ECMO severs both the carotid and the jugular on one side of the next, Orion is only missing his jugular). Which was good, it cut down on some of the risks, both immediate and long term and made the initial surgery itself less risky.
The time came and we left the NICU, we were given a pager, in case something happened, and the nurses would let us know when it was over. Ben went to wait for the family to arrive (my family lived about 90 min away and was driving back in, after having left to care for their animals after he had been settled in the new hospital, to be there for the procedure) I went to find a room to pump in (I was pumping breastmilk so that, once Orion was off I.V. foods, he could be given colostrum and later breastmilk, and so that I could still breastfeed once we got to take him home)and hopefully to get some sleep. It may seem odd, from an outsider's perspective that I slept through most of the surgery, but we had said our prayers, made our peace as best we could, and were simply waiting. I was beginning to do something I had never done before in my life, fall asleep when I didn't mean to, so, at the advice of my doctors, I took the opportunity to try to get a few hours of sleep, instead of pacing in a wheelchair. The nurses knew where I was, and promised to wake me up if anything happened.
They didn't need to. I woke up just as the surgery, which went very well, was ending. I had time to go see the family, and then we were allowed to go see Orion.
It was scary, seeing him lying so still, with so many tubes and lines and I.V.s. There was his breathing tube of course, his two chest tubes, and the array of I.V.s, what was new were the two large tubes running from his neck to the ECMO machine, one the dark red of spent blood, one the bright red of oxygenated blood. So much blood, so much more than his body actually contained, yet one slip, one kink, one trip, and he would bleed out, not in minutes like from a severed artery, but in seconds.
They told us he could be on the ECMO for 7 days, after that, he had to come off, and he could not be put back on. We understood. He had 7 days to get better, or he would die. The average run on ECMO was 5 days. While he was on ECMO he would have twice daily brain scans, to check for swelling or potential bleeds (although we knew there would be little they could do if they found one) and twice daily x-rays, to check his lungs for healing.
And this is where the story takes a turn. Our little one, who had been the sickest baby in two NICUs, started improving rapidly. Every chest x-ray was noticeably better than the one 12 hours before, even to our untrained eye. The doctors and nurses were amazed at his progress. In less than 3 days they were talking about taking him off the ECMO.
It was stressful all over again. Once he was off, he couldn't go back on. But the longer he stayed on, the longer he played the odds on a complication. His lungs were healing well, but if he struggled when they took him off, we had just eliminated the only thing that was helping. But the doctors were all in agreement, his lungs had healed enough that the ECMO was more risk than it was worth.
Removing him was much simpler than putting him on, a gradual turning off the oxygen of the machine as they turned up his ventilator and then a quick removal of the cannula followed by a few minutes of pressure. It seemed odd, that something so dangerous, so life changing, could be over with so little fuss. And, within a few hours of the decision to take him off, the machine with its very own nurse to monitor it was gone, and it was just the ventilator sharing space with Orion's crib in his little spot in the NICU. He still had 2 official nurses (he'd had 3 while on ECMO since the machine itself had a full time nurse), a personal nurse and the nurse that was in charge of that row in the NICU. He was still, in some ways, the sickest baby there, but now it had changed. He wasn't getting worse, he was getting better. Not only that, but rapidly better. Instead of trying to ready ourselves for his death, we could again expect him to come home.
He was still on a ventilator, still had 2 chest tubes in, a PIC line, and a regular I.V. as well. But he was now awake enough that he could move his arms and legs, if sluggishly, and occasionally flicker open an eye (they were a blue so dark they were almost black).
It was nearly miraculous, he was recovering.