Archived Story

The pre-term baby boy does Daddy proud

Published 10:12am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Column: Pothole Prairie

ROCHESTER — Home is such a great place to be. On Monday, Lisa, Forrest and I welcomed home a new member of our happy family. His name is Jasper Jere Engstrom. He had been born 10 days earlier in Albert Lea.

Last Tuesday, Aug. 21, my column printed describing how Jasper had to be flown on his birthday, Aug. 17, to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester for being born premature. Lisa had high blood pressure and needed to be induced early.

On Aug. 19, Lisa got out of the Albert Lea hospital and came to Rochester with her parents and Forrest. Early in the morning of Aug. 20, when I couldn’t sleep, I wrote that column. However, more drama happened later on Aug. 20, and I didn’t have time to go back and adjust my column.

Lisa was readmitted, this time to Rochester Methodist Hospital. Her parents decided to stay two more nights. My wife had high blood pressure again and had what’s called a spinal headache. The pain had been in her shoulders and neck but moved up to her upper neck and the top of her head.

On Aug. 19, she had mentioned the headache to a fill-in doctor in Albert Lea. All the local obstetricians were gone. She asked whether the four attempts at an intrathecal painkilling shot at 4 a.m. Aug. 17 had anything to do with her headache. The doctor dismissed the notion, prescribed ibuprofen and discharged her.

Rochester Methodist didn’t dismiss the patient’s concern. The doctors said the pain indeed was from the shot. Plus, they increased her dosage for battling the blood pressure six-fold. Her pressure decreased, and she was scheduled to get what’s called a blood patch the next day.

So for two days, Forrest and I were milkmen. Lisa would pump breast milk at Methodist, and we would deliver it to Jasper in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Marys. Each delivery had six steps: Drive. Park. Walk. Drive. Park. Walk. When I wasn’t delivering, I usually doted over Jasper or took Forrest to a park to expel some kid energy.

The blood patch worked, and Lisa was discharged at 6 p.m. Tuesday. We were staying at the Fiksdal Hotel across from St. Marys. As Lisa’s dad went to get dinner from Canadian Honker next door, I thought I would run some milk up to the NICU.

When I got there, the nurse asked me to stay because the doctor had something to ask me. I texted Lisa briefly, so the unknown worried all of us. I changed and fed Jasper and enjoyed the time holding him.

The doctor explained that Jasper was the healthiest baby in the NICU and space was needed. Jasper’s respiratory distress had ended, the jaundice was improving, and the major issue now was proper feeding levels. Pre-term babies have to learn to drink sooner than normal, and some have a hard time with it. (That’s because, normally, they are in the womb getting umbilical cord nutrition.)

He wanted to move him to the intermediate special care nursery on the third floor of Rochester Methodist. So at 9 p.m. Jasper and I went on an ambulance ride of about a mile long from one Mayo Clinic facility to another.

Then I walked the mile back to the hotel room and warmed my burger in a microwave.

The next morning, Wednesday, Lisa’s parents took off for their home in the Chicago suburbs, and Lisa, Forrest and I finally moved in to the Ronald McDonald House, where we stayed rent-free and family-friendly. Best of all, it had community kitchens. I bought groceries. During days, we pretty much were at the hospital, and at nights at Ronald McDonald. Nurses, of course, fed and cared for the baby when we weren’t there.

Jasper’s jaundice went away. He improved his feeding levels and needed his feeding tube less and less. By Saturday, the on-duty doctor came and mentioned perhaps we could go home sometime next week.

I sighed — plain tired of being there — and asked her if we could try going tube-free starting now. I pointed out how Lisa was doing an excellent job of giving the baby the bottle and not needing the tube at all.

The doctor’s response was great. She said the special care nursery very much likes to listen to parental intuition, and we could give it a go. If all would be successful for 24 hours, we could leave Monday.

Soon after, the nurse came in and gave the green light to take the tube out, but before she could do it, Jasper ripped it out of his nose himself. Ha! It was a sign.

Lisa stayed all night, ensuring he would feed properly, and Forrest and I arrived to help early the next morning. The baby boy passed. The secret was giving him a little burp break halfway through. Each feeding was really two feedings.

He passed a test of sitting in the car seat for 90 minutes on Sunday evening, got a hepatitis B shot on Sunday night and was circumcised on Monday morning. We left Monday afternoon.

It was the best drive home I’ve ever experienced, and the sound of a baby crying at home is a joyful noise.


Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.