Enter The Deuce, Part X

photo-16Just like his big brother, he’s moving, taking the world in.

When reassuring people, we like to say, ‘The dawn brings a new day.’ It’s meant to remind us that the passage of time changes us, that healing takes time, that options that weren’t open to us yesterday may yet be presented to us. Well, we finally got that new day for the Deuce.

Yesterday, Matthew’s doctor removed his chest tube. His total inventory of tubes—the chest tube, an IV and a pica line—had been dropping, the removal of his chest tube was a big step. Originally, the plan had been to wait another day, but based on his x-rays the doctor decided he was ready. The decision may have been driven, in part, by the fact that hours after his IV and picc line had been removed he developed a fever. So, of course, an IV line went back in for the antibiotics. A classic case of two steps forward, one step back.

But in deciding to remove the Deuce’s chest tube, his doctor was minimizing one potential source for infection. Fine by us, but the bigger piece of news was that the medical team reviewing his x-rays had concluded that there was no more effusion. The Deuce was a leak-free zone.

Removing the chest tube was the definitive testament to the Deuce’s condition. As the surgeon had put it before, his was a binary issue. Either he is leaking or he is not.

Well, bitches, my boy ain’t leakin’ no mo’.

The immediate dividends this change in status paid were the very definition of life-affirming. My wife was able to hold him and breastfeed him for the first time in his (or her) life. She’d spent more than a month of pumping her milk five or six (seven?) times per day—so many times I would lose count. And compared to the way both mother and child’s brains are washed in oxytocin—a powerful neurotransmitter that has been called the “love hormone”—when breastfeeding, pumping breast milk has all the payoff of taking allergy medication to soothe depression.

I may not get quite the reward that either of them do by bottle feeding him, but I can tell you that holding him for the first time and cradling him in my arm as I gave him his bottle was powerful medicine for both him and me. It has been so long since he was born—more than a month—that holding him for the first time today was almost like experiencing his birth. For the first time. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to have him hang out on my bare chest in just his diaper, but I’m sure we’ll get that time once he’s home.

He’s got another day to go on the antibiotics, something that reminds me we have a few hurdles yet. Saturday he will be x-rayed again; I don’t know how important it will rank as a step toward his release, but my guess is that the results of that x-ray will be pretty important.

Equally remarkable as this has been his utter transformation since the bottle feedings began last weekend. Almost from the very outset of the first 10ml feeding—he was still being heavily supplemented by a TPN drip—he began acting more like a baby. He became more alert, began turning his head and looking around more and interacting more with us. If I’d been asked to guess, this change in behavior is something I would have anticipated to be more gradual and to have begun after the surgery.

That he perked up following his first feedings feels rather anti-scientific, as if it were the fulfillment of a promise made by some religion posing as science. I find miracles and science to make for poor bedfellows. Put another way, I don’t believe in magic. But there is something in the Deuce’s improvement once he started feeding on his mother’s breast milk that is nothing short of miraculous. It’s a fair word, I think, because it encompasses both the magnitude of his change and my surprise.

As the size of his feedings increased and the amount of TPN he received dropped each day, he has left what seems a twilight existence where he was never very awake and his sleep was lengthy and frequent but never seemed to refresh him. When he wakes now he is inquisitive, looking around his surroundings and moving far more than I ever recall his brother doing at the one-month mark.

When I bring him to my shoulder to burp, he lifts his head and looks around. He’s unsteady, but a lack of strength doesn’t do much to deter him. How he could progress so much in just five days boggles me.


Matthew’s stay in the NICU is nearing the end of its fifth week. To my knowledge, he is the oldest baby present. We’ve watched babies that were admitted after the Deuce progress and graduate. But despite the length of this stay, the nurses are talking about him as a real success story, an example of just how good the care is, how babies that wouldn’t otherwise have a chance at survival go on to live perfectly normal lives, that by the time they are old enough to inspect their own bodies, the scars of surgery are gone.

There are two other babies in the NICU with effusions. Neither the doctors nor the nurses really share any of this information, but you meet other parents and occasionally you’ll overhear someone talking. One of those babies is the child of the stoner parents who showed up without their ID bracelets. Their little girl was a pound at birth and still weighs less than two pounds.

I’ve not seen them this week; neither has my wife. The last family member I saw drop by was a grandmother who spent her time dissing the mother for not being there. I struggle to comprehend the road the parents are traveling. I can accept under certain circumstances it may be hard to see your child with tubes and wires running in and out of its body, but at a certain point I would imagine that a parent’s love would take over and you just wade through just to be at your child’s side. My heart aches for that poor child that is getting more love from the nurses than she is from her own blood.

The other baby, who had surgery the same day as ours hasn’t recovered as thoroughly as Matthew. While the nurses won’t say anything and we haven’t seen the parents lately—they seem to do most of their visits at night after the dad gets off work—we’ve overheard descriptors that suggest the recovery could be going better. I have the sense that there may still be fluid leaking.

To have three babies in a NICU with chylothorax effusions is unheard of. It’s a one-in-a-million possibility, and while most children get through it, the Deuce’s cohorts in this condition make for a stark demonstration of just how serious the condition is.

We are owed nothing by no one and asking the universe to give us a break is only slightly less silly than rubbing a lucky penny before exposing the results of a scratch ticket. But the heart wants what the heart wants. Right now, what I want is the Deuce home and to cuddle up with him on the couch, me shirtless, him in a diaper, and just let him sleep on my chest. For a week. I want that. I. Want. That.




  1. Maremma Mark

    I’m sure I won’t be the only one taking off his/her glasses to wipe tears away as I read this. Thanks for taking the time to update us with this wonderful news in the midst of everything else that is going on in your lives.

    There’s powerful medicine in mother’s milk, never underestimate its properties.

    Forza Deuce!

  2. todd k

    Great news!

    Schools and daycares… They provide great services, but sometimes do things that can also make you scratch your head sometimes.

  3. gmknobl

    Very cool. You can see the light at the edge of Mirkwood. (Why do the English or Europeans have a thing about woods?)

    Your posts have made me curious as to the possible causes of the Deuce’s problem and what long term affects, once repaired, are thought to be.

    Miracles are simply really great things, whether we understand the or not. It’s wonderful that even if we do understand something we can still feel it is a miracle. That’s really one of the useful parts of religion.

  4. Paul

    I could not be happier to hear the news, wonderful for you all! As a parent of two strong outgoing stubborn boys I’ve shared the pain and now the joy of your journey.

  5. Jen Dial

    Wow! More tearing up for the Deuce. If I have learned only two things in the last four months of having my own baby it is 1) Babies don’t do gradual progress. They jump. So great to see Deuce doing what all babies do, right! 2) Feeding is the keystone to the day. Good feed = everything else falls in place. And the result is, see #1.

    Maybe you already know all of that because you have one of these already. But it seems like the Deuce is being, well NORMAL! Which is all anyone ever asks 🙂

    Continued successes and remember – normal babies backslide and then jump. #godeucego!

  6. P Poppenjay

    Deuce’s progress is a Miracle!
    Padraig, you and Shana were chosen to be the giftees of
    Deuce. Matthew means ‘Gift of God’. And is he ever!

  7. papogi

    And it appears you’ll get that, Padraig. Congratulations to you and your family for this good news. Continued best wishes…

  8. Jeremy

    There is no doubt that Deuce’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle. You may also reflect after this is over and realize that the birth of a child itself, let alone a healthy one, is nothing short of a miracle that is all to often taken for granted.

    As far as Deuce’s ability to look around and lift his head…….hold on for the ride. These NICU kids have been through so much that none of us can ever imagine, and they are tough little bastards because of it.

    Great news this is. Your time at the hospital is soon over, at that point the only thing left to do will be to figure out how to live a normal life again. Allowing that bit of naivety that we all walk around with sink back in, because unfortunately you have been exposed to a nasty side of life.

    And an extra special CONGRATULATIONS to Mrs. Padraig, as I watched my wife, for weeks, pump in good faith. That is no easy task, and many have no idea how physically and mentally demanding that is for a woman.

    I wish you all, all the best.

  9. Susan

    This is wonderful news! Love the photo. The magic of a baby asleep on one’s chest touches every cell of thier being and it looks like your wish will come true soon. Your poignant entries illustrate the depth of a parent’s love for his child as well as his wife – truly heart warming. Thank you for continuing to share the Deuce’s journey and yours. Sending warm wishes for continued improvement, discharge to home and your dream coming true.

  10. Pete Ihrig

    Thanks for sharing. It takes a great deal of courage to share an event as impactful as this. Now you can all soft pedal for a while. Nice work Mom, Dad, Matthew, nurses and docs.

  11. Michael

    I love the feeling when the little ones yank on the chest hairs. It hurts something awful but who cares! Enjoy it.

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  13. Tom in albany

    That is wonderful news! Glad to hear it and can’t wait til you get to tell us he’s home!

    Has your other son met his brother yet? If not, what’s he been saying?

  14. Aubie9903

    I have been following this story from the beginning and I am glad to hear that he is coming out of the woods. Our oldest son was in the NICU after his birth and I certainly understand the range of emotions that go through those places on a daily basis.

    “Well, bitches, my boy ain’t leakin’ no mo’.”

    I laughed out loud when I first read it and I have been laughing sporadically throughout the last couple of days! I love it!

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