The following is excerpted from the book, Weave of Destiny, by Ken Lefkowitz, published by Legacy Book Press. Available for sale at this link: Weave of Destiny – Legacy Book Press

An Infant Labors

“I’m Dr. Rice, and you are the father, I assume.”

A tall, handsome man in a white lab coat extended his hand to me in a greeting. He had entered by the same doors through which Matthew’s bed had been taken.

“Hi,” was all I could say, hoping that he would continue on.  But the doctor then guided me through the doors to the Infant Intensive Care Unit and to a crib partially covered by a plastic dome. Matthew’s tiny body was heaving up and down as he labored for his breath. His head was barely visible; it was covered by numerous tubes that reached into his mouth and nose. A machine was helping him breathe.

Respiratory Distress

“Go ahead. You can touch him if you want,” the doctor offered, an expression of great concern on his face.

I reached under the plastic dome and gently touched my son’s hand. His fingers and palm were so small that they disappeared from view within my grasp. His arm was trembling as I held him, and I noticed that his legs were too. I could see his heart throbbing in his chest as he panted desperately.

“Your baby has hyaline membrane disease, or HMD for short, otherwise known as respiratory distress syndrome.”

I tried to listen intently to Dr. Rice. Just observing Matthew’s tormented suffering, I knew that he was in dire jeopardy.

‘Your son is struggling to breathe’

“I won’t take you through all the medical jargon, but I’ll give it to you straight. You can see that your son is struggling mightily to breathe. Perhaps beyond his ability as time moves forward.”

The doctor continued: “His alveoli, or air sacs, are collapsing and he is being challenged to take in oxygen. Carbon dioxide is accumulating rapidly in his blood, leading to a condition called acidosis, which damages other organs in his body. We continue to test his blood to ascertain the degree of this breakdown. Unfortunately, it is deteriorating.”

I didn’t react for a few moments when the doctor paused. Then I gathered myself as best that I could. “So, what can you do to help him?” I asked, knowing that given the explanation I heard and observing my son’s condition, the response wouldn’t be positive or optimistic.

No Exact Science

“Well, we are doing all we can. As you can see, we’re trying to help him breathe. Also, we are giving him medicine that is designed to help his lungs. Unfortunately, your son is a very troubled baby, not unusual for one delivered by C-Section before its lungs are mature.”

He continued: “Observation during the night may not have led to such a severe diagnosis. Your son’s breathing may have declined over a few short hours and worsened rapidly. There’s no exact science in these situations, and the medical profession must rely on their subjective experience. I’m aware of a test, especially for C-section babies, that’s under development. It’s initially been shown to determine if the lungs of a fetus are mature and able to breathe on their own. Unfortunately, the test is in the early stages of research and not proven ready for use by practitioners.

“Can you tell me what happens now?”  I asked after listening to the doctor.

Losing the Warmth of Life

“There really is nothing we can do medically to help your son beyond the treatment we’ve already provided. We’re focusing on making him as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.”

Just as Dr. Rice finished his sentence, the trembling in Matthew’s hand stopped. His arm went limp. Looking up, I noticed that he was no longer struggling to breathe. His chest was at rest after having heaved so violently. I caught the doctor’s eyes. He slowly nodded as he closed them gently. Matthew had died while I was at his side. At least he seemed more at peace, no longer shaking or gasping for breath. His pale pink color had taken on a bluish hue.

“Cyanosis. Not unusual for a baby suffering from HMD,” was the explanation I received. I stood by my son’s side for a while, still holding his hand. It was slowly cooling, having lost the warmth of life. I was beyond crying. Bending over, I kissed him on the forehead of his now lifeless body.

For another look at infant loss, click here.

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Ken Lefkowitz

KEN LEFKOWITZ has a BA degree from Brooklyn College, an MS degree from the City University of NY and a graduate business studies at St. John's University. Currently retired. Formerly a consultant and Sr. Director for major corporations, where he managed people from all walks of life and from many locations and cultures. Book “Weave of Destiny” is about the jagged road he and his wife traveled to have a family of their own. Published by Legacy Book Press. Other writing and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Courier Post/USA Today, and the Washington Post as well as in professional business journals.

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