Tet Baby

Baby please breathe and stop being so rebellious! Breathe the air your mortified mother is breathing; the air your father, so afraid he's a walking talking petrified tree is breathing. Open your little lungs and breathe, won't you?  Breathe so they can take that terrible tube out of you. Please listen and follow our loving instructions.  Because once they do "extubate" you (ah the lovely new vocabulary we're learning hourly inside the NICU!) do please be an obedient baby and breathe.

Otherwise shrill alarms will sound and jar our already shattered nerves, and doctors by the dozen will surround your bed with their clinical and calm expressions we've come to dread, and that tireless nurse working her overnight shift will begin "bagging you" indefatigably until the respiratory tech who's off duty gets paged and comes running so he can "intubate" you again. Meanwhile, your nurse pleads with you (as we do, in panicked rage), "Breathe, Baby, c'mon breathe".

Which is about when your mother puts her hand over her mouth while the nurse's hand keeps squeezing, breathing for you with each compression of enriched oxygen even as we hold our collective breath, as if saving our breath might somehow replenish yours.

"Tet baby," one of the docs looking on by your bed nods at an intern, and both obsessively eyeball your plummeting sats like some stock market crash on the monitor above your bed.  I've learned their lingo, and know "Tet" means "Tetraology of Fallot," eavesdropping on the redundant doc-speak all these eternal weeks in the NICU.

So you're a Tet baby, Baby!  Welcome to our backwards world!  Tet makes me think of the Vietnam War I watched on the nightly news when I was practically just a baby myself. What little I can see of your body beneath the leads and riot of wires and slithering tubes, certainly makes you seem like war's casualty: Emergency C-sectioned from that imploding womb; thereafter airlifted over crowds who'd rushed you up and out to that "X" on the roof -- their white coats like kites in the chopper's typhoon -- too reminiscent of that desperate Saigon day when the last U.S. diplomats lifted off and left women and children to their doom ...

What a wretchedly offensive word for a baby -- Tet!  Damn medical abbreviations so suggestive for a morbidly imaginative Dad!  As if hearing you had Down syndrome wasn't a downer enough; come to find you've got (WTF!), some hellatious heart condition called "Tet" too?!

Jesus, Baby, were you smoking three packs a day inside Mommy's womb?  Might that explain your "cyanotic" arrival with heart and lungs in such bad shape you might as well have had, say, six decades worth of red meat, Coors, and sour sweets' calamitous accumulation of plaque arterial build up toward a "widow maker's" tomb?  What gives, Baby?!  You a biker baby rebel already sportin' leather studs and tattoos?  You sure coo once they've "extubated" you.  But God do your sutures ooze when the NICU nurses change you.

Now tell me, drug-induced-somewhat-comatose Baby, how large of an intensive and neonatally Grey's Anatomy-styled vocabulary we must acquire  and learn conversationally before you'll begin breathing on your own and we can finally take you home?

Our rebel baby: Aug-Sept, 1998, who I'm positive would've replied to me, had it not been for that tube , "twenty-nine days, Dad, just twenty-nine days more and we'll all go home".

  Thirteen years later, she's home and thriving.

Postscript, April 14, 2014:  I was going back through old posts, fixing broken links, updating images, labels, et cetera, and arrived here ….

"Tet Baby" (a.k.a., Megan Hope), my beautiful and beloved daughter, who was able to beat the odds and who overcame so many obstacles and health scares over the years, succumbed suddenly to a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest.  She passed away at C.H.O.C. on a Friday evening two days after Christmas 2013, surrounded by my wife and I, her brother and sister, and grandparents.  She was fifteen, four months and sixteen days old.  She was an inspiration.  She was an awesome girl.  I was so lucky to be her Dad.  


  1. I saw babies like yours in the ICU of Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan after my daughter was born, from very nearly the opposite point of view. Her mother, my wife, had a difficult, diabetic pregnancy, was in the hospital a week before giving birth, and so the baby, who had a slight heart murmur, was in the ICU for nearly a week herself. I used to go visit her in that room, a big, healthy, pink baby among others with tubes running into their bodies, or in chambers, to help them breathe and keep them alive. And I always felt bad, being there, seeing those others, visiting my own child, who clearly was more fortunate.

  2. Yeah, I hear you, Peter, it's hard no matter what side of the fence you're on in there. When Megs was five months old, we had to go back in for her first heart surgery, spent another trying three weeks (this time in the PICU) and during our stay, two beds over, I'll never forget hearing those cries as the unthinkable happened to a young couple, and they didn't get to take their kid home. So my wife and I, needless to say, felt pretty fortunate ourselves, and yet felt horrible for that poor family. It's all very relative inside those ICUs, no matter how severe your experience.

  3. Powerful stuff, Freeeeeeeekie.

  4. Thanks, Murrrrrrrrrr. Pays to flip through an old journal from a decade ago only to find a drafty piece of something that screams, "you can turn me into prose-poem-something-or-other".

    Damn, I do miss chatting with you. I just may have to reenter LT through their witness protection program, if you know what I mean ...


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