This journey started on December 26th as we started our all too familiar drive, to California. We got a later start than we wanted, it was also pretty snowy, so we were going slower than usual. (Thank goodness for 4 wheel drive). We were stopping a lot for Nickell, with her being pregnant and not feeling the greatest I figured she would have to take a lot of breaks. I was fully prepared for a drive that would take longer than usual. Or so I thought. I had no idea, just how long it would be.
The drive had been going as expected, snowy, slow, with a lot of stops and Nickell not feeling well. She was just in a lot of pain and could not get comfortable. The boys watched lots of movies and slept. I would try and drive as fast as I could whenever the weather let up a little bit, just to try and get us to Nickell's parents house as soon as possible. I kept wishing we would have left sooner, because then we would have been closer to their house.
By the time we finally reached St. George, Nickell was feeling bad enough that she wanted to go to an insta-care to see a doctor. I started calling the insta-cares that were near by to see what wait times would be like. The shortest wait was an hour and a half. I hated seeing Nickell in so much pain and was willing to wait however long needed if it would help her feel better. Nickell, didn’t want to wait. She just kept saying, "I just want to be in bed, lying down." We got back on the road. This whole time the boys had been doing great. They were just enjoying watching their movies. We have been blessed with some wonderful boys. They were really, so patient through all of this.
Her pain seemed to be getting worse. I figured it was just because she was pregnant and uncomfortable being in a car for so long. When we were almost to Baker, Nickell was suddenly moving very quickly for the plastic cup that we got at the beginning of the trip, just in case she threw up. I'm so glad we were prepared. I started to pull over, looking for a spot that wouldn’t be the least suicidal. I jumped out of the car and ran over to her side. There wasn't much I could do but I held her hair back from her face and tried rubbing her back. It’s amazing how sometimes, throw up doesn’t bother you. Luckily this was one of those times. I cleaned out the cup and got Nickell cleaned up. She was shaking and sobbing uncontrollably. I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do. I wished that I could take all of her pain upon myself so that she could get some rest. We were only miles from Baker so we headed there so she could go into the bathroom and wash her face off a little better.
Once we were in Baker and she'd had a chance to clean up a little better, we pulled around the back of the gas station for some privacy so that I could give Nickell a blessing. I was praying so hard for this blessing, I wanted Nickell to have some relief and be able to sleep and allow her body to rest.
By the time we stopped in Victorville for our last fill-up of the drive, Nickell’s pain had reached new levels. When I got back in the car I heard her asking her mom what labor felt like. Shortly after hanging up the phone, Nickell told me to go to the nearest hospital. This is when I really started to panic. And not for fear of the baby coming, that still wasn't a thought in my mind, but just the fact Nickell was saying to get to a hospital, made me really nervous. To understand why, you need to know that Nickell, will avoid going to the hospital at all costs. If she was agreeing to go without any force on my part, something was seriously wrong. I quickly looked up the nearest hospital and started driving there. Nickell informed me that Lloyd, Kristi, Brock and Becca were on their way.
As we drove to the Victor Valley Community Hospital, I was not liking what I was seeing. We were being guided through a bad neighborhood into the middle of no where. We finally reached the top of a hill where I saw the hospital signs but did not believe that this was the hospital. It was tiny, it was ghetto! But it was all we had. I dropped Nickell off at the ER entrance then went to park. I was trying to get the kids and get in there as fast as I could. When I walked in the doors I was thinking I would have to ask someone which room Nickell was is in, but she was still standing in line. First thing I did was cut to the front of the line and told the lady my wife is 33 weeks pregnant and in a lot of pain. She buzzed us in. After some wondering around the hospital (that was our first sign to leave, we should have listened) Nickell was finally getting some help, or so I thought (see Nickell’s post).
I couldn’t be back in labor and delivery with the kids, I guess they would have bothered all zero patients that were back there. I gave Nickell a kiss and left her with these people who claimed to be nurses. At this point I didn't know how bad these nurses/hosiptal was, so I thought she was in good hands and that they would take care of her. I was just more anxious for Nickell's parents to arrive so that I could be with her. While waiting in the lobby with the boys I was doing my best to keep Kristi up to date with Nickell’s status, through phone calls and text. The boys were very excited to be out of the car. They were playing and I was trying to keep them contained as much as possible, so they wouldn’t bother the other people in the waiting area, but they had been cooped up in a car for 10 hours and wanted to run around. I was only in the waiting area for about 10 mins when the security guard asked us to leave because the boys were causing a disturbance. Seconds later, Tadd threw up. Perfect. I cleaned it up as best I could and headed back to the car to wait for Nickell’s family to arrive.
Once Nickell’s family got there, Brock and Becca got in our car to wait with Kade and Tadd. I'm so glad they came. The boys absolutely adore them. Lloyd, Kristi and I all headed back to be with Nickell. The very first thing we did was have Lloyd give her a blessing. I was grateful for him, I was feeling inadequate with my blessings. Looking back, I think I was just exhausted.
The rest of our stay at Victor Valley Community Hospital was a waste of time. Maybe not a complete waste, Nickell was getting IV fluids to help with dehydration. However, the entire time we were there, we never saw an actual doctor and it seemed that they were not even interested in helping or treating her.
We contacted Chris and Erin Mecklenberg to see if any of Chris’ family (who live in Victorville) could let the boys, Brock and Becca go over to their house. We were desperate and had no clue how long we would be there. He got a hold of his sister-in-law who said that would be fine. Then, Lloyd decided to take all the kids to Denny’s. I just want to say thank you to Chris’ family, whom we have never met, for being willing to allow complete strangers go over to their house so late at night. While we didn't end up needing to do that, we are still very grateful they were willing.
Finally while in labor and delivery the nurses told us that the doctor “was not comfortable treating her pain”, so they sent her to the ER. After waiting for maybe an hour in a chair (not even a bed), the PA said all that they would give Nickell for the pain is Tylenol (which we had in the car), but before they could even do that they had to send her back to labor and delivery and get checked in. The other thing they kept saying was that they were waiting for a bed in the “other ER” whatever that meant, especially since while waiting we kept seeing other patients come and go. Also, to give an idea of the quality of care provided there,we could overhear the PA talking to another patient and the patient said there was also blood in their urine. The PA then responded “Hmm, that’s weird I don’t know what would cause that. You should go see your doctor.” Are you kidding?!!! She obviously didn't come into the ER to see a doctor. Once hearing that, I wanted out of there as soon as possible! When asking for the discharge papers they finally started giving us some attention but Nickell signed the papers to discharge against medical advisement. We got out of there.
Nickell’s parents took the boys and our dog to their house while I took Nickell to Henry Mayo Hospital, in Valencia. According to mapquest it’s 1 hour 45 mins, I made it in about 45 mins. Luckily, there were no cars or cops out.
Once we were there, they got Nickell a wheelchair (already a better situation) and took her to labor and delivery where you could tell they knew what they were doing. They got her hooked up to monitors, an IV with fluids to hydrate and with pain meds to finally allow her to not be in so much pain. Nickell was finally able to rest without pain, aside from the contractions, those just made her uncomfortable. They still wouldn’t let Nickell have any water, only a few ice chips “just in case”. They kept her hooked up to the monitors and Kristi helped her breath through the contractions. We have never had to do that part of labor so it was kind of weird to see Kristi telling her to breath and guiding her through it, it was like in the movies. But I was really glad that Kristi was there because I would not have known what to do. But even at this point it still didn’t occur to me that Max was coming. I thought they were just going to get the contractions go away. I could not stay awake any longer and I finally passed out in a chair. I found out later that Kristi stayed up. Thank you Kristi.
At 8:00am we finally woke up and we got to meet her doctor, Dr. Izu. He talked about Nickell’s contractions and the baby’s heart rate when the contractions were happening. What is suppose to happen is the baby’s heart rate should drop during the contraction but Max’s would drop after the contraction. This made the doctor concerned along with the other back pain that made him want to watch it for a little. I was nervous and concerned, but the thought of the baby coming that day still never occurred to me. We just had so much time before he was supposed to be born. Max being born was just something I couldn't wrap my head around.
(I told you I wouldn't hold anything back.)
It wasn’t much longer that Dr. Izu returned and told us that our baby would be coming. My first thought was NO he’s too little. My second thought was NO our health insurance doesn’t start for another 4 days. But that thought was quickly pushed aside. I didn’t care what the cost, I just wanted and needed Nickell and Max to be ok.
The doctor stepped out of the room for a minute and Nickell and I were alone. I took this moment to say a very special prayer asking for help and a special blessing that everything would be ok.
Then the chaos happened.
The nurses and doctors started prepping Nickell for surgery.
I texted my mom letting her know the baby was coming today. I was hoping she would pass it onto my siblings.
I was signing whatever paperwork was handed to me and I may or may not have accidentally written Nickell's name down as Blair Nickell...whoops.
They wheeled Nickell down to prep her in the OR.
I ran down to the car to get the camera. How dead would I be if we didn't have pictures of our boy.
I was full of so many mixed emotions: Max is coming! It’s too early. Would everything be OK? What would be wrong with him? I get to see Max today!! With so much running through my mind, I said another prayer, pleading with the Lord that everything would be OK.
As I entered the OR the first thing I saw was Nickell stretched out on the OR table only her arms and head visible. The rest was behind the blue curtain where the doctor and nurses where working. I was told that I couldn’t video during the procedure but I could before and after. So I sat next to Nickell to comfort her best I could.
The procedure went quickly, just like it had with Kade and Tadd. When Nickell could feel them pushing she told me to turn the camera on so that I could get his first cry recorded. But there wasn’t one. I watched, and recorded, as they carried him to the table. Nickell could not see what was going on and kept asking "what’s going on, why isn’t he crying?" So I tried to explain what they were doing. All I could tell was they were tying to get him to breath. They were doing chest compressions and getting oxygen to his tiny underdeveloped lungs. One doctor was wiping him down trying to stimulate him with some movement is my guess. He looked lifeless. No sound, no movement. It seemed to last forever. I felt frozen. I just kept filming putting all my faith in the doctors that they would be able to bring him back. I didn’t want to worry Nickell anymore than she already was, so very quietly I just kept saying, “Come on Max. Come on Max.” That was all I could do. Looking back, I am surprised at how well I kept it together. I had to for Nickell; I, was all she could see.
Finally after what seemed like eternity we heard a tiny cry. A breath finally left my body. I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath. They held him up for us to see as he cried a lot. That was the best sound I'd heard! They let me cut the umbilical cord. That was a complete surprise, and a happy one. They didn’t let me do that with Kade and Tadd.
The doctors then continued to get Max ready for transport and took his measurements; 4 lbs 2 oz, 17 inches long. I walked over to Nickell and kissed her on the forehead. I told her, "he's fine." We both had tears streaming down our faces. She told me to go with him. I kept asking the doctors, if on the way out they could just bring him next to Nickell. They were snippy about it but finally allowed it. I then kissed Nickell again and left her with the doctors to do what they do. I would see her soon. The next stop would be the NICU while they wait for the Northridge NICU transport since Henry Mayo's was full.
As I followed the doctors out of the OR I found Lloyd, Kristi and Daniel waiting. (Daniel had taken a break from work to be there for the blessing. He stayed as long as he could, but had to leave before we could give Max the blessing). We all followed along behind the transport team, to the NICU. They brought Max into one of the rooms that they cleared temporarily until the Northridge team got there and in that room they continued to work on him. I wanted to give him a blessing but also didn’t want to prevent the doctors from doing what Max needed them to do. I talked with the charge nurse about when we could give him a blessing and she made it seem like we'd never get to. She was very difficult. She is the same nurse who said that Nickell wouldn’t be able to see Max as they took him out of the OR, she should be fired for nothing more than a poor bedside manner. She works in the NICU where obviously there are nervous/scared parents, she and she severely lacks empathy or kindness.
The nurses continued to work on Max. As they did so, I wandered back and forth between where people where waiting to the room Max was in. I was just looking for the moment where we could give him a blessing. In the mean time the Dr. Izu came down and told me that Nickell was good and in recovery. He then explained that the only thing wrong with Max’ was his lungs were underdeveloped. He then explained about a fluid that they can put in his lungs that will help them heal and help it develop. Of course I said yes. Anything for Max.
Finally the chance came where we could give Max a blessing. It was just Lloyd and I as Daniel had to leave and Brandon was not there yet. (Once Brandon knew we were having our baby he and Jeanessa dropped everything and started their way to the hospital.) There was only one nurse in the room when we gave Max a blessing. I tried to be quick as to not keep the nurses from monitoring Max, but I did not want to rush it either as I knew that although the doctors, nurses, and medicine where helping Max, the blessing is what was going to help Max make the quickest progress that he could. Sadly Brandon showed up shortly after we had finished the blessing. But even though he was not there for that I’m glad he was there. He took the camera from me and started taking pictures, some of the first ones that I was in. I then just continued going back and forth between Max and those waiting nearby.When the Northridge transport team arrived we met Zully who would be Max’s nurse. Instantly she was kind and compassionate and helped us feel as ease. One of the first things she asked me was how “the mom” was doing. I told her I just talked with the doctor and everything is good and that she is in recovery. Zully then assured me that Max was doing fine and that they will wait until she’s out of recovery to leave because they were going to bring Max by the room to let Nickell see him before they left. This was one of the best things I had heard. I knew that this was a prayer answered for Nickell.
I left to go check on Nickell. When I got back to the womens unit she was in her room. I gave Nickell an update on everything happening and told her that they would be bringing Max by before he leaves. I could tell that was the best news she'd received that day or maybe even, ever. I kissed her and headed back to the NICU. Once Max and the transport team were ready we headed to Nickell’s room. I was so excited for this. I am so glad Zully made sure that Nickell would see him. Seeing Nickell holding his hand, getting a chance to look at him, warmed my heart. Words can’t express how happy I was that she got to see and touch him. When the time came for them to leave, it was incredibly hard. I knew Nickell just wanted him to stay and I wanted that for her. But we knew he must go. It was hard to leave Nickell. I know she needed someone to be with her so her mom stayed while I went to Northridge.
I did not leave right when the NICU team left. I talked with the people who were still there and gathered my things. On my way down to Northridge I stopped by Tommys for a burger. I had not eaten all day and didn’t know when I would eat next. So I ate and texted people to keep them updated with the status of everything. Once done I made my way into the Northridge Hospital Medical Center.
At the security counter where you get the visitor badges, I told them I was there to see Maxwell Blair. I waited for a little bit then he said they don’t have a Maxwell Blair. Not what I was wanting to hear. I told him he had just been transferred to the NICU from Henry Mayo. He looked again. Nothing. He told me to try the emergency admitting. I went down there hoping they had a record of him. I went through the same routine as with the guard and got the same result. Now some freaking out. My mind started to wander, worst case scenarios were playing out in my mind. You’ve all seen the movies, he’s been kidnapped. That team that came in to "transport him" wasn't really a transport team. (I've obviously seen too many movies because the thought that I was at the wrong hospital never even crossed my mind.)
They told me to check main admitting. I quickly went there. I signed in and waited. The whole time thinking where is my son? If not here then where should I be? WHERE IS MAX!!! I got called back and again went through the same routine as the others. Finally he checked under Nickell. There he was. Apparently they put his last name as Nickell. Phew, we weren't part of some conspiracy.
I made my way up to the NICU. I was looking for room 5100. I felt like a freshman on the first day of school looking for my class. There I was, nervous, anxious, scared. I have never been in a NICU, never thought I would be.
I found the room rang the doorbell, and a nurse met me at the door. She showed me how we are to scrub-in up to our elbows every time we come in to see Max. Once done with my first scrub-in I entered the NICU. It was overwhelming seeing all the incubators and equipment. Max was the first one when you enter. He was actually in the middle of a procedure. He was covered with blue towels and all the instruments were lined up next to his incubator. His arms and legs were strapped down like he was being tortured. Obviously he wasn't, it was just to keep him still. They told me the doctor had to step out so don’t touch him. I just sat by Max’s side, staring at him. I don’t know how long it was for, but once the doctor returned I had to go out to the waiting area until they finished. While waiting I feel asleep. I don’t know how long I was asleep for but I was woken by a nurse letting me know I could go back in.
There he was, in just a diaper connected to a ton of wires and machines and a CPAP coming from his nose. It was overwhelming, but I knew that all this was just a small step in the process of him coming home. Zully came over and let me know to not stroke his skin and to just rest my hand on him. His skin was too sensitive and could only handle minimal touching. So I opened up one of the doors to his incubator and touched him. I held his hand, his chest, his head. I was soaking in all that I could. He was here, 7 weeks early and alive and in the NICU, at the mercy of the nurses, doctors and machines. How long was he going to be here? We'd have a lot of adjustments to make in our schedule but it was worth it. If it meant he was going to be safe and healthy.
I stayed as long a I could. Then I left Northridge hospital where my brand new baby was and headed to Henry Mayo hospital where my wife was.
When I got there she was trying to sleep. There wasn’t much else she could do. Her room was nothing like the IHC’s mother baby rooms, which is what she has been use to. She had to share a room and had the smaller portion. In the curtained off area there was, aside from her bed, enough room for one small chair. I could tell she was sad. I gave her an update on Max and how everything was at Northridge. I tried to comfort her. My plans were to stay the night there with her. It is what I had done with our other two boys. But she told me I couldn’t sleep in that chair (that was true, but I was willing to try) and she told me to go back her parents house. I did so reluctantly. I didn’t want to leave her. Not like this, especially with no baby to hold.
Finally I arrived at the Jensen’s, 36 hours after leaving our home in Utah. Brock wanted to watch a movie so we put on Dark Knight Rises in his room. I layed on the bed and lasted maybe 5 minutes before I fell asleep, I was fully dressed but was too exhausted to care.