Cigarettes are killers that travel in packs.  ~Author Unknown

Otis Redding- Respect

For the past month the thermometer has been flirting with the freezing mark. As if the numbing coldness wasn’t enough, it invited a flurry of wet precipitation with it.

A long time ago, Ashleigh decided to never miss a daily visit with Gracie because she felt like it was a sacrifice that parents must endure for their children.  As we got out of the car and walked towards the children’s hospital, we couldn’t help but notice that we were trailing  in a path of cigarette smoke. It is a toxic smell and the scent lingers like icicles in cold air. It was in the elevator, and as we approached the NICU it grew more formidable and stagnant. The owners of the scent were standing right outside of the NICU.  Ashleigh and I stood about 100 feet back from the entrance and still couldn’t escape the smell.

Ashleigh recognized these individuals as the parents of the insane colic meth baby. Not only did they inhale, ingest and linger in it, but they were about to bring all of the toxic fumes inside the NICU. This infuriated me, because as underdeveloped lungs were working hard in the NICU, these parents of all people felt that there weren’t enough challenges already.  

As they were buzzed in, we decided to wait until the pungent cigarette smell dissipated. Five minutes later, we picked up the receiver and identified ourselves and we were buzzed in. The scent of stale cigarettes lingered in the air as the meth infant was on Gracie’s side. We approached Gracie and saw that the nurses were shorthanded and in the weeds. We greeted the nurse and we proceeded with our routine.  Gracie had a diaper which needed to be changed and we did so promptly.  As usual, there was a nice monstrous surprise and just as I was about to wipe, I discovered aerosol poop. Did you know that poop can come in warm aerosol form? Because this was all over my palm and back of the isolette as I approached Gracie’s bottom with a wipe.

Everyone broke out in laughter as I screamed “holy crap.” Meanwhile a family across from us didn’t understand that only two visitors were allowed per infant and they brought in five at a time which caused a little bit of a ruckus.  

Since there was so much stimulation that night, Gracie was gavaged because she couldn’t focus intently on taking a bottle. There are times where she just suddenly forgets how to drink from a bottle and it stumps her initially which later compounds into frustration. It is funny how you realize that you have come so far sometimes and yet there is so much more ground to cover.

In the background, an accusatory family on the other side of the room blamed the nurses for creating a sicker baby. The mother believed that her baby was able to breathe on its own prior to their admission into the NICU and this brief interlude of vocal interchanges were causing a scene in the NICU.  As she was telling her story to a nurse, she had an instance of foot in mouth syndrome and mentioned that she was taking some sort of drug during her pregnancy. At that exact moment, we could sense that all the nurses shot her an evil glance over their shoulders in unison. It is amazing how protective some of these nurses are over these babies.

We began our nightly reading to Gracie when the visitors and parents dissipated. As usual, the nurses dimmed the lights in our area. When I was finished Ashleigh prayed over Gracie’s isolette and we left as quietly and simply as entered.  The hospital greeted us with warmth while mother nature reminded us again of winter’s cruel elements.


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