The heart rate was extremely fast and I knew something wasn't quite right when my doctor sent me next door to the hospital for observation. I tried not to sound worried as I called Jon. I explained the situation and even put on a brave front telling him not to come to the hospital since it was an hour away. I walked into the hospital, was registered, and was put onto a monitor for the baby. The nurse's eyes widened and she said she would be right back. Then there were 2 nurses, then 3 nurses, then all 5 nurses who were on duty were in the room with me. Lisa, who had been my nurse with Buddy, explained that in 19 years of working in Labor and Delivery, she had never heard a heart rate that fast in a baby. Sweetpea's heart rate was so fast that the machine could not register and the nurses were doing a count by the clock. A high heart rate for a typical infant is 180 beats per minute. Sweetpea's heart rate was 260-280 beats per minute.
At this point, I knew things were serious and was on the phone with Jon and my parents. My doctor arranged to transfer me to another hospital since the one I was at did not a have a NICU. My parents were able to come on up and Jon left Buddy with our neighbors. That night, we discovered that Sweetpea had infantile SVT or SupraVentricular Tachycardia, which is a fancy way of saying that her heart races. The first plan of action was to give me heart medicines to see if that would slow her heart rate and allow the pregnancy to continue until she was full term. They did an ultrasound and discovered she had hydrops, or fluid building up in her chest cavity and her brain and around her kidneys, which can be fatal. In fact, the doctor told Jon that in his 18 years, he had only seen two infants with such severe hydrops, and one didn't make it! The plan of action changed to an emergency c-section the next day. Jon and I had to listen to several doctors and the head of the NICU list what was going to happen. After delivery, Sweetpea would be intubated, she would have multiple chest tubes, and possibly head tubes, to drain the fluid. We were given about a 70% survival rate for babies born prematurely, with SVT and a 60% survival rate for the severe hydrops. That was the hardest part, hearing a survival rate and not knowing if our baby would be in the incalculable percentage of the two combined. We cried together but later, Jon was able to sing the chorus of Great Is Thy Faithfulness softly as we listened to the heart monitor. That was a great reminder to us.
The fluid build up was the most serious part at this point because it would eventually cause organs to begin to shut down. The night of the 25th was a long night, as the nurses were monitoring Sweetpea every 2 hours for movement. God was so good though the process because one of our doctors was a Christian and one was a specialist for infantile SVT. The Lord also gave Jon and me a supernatural peace about it all and I could feel people around the country praying for us and with us. That isn't to say we weren't scared or brokenhearted but that we knew that God would use this situation for His glory...regardless of the outcome.
Sweetpea was born March 26th at 12:54. She was 5 lbs 2 oz and 18 inches long. I was able to see her for about 3 seconds before they whisked her into the NICU. Jon later told me that one of the doctors could not believe that Sweetpea was the same baby that they had monitored on the ultrasound. The fluid had mysteriously drained and her kidneys were high functioning, allowing fluid to drain without the need for chest or head tubes. This was totally an answer to prayer. Her heart rate was still around 250-260 bpm but finally came down when Jon stroked her hand and sang Jesus Loves Me.
Sweetpea came home on April 17 and it was so amazing to finally let Buddy see Sweetpea. I am so grateful to all the doctors and nurses who took care of Sweetpea and most of all, our all powerful God for protecting her. We have had an interesting few months of adjusting to her medicine schedule and dealing with all of the doctor visits for a premature baby. Instead of mommy and daddy, Jon and I played doctor and nurse. Slowly and surely, through this whole process God has taught me to trust Him completely with my children. I've learned to let go of some fears and have learned that He will give me the exact provision of strength needed. Sweetpea is now almost 8 months old and is doing so incredibly well. She is on track for age adjusted skills and her cardiologist is optimistic that she'll outgrow her SVT by her first birthday.
We praise God for Sweetpea and for even for that scary storm because we have learned so much through it. Psalm 13:5-6 represents our heart's song to God, regardless of the difficult situations and overwhelming storms of life: "But I will trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me."
** Update: Sweetpea is currently two years old and has been weaned off all of her heart medications and other medications. When Sweetpea turned one year old, our cardiologist had her wear a Holter monitor and after no recorded episodes, he recommended we wean her from her meds. Two months later, she wore the Holter again (heart medicine free!) with no issues. At her 18 month check up with the cardiologist, he released her to our pediatrician, only to come back if Sweetpea has more heart issues. God has been so good and Sweetpea has been SVT free for over a year now. While we are still cautious and occasionally check her heart rate, Sweetpea is a happy, healthy, energetic two year old!