PEOPLE [AMC Real Story] Welcome Home, Baby HaBom! After 165 Days in Hospital 2024.01.05



“The baby has only 23% of the lungs, and they should be at least 25% for any hope.” A local clinic recommended terminating the pregnancy when I was 23 weeks and 5 days into it due to a left diaphragmatic hernia in the fetus. Despite the clinic's suggestion, fetal movements were active when I left, promising to take a day before making a decision. The baby seemed to be sending signals that only a mother could feel, as if saying, 'I am here, still alive.' In search of better options, I contacted my cousin working at Asan Medical Center. Despite its distance from Daegu, I had heard multiple times that the hospital provides quality treatment. Perhaps there, I might find the care needed to meet my child.


Even Just One Minute Will Be Worth It

At the 27th week of pregnancy, I met Professor Mi-Young Lee of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “The situation is far from optimistic.” I was not hoping for a miracle but could not help but feel disappointed. “But, listen. There are cases where we have to let go of a child who can live, and there are babies who live, who were seemingly unlikely to live.” I was listening without any expectation, but it sounded like a message saying, ‘Still, let’s give it a go.’ “Thank you so much, Professor!” Professor Lee said she would do her best to help. I decided to undergo regular amniotic fluid tests at a nearby clinic in case a procedure would be necessary.


Whenever I visited the local clinic, I heard phrases like: 'It may be the best case if the baby lives for one hour' or 'It would not be good for the mother's health, too.' Regardless of how delicately the doctor phrased it, the words were always painful. I would return home and cry for a long time. Eventually, fetal movements ceased. Realizing that the baby could sense the mother's emotions, I understood what needed to be done. During my next visit, I requested that nobody make any more comments. “Please help me. Even if I can spend just one minute with my baby, I am willing to go all the way.”


Meeting and Parting  

The baby was due on January 8, 2021. AMC Delivery Team had contingency plans for emergencies, including airway intubation. However, my water broke ten days early, and there was no vacancy in the NICU. I did my best to hold on as long as possible to ensure the baby's stable treatment, but the baby was already ready to come into the world. At 1:20 am on December 30, the medical team on night duty hurriedly delivered the baby. Unable to breathe on its own, the baby received CPR immediately after birth. My husband, witnessing this, turned pale and came to me, saying, “From now on, let’s think only about you, just you!” He must have thought the baby could not survive, and I was going delirious. It was early in the morning when Professor Euiseok Jung of the Division of Neonatology arrived. He stated that the baby needed to be on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). “Please, Professor, do whatever is necessary, and the best you can.”


Before meeting the baby, the medical staff advised me, “Do not be alarmed if the baby stays still.” Despite mental preparation, witnessing the baby with various medical devices attached broke my heart. Unfortunately, the baby's condition did not improve, and the diaphragm repair surgery got postponed four times. Each time I received a phone call from the hospital starting with 3010, my heart constricted, fearing something terrible might have happened. On the 21st day after birth, I briefly saw the baby heading to the operating room, marking our second encounter. 'HaBom, let’s meet again!


Two Seasons in the Hospital   

I could not relax even after the surgery. The lungs were so tiny, putting too much burden on the heart. Every day, I prayed for HaBom to survive. Perhaps aware of my constant worry, medical staff at NICU sent occasional photos with messages like 'This is HaBom, just awake from sleep,' or 'HaBom had the first taste of thin rice gruel today.' Although I could not physically be with the baby, these photos reassured me that 'HaBom survived the day!' Every moment since HaBom's birth has been a series of first-time experiences and emotions. I came to realize that I had lived confined to a world of my plans and predictable outcomes. To live the day to the fullest without jumping to conclusions about tomorrow became the only thing that mattered.


On the 99th day after birth, I finally met HaBom, thanks to my doctor's consideration. 'The baby recognizes you!' exclaimed the nurses as HaBom stared wide-eyed into my face. 'I thought I was waiting for her all this time. But I think she was waiting for me!' I had worried about leaving my child to suffer through painful treatments in a bleak hospital, but HaBom smiled, made eye contact, and communicated well like a much-loved child. I heard that nurses, doctors, and medical staff at NICU took good care of HaBom to ensure she was well-fed. I had not the slightest doubt about their sincerity and love. After spending two seasons in the hospital, HaBom received a heartfelt send-off from the medical staff and finally came home after 165 days.


All Our Days

Our days were filled with medical equipment and medications, including pulmonary hypertension medicine, nasal tubes, and an oxygen monitor. Is it going to work? Despite being happy to be with HaBom, anxiety and fear of the unknown lingered. I would release the tension, savor her breath, and find complete happiness when she fell asleep.


During a routine hospital visit, a hernia was discovered. The intestines were compressed as her spine grew, leading to immediate diaphragmatic surgery and admission to the ICU. According to AMC application, HaBom’s blood levels seemed to navigate between life and death. When Professor Euiseok Jung called, I cried for a while. “You must have been startled. You should have called me immediately,” he said. The doctor’s soothing comfort finally calmed me down. As promised, Professor Jung returned HaBom to my arms.


I often share my diary of HaBom’s growth on social media. Just as HaBom’s photos from NICU gave me strength, I hope the medical staff will also feel rewarded and gain courage in seeing how she is growing. Although HaBom is slightly slower than her peers, she is growing at her own pace, crying, laughing, and running bravely. The days of continuous walking on the ice piled up, and now, our days are rather sturdy.