"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Breath of Life

The most obvious thing about Xander is the plastic tube stuck up his nose. He was born at 34 weeks and one day of gestation, which provoked a peck of petty pneumonia. His first week was ventilator tubes, chest x-rays, and a plethora of different doctors and nurses and respiratory specialists poking and prodding. But after six days, he was down to the minimum of airflow interventions: a simple cannula taped to his cheeks with prongs thrusting only a few centimeters into his nostrils and a low amount of pure oxygen pressure to help his lungs heal and grow. He stayed in the NICU for another three weeks, and even when he was ready to go home, he still needed the oxygen.

It’s nearly six weeks later and he’s still got the tube stuck up his nose. The day we brought Xander home, Apria Healthcare came out to install a large oxygen tank and to give us a small sign warning us not to smoke, even though as Mormons we tend to shy away from such things. (Wait, do people still smoke these days?) The oxygen tank looks like it should fill carnival balloons with helium and stands in our hallway between the master bedroom and the nursery, just outside of the bathroom. Our house is small enough that the 25 feet of tubing plus about seven feet of cannula can reach anywhere in the upstairs part of the house, and we just discovered yesterday during the 60 degree January-in-Colorado afternoon that it will reach about two feet out the back door. He’s so light that I like to carry him like a notebook in my left arm, sort of forgetting that he’s there while I do the dishes with my right hand, or at least neglecting to remember that we’re both in shackles. I’m acclimated enough now that sometimes I even try to carry him downstairs so I can change the laundry or something. I was three steps down the stairs once when the tube yanked on his face, and Xander kindly reminded me that we could not proceed as such.

We can go downstairs. Just attach a portable tank in a convenient shoulder-bag. I did this often the first couple of weeks, when May needed sleep and I wanted to watch TV or use the computer or run on the treadmill in the basement. Xander has a little easy chair he spends most of his time in. It reclines, it rocks. For a quarter, it will even vibrate like the bed at a cheap motel. I can carry him downstairs in the chair, his oxygen over my shoulder, and he sits stilll like a good boy and watches me run for 45 minutes. Actually, mostly he just sleeps. (Treadmill secret: hook up a DVD player, watch your favorite TV series. Dramas work better because they're the right length and it’s difficult to belly laugh at Arrested Development when you’re running. And dramas with cliffhanger endings to each episode--like 24--work best because then you want to run again tomorrow. :)

But to paraphrase the immortal Ferris, life moves pretty fast. Things change quickly. I now work on my laptop at the kitchen table. We actually canceled our Direct TV because we essentially haven’t watched our TiVo since May was admitted to the hospital in October five weeks before Xander was even born. The last episode of this season’s Mad Men is recorded but still not viewed. Nobody tell me how it ends, like if Don Draper proposes to his ex-secretary or something. I don’t want to know yet. Maybe we can hire a babysitter and my wife and I can spend an hour in the basement one night...I’m not going to finish that sentence. Never mind. The point is that the reasons for even going into the basement are growing thin. (I have used the treadmill a few times since my leave started, but the labor intensiveness of disconnecting and reconnecting the oxygen grows more annoying every time.)

The doctor has said that Xander could be on oxygen anywhere from a couple of months up to a year. I know that our circumstances are if not unique then at least uncommon and that this isn’t the only cause for change when you have a baby. I have done this before. Some changes are to be expected. However, I hope certain things will become simpler once Xander’s lungs heal and he doesn't need the extra boost any more. Plus, maybe I can take up smoking again.


  1. more smoking and YOU will wind up with the cannula...

  2. It's funny because my wife and I had an argument over the lines about smoking in this post. She thought that people who don't know me won't get the irony in my claim to want to take up smoking again. So let me explain, just in case the above comments were also not meant ironically, which could easily be the case:

    This line: "give us a small sign warning us not to smoke, even though as Mormons we tend to shy away from such things" is an example of understatement, meaning that Mormons are well-known as non-smokers so using such language understates this fact. The understatement is ironic because what I really mean to say is that we don't smoke, emphatically. The last line is simply a joke, a conclusion convention, circling back to a memorable part at the beginning.

    There. I hope my prose is satisfactorily deconstructed.