My story began during an especially hectic time in my life. My oldest son had just gotten engaged, only weeks before my due date. It had been a routine pregnancy, aside from one small issue; during my 20-week ultrasound, the technician had seen a small cyst on the baby’s colon, along with suspicious bubbles in his stomach. (They turned out to be gas bubbles, created by the cyst.)
I was sent to a high-risk obstetrician for a consultation, but there was nothing the doctors could do until the baby was born.
Thankfully, I was feeling okay, albeit terribly exhausted from all the balls that I was juggling. These included a full-time job as an office manager, children of all ages and stages, including a two-year-old, and of course, the impending mazel tov.
The wedding would take place only eight weeks after the baby was born. I was concerned about having enough energy to take care of the myriad details and about how I would fit into my dress. How blissfully clueless I was!
Little Yossi was born at Hackensack University Medical Center just days before Pesach, weighing in at a little under six pounds. He was beautiful and healthy, with good color and strong lungs. He was taken to the regular nursery but was soon transferred to the ICU when he refused to eat. X-rays and a barium enema showed that there was a blockage in the small intestine, which meant that he had to be tube-fed. I spent most of Pesach going back and forth to the hospital. Since his condition was stable, he was discharged after two weeks, and his bris took place that same day. We kept a careful eye on his condition, and when he was four weeks old he underwent a successful operation to remove the cyst.
Yossi grew nicely. He was a placid, content baby, and we settled into a routine. My son’s wedding took place in early June. That was our brief reprieve from our medical saga, although we didn’t know it at the time. After the wedding and sheva brachos, life returned to normal. I was back at work, taking care of the baby and our other children, and hosting the new couple every so often for dinner.
Baruch Hashem, I had a lot on my plate, but I was used to managing on very little sleep. Still, I had no idea how many months would pass before I’d be able to get even that much.
Two weeks after the wedding, when little Yossi was only ten weeks old, our second ordeal began. It started innocently enough with an ordinary cold that clogged Yossi’s nose and made him cranky. His sniffles soon turned into a hacking cough, but since he had no fever I figured I’d keep an eye on him at home; why schlep him outside? By nature I am not an alarmist. I don’t rush to the doctor for things that usually resolve on their own.
However, when my nine-year-old began complaining that his throat hurt, I decided to take both of them in to be examined. That fateful decision would herald the start of our medical nightmare, which would last for four months.
The doctor at the local health center checked my older son’s throat, diagnosed him with a virus (the strep culture was negative), and then glanced at my baby. Yossi was very congested and struggling to breathe.
“I don’t like his color,” said the pediatrician on call. “He looks like he could use some oxygen.”
I took another look at my baby, who did appear rather pale. He was flailing his arms, and every breath seemed to emerge in a muffled gasp. Although I wasn’t usually a worrywart, Yossi was still very young, practically a newborn. I didn’t want to take any chances with his health.