Yesterday, we had our first appointment with "Developmental Clinic" at Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick. The purpose of this clinic is to follow Andrea from discharge until she turns three, looking at her development compared to babies of her corrected age. So yesterday, she was compared to the expected norms for a 4-month-old baby.
The exam consisted of an evaluation by a speech therapist, physical therapist, neonatal fellow and neonatologist. Except for the speech therapist, everyone else knew Andrea from NICU, so it was a wonderful reunion. Even better, Andrea has NO appreciable deficiencies! The speech therapist expected her to have a wider range of sounds, and gave us some exercises to do to encourage that. I think part of the problem with speech is that, until recently, Andrea lived with the constant drone of her oxygen concentrator. I imagine that must have interfered a bit with her ability to differentiate sounds.
The physical therapist was incredibly pleased with Andrea. We have said for a long time that she is a very strong baby. It was borne out by her exam. She was able to push up on her arms and lift her head and chest off the table. I think she would have turned over, given enough time. Granted, the table was narrow, so it's probably just as well she didn't!
The doctors were pleased with Andrea's growth, responsiveness, tone, and personality. She passed with flying colors. It was wonderful to see that our assessments of her have not been off the mark. The doctor told us that these clinics will become more extensive as Andrea grows. Right now, they can only observe so much, and Andrea can't really perform on command. As she gets older, they will do tests to evaluate her cognitive functions and ability to learn.
One indication that Andrea is doing really well is that we don't have to go back to clinic until March. Usually these visits are scheduled three months apart in the beginning, but there's nothing of concern, so the doctors feel she can wait a bit longer before being seen again.
One of the best parts of the day for me was actually before Andrea's appointment. We were able to visit one of Andrea's primary nurses from the NICU. Although there were many people caring for Andrea, it was this one nurse who made the experience survivable for me. Especially at the beginning, when I could barely touch Andrea, it was so helpful to see a friendly face and know that Andrea was being well-cared for when we weren't there. I believe Andrea remembered her nurse, if not by her appearance (Andrea's eyes were not fully developed before discharge) then by her sound or smell. When the nurse was holding Andrea, she was very calm and peaceful. While she is young to have 'stranger anxiety", she does know "her" people, and reacts to being around them.
The last piece of news for today is that we have been scheduled for our sleep study. Miracle of miracles, it's actually TONIGHT! Andrea and I will be in the hospital from 7:30 tonight until 6 a.m. tomorrow. As I understand it, she'll be connected to a bunch of monitors and evaluated to see how she does when she's off the oxygen completely. We won't have results for a week or so, but I'll try to write about the experience tomorrow.
As we mark all these milestones, thank you for the continued support, encouragement, and prayers. Our family and friends have meant the world to us. Andrea is luckier than she knows to have all of you in her life.
"Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory." Ghandi