Dear science: an appreciation

Dear science,

Today my sons, Oliver and Victor, are 15 years old.

It is not a miracle; it is thanks to you.

Unable to get pregnant I needed infertility therapy. If you had not isolated the hormones, developed tests, and then designed medications for ovarian stimulation and to trigger ovulation I would never have become pregnant.

If ultrasound had not been developed I would not have known I was pregnant with triplets and then what eventually happened next would likely have been even more of a catastrophe. It is sometimes hard to see how these kinds of things helped, but I have not forgotten. I know there is an orchestra involved and that every note counts.

When I ruptured my membranes at 22 1/2 weeks you had the test to confirm it. When I delivered my son who passed away you provided the pain medication so I could tolerate the immediately necessary interventions to try to keep me pregnant with the other two.

Science, you gave me medications to stop my contractions and a stitch for my cervix. I know my uterus was a worthy opponent and for 3 1/2 weeks it tried really hard not to be pregnant.

When at 25 weeks and 6 days things were “not right” and I couldn’t tell you more than that you had tests to help figure out what my body was really trying to say. An infection. Not good news, but you provided the anesthesia and surgical skills shortly after midnight to bring my boys into the world.

Science, you gave medications for my children who could not maintain their own blood pressures. Antibiotics to treat the infection I had given them. Blood transfusions. Ventilators. Oxygen. Special cribs to keep the outside, well, outside.

Equipment small enough for babies who weighed 783 and 843 g.

Science you also gave antibiotics that saved my life when the bacteria that ran through my bloodstream tried really hard to mess things up even more for me.

You gave me data on how to touch and hold my babies so the outside world brought to them too soon would be less damaging.

And science you gave the echocardiogram that showed my little Oliver had a heart that needed repair. That was pretty tough. You think you are sort of in the clear a week after delivery at 26 weeks and then you told me a valve was restricting flow to his lungs, and he had a big old hole in his heart.

Sometimes I tell myself it is because that kid had just so much love it broke his damn heart. I know, it was a messaging mix up during embryogenesis, but when times are pretty dark making light can help. I’m going to guess there is some science to explain that kind of coping mechanism.

You hadn’t quite caught up with how to fix a heart in a baby that small. That was hard.

Eventually though you came through. When Oliver was 1,200 g you gave the anesthesia and the surgical skills and the equipment to thread a tiny catheter through his leg, into his heart and pop open a valve the size of what? A dime? Much smaller.

Yes, I know.

You gave medications to stimulate their bone marrow to make red blood cells. A screening test for hypothyroidism and then medication to treat it so Victor’s brain could develop. Did you know he had straight As this past year in grade 8? All on his own?

Feeding tubes and formula. The medication to help me make breast milk didn’t work so well, so maybe get on that when you have some time? Not nagging, but it would be nice.

Oxygen canisters. Suction tubing. Home oxygen monitors. Thermometers. So much equipment you gave me to care for my babies when we did get home. I felt more like a doctor than a mom for a while — okay for a long while. But that feeling made me realize that at some point when all this was through that I had to figure out how to help other people who were not doctors cope with everything medical thrown at them.

That is the thing about you science. You make people think what next? and the undiscovered countries that lay ahead of us. There are so many.

Vaccines, oh I love your vaccines! They helped a lot. When they couldn’t, when Oliver was back in the intensive care unit over and over again with influenza because a bum heart and bum lungs are a lot, you had equipment and medication to help him get through.

You’ve given us ultrasounds and an MRI machine to monitor Oliver’s heart as he grows. Growth charts so we know what is worrisome and what is not. And you have even given us two vaccines so I can help protect my boys from cancer!

Science, I am feeling pretty emotional today. There is no way I can express my gratitude for all the advanced knowledge and equipment and medications that have directly been responsible for the greatest joys in my life.

I do believe that undiscovered science when it is finally know can seem like a miracle, but I am aware of the effort and energy that went into everything that brought me the joy I have today. It was no miracle, it was intelligence, hard work, and the desire to do more. To help people live better lives.

The only thing I do not believe you will ever be able to do is measure the joy that I have or the depth of my gratitude.

Please keep doing what you do.

All my love,

Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of the Preemie Primer. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Jen Gunter.

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