“My journey to motherhood began with a siren-blaring, lights-flashing fast ride to the emergency room of a specialist hospital. Within a day, everything that I had imagined for the birth of my child changed.”
In her recently published memoir, The Summer Called Angel, author Sola Olu provides a candid and enlightening account of the challenges faced by parents of babies born prematurely in hospitals across the United States every day. Nuanced, thorough, humane, and with gifted style, she takes readers on a vivid and emotionally charged journey through each defining moment of her own experiences and in doing so, ends up with what can best be described as a captivating success.
The story begins in May 2004. Sola and her husband Cris were expectant parents eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first child. Everything seemed perfect. The plan was for Sola to finish school (she was pursuing a graduate degree at the time), “have a bit of time to do some shopping and relax, and then have the baby.” All of that changed when what was supposed to be a routine checkup resulted in a diagnosis for preeclampsia, a medical condition characterized by high blood pressure and significant amounts of protein in the urine of a pregnant woman. If left untreated, preeclampsia can develop into a life-threatening occurrence of seizures. Sola’s blood pressure was so elevated that her doctor recommended that the baby be delivered right away to save both child and mother. The forty-five minute ambulance ride to a specialist hospital would mark the beginning of the end of a pregnancy once anticipated with joy. Angel was born at twenty-eight weeks, weighing just two pounds and her feisty fight for life began immediately. Coupled with her parent’s undying strength and never-ending love, little Angel’s will to live took them on a journey of hope and discovery.
It is important to note that prematurity is the leading cause of death for newborns in the United States – a shocking discovery given the level of medical and technological advancement. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 8 pregnancies results in a premature birth each year leaving many parents devastated, shocked and lost in the maze of neonatal intensive care units. The Summer Called Angel serves as a powerful tribute to what can happen when parental love supersedes unexpected challenges. Readers dealing with prematurity are certain to find hope and inspiration in their own circumstances. And every person who needs a reason to find courage in the face of their own challenges will definitely find it in this bestseller.
An Excerpt from Chapter Eight
She wants to live, I remember thinking. She wants to be here. This is a human being. This is my child and I am going to fight for her.
Then Chris joined me from work. I clutched our list of questions as if my own life depended on it, and together we entered the meeting room. It was a big room with a long, rectangular table. Marcy was there, as well as the surgeon, the head neonatologist in charge of Angel’s care, and our counselor. She had been in charge of putting everything together.
“How far are we with Angel?” my husband started. “We wanted this meeting today because we need to know what’s going on. We want to know what the plan is for her treatment.”
The surgeon spoke first. “Four or five days ago, I’d have had nothing but bad news for you. But yesterday, for the first time in weeks, I wrote my first good report about Angel. I’ve seen some positive changes. She opened her eyes, her oxygen needs started declining on its own, and finally she’s developed a fistula, one of the complications of NEC. A fistula is an abnormal connection between the intestine and the skin. We usually don’t like them to develop, but this one offers a ray of light. The nurse who noticed it felt that some bile was coming from that opening. This might mean something is passing through, and poop might eventually come out of there. It isn’t what we hoped for, but it’s something that might work. At this point we’ll take anything.”
My husband and I looked at each other. “So we’re not going to take her off the ventilator or anything like that?”
“Oh no, no, no.”
“What happens after this, though?” Chris pressed.
“We’ll do a GI test to check how much intestine she has up to the fistula. If the tests show she has enough to eat and digest food, and the intestinal function’s good, we’ll feed her. For now we’ll let the poop come out of the fistula.”
“I mean, we want her here desperately.” Chris’s voice sounded unusually anxious, and I looked over, surprised. “But if things really look bad, when do we reach the point when we decide it’s not worth it, for Angel’s sake?”
Chris and I had talked at length about this. We didn’t want Angel to suffer for months only to be told there was nothing else they could do and she would die anyway. We were ready to face the fact that she simply might not make it. Still, when people told me, “It’s okay, there’ll be other babies,” I wanted to say, Yes, but they won’t be Angel.
The doctor shook his head firmly. “We never give up hope. Having said that, we do sometimes tell families their best option is to take their child off support when the quality of life is severely affected. But Angel is not one of those cases.”
The head pediatrician interrupted, “Angel has had several brain scans and they all came back negative for brain bleeds. The last one came today, another normal result. That’s significant. Though she’s had a rough time, her heart or brain haven’t been injured. Breathing issues she will eventually overcome, as she grows older her lungs will grow new tissue. And she’s feisty, she just fights and fights. Except for these past few weeks, Angel has always wiggled and grabbed at things when she’s being changed or when her ventilator is being suctioned. The biggest challenge is her tummy, but I think we’re seeing some progress now. Unfortunately, we can’t predict her outcome or what lies in the future for her developmentally. But for now, there’s hope for Angel.”
“There’s hope for Angel,” I repeated. “There’s hope for Angel,” the surgeon reaffirmed.
The Summer Called Angel is available at Amazon.com
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