Living with an Apnea Monitor

One thing that has taken some getting used to when we brought Aoife home is using an apnea monitor. I wanted to write about this because people often have questions about the mysterious wires leading from our baby when we are out and about, and also there are many people who are unfamiliar with apnea monitors when their children require them — we were unaware of them until my family and the doctors mentioned the possibility of having one.

We are renting the machine until Aoife’s pediatrician decides that it is no longer needed. Many premature babies have apnea episodes – they stop breathing for a certain period while they are sleeping. Aoife had a couple of these episodes while still in the hospital, where she was treated with caffeine (yes, she DID have an IV of caffeine — eat your heart out, java junkies!). When she came off the caffeine, she was monitored further in case there were any more apnea episodes. The apnea monitor, once we came home, enables us to know if Aoife has any more episodes – it gives a very loud beep if her heart rate falls outside of the desired range or if she doesn’t take a breath in a certain number of seconds.

Having the monitor is great, because we know if something was wrong, the machine would beep. Driving in the car and can’t see her in the car seat? Going to bed and leaving her in her crib in the other room? No worries!  It measures everything through two electrodes, one on either side of her chest that are secured by a thin foam belt. There are wires that lead from each electrode to the machine. The machine also beeps if the cords become disconnected, which can be frustrating when you are trying to wrangle a squirming baby or transferring a sleeping baby to the crib. So not only do we have crazy beeps to tend to – we are also tethered to a machine by an 8-foot cord at all times. The only time Aoife doesn’t wear the monitor is when she gets a bath. So if we want to go for a walk in the stroller, the machine comes too. Sitting outside on the porch, going shopping for groceries, being held by Grandma – the monitor is always there.

The good news is – it’s not there forever! Aoife has been episode-free for several weeks, and we will talk with her pediatrician at her next appointment about possibly discontinuing the use of the monitor. We are overjoyed that we will be able to carry Aoife around and not have to worry about stepping on cords or how long the unit has been running on battery power and when it needs charged again – but we will have to learn how to live without this safety net. It will be a challenge for all of us, but I think we are ready for that challenge.

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