A “Brady” stands for Bradycardia which means a dangerously slow heart rate…
That basically means that the lungs have already told the heart that they have “packed up their bags and left, so the heart might as well do the same”.
Unfortunately preemie parents usually get familiar with the terms “apnea” (which is often the precursor to a Brady) where the baby stops breathing. A “Brady”; is worse because the infant doesn’t only stop breathing but their heart rate slows down because of low blood oxygen levels which is called desaturation or “Desat” and all these terms are both terribly frightening and life threatening.
Apnea, the precursor to a Brady is always scary however, because if your baby has an “apnea attack” or “spell” it means he/she DOES stop breathing…but usually they will start again on their own within seconds and no intervention is needed.
“Apnea of prematurity” goes away the older the preemie gets or the closer they are to their due date (around 44 weeks it often goes away completely).
Apnea is causes by the newborn’s immature nervous and muscular systems and the more mature those system gets, the better the infants get at breathing on their own.
The percentage of preemies with apnea goes down after 34 weeks of gestation and dramatically the closer the preemie is to full term 38-40 weeks gestation.
When apnea do occur the brain fails to tell the lungs to breathe and since the lungs check out, the heart thinks it is next in line. Usually older preemies do not go into this Desat mode often since the systems in their bodies are more developed.
Therefore depending on the infant’s gestational age, issues and overall health, these terms can be more or less dangerous but the fear that grabs ahold of you when you are told your baby has stopped breathing and their blood oxygen level is so low their heart is literally starting to give up is indescribable and beyond terrifying…
Those beeping machines are every preemie parent’s worst nightmare, especially when the nurses react, then you know it’s really bad.
Intervention by a medical professional is never a good sign in the NICU.
“Didn’t you see her turning blue” Kate the nurse exclaims!
Her breathing is back to normal- and so is the baby’s; thank you God! “
“No” I think in my head and feel like a terrible mother yet again, I really didn’t see her turning any shade of blue.
My mom admits it out loud “I don’t think we saw that, what is it that we are looking for, and can you please explain what happened?”
Kate explains about the machines and the blue and the yellow lines, the heart rate and the oxygen levels on the monitor, going below 80 is bad but usually when the alarm beeps nobody gets overly concerned because the baby’s body will quickly correct what is wrong on their own, especially the babies “out on the floor” (in open beds).
My baby girl’s body did not correct her breathing, her blood oxygen levels were dangerously low and her heart rate dropped too low, needing manual intervention…
The Brady is one of the worst things that can happen “and this earns her an extra five days in the NICU” Kate tells us. I am too emotionally stressed and exhausted to try to feed her, the whole time I’m holding her, I’m starring at the monitors waiting for something bad to happen again…
I give Kate what I have pumped and as she is heating it up she chatters happily, seeming so relaxed that I must say a little rubs off on me, by the time the bottles are ready, I am too – but not for any fancy feeding tubes or wires leading to my boobs, just for the bottle.
Princess is doing so well and my mom and I start talking about other things instead of highlighting my daughter’s near death experience, agreeing though that nurse Kate is pretty awesome.
My mom always makes me feel better and before the nurse wants the baby back, swaddled and sleeping, we have time for some pictures and even share laughs about my huge swollen feet and smiles over how tiny baby M really is and how she looks really big in the pictures.
My mom is happy that she gets to hold her first granddaughter and we are both so extremely relieved that she seems fine again.
Once back in my room I get to kiss my big baby and gets sad again when my family leaves, but quickly get some perspective when hearing my night nurse’s story, wow… and I thought my husband can be insensitive and unemotional at times…