Trina Kleist
Staff Writer

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April 9, 2012
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Premature birth keeps Cookson at baby ICU


Yolanda Cookson, of Grass Valley, has now achieved everything she really wanted.

"My goals were to get elected to the City Council, then to start a family," said Cookson. She became the youngest woman ever to serve on the council when elected in 2008.

Her second goal was fulfilled Feb. 21, when Carl Ryszard Cookson was born - six weeks early. On Monday, after 49 days in neonatal intensive care at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, little Carl weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces.

He can't come home yet - his little heart sometimes beats too slow, and doctors are waiting for that condition to pass - but already, his life's journey has been what Mom calls "incredible," starting before he was born.

"I have really high blood pressure. My dad has it. So we knew" this would be a high-risk pregnancy, Cookson said. "We just didn't understand what that necessarily meant."

For Cookson, it meant frequent monitoring and occasional emergency trips to the hospital. High blood pressure in Mom means not enough blood gets through the placenta to Baby, she explained.

"The baby would show signs of stress," Cookson added.

At one point back in February, Cookson's blood pressure went "out of control" and she was hospitalized, she said. The baby was monitored for stress, and, "instead of sounding like a galloping horse, his heart would slow down so much that the nurses would run into the room" to see what might be wrong.

A cesarean section was scheduled, and little Carl was born.

Mom saw little Carl, but wasn't allowed to hold him, as he was whisked into the neonatal intensive care. He was what the nurses call a "grower-feeder," and as hospital designations go, it's a good one.

"They immediately put him on a machine to make sure he was breathing," Cookson said. "At midnight that night ... they put me with my gurney in the ICU so I could be with him, so I knew he was OK."

The nurses also tried to recreate the cozy space Carl was taken from by surrounding him with blankets, Cookson said.

As is common among preemies, Carl had jaundice - elevated levels of bilirubin. (That's a brownish-yellow substance found in bile and produced when the liver breaks down old red blood cells. In the case of gestating babies, the placenta sometimes is not able to eliminate wastes fast enough, causing the yellowish appearance of the baby's skin and eyes.)

"The next day, they finally put him on me, skin to skin," Cookson said. "I just bawled my eyes out."

At that moment, the baby looked up at her. "He totally knew my voice," Cookson said. "I thought, that was crazy. Holy cow!"

Little Carl slept in an incubator with a blue light over him to cure the jaundice.

"It was like a blue bubble," Cookson recalled. "They put these weird, gauzy sunglasses on his eyes."

After a few days in the incubator, little Carl was well enough that he could be placed in a bassinet.

All of a sudden, "he was like a real little baby, and you could pick up whenever you want him," Cookson said with delight.

Dad, Carl William Cookson, has become "the ultimate diaper changer," in addition to providing meals, refinishing and assembling a family heritage crib, doing laundry and holding down the fort, his wife said. Yolanda Cookson has been granted a leave of absence from her City Council duties in the meantime, though she expected to attend tonight's meeting.

(The Cookson family tradition is for the first son to be named Carl, with the middle name taken from the mother's father. In this case, Ryszard is Polish for Richard, after Yolanda Cookson's immigrant father. Carl Ryszard is the fifth in the line.)

Mom and Dad have looked forward to little successes, such as getting their son out of the incubator, breathing on his own, getting rid of the feeding tube, learning to suckle and gaining weight - things most parents of full-term babies take for granted.

She doesn't ask when Carl Ryszard can come home. "We don't want to get our hopes up," Cookson said.

Like many preemies, little Carl also has bradycardial spells, when his heart beats too slow. To be allowed to go home, he needs to pass five to seven days without a spell, Cookson said.

A little harness and a foam wedge that help the babe lay at an angle has helped, and Monday was day two after the most recent episode, Mom added.

So she spends her days at the hospital, getting to know her son and loving him along.

"He has a funny, little-old-man personality," Cookson said. "We knew he was going to be a stinker."

ooo

To contact Senior Staff Writer Trina Kleist, email tkleist@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4230.


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The Union Updated Apr 9, 2012 08:51PM Published Apr 9, 2012 08:30PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.