They called me Snorkie.

By: Kaitlin S

 

While most parents coddle their newborns with pet names like Mommy’s Little Angel or Daddy’s Precious Princess, my strange – albeit extremely loving – parents called me their Little Snorkie. The unusual name came from a cartoon they remembered from the early 1980s.

 

While the name may sound cute, it wasn’t exactly a compliment. Allow me to explain: “The Snorks” was an animated series designed to compete against the ever-popular Smurfs. Most everyone today is familiar with the Smurfs, so obviously the Snork effort failed. But it was apparently good enough for my parents to remember the small, colorful creatures that lived happily under the sea in Snorkland.

 

To give an even clearer mental image, the Snorks actually had snorkels growing on top of their heads. These snorkels helped to propel them quickly through the water and allowed them to make music. At two weeks of age, I too had somewhat of a snorkel. Only instead of making music or serving as a boat propeller, mine kept me alive.

I’ve heard this story a thousand times while growing up, but now that I’m getting older I can better understand. Humor is a powerful thing. During times of stress, anger, or even moments of pure fright, humor has a way of calming your nerves and reducing anxiety levels. That’s how I became Snorkie.

Following my unexpected, way-too-early birth at 26 weeks gestation, I was immediately placed on a ventilator to keep me alive until my lungs could mature. Two weeks later, I received my snorkel. After 14 straight days of visiting me in the neonatal intensive care unit, my parents walked in on the 15th day to find a “hose” strapped to my tiny nose and attached to the little baby hat on my head.

“Oh, she looks like a little Snork!” my mom gleefully exclaimed. While the presence of my “snorkel” didn’t assure her that I was yet out-of-woods medically so-to-speak, it did give her a glimmer of hope. She and my dad took that tiny glimmer and laughed. Laughter is, after all, the best medicine. While they weren’t the ones lying in an Isolette, they were almost as sick as I was. My early birth really took a toll on their mental and physical well-being.

My snorkel was actually what is called CPAP therapy. The doctors told my parents that CPAP was the next step in my lung development. They knew it was coming, but had no idea what it looked like. It was a much welcome change to the ventilator tube going down my throat.

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
. It is used for both adults and children. For premature babies, CPAP is delivered through a set of nasal prongs or through a small mask that fits snugly over a baby’s nose. It delivers constant air pressure to help the air sacs in the lungs stay open. This helps prevent the baby from suffering from apnea, a condition where breathing is paused or shallow.

It certainly did the trick for me. Despite my early arrival and dim predictions for my future, I am happy to report that I am a 20-year-old college student pursing a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. I’ve been included on the Dean’s List every semester and I am a member of several collegiate academic honor societies. My goal is to one day work with preemie babies.

When I enter that neonatal intensive care unit as an employee, I plan on saying, “Hello. My name is Kaitlin. But you may call me Snorkie.”

 

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