Our son wasn't put in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with the other babies because ECMO (still very new in 1993) was handled only in the PICU. So he was never in a nursery with other children, he was alone (at the delivering hospital) or with the older children since Day 1. No "normal" baby anything for our little boy.
The first time I walked into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) I was overwhelmed. No one told me what to expect. It was constructed of 2 large rooms with beds lined up against the walls. Sick children were everywhere. Children awake and playing video games, children in comas, children on life support. The beds were just feet away from each other with only curtains between them and those curtains only drawn for procedures. Otherwise parents sat in chairs on each side of the beds or cribs, bumping into the parents sitting at the bed of another child next to them.
Among these children was Shane. He looked even smaller than the night before. He had IVs in every limb and the ventilator took every breath for him. He was sedated and paralyzed from the medications. Yet despite all the medical equipment, he was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen (of course I'm a little prejudiced, like all mothers). The oscillating ventilator was giving him 420 breaths a minute to keep his lungs from collapsing and a heart and lung bypass (E.C.M.O.) machine stood beside him as a precaution in the event that his heart and lungs quit.
The surgeon came and introduced himself as Dr. Caffy* and scheduled surgery for that Monday, 2 days later. I had no idea of what he was explaining to me, I just agreed to everything and put my son's life into his and God's hands.
I wasn't allowed to stay at the hospital with my son, there was no housing for parents. We were lucky enough to get a room at the local Ronald McDonald House. It was such a huge blessing to us to be able to get in as rooms weren't always available to families in the PICU or NICU. Cancer patients always got rooms first as the RMcD House was invented for them. It was so wonderful to have a place to stay that wasn't expensive like a hotel room. Parents still have to pay to stay at the House but it's minimal and not required. I don't know what we would've done without that amazing House.