“Welcome to the world baby Ethan!!! Baby and mom are healthy, the dad is still recovering…”
We often get such texts when our friends have just been blessed with a young one, but rarely do we think about what that statement actually means. More often than not, we assume that every mother goes through labour and delivery successfully, all children are born healthy and every father… well, let’s save this conversation for another time.
My son Ethan has just been born and since it was Cesarean section, I am waiting for the nurses to bring him down from the theatre to the nursery. For some reason, this time it has taken longer than usual. Unable to contain my anxiety any longer, I decide to ask if the baby has been brought to the nursery so that I get to bond with him.
There is a lot of consultation going on among the nurses which makes me more anxious. They get back to me after a couple of minutes and ask me the name of the mother. As soon as I tell them, the look on the face of one of the nurses changes and she politely tells me, “Kama ni yule amezaliwa a few minutes ago huko theatre, ebu muangalie HDU” (if it’s the one who has just been delivered in theatre a few minutes ago kindly go check in the High Dependancy Unit (HDU)).
I don’t remember anything else the nurse says from that point. My legs become weak, my heart begins to beat fast, I am losing my breath and the word HDU keeps ringing loudly in my head. All I can mumble as a prayer is, “Please God let it not be Ethan.”
I gather courage to get me to the HDU and as soon as I walk in, I find the nurses and doctors attending to a little baby, putting oxygen pipes and other gadgets on him and one of them trying to draw blood from the baby’s little veins. These are things you only see on medical TV shows.
I can see the tag on the baby’s hand but I am afraid to look at it but deep down I know that is my son. Many thoughts are running through my mind but I am still in denial. Could they have swapped my baby by mistake? At this point one nurse walks up to me and asks if I am the father to a boy delivered by Anne Wanjiku Waichigo. I am tempted to say yes but not the boy I have just seen being attended to.
Seeing my confusion, the nurse calls the pediatrician and they start explaining what was going on. I can hear what they are saying but my mind cannot process it. I manage to quiet my thoughts down and ask the doctor to explain to me slowly what was going on.
“Your son was born healthy. But as we were moving him to the nursery we realized that he had some breathing complications. Normally when this happens we put him on a life support system as we run different tests to find out where the problem is. Unfortunately, I can’t say how long this will take but we are hoping that your son is a fighter.”
I cannot take any more information. I think our mind’s first instinct is to think of the worst. I immediately inquire about my wife and how she is doing and they reassure me that she is recovering well.
Helpless, I stand there looking at my little one fighting for his life in an incubator with all sorts of tubes and cables running in and out of him. I do not know what to say, but I hope the tears in my eyes are enough prayer to God.
This day hasn’t turned out as I had anticipated. Congratulatory messages are already streaming in with friends and family asking us which hospital and ward we were in so that they can come visit. I do not want to make people panic, so I tell everyone that my wife is very tired and getting some much needed rest so visiting us on that day was not such a good idea.
Meanwhile my wife Anne is still in recovery and my greatest issue at this point is how I am going to break the news to her without making her panic. Either way I knew she would not take the news very well so I decide not to tell her yet.
HDU is not the best place to be in because all around me are little babies in machines fighting for their lives. All you hear is the beeping noise from the machines. One nurse walks up to me and reassures me that all will be well, a timely reassurance, I must say. This is all I want to hear. She asks me to take a walk and try rest my mind off it because my wife needed me to be strong for her when she woke up.
I do not manage to walk for long before I find myself thinking about Ethan and how helpless I had left him. Someone once told me that there is a love that God gives us for children that cannot be explained. How could I love a being this deeply yet I had never laid eyes on him before?
After sometime I go back to the ward to check up on Anne. She is awake though still drowsy. “Where is Ethan? Please go and bring him I hold him.” She mumbles. I reassure her that all is well and that she needs to rest and once she wakes up he’ll be ready for her. My delay tactics do not work, she feels that something is not right. I finally decide to tell her the truth.
Anne immediately breaks down. I am at a loss for words. In addition to the pain in her body, I had inflicted emotional pain. When she manages to calm down, Anne insists that wants to see Ethan. I call a nurse and ask her if she could take her to see Ethan and she reluctantly agrees. She walks out of the ward and after a few minutes comes back with a wheelchair to take Anne to the HDU to see Ethan.
Anne never gets past the HDU door before she breaks down. The nurses quickly dash to reassure her that Ethan had shown remarkable progress. I can attest to it because I can actually see some slight improvement on how he is breathing. We stay in the HDU for about 48 hours but by the grace of God, Ethan pulls through and is out of danger.
In hindsight, that period in the HDU made me realize how much we take for granted having healthy children which we assume is a normal thing. I realized how easy it was for a bundle of joy to quickly become a source of pain and heartache. I met parents of pre-term babies who had been in the HDU for months but they showed up every day to spend time with their little ones. One father shared his story with me and It broke my heart.
He and his wife had gone for a routine checkup but when they got to the hospital, his wife collapsed and had to be resuscitated and rushed to theatre so that the doctors could try to save both the mother and baby. The doctors actually managed to save both the mother and child but sadly they were both taken to HDU because the baby was pre-term and the wife had to be put on life support. For over a month he had been coming to hospital daily to attend to his wife who couldn’t even talk and then visit his preterm baby. Adding to the emotional and psychological pain he was going through, his bill at that moment was in the millions but he still counted his blessings of having both his wife and baby alive.
After a few days, Ethan and the mum made full recovery and we were discharged. I am grateful for life and good health. I am more sensitive and considerate of this gift called children; they come from God. I have purposed to pray and support people who have children or family members in HDU and ICU in any way I can because I know how that feels.
Apart from sending ‘get well soon’ text messages, may we also be moved to help the families of loved ones who continue to accrue huge bills in the HDU or ICU. Find time and visit with them, pray with them. Even better if we can be a blessing in this way for a stranger. When you walk into any maternity hospital, there will always be someone in need, due to the huge bills that grow by the day, and especially for the little ones or loved one in HDU/ICU. Your contribution, however small will assuredly go a long way into easing off this debt. No one may ever thank you for it or even sing songs in your honor, but the peace and satisfaction that comes with knowing that you helped someone in need, is inexplicable, to say the least. So go on, be that angel.