Sunday, July 14, 2013

What an Awesome Father!

Matthew 7:11 ‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’

It’s been a whirlwind week and a half, and I really want to pen down the amazing events that took place, less I forget. It’s a story I could hardly conjure in the best of my imagination, a story that leaves me totally humbled and in awe of God our Father. It’s a long story, but one that I will revisit often even many years from now.

As some of you know, my Dad has been having difficulties with his kidney for some time, and has been undergoing dialysis. Dialysis has not gone very well, and it has not been easy for Dad. My mum has lovingly offered to donate her kidney to my Dad, and the past year or so has been spent on various medical tests and ethics reviews to assess whether the operations should proceed. They were judged to be fit for the transplant ops, and the ops was targeted to happen in mid June 2013. 

On a different note, Carilyn and myself have also been expecting a child, a son with an expected due date (EDD) for the 20th July 2013. It was a child we didn't expect - we have had difficulties conceiving for the 5+ years we've been married, and have been advised by doctors that even IVF may not be a viable option. The news brought much grief, and we actually prepared ourselves for a life without kids. So when the pregnancy kit tested positive in November last year, we viewed it as a miracle and was truly grateful to God for the gift of the baby. We settled on the name for our baby pretty soon. A simple Google search showed up the name 'Jansen', which means God has shown favour / has been gracious to us. Little did we know how apt the name would be.

As time passed, as a family, we had one great worry, that my parents' kidney transplant ops will somehow coincide with when our baby would deliver. It would be a scenario when the 4 people closest to me would be in hospital at the same time - my wife, my son and my parents. We prayed each day that this will not happen. But as God would have it, He taught us a lesson of when His timing, is always the best timing. 

Although originally scheduled for the 18th June, my parents' transplant ops was somehow delayed till the 2nd July. A mid-June blood test showed that my Dad's haemoglobin count 'could be better', for best chances of acceptance of the donated kidney. The difference? My Dad's count was 8.9, just 0.1 short of the optimal count of 9 and above. In usual circumstances, the transplant ops would have just carried on, but as my parents are of different blood groups, the doctor advised to delay till 2nd July. This was just to up the count a little with booster jabs and chicken essence. We were all frustrated that the ops date was crawling nearer and nearer to the EDD of the baby, but grudgingly accepted the advice. 

2nd July finally came, and my parents went in for their ops early in the morning. I continued work as usual, as there was helpless little I could be doing in SGH. As I finished my work day early to rush to SGH to see my parents post-Ops, I got a call from SGH just as I was driving down. 'Mum is in very good condition’, I was told. As for Dad, 'the operations, in terms of the transplant of the kidney, was technically perfect, and went smoothly'. However, I was told to come see the doctor immediately when I reach SGH, for some further update. That was when I first started to worry. 

When I reached, the doctor updated that my Dad had an episode of very low blood pressure right towards the end of the surgery. They do not know the reason, but somehow, the low blood pressure has resulted in minimal flow of blood into my Dad's newly implanted kidney. Doctors produced a document and asked me to sign for consent immediately, so they could get my Dad back in to the operating ward to re-look at the kidney to see what they could do. So with that, my Dad was pushed back into the operating theatre. I didn't get to see my Dad, nor did my mum post ops. (We were briefed prior to the ops that the usual procedure is to let the donor and recipient see each other at the operating theatre at the end of the ops, to reassure each other that both are ok). Carilyn, my brother, my mum and myself thus began the first nerve wrecking night awaiting at SGH. As it turned out, we were thankful for good news near midnight that my Dad seems to be okay, and that upon opening up the incision, they could see that the donated kidney seem to be working fine after some minor adjustment.

That night, we finally got to bed after midnight, and continued our nightly ritual to pray for our family’s salvation before going to bed. However, by 4am, Carilyn woke up, and complained to me that she has a tummy-ache. She cleared her bowels, but complained that the pain was still there. 'No waaaaaaay', I thought to myself in my half-slumber. I'm too tired for this to happen right now!

But as we monitored, the pain recurred every 4 minutes, and there was blood showing. We knew we had to get to the hospital for a checkup, just to be sure. I wasn't convinced though that we should rush, for everyone has told us that the first child will take quite some time. In fact, I wanted to drive out for some prata, or at least to reach the hospital past 8am to avoid any midnight surcharge. :) 

But as God would have it, we reached the hospital at 6am plus, and Carilyn delivered Jansen by 9.55am. By the time we reached the hospital, Carilyn was already 9cm dilated, all ready to give birth. The nurses were surprised, so was the gynae. So, with no epidural or any painkillers, Carilyn the brave pushed Jansen in time to ask the hospital to give her breakfast. Chicken sandwich, she asked. All fresh and energetic, we thanked God for this miracle birth once again, and for minimal fuss and time in the delivery ward. I haven’t heard of anyone else with such a quick first birth.

With the fast and easy birth, I was able to settle Carilyn in her ward early, and drove to SGH to break the good news to my parents. Joyful and running on adrenaline, I visited my mum first to tell her the good news. Not long after, I got a call from the doctors to head to my Dad’s ward immediately.

I was updated by the doctors that tests show that my Dad suffered from a heart attack the day before when his blood pressure suddenly dipped at the end of the operations. For safety, they asked me to sign another consent form, to operate on my Dad’s heart immediately to look for blocked valves that was causing the low blood pressure. As I was being briefed, alarms started to ring in my Dad’s ICU ward.

What happened thereafter was a complete blur. Doctors and nurses rushed into my Dad’s ward, and I was left staring at the doctors conducting emergency CPR on my Dad. The heartbeat monitor to my Dad’s right showed no activity, while alarm bells were ringing everywhere in his ward. Nobody noticed the existence of myself and my brother staring in, everyone was focused on resuscitating my Dad who had no pulse. I didn’t know what to think then, and could only reach for my phone and pleaded to my close Christian friends to pray for my Dad.

After a while, some nurses finally realized I was there staring in an emotional wreck, and they ushered my brother and myself to a separate room to await while they carried on their rescue. The only thing going on in my head was that I have not yet broken the good news of Jansen’s birth to my Dad. I had Jansen’s photos in my hands, all ready to share and to explain to my Dad the significance of Jansen’s name. But I couldn’t see any way how God was showing my family any favour or grace at that moment in time. In fact, I was wondering whether 3rd of July would forever be remembered sadly as the day my Dad left us, rather than fondly as the day God gifted us Jansen.

After what seems like an eternity, doctors came into the private room to brief us that they managed to revive my Dad. I didn’t ask how long it took, I didn’t dare ask. Dad was pushed into the operating theatre for some emergency Ops, and we were advised to hang around in the hospital to wait, as Dad remained in critical condition.

In an emotional wreck, I knew I had to break the news to my mum. Anything could happen to Dad in the next few hours, and my mum would be devastated if I deliberately kept her out of the loop. The doctor gave me time to calm myself down, before we went to talk to my mum. Smiling, I told my mum that Dad had a heart attack, but everything is being taken care of by doctors right now. In my heart however, I didn’t know whether to trust what I said.

So, as my wife and son rested in Thomson Medical, I was left pacing up and down at SGH, awaiting news of my Dad. I’m really thankful for the support of my Christian brothers and sisters during this time, as many texted me words of encouragement and their prayers. Many Christian brothers also drove down to SGH to provide support – whether to pass me an iPhone charger, to give me medical advice of what was going on, or simply to pray alongside me. Carilyn's family was also a great pillar of support, and I could entrust Carilyn to the care of her family without worrying. It made a lot of difference, and made me acutely aware that God has not forsaken my immediate family and myself.

As it turned out, the operation was a success. Upon opening up the chest, doctors were able to identify quickly multiple blocked valves, and in particular, a blocked left main. These were not identified prior to the transplant Ops – otherwise, the operations would never had gone ahead. Two stands were placed in the left main to allow blood to flow to the left side of the heart, while the other blocked arteries were left alone. For there was only that much my Dad’s physical body could take at that moment in time. We broke the good news to my mum, and I kept repeating to my mum how we ought to be thankful to God for keeping Dad well. Doctors also briefed us that we have much to be thankful – for had the heart attacks occurred outside of hospital, Dad would never have survived. By God’s design, Dad’s heart stopped while he was in Cardio ICU – probably the best place to have your heart stop and resuscitated by experts in Singapore.

The next few days, Dad remained in critical stage and was kept under strict monitoring by the hospital. While taking care of Carilyn and Jansen the best I could as a first time Dad, I knew I had to keep close to my mum, to help her manage emotionally so that she too, can recuperate. That was when my mum shared with me – she made a pact with God. Should my Dad survive the operations from the 3rd July night, she would start attending church with me in thanks to our God. I was like, wow. God is working in His own ways.

And indeed, thank God my Dad continued to improve in his condition. Doctors took away various machine and medicinal support for my Dad day by day. Finally, my Dad was able to open his eyes and hear us speak. He was highly emotional at first, tearing with respiratory tubes through his mouth. Unable to talk, we could tell he was hurting and upset how the transplant ops had gone terribly awry. My aunt and mum were not able to console my Dad, and Aunt stepped out to let me in to see my Dad.

I brought my iPad, and putting on the most positive tone I could, I tried to be cheery and talked to Dad about his grandson. Showing him Jansen’s pictures and relating to him funny stories of his beloved grandson, Dad’s spirit was visibly lifted. Finally at peace, my Dad asked to rest and that he looked forward to seeing more pictures of Jansen the next day. Jansen – God has indeed shown favour – has given my Dad much motivation to fight on and cheer up in his condition.

For the next couple of days, Dad was cheery and chuckling with every story and video of Jansen I shared. Dad couldn’t boast enough of how cute Jansen is to all the nurses and doctors in ICU. Jansen’s pictures were pinned up in his ICU ward where X-rays were supposed to be.

When Dad could finally speak, he shared with my Auntie, my mum and myself that when he was unconscious, he kept seeing visions of demons and creatures at hell’s gate. He didn’t dare to go to sleep, for fear of seeing these visions. That was when I offered to pray for my Dad, to cast away these visions in Jesus’ name. My mum and Dad held hands with me as I prayed. And indeed, Dad shared the day after that the visions never returned.

As it turned out, my Aunt also advised my Dad to believe in a God – any God of any religion – so that he can be relieved of such visions. My Dad shared that he was actually ready to believe in Jesus, but was hesitant to do so, for fear that my mum would object. But little did he know, Mum has already committed to be open to attend church with me. J

And thus, on the 11th July, barely a week after Jansen was born and when my Dad’s heart stopped – I explained the gospel in detail to my parents. I explained to them how we are all sinners and have pushed God aside. However, God in His love, have sent His son to take our punishment and to draw us in repentance towards Him. Parents were accepting of the message, and they held hands as I prayed the sinners’ prayer for them in Chinese. I rejoiced with my parents (!!), as I explained with them how much it means for me that they have eternal life, beyond physical health on this earth.

What a whirlwind. What a week. I couldn’t share this story enough with my friends, of how God has watched over the family and kept my parents, wife and son safe, while bringing salvation to my parents. There were just too many things that points towards God’s divine hands in showing us that His timing is best. The divine timing of the ops to coincide with Jansen’s arrival, the (amazingly) speedy delivery so I could be in SGH quickly enough, the visions, the prayers that worked, the support of God’s family etc. God has indeed shown favour to us, and has been abundantly gracious in giving us life. It was a real lesson on Fatherhood to me – of a Father in heaven who knows what is best, when is best, and giving to his beloved only what is best.

Thank you God for gifting us Jansen, thank you for your grace in giving life to my parents.

Update (Feb 2015) - Dad is currently hospitalised with leukemia, and will undergo chemotherapy for the next 2 months. It was not completely out of the blue, as one of the risks of transplants was a reduced immunity that may lead to infections (including cancer. Thank God that all is going smoothly, and Dad is recovering well despite the risks.

Even more so, praise God for His spiritual work in my father. Dad has been attending church faithfully for the past year, and his outlook is completely changed as a result. Visiting him in hospital is an oddly joyous affair, for Dad will not cease in his praise for God, and will be sharing with me scriptures he read, gospel songs he listened to, and the many people whom he has been trying to evangelise to while lying on the hospital bed. No longer is he afraid of death, but he has full trust in God in His salvation plans. This, can only be the work of God our Father. Thank you, Lord. :) 

Matthew 7:11 ‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’