Sunday, December 25, 2005

Come Fire or Flood

Both baby Erich and Karen were finally discharged Christmas morning. A very kind nurse (Amy) came to tell us the good news: The baby's weight had gained ever so slightly over the previous day. This was of course a positive sign, and all the nurses and pediatricians felt more comfortable discharging us with Erich's weight on its way up. All of us had gotten some rest the night before too.

We decided it would be best to leave the hospital just after the next feeding when Erich would be the most content. I [Jonathan] repacked our belongings into our bags while Karen tended to Erich. Then, the most unbelievable thing happened. Fire broke out at the hospital, followed by flood.

Now, during our almost week-long stay at the hospital, we had come to observe a few daily rituals. The first was the daily change of guard - nurses clock in every 12 hours, once in the morning and once at night. The second was the ever recurring false fire alarm. Nearly every day we were at the hospital, the fire alarm would sound, and we would observe two bright red fire trucks race up Thurlow St., stay for five minutes, and then be on their way. We once asked a nurse about this, and she simply replied that with the age of St. Paul's Hospital, they tend to get many false alarms.

So, when the fire alarm went off Christmas morning as we were preparing to leave, we thought nothing of it. (Never cry wolf?) As was before, two bright red fire engines came racing up Thurlow St., except this time they didn't leave. A few minutes later, a fire chief, a policeman, and two more bright red fire engines showed up. Now, we were curious! I cautiously opened the door to our room, and observed that all the nurses (which incidentally were not that many - it was Christmas afterall!) pacing frantically about closing one fire exit door after another.

"Regular code red procedures", I thought. "Nothing to worry about."

That's when I started to smell smoke. A nurse came in to inform us of the situation: Fire had broken out on the fourth floor (the floor directly above us), and was in the process of being contained. She warned that water could come down at any moment, so we needed to evacuate. The fire alarm had gone from a muted chime to fast short rings indicating that the sprinklers could come on at any moment. Whatever tiredness I had left gave way to adrenaline and this new sense of urgency that I had not felt previously. I think I would have reacted quite differently had it been only Karen and myself, but now I was worried about our son! Cooly, calmly but quickly we gathered up our bags, put Erich in his bassinet, and rolled him out of our room and joined the 4 or 5 other families -- some still in labour(!) -- in the refuge area.

Photo taken with my cellphone camera: Note the two other babies in their respective bassinets behind Karen. Several other babies and their parents were also in the refuge area along with one women in labour.
We were huddled in the refuge area for about an hour or so. None of us really knew much of what was going on, so it made for some rather interesting conversation. Afterall, it's not everyday that babies are born in the midst of fire and flood.

It turns out, in the end, that the fourth floor was on fire set by an arsonist (see the corresponding news story). What kind of sick individual would set a hospital on fire?! There was extensive flood/water damage to the fourth floor and several of the maternity ward rooms.

Strangely enough, all the babies slept through most of this ordeal. We were finally "rescued" from the hospital by our brother-in-law, John. The nurses discharged us, and took us through some interesting back routes through the hospital in order to get to an exit well away from the affected areas. We arrived home, happy to see our own bed again.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Certain Uncertainty: A Christmas Story

Sometimes, it seems the most certain thing in life is uncertainty. The first few days of Erich's life were filled with uncertainty. Will my [Karen's] breastmilk be sufficient? What happens if the baby loses too much weight? Jaundice - what's that? How will we ever be able to take care of this baby while feeling soo exhausted?

Exhausted we were! After having been up almost two days and two nights straight -- starting with labour, then delivery, then recovery, then straight to taking care of the new baby... -- all of this was starting to take its toll! To make matters worse, adjusting to hospital life was far from easy. Although we were very appreciative of the extra hand the nurses gave us, hospital life is filled with constant interruptions: Patient care seems to be an odd combination of a team of professionals trying to nurse you back to health all the while maintaining their busy schedules and checklists. Our lack of sleep contributed to our crankiness which in turn rubbed off on Erich and his food supply, which made him cranky... well, you get the picture.

To make a long story short, Erich developed a mild form of jaundice (apparently very normal in newborns). He also lost a little more weight than the doctors would have liked. As a result, we ended up staying in the hospital two more days than we had first anticipated (Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day). Our hearts sank: We wouldn't be home for Christmas. On the one hand, we welcomed the extra days to help us get back on track. On the other, it was Christmas afterall, and we were itching to get home to sleep on our own bed.

Our family, like most, has the time-honoured tradition every Christmas of Christmas dinner. You know, the informal "formal" affair, where family dress their best for dinner and sing some carols around the piano. This year, of course, our son changed all of that. We ended up moving family dinner from our traditional venue on Walnut Street to Room 11 at St. Paul's Hospital's Maternity Ward. Instead of oven-baked roast ham served with cranberry sauce on fine china, and wine from the finest grapes, we had ham sandwiches with raisin bread served on paper towels with cranberry juice.

Reflecting back on the experience though, it was unlike any other. Perhaps a prayer my sister said that night just before our meal reflected our emotions best: Christmas isn't about having it all together; afterall Christ's birth was in less than ideal circumstances. But Christmas is about the Creator loving His created despite the circumstances: sending His son to save us and to show His love despite His disgust for our sin. Though we could never understand fully the intricate details of what must have gone on in Jesus' earthly family and the Holy Trinity that very first Christmas, we couldn't help but muse at some of the similarities: God's son, afterall, changed tradition forever.

Never had we been so tired, so helpless and so confused! Certainly we had experienced days of sleeplessness when we were students, but never was our alertness and our attention and our love so absolutely required. Assignment deadlines can be missed; exams can be failed; courses ignored, but a child - our child - cannot. Our child demanded our love and our attention. Certainly puts things into perspective doesn't it?

In the end though, the extra days helped us to stabilize, and got us back on the right track before heading home to fend for ourselves. Karen's milk began to flow more readily toward the end of our hospital stay, and we were taught how to supplement without "nipple-confusion" should it be necessary for a few days. Erich's weight stabilized and his jaundice was deemed OK enough for us to go home.

Christmas 2005 was definitely unique, and it will definitely be a story to tell Erich when he grows up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Labour & Delivery - For to us a son is given...

We were admitted into Room 11 at St. Paul's Hospital's Maternity Ward where we would spend the next few days labouring, delivering, and recovering. We were assigned a nurse for labour; Nurse Cornelia (whom we later found out is a Christian) was a God send. Her calm demeanor and supportive attitude gave me [Jonathan] a whole new perspective on the importance of nurses in the health care system.

At 10:30am, Karen's doctor ordered that Karen's contractions be augmented with artificial induction - by introducing more oxytoxin into her bloodstream via an intravenous tube. Although this was great for speeding up Karen's labour, the downside was that Karen needed to be hooked up to the fetal heart rate monitor full time.

Doctors are super-obsessed with the fetal monitor heart rate during delivery as we soon found out. Perhaps the funniest story that I can recall was when Karen needed to go to the bathroom. Because her fetal monitoring probes were wireless, she was able to make it to the bathroom despite being attached to the monitor. However, while she was taking care of business, one of the probes slipped and began measuring mother's heartrate instead! (The mother's heartrate is usually much slower than that of an unborn baby.) It was quite the scene to watch as nurses, doctors, and residents rushed into the room wondering what had happened to the baby's heart.

On the same token, I felt extremely blessed to have a team of medical professionals that were so caring for their patients. Later that evening, the baby's heartrate did decelerate at one point, and though there were quite a few tense moments, I had complete confidence in the doctors.

Karen's labour continued until about 10:30pm that night with mild success. She was only able to maintain approximately 5 cm of dilation (at one point peaking to 6-7cm). Finally, after approximately 24 hours of labour, the doctors determined that a C-Section delivery would be best. So, at 12:22am on Wed. Dec 21, 2005, Karen gave birth to Erich, a healthy 8 lbs, 12oz baby boy! Thanks be to God for a healthy and safe delivery. Thanks to all the doctors, nurses, and surgeons who were able to deliver our baby with such steady hands despite the late hour.

Although a C-section at the end of a hard and arduous labour seemed like the ultimate "unwanted outcome", we soon learned this was a bit of a blessing in disguise. Because Karen had been labouring for so long, her body considered the birth much more "normal" than a scheduled C-section and thus her breastmilk came a lot easier than expected.

We, however were exhausted! It is quite difficult to express in words both the joy, elation and exhaustion we felt after this experience. While waiting for Karen to recover from her surgery, I sat there with little Erich wondering how our lives were going to change now forever. Moments of inadequacy and uncertainty mixed in with emotions of feeling priveleged to be able to raise this new human being to know His Heavenly Father. Uneasy thoughts.

But, I rest assured in God's faithfulness and His promise that

" all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28b-30 NIV)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Is it time yet? It DEPENDS!

The long awaited anticipation of labour has finally concluded, and Karen's contractions are coming at approximately 3-5 minutes apart. So, at 8pm on Monday, December 19th, after packing some last minute things into our hospital bag, we set off for St. Paul's hospital to deliver our new baby!

Karen was initially assessed using a fetal heart monitor. Things were looking good but the doctor determined that we were still too early to be admitted. We were to come back if her contractions got any worse or if her water were to break. Somewhat disappointed, we set off for home, knowing full well we'd probably be back before morning.

"At least we'll get some sleep this way", we thought.

In hindsight, we have decided that God, in His providence, surely has a sense of humour, and this next story only begins to describe why we feel this way. One of the things that Karen was particularly worried about with regard to her labour was her water breaking. Doctors had determined earlier in the day that Karen had a substantial amount of amniotic fluid in her uterus (the "water" in the womb), so she was to expect quite a gush when her water broke. Just think of all the things that could happen to our bed sheets and mattress should such an event occur while she is sleeping?

Well, to solve the problem, Karen had the brilliant idea of purchasing some adult diapers, otherwise known as "Depends"! For the diaper-challenged, these are essentially very absorbent pieces of disposable underwear, capable of holding enormous amounts of fluid...generally reserved for those who no longer have control over their bladder.

Needless to say, the diapers did save the day. When Karen's water finally broke at 4:50am, Tuesday December 20th, most of it landed on the diaper. Poor diaper! We reappeared at the hospital, where we were admitted into the labour room at 6:00am.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Mandarin Orange

We find ourselves waiting, and learning patience. For the past few days (particularly since Karen's official due date on Dec. 11th), we have been rehearsing the same routine:

Wake up; maybe today?
Irregular contractions are
seeming contradictions:
Indications of certainty yet
moments of ambiguity,

Is it coming today?
Probabilities are high, possibilities nigh,
But alas, virtue lies with patience.
Well, for the record, baby is still in mummy's tummy.... 3 days overdue. Another day passes, maybe it will happen tonight? The anticipation is killing us.

Meanwhile, funny stories are emerging. Karen went to get a mandarin orange from the fridge the other day. As she peeled the orange, she sat down on her favourite chair, mouth watering as she briskly peels the skin. Plop! Half the orange falls on the floor. Poor Karen is so big she can't even see the fallen orange let alone pick it up. It was a very funny moment indeed. :)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Worship @ the Bridge Church

Seeing as the baby was supposed to arrive on Friday, Karen and I had already made arrangements for people to look after our ministries this Sunday at CCCC. So, we decided we'd take a sabbatical week, and went to worship at the Bridge - a local Kitsilano church that meets at the planetarium - two blocks away from where we live.

It was an eye-opener. Simple worship can sometimes be so moving and we appreciated the warm hospitality they showed toward us. Kitsilano is a very tough area to reach out to. There are many who don't know Christ here, and the ground is very hard. Perhaps it has to do with the constantly revolving nature of our neighbourhood, or just the subculture here in Kits. Whatever it is, we pray for God's hand to move.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Night @ the Symphony

PresiNET systems invited some people from the YMCA to attend a VSO concert tonight. The concert was sponsored by PresiNET. Karen and I were felt priveleged to be able to attend, especially since we had originally given up our tickets so that we could have our baby (scheduled C-section). Well, since the C-section was cancelled, we were able to attend. It was a wonderful evening: I got a chance to go out on a date with my wife, and I got to see how excited our little one is about classical music! (particularly during the Mozart piece...)

Jonathan Chan, age 15, was the featured violin soloist and he played a very good rendition of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major. Those who knew me during my younger days will know that I have also attempted this concerto (albeit not to quite the same eloquence), so this concert really did remind me of me when I was 15. After the concert, I managed to get his autograph; of course he was rather surprised my name is the same as his.

To top off an already wonderful night, I bumped into an old maestro, Mr. Rohloff, from the VYSO (Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra). What a small world.

"enabling us to catch up on some well-needed rest before the baby does come....ALMOST!"

6:30am. Jonathan is awaken by the sound of the phone ringing. It's his mum. Mum got into a collision on the way to her BSF leadership meeting. Just when we thought we could finally sleep in to get some rest. We've been so tired cleaning and rearranging the house.

Well, it turns out the car stalled and since Mum was on a hill, the car rolled backward hitting some cars on the way before stopping. Mum didn't have a cell phone, so she left the scene, walked back to her apartment to call me. Now the police think it's a hit and run....I have to reassure them otherwise.

"Why now?! I don't need this [extra stress] now!" I'm tempted to say. But Karen tries to reassure me it's a blessing in disguise. Positive encouragement I suppose. :) God is teaching me patience.

*deep breath*

I do thank God that Mum is okay. It could have been much worse.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Eagerly Awaiting

Well, as many of you know Karen was originally scheduled for a C-section on Friday, December 2nd, 2005. But, at the last minute (Wednesday), an ultrasound showed that her placenta had "moved" sufficiently out of the way that she can now attempt a natural delivery. So, plans were once again put aside and we are now waiting once more for the baby to arrive.

This minor hiccup doesn't come without its benefits though as we rushed to get much of what we needed to get ready before last Friday, enabling us to catch up on some well-needed rest before the baby does come....