Seventeen years ago, my life changed. Everything I knew and thought in one instant vanished. I was forced into a reality that I could not escape.
I had just begun my first year of college; I was studying Theater. I was excited and felt like everything was as it should be. My day was uneventful and I went through the day as everyone else. Nothing special. At that time, I was staying with my parents in Toronto, because my school was in downtown Toronto, it was easier and cost-effective to stay in Toronto. I was married at the time and my wife, Melanie, was living in Burlington because her family was there and if she needed anything it was easier for her to get help. She was also pregnant at the time and due any day. On the weekends I would go back to Burlington and take care of my family.
I was heading home late that day because I stayed back at school to study and it was easier to practice the work I had for the following week, this was a Friday. I remember packing my bag, putting all my books one by one and thinking,
“So glad it’s a Friday.”
I was walking out of the school and getting ready to jump into my car. My cellphone rang. I had a red Nokia phone, it was an analog phone, you couldn’t play games or take pictures or really do anything except take calls. The phone was red because it had a cover on it, it was a Coca Cola theme.
I answered the phone. It was my wife. She told me that she was on the way to the hospital because she was going having contractions. I did what any man does when told such news. I asked if she was sure. This I find is usually the moment in any man’s life where they truly show how naïve they are. After the fact I know every man realizes how stupid it was to ask that of any woman. There is a human being trying to push their way out of a woman’s body, pretty sure anyone would know if that is happening for real. I told her I would race home and be on my way.
The next 2 hours I spent on the highway trying to get to the hospital in Burlington. I remember it was raining. I had a Toyota Tercel, forest green. It was a sturdy car and always made sure I got to where I was going.
I walked into the hospital and by this point I was nervous and excited. I was going to be a father for the third time. I found my wife in a room by herself with her aunt there beside her. I said hello and to her aunt and then looked at my wife and she looked exhausted already. I thought, well that was expected.
The nurse came in to check on Melanie, and a few minutes later the doctor who was in the delivery ward at the time also came in to check vitals. That’s when everything changed.
The doctor began to notice some unusual patterns in the monitor that was recording the baby’s heartbeat. She didn’t get concerned but now she was paying attention to every detail.
It’s bizarre how the memory works because the next ten minutes or so, I simply don’t recall very well. I think because when life is routine, your brain somehow just doesn’t store the memory that well. Ten minutes later, that’s when I will never forget what was told to me. The doctor turns to both of us and says,
“I’m seeing some disturbing patterns on the ECG with the baby’s heartbeat. We need to deliver the baby right now, immediately.”
When a person is told such news and you have never experienced such a thing, your brain actually freezes. You stand there frozen in time. I probably stood there with the dumbest look on my face. My wife asked,
The doctor took a few seconds to let us know that the baby’s heart rate was dropping too fast and too low and there was a fear that it could stop. The baby had to be pushed out quickly because if the heart stopped it would be better if the baby was out, so they could administer medical help.
Then it happened. The baby’s heart stopped and the monitor showed no heart rate. The doctor jumped into action, called a team of nurses into the room and paged other doctors. This I will never forget.
“CODE RED in the delivery room. CODE RED in the delivery room.” That is what I heard from the hallway. At the time I didn’t register that it was for us. It couldn’t possibly be for us. Things like this happen to everyone else. I usually hear about it on the news or read it in the newspaper.
So many people rushed into the room. I stood there frozen.
The doctor, while ordering the nurses into action, took another 5 seconds to say to us,
“We are going to use a vacuum to suck the baby out. This is the fastest way to get the baby out.”
Nurses were taking care of the mother; her aunt was standing in the corner just as shocked as I was. In movies what they do is slow the time of action to create a dramatic feel. I can testify to you all, that is exactly what happens. Everything was moving slowly.
The doctor began to apply the vacuum and then it happened.
There was a massive burst of blood that came from the mother. The doctor was sprayed with blood and there was blood on the floor and I later would find blood on the wall behind the doctor. I don’t recall what anyone said for a few seconds as the horror washed through my body. I looked at mother, she was pale and lying there with an oxygen mask on her face. The next thing I knew the doctor was applying the vacuum and asking Melanie to not push, I didn’t know it then but she was hemorrhaging out. blood was everywhere. Then it happened.
The doctor looked at me and asked me,
“Dad, we need to take Mom to the operating room, she is bleeding out and we may need to do an emergency caesarean.” I could only say,
“Ok.” Then the room came back into focus. The doctor gave more orders to the nurses. One nurse came to me and gave me a bag. I looked down and it was filled with green clothes. I was asked to put on surgical scrubs. The doctor looked at me,
“Dad, you must know you have a chance of losing your baby and your wife.”
Those words filled every fiber of my body and I was lost. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel. I became numb. I somehow walked into the bathroom which was located in the room and I closed the door behind me. The words, “lose your baby and wife” still coursing through my head. I’m not sure how I was able to do what was required. I ripped the bag open and began to put on the scrubs. I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person looking back at me. I put on the pants and then the shirt, my hands began to shake. So this is what it feels like to go into shock. I never felt such a feeling and to be honest I hope I never do again. I struggled to put on the shoe guards. I then put on the head cover, I was familiar with this as I used to work in a restaurant and had to put on a hair net. I looked myself up and down and I seem to look ready for whatever was ahead of me and I grab the bag and see that there is one more item still to put on. Then the situation became real for me, I had to put on the face mask. I wrapped the string around each ear and opened the door, everyone in the room was working frantically. Melanie was quiet and so very pale. I remember this thought.
“I don’t want my story to be, I lost my wife and baby when she was giving birth.”
The doctor came to me and said,
“Dad please sign these consent forms so we can operate. This is a very serious situation; we have to act immediately because we are afraid of losing them both.”
I signed my name.
The doctor went back to Melanie and decided to try one more time with the vacuum and with a sudden burst out came my baby boy. The baby was immediately taken to a small table beside the bed that Melanie was lying on. 3 doctors were now in the room and they worked on the baby. Everyone else was attending to Mom. I just stood there.
“Dad, the baby isn’t breathing.” Again came the numbness and horror. It seemed like 5 hours had past.
I then heard the most relieving sound, my baby began to cry. It was constant. I don’t remember breathing. I don’t remember any faces. The room shrank and I was lost again.
“Dad, you need to come over and see your baby. I have to tell you there are obvious issues with the baby, I need you to be prepared. I walked over and looked over. 2 doctors were listening for the heart rate and checking other vitals. I saw the tiniest human being lying on a small bed crying. I fell in love completely and unconditionally at that very moment. There were bubbles coming out of his mouth. I have a boy!! For a moment I didn’t remember that there was a lot wrong.
I was told at that moment that Mother and baby were stable but the situation was still extremely serious. I picked up the phone and called my parents. I remember my mother answering,
“Hello.” She always half sang the word when she knew it was me. Obviously I had told them Melanie was in labour and I was going to the hospital and I could be calling any moment.
“Hi Mom.” I tried to sound “ok”.
“So, is the baby here?” my mother had excitement in her voice.
“Yes, but there is something wrong.” I said it quickly, I couldn’t hold back.
“WHAT? What happened?” my mother’s tone changed.
“I don’t know but you have to come to the hospital. I don’t know what’s happening. They said we could lose the baby and Melanie started bleeding.”
“Oh my God!! Ok we will leave right now.”
When I hung up Melanie was half asleep. She had lost blood and she didn’t look alert at all. I also realized they had taken the baby somewhere else. Her aunt had left the room to call her family. Someone came in and told me that the baby was taken to observation. I also left the room because the nurse standing by the bedside said that she would stay with Mom.
I was taken to a room with so many different types of equipment, I had no idea what anything was. I was lost again. I walked in and a woman looked at me and knew I was the baby’s father.
“Come over Dad, you can look at your son, but please don’t touch him. We have this device over his head to feed oxygen to him, his heart rate is very low and he isn’t getting enough oxygen. I will have to stay with him over night.”
I stood beside the elevated bed and looked through the plastic to see my son still crying. That’s when I saw it.
He had some type of mass sticking out of the side of his head. One eye was open and the other closed. He was crying but half of his face wasn’t moving. The woman told me I should go, I shouldn’t stay in the room too long. I always wondered why she said that. I think when it comes to such serious situations, they try not to let parents get too attached, too late, the moment you see your baby you are ATTACHED. You never want to let go.
The next hour was filled with trying to absorb information that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t process. After I went and checked on Melanie I said goodnight and I left with my mother and decided to stay close to the hospital, at a close family friends house. I arrived at their house and went straight to bed. I remember I cried myself to sleep. I wasn’t scared or sad, I was simply letting out all the pent-up emotions that I felt for the last 3 hours. Yes, only 3 hours’ past by.
For the next 6 years all I did was breath and eat and walk and sleep for my son. Every doctor we saw and examined him told us, he will only live for 24hrs. He won’t be able to walk, talk and he will have to depend on us for the rest of his life. He won’t be able to go to a “normal” school. He won’t be able to eat and will have to use a feeding tube to survive.
Nathaniel was born September 17th, 1999, at 10:30pm.
He turns 17 today. Everything the doctor’s said he couldn’t do, he does. He didn’t survive, not one day did he survive. Everyday he fought, he fights for everything he wants and needs. He is a person who will change your life if you meet him. His strength surpasses everyone’s on this earth. He is my Superman!! Because of Nathaniel, I am the man I am today. I am the friend I am today, the boyfriend I am today, I am the son I am today. Don’t thank me, thank Nathaniel.
Because of him, I cannot forget this day.