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Before it all started

On Friday we had a doctor’s appointment at Bankstown hospital. We saw a young blonde short haired doctor. I am very bad with names.

Everything was going great at the beginning. We had an ultrasound image with us. As our baby was overdue, we had done the ultrasound on the Wednesday of that week. When we did the ultrasound, our baby was doing great. He had plenty of room and fluid around him.

On the Friday, our baby was 41 weeks and so an induction was planned for the following Monday or Tuesday. To be honest, I wanted the baby out then (on the Friday). I had a feeling he was ready and my son Noah was ready to have a brother. But 11am on Monday was the time written for us. I thank god that was the time. If it was the Tuesday or even later on the Monday, maybe we would not have been so lucky.

After our Friday appointment, we went home and continued to get on with our lives. On Saturday morning, my wife Sara sensed that our baby wasn’t moving properly. Her mother’s intuition kicked in and she called the hospital. The nurse recommended she eat and drink, and then lay down. She followed the nurse’s instructions and our baby started moving again, but not as much. We thought there wasn’t much room in there as according to his ultrasound, he was already 3.9 kilograms - a big boy.

The big day

Monday morning came. 16 March 2015. Our big day!! We walked to the hospital. I was singing, jumping up and down, skipping. Sara was not so energetic. Maybe it was mother’s intuition or she was just tired. I don’t know. As we checked in at the hospital, I was smiling from ear to ear. I wanted (and still want) a big family. I wanted Noah to have a brother. Noah and I were in fact the only people who knew the gender of the baby. To me, it was just a matter of hours before we were blessed with another baby boy.

Sara was lying on the hospital bed. A short haired nurse decided to put a monitor on her tummy. That nurse is a legend. She is a hero. She did not have to do it straight away, but she did. She told us the next nurse would not be there for an hour or so and she said she may as well put the monitor on. I cannot emphasize enough how much of a hero and life saver this nurse is.

The baby’s heart rate was fine - 135 beats per minute. He was moving but not as much as he was previously. In any case, everything was great.

It all started when Sara moved slightly and the baby’s heart rate dropped all the way to 60 beats per minute. Something was up – we knew something was not right. I said to Sara “Let’s call the nurse”. She didn’t want to disturb her but within one minute this superhero nurse popped by and I expressed my concern to her. She immediately responded and started testing Sara and the baby’s pulse. She called another nurse for assistance. There was a problem – a big one. The nurse unit manager was then notified and she made us feel a little better. She said to us “There is a problem with your baby. He is unwell and we need to get him out now. Be sure that we will do the best we can and get him back to you as soon as possible. She was very reassuring and really great. God bless her. Within 10 seconds, around 8-10 people stormed into the room and Sara was wheeled away, yelling things like “Ibby what’s happening” and “Why is this happening”. This was the first moment that scarred me. My heart was damaged and hurt. I was scarred but not scared yet.

Sara and I parted ways. She went in to have an emergency caesarean. I was left waiting. It didn’t feel real. Ten minutes went by but still no news. 5 minutes after that still no news. It took a long ass time. Time went so slowly. Eventually someone came out and told me that the caesarean had started. I was promised I would have my baby in 15 minutes. It was the longest half an hour of my life. Nobody knew anything. I was alone and desperate. I begged for information. A nurse came out and said to me “You have a baby boy. They are working on him”. Working on him… Working on him? My thoughts were what does that even mean, is he dead? Are they trying to bring him back? I wanted answers. I found out he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck tight and he had done a poo in the womb. He had a severe case of meconium aspiration.

He was not responsive. No or weak heart rate. No or weak breathing. The doors of the nursery opened and there was my lifeless boy. There was no room to even get a peek of him. There were 5 or 6 people around him and he was getting all sorts of assistance. To be honest, I had no idea what was happening but it was a very long time before the situation sunk in. It was an hour or two before it hit me. My son is alive but for how long. I had no idea. What was I going to say to Sara? To my mum? To my family? Come say hi and goodbye. I called my mum and told her to get to the hospital. I called my mother in law and told her the same thing. I explained the seriousness of the situation to her and I asked her to come and support Sara - to keep her healthy and well.

The NETS then came (the professionals) - the life savers. They immediately began work. It was a very hard task ahead of them.

I saw everything. I saw my son move. I saw him cry. I saw him lifeless. I saw him awake but then I saw him asleep. He stayed asleep for a long time.

In the room there was a wonderful doctor – tall and skinny, an amazing nurse with an English accent and a driver from Chipping Norton. After a few hours they needed back up and numerous phone calls were made and the webcam came on and off. Everyone was helping.

A second team arrived – a consultant from Westmead Hospital, another nurse and another driver.

Their efforts were endless. My son was fighting to stay alive, trying so hard, and they were doing everything they could to help him.

Seven hours after my son was born, I had to tell my wife, my in-laws, my mum and my family that they were going to move him out of Bankstown and to Liverpool hospital. But there was a big BUT. Things were “not looking good”.

I went back to the room. There was a young Jewish man at the door. My first thoughts were who is this guy and why is he looking through the door at my very sick, dying boy. I am Palestinian, he was Jewish. I hadn’t really dealt with Jewish people before. But this is Australia and I love Australia. I am an Australian Palestinian and this Jewish man helped my son. I am forever grateful. He did not judge and nor will I. Australia is the best bloody country in the world.

He was a consultant doctor from Liverpool hospital and he came to see what he was in for. He didn’t have to come, but he did.

Eight hours later, my son was ready to be transported. I was told by all the doctors – we have done all we can here, it’s all we can do, we need to move. They told me they didn’t like his chances of making it. I copped it on the chin. I am a man. I would take whatever god threw at me.

We were ready to roll. All the way to Liverpool.

My wife still hadn’t seen our baby boy. As the staff were moving him through the corridor, to take him urgently to Liverpool hospital, my wife was in that corridor. On her hospital bed, she was ready in the corridor for her first ever glimpse at our second baby boy. She wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for this young blonde nurse who helped her afterwards and today too.

It could have been first and last look. I don’t think anyone knows what it’s like to be told by the person you love “don’t let him die”. I was helpless but I was strong. I knew God would be with me. I knew he would help me and would be with me. I knew God would send the best people to help my son.

Liverpool hospital

We were off. Every door was open as we left the hospital. That is another image I can’t get out of my head. It was like a person leaving a school ceremony or a bride and groom leaving a wedding. Except it wasn’t. It was me pushing my son to the unknown. Hoping he would make it there.

In the ambulance, I was stunned and motionless. I was in one ambulance and he was in another - waiting to get to Liverpool hospital with ambulance lights flashing and sirens sounding.

We finally got there – there was me, my sick son and around 15 people waiting for his arrival. He made the ride there and his NICU journey had started.

There were some people in scrubs. Everyone was ready. They started working on him straight away. Poking this, wrapping that, cutting this, stabbing that, covering this, lifting that – the list went on. So many medicines, so many procedures and most importantly, so many unknowns.

He was ventilated with a systematic ventilator. It looked like he was constantly having a fit. He had a nitric machine on him. He had 8 drips – 8 of them. He actually looked dead. He wasn’t coping very well at all. Work did not stop on him. He had a minimum of three nurses and one doctor there 99% of the time.

My mum had arrived to give me support. She is amazing. She was telling me to pray and make dua. She is the strongest person I know.

I was fatigued. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for around 30 hours. I hadn’t sat down or slept.

Then came the news that Sara had arrived to Liverpool hospital. She was soon up at the NICU. She got to see our baby boy for a second time. She was so tired and hurt. It was visible from a mile away. She had bloodshot eyes. She was weak. She was sore. She was a complete wreck. For the second time she said to me “why is this happening, don’t let him go”. I reassured her everything would be okay and it was in God’s hands.

It was around 5am that the doctors told me and Sara the worst news that I could come out of a person’s mouth – “your son will not see the sunrise”. He was deteriorating rapidly and they did everything they could. I thought it was time to say goodbye. As Sara was wheeled away, I called my cousin to ask him what to do when he passes and if he would take care of funeral processions. I don’t even know what I was saying.

The sun rose and our baby was still fighting. He had kept going deteriorating but he was still hanging in there. Alhamdulilah. All praise is to Allah. My boy was a fighter. By midday he stopped deteriorating and showed signs of improvement despite his prognosis.

My medical knowledge then started:

  1. He was saturating around 70-80% oxygen at 100% oxygen.
  2. There was possible brain damage due to being deprived of oxygen.
  3. The systematic ventilator only gets used 1-3 times per year.
  4. He was on a maximum of everything.
  5. His upper right and bottom left lung collapsed.
  6. He had to get a release valve as he was leaking air into his body.
  7. He could get carbon dioxide poisoning.

The list went on and on. The nurses started calling me the doctor.

The rollercoaster

 We named him Zayn. He started to show signs of improvement but then he would deteriorate again. It was an up and down rollercoaster ride. We didn’t know when it would end. Every nurse had a unique way of taking care of him. Some were beyond amazing. He was up and down for 7 days. He spent 7 days on this big machine that barely gets used. He was the sickest baby in the ICU for over a week. It’s a not a title he wanted to keep. They tried to take the systematic ventilator off after 8 days. There was a nice German doctor who had amazing people skills and really explained things in a way we could understand. It had to be done. He last 4.5 hours on c-pap after the ventilator was removed. He failed to breathe on his own without assistance and had to get re-ventilated.

The rollercoaster ride was bumpy. As soon as we were up, we were right back down again.

Sara was discharged from the maternity ward but we were given a room to stay in at the ICU thanks to a vibrant and wonderful nurse. We were so close to our baby Zayn. It was the best. He was ventilated with a smaller machine and was showing signs of improvement. We were always trying to be positive.

We went home for the first time in over a week. Our hearts were still there – at the NICU. One day was up and the next day was down. The battle went on for over three weeks at the NICU in Liverpool.

My parents and in-laws gave us amazing support. They are the best people on earth. My wife got to hold Zayn for the first time around 9 days later. It was the first time I saw her smile and cry at the same time. Talk about mixed emotions.

The good news

Zayn started to show even better signs – coming off c-pap oxygen, to high flow and then to low flow oxygen. Zayn was a fighter. He was battling and he was winning. 23 days later after our angel was born we got the good news.

 He was well enough to finish his journey to recovery at the place where it all started. Bankstown hospital - one of the best hospitals with the best nurses and doctors. It was hard being back there but at least I got to hold my beautiful boy. He was breathing without oxygen support, and a few days later we would get to go home as a happy family of four.

 Australia is the best country in the world. Nurses and doctors put their heart into their jobs and it’s not with every career that you get to see such great rewards. I appreciate what they do and I will always appreciate it.


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