Daniel Nuzum's audioboos

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Born too soon... World Prematurity Day

It was a Tuesday afternoon when with nervousness and excitement we met our twin boys Rory & Killian face to face for the first time in an operating theatre. "If you want to see them look now as we need to go" was the opening line that went round and round in my head as two teams of paediatricians and neonatal nurses disappeared out through the theatre  doors with our two little boys born at 32 weeks. Sitting beside my wife behind a surgical drape as tears flowed down our cheeks we felt helpless and vulnerable as the obstetrician quietly closed up the wound through which our little men had entered the world. And silence is the strongest memory. There was an eerie silence punctured only by the beeping on various machines and the muffled words of the team through surgical masks.
All I could see were the eyes that made contact with each other across my wife's body which had no feeling save for tugging and pulling as they did their handiwork. Looking to the ground were the blood and iodine stained wellington boots of the team. The mess on the ground was but a fraction of the messiness of uncertainty which we could do nothing about.

"If you want to see them look now as we need to go" kept going round and round like a mantra. We only got a very quick glimpse before they were whisked away...

After what seemed like an age we were brought to the NICU to see our boys who were now attached to breathing tubes, wires, technology and lying on their tummies on what seemed to us like mini spaceships. Tubes, wires, probes, lights, noises, beeps, needles. As healthcare professionals we were used to all these things but never had I felt so helpless or vulnerable. There is no feeling quite like that sense of helplessness that a parent feels when their baby is so fragile and vulnerable.

Every year 15 million babies are born prematurely, that is 1 in 10 babies worldwide. To be born prematurely means that you are born before 37 weeks gestation. It is a terrifying experience for parents as they accompany their baby day by day. Today, 17 November is World Prematurity Day when just for one day we stop to think about the enormity of this issue. Prematurity brings with it a future of many potential hurdles and complications and every milestone is a huge achievement.

We were thrilled today to return to the hospital where our boys were born for a coffee morning to mark the day. This day five years ago they were in incubators five floors below where today they coloured in paper stockings and played with balloons. We owe so much to a great team who are now colleagues. The presence of so many 'Neonatal Graduates' today was such fun and each was a beacon of hope to the parents who joined us from the Neonatal Unit.

Tonight around the world we remember those who were born prematurely and who did not survive. A painful reality for too many. As we tuck our little men into bed tonight we think of those who would give anything to do the same.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The leaves of death: the carpet of grief

Today, watching once-green leaves now turned to russet fall from the trees with random carelessness and somehow form a carpet  on the ground I am reminded of the power of creation to point us to the reality of life and death. It is at this time of the year while children have been 'trick or treating' that many of us remember our loved ones who have died. This of course brings with it a perplexing sense of the pain of loss and absence as well as the very comforting sense of presence and connection. They are conjoined companions on the journey of grief.

Today, 2 November -commonly called 'All Souls'- in the Christian tradition many people will be attending services of remembrance in honour of someone close to them. At many services we will be reminded that "the souls of the faithful are in the hand of God" Wis 3:1 For some it will be to pray for them, for others it will be to ask for prayer, for others it will be to acknowledge that their loved one is now in God's hands and embrace, and for others there is a bewildering sense of not knowing what is happening or why they remember -a sense of hollowness where it is hard to know what or how to feel. Whatever our beliefs, what unites all humanity is the experience and pain of loss. Remembering together in community is a powerful experience that in itself provides a deep carpet of love, hope, support and care where there is space for the traditions and needs of all to be cherished and respected. 

Grief is an untidy journey. There is a temptation to try and package up our grief and tidy it away into some sort of ordered and controlled bookcase of emotion where we can take it out when we feel like it. Those who would try to tidy grief up have usually either never experienced loss or have run away from their grief. The reality though is that grief is an uncontrolled, untidy experience that rustles us often in the most unexpected ways and places. It can be like the whirling of a wind that scoops up scattered leaves and then creates a new carpet underfoot until the next gust appears. This carpet of grief becomes our comfort and path for the time being -however long that will be. Grief is a 'work in progress' that continues for as long as is necessary. 

Over these days as we think of our loved ones we think of our continuing sense of love and connection as well as marking the pain we feel because we miss them. Their voice, their smell, their physical presence, their companionship, even the things about them that irritated us. Grief can at times can make us feel a sense of loneliness like we have never experienced before. This is indeed the valley of the shadow of death Psalm 23:4 Only yesterday a family member told me that the 'shroud of loneliness fell off' when they attended a service of remembrance in the hospital where their mum had died. It was the very fact of being with so many others who were also grieving that they felt less alone.

As we tread on the leaves of loss let us tread gently because we tread on holy ground. These leaves, although dead, contain within them the marks of life and nourishment for the future. These leaves of death are for now, the carpet of grief.

Father of all, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer. Grant them your peace, let light perpetual shine upon them, and in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of your perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen