The Diagnosis

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Chapter 1 – Part 1 of the book My Isaac to the Lord

April 1997: The Diagnosis

Nicole’s first post-natal check-up was on 28 April 1997 at Assunta Hospital, Petaling Jaya, where she was born. She was six weeks old then. Adorable in the way only newborns can be, Nicole was the perfect baby – she fed and rested well, mak­ing no demands or fuss. She was healthy except for the jaundice that persisted from birth…at least that was what I thought.

My husband Eric and I were working in the same publishing company at that time. As he had a business appointment on the day of Nicole’s check-up, I asked our colleague Tee Meng Yew to accompany me.

It was almost 5:00 p.m. when we arrived at the hos­pital. Nicole was the second-last patient for the day. After a short wait, Nicole and 1 went in to see the paediatrician, Dr Lim Suan Tin, better known as Dr ST Lim, while Meng Yew waited in the reception area.

The doctor looked tired after her long day. When I told her about the jaundice, a worried frown crossed her face. I added that we had tried exposing Nicole to the morning sun, as some well-meaning friends and relatives had advised us to, but it had not helped to get rid of her yellowness.

Dr Lim gestured to me to lay Nicole down on the bed so that she could examine her. When the doctor opened my baby’s diaper, we saw that Nicole had soiled herself.

“Oops, sorry,” I mumbled, embarrassed. “Do you want me to clean her up first?”

“No, no…,” the doctor said. She paused and looked intently at the stool.

“Has her stool always been this colour?” she asked.

I peered from behind her white coat at the pale mess Nicole had made. I remembered when she was days’ old I had had fleeting thoughts of why her stools seemed different – my other three children had all passed dark green stools when they were born, and brown stools sub­sequently. Since there were traces of yellowish-brown in Nicole’s stools, 1 had not been alarmed. I still wasn’t.

“Yes, it’s quite normal, isn’t it?” I said.

“No, it’s not,” said Dr Lim quietly. “Healthy stools are brown. Hers are ‘white’.”

The first pangs of fear tugged at my heart. Something was wrong with my baby. I had no time to even think of possible ailments and conditions for Dr Lim was patting my back and shaking her head.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“What’s wrong with her?” I asked, my words a whis­per.

“If I’m not wrong, I think she’s got biliary atresia,” Dr Lim said.

“It’s a very serious liver condition…fatal…within one to two years…very rare…transplant….”

My mind could only register snatches of what she was saying. Whatever I heard numbed my senses. If I had known the Lord then the way I do now, I would not have gone to pieces that day. I simply could not handle the dev­astating news. Cite any cliché that portrays a total crum­bling-down of your world and it would describe my emo­tions.

I dashed out of the room and into the reception area, leaving Nicole still on the bed. I turned round a few times, then collapsed onto a seat and wept.

Unknown to me, our merciful God had already walked ahead of us and was in complete control of the sit­uation – He had chosen Meng Yew, a man who walks with the Lord, to accompany me. Meng Yew was calm in the face of my distress.

Even so, he turned pale when he saw the state I was in.

“My baby…she’s very sick…she’s got an incurable illness…call Eric…call Eric,” I sobbed.

Meng Yew spoke quietly into his handphone. Then he said to me, “Eric’s on his way here. I didn’t tell him much, just that he should get here.”

His composure was like a balm. I realised I had ‘abandoned’ Nicole so I rushed into the doctor’s room.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
 (Isaiah 49:15)

Next: In Chapter 1 – Part 2, I made a huge but common mistake that I hope others will not make, for it drove me to despair.