whom the master finds awake
when he comes.” (Luke 12:37)
Late One Night
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
The day my son, Stephen Reza, was born, August 19, 1992, I was scheduled to give a nationwide, video presentation at the Farm Credit Administration (FCA). It was an important speech, in part, because I had been RIFed (reduction in force) two months prior and my job was on the line. Maryam knew the position I was in that day so I drove her to the Inova Fairfax hospital, got her checked in, and kissed her goodbye as I left to give my presentation, as my office was only about three miles down the road from the hospital.
My office was surprised to hear my situation; I was allowed to give my presentation without delay; and I returned to hospital. As a dutiful wife, Maryam, waited for me and, when I arrived, we went immediately into the delivery room. Stephen Reza was born without mishap and, to my horror, he began life by pissing all over the doctor’s face. The doctor, who had delivered all three of my kids, did not complain. He just took off his glasses, wiped off his face, and continued his inspection of the placenta and umbilical cord. When I asked him what he was looking for, he responded saying that placenta and umbilical cord provide insights into some forms of birth defects that are otherwise hidden.
The days went by quickly that fall. Having been assigned to the McLean examination team, I was on the road from Monday morning to Thursday evening, normally assisting with association examinations in rural Virginia. Because I was gone half the week and following the custom in Iran, Maryam kept Reza’s crib in the our bedroom, making late night feedings easier. When Reza went into convulsions on that Friday evening in October, we woke up and called 911.
The emergency medical team (EMT) arrived promptly and took Reza’s vital signs. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but Maryam insisted that the EMTs transport him to Fair Oaks Hospital. Lab work was taken and his blood chemistry was all messed up with no indication of why. Early Saturday morning he was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital which has a pediatric intensive care unit where he stayed until Sunday afternoon. At that point, the attending physician noticed that his urine bag was empty and ordered a sonogram. The sonogram showed that Reza was born with only one kidney and the duct off of his existing kidney had folded over on itself. Emergency surgery was required to relieve the buildup of urine so he was transported to Georgetown University Hospital and scheduled for surgery late Sunday night.
Sunday evening Maryam and I found ourselves exhausted from lack of sleep and nearly hysterical from all the uncertainty and stressful events. At one point I found myself alone with Reza in his hospital room. His labored breathing was the only sound to be heard. On my knees and beside myself with grief, I offered myself in prayer for my son’s life: “Lord, do not take him, take me.” About ten years later, I was reminded of my prayer and began to consider seminary.
Pastor Rob stopped by to offer comfort later that night as we waited for the surgeons to complete their work. We were otherwise alone because my parents were living in Indiana at the time and few others were around to offer comfort. In the surgery, the surgeons inserted a catheter into his kidney duct to drain the urine, but opted not to perform surgery—at ten-week of age he was simply too small. The catheter was invasive enough.
We had enough on our minds because after surgery Reza screamed all night. Because of the problems of estimating drug dosage on a young child, the standard medical practice is not to offer pain medication to infants. Similarly, three months later in January, we came back to have the catheter removed and corrective surgery was performed—again, we watched helplessly afterwards while Reza screamed. Screaming: I mostly remember the endless hours of screaming.
Monday morning I drove to an association examination in Norfolk Virginia. When my office learned later that morning what I was dealing with at home, they called me back to the McLean office for a period of weeks when I was graciously reassigned to a research project so that I would be closer to home.