Lisbon Nights

What you’re about to read is my account of the birth of my Son, Joel.

My family and I decided to go on holiday to Portugal. My daughter had never been on a plane before and with my son on the way we figured we may not get a chance to go on a family holiday for a while. We were four days into our wonderful holiday, and we were really sad that it’s about to come to an end.

At about 5:30 in the morning, I was suddenly awakened by the cries of my wife. I jumped out of bed and rushed to check if she was alright. She tells me she’s having intense pains and thinks she’s going to labour, at this point my whole body went into shock, especially as it immediately dawned on me that she is only 29 weeks pregnant.

I ran to the reception area to ask for assistance, where I was told I was better off requesting an ambulance as “a doctor call out would be very expensive”, I told the receptionist I would call from my room and confirm if she should call an ambulance. I ran back to make sure my wife was definitely in labour and called the receptionist to call the emergency services immediately.

It was 6am at this point and my wife was in excruciating pain. She told me “babe, he’s coming, I can feel his head”. This was at 6:05. By 6:15 my son was here in a towel, born in a hotel bathroom with no medical assistance whatsoever, but this was far from a joyous occasion.

My son wasn’t breathing properly, although he made a sound when he came out, this was short, and that small cry turned into silence, I’ve never longed so much for the screams of a newborn baby. Thankfully the ambulance arrived roughly 5 minutes after he was born, and were able to administer oxygen to him, but he was still really struggling to breathe. My wife was in so much pain at this point but all she cared about was the wellbeing of her son.

After almost 30 mins of trying to get my son to breathe, eventually the hotel room was surrounded by more doctors and medical assistants, my son was taken from the hotel bathroom to an ambulance vehicle outside the hotel.

My 3 year old daughter woke up to the mayhem that had just taken place, I couldn’t let her see her mother or newborn brother in such a state so I gave her an iPad to distract her. Never had I been so thankful for an apple product in my life.

The one thing that made this situation all the more difficult was the fact that no one could really speak English. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to be in a situation like this, and no one can understand a word you’re trying to say.

After about 30 mins, the medical staff took my wife to the ambulance, my son was in a separate vehicle. To my frustration I was told I couldn’t get in the ambulance with her or my son because I had my daughter with me. This meant I had to arrange my own transport, to a hospital I had never been to, which was also 45 mins away from our hotel. (Cost me €70 as well)

I’ve always taken pride in being a quick thinker but I’ll be honest, at that moment I had no idea what I was going to, it wasn’t getting to the hospital that had me stomped, it was the fact that I felt absolutely helpless in this situation. The receptionist offered to call me a cab, so I packed a few things, and got in the cab to meet my wife and son at the hospital.

I arrived at the hospital to find no one spoke English (I was not surprised), and had to navigate my way through pigeon English conversations. I eventually found my wife in a state no mother should ever be found in. She was put in some dingy corner in a room on a hospital bed I could only describe as “flimsy”. My wife was in hysterics, asking “where is my baby?”, the saddest part of that is no one could actually answer.

We eventually found a nurse whose English I can only describe as “commendable”, she told us our baby hadn’t arrived yet. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, especially as our son had left before the both of us.

(Special shoutout to my daughter, whom through all of this was so well behaved as she was completely occupied by the works of ‘Shrek’ and ‘Little Pony’)

What we didn’t know at the time was the reason our son was delayed in arriving to the hospital. We were told the day after all of this, that it was because halfway through the journey, the ambulance stopped in the middle of the road to “reanimate” our son. Our son was no longer breathing and would have no longer been with us if it wasn’t for the second ambulance which met the first ambulance when they stopped in the middle of the road. I kid you not, a second ambulance took our son in the middle of the road, reanimated him, put him in another ambulance and drove him to the hospital.

Back to the story, and our son finally arrives, we were unable to see him at that point as they needed to stabilise him. When we did eventually see him (after several hours) he was in a state that would horrify any mother or father. He was attached to a machine that was helping him to breath and had all sorts of tubes going in and out of him.

I’m somewhat an emotional person, but I hadn’t shed a tear in God knows how long, but at that very moment after seeing my only son, while I was on the phone to my brother, I started weeping uncontrollably, more than I have ever done in my entire life. My son, my first son, whom I had been so excited to see and hear, was completely incapacitated at that moment. I tell you no lie, I was asking God, why the hell this had to happen to us? What in the world did we do to deserve this?

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t subside at this point. The doctors then tell us that my son has to he transferred to another hospital 2-3 hours away for a major operation to correct a bowel issue.

I did not know what to do; my son is currently on a machine to keep him alive and now needs to leave to have a major operation, but the icing on the cake was the fact that I nor my wife were allowed to go with him. We were told we had to arrange our own transport, and not even one of us could travel with him.

At this point, I was boiling, I wanted to smash everything in sight. I pleaded with them, just let my wife go, I’ll make my own way but sadly it was no use, within minutes my son was whisked away and transported to a hospital hours away from us.

Because my wife was still in pretty bad shape from the birth (and the barbaric treatment from the nursing staff at the hospital) she couldn’t be discharged until the following day.

I hugged my wife, and told her everything would be ok, but I wasn’t even sure about that to be completely honest.

I took a cab back to our hotel, checked out the following day, took another cab back to the hospital to collect my wife, waited for her to be discharged, got in a cab and train (which was a 3 hour journey), took another cab to the hospital and eventually saw my son.

(A huge shoutout to my wonderful friends and family, who sent money and helped us figure out how to get from faro to Lisbon and my brother who got on a plane the next day to support us.)

The operation was a success, but there is still a long road, as my son was born prematurely and is recovering from major surgery at the same time.

My holiday, which began as a dream, turned into what I can only describe as a nightmare, however, I’ve chosen to keep my mind focused on the positive. My Son is alive.

My Son is stable but will need several weeks of constant care so he can pull through. Until he’s well enough, Portugal will be our home, how long that will be? Only God knows.

If you’re reading this, and you have a spare moment please say a prayer for my prince, Joel.

Yours truly,

Daniel (db)

P.S: A good friend of mine, started a fundraising page, to help us while we’re here.

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