We make difficult decisions all the time. But the decision this couple have to make is one I hope no parent will ever have to make.
When Eugene Wee and his pregnant Thai wife Kanokrat Surbsakwong were told that their unborn baby had trisomy 18, they knew they had to embrace for the worst.
Only 37, the couple had to make a choice.
It reports that “more than half of all babies with trisomy 18, a genetic disorder caused by an error in cell division, due before they are born. Of those who survive, most die within five to 15 days.”
Needless to say, this condition is very rare and “only one in 5,000 foetuses develop trisomy 18.”
So, Eugene and Kanokrat were approached by medical researchers in Chiangmai University with a even tougher request to grant: -
Can she deliver the full foetus and allow the research unit to keep the foetus for future research and studies?
This means that Kanokrat “would have to undergo a long, painful labour to deliver a stillborn baby who would then be donated to the hospital..”
Timothy Goh reported this painful news and he wrote that the couple who were married for less than two years knew that there is no way to save their child.
By donating the foetus, Eugene felt strongly that “there was a chance they could help medical students learn more about the rare condition, and pave the way for a successful medical intervention in the future.”
In my view, as a parent myself, it takes a lot of courage, personal resolve and peace of mind to make that kind of decision.
When Dr Christopher Chong, a gynaecologist from Gleneagles Hospital was asked to comment on the heartbreaking procedure to deliver a stillborn, he said that “attempting to deliver the baby naturally requires labour to first be induced in the mother.
The entire process will often take one to two days, and it can be a lengthy process which is very traumatic to the mother.”
Alas, the delivery for Eugene’s wife took more than 30 hours, “and it was difficult for the mother, as the foetus was swollen.” The stillborn was in the fifth month of the pregnancy.
Eugene was asked how he had the strength to make it through the procedure, and he said: “I think it’s probably our Christian faith that kept us going in those very challenging times.”
Eugene himself is the “founder and executive director of Radion International” which is “a Christian relief and development agency serving vulnerable communities. His wife is a volunteer in the organisation.”
Lesson? Just one.
This decision will stay in the living memory for the couple for life. I can’t imagine the pain and yet the amazing strength and peace that Eugene and his wife are experiencing in this traumatic journey.
At times like this, we need something beyond ourselves to believe and hold on to to keep our hope alive.
That’s the profound beauty of faith for me. And I sincerely believe that we overcome our trials not so much by a grit of our teeth or the straightening of our back, but by turning the focus away from ourselves.
What is so inspiring about the faith of Eugene and his wife is how they have been living a life of giving and serving in their work to help vulnerable communities.
And I believe that is where they draw their strength and resilience from to confront and overcome their own journey of pain.
This is in glaring contrast to a life that lives only for self. It is an exclusive and extractive life that can never find peace and contentment because such appetite is unquenchable and such soul is implacable.
This quote from Leonardo DiCaprio, who acted in The Wolf of Wall Street puts it aptly: -
“This is an indictment of all of Wall Street. But it’s an indictment about something that’s in our culture, this incessant need to obtain more and more wealth with complete disregard for anyone except yourself.”
That is why for me the world is divided into two symbols of redemption.
One stands at the most prominent high spot, with dazzling floodlights and loud music to attract and seduce.
It is the symbol of the self that draws many to it. Its main attraction is similar to the third temptation where all wealth and power in the world is given as long as one trades his or her soul for the idolisation of self.
And the other symbol of redemption is from another high spot, in a hill that have stood the test of time for centuries before and centuries to come. It is about the crucifixion of self, the death of all appetites for the world.
Between the two, is our existential struggles to find meaning either in the temporal or the transcendental, in the endless pursuit or in the stillness of peace beyond all human understanding.
And I believe in Eugene’s and his wife’s faith, they have found the one thing that they will ever need to always experience the calm amidst the storm and the growth amidst the struggles.
And that calm and growth can only come from believing in a hope and meaning that is beyond themselves and beyond their humanity, to the anchorage of redemption that not only delivers them from their circumstances, but from themselves. Amen. Cheerz.