From hospi­tal to the funeral home

The Chronicle - - READ -

NO PAR­ENT wants to imag­ine leav­ing the hospi­tal with­out their baby in the baby seat. But that’s just what first-time par­ents Pete Vidins, 35, and his wife Sarah had to en­dure.

“We drove straight from the hospi­tal to the funeral home with an empty baby seat,” the Bris­bane fa­ther tells Week­end.

At 18 weeks ges­ta­tion, doc­tors dis­cov­ered their son, Daniel, had a cyst on his lung. They were given three op­tions – let na­ture take its course, in­ter­rupt the preg­nancy or in­ter­vene med­i­cally.

They chose the lat­ter and Sarah un­der­went in-utero surgery at the Mater Moth­ers’ Hospi­tal.

“The first pro­ce­dure in­volved putting a nee­dle through my wife’s stom­ach and into our son’s chest…they drained out a film can­is­ter full of pus,” Pete says. “It suc­cess­fully col­lapsed the cyst to al­low the lung to grow. But we went back a week later and it had filled up again.” As a re­sult a valve was in­serted into Daniel’s lung to con­tin­u­ously drain the cyst while Sarah car­ried him.

Daniel was born at 35 weeks. A re­sus­ci­ta­tion team was on standby.

“They had to re­sus­ci­tate him straight away. As soon as he was born he was taken away. He was whisked off to in­fant ICU. We couldn’t touch him. That was very hard. The next day we could touch his hand and his hair.

“We found out quite quickly that he wasn’t in a good po­si­tion.

“He just didn’t have enough lung. There were other com­pli­ca­tions as well. The next day we let him go.”

Pete de­scribes a numb­ness, a si­lence, fol­low­ing Daniel’s death. “We had a nurs­ery set up for him. I couldn’t go in there for a long, long time.

“At first I was very up­set. We were healthy, we didn’t smoke or drink. It was un­fair. We both grieved in very dif­fer­ent ways.

“I was strong for a while, like most men you want to be strong for your part­ner. But then, I couldn’t look at pic­tures of him or any of his things for months.

“I changed my job. My wife was quite un­well af­ter it. Things peo­ple in­no­cently said were quite hurt­ful. Then there was stony si­lence.”

The cou­ple named their son Daniel af­ter the bib­li­cal fig­ure. “We thought it was a coura­geous name,” Pete says.

“I think about him ev­ery day. I’ll hear his name and I of­ten won­der what he will be like. He’d be 11 years old, go­ing into sixth grade.”

Pete and Sarah have since had two chil­dren. They found strength from at­tend­ing SANDS sup­port groups with other griev­ing par­ents. Pete is now a vol­un­teer SANDS par­ent sup­porter.

“Dads still have a story too. Most will go quite a long time be­ing strong and stoic and sup­port­ing their part­ners when they re­alise they have this grief pie they’ve got to chew through. It can be daunt­ing as men and women grieve dif­fer­ently,” Pete says.

He says its so im­por­tant for dads to prac­tice self-care.

“It’s only nat­u­ral for dads to want to be strong but it can spi­ral into men­tal health is­sues and re­la­tion­ship break­downs. Men­tal health strate­gies are so im­por­tant in these sit­u­a­tions.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

SANDS vol­un­teer par­ent sup­porter Pete Vidins with daugh­ter Zoe, 9.

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