Some telling stories around infant surgery

Emergency Baptism is part of the preparation for infant surgery for many people of Christian faith.  Some Christians believe that baptising babies is at least meaningless and at worst mere superstition.  For others, “Christening” has the spiritual and sacramental power to give eternal life and grace to a person, no matter how young, and especially at a stage in life where they have as yet done no wrong.  In my second previous post I wrote about what my urgent baptism meant for my parents when I needed immediate surgery 10 days after my arrival.

What everyone, even people of faith other than Christian, could probably agree on is that the giving of baptism to a family of Christian faith of whatever kind would be tremendously comforting for many: it would reassure them that amidst life’s pain and uncertainties the unchanging God they know through Jesus Christ has promises and assurances for them and their baby.

Dr David Hope was the Archbishop of York 1995-2005

I came across a lovely story of an emergency baptism on the web.  It relates the circumstances around the birth and baptism of a baby who later became a much respected and loved Church of England archbishop, Dr David Hope.  He was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, the son of a builder, in April 1940.  His baptism was unusual to say the least.  The font was a bowl used for mixing Yorkshire pudding batter.

Soon after his birth David developed a life-threatening illness, pyloric stenosis.  In the 1940s the deathrate among infants with this condition was not insignificant.

“The doctor advised an early baptism, just in case, so the family’s local priest, the Vicar of Lupset, Clifford Hamer, was summoned and did the job, using the pudding basin for the water needed for the ceremony.

“It was war-time and my father was away and I had to go to the Brotherton Wing of Leeds General Infirmary (for the operation).  I was one of twins.  Things were very difficult in those days, especially for my mother, though I was not aware of it of course,” David Hope commented in a newspaper interview reflecting on his life story.

Amazing answers to prayer do happen occasionally although people of Christian faith don’t expect or get an armchair ride through life.  Many people working in the medical world have experience of miraculous (or at least totally mysterious) healings and remissions of illness.

I read this poignant but wonderful personal account among the blogs of Pamela Procter –

Two weeks later (after her difficult birth, firstborn), Annemarie was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, and went in for emergency surgery.  Three days after being released from the hospital, her internal stitches ripped open, which resulted in an incisional hernia.  Another surgery could not be performed until her abdominal muscles would be able to hold stitches – in about a year.  We were left with a baby who screamed constantly, vomited every meal, and needed to be held upright for 45 minutes after every feeding.  Where was God in all of this?  He was in the same place He is right now – next to us, holding our hand.  After four months of tear-filled days and nights of prayer, God instantaneously healed our precious Annemarie.  A dear friend, filled with the healing power of Jesus Christ, laid hands on her on August 3, 2010.  Her acid reflux, incisional hernia, and pyloric stenosis were completely GONE the next morning.

My late parents’ almost total silence about my opening bout with pyloric stenosis and surgery and my deep annoyance (and more) with them are matters I have mentioned before in these blogs.

In recent years the web has made me aware that parental silence, especially of the pre-WW2 generations, was very common.  Indeed, some blogs tell us today that there were parents who were even more silent than mine, and/or that there were children who grew up knowing even less than I did about their body’s story.  Read this story from a father in Liverpool (UK) and share my amazement.

…my little daughter Denise got taken into hospital few weeks ago now and cutting a long story short she had to have an operation on her stomach due to a muscular block…  She has had me and Priscilla worried sick as you could imagine.  The good news is she is out of hospital now but she wasn’t able to keep anything down for over a week due to this stomach problem, pyloric stenosis.

This is more common in boys and I was later to learn that this is what I had as a baby myself, which I only found out due to them asking if anyone else in the family had had this as it is hereditary thing.  I’ve had a scar on my stomach since I was little but never really knew what it was for, only that I was told I was sick as a baby and had to have an operation.  It never even crossed my mind that it had anything to do with this.  We both thought that she just not well and that’s why Denise wasn’t keeping her food down.

My final amazing tale in this blog repeats an old complaint: paediatricians and ped surgeons who simply will not listen to the parents of a baby vomitting itself to death – “because all babies sick up” and “because all new parents worry too much”.  Until finally one day, sometimes after weeks or even months of desperation, somebody does listen.  In Martha’s very obvious case, the process only took several hours when it should have been instantaneous.

Several vomitting episodes and hours later, I explained to my pediatrician’s partner that I knew what the problem was: pyloric stenosis.  I had it, as did my mother, my oldest brother, my great-grandfather, and two cousins.  This is a hardening of the valve leading from the stomach which prevents digestion, enlarges the stomach, and causes projectile vomitting.

The doctor told me that it can be difficult for a “new mother” to tell spit up and vomitting apart (would he like to see my sheets?).

2 thoughts on “Some telling stories around infant surgery

  1. wendy williams

    Great stories!!! It’s so heartening to hear other people’s tales. I am a ps survivor and the only other one I know personally is Fred! Thank you for introducing me to the stories of others. I feel, of course, an immediate connection. I almost feel as if I’m family with those who’ve struggled. Certainly, I feel a great warmth toward the survivors and their families. My world has expanded.

  2. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    Many of us with very early surgery in our personal story feel a kinship: we understand some of each other’s thoughts and feelings about having had this experience, especially if our surgery was not the end of that chapter. It’s great that today we can share our joys at being survivors as well as the pain that has accompanied it for some (or many?) of us.


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