Supporting Each Other in a Health Crisis
Richelle and Joel, from the UK, were so excited to be expecting their first child, a baby boy. What they didn’t foresee was the health crisis they would face soon after his birth.
Supporting Each Other in a Health Crisis
Myrtle Alegado: A health or medical crisis can have a significant impact on any marriage, but perhaps even more-so for newlyweds. You’re still finding your footing early on in your marriage, so how do you ensure you support each other enough to help each other get through this ordeal? We’ll find out about Joel and Richelle’s experience in today’s episode.
Welcome to Happy Life, a podcast brought to you by INC Media Audio that aims to help newlyweds navigate through the first years of marriage. I’m your host, Myrtle Alegado, and I’ve been married to my husband, Paul, since 1999. Later, we’ll hear some Bible-based advice through Brother Felmar Serreno, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ.
Myrtle: Because the topic of discussion today is an extremely sensitive one, and I know it may be difficult to talk about, I am so appreciative of Richelle and Joel, from London, who are here to chat with me today. Welcome to the Happy Life podcast, Joel and Richelle.
Joel Dela Cruz: Hello.
Richelle Dela Cruz: Hi. Hi, Myrtle. How are you?
Myrtle: I’m good. How are things over there, over the pond?
Joel: We’re good. Thank you very much. Thank you for having us.
Myrtle: So you two have been married for how long now?
Joel: Coming up to three years in September.
Myrtle: Oh, wow! Congratulations. So, now tell me about finding out that you were expecting your baby boy, Noah.
Joel: So, we weren’t really planning. We just left it up to God and if He blessed us with a child, He blessed us. So, we weren’t really actively trying to have a baby or conceive at the time.
Richelle: Yeah, so you can say that we were surprised when we found out. Actually I was the first one who found out. I realized it because that day, it was during the pandemic, and I was working from home and I don’t usually eat junk food. But I realized I finished, like, a bag of crisps, or chips for America. I finished a whole bag and then I looked at it and I was like, “What’s happening?” And then I messaged him, I was like, “Can you actually buy a test?” and when he came home, I tested and we actually filmed ourselves. And yeah, we were really surprised. We were really scared. It’s something that we didn’t expect, and we felt we weren’t ready for it at that time.
Myrtle: But it was God’s perfect time, right? [laughs]
Joel and Richelle: Yes.
Myrtle: And what was your pregnancy like?
Richelle: So my pregnancy went very well, if I can say that. Every stage of my pregnancy, from the moment that we found out that we were pregnant, to finding out the gender, up to the due date, we tried everything that we could to prepare ourselves. So, not just physically for me, mentally, and even more so spiritually. We held our devotional prayers, and I did some exercises as much as I could, tried to eat healthily.
Myrtle: So up until the delivery, was everything pretty normal with your pregnancy?
Joel: Yeah, as she mentioned, everything was normal. The way Richelle planned to have a natural birth, water birth to be specific.
Richelle: Here in the U.K., we have a good kind of support system as well, with a midwife. So every time I would go for my appointment, they checked everything and also we talked about my birth plan. They knew what we wanted to do, if in case something would happen, and they were informed of what we wanted to opt for if something like that would happen.
Myrtle: So at this point, this is where the story does take a turn. I know that you did not have your ideal water birth. Can you tell us what happened during the delivery?
Joel: It started early morning, because around 1am or so where she actually was able to start pushing. So, past the contractions, and actually being admitted, and being able to go into the water and start pushing. At that time, she was trying for a good few hours. It was only when there was a switch between the midwives, where the next midwife decided to check and see if it was okay. So they got out of the water, and that’s when they discovered that her water didn’t actually break just yet. And then when they broke it there was a lot of meconium, which is basically the baby’s poop, that he inhaled. And that’s when they decided to rush her to the birthing center.
Richelle: At this point, I think I was in labor for more than 24 hours, right?
Joel: Something like that.
Richelle: Or 26 hours. So it’s like the next day already, and at the last minute when they found that there was meconium, you know, I was kind of heightened in terms of the labor stage. So I just remember being carried, they put me on a wheelchair, and they transferred me. So I was in the birth center. So from the birth center, they transferred me to the labor ward, and that’s where all the doctors and all the medical facilities are, and I just remember being rushed. I laid on the bed. Within a minute, I have all of these like wires attached to me and then, you know, they were asking me to push already. And there [were] maybe five people around and they were kind of in panic.
Joel: Yeah, no, I think there was a slight delay from when they got her in, because it was early morning and it was during that switch of nurses and midwives and doctors. And I think at that moment, every minute counts or every kind of second counted at that point, especially because they didn’t know how distressed the baby was. As soon as she had her next contractions they asked her to push and go for it, or else if she didn’t do it after I think one or two tries, they were going to go straight to C-section. But because the baby was quite far down already, that even would be quite risky.
Richelle: Yeah, I just remember being in so much pain. At that time I was already fully dilated and I didn’t have any painkillers at all. I think I just had [laughing] gas, but they asked me to stop with it because I was already inhaling too much. So if you could imagine, I had to quickly give birth to Noah to try to save his life. And at the same time I remember thinking to myself, I just want this to be over with. It was just the most painful thing for me. And I remember when Noah came out, I only held him for a second, right? They had to quickly take him away from me.
Joel: Yeah, so as soon as he came out, they literally put him [in] Chelle’s arms. They asked me to cut the cord straightaway, but then they realized. Then they took the baby straightaway, put off to the side, wiped off all the meconium that was on the baby, and then they began to suction out his windpipes for all the meconium, and then start doing basically the revival process, which we didn’t know at the time. But that’s what they were doing, rushing around. There’s more equipment coming in, there [were] the ICU trays coming in on wheels, and things like that.
Myrtle: So you weren’t fully aware of how much in distress he was at that time I guess. But can you try to explain what Noah’s complications were at birth?
Joel: So at birth, they originally just thought it was meconium aspiration, but when they got him into the ICU did a few more tests. Because it’s such a trial and error thing at that age, you can’t ask the baby what’s wrong, they have to try everything to see which one his body [will] react to. So they tried different drugs. They started doing everything they can. They had cannulas in every single part of his body that they could get into, both arms, legs, bellybutton, feet. Literally anywhere they could put up a cannula in they did. I think their main concern was that his blood pressure was constantly dropping in and out, his heart rate was dropping. They deemed him to have multiple organ dysfunction, mainly the lungs and the heart. They didn’t know what to do really at that point. They had a lot of concerns. They were calling different consultants in. They even started to speak to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is a specialist child hospital in the U.K., one of the top hospitals, for advice on what to do too.
Richelle: To list what the doctors had advised us, his complications were: meconium aspiration syndrome, liver failure, thrombosis of vessels, metabolic acidosis, metabolic disorder, suspected sepsis and acute kidney injury.
Myrtle: I mean, that’s a pretty long list, so it must have been shocking to hear all of that. And then how did he react with all the medications and drugs that they were giving him?
Joel: When they began with the various drugs, he got to a point at Chelsea hospital where he was at literally [the] maximum care that they could give him. There’s nothing more they can do to try and save Noah. Great Ormond Street suggested that they have a procedure called ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation]. The way they described it to me is that it’s similar to a heart lung bypass where they would take out the blood from Noah and they would re-oxidize it and pump it back into the body. So it takes on the function of the heart and lungs, but it’s not a permanent solution. It’s to allow the heart and lungs to recover from everything that’s happened and heal.
Myrtle: So he was on that machine and then I’m sure for such a young, small, baby that must have been kind of risky as well.
Richelle: Yes, it was very risky. Actually the doctor in Great Ormond Street, he told us that was his only chance of surviving basically. So they’ve tried giving him all the drugs, the medicines, that they could but he wasn’t reacting to it very well. And the last chance that we had was to put him on ECMO. So he was only two days old at that time. He was a small, newborn baby. So it does come with a lot of risks. The doctor sat us down, I remember that time, and he basically listed to us all the things that could go wrong. And one of them was that, because he is quite unstable and his heart was failing, his liver was failing, he had a high chance of getting a stroke or even bleeding. Because again, they will open up his artery to connect that ECMO machine and that could lead to a lot of bleeding which he was already at risk for.
Joel: Yeah, because he was on blood thinners, if I’m not mistaken, for the blood to circulate and not clot. So to get him onto that machine, he could basically bleed out anywhere and they won’t know the cause. There was loads of different risks getting to that point or even making that decision.
But even before that, the transfer to Great Ormond Street, we [weren’t] even sure if he was going to make it there, because imagine he was [at] maximum care at Chelsea. To get him into an ambulance, they have to lower that level of care and they have to also transport him, which you’re moving the baby with all that. But everything was timed perfectly, and to be honest that’s all God’s timing really. If something happened, if there was a car that blocked us, or literally every second counted at that time. And then after that in Great Ormond Street, with all the risks of even getting him on ECMO, they had to wait for him to get to a stable point before they can even operate.
Richelle: We had to wait for a long time.
Joel: Yeah, we had to wait for quite a while for him to just even get to that point where they said, “Okay, let’s do it. Now is our window. Let’s go. It’s now or never.”
Richelle: Yeah, at that time it was already past midnight. We hadn’t had any sleep or food, but that was the last thing on our minds really. For me, I couldn’t even sleep. We were so tired. But I remember, as soon as the doctors left, we offered a prayer to God. You know, we had nothing else to do really, but to pray for a miracle, because it was literally out of our hands. You know, we had to trust that God will use the doctors, the surgeons, as His instruments to save our son, because that’s all we could hold on to—God’s power and His mercy—that hopefully we’ll still see our son after the surgery.
But yeah thankfully, I think after five hours, five, six hours at this time, the doctors came in with the surgeons and I remember them saying, “It was a success.” And that was the first time actually that I just cried my heart out. I’ve never felt so much relief ever in my life, after hearing those words. He was saying a few things about the surgery, how it went, but in my mind I was just praying, and crying, and thanking God. For me that was again another miracle that God performed.
Joel: They also said good things but they also mentioned that, before when he was on ECMO, slim to none was his survival ratings to now 50/50 pretty much, or just below 50% he mentioned. Those were the odds that doctors can give, but I mean in our hearts we entrust to God and no matter how slim the chances are, it’s all in God’s hands really at that point.
Myrtle: You know, I can’t even imagine how scary and nerve wracking those first moments and hours were for both of you. I mean, you’re newlyweds and now you have a newborn baby in the NICU or neonatal intensive care unit. How did you try to support one another and what were the first few hours, or you know, days or even weeks like?
Joel: It’s quite hard to describe it. Everything merged into one big survival mode of what I need to do to just get through this moment, get through the second. During the day you normally think of hours, or minutes, or how long until work finishes. But in those moments, it was literally every second mattered. Something was happening every single second, hands were moving, people were moving. Within those 24 to 48 hours, there [were] a lot of things that happened, and I think my body anyway kicked into just survival mode, and just going with what your body intends to do basically, and it just kept moving.
Richelle: For me, the first 24 hours were a bit different from Joel I’d say. I felt a sense of loneliness and defeat. As a first time mother, you know, seeing your child being in that condition, fighting for his life, and as a mother I couldn’t do anything. I felt like it was my fault. I carried Noah for nine months, I gave birth to him, and he wasn’t okay. And I didn’t know what to do at that time.
Also, because all of these happened during COVID, and due to the restrictions in the hospital, I didn’t have my family or friends around me. And even Joel, he could only stay with me at the hospital until 6pm, and most of the things that kind of happened to Noah happened at night after 6pm.
I remember during that day, we didn’t even tell our family I was in labor, so they didn’t know that I was actually giving birth to Noah. And we wanted to surprise them, you know. I had this image in my mind that I would just show Noah’s face and then surprise [them] kind of thing. But again, that didn’t happen according to what we planned. Obviously they asked me, “Where’s baby?” And I remember I couldn’t even answer. I was just crying to them because, you know, I had to tell them, “Baby’s not here. He’s in NICU. He’s not with me.”
So after you give birth, here at least in the U.K., you’re put into a ward with all the other mums who just gave birth. And there is no room, you’re just separated by curtains basically. So all night, all I could hear [were] newborn babies, and they were crying, they were cooing, you know. And then all the mums figuring out how to feed their baby. And I remember just sitting there alone, just crying, because you know I was praying I was like, “God, I’d rather be struggling right now, trying to figure out how to deal with a new baby, than sit here alone without my baby.” That really broke my heart.
I don’t think I told Joel this actually. Yeah, because every hour, the midwife would also come to me just to check if everything is okay. And I remember the look on their faces when they would open the curtain and I was by myself. And they would ask me, “Are you okay?” And then all I could say was, “Yeah, I’m okay,” but I’d be crying at the same time. You know, that was really hard for me. It was already late at night. You know, I tried my best not to disturb anyone else. So it was really just me by myself, just going through all the emotions I could feel. And especially postpartum, to all the mums out there who [have] been through that, you know, your emotions can be wild even after you give birth. Isn’t it?
Myrtle: You’re a hormonal wreck. It’s, like, so emotional, everything makes you cry. So I can’t even imagine, honestly, Chelle, how you were just by yourself and feeling so isolated. My heart, it just goes out to you for what you went through.
Richelle: I still wanted to see my baby. So I actually forced myself to stand up and walk to the neonatal ward just to see him, even though I was still in so much pain. You know, I just gave birth a few hours before that. Just going to [the] NICU and seeing my newborn baby with so many cables around him, he had a tube through his nose and he was breathing with a machine, that was really hard for me to see. His body was so small and, you know, it’s a sight I wish no mothers would see.
Joel: Yeah. When I did come back, the only thing that we could do together is just try to be there for each other. And because of COVID, we weren’t allowed to both be in [there] next to Noah. So we had to take turns at that time, which is very difficult. I can speak for parents that if your child is in a condition where you can’t do anything about it, you just see them there and you can’t do anything, it is heartbreaking. We just tried to comfort each other. We prayed every time that we were together or we felt overwhelmed. We would pray and that would calm us down and calm our nerves. We just poured our hearts in prayer really, whatever we could think of. We left the decision of what happens to Noah up to our Almighty God. And we just promised that no matter what happens, we will continue to be faithful and continue to serve Him come what may.
Richelle: Yeah, and during those first 24 hours or even 48 hours, we would always receive bad news.
Joel: Yeah, we would always hear, “He could go at any moment. Please be ready. His blood pressure is unstable.” They tried to manage our expectations. They were saying they were giving him all the best care and medication. He’s not taking it well. But between Richelle and I, all we could do is trust in our Almighty God.
Richelle: At that moment, we already expected for us to be staying in the hospital longer than planned. So Joel went home and got our stuff. All throughout the night, I was just by Noah’s side. And I remember, the nurses and the doctors, they were forcing me to go back to my bed. But they reassured me that they would call me again if they ever needed me, and so I went back to my bed.
And it only took 10 minutes. I didn’t even get to sleep. One of the doctors, who told me that they will call me, physically went to my room and asked me to go to see Noah. And obviously seeing the doctor, physically coming to me, my mind was already in a panic mode. I was already expecting the worst. And then when I got to [the] NICU and saw Noah again, there were about 10 doctors running around. They were talking amongst each other, they were getting all the equipments, and one of the doctors approached me.
I remember the look on his face, and he told me to call Joel and ask him to go to the hospital and he told me, “Just prepare.” That’s all he said. And I remember seeing all the machines, they were beeping loudly. I saw flashes of red, all the stats were going red. You know, I knew something was wrong. At that moment, they haven’t told me yet. You know, just looking at the doctor’s face, I knew at that moment that I could possibly lose my son any moment now.
So I called my dad and I cried hysterically. I remember being in the hallway, and I was just on the phone with my dad and I was just really crying out loud. And I was like, “I’m going to lose Noah. I’m going to lose my son. What do I do?” You know, I felt so defeated and helpless. And I remember my dad telling me on the phone, you know, “Just pray. Just place your trust in God. Anything can happen. He can make the impossible possible. So just pray.”
You know, and after a while that calmed me down. All the nurses ushered me back to my bed. And when I was left alone again, I prayed again, because that’s all we could do at that moment. You know, I really knew nothing else but to seek God’s comfort. I was begging him to just ease my pain.
Joel was really supportive of me. He really was my rock at that time. I went through severe depression and although I did try to suppress it, I wanted to seem strong. So I tried my best to really suppress whatever I was feeling, but it was really hard for me. But Joel kept reminding me of the good things that were happening, and we both made sure that our spirits were up whenever one of us seemed down. And I would say the whole experience made us even closer to each other.
Myrtle: My heart really does hurt for you both and what you went through. As a mother myself, Richelle, I can’t even fathom what your pain must have been like. But, you know, after all of these hours of being in the NICU and hearing the machine and whatnot, can you share what happened next?
Joel: A lot happened within the first week after he was put on ECMO. We managed to get him offered and anointed with oil. I felt calm after that moment, and I believe that’s a manifestation of God’s love. And the fact that we put our faith and our trust in Him, He really put us at ease at that point. We knew and we both understood that whatever happens next, it’s up to our Almighty God, and we were both very thankful and grateful for whatever would happen next really.
Richelle: I remember the nurses were telling us, Joel and I, how we both looked happy when we were in the hospital. Do you remember that?
Joel: They always said, “How are you guys so calm? How are you guys so relaxed about this?”
Richelle: Yeah, I think after he was anointed and offered, we literally were so calm. You know, we even celebrated his first week. We were so happy that he actually reached one week. We were over the moon. We wanted to thank all the nurses that were taking care of Noah at that time. My brother and sister-in-law, they have a cake business. So I asked my sister-in-law and my brother to make them cakes in a cup, because it was still during COVID. So we had to give it individually. And it had like a little thank you note from Noah, you know, thanking them for taking care of Noah. At that time, he was still unconscious. He wasn’t moving yet but, you know, we felt happy because he was really stable. He was the most stable he could [be] at that time. We were beyond ecstatic, because we felt that God blessed us with not just a day but a week with him, which was more than what we prayed for every day. By the grace of God, after six weeks, Noah got to come home with us and he recovered around 10 weeks after that.
Myrtle: I’m so happy to hear that. That must have been such an amazing feeling.
At this moment, I’d like to welcome back Brother Felmar Serreno, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ, to learn what to do in times of a health or medical crisis. Hello again, Brother Felmar.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Hi, Myrtle. Hi, everybody, and a big thank you to Joel and Richelle for coming out today and sharing your story. And in connection with that, we want to start our Bible-based advice today by asking the Holy Scriptures: Is it a new thing that members of the Church Of Christ face life-threatening situations?
Let’s read what the Bible says here in II Corinthians, chapter 1, the verses are 8 to 10. We’ll quote from The Message translation:
“We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.”
[II Corinthians 1:8-10 The Message]
Brother Felmar Serreno: Here we heard from Apostle Paul, a member of the Church Of Christ in the first century, who also found himself in life threatening scenarios, along with many other Christians in their time.
And what is a natural human reaction when your life is in danger? In the words of the early Christians, “It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us.” In short, they were devastated and felt like all hope was lost.
So we can understand where Richelle was coming from when she shared with us earlier how defeated she felt, even feeling like she had failed as a mother, that her heart was broken into pieces and how she was crying nonstop for her newborn whose life was hanging by a thread.
And you could say it was one of those ‘perfect storm moments’ because this family emergency happened while COVID was still very much at large. So if I remember correctly, Richelle, your parents and siblings couldn’t come see you after giving birth, right, and Joel’s visits were limited?
Richelle: Yes, that’s correct, Brother Felmar. Birth of a baby is such a momentous and joyous occasion, and normally you would celebrate that with your friends and your family. But at that moment, due to COVID restrictions, I couldn’t see my parents or siblings. They couldn’t come to the hospital, and Joel’s visits, they’re very limited. He had to go home after 6pm.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Right, so we can all just imagine how lonely Richelle felt at the time, on top of everything else.
Nevertheless, in these life-threatening scenarios or ‘perfect storm moments,’ understand that something good is meant to come from it. What’s that? Look at what Apostle Paul said here: “As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally.”
Therefore, God uses these types of trials for our learning, so that we become well-educated on the truth that the one who matters most is God. Everything else in life pales in comparison to serving God, living with God, and trusting in God. What’s one proof? Well when we, members of the Church Of Christ, are confronted by danger, or when it seems like all attempts at a solution have failed, yet who do we still keep praying to? Who do we beg even more to help us? Isn’t it God? And why is that? Because like Apostle Paul stated, “He’s the God who raises the dead.” So nothing is impossible with God.
Never forget, too, what’s stated in Job, chapter 12, verses 9 to 10, that in God’s hand is “the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” So giving life, preserving life, and saving a life is not in our hands, nor in the doctor’s hands, or in that of modern day medicine—but in God’s.
So if any of God’s faithful servants, tuning in right now, are going through a life-threatening situation—if not you yourself, maybe a loved one, similar to what Richelle and Joel experienced with their son—so what should we do?
The Bible teaches this in the book of Psalms. The chapter is 62, the verses are 5 down to 8, in the Good News Bible. We quote the following:
I depend on God alone. I put my hope in him. He alone protects and saves me; he is my defender and I shall never be defeated. My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my strong protector; he is my shelter. Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge.
[Psalm 62:5-8 Good News Bible]
Brother Felmar Serreno: Yes, our family members, physicians, medicine, can be instrumental for our betterment. But Who is it that we should truly depend on to save our life? The Bible says, “I depend on God alone. I put my hope in him. He alone protects and saves me.”
That’s why, in the Church Of Christ, we obey the teachings of God, because that’s the proof we depend on Him and trust in Him. Holding prayers and the anointing of oil, like what we heard from Joel and Richelle earlier—that’s in accordance with God’s teachings written in the Bible, along with seeking medical attention.
The truth is, even physicians and medicine are used by God as instruments for our welfare. But, does this mean that we should only turn to God when we have a problem, or in extreme cases? No, because the Bible teaches us: “Trust in God at all times…” So even when things are going well for us, we’re healthy, we’re prosperous, we must continue to trust in God by being prayerful, thankful, and obedient to His commandments and instructions.
Now before I close our spiritual advice for today, I’d like to go back to what Apostle Paul said. If you remember, after surviving the peril he and other Christians experienced in Asia, Apostle Paul exclaimed that God “…did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.” So here’s my question to Richelle and Joel: Did you feel the same way after God rescued you, especially your son?
Richelle: We believe that Noah’s survival was a miracle that God allowed us to see. And because of that, our faith has been strengthened. And it just gives us the firm hope that no matter what happens in our lives going forward, as long as we place our full trust in Him, God will never forsake us.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Well again, thank you very much to the both of you for coming out today and sharing with us your story. We hope that as your experience has strengthened your faith and given yourselves that added confidence in our Almighty God, that moving forward even if there will be other trials or problems, God will continue to rescue us. May it be that through your story, through this podcast, those tuning in also have been edified in the faith.
So thank you again to you both. Thank you to the Happy Life team. That’s all from me for today. See you all next time.
Myrtle: Thank you for joining us again on Happy Life, Brother Felmar. Those were truly very inspiring words of advice from the Bible.
So, Chelle and Joel, what kind of support did you receive from family, friends, and even fellow brethren in the Church Of Christ?
Richelle: We felt so much love, care, and compassion from our family, friends and loved ones. Due to COVID restrictions at that time, we couldn’t see everyone in person. But once we were comfortable to share the news with them, we felt such an overwhelming love from everyone. They didn’t hesitate to call us, or message us, to show their support and encouragement, which we really appreciated at that time.
Our parents, my mom and dad, they would come to the hospital after their day’s work just to give us food and to help us with our clothes, since we were staying at the hospital. And my sisters, and a few of our friends as well, came to the hospital socially-distanced. So we got to see them from afar. Every single effort that they did, to show that they were there for us, is remembered by us and we’re really thankful for that.
Joel: And even just dropping us a random message of,“Hey, how are you? How’s Noah?”—a lot of those things, we really felt love from our family and friends really at that point. And even ministers would also contact us, and one of the first ministers we actually reached out to is our district supervising minister, Brother Glenn Gomez. He was the first one, outside of our family, that we contacted to just seek advice and what we needed to do. Because one of the first things that we always knew to do was speak to your spiritual advisor. He was the one who was God’s instrument to give us the confidence and faith that we needed to face this trial.
Richelle: Also one of our other overseeing ministers here in the U.K., Brother Phillip Velasquez, he’s our overseeing minister in INC Media Services here in Europe, he was the one who offered Noah to our Almighty God. It wasn’t planned. Brother Philip was actually one of the ministers who called us.
Joel: We asked permission from Brother Glenn if it was possible to offer him because we wanted his name written in the Book of Life at that point. And if he was to pass away, who knows what would happen? That was one of the questions that we asked, and Brother Phillip called us at that point too.
Richelle: I mentioned it briefly to him that we would like to anoint Noah and offer him as well. And Brother Philip was like, “Oh, I’m free tomorrow. I don’t mind doing it. I’d like to do it.” And I was like, “Yes, yes, please.”
Joel: So we sought the permission from Great Ormond Street if they would allow it, because they weren’t allowing any external visitors or anything like that. But because he’s a minister, it’s a slightly different story where there’s exceptions in cases like Noah where he could go at any time. They allowed him to come visit the next day, which was quite fortunate for us really.
RIchelle: We actually received a message from our Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo, who directly instructed Brother Phil to anoint Noah, and to pray for him, and to offer him to our Almighty God. After succeeding bad news, that was one of the best news we could have received.
Joel: It was overwhelming. We felt so blessed, and we felt his love and care that he would go this far and he didn’t know us, and he remembered us and our family, which is another manifestation of our Almighty God’s love and guidance through the Church Administration.
Myrtle: Oh, wow. I’m sure it was so reassuring to feel that you were not alone. It must have been heartwarming. What do you think got you through those first few days and weeks?
Joel: Throughout the stay in the hospital, we managed to still worship and we still had guidance from our local resident minister, Brother Daniel Apostol. He was always there to help us too whenever we needed. And it was being able to fulfil our duties, and our primary duties of worshipping, that really put us at ease. And the worship services at that time felt so timely. They felt like our Almighty God was answering our prayers through the worship service.
Richelle: The worship service was something that we couldn’t miss despite what we were going through. You know, with God’s grace and mercy, Joel even continued to perform his duty as the local TSV, so that’s technical support for video streaming. I continued to attend our choir practices. We felt that those are the things that we couldn’t give up. Despite what we were going through, we will still continue to perform our duties and to worship God.
Joel: At that time, the Children’s Worship Service started again and I was able to perform as a teacher again. And that was a really big blessing for me to be able to teach the younger generation, and I just remember thinking that I hope one day I’ll be able to teach Noah as he grows older in the CWS too. And being able to hold on to those duties, and keeping us busy throughout those times, it really helped us get through those situations.
Richelle: Yeah, we kept ourselves busy doing the works for our Lord God, and it helped us change our focus. It helped us feel hopeful for what’s to come, especially whenever we would pray as a couple. There are times when we are given situations, such as this time, where we really cannot do anything on our own. And this experience with Noah was one of those times. And it was important for us to be able to pray to God, not only because we needed His help and His guidance during this clouded, confusing, and overwhelming time, but also to remember to thank Him.
Joel: Yeah, absolutely. Having that right and privilege to be able to pray, and know, and believe that He has heard our prayers, is such a big blessing that we would never take for granted. And we’re grateful for that right. And no matter when it is, what day, what hour, our Almighty God is always going to be there for us. And He has been there for us, especially through those moments which were probably, undoubtedly, our most troubled and darkest moments in our lives where we didn’t know what could happen.
Richelle: That’s actually one of the things that the ministers that we spoke to reminded us through, you know, the verses that they’ve read to us and through their prayers for us: that no matter what happens, as long as we place our trust in our Lord God, we need to trust that He has a better plan for us. Be it that we might lose our son, or that we get to spend more days with him, but at the end of the day whatever it is, it’s God’s will. And whatever God wills for us is always for the better.
Myrtle: How can friends best be supportive of a newlywed couple experiencing a health crisis or a medical scare?
Joel: Just being able to show your genuine care, no matter how you choose to show it, whether it be by dropping a text, or a call, or act of kindness. We had some friends that dropped us some food.
Richelle: Especially during COVID, because you can’t really physically see someone.
Myrtle: You know, even just those little quick texts like, “I’m thinking about you guys,” or “I’m here for you.” Something as simple as that, right? So what would your words of encouragement be to other newlyweds who are also experiencing a health or medical crisis?
Richelle: That they are not alone. They have a whole community behind them willing to help. Even though there are moments when you feel and think that you are alone, just remember that our Lord God is always there. He is always ready to help you and to comfort you. We have to just remember that with our Almighty God, He is Almighty. He can do everything, even the impossible.
Myrtle: Very, very true. And you know, now that Noah has turned a year old, what are you thankful for?
Joel: Thankful for many things. The fact that he’s healthy, the small wins where he gets signed off from physio, or has a checkup and they’re surprised at how much he’s progressed, that everything is good. He’s a very active baby, and you wouldn’t think that what he went through he went through really, and it makes us appreciate him even more.
Richelle: It’s such a privilege to see him grow, and we’re just really grateful for his life. We couldn’t imagine living without him, and we’re just thankful that we are in his life, he is in our lives. And we’re thankful to God, especially, for blessing him with a year full of achievements and milestones. And like what Joel said, even the small wins. Even after he was discharged we had many, many doctor’s appointments, follow up appointments. And just hearing the doctors telling us that he’s growing as he should be, achieving all these things, it just… it makes us happy and beyond grateful to our Almighty God for letting us see that. And again, it’s one of our answered prayers.
Myrtle: Spoken like the proud and thankful parents that you are. Well, Richelle and Joel, my sincerest thanks to you both for opening your hearts to us and for sharing your pain, your worries, your joy, and your gratitude with all of us.
Richelle: Thank you! Thank you for having us.
Joel: Thank you very much for having us.
Myrtle: Give Noah a hug from Auntie Myrtle please.
Joel: Will do. [laughs]
Myrtle: It’s scary when you’re faced with an unexpected medical or health crisis as newlyweds. The stress and challenging situation will definitely test you and determine how you’ll overcome it. But it’s definitely doable with a great support system and, most of all, with God by your side.
This brings us to the end of our discussion for today! To learn more about Christian relationships please visit www.incmedia.org. If you’d like to say hi, send us a question, or see who our newlywed guests are, you can visit our Instagram account: @happylife.podcast.Please also remember to share our podcast with your family and friends and all the newlyweds that you know!
Thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team. We’re so glad you joined us today, and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessings of marriage.