Our daughter Ashlyne was born on Tuesday, 15 May 2007, at Parkway East Hospital (formerly known as Eastshore Hospital).
Two hours after she was born, a nurse who was doing a routine check during her rounds noticed that Ashlyne’s breathing was unusually shallow. Upon advice from the nurse, Ashlyne was sent back to the nursery for further checks.
After another two hours, I was informed that our new infant had been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and the pediatrician would need to see me immediately.
The doctor showed me an X-ray of Ashlyne’s chest and stomach area. From the X-ray, I noticed that her heart was positioned slightly off-centre to the right. Also, her lungs appeared mostly white/light grey in colour, indicating poor oxygen intake; while the white space below her stomach reflected the absence of her intestines. The doctor went on to explain that Ashlyne had a condition called “congenital diaphragmatic hernia.” There was a hole in her diaphragm, about the size of an old fifty-cent coin. This meant that whenever she breathed, the negative pressure on the stomach would cause her intestines to be ‘sucked’ through that hole and occupy the upper cavity behind her lungs. At the time of check, her small and large intestines had apparently ‘moved up’ behind her lungs, which further caused her heart to be ‘pushed’ to the right side slightly. This also resulted in the inability of the lungs to expand fully, which explained the shallow breathing detected earlier by the nurse.
Subsequently, the doctor advised that Ashlyne be transferred to KK Hospital for an emergency operation. Arrangements for the hospital transfer were immediately activated. It was almost 8pm that night, just barely 6 hours after she was born. I was literally lost for words.
As I made my way back to the maternity ward silently, my mind was flooded with questions and emotions. “Why, Lord?”; “How can this be?”; “Did we not pray faithfully for nine months during my wife’s pregnancy?”; “Did we not – as cell leaders and “long-time Christians” share and teach others on how God heals and that He is our Healer?”; “Did we not witness His healing and grace in ourselves and in others?”; “Why is this happening?”
As I paused for a moment outside my wife’s ward, a relative came by and I shared with him what I had just witnessed. He then took me aside and we prayed by the staircase. It was during this prayer time that I came to the place of surrender, where I committed to the Lord – that if it was His will for Ashlyne to live, then I trusted that He would heal her and she would indeed live; but if this is not to be, I would still bless His name. I was not resigning to “fate”, rather I was expressing and putting my trust in God in the best way I knew how.
"Did we not pray faithfully for nine months during my wife's pregnancy?" "Did we not - as cell leaders and "long-time Christians" share and teach others on how God heals and that He is our Healer?", "Did we not witness His healing and grace in ourselves and in others?, "Why is this happening?"
After prayer, I felt a quiet sense of peace, and decided to break the news to my wife Ee Von. But the Lord prompted me to shield her from specific details so that she would not get overly worried or depressed. More importantly, I wanted her to know just enough details for us to know how to pray, and to be able to effectively join our faith in the Lord as a couple. After all, I figured that I would have ample time after this episode to share with her the full details. We started praying, and activating our families, friends and prayer networks we knew of to intercede for our dear baby girl. Friends and church prayer networks from as far as Canada were in prayer alongside us.
That same night when I reached KKH with Ashlyne, the surgeon and pediatrician briefed me on the next steps. The surgeon explained that most babies with this condition would typically take 14-21 days to recover after surgery. However, the new key-hole surgery method – which he proposed – had allowed the first baby in Singapore (who went through this method) with the same condition to recover in just seven days. Ashlyne would then be the second baby in Singapore to try this method. Not much of a comfort for me, really. However, at that point, I had a sudden burst (or gift) of faith, and declared to the surgeon, “No! My daughter will fully recover in three days!” The surgeon chuckled, and my dad (who was together with me, and who was a pre-believer then) scolded me for making such a declaration.
Truth be told, there were significant risks involved as this was a major surgery and Ashlyne was hardly even a day old. The surgeon proceeded with more MRI scans and decided to reschedule the surgery to the next morning. There was also the possibility of her lungs being damaged up to 80%, which had subsequent implications even if the surgery was successful. Besides this, there was the concern of the medical bills. I had to make a payment of about $17,000-19,000 upfront to cover the cost of the surgery and medical follow-up for a period of 14 days. Eventually, I made an initial partial payment of $5,000 using my credit card.
The following day the situation amazingly started to look better. The surgery was expected to take four hours, but the surgeon completed it in just two hours! The whole process had been very smooth. Praise God! After that, my wife and I started to prepare our home for the return of our newborn – as a demonstration of our faith in God.
After the surgery was over, three things had to be checked: the degree of damage to Ashlyne’s lungs, her ability to breathe without a breathing aid, and her ability to process food and clear her bowels.
On Saturday morning, 19 May 2007− the third day after the surgery, the hospital called us at about 10 am, to inform us that Ashlyne was ready to be discharged! Glory to God! In their checks, they found that her lungs were fully functioning, she was able to breathe on her own and she was able to clear her bowels smoothly after each feed. All praise and glory to Jesus, our Lord!
To top it off, after I completed the hospital discharge for Ashlyne, I was given a refund of slightly over $700 in hospital bills (from the initial $5,000 I paid) since she was discharged ahead of the expected recovery period. God is so good and gracious indeed!
And so, true to the word that I received from God, Ashlyne returned home on the third day.
Today, our firstborn is 10 years old, and she is well known for her loud, strong voice (strong lungs − yes). She has been serving our Lord in various areas of ministry since she was five years old. Indeed, no words can express our gratitude to our Lord Jesus for His faithfulness and mercy on Ashlyne’s life.
Looking back, these are the lessons that my wife and I (along with our families and friends) learnt:
God is real! He sees, hears and knows all! He hears all our prayers!
For our faith in the Lord to be firm, strong and to grow, our faith needs to be exercised, and so we will be tested.
When we surrender completely to our Lord and are willing to put our full trust in Him, in His goodness, regardless of the outcome, He honours this and will reveal His glory to us.
It is of paramount importance to connect and stay connected to our Lord – individually and as a family. In God’s presence, we will find fullness of joy, peace, strength, wisdom, guidance and empowerment. He is the great I AM, our All in All!
All glory, honour, praise to Jesus Christ, our great, mighty and loving Lord!
Aaron Tan, his wife Ee Von and their two daughters Ashlyne and Alyson worship at RiverLife Church, where he serves as full-time staff. The Tans are fond of doing things together as a family — cycling, preparing meals, story-telling, playing board games, travelling either on church mission or family trips.