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Caring for and touched by a suffering baby
By CHANNIE SAURAJEN
All the passages below are taken from the book, “We speak of God,” published by the Barker Road Methodist Church in 2001.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 NIV)
OUR son, Zachary Shen Kai Saurajen, lived for a brief nine and a half months. Although his life was short and mostly filled with physical pain and suffering, God used him to touch and change many lives, especially mine.
Zachary was born on 28 September 1998 by an emergency Caesarean section. During a routine pre-natal check up, our obstetrician discovered Zachary was in foetal distress. His brain was filled with fluid, his heart rate was over 250 and his gut area grossly enlarged. After his delivery, doctors at KK Hospital warned my husband that Zachary's prognosis was not good. Apparently Zachary was born blue, with severe heart failure and was on the verge of dying.
Zachary's illness came as a tremendous shock to my husband and me. The pregnancy was uneventful and all check ups had shown the baby to be well. However, throughout the whole of the pregnancy I was under tremendous stress from work and family problems. I was not a true Christian then and did not turn to our Heavenly Father. Instead, I tried to face those problems with my own strength.
Caring for Zachary was nerve wrecking. Feeding time was an exhausting struggle for us and for our poor baby. Due to his liver problem, Zachary's body could not absorb fats and nutrients readily. He had difficulty sucking and would vomit easily, which aggravated his heart condition. We tried feeding him by spoon, with special teats, special bottles ... all to no avail.
What was even more worrying was getting the correct medical advice. The doctors could not arrive at a diagnosis of Zachary's condition or the cause of his problems, which made treating him extremely difficult.
Some time in March 1999, we discovered that Zachary's heart had developed another problem: a defective valve. I was devastated and angry. Zachary was also not gaining weight. The doctors advised us to feed him through a tube inserted into his nose. That night, a back flow of milk caused Zachary's lungs to collapse. He arrived at the hospital clinically dead, with no heartbeat. The doctors managed to save him but warned us that he was now brain-damaged.
My husband and I were stunned, devastated and crazed by the news. Why was God doing this? Why was He allowing this poor baby to suffer endlessly? Did He not say in the Bible that He loved us all? We were on an emotional rollercoaster, alternating between hope and despair. We tried everything, saw many doctors, and spoke to world-renowned specialists overseas and prayed... sometimes asking for healing and sometimes asking for God to take our little son to Him. It didn't seem fair. We were good people and yet God had deserted us. We felt helpless, lost and very alone as we struggled on.
The period from this event until Zachary's passing in July was the bleakest and darkest for us. It was also a time of great spiritual transformation for myself and many with us. Zachary's physical body started to deteriorate before our very eyes. His earlier drinking problems became a nightmare. Besides vomiting, his stomach would get bloated, which made him uncomfortable and affected his heart and breathing. A simple task of changing his diapers became a life and death situation because his lungs would collapse when we lifted his legs.
Constipation also set in. Zachary's body was constantly suffering from infections. Fevers became a common occurrence, which meant making trips to the hospital routine. Zachary's heart rate also began to climb and did not slow down while he was asleep. This meant that his heart was constantly overworked. His body started to turn from yellow to green and became very hairy all over. Most frightening and heart-breaking for us was to see him suffer from his epileptic fits.
We didn't know where God was taking us. Watching Zachary deteriorate and suffer before our eyes whilst walking in faith and clinging to God's promises was not easy... we could not understand how any god who loved his children would let them suffer this way.
While Zachary was in NUH's ICU, God spoke to me through another family who eventually lost their three-year old son to pneumonia. The boy's bed was next to Zachary's and we became friends with the boy's parents. A week after the parents accepted Christ, their son died.
I remember standing there in the ICU one afternoon staring at the boy as he fought for his life. At that moment God touched my heart and spoke to me. I suddenly felt this urgent and desperate need to accept Christ. I wanted to repent of my sins and my past, to beg for forgiveness and to be cleansed. I wanted a new life and knew that only by accepting Jesus as my Saviour, Lord and Redeemer could I embark on this road. After I accepted Christ, the road became even harder.
Zachary was barely clinging on to life. His breathing was badly affected by his grossly enlarged abdomen. His oxygen intake was at dangerously low levels and he experienced over six collapses. Yet we continued praying and hanging on to God's promises. I prayed asking God what He wanted me to do for Zachary. Each time the reply was for me to love Zachary; this was extremely difficult because as his mother I wanted to fix his problem, make him better at whatever cost. I wanted to exchange my life with his so that Zachary wouldn't need to suffer. But God's instruction was very simple: just love him. I felt so helpless as I struggled to obey. There were so many times that I cried, wanting so badly to fix whatever problems Zachary was facing.
A couple of weeks before Zachary passed away, I reluctantly went for a healing ministry session at Wesley Methodist Church. I had been suffering from a headache on the left side for three days and none of the painkillers I had taken worked. I was sitting at the back of the church, far away from the pulpit, but fifteen minutes into the service, I realised that my headache had disappeared. I did not give this much thought.
Suddenly, for about half an hour, the left side of my body, especially around my shoulders and head, felt gloriously warm. There was a sensation of much joy and happiness that had nothing to do with human happiness.
I realised that God was speaking to me and giving me the very physical evidence of His presence that I wanted in my heart but did not dare ask for in my prayers. There and then I knew that Zachary would be all right. We always thought Zachary was suffering tremendously but God now showed me that although Zachary looked terribly ill, He was comforting Zachary and that was all right. I was not to worry.
From that day on, I was more at peace. I started to pray for God to take Zachary home and asked God to allow Zachary to die peacefully. However, Zachary's lungs continued to collapse and, with each episode, I became more frightened and depressed. I also began to wonder why God was not yet taking him home. On the day of my birthday, Zachary had a major collapse. I was totally shaken. My husband and I had a late lunch and we cried at the NUH canteen. Why was God allowing Zachary to continue in his suffering?
Suddenly, the phone rang. It was the mother whose son had passed away the week before. She asked about us and I told her honestly that it was a terrible day for us. My husband and I met with her at the hospital lobby and we spoke for over an hour. God used this mother to speak to us.
My husband and I realised that God was not taking Zachary home because we were not letting him go. We were Zachary's parents and our Heavenly Father would not just yank Zachary from us. He wanted my husband and I to release our son.
My husband had always told Zachary to hang on, to be brave and strong and not to be a quitter. That evening we went back to the ward and told Zachary that we loved him very much. We also told him that there was nothing wrong with letting go. We told him to trust and obey God and that Jesus would bring him home. He could choose. If he wanted to go home to God now, it would be all right and we would be happy for him.
The next morning at about 11:45, Zachary passed away very peacefully. Our Heavenly Father had promised and delivered. We had over four hours with Zachary that morning. Our families, friends and loved ones gathered around him telling him how much we loved him. My husband and I also told him that God loves him, much more than we can ever love him and that Jesus is his best friend. Zachary left with much peace; he looked like he was sleeping in my arms.
After he left us, the verse from 2 Timothy 4:7,8 came to my mind and we used it for his obituary: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
This verse summed up Zachary's time with us and God's purpose for him. My little son had remained faithful and fully obedient to us and to our Heavenly Father despite his own physical suffering and pain. Zachary was a very brave boy, plodding on when it was easier to give up, both arms and hands bruised from the hundreds of needle pricks.
Zachary's time with us was short but it was also very fruitful and meaningful. Through Zachary, we made many wonderful Christian friends, some of them total strangers who cared for us, prayed for us and walked with us through the dark days. These were people we would not have met if it were not for Zachary. They are now our close friends---wonderful, true friends that God had sent to us. We were also much comforted by God's pastors, church workers and many members of BRMC.
Through Zachary, my in-laws also accepted Christ. God used a little baby to touch them. Through Zachary, God brought the liver disease cause to the attention of many and the Zachary Liver Fund was established to further God's work for many other children suffering from liver diseases.
Although it was our wish, hope and desire for Zachary to grow up with us, it was God's will that he should return home after nine and a half months. Our greatest comfort is knowing that our Heavenly Father loves Zachary much more than we ever can, and that one day we shall be together forever in the wonderful home God has promised us.
Our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us and we have to truly trust and obey Him and focus our walk on our Lord Jesus. We underwent tremendous stress, pain and suffering as a family but God's mercy, grace, compassion, blessing and provision abounded even more. My husband and I are still married today not because of our own human efforts, but because of God's bountiful grace. He truly is the Living, Sovereign God; apart from Him there is no other.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)
Channie is a homemaker and she is married to Dr. Adrian Saurajen. They worship at the 8.30am service. On 20 June 2000, God blessed the Saurajens with a healthy baby boy---Sanders Zachary Saurajen. [59-67]
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