“Be genuinely kind and have empathy for those in need”: My father’s words to me…personified by my wife, Dr. Karen Choong.
February 4, 2019
My wife is many things to me, but in this instance, she is my inspiration. This is a Facebook post from Mme. Manchisi descibing her son's harrowing ordeal and her encounter with my graceful, intelligent, organized, thoughtful and incredibly beautiful wife . P
Mme Manchisi is doing a facebook thing where she posts something she is grateful for every day for the month of December and today she was grateful for… YOU! You were attending when her son (Matteo Reyes) experienced complications following chemo. Here is what she posted on Facebook:
“Today’s moment of grateful reflection recounts the worst night of my life; the night Matteo almost died. There are two people in particular to whom I am forever indebted for saving Matteo’s life. I can remember every endless second leading up to the introduction of his first saviour the morning of May 25th 2017. I woke at around 3am to Matteo’s obscure whimpering of my name. I don’t know how I heard him, his voice was barely a whisper, but I suppose I was already on edge since he was discharged from inpatient treatment less than 24hrs before and I was not sleeping at ease as he was not doing well 10 days into treatment. When I walked into his room he was having a full blown seizure. His body continued to shake as John and I placed him in recovery position, called 911 and, despite being terrified, did everything in our power to calmly reassure him that he would be ok as he stuttered over and over “Mom, I don’t want to die….”. I could immediately tell that he wasn’t febrile and so I logically scoured through my mental roladex of all the research that his oncologist had presented to me that I had dutifully memorized. I knew every side effect for every chemo that he had ingested in the last 10 days and was racking my brain as it drew a blank – “seizure” was an unforeseen symptom. I can recall the details of the next few hours; the seemingly slow motion actions, confusion and helpless facial expressions (that I desperately scrutinized for answers) of every paramedic, doctor and nurse that I encountered at Milton District hospital before being transported to Mac. I felt so helpless and my gut and experience told me that this was way out of their league. The emergency on-call doctor looked petrified as I desperately presented her with my momcology binder of Matteo’s medical notes and documentation. I remember being taken aback by my own calmness as I whispered to the doc that I noticed that he had lost function of his left side. “No, I don’t think so”, she tried to assure me sheepishly. “Yes” I insisted, “where’s our transport?!” I instantly recognized the frantic desperation of the doctor called to emergency transport Matteo to McMaster as he didn’t have his shoes on as he exited his car to jump into the ambulance to ride along with us. I remember staring down at his white tube socks and thinking “Holy f$%k….this cancer shit just got real”. By the time we were rolled into the emergency ward at McMaster the PICU team was waiting for us and Matteo was screaming in pain that his head was going to explode. It was then that I met her. Before we rolled in she already had all her ducks in a row. She was ready for us. She knew all his meds and history. She was not going to let Matteo die on her watch. She was little but feisty – the well respected general of her army. For the next few hours and days she did not leave our side. She spoke to her colleagues in a stern voice using foreign medical hieroglyphics. Somehow during her verbal rampage of orders she managed to simultaneously check every monitor and cord while still being present and human with Matteo and I. She encouraged me to sing to Matteo and continue speaking to him as he moved in and out of consciousness. She had a plan of attack. Finally I was convinced- this woman knows what she’s doing and if anybody was going to save Matteo it would be her. #girlpower. She maintained her authoritative command constantly checking and scrutinizing to ensure her colleagues had played out every medical order she had given as we rolled into the CT scan. She continued glancing at me softly and holding my arm with such genuine compassion. Not only was this woman a medical marvel who was going to save my son but she was stunningly beautiful, impeccably dressed and kind hearted . Later I would learn that the Tesla in the parking garage was hers. #girlpower. I would also come to realize that it is completely possible for a happily married heterosexual woman to develop a girl crush on her son’s female doctor. (🤫don’t tell John) i mean how can you not fall in love with the person who is saving your child’s life! It’s a no brainer! I’ll spare you all the details of her tireless mission to diagnose Matteo’s brain bleed (alongside a superhero neurosugeon) and ensure his safe recovery as we spent the next 10 days in ICU after his emergency craniotomy. She continued to take my breath away with her calm precision and expertise. She explained to me that Matteo had a large brain clot that was a rare reaction to one of the chemos he had on day 4 of treatment. The clot had hemorrhaged into the right side of his brain and his brain was slowly being shifted as the blood filled his head. There was only a 4% chance that this side effect could happen and less than 1% chance that the clot would be cerebral – apparently so rare that it wasn’t in the notes presented to parents-hence missing in my mental roladex. Her confidence and proactive, polished approach to Matteo’s treatment gave me hope….. she saved my heart. I am forever grateful that the esteemed Karen Choong – head of the Critical Care Intensive Care Unit for the Department of Pediatrics at McMaster’s Children’s Hospital – was the doctor in charge on the night that my son could have died. Thanks to her he didn’t️️️