Thursday, 7 January 2010


Okay, so as promised, here is the story of my Oma and why she ended up spending most of our Perth holiday in hospital.

So the background of the story is that Oma has had this terrible cough for months and months now, and it has been progressively getting worse. My uncle, who is a doctor, had been chasing this up and getting her booked in for various check-ups and investigations to get to the bottom of it.

Two weeks before we left for Perth, we were told that Oma had been in for scans looking at her lungs etc. for this cough (which by the way turned out to be totally unrelated to what happened next), and they’d found something they hadn’t expected to see at all. A large growth, nestled around a major artery that runs from the heart to the leg. There was a possibility it may be cancerous. It was a bit of a blow to us all, especially considering that in the same week we also received news that one of my dad’s sisters had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and would be having a partial mastectomy while we were in W.A.

About a week before we were scheduled to leave, another phone call. My (doctor) uncle called to suggest that Papa leave early. Doctor’s had decided that the vein on which the tumour was growing made surgery to remove it too risky, and as such the had planned a biopsy, so that they could look further into treatment. By this point they had fairly well established that it was a malignant tumour. The biopsy was set to take place on Tuesday – just as we arrived in town. And there was a possibility that she wouldn’t make it through the surgery. There was also evidence of clotting, and as such Oma was a ‘walking time bomb’ as a clot at any time could travel into the heart. She was ordered to rest, with feet up at all times.

Papa left for Perth early, and my Oom Sace continued to meet with doctors and try to understand more about what was going on with Oma. Eventually, he managed a meeting with several doctors, one of whom specialises in the area of veins. After looking at scans etc. he decided that he was in fact confident that he could remove the growth entirely, and rather than doing an invasive biopsy to look at things and then decide, he would rather go in and do the one operation.  The surgery was booked for Saturday, four days after our arrival in Perth.

When we got to Perth, and got to see Oma, she was just the same Oma she had always been. She told us that it was so weird for her, as she still felt really well, the same way she had felt before any of this had happened, yet her body was so sick!

Oma was admitted to hospital on Friday night to prepare for surgery, which was scheduled at 8am the following morning. We were told that night there were three possibilities for the surgery: 1) a two hour surgery. Bad. This would mean they opened her up, and things were worse than they thought and they’d have to close her back up and go back to square one; 2) a five hour surgery. Best case. The tumour would be removed successfully, and further treatment would be looked at once the tumour was biopsied; 3) an eight or more hour surgery. Bad. Would mean that one of the kidneys had also been affected and would be removed along with the tumour.

We prayed.

The surgery, praise God, was successful. Possibility two, with a few complications, ended up being our outcome. The tumour was removed successfully, however they found that the vein in question was basically filled with clotting, and the decision was made to remove some 40cm of vein, replacing it with an artificial graft.

That evening, my family joined Oom Sace’s family as the guest artists at a local carols by candlelight. Just before our last set, my uncle received a phone call from another aunty, who said she’d tried to ring the hospital for an update, only to be told that they would prefer to talk to the brother who was a doctor.

Oom Sace wasn’t able to make contact with the doctor until after the carols, and he returned to us with sombre news. Oma had nearly died numerous times throughout the evening. The new vein had started off working well, but with the pressure of renewed blood flow, a number of new clots had been released, resulting in pulmonary embolism. Her kidneys also had not resumed function since the operation, and her blood pressure wasn’t stabilising. At this point she was deemed to be in a critical condition. After an impromptu prayer meeting in the car park, we headed back to Oom Sace’s to wait for more news.

Eventually the brothers and sisters decided to go to Oma’s bedside to pray and be with her. It was a very emotional time for them, and things were scarily touch and go for Oma that night.

The next day, my family went to visit Oma in ICU. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen. She was full of tubes, surrounded by machines.. still heavily sedated… she just wasn’t Oma. We talked to her, held her hand. She was awake, but only just. She was ventilated and couldn’t speak, but she smiled and mouthed that she loved us and held our hands and kissed us. She doesn’t remember anything of that visit, but I will never forget it.

The days ticked passed and we eagerly looked forward to new updates. Oom Sace had told us that we could expect for her to be in ICU for weeks.. in hospital for likely a month and then to some kind of respite care for another month. The tumour was indeed cancerous, and they believed that pieces had possibly broken off and travelled to the lungs. The new vein became filled with clots, as well as veins associated with the kidneys, and she had to go on dialysis.
Then the miracles began. She started breathing on her own… her blood pressure stabilised, and stayed that way even as they weaned her from medication. Then her kidneys slowly began to function again.

On Christmas Eve, after our trip to Margaret River, we travelled to Oma’s bedside in ICU to sing her a Christmas carol. She told me later that she will never forget the image of me walking in with Mayana, who was asleep, and then looking behind me and seeing our whole family. I laid Mayana onto her legs where she continued to sleep as we visited. Oma kept telling us how happy she was to be alive, to be given a special chance. “To God be the glory!”, she kept proclaiming. Indeed! She wept as we sang to her, and we struggled to keep it together. She was still attached to machines – though less than before, but she was Oma again.

Her recovery since then has been nothing short of miraculous. Her kidneys and blood pressure are back to normal, she’s eating, walking, talking, and LOVING life. The grafted vein is still clotted, but other veins have taken over the blood flow. As time goes on those veins will get stronger and bigger and the swelling in her legs should go down.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we held our Camp Buma church service at the hospital the day after Oma was released from ICU. There wasn’t a dry eye as Oma was wheeled in, and it really hit us what she had been through and how blessed we are to still have her in our lives.

We were all amazed at her attitude – that she wasn’t pining to be with us at our camp which she had so looked forward to, but rather rejoicing in the fact that we were all together and having so much fun.

The day before we left, we visited with her and she was well and truly back to her old self… joking and teasing, loving, hugging, playing with Mayana. God is so amazing, and it is inspirational and incredible to listen to Oma proclaim her faith that God will continue to heal and strengthen her.

It looks like Oma will be allowed to go home by this weekend! Home! There is still quite a road ahead to recovery, and I’m not sure on the status of any cancer treatment that will be related to the tumour, but there is no doubt in my mind that my strong Oma will pull through whatever comes her way. She is a walking miracle, and a tangible reminder that anything is possible with God.



  1. Beautifully written Zoey, brought tears to my eyes. Praise God for our Oma miracle! xx

  2. Hey Zoey,
    I was fighting back tears reading this.. so glad your Oma is doing better..

    Ronnie :)

  3. I heard about your blog from Tan Tan and how beautifully written it was. I was very touched when I read it and it brought back some very special feelings of the time, both difficult ones and at the same time ones full of the joy of how we were able to journey through all of this together as one huge family. Very touching time indeed.
    Lots of love, Oom Sace and Tante Anthea


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