Hope In The Face of COVID-19
Posted on 18 Oct 2021 by Jan Tie
On the 23rd of July 2021, at 10.45 pm, the cries of a newborn baby filled a room in the birth wards at the hospital. At 3.31kg, she was a healthy baby girl, and her mother, tired but relieved, cradled her lovingly. She was given the name, Naomi Oui Zhen En (çœŸæ©): “Naomi” meaning “beautiful and pleasant” in Hebrew, and her Chinese name, “Zhen En” meaning “true grace”. Her father, Eldwin, explained, “it is our prayer and hope that she will grow up to be a godly woman who understands and appreciates the beauty of the true grace shown to us in Christ by God.”
Eldwin and Melissa Oui, with their newborn baby girl, Naomi
Just a few months earlier, in February, the Oui family faced a challenging time: all three of them, Eldwin, Melissa and their 20-month old toddler, Lizzie, had contracted COVID-19. Eldwin described those two weeks as “an existential test of my trust in the Lord’s provision and wisdom in all things.” Melissa, who was in the second trimester of her pregnancy then, shared, “We were pretty anxious and afraid of how our bodies might respond to the virus, what more with myself pregnant and Lizzie being so young – we faced a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. So overall, it was a pretty nerve-racking few days. However, we took each day at a time and tried not to let the “what ifs” affect us emotionally. In fact, all the more, we continued to remind each other that God is in control over all, and we ought to trust Him no matter the outcome.”
As doctors themselves, both Eldwin and Melissa were well aware of the nature of the virus and how it could quickly become something very serious. Eldwin explained how it all started, “When Mel and I felt it was time to try for a 2nd baby at the end of last year, it was just before the pandemic got a lot worse with the Delta variant causing the third wave of infections in Malaysia. To be honest, being sent to the COVID-19 wards caused some anxiety within the family with regards to everyone’s safety. And, it was kind of like my worst fears coming true when I fell sick with COVID-19. I had developed some flu-like symptoms and felt more tired than usual. So I thought it would be best to take the COVID-19 swab test as I had been working with COVID-19 patients. Sure enough, I was tested positive.”
Eldwin went straight into quarantine after making quick arrangements with his family, hoping that his wife and daughter would not contract the virus. “I still remember scrambling during the first few days of my diagnosis to arrange swabs for both Melissa and my parents and explaining to them what to do while I was feeling under the weather at the same time.” Despite the measures taken, Melissa came down with a fever a few days later and she was tested positive for COVID-19. She remembers, “it felt devastating to me and my family, including my extended family, as not only did it put them at risk, but Lizzie especially. The thought of her succumbing to this potentially lethal disease was honestly scary, to say the least.” That was when the roller coaster of emotions began – the feeling of how anything could happen to your loved ones, how they might suffer, how everything seemed out of your control, and the hoping and praying for no severe symptoms. “To be diagnosed with COVID-19 personally is not as bad, but to have your loved ones contract the virus is definitely harder,” said Melissa.
The first few days of knowing their diagnosis was particularly hard because at that point, both Eldwin and Melissa were positive for COVID-19 while Lizzie was tested negative. So Lizzie had to be sent to stay with Melissa’s family for the time being while Eldwin had to be quarantined at home and Melissa in the hospital as she was a high-risk COVID-19 patient. That was when the worry of Lizzie testing positive and infecting Melissa’s family weighed heavily on their minds.
7 days later, every parent’s fear became Eldwin and Melissa’s reality – the day Melissa was discharged from the hospital, Lizzie spiked a fever and was tested positive for COVID-19. They made a quick decision to move mother and daughter to the hospital together so that they would be able to receive immediate medical attention if needed. By then, Eldwin had already fully recovered from the virus, but emotions were high amidst all this uncertainty. “There was a short period where I felt an intense feeling of guilt – I knew what was at stake when I was working in the COVID-19 wards and I made sure to be incredibly careful, but it still happened,” he shared.
Quarantining with a toddler in a new and strange environment was no easy feat and not without many tears and sleepless nights. Melissa recalled as she reflected on the days she spent with Lizzie in the hospital, “the unknown end was frightening and oftentimes heart-wrenching. I had to take each day as it came, with the hope that no symptoms would persist or complications would arise. I was grateful that at least I was able to be quarantined with my daughter and personally see to it that I was there for her. Despite my motherly instincts and desire to keep her safe, in those desperate moments of fear and anxiety, I could only rely on God’s grace and mercy on our family. The verse that I was reminded of was from Job 1:2: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” No matter the outcome, I knew that God is still sovereign and is still to be blessed whether in times of calm or calamity.”
Lizzie reading ‘The Beginner’s Bible’ (Zondervan) on her hospital bed
Lizzie doing CERC Sunday School crafts in the hospital!
Both Eldwin and Melissa also shared about how the church supported them during this tough period, “we are grateful for the love and support from our Growth Group (GG) members (Mums GG and Puchong GG), friends and colleagues during this time, from encouraging text messages to calls, prayers and food bought during quarantine.” Melissa explained, “some of our GG members graciously helped to tapau meals and get groceries for us during home quarantine, which was especially helpful, because the first few days were the most difficult with how quickly everything happened, and we didn’t have much time to sort out the initial logistics of getting food supplies.” In reflecting on the whole experience, Eldwin said, “my GG assistants also reminded Melissa and me of the Gospel and how ultimately all this suffering is but a momentary affliction in light of God’s eternal glory to come.”
After a week at the hospital, Melissa and Lizzie were cleared to go home. Their symptoms had been mild with no complications throughout, and even though it had been a rough two weeks, both Eldwin and Melissa were thankful to God for His mercy. As Melissa reflected on what they had been through, she shared, “people get alarmed during a pandemic because suddenly their lives are turned upside down, and they have no control over so many things. They risk losing their loved ones, their jobs, their comfort, and even their lives. As Christians, we too face these struggles, yet we can find hope in Christ as the suffering we face during these uncertain times is a reminder of the temporary nature of this world and our lives. The hope found in the salvation brought by Christ enables us to rejoice despite the effects of this fallen world. I have been reminded to persevere in doing the work of the Lord, not to despair, and to keep serving Him with every opportunity He gives us, no matter the situation.”
Fast forward to today, nearly two months after Naomi’s birth, the whole COVID-19 episode seems but a distant memory. By the grace of God, the Oui family is safe and healthy, and they are grateful for that. “This pregnancy journey had its unique challenges for us, but we have only grown in our thankfulness to God’s grace shown to us in Christ. If it wasn’t for what we had been learning from the Bible through the faithful, regular preaching of God’s Word, the spiritual toll would have been a lot greater. We are incredibly thankful to our families, and our church, CERC for all their words and acts of encouragement,” Eldwin shared.
The Oui family: photos taken just a few days before Naomi was born
Eldwin still goes through COVID-19 rotations regularly as a medical officer in a government hospital. And while the risk of him contracting COVID-19 from his patients is still a daily reality, more so now with the highly contagious Delta variant, he recalls pensively, “back then, as I spent time in quarantine reflecting with my wife and sharing my thoughts with Puchong GG, I was reminded about how incredibly fragile human life is. When we are healthy, we often take it for granted and fail to intentionally use the gift of health to serve God’s purposes in our lives maximally – for His Glory. It was a good reminder to me and also my GG members that we should make use of our precious time here on earth to serve the Lord with our all.”
Eldwin in full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) during his COVID-19 ward rotations
Eldwin continued, “another thing the Lord impressed upon me during that time was also what I had learned in preaching Job just months earlier. It was when God finally spoke to Job at the end of the book, and to sum it up, God showed Job how He runs the many complexities of the universe, things which Job wouldn’t know the first thing about. And, Job’s response was:
Understanding this reminds me who the Creator of this universe is and to submit to His wisdom no matter what happens in life. Whether in health or sickness, I ought to worship God and glorify His name by pointing others to worship Him too.”