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A ‘beautiful departure’ of four-month old baby
25 January 2016

Featuring the work of photographer Kerry Cheah, this article showcases Hermien’s life and strength even after the departure of her four-month old baby, Andrew Theophilus.

Welcomed with a warm handshake and smiles plastered on Mdm Hermien Iswantho and her three year old daughter, you won’t be able to imagine what they have gone through. They called it death but she says, “It’s a beautiful death.”

Doctors told Hermien repeatedly that she could not conceive due to her medical condition but she was determined to be a mother. Artificial insemination was not an option as Hermien and her loving husband, Mr Ady Atmadja believed that God would bless them in His time.

The long wait of ten years finally paid off, Hermien managed to conceive her first child. They were surprised and overjoyed. Sadly the joy was short-lived, it resulted in a miscarriage three months later. She had no physical pain but emotionally, it is was overwhelming.

The miscarriage did not waver her decision. The glimpse of hope that she used to have did not diminish. She tried for a second child and was miraculously blessed with an adorable baby girl, Ashley, who is cheery and tugs at the heartstrings of many.

Her third child, whom the family thought was a baby girl came as a surprise. Hermien and her family were allured by the entry of baby boy, Andrew Theophilus. However, the journey ahead was not easy for the family. They lost four-month old baby Andrew to Patau Syndrome. A rare disease with a predicted life span of only 2 months from birth. Baby Andrew outlived the prognosis and had a fruitful four months, with a restful staycation and trip to Sentosa Island. 

“I cried when I heard about all his medical conditions. Why does a small tiny child have to go through such pain,” Hermien questions herself. “I used to ask God, can I exchange my health for his pain?”

Andrew faced several complications with his health, sometimes, he would stop breathing.

“I remembered calling Dr Chong and Nurse Serene for help and they will give me appropriate advice,” says Hermien. “When it happens at home, I’ll pinch his tiny fingers and it helps to revive his breathing.”

Andrew was fit to be brought home to rest. As much as Hermien was happy, she could not assist in the suction or the tube feeding.

“I could not bear seeing my child suffer and having all the tubes in him,” says Hermien who was certain that the family will not resort to resuscitation should there be any complications.

“He was an alert and cute boy,” says Hermien as she recalls Andrew dying in her arms on her birthday. That fateful morning, Hermien noticed that Andrew did not cry and had unusual behaviours of coughing.

“He stared blankly at me and simply gave me three blinks when I asked if he wants to go home with Jesus. Then, I hurried to call my husband.”

They told Andrew, “If it’s your time, we’ll give you to Jesus,” followed by a simple prayer and neither any pain nor struggle, Andrew laid down his head for eternal rest straight after “Amen” on 28thSeptember 2015. 

He was a tough fighter since birth. Despite his medical conditions, he grew like any other normal baby and his smiles brought joy and comfort to his family.

“I was doubtful and I wanted to check. I asked for the stethoscope again and when I heard no heartbeat, I knew and accepted that he was gone,” says Hermien. Those four months with Andrew were precious and Hermien would never trade anything else for it.

Ashley, is aware of the absence of her baby brother. She used to accompany him while mummy prepares milk.

“Once in a while, she will look for Andrew in the baby cot. Sometimes, we will talk to her in front of Andrew’s picture,” says Hermien. “She loves him”.

Hermien is thankful for the support from Star PALS, Dr Chong and Nurse Serene, for their love, care and concern even after the passing of baby Andrew.

“They assisted me medically and answered a lot of my questions.”

It was definitely not easy for a family who waited so long for a baby, had hopes of parenting the child, and was crushed not once but twice. Nevertheless, Hermien has a heart full of gratitude. Together with her family, they continue to inspire others with their story and strength. Their faith keeps them strong – believing all that happen is for the greater good.

You may wish to drop a word of encouragement for Hermien and her family at communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg. HCA Hospice Care provides bereavement support for our beneficiaries to help them cope with the loss of their loved ones. Visit https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/services/psychosocial-and-bereavement-support to find out more.