Introducing Emma Pease: a Thanksgiving Story

It has been a trying couple of days for Phet and I. The story starts with a routine checkup last Thursday, then a morning ultrasound on Friday. Continuing on, we have an entirely unexpected emergency C-section on Friday afternoon, leading to the birth of our daughter, Emma Mahatsachan Pease: a 6 lb, 18.5 inch baby girl, at 1:09 PM, to much fanfare and the adulation of all involved. Roughly 5 hours later, Emma was transferred to Neonatal Intensive Care at our hospital, Scripps Mercy. The doctor told us that she was very sick, with platelet levels of a tenth of those of healthy newborn as well as a long list of other issues such as poor oxygenation of the blood and dangerously low circulation. 2 hours later, she was deemed too severe for Mercy and was transferred to the NICU at UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest. 12 hours later, she was transferred once again, this time to the NICU at Children’s Hospital, under suspicion that she had some sort of structural problem with her heart.

Starting with the ultrasound on Friday, all of the above events took place over a time period of roughly 30 hours. Everything about Emma’s birth and her subsequent escalation through the neonatal intensive care establishment occurred pretty much as depicted above: without warning or benefit of other helpful context.

If that’s all there was, this would all be so much of a downer that I probably wouldn’t have brought it up. However, Emma’s story continues.


Phet and I were first able to see our daughter together on Saturday at the NICU of Children’s Hospital. To put the matter in some context: this was about 30 hours after Phet had had major abdominal surgery, and yet there we were, stuffing her from a wheelchair into our car to make the drive to the hospital. To make things even more exciting, the Children’s NICU closes down to visitors at 6 PM and we left at about 5:50 PM (the nurse had called saying she wanted to speak to us, in person, STAT). We had a hazy idea of where Children’s was located, but NO idea of where the NICU was located.

At 6:10, we were in the NICU visting Emma, Phet in a wheelchair and the car illegally parked outside in the valet lot of the hospital. Emma had a disconcerting number of tubes connected to her body, and she lay very still as a ventilator handled the work of her breathing. I knew that she already looked better than when I had previously seen her in intensive care at the previous hospitals, but I was concerned that Phet might be unprepared to see her this way. As I wheeled Phet closer, her first words said upon seeing our daughter were “She’s beautiful.”

The nurse’s urgent news was that Emma had been stabilized. She explained that a baby’s circulatory system works differently when it is inside the womb from when it is outside the womb. For Emma, she said, the circulatory system outside of the womb has a defect, where the main artery that transports blood to her lower body essentially has a kink in it, preventing blood from circulating properly. This condition would, unfortunately, require heart surgery to repair. In the meantime, however, they are able to trick Emma’s circulation back to it’s pre-birth configuration by administering hormones, which then acts as a built-in bypass, sending blood around the kinked area. Essentially, they hotwired our baby to buy some time for a more considered surgical response.

That visit was several days ago. We have visited every day since, and Emma’s condition has noticeably improved each time. They have gradually turned down her blood pressure drugs and ventilators each day as her body has grown stronger and her signs of infection decreased. They have removed her from most of her sedatives, and she is now moving her arms and legs and reacting to touches from her parents in encouragingly baby-like ways. Extensive scans have been run on all of her major organs, and none of them (except for her heart) appear to have any problems.

Further, it is difficult to express the degree of responsiveness and expertise that we have seen from the staff at Children’s. I can call and speak directly to our baby’s nurse 24 hours a day, and can visit her 20 hours a day. During our visits, we speak directly to the doctors who have been working with her (we have so far met nurses, physicians, cardiologists, geneticists, and infectious disease specialists), and they have explained Emma’s status and have answered all of our questions. We have a social worker who calls us several times a day to MAKE SURE that we don’t have any questions or needs that aren’t being attended to by their staff.

Very shortly, our baby will be having open heart surgery, which is ALWAYS risky, even for the best surgical staff at the greatest hospital in all the land. However, Phet and I both know that we are very lucky that our baby even has that chance – for the vast majority of people on this Earth, this baby probably would not have survived childbirth. She is in the care of an amazing group of people, and that goes a long way towards giving us hope for her recovery.

So that’s what we’re thinking about this Thanksgiving. We love you Emma, and look forward to bringing you home.

19 thoughts on “Introducing Emma Pease: a Thanksgiving Story”

  1. Welcome to the world, little Emma! Sounds like you had a rough ride coming in, but we JesusHers look forward to hearing about your swift recovery in time for grubbing for Christmas loot.

    My entire household sends its collective regard to the Peases; our best to you, and congratulations for your new sweetie.

  2. I’m glad Jeff posted this, because I’ve been wondering how to tell people how amazing Jeff and Phet have been through this whole episode and now I can just point them to a convenient URL.

    I’ve never been prouder of my brother and his wife than I have been over the last week, as they’ve been handling adversity I can only imagine with astounding grace and resolve.

    We’re all crossing our fingers and hoping for great news on Saturday.

    I don’t want us to be hip-deep in sap here, so I’ll close by saying I think we can all agree the important thing is to get Emma home safe and sound so her uncle can start bestowing some Calvin’s-dad wisdom and letting her get amped up on sugar while he’s babysitting her so she goes home wired and ready to keep the folks up all night.

  3. I certainly second Dave’s comments, both on the awesomeness of both Jeff and Phet and on the safe return home. Having only met Emma by proxy, I’ve got to say that I really like her a lot already and want to make sure she’s soon available to hang out.

    But, also in the spirit of avoiding the sap, since I think we’re all agreed that the new parents are amazing, I wanted to point something out to Jeff. The birth of your daughter has got to be one of the most important moments in your life, up there with your own birth and meeting and/or marrying Phet, and you show up like you’re dressed for casual Friday? For crying out loud, man, you should have had a coat and tie in the car, just so her first impression would show you as a distinguished gentleman.

  4. Jeff and Phet,
    What a miracle is Emma! We – the Calkins/Warren Clan – are all sending our hugs and heart-full love to all of you. You are in the midst of a day-to-day roller coaster ride that is making you even more phenomenal and strong than you already are. Just remember that Emma chose you to be her parents for a reason and that her life is a gift to you and to all of us who already love her.
    And, of course, knowing that she is a Try Try Try granddaughter is enough to make us all smile! Thank you for sharing Emma with us. We love you and send our thoughts and prayers!

  5. Our thoughts and prayers are with little Emma. We are all rooting for her. Best wishes and we love ya.
    Virgil & Helen and family

  6. We are so happy to welcome you to the family, Emma. We can’t wait for you to leave the hospital and be home with your parents. You are our miracle baby. We all love you and pray for your hospital days to be over.

    Love,
    Grandma and Grandpa Pease

  7. Welcome to our earth Emma, Please count me in as one in your throng of admirers. There is so much love and healing energy coming your way that we expect to see you wooing us all with your beauty and charm real soon. Give my love to mom and dad and the rest of your wonderful family. Love,

  8. To update people, Emma didn’t have surgery yesterday due to another infection. They’ll be operating as soon as that’s cleared up, I believe.

  9. Dear Jeff and Phet
    What a beautiful way of informing us of
    the birth of Emma. Her Grandma Kathy is
    my friend at Palomar Hospital. We both
    help assist the nurses there in the
    Birth Center and see so much love and
    concern for babies born healthy and
    babies delivered who are transfered to
    NICU for special care. You are both so
    fortunate to have Emma at Children’s for
    they are the very best!!! Emma is indeed beautiful and also GOD’S special
    child. Let us lift her up in prayer that her pending surgery will truly be
    successful and that she will be in your
    arms very soon. My love to you both and your entire family.
    Blessings to you and precious little
    Emma
    love, Marian Field

  10. Dear Jeff and Phet,
    Congratulations on your beautiful daughter! Thank you so much for sharing her with all of us. I have such admiration for your courage and strength. I can’t wait to see and hold our new “Tri” granddaughter. Blessings to all of you, but especially to little Emma, who has already proven she is a strong little fighter. Lots of love and many prayers are being sent her way.
    Linda and Ron Miller

  11. Emma is beautiful and we’ve never met a more wonderful family! You remain in our hearts and prayers. God bless you all.

  12. Hello Jeff! It has been a long time since I have seen you. First want to say congratulations on a beautiful little girl. We will be praying for her and the two of you. I know how hopeless a feeling it is to sit and wait and watch while the Dr. and nurses poke and do test after test on your little one. My Daughter (age 3) just had surgery on her brain and it was very scarey. Our comfort was that God was in control and he knew what was best for us and her. Things turned out great and we are thankful to have her with us in good health for years to come. God is good. May he give you strength to bear up under this trial. We will be praying for all of you and do hope to hear from you soon. The photos are wonderful.

  13. Baby Emma, we are so happy you are here! You made a grand entrance sooner than anyone thought and got our full attention at that. We are happy you have the best parents possible to work with the situation you have given them. We are waiting to see you in your official Peas uniform!

  14. Emma is beautiful! Rest assured she is in the best care possible and her experiences will serve to be an interesting story for her college admission applications. Jeff and Phet…remain strong and embrace the pressure! Our thoughts and prayers will be with you! Hank and Jane Zapisek

  15. Congratulations Jeff and Phet and welcome to Miss Emma! Thank you for taking the time to update us on the progress of the newest member of our family. Phet is correct, Emma is beautiful! Our thoughts, prayers and support are with you and all the Peases during this rough time and we are all so excited that Emma is here!
    Love, Vikki, Eric, Sydni and Erynn Pointer

  16. Jeff and Phet,

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to Emma. You two have handle this amazingly well. Please let us know what we can do. Love, Han and Mang

  17. Jeff and Phet,
    Emma is darling! I’m so sorry she’s had such a rough beginning. She is in such good hands and sounds like she is quite the little fighter. Thanks for sharing photos with us and keeping us up to date. We are all rooting for her from afar. Cant wait to meet her and give her a squeeze someday. Take Care.

    Tracy

  18. Jeff and Phet,
    Thank you for sharing your news with us. Welcome Emma! We pray for her continued improvement. May God always be with you and care for your family.
    Mike

  19. CONGRATULATIONS, your baby is amazing!!!
    I’ll pray for her, so for her surgery’s success, and a fast recovery.

    Thank you for sharing the details of your hardships, and for introducing such a beautiful little baby girl to the rest of us who live far away.

    love from the McFiggins family…
    -Abi and Jeff

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