By Marty Robson.
I’ve always thought that I lived a charmed life. I have two incredible children with whom I have a magical and unbreakable bond, and I make a living doing what I love.
Then, out of the blue, something happened that changed everything.
According to Michael Bolton’s lyrics, “Fathers and Daughters never say goodbye,” but in the summer of 2012, I almost had to do just that. My beautiful daughter, Kaija Mae Robson, age only two and a half, is the “light of my life.” From the moment she was born, she invoked feelings inside me, almost impossible to express. An inherently happy, gentle, loving little soul, she’s the only person in my life who can make me feel genuinely vulnerable.
Kaija started complaining of a “sore tummy,” nothing too serious at first, but the pain grew and quickly became worse. We picked her up and rushed her to the hospital, where they told us it wasn’t serious. We argued for additional tests and further investigation but were overruled by doctors with a mild suggestion of “paranoid parent syndrome” and sent home with instructions to “push fluids.” At home, her pain continued to grow, so we took her back, and once again, we were told to go home and continue to “push fluids.”
Having witnessed my little girl in profound agony was torture, and the feeling of helplessness was suffocating, but nighttime was the worst. We’d try to keep her comfortable, but the pain was too frequent and too intense. Kaija could not sleep for three nights, and the large black rings under her eyes were proof thereof.
On the third night, at 3:00 in the morning, I put her in the bathtub, hoping the warm water would help, and it did. Her cries turned to whimpers, then silence. It was at that moment something happened that I can’t ever forget. Dizzy from tiredness, I stood there looking at her tiny little frame, hoping that the welcomed silence would continue. Instead, she looked up at me, her face ashen white, tears in her eyes. She was unable to communicate verbally, but I understood what she was trying to say.
She was telling me, “Daddy, something is very wrong. I picked her out of the tub and no sooner had I done so, the screaming started again.
My wife took Kaja back to the hospital for a third time while I stayed with our son. I pleaded with her not to come back and to insist on further testing. However, to my utter dismay, she returned with Kaija an hour later. Once again, the doctors ignored our representations and released her with instructions to treat for gastroenteritis. My wife was resolute that we should “trust the doctors” and have faith that Kaija would eventually recover but knew they were wrong. I was running out of options and didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless, frustrated, and angry that I couldn’t get help from the health care professionals who had all but dismissed me as a paranoid father.
That same morning, I got a chance call that would change everything, ultimately saving her life. Dr. Caroline Wang, now a close family friend and former client, was calling to thank me for the entertainment at her event two weeks previous. Knowing she was a primary care practitioner, I asked if I could discuss my daughter’s symptoms. She warmly agreed, and well before I could finish, she stopped me and said precisely these words. “Marty – I’ve heard enough. I don’t like what I am hearing. Get her to Children’s hospital immediately. Kaija should never have been released without further testing”.
By this time, Kaija was looking frail, weak, and defeated. We drove as fast as we could to BC Children’s Hospital. While we waited, her pain grew worse, and once again, she was screaming in agony, prompting a passing nurse to stop to inquire about her symptoms. The nurse immediately expressed concern, and we were able to jump the queue. After a quick exam, they admitted Kaija as a “code red patient,” the second-highest level of emergency.
She was sent for an ultra-sound, and when the images of her stomach appeared, I could see the deep concern in the technician’s face. Quickly, two doctors arrived, and once again, their concern was unmistakable. They said they found a “large cyst” in Kaija’s abdomen, but it failed to account for her symptoms, and she needed a CT scan.
The results revealed that the cyst had wrapped itself around her small intestine and cut off the blood supply to the lower bowel. They informed us that Kaija required immediate surgery and because of the delay in diagnosis, she may have to have a colostomy bag for the rest of her life.
Anyone who has children reading this will understand what we were going through at that point. Up until that point, I still had this underlying feeling that everything would be ok, but now, the reality was sinking in.
We were escorted to a private room with a single bed and told they would call once Kaija was transferred to the recovery room. We sat on the bed, and partly due to exhaustion and an innate unwillingness to remain conscious through something so horrendous, we both fell asleep.
We awoke to a knock on the door. The surgeon wanted to see us downstairs. She told us that they had successfully removed the “fluid-filled cyst” but had to remove an additional 19 centimetres of Kaija’s small intestine. They were worried about possible damage, but it immediately changed from white to pink when they re-attached the intestine, and the prognosis was good.
They took us to the recovery room, where we expected to find our sleepy little girl, somewhat happy to see us, but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, Kaija was sitting up in a bed, bandages on her hands, intravenous tubes protruding from her arms. The black rings under her eyes were now swollen, and she was repeatedly screaming “No.” She was terrified of her surroundings, her pain, and the people dressed in robes. Kaija was allergic to morphine, but it took more than 12 hours to make that determination.
For an entire time, Kaija was upright in bed shouting “no” until her little raspy voice was no more than a whisper. Then, as if she hadn’t been through enough, she ripped out her intravenous hydration tube, which would have to be replaced immediately. The nurse asked me to come with her to hold her down while she reinserted the needle. They took her into a side room, and the nurse wrapped her arm tightly around her body with a towel while I held down her other arm. Kaija was whimpering and suddenly stopped, looked into my eyes, and whispered, “No, Daddy; Please stop.” All the strength in the world couldn’t have saved me at this point. I dropped to my knees, put a towel over my face, and tried as I might; I couldn’t stop the tears. The experience of seeing my child, only two years old, suffer so much was more than I could take.
Kaija started to return to normal after a change in pain-killing meds, and she finally lay down and fell asleep. I can’t even begin to explain the relief! After only one more day, Kaija was released and returned home. Pale, skinny, and gaunt, but alive and back to her beautiful self.
You might think this would be the end of the story but what happened next was almost incredible.
I called the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation to thank them, told them about our story, and offered to play their next event. They agreed but only if I would tell my story, which I happily agreed to in the hopes it would help others.
That event turned out to be the “For Children We Care” Fund-Raising Gala.
Dr. Caroline Wang, our daughter’s saviour, was in New York on a residential course, but when she found out about the date of the fund-raising event, she bought tickets to travel back to be a part of this emotional night.
I introduced myself after the first song and started to tell my story. Initially, I could hear people at the back talking amongst themselves, but as I spoke, the room fell silent.
In the end, I introduced Dr. Caroline Wang to a standing ovation.
When our performance was over, I was greeted backstage by a thrilled event producer. It seems my story connected with the audience, inspiring them to donate almost 900k in additional funds, including one check, with Kaija’s name on the envelope for 250k.
I used to tell people who took their job a little too seriously, ”it’s ok, relax, we’re not saving lives here,” but sometimes the events we are a part of do, and that’s one of the reasons I’m proud to be a part of the Canadian event industry.
Marty is the proud leader of Ten Souljers. A former lead vocalist of some of the biggest most recognized tribute bands in the UK, he came to Vancouver with a mission. To put together the best ten-piece band in the world. Doggedly determined, Marty has built the band into what it is today. His passion and commitment to the cause are unwavering and are noticeable both on and off stage.