With health care rationing baby Olivias would perish

The following is a personal letter written to Don Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. It is reprinted here in full with the permission of Hugh and Kaye Martin. (Hugh and Kaye Martin live in Sonoma, California.)

June 1994 – Dear Don,

My wife Kaye’s water broke while we were spending Christmas in Yosemite. She was rushed to a hospital in California’s Central Valley, 200 miles from our Sonoma home. Kaye had already lost two babies at birth and six from miscarriages, so I was pretty sure this one was a goner.

Since the baby was only five months along, the doctors first encouraged us to abort. Then, despite the fact that the baby was breach, they recommended a vaginal delivery – knowing that the baby most likely would not survive anything but a Caesarean. (Before the birth, we had attempted to transfer Kaye to a major medical facility closer to home. However, they had refused to intervene on the baby’s behalf in any way – no C-section, no life support, nothing.) We could see the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor, so we decided to go for the Caesarean.

When little Olivia first emerged, she was no larger than my hand and weighed no more than a pint of milk. Her spread fingers were no wider than my thumbnail. Her own fingernails were the size of grains of sand. Her eyelids were still fused shut. Yet Olivia was clearly a living baby, not a fetus. She stretched and kicked fiercely. Her translucent skin was blood red. Every feature was perfectly formed. Although barely a pound, Olivia was indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

For three months, Kaye sat at Olivia’s side by the incubator – cooing to her, caressing her, giving her that “will to live” which is at least as important as all the marvels of modern technology. (Our four kids and I commuted 400 miles each weekend to be with Mom.) Kaye was an oddity on the intensive care ward – sometimes welcomed, sometimes resented. Many of the other babies had been virtually abandoned – visited only occasionally, if at all. The hospital staff was attentive and technologically competent, but was only gradually learning to appreciate the parents’ crucial role.

Many simple innovations could have improved these babies’ environment immensely: dimmed lights, soft music, screens to buffer their raucous surroundings, some form of caring attention to offset the jabbing and poking of medical procedures. As I would stroll down the hall after midnight, the eerie light of left-on televisions would flicker over each sleeping baby’s isolette. In a poignant way, Caribbean travelogues and chattering game shows were often these little ones’ only companions.

Kaye brought Olivia home in late March – five weeks earlier than her original due date. In just three months Olivia has now increased her weight five-fold. She has no apparent abnormalities. She breathes without canned oxygen and sucks voraciously on her doll-sized bottle – without force-feeding, regimented schedules, or blinking alarms. Last Sunday, at a little church we visited up the North Coast, I sobbed deeply and wrenchingly during worship. We were finally, I realized, home free.

Just last night, Olivia slept through for the first time – no putzing, no colic, no oxygen, no heart monitors. The old video of Philadelphia Story I had inserted in the VCR for my usual pre-dawn vigil sat unneeded. About 4 a.m. Olivia started burbling, so I got up and swabbed her nostrils with the syringe. She protested at first, but once clear, she sighed, smiled quietly, and drifted into her deepest sleep of the night.

Under Bill Clinton’s health care plan, babies like Olivia would be denied life support. If the child doesn’t fit the guidelines, the “preemie” doctor would be prohibited from intervening to save her. Too premature, too uncertain, too costly – all part of health rationing, you know. Our country is in deep trouble when we let the government decide who lives and who dies.

God bless you and your wonderful work. It is on the front lines of education, entertainment, legislation, science, medicine, economics, evangelism, and family values that children like Olivia will be saved and this battle will
be won.

Yours in Christ,

Hugh and Kaye Martin