Saturday, March 22, 2008

VIHA* brings hilarity to my life

Way back when we first started discussing labour and birth, Chris didn't want to cut the umbilical cord. But as time went by, he decided he did want to, and that furthermore, he wanted to do it with a tanto - a Japanese ceremonial dagger. This surprises absolutely no one who knows Chris.

When we first asked Lillian about it, she said that if it was a home birth, there'd be no problem, but since we were planning a hospital birth, things might get a bit tricksy. We'd have to obtain permission from the hospital, and what with this not being a straightforward question, it wasn't clear who we needed to ask. In fact, when we first asked the question at our hospital tour a few weeks ago, the nurse told us to speak to our doctor. We told her we were under the care of a midwife, and that she'd told us we needed to talk to the hospital. The nurse took our name and phone number and promised to look into it for us. I didn't think we'd ever hear back from her.

But lo and behold, my cynicism was misplaced and less than 3 weeks later all the arrangements have been made. I got a phone call on Thursday from a perinatal nurse asking for the name and phone number of my midwife, and when we went to Lillian's office that afternoon she gave us a printout of an email she'd received.

From: Perinatal Nurse Manager
To: All Perinatal Clinical Nurse Leaders in VIHA; All Perinatal Nursing Staff in NRGH**; Lillian (our midwife); and a doctor with the amusing email address of

Hi everyone,

We have a Japanese patient requesting to use a 9" steel non-serrated blade (ceremonial knife) to cut the cord at an upcoming midwifery (Lillian Sly) attended delivery (Expected delivery date - May 5). The knife will then be handed down to the child when he/she becomes an adult. (...) All are in agreement about the following:

1. The knife may be used.
2. We are able to sterilize the knife (handle removed) in advance. Lillian Sly is to set up an appointment with [nurse manager] to show her the blade and to discuss the logistics of sterilization.

Thank you all for your part in facilitating this family centered / culturally sensitive delivery.

I'm quite pleasantly surprised that it was that easy, given the number of times I have seen the needless complications and bureaucracy at work at VIHA. I think the key was that when Chris phrased the question to the original nurse, he discussed it in terms of a religious ceremony, something that NRGH (being all gung-ho about diversity and political correctness) would be unlikely to dismiss out of hand. By the time it got to the Nurse Manager, the fact that Chris isn't actually Japanese had gotten completely lost. And rightfully so - why should he have less access to Japanese religious ceremonies than someone who actually is Japanese, anyway?

"Thank you for your part in facilitating this family centered / culturally sensitive delivery." Oh man, it just cracks me right up.

*VIHA = Vancouver Island Health Authority, who runs the hospital as well as all other health care facilities and services on Vancouver Island. Also, I work for them (in Data Entry, not any capacity of actually providing care to anyone).
**NRGH = Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, where our birth is to take place.

1 comment:

Kat said...

This is actually more common than you may think and they should bend over backwards to accomodate you. As long as the blade can be sterilized there is no risk to the baby at all.

I wonder if they will say anything when they figure out that Chris isn't Japanese.


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