January 4th is a big day for me. It’s the day I became a daddy. I remember a ton about that day. Most of you know I can barely remember yesterday, but I remember that day pretty vividly.
Around 5am, Myri-Ann woke me up, “Mike, it’s time to go to the hospital.” I’m relatively cool about most things, but I frantically ran around our room while she calmly showered. She pointed to the bags she packed a week earlier and said, “Mike, take those to the minivan,” that we bought in preparation for kids. Car seats were installed, ready to go. Today was the day.
I had taken the “Daddy 101” class at Baptist, but what I knew about childbirth pretty much came from watching Knocked Up. And Myri-Ann and I had this anxiety that, like in the movie, our OBGYN wouldn’t be there, and it would be this big fiasco. But around 6am, Myri-Ann called Dr. Rocha, and he answered, “I’ll be there. You guys are gonna do great.”
We arrived at Baptist, and Myri-Ann waddled in. We were immediately admitted to the maternity ward, basically a nurse’s station surrounded by beds with curtains around them. They got her dressed, pulled out her belly, and attached two discs, like little dopplers. Two rhythmic swooshing sounds said there were two tiny heartbeats, and that was really soothing to me.
Then it was just the two of us, as we waited to enter the “sterile” part of the hospital. I held Myri-Ann’s hand, and she kept me calm LOL. I still remember when they took her from me, that helpless feeling as they rolled her down the hall to prep for C-section. It was the first time my mind went to that place where, what if everything doesn’t go right???
And they know that, so they distract dad with paperwork, payment, and checking into the room. Next, they had me put on scrubs, and then it was this dramatic entrance into the OR – I burst through these big double-doors into this big, bright room. But as I neared Myri-Ann, the nerd in me was looking around like, what sort of lighting is this? What anesthetic monitoring do they use? What ventilation system do they have?
I approached Myri-Ann over her left shoulder, and there was this blue drape with Dr. Rocha on the other side. I put my hand on her shoulder, and she looked up at me, raised her finger to show me the monitor, and said, “Hey, what’s my SpO2?” It was perfect, two nerds made for each other. And then it happened.
Mariana Kamali Wong entered the world at 4 lb. 3.5 oz. of what has become my best friend in the world. A minute and a half later, Kalani Sebastian Wong joined us at 5 lb. 5 oz. of what would become my other best friend. They talk about this moment of seeing your kid for the first time, and I already knew I’d do anything for them. But I honestly wondered if I was “dad” material. I barely passed Daddy 101 – I could never swaddle that doll – and I wondered if I’d be able to raise them into kind, decent people.
We got some time with them, but they were premature – most twins come early, but ours came earlier – and anyone less than 36 weeks or 5 pounds goes to the NICU. So that’s where ours went. I spent the next few hours in recovery with Myri-Ann – we’re both skinny, and the beds are so huge they could fit three of us, so they let me ride around in the hospital bed with her – calling our parents, texting you guys pictures, and just really celebrating it. I’d let Myri-Ann rest, and I’d walk across the hospital, through the corridor that connects to the NICU, and have that moment where you see dad standing at the window, looking at his kid.
And then my phone rang. A two-year-old French Bulldog had acutely become paraplegic. Before you roll your eyes, I had arranged for backup, but the kids arrived four weeks early. I was in a bind. But Myri-Ann said, “I’ve got nurses taking care of me, the kids have nurses taking care of them, my mom is on a flight here, your parents are driving over… We’re going to be okay! Go fix that dog. It needs you.”
I got in my car, examined the dog, did the MRI, performed surgery, recovered the patient, called the owner, and I was back to Myri-Ann in a couple of hours. All was good. But it wasn’t much longer before my cell rang again. This time, it was a paraplegic Beagle. And Myri-Ann said, “Mike, go fix that dog.” So it was back to work.
So on January 4, 2014, I saw two patients, did two MRIs, performed two surgeries, and had two babies. People think it’s crazy I did two surgeries the day my twins were born. But Myri-Ann and I made two promises when we started SEVN – that we’d be there when pets need us, not just when it is convenient for us; and that we’d treat each pet as if it were our own, because that’s what William would want. That’s what I call availability.
SEVN is full of amazing people. You’re compassionate, empathetic, smart, you put others first, and you have the knowledge and skills to fix pets that other people can’t. But these things only matter if we are available to others when they need us.
So I genuinely thank you for coming to SEVN and sharing your gifts, talents, and time with me, and with the people and pets that need us. Thank you for working weekends and nights, for starting early and staying late, for being on call and taking calls overnight. Most of all, thank you for caring for these pets as if they were your own. I really appreciate it. Here is to a fantastic 2021!