Gratitude.

I have a lot to be grateful and thankful over the last few weeks but will stick to the really important stuff this time around. As mentioned last week, I have been in paternity leave - 5 weeks early than anticipated.

To say these were testing times would be an understatement, but they were made more bearable by the incredible work of health professionals in Wales and Portugal. They did their work superbly and provided us with the information needed for myself and my wife to take some difficult decisions, gently supported by my Head of College at Swansea University.

There is good healthcare and then there is great healthcare. I am particularly grateful to the medical teams at Maternidade Daniel de Matos who delivered my daughter safely and kept her well for the last two weeks. This period ended up being an impromptu learning experience for myself - and not only on nappy duty front.

It was a joy (relief?) to see a well managed medical team going around its business, shifts rotating and information flowing clearly and consistently (for the most part).  For illustration purposes, the intensive care unit is composed by 35 nurses and 12 or 13 doctors. Almost 50 people in total handling 15-20 babies at a time. That can only be done under great leadership and by assembling a cohesive team.

What I saw there was a textbook case of leadership by example. The director is still doing shifts, including the ones no one wants: nights. I was puzzled to see her handling babies, filling notes 11pm at night when my daughter first arrived. But there she was, available for questions, clear in her answers (where possible...) and fully aware of the condition of each baby.

She imposed strict rules on visits (only grandparents, for 10 minutes once a week) but willing to depart from them when appropriate. The team was well drilled on what we could do and not do during the visits and our "get out of here periods". I was impressed with the ability of multiple nurses to handle parents & visits caught breaking rules. That's a sure sign they all know what they are doing and how best to handle us.

As a father the prevalent calm and atmosphere of everything being under control is incredibly soothing. Naturally, we did not see the flare ups and bust ups bound to happen with so many people working under such pressure and incredibly tight quarters.

I had a lot of time in these two weeks to observe and reflect on the experience. I started looking back at my professional career and struggled to see a comparable example of efficient management. The only example was the consortium manager responsible for the construction of a highway in Portugal when I was a lawyer. That particular manager was an engineer and boy did he run a tight, tight ship - again with a cohesive team around him. Super manager, super guy.

So what am I grateful for? Well, for having a healthy baby and mother making good recoveries for starters. Second, for the humanity as I - and all other parents - were treated in what are terrifying hours, days and weeks. Third, the clarity of information conveyed to parents when (and only when) it is necessary. Fourth, last but not least how parents are trained to handle babies which need special care in the following weeks or months. But that is a matter for another post.

PS: Normal blog operations resume tomorrow.