Last Christmas Urwashi and Roland Koroi received an unexpected Christmas gift. The birth of Nadia has not only changed their lives but deepened their faith experience. Urwashi shares her story with War Cry to honour God and their wonderful little faith community—Hornby Salvation Army.
At 33 years old, Urwashi’s life was forever changed when she discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant in August 2019, and already 22 weeks along. But Urwashi’s joy quickly turned to fear when radiologists immediately discerned that all was not well with the little girl she was carrying.
‘Just thinking about it now, I feel very emotional—how did we do it? How did we manage to make it? I mean, honestly, how did we get through it? It was the church that held us together,’ explains Urwashi.
‘Roland and I have been Christians our whole lives, but having Nadia has woken us up in our faith—we’re awake now. We’ve seen the grace of God and the love that he can give to us—it was through Nadia. I think she was placed in our lives to remind us that God’s love is still there—he is here.’
Urwashi and Roland met 12 years ago. ‘We met at work—Roland was working as a journalist at Broadcasting House in Fiji, and I was working as a radio presenter. A good four and a half years later, we had our first baby, Ashton, who is now ten years old. After a two-year gap, we had Caleb, who is now eight years old.’
Urwashi and Roland thought their family was complete, and decided to migrate to New Zealand to expand their children’s future opportunities. Roland went ahead of the family in 2016, with Urwashi and the boys joining him in 2017.
‘Roland went from being a journalist to a concreter, which was a big switch, but we knew it would be like that to begin with—everyone has to go through this sort of change to get started in New Zealand, so we tackled it head on. We had some immigration complications which we worked through slowly, but everything was good,’ recalls Urwashi.
‘It was actually Gill who noticed I was pregnant first [Major Gill Waugh, Director of Hornby Community Ministries]. She said to me, “Urwashi, I think you might be pregnant…” And I said, “No, I don’t think so…?” But I was!’
When Urwashi and Roland went to the radiologist for a scan, they had no idea what was ahead. The radiologist confirmed that the baby was 22 weeks gestation. ‘Roland asked her if it was a boy or a girl, and when she confirmed it was a little girl, there were so many mixed emotions for us—the shock of being pregnant and the excitement of learning that the baby was a little girl. The radiologist carried on looking at the baby. At first, I didn’t think too much of it because we were so happy. But then as she was looking at the screen, she said, “I’m going to need to have a chat with both of you”.’
The radiologist explained to them that there were some issues with the baby’s left kidney.
‘At that time, we didn’t understand how severe the condition would be—the seriousness of it. We have two healthy boys, and we’ve never had any medical issues with either of them. It was very overwhelming to discover we were having this bubba who was already 22 weeks old in my tummy and that she was sick. We were transferred to the hospital where I had another scan. That’s when we found out that Nadia’s left kidney was in dilation while I was carrying her. There was nothing they could do until she was born. We just had to wait—I had to get through the whole term of the pregnancy knowing she was sick.’
Nadia was born by C-section (Caesarean section) on the fourth of December and remained at the hospital. Eight days after her birth, Urwashi was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with a post-C-section infection that resulted in surgery, and was in and out of sleep after the surgery fighting off the infection. Unbeknown to her at the time, Hornby Salvation Army were rallying around her little family.
‘I was lying in hospital with no idea how things were working out. I had an eight-day-old bubba and my boys were still in school. When I finally woke up after three days, I said to Roland, “How is everything?” And he calmly said, “Well, everything is just fine”. It turned out that my little church family was holding everything together.’
Urwashi remembers Major Barbara Sampson (Rtd) being at her bedside. ‘Barbara just took the place of my mother, and every time I woke, she was there. I could hear her reassuring me and feel her touching my hand. Gill took the boys home with her so that Roland could be at the hospital with me and Nadia. They just held all the strings together—[Majors] Gill, Barbara and Kingsley [Sampson] (Rtd), and [Majors] Charles and Susanne Prattley (Rtd). Everyone helped. I don’t know what would have happened without our church family. I can’t imagine life without these special people—they’re a huge part of our life. We would have been stuck and all over the place without them.’
Urwashi was still in hospital when Roland explained that Nadia needed to have surgery—she was just 14 days old. Nadia has since had three other operations to try and correct the condition.
‘Nadia’s condition was such that urine collected in her kidney preventing it passing through to the bladder. Her most recent scan showed that the bladder is now pushing the urine back up into the kidney. There’s a stent in place, but she has to have another operation in the first week of January 2021,’ explains Urwashi.
Before Nadia was born, Urwashi would often pray and thank God for her two healthy boys. ‘I would pray, “Thank you Lord for making them healthy and for giving them everything a child needs to run and play and think”. But now I have Nadia and I see everything from the other side of the coin.’
At first Urwashi was distraught. ‘My wee girl is going through so much pain, and I started to question God asking, “Why Lord? Why is she suffering so much? Why are you doing this?”
‘Barbara said to me, “Urwashi, it’s okay to question God”. She talked me through it all and helped me understand that I needed to be patient and keep trusting. God has peeled back the layers of our faith. We were believers and we went to church and it was all routine until we had Nadia. That’s when we woke up and learnt what trusting God really means.’
Urwashi and Roland see God at work every day in Nadia’s journey. Doctors warn the couple before each surgery to expect that Nadia might lose weight or be off her food, but to their surprise, the opposite happens.
‘The way she heals—ask anyone—they’re all amazed. As soon as she has her operations she’s feeding well and bright-eyed the very next day. I take photos and send them to the church message group, and no one can believe how well Nadia looks. She picks up weight and thrives,’ reports Urwashi. But the couple have had to face some unhelpful comments as others have observed their strong faith and asked them why God hasn’t miraculously healed Nadia overnight completely. But they simply reply, ‘We see the miracle in Nadia every day’.
Urwashi has learnt so many significant and spiritually formative lessons since she learnt she was pregnant with Nadia.
‘Finding out that your child has any sort of medical condition means you have to work through it. You can’t just bag it up inside you and say, “Oh, I’m okay”. You have to let it out and live it. You can’t bottle up the shock and the questions. Initially I was trying to be strong, but it’s okay to be sad and to cry and question. At first, I felt I was doing something wrong when I questioned God—it was an angry, “Why?” But if I hadn’t let myself do that I wouldn’t have progressed.
‘When Nadia had her first surgery, we were in the HDU [High Dependency Unit] and there was another sick baby there and another family. And I just went down on my knees and apologised to God for questioning and begged him for strength. From that day to this, that is my prayer: “Lord, give me the strength to care for my baby—every time I have to take her to the hospital, every time her fever spikes, every time she stops giving me wet nappies, every time she gets an infection—Lord, give me your strength”. And he does.’
When Nadia had her first surgery, Urwashi was terrified of holding her baby.
‘When she came out of surgery she was covered in wires and tubes and I was so scared to hold her. But the nurse said it was okay and that Nadia needed me to hold her. My hands were shaking, and I said to the nurse, “Just give me a minute”. I prayed and asked the Lord to please give my body the strength to just hold my baby. You feel so helpless, but then when you realise just holding her helps—it’s a different feeling. And that’s what I would say to anyone with a sick child—cry out to God for strength.’
Urwashi has also learnt to look after herself. ‘When you have a sick bubba, you need to take care of yourself, too. And you also need to ask for help and learn to accept it. It’s the little things that count. You don’t have to overwhelm with the helping—just be there. Gill will text me and say, “I’m here if you need me”, or she’ll drop by and say, “Let’s have a coffee”, and she lets me talk it all out. Barbara is at my door, like she was at the hospital, asking if I want to have a rest while she sits with the children for an hour or so. It’s the little things.’
Nadia has just had her first birthday, and what a year it’s been for the whole Koroi family. Urwashi prays for and dreams of the day when Nadia will be well, but as the journey unfolds, she’s doing something special for Nadia.
‘I would like Nadia to know what she’s been through, so I collect things for her—things that will help me tell her about the grace of God over her as a baby. I want that story to give her strength as a girl and as a young woman, because it’s a story of God’s strength.’
When Urwashi was carrying Nadia, she would sing the song, ‘Come Holy Spirit, I need you’.
‘I still sing it when Nadia is in a lot of pain. I whisper the song in her ear, and she calms down. Those times when I was feeling so helpless as she went through all those operations and procedures, I would sing that song, and it would calm me, too. That song has brought both of us peace. It’s my song for Nadia.’