Sunday, November 25, 2012

Herald Sun Sunday 25th November 2012

Marty Vanzwol is a lot closer to Jack now he is back in Australia. Picture: Scott Radford-Chisholm Source: Herald Sun

HE was more than 10,000km away in a war zone, but an Aussie soldier still heard his son's first precious cries of life.

Marty Vanzwol was by wife Tanya's side - virtually - while she gave birth to their son, Jack.  The labour was streamed in a Townsville hospital to a laptop in the Tarin Kowt military training camp in southern Afghanistan.

Nothing would stop the Digger from being a part of the joy of Jack's arrival.  Not after years IVF treatment. Nor after the death of their first baby, Harry.

The logistics they put in place were such that despite a patchy internet connection, an unpredictable event and different time zones, he was still able to watch almost every minute of the 12-hour labour.
He was woken up at 2am (local time) after Tanya called a friend who was serving as a chief clerk and had a reliable phone connection.

Warrant Officer Vanzwol's laptop was already set up on his bunk bed.  A blanket draped around his bottom bunk formed a makeshift tent so as not to disturb his roommate.

The image that first flashed up on his screen was a view of his wife from the side.  He tried to reassure her, to tell her that she was doing well.  The doctors and nurses spoke to him as if, he said, he was in the room.

At one stage they moved the iPad out of the way. "While they were doing the epidural they turned me around to look in the corner, but I think most dads are pushed into the corner at that stage," WO Vanzwol said.

Back at the base, his roommate brought him toasted sandwiches for lunch.
Other troops came into the room to check on Tanya's progress.

The birth had given them something positive to focus on. They had been placing bets on the due date.
Technology has not always been on their side.  When Jack was born they longed for that first cry.

"I heard his first cries and saw him passed into Tanya's arms," he said. "I was just relieved to hear Jack cry, because his big brother did not."

He shed a tear when he knew Jack was breathing and celebrated with a "near beer".

Look@MyBaby is a service that provides families and friends with a secure online video live streaming from Jack's hospital cot.

WO Vanzwol went overseas in May as part of the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Task Group, involved in the training and mentoring of Afghan soldiers.

A month after Jack's July birth there was an attack by an Afghan solider who killed Lance-Cpl Stjepan Milosevic, Spr James Martin and Pte Robert Poate.  "The nature of it left a bad taste in everyone's mouth," he said.

On Remembrance Day, almost four months after Jack's birth, he finally held his son in his arms.

Thank you Marty, Tanya and Jack.

Thank you Lucie and Herald Sun .

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