I guess it was inevitable that I would be punished in some way. I did, of course, leave my little poxy Medium for several days. I didn’t expect her to be quite so cold though, preferring my Mum’s lap to mine and looking at me through narrowed eyes with a sulky expression. She is furious with me. She’s three, she doesn’t understand that her sister was so poorly I couldn’t leave her. All she sees is that I wasn’t there.
I came home for two hours yesterday after Big was moved from the High Dependency Unit to a normal ward. I just needed to sniff Medium and Little for a moment. Lovely Husband insisted I got a cab as it would be dangerous to drive in my state of sleep deprivation, stress and heightened emotion. The round trip cost over £100, but I guess I’m quite precious too. I got home in time to have tea with the two littlest, bath them and then head back to the hospital to settle Big for the night.
And last night – finally – was the night she really turned the corner. The night before she had been very dependent on the oxygen machine, with it cranked up as high as 70% at times. All of my instincts told me that she needed sleep to recover. She needed to be left alone. When the consultant made her rounds with her nurse for the day the following morning, she said she wanted to repeat Big’s chest x-ray, take bloods and for her to have another session with the physiotherapists. “Fine,” I said. “But I want all of this to be done by 10.30, along with any medication that she needs to have, and then I don’t want her to be disturbed. She is not going to recover without sleep.”
I think they knew not to mess with a hormonal, stressed and sleep deprived pregnant mother. By 10.30, Big was fast asleep and I was guarding her like a tiger does her cubs. A nurse walked in, I growled, she put her hands up and left. My baby slept for nearly three hours, her saturation levels normal and her heart and respiration rate as they should be at rest. She woke up and the world was a brighter place. My little star was back in the room.
That afternoon, we were moved back to the ward and she continued to bounce back. Last night, she was disconnected from the oxygen machine and medication was given via a puffer, rather than a nebuliser. She slept. Boy, did she sleep. She slept through the monitors beeping away. She slept through new admissions joining us on the ward. She slept through the very poorly boy with pneumonia crying with every painful cough. She woke up as if she’d never felt poorly and wanted to go straight to the playroom.
We’re now home. As soon as the doctor said we could go home today with 72 hours direct access to the ward in case of a relapse, I nearly collapsed with gratitude and exhaustion. As I sit here typing, listening to the normal sounds of our family home – Lovely Husband calling the girls for tea, Big and Medium fighting over a toy, Little just shouting because that’s what she does – I feel an overwhelming sense of relief, of gratitude and that I can finally exhale.
But now the ‘What ifs’ start. What if I hadn’t tucked Big up on the sofa and had put her to bed instead? She was in severe respiratory distress. How much worse could that have got had I put her down for a nap and assumed she was sleeping soundly? She was admitted with suspected pneumonia. Luckily for us, it just turned out to be a very strange but nevertheless nasty viral chest infection. Other parents on the ward weren’t that lucky and now face what will feel like forever in the vacuum of the hospital, where time keeps to it’s own vortex and you have no idea what time it is, what day it is, whether it’s raining or that there’s an outside world beyond the curtains around your child’s bed. God, I’m glad we’re home.
I cannot fault the treatment we’ve received. From our GP’s immediate action to help Big, to the paramedics fast response, the paediatric A&E team’s calm and professional manner and the cheerful porters that tried to keep Big’s spirits up as she was pushed from x-ray to paediatrics. The nurses, the doctors, the consultants, the physios that finally got her to cough and move the phlegm, the wonderful play workers who distracted her through blood tests and sugar checks and the healthcare workers who brought me tea, told me to take five minutes, didn’t look at me like I was crazy for welling up every time I had to come up with some new story to persuade her to let the doctors treat her. Yesterday, the butterfly on the blood testing needle needed to drink her blood so he could go to Tesco and buy his dinner. I have no idea where that came from, but she bought it (“But he can only have a little bit!”), much to the amusement of the nurses helping with the procedure. All of them are wonderful. The hours they work are ludicrous. Our nurses worked from eight until eight. Some of the doctors started at eight and were still there at midnight. Think of these people if you want to malign the NHS, then think of how lucky we are to have them.
We’re home. She’s safe. Tonight I will be setting an alarm to administer medication at the right time and in between I will sleep. I will sleep knowing that her chest is rising and falling as it should and that we are the lucky ones that have escaped the uncertainty and the interminable time that seems to span decades in a hospital bed.
Friends, may you never ever have a week like mine.