Musings of a Mother

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Hell hath no fury like a mother in hospital with her child … especially for the fourth time in as many weeks!

It’s never a good sign when the staff welcome you back, by name, with the aside ‘Can’t stay away?’ when you’ve bounced back again, and again.

At this point I must clarify that I am not a neurotic mother (though with Archie’s special needs and propensity for medical attention and repeated crises – I’m thinking I’d be forgiven for being just that)?

I’m actually being quite calm.  I think it’s because I’ve been here before, many, many times over the years and I like to think I’m a seasoned pro now.  I’ve got my fat pants on, purely for comfort, although after a couple of weeks of hospital snack foods the elasticity is a blessing.  These days, however, I’m trying to ingest and expend any calories accordingly, rather than just sit at my sons bedside eating calorific crap.  It’s a difficult situation, not a particularly nice one to be in and night times are most definitely the worst.

I pity the poor mother who is walking the corridors with her babe in arms.  The one wearing the week old Snoopy pyjamas, 4 days worth of mascara and sleep clinging to her lashes.  I’m not judging.  Far from it.  I worry that your infant is so deafeningly unsettled that the whole world should know about it.  You are young and unpractised and the nursing staffs efforts to settle him are futile.  I worry that this isn’t the best initiation into parenthood for you.  I pity you such a challenging start.

Equally worrying, if not moreso, is the silence of the teenage boy in the metal cagework.  The one who makes no noise, who doesn’t move a muscle, yet the machines surrounding his bedside beat a tune of alarming alacrity.  There’s nothing that doesn’t scream attention in this scene.  His poor mother sits helpless, clutching his open hand, her shoulders heaving in step with the alarms.  the neck of her too tight pink blouse is awash with the tracks of crimson tears.  If I knew I could smuggle a hot drink onto the ward I would make you one strong and sweet, but my weak, knowing smile, must be the only comfort I can offer you.

Contrary to popular belief not all parents want to be in hospital with their children, but our responsibilities leave us no choice.  Our body clocks become disrupted beyond recognition and however healthy our lifestyle, however driven our career in the outside world and however focused our intentions, not one of us can survive for any length of time on just 2 hours of broken sleep a night without experiencing some sort of mental hiccup.  We become restless and fractious,  I have frequently called my son by the names of both his siblings and even forgotten mine on occasion.  Everything becomes a conscious effort.

As much as I  love a blogging opportunity and the chance to share, to educate or simply entertain, I wish I were sleeping  rather than taking notes in the wee small hours.  A time  when  only screaming babies, beeping machines and caffeine fuelled nurses can offer company.  It’s really not my ideal.

As I hinted on previously, there’s no time for vanity on the hospital ward.  Frazzled parents are more likely to compare lack of sleep or the merits of a ready meal to worrying about making an impression.  Hair, clothes and faces blur into insignificance and only smiles and small gestures of knowing and kindness are our language.  It’s reassuring to note that I’m not the only one sporting bags beneath my eyes that would rival the Birkin.  There’s every excuse for them, so I don’t feel the need.

Openness and honesty are free flowing.  Sharing is acceptable here.

Escapism is the key to survival with regards sanity and sustenance.  My daily objective is to take myself from the confines of the ward for just 20/30 minutes to gain a little clarity and perhaps draw a fresh breath.  Finding an understanding nurse, or visiting friend to sit with Archie so he doesn’t get himself into mischief or cause himself harm isn’t easy, but if possible this means the difference between keeping myself alert and losing the plot completely. A training session of speed-walking from one hospital building to the next – running up and down the stairwell to raise my pulse and stretch my calves (& increase the steppage on my FitBit) makes all the difference.  Just spending 2 minutes in the fresh air loosens a cobweb or two.  Nipping into the local Boots Pharmacy for some healthy nourishment (a meal deal) which doesn’t break the bank, and a friendly word punctuates my day with the only thing that verges on ‘normality.’  Indulging myself with a piece of carrot cake is my new guilty pleasure.  The lovely girls in Boots no longer ask me if I’m ‘Staff’ (to check re discount) but instead inquire after my son’s health and let me know that they’re there if I need to off load or if they can help in anyway.  Like I said, just lovely … and it’s people like this that make all the difference.

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As a rule all the nursing staff are rather lovely too; busy, overworked and underpaid and occasionally forgetful and sidetracked in their missions, but lovely nonetheless.  Most of them have been mauled by Archie at least one time or another (he’s none too gentle with his women – however caring they’re trying to be towards him) and I believe he’s getting a reputation as a heavy handed flirt!  Me, I’m probably getting a name for myself too, but so be it.  I’m a hands-on Mum, ever proactive where Archie’s care is concerned, because when push comes to shove I know my son best. so if I’m labelled ‘over-bearing’ so be it.  When this latest medical fiasco is over it’ll be me, as his primary carer, who needs to establish a workable medical routine at home, ensure everyone is aware of it, clued up and trained in any new procedures, including Dad and Archie’s Angels (who help with care during the working week).  It’ll also be me who needs to retain and catalogue every episode of his care, both inside hospital and out,  in order to recall from memory every exacting detail as and when required.

So, Pete’s taken over this evening.  I’ve got the night off.  I say ‘off,’ but apart from my express purpose of sleep, I’ve turned my washing around, visited my Dad to do some chores for him, fed and entertained him and the imps, sorted some things out for next week, checked and responded to urgent emails and had a much needed, but not necessarily relaxing, bubble bath.

As luck would have it that leaves me now, just after midnight, rattling off this blog post to fill you in before retiring to the Land of Nod (for what I hope is in excess of 5 hours uninterrupted sleep)…. as I’ll be back tomorrow to resume my nursing duties …. and breathe …..

STRESSFUL SEPTEMBER

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September held so much promise… IMG_9697 (2)

At the start of the month I enjoyed some end of summer fun times with my brood before they slowly, but surely, went back to school.  It was then my every intention to spring clean, to get my house and  my slightly frazzled mind back in order and to catch up with all those things that had hung in the balance over the summer months… Hahaha – best laid plans and all that!

So, barely back through the classroom door and Archie finally got his much needed op date for his corrective surgery.  we’d hoped that, worrying as these situations always are, things would be done with relative ease, miracles performed by healing hands and my soldier would be restored to his smiling former glory.  I guess I should have known better.  I’m beginning to realise that nothing is ‘straightforward’ in mine, or in deed the lives of my family.  BUT, if nothing else, September has done a good job of reminding me of those many, many things that I can be grateful for…

The NHS & Leeds General Infirmary

It really has been a very long few weeks and I should know as I’ve been awake for almost all of it!  However much I’ve grumbled and complained, and whinged even more. there is no mistaking, once again, how incredibly lucky we are to have the NHS and all those dedicated nurses, doctors, surgeons and all the hospital staff who have played a part in Archie’s care and recovery.  From the surgeon who painstakingly ensured he came through the long and tricky surgery, despite complications, to the lovely girl who cleaned the ward every day with a smile on her face and took the time for a cheery word with all the poorly children and ‘dog tired’ parents.  I extend a massive THANK YOU to all of you, once again, for ensuring my soldier lives to fight another day. IMG_9842

Into the second week of hospitalisation I wasn’t coping too well.  The fact that  my much coveted lunch (a Boots Meal Deal) mysteriously disappeared from Archie’s bedside whilst he was having a procedure,  Archie’s wheelchair broke and someone let a heavy door go on me, which resulted in the smashing of my favourite sunglasses, pretty much sent me over the edge, as if the stress I was under wasn’t enough.  God bless the expert timing of my friend Jan’s regular visit and the fact that she quite coincidentally brought me a hot meal probably saved me.    All the lovely visitors, cards, texts, Facebook messages and acts of kindness have helped keep us both chipper.  At this point, I’d like to make a public apology to the harassed and sleep-deprived mother that, in one of my weaker moments, I really shouldn’t have joked with.  When we were likening our stay to being ‘incarcerated’ I couldn’t resist pulling your leg, but worryingly you were called away before the laughter ensued and I’d just like to clarify that I never have and never intend to be locked up for armed robbery and sorry,  it was naughty of me to let you think that!  In the very sobering environment of seriously ill children and fraught parents, I couldn’t resist trying to raise a smile, however inappropriate!  

MAGIC TOM

The jokes were a little weak for my flagging humour, but I know just how much Archie and his fellow patients loved being entertained by Magic Tom  www.themagicguy.co.uk.  I was particularly impressed by his balloon modelling and Archie looked very fetching in his specially constructed balloon hat.  Thank you for visiting the ward and raising smiles under particularly adverse conditions. IMG_9909 (2)

TEMPLE SPA – ALL TALK

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The first few days post op for Archie were difficult.  He was in a great deal of pain and I tried to alleviate it wherever possible.  If I could have gone through it for him, I really would have.  A small but not insignificant problem was that his lips were dry and split and constantly bleeding.  We tried so many things – until a kindly neighbour begifted her Temple Spa ‘All Talk’ and finally Archie’s lips could be salved and softened.  Thanks Jos, this little tube was a massive turning point in his lengthy recovery.

NUTELLA

Back at home there’s no doubt that Pete was doing a sterling effort keeping things ticking along and keeping the imps both alive and in check … no doubt sponsored by Nutella! IMG_9688

 

TUNNOCKS & A GOOD READ

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I’d like to say I’ve been looking after myself beautifully, getting lots of sleep, taking life in my stride and eating sensibly – but it’d be a downright lie!  However, during my sleepless nights in hospital I’ve read a few brilliant books;

The first was Blood Sisters by Barbara Keating and Stephanie Keating.  A hard hitting, emotional read, with lots of action, cultural references and relationships.  You can read my review here  http://bit.ly/1LF2dWg .  I read it in just 2 long evenings and the Ward Sister was intrigued and had asked me about it – so I left it for her to read.

I also read Tight Spiral by Michael J Gill – a completely different book, more lighthearted and frivolous,  but equally readable and great fun http://bit.ly/1KzDJ4q

Finally, I read Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson, a brilliantly written unputdownable book that totally got me in the guts.  http://bit.ly/1KTVLyv I gifted this brilliant book to the lovely nurse who’d  listened and actioned, and helped me through yet another sleepless and very stressful night!

I couldn’t help but  indulge myself with the odd Tunnock’s wafer, during our hospital stay.  I resisted visiting the vending machines, but it was impossible to follow a healthy regime.  I understand there are some dark chocolate Tunnock’s out there, which I am determined to track down – but in the absence of a large supermarket I had to settle for the tried and tested milk chocolate ones from the Tesco express just outside the hospital grounds). The only one open in the dead of night when I could sneak out whilst my patient was sleeping.  I’m trying a little harder now I’m out … but pah.  The diet can wait.  Right now it’s about comfort food and keeping my strength up, until this ordeal is over!

BLACK DOG DAY

The 1st October was Black Dog Day.  A new one on me.  It celebrated all those black dogs that apparently are often the last to leave shelters, trusts and private litters.  I find that incredibly hard to believe.  My  ‘black’ dog, my beloved Tetley, was just the best ever and was a massive part of my life for such a long time.  Over the past few weeks I don’t think I’ve ever missed his presence, his wet nose or his velvet ears more.  He always saw me through times of stress and I still miss him, terribly.

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PRIDE OF BRITAIN

After 3 weeks without make up and little care or attention afforded myself,, I made an effort yesterday evening to take Jem to a high school open evening.  I came back to the start of the televised Pride of Britain Awards and it’s so incredibly humbling.  Inspirational heroes every last one of them, they made me feel very grateful for my lot, however hard that’s been to cope with of late.  I was soon make up-free once again, as it rapidly slid down my face in a river of tears, not to mention a box of tissues lighter!

GOING SHORT

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My darling daughter has decided after years of growing her lovely long locks that she wants to go short.  She asked lots of questions recently, when visiting Archie in hospital, she saw a couple of little girls struggling with hair loss.  She’s decided that she’d like to give her lovely locks to help someone else.  I’m so incredibly proud of her.  I’ve registered with Little Princess Trust online and have been kindly offered the professional hairdressing services of Wendy at Tranquility Spa in Horsforth to ensure the job is done well and my little princess ends up with a lovely new do!  I’m so incredibly proud of her – it’s such a big thing for her to do (she assures me she won’t change her mind) and I’d love for you to lend her your support http://bit.ly/1FLvy59  every little bit really does help – THANK YOU.

And already we’re moving on ….

Hurrah for October … because I for one am expecting nothing less than FABULOUS!!