We never 100% totally relax. N is healthy 98% of the time. Although if you didn’t know her and you came in on a “good day” you might well be slightly perturbed at the amount of sneezing, snuffling, spluttering that goes on.
For anyone who has experienced emergency ambulances and critical care then you will know that feeling never goes away. Even now when I hear an ambulance I do a head count of where she probably is at this very minute and actually even evaluate which direction the ambulance has come from. It brings tightness in my tummy.
Things seem to happen on holiday. Five years ago N was the first swine flu victim in the North of England to be ventilated and on critical care. It was only my mum, N, Ruth (PA) and myself staying for a long weekend back in Northumberland where we used to live before we moved to get N into mainstream school in Halifax.
We were seeing friends we had not seen for many years and were enjoying lots of reunions when she got incredibly ill very quickly. The Old Bag at the Bed and Breakfast was more worried about her bloody sheets being covered in vomit rather than our fears that we needed to urgently get hold of Tamiflu. Our PA was brilliant – she had already at a young age sadly had to nurse her mum who had died of cancer and with N she also went straight into nursing mode. She has actually just got onto a nursing degree and starts in January!
Ruth took N’s temperature every half hour and when it started to go through the roof we called an ambulance at 5am (which woke the Old Bag up, ha ha). Ironically it took N back to the same hospital she was born in – before being transferred up to North Tyneside Hospital. We cancelled our camping holiday in the Italian Lakes and instead booked into the Travelodge near to the hospital in Whitley Bay. Slightly different than Lake Garda. We stayed there for 3 weeks whilst N was in intensive care with lots of visits, home cooked food and our washing done by our old friends.
After another week in hospital back home she then began college on a Health and Social Care Course wearing a bright scarf fashionably wrapped round her. This was to hide the scars of her war wound and the tracheostomy that had been performed as an emergency procedure – and thankfully had just been taken out. Onwards and upwards.
This year’s holiday was in a stunning villa in the hills of Cyprus. The trauma of 5 years ago was well and truly in the past and when booking I had never even thought of length of time to the nearest hospital.
That is until she began feeling unwell on the first day. N’s airways are the most vulnerable bit of her. Already narrow sometimes I can hear her breathing at night like a ghost train trundling through the darkness – it is not a whistle but more like a horn blowing. She was doing her usual bringing up the mucous, drinking heaps and bringing up even more. Scary night. Andy always stays remarkably calm – we both knew that if we took her down to the hospital in Pathos half an hour away they would take one look at her and want to stick a tube down her.
N remaining as relaxed as possible and not panicking is a key to keep her breathing properly. We did not want to risk anything of course, but in any of these situations we weight up the damage of medical intervention with little understanding of her health needs by doctors with whether we can nurse her through the night ourselves. The best way she could sleep was for us both to sit bolt upright on the sofa together with her head on my shoulder. Uncomfortable, but it did help with her erratic and noisy breathing and when the sun came through at 5am we knew we were on the straight and narrow road to having escaped another emergency situation. Having known people with sick kids and family members in hospitals abroad we knew this was best avoided if at all possible.
That day she took it easy and joined her brothers and sisters soaking up the much needed Greek Cypriot sun rays outside on the balcony area overlooking grape and tomato vines, apple trees, and hot chilli pepper plants. The next few nights were easier. By day four her lips were sore from the sun because she had not wanted to put a hat on and she lived to tell the tale enough to enjoy the rest of the holiday.
Her emergency plan for moving out of home will ensure that it takes into account Andy being on the end of the phone to reassure any nervous personal assistants who have their fingers resting on the numbers 999 ready to dial.
Back to Havoc in Halifax and since we got back I had one of the kids in hospital for removal of a boil (far bigger job than we ever imagined) and one of the others has had 4 days of stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Typical.