Sundays are usually quiet affairs in the Muxxy household. I get a lie in, only to get woken up either by a dog, cat, or Kim bringing me a strong dose of caffeine to bring me round. As it’s the day before the first schoolday of the week, I spend a little time ironing the kids’ uniforms. Yes, despite the rough exterior, I am quite domesticated.
Yesterday our son, who is nearly twelve, complained of a pain and had trouble walking properly. He went off to bed last night having taken some painkillers, and we said we would see how he was today. It’s not unheard of for him to be ‘unwell’ on a Sunday, as he is not keen on his recent rise to high school. Despite this, we were quite worried as he was in obvious distress.
Here in the UK the emergency number is 999. In recent years a 111 number has been made available to get medical advice, rather than bogging down the emergency line. Kim phoned 111 when I got up and explained Harley’s symptoms. I listened on and watched her face drop. When she hung up she said we had to get him to the hospital within the hour. Ok, panic set in.
Our six year old daughter Pixie was bundled off to my step daughter’s house and we jumped in the car. Our nearest hospital does not accept emergency cases, so we had to drive an hour to my last favourite hospital in the world: my now deceased sister was flown to this hospital from a family holiday in Portugal several years ago and, due to their neglect, she passed away. Understandably, I was not happy. However, here in the UK we have a national health service and cannot pick and choose where we get treatment, unless we go private.
Once we arrived we got him booked in and were told there would be a wait of up to two hours. This is far from unheard of, and the department was quite busy. We settled in for the wait with the coughing masses.
Some people are weird. We would never dream of going to a hospital unless it was serious, yet it is obvious when people watching to deduce those that treat it like a day out. I mean, some people had sat there since before we had arrived. Within a few minutes of being called for their consultations, they were out and booking a taxi back home. No wonder there are commercials on TV against wasting hospital and ambulance time.
An hour and a half into our wait Harley’s name was called. The doctor asked about the problem, checked his medical history and gave him an examination. Afterwards she said she needed to consult a specialist. Off we trotted back into the waiting room. Fifteen minutes later he was seen by a consultant. Again he went through his medical history and an examination. It was then that we were informed that our son very possibly needed surgery, and quickly.
Harley’s face dropped: he has quite a sensitive soul and I watched as his eyes filled up. Mum and I were shell shocked. This couldn’t be happening. There was an outside chance that he had a simple infection, and we clung onto that small hope.
He needed to provide blood and urine samples to check out that possibility. Once more we were summoned to the consultation room, to be greeted by a senior surgeon. No, he didn’t have an infection, Harley would need surgery. Tonight.
As his mum consoled Harley and a bed was made ready, I went outside to phone the families. No, nothing happened to cause this. Yes, we are all in shock. You bet Harley is scared.
I went back inside just as he was called onto the children’s ward. Shockingly, a bed was found quickly. I was taken aback at the pace of events. This couldn’t possibly be the same hospital I dreaded ever visiting again. Within ten minutes the anaesthetist came into the room to explain to Harley what was about to happen. Nurses introduced themselves and tried to calm him down as he was visibly upset and scared. He had his pulse, temperature and blood pressure checked before being given a surgical robe to wear.
OK, which parent is coming with Harley when anaesthetic is applied? Naturally, mum had to be there. A boy always wants his mum. Right, here’s his trolley. Again, I was shocked at the speed of events. This was serious.
We followed the porter pushing Harley to the right department, accompanied by a children’s nurse. She would explain to our son each and every step. Outside the department I gave him a hug and held my emotions in check, telling him he would be fine and that I’d see him soon. Once the doors closed my emotions bubbled up to the surface as I waited for Kim.
Twenty minutes later she came out, tears streaming down her face. We hugged, as much out of bewilderment for the turn of events as out of parental worry. Had we failed as parents? Should we have phoned yesterday?
We were told the operation would be straight forward and that it would take around an hour, followed by up to half hour to revive him and make sure he was fine. That was the longest hour and a half of our lives. We hardly spoke, each sat on either side of the bed he would be returning to. Although assured it was a simple procedure, parents inevitably think of the worst. We kept those thoughts private. We both knew the other had them, but putting them into words was uncalled for. Why tempt fate?
Suddenly Kim’s phone rang. Unknown number. She answered. It was the surgeon. All had gone well, the operation was over and was a success. Harley is in recovery. We breathed double sighs of relief. He apparently had had this defect since birth. It had now been rectified. Better now rather than later in life. Harley would return to the ward shortly.
When he did, he was naturally quite groggy. He opened his eyes at our voices but didn’t give much of a response to questions. It was hard to see him like that: he’s usually so very full of life. He began to get a little restless and pointed at his mouth. Do you want a drink? The briefest of nods. He took a small sip of water and then his eyes opened in shock. Do you feel sick? A more assured nod this time. I held the sick bowl out to him just in time to catch his vomit. It took him a while to stop. The nurse assured us it was normal following anaesthetic.
The small ward he is on houses four bays. In each bay there is a fold up bed for a parent to stay with each child. There was no question of me taking it, mum had priority. We are an hour from home and, because of my own health issues, I cannot drive. So I sit in our car, making this post, waiting for tiredness to claim me. I doubt very much that I’ll sleep, but the seat is heated, the radio is droning on and I get to release some of my emotions by sharing Harley’s ordeal.
It still hasn’t sunk in, and probably won’t until he is hopefully back home tomorrow. I’ve spoken to his little sister tonight. Although at times they fight like cat and dog, she loves her older brother and, despite his insistence to the contrary, he loves her too. She cried a little, wanting him home. He’ll be there tomorrow I assured her. Hug him for me dad? You betcha darling.