It seems a long time since last weekend, where we spent time with my mum, sister, best friend and families; gardening, relaxing, and going to Hyde Park to watch Carole King. It was a lovely weekend and full of love and good things, one to be treasured.
I left work early on Tuesday to come home in time to visit E’s school for the first time. I was excited to see it properly, meet the teachers and so on, but when I got in, the house was deserted, TV still, on vomit on the floor and the front door wide open. No sign of anyone out the front door, or upstairs. I called S’s mobile – no answer. Changing out of my bike stuff, clearing up the vomit and getting things ready to go, I stepped into the street and called his number again. “E’s choked, we’re round the corner,” he said.
I turned the corner to find her lying on the floor, with a paramedic holding a bag over her nose and E taking big gasping breaths in. Her eyes were closed and apart from her heaving chest, she was very still. S turned to me. “I thought I’d lost her,” he said.
There was a flurry of paramedics, ambulances, and police, along with two scared looking bystanders (I found out later they’d called the ambulance for us.) We climbed in and took her to the hospital, nee-naaing our way through rush hour traffic, and into A&E. E had by now responded to her name and flickered her eyes open, but wasn’t focusing. They strapped her into all kinds of machines, pulled all hr clothes off, had terrible trouble getting blood samples or a line in her hand (she inherits my veins, it turns out) and rehydrated her before a chest xray, an ECG and some other tests. A parade of doctors came by and introduced themselves, telling us what was going on, none of which I remember now. S told the story over and over again. Then the police turned up (standard procedure) and S told it all over again.
Essentially, she had been eating a snack of cheese and grapes in the front room. S was in the dining room. She staggered out, clearly choking, he bashed her back, stuck his fingers down her throat and when she collapsed with blue lips, ran into the street to find help. I must have missed them by seconds. She went into cardiac and respiratory arrest and they lost a pulse for a couple of minutes.
She got better and better, told the paediatric doctor to “go away and stop hurting me” and I stood reciting ‘The Scarecrow’s Wedding’ to her as waited to find out what happened next. Then we all went up to the Paediatric High Dependency Unit where she immediately fell asleep for 5 1/2 hours.
By the time she woke, she seemed back to normal, ate some Rice Crispies and told the nurse about her favourite Disney Robin Hood film. We were opposite a v ill baby and she waved at him while he sat and had his milk. Somehow this triggered something in me and I went to the family room and tried to sleep for awhile. Mainly a failure but when I got back to the ward at 5am, she and S were both asleep, her in bed and him in a chair beside her.
S went off for sleep and she woke later on, perky and chatty again. We played with some jigsaws and I tried to sneak some tea (she was nil by mouth). Then the Ear, Nose and Throat centre were ready for her and we went down to help her have her anaesthetic. Leaving her lying asleep on the bed was the moment when I nearly lost it and had to have a big hug from the nurse (everyone who looked after us was an absolute superstar, we couldn’t have had better care). The procedure was simple enough – to see if she’d ingested any food in her lungs and get it out if so.
I waited. The nurse brought me toast. S arrived from home with essentials – or the only essentials I could think of (phone charger, clean pants, cardi, but I forgot birth control pills and a toothbrush.) He also brought sandwiches and a chocolate muffin. She was awake again, and absolutely fine and so we made our way upstairs to the children’s ward. We were hoping to go home but she remained on close observation for a while and they decided a further ECG was necessary, just to be on the safe side. As soon as we arrived, E went down to the playroom and rode a plastic horse back up to her bed. This is a child supposed to be in recovery – we were given a list of symptoms she might display from the procedure and the anaesthetic. Nothing.
The ward was a test of my patience. It was incredibly noisy, mainly beeping machines, doors banging, parents and TV sets, rather than the kids. We watched a DVD (How to Train your Dragon) without having any idea of what was going on because we couldn’t hear anything. S went home at 8.30, E slept from 9 onwards and everyone finally shut up at 9.30-10. I slept in a reclining chair and was woken at 3am by a nurse brandishing antibiotics asking to wake E up. Fat chance but she finally swallowed it down and went back to sleep. Then I got woken at 6.30 by her standing at the end of my chair saying, “Mummy, I’m beeping.”
We had a cuddle till breakfast time and read the Thomas the Tank Engine mag S picked up for her the day before. I was reliant on the mum at the bed next door for what to do at breakfast (also how to work the reclining chair, clearly a seasoned pro at the ward stuff) and E wolfed down loads of it. We spent the day on the ward, she had her ECG and then we were told we could go but needed meds. A long wait. Finally home at 6 with fish and chips for dinner.
She was the wellest child on the ward, and raced up and down in her gown and on her plastic horse. She charmed all the nurses and lapped up all the attention. She’s shown no signs of side effects yet (we have to be vigilant) and can’t remember anything much of why she was there. She doesn’t believe me when I told her she’d been in an ambulance.
For someone like me, who has been panicking about harm coming to her since before she was born, this all seemed rather like a sick joke. I also found out that a defence mechanism of your child scraping past serious health issues is to fervently wish things were normal and you could have gone to the school open evening instead. For S, things seem a little different. He went through the worst of it and, despite being praised by a lot of the doctors for his quick thinking (essentially he saved her life) he has seemed bashful and worried. I’m guessing some kind of guilt.
E is now asleep and my nightmares about her not waking up are back. But I know I need to not smother her or stop her from getting into harm or trying new things. In some ways, it was good to get a bit cross with her earlier today when she didn’t want to tidy up – it seemed so normal. It is all her little things; her hugs, her sloppy kisses, her attempts to help me when I nearly fell into the bath, her handing me items from the shopping basket to put through the till, her pleasure in Lego, Octonauts and Star Wars figurines and her clumsy dancing to Disney songs that I need to remember and hold onto. Hold on tight, said my sister yesterday, hold on to your babies, they are so precious.
(Apologies for the length of this blog post – I needed to get it all out.)