I have been nervous about writing this part of our story, because to be honest, it is such a blur. I have blocked out so much of these few weeks; simply because the shear fear was so intense that I think my brain has compartmentalised it, into some dark space in my mind. Probably, behind the bit where I un-remember the tax bill, shopping, work deadlines and plethora of parents’ evenings, football matches and gym displays.
Within days of coming home, we felt that Harry’s scar wasn’t healing well. We took him to our local consultant who questioned “why on earth” he had been given a head bandage in the heat of summer. One thing I have learnt, is that some medical professionals have a tendency to be very vocal about their colleagues, other hospitals, and decisions that they were not part of… A little plea from the other side. Please refrain from doing this. It does not engender confidence, just sparks fear!
Anyhow, it may be that he was right, or most likely it may have just been bad luck, but in any case Harry’s scar looked odd. My lovely nurse friend, Kelly, who had been there for us from day one, kept popping over to check on it and help change the dressings. She has always accepted me for the wimp that I am. We now have an agreement that when his dressings need changing I am to leave the room, and she will either do it with Matt or my Mum. But I am absolutely not, under any circumstances, allowed to hold my breath or suck my teeth in!
Kelly kept looking at the scars and saying “hummm, I’m not happy”. She came round one afternoon and looked again. “Still not happy”. She left saying that she would be back later that evening. During this time my friend from work popped in. We were sitting in the garden, Mum was holding Harry and I was cuddling Loulou. I glanced over at Harry and thought, shit! By the time Kelly popped back that evening I had already called the neuro-team. “Good” was Kelly’s response, because if you hadn’t then I would have”.
The next day we found ourselves back in the little Triage Room which sits in the hot neuro-ward, with a plethora of professionals trying to decide what to do. “Definitely” was the consensus, give strong antibiotics, but should he go back into surgery?
After more discussion and on the advise of our trusted neuro-surgeon, we decided that yes, surgery is needed. So the next day (I think) there we were again; outside that room. Getting Harry off to sleep this time was horrendous. He struggled and shook and clung to Matt. When we walked out of the Theatre, Matt’s legs buckled and I pretty much dragged him (not easy!) downstairs and out into the boiling courtyard.
Harry seemed to get over this surgery quickly. Within just two days we had escaped the hot ward and the manky shower and returned home. Albeit with Harry on very strong, very sticky antibiotics.
Now Matt always calls me on the way into work and on this morning it was no different. Thankfully the kids had stayed at their Dad’s so it was just Harry and I. “We are still in bed” I proclaimed gleefully – “enjoy hot London”! We chatted about I don’t know what, whilst Harry breastfed. Suddenly, Harry jerked and then fell limp. The colour from his beautiful face drained like an egg-timer and his lips turned a blueish grey. ” He’s dead, he’s just died!” I screamed down the phone. Matt was saying things but I couldn’t understand – “get off the phone, I need an ambulance, I need an ambulance NOW” I screamed. I then grabbed the first thing I could find (fortunately for everyone concerned it turned out to be my dressing gown) and ran my seemingly life-less baby, outside to hammer like a woman possessed on our next-door neighbour’s door.
My neighbour, Neil, appeared at his front door and I could see his face pale. For a moment I think he just stood and stared. He then got on his phone and I could hear words like ‘not-breathing’, ‘blue’, ‘come quickly’. Apparently Neil, Matt and I were making simultaneous calls at this point but I guess panic had set in. I then ran Harry back inside my house. The Operator was telling me to lie him on the floor and was telling me to start CPR. As soon as I did (I think) his colour came back. I glimpsed at Neil out of the corner of my eye who was on the phone to another call-handler, running his hands through his head and looking wide-eyed.
I think the ambulances were with us within five minutes. Trust me, we have called others for Harry that haven’t been so quick – but this one(s) was. Suddenly, the room was filled with people and I stood back. By this time my neighbour Diana, who had been told not to come in by the ambulance crew, had snuck round the back and she was there holding my hand and telling me over and over again. “Look he’s OK. He’s breathing”.
I looked down to realise that my bright blue dressing gown was wide open. everyone politely pretended not to have noticed. Note to self; as this is now my life, chuck out the granny pants! I ran upstairs and chucked on my clothes whilst they took Harry outside into the ambulance. My whole street had come out and everyone was crying. I think Diana lifted me up into the ambulance and they whisked us away – deliberately not putting on the sirens until we were out of earshot of the wide eyed children who were also crying.
As soon as we got to hospital someone said ” Please tell me this is the Bagshot baby”. I nodded – he gave me a hug and said we heard it all over the radio. Thank god he’s breathing. He’s in good hands now – and I’m going to get you a coffee”.
Matt turned up 40 minutes later (having driven, whilst calling the ambulance, from London) just after my Mum, who had just endured ‘that phone call’, appeared. I don’t remember calling her but either Matt or I had. From the ghostly pale look on her face I think she was expecting him to look worse, but either way she was expecting to see Harry in Resus – not the HDU bed which he was currently occupying.
The Consultant came down and chatted to me. He is funny, sharp and most importantly a Dad, so speaks to us in simple Dad terms rather than in medical speak. “And what did your neighbour say when he first opened the door – I’m asking because I want to understand whether Harry was breathing or not by then” he said. I looked at him and through my wild hair, mascara-less eyes, and said ” I think he said Oh Fuck”. “Well”, said the consultant, “from now on we shall know him as the ‘Oh Fuck’ baby!”
More Consultants came and went, more head measurements, horrid blood tests and SAT (measures heart-rate, blood oxygen levels) machines. They conferred, then ordered a CT scan. Matt took him in (only one person is permitted and they prefer Dads; less chance that they are pregnant!) whilst I sat outside with a lovely student nurse who held my hand. It was then that an old lady turned and said “what is that awful sound, can nobody shut that baby up”. I turned looked her in the eye and said “that is my baby and they are trying to discover whether he is going to die so please shut up.” The nurse looked at the lady, shock her head and squeezed my hand. The lady didn’t look up again.
Back in the A&E they started talking about meningitis (which is high risk in anyone who has brain surgeries). It was at that point that the world felt like it had stopped turning and yes, we would be going back to St. George’s in yet another ambulance.