Tuesday, 16 August 2011
In loving memory of Joshua
A few weeks back Emma spent six long and very stressful days in hospital. I was her ward buddy and I spent countless hours watching her being poked and prodded by nurses and doctors. She thankfully made a speedy recovery, but in that time I realized we have no say or power in who goes home with their children and who leaves empty handed and broken-hearted.
We were away with the usual suspects for a long weekend and on the Saturday night Emma had started with a bit of a fever. Friends loaned us a nebulizer and we also gave her some baby panado. All seemed okay, barring a projectile vomit or two during the night and the following day she was back to her impish little self. We were planning to stay until the Monday, but as with all best-laid plans, some people were leaving on Sunday and some weren't sure what they were doing. In a clear moment (now that I look back) I suggested to Mark that we leave the Sunday morning and get Emma home - we would take her to the doctor on Monday...and so the journey home began.
It was a three hour drive but it felt like forever. Emma was niggly and didn't want to sit in her chair so I jumped into the back seat with her and put her on my lap. She slept most of the way but her temperature was rising and she was in a restless sleep with occasional moans in between.
And then the seizures started and I had no idea what to do. We were an hour out of Johannesburg and I was completely helpless. The fits became more frequent and the way her little body shook left me feeling scared and useless. Poor Mark. He had me screaming from the back seat "DRIVE! JUST DRIVE! I WILL PAY EVERY FINE YOU GET!" I think he was more relieved when we got to the hospital than I was - there's only one thing worse than a back seat driver; a hysterical back seat driver!
We got her to the hospital and ignoring all protocol of filling in forms and waiting in queues. I made my way to the ER, like a mother possessed. The poor receptionist was still asking me for my medical aid card or something as I rushed through the doors and my eloquent response might have rhymed with 'luck' and 'off'.
Emma's temperature was high, so high that they undressed her and started medication immediately. After x-rays, more medicine and check-ups and a very tearful phone call to my mom, Emma was admitted into the Pediatric Ward where we stayed...and stayed...and stayed. We got to know all the staff in the ward as well as around the hospital. Emma was a local in the coffee shop and a firm favourite with the pharmacy assistants. She handled everything like a little trooper, thanking the doctors when they inserted suppositories (bum rockets as they affectionately became known), smiling and loving the nurse that had just administered a drip or an injection.
Emma has a sparkle in her eyes that magically draws you in. Her smile and personality reel you in a little more and before you know it you're hooked. There is no getting around the fact that Emma is a very special soul. One of the little patients was celebrating his birthday in the ward and off Emma went to sing Happy Birthday to him.
So there we were, already Wednesday and Emma's temperature hadn't stabilized. No one had any answers to what was wrong, so the doctors were going through a process of elimination. When Mark popped in for a quick visit he mentioned that one of his friend's little boy, Josh, had been admitted. He was in a coma and doctors were busy treating him. No one knew what had happened but the assumption was that he had fallen off his scooter and bumped his head. They were treating him for concussion. On Thursday morning, nine year old Josh regained consciousness and he was brought downstairs into the ward next to Emma. On Friday afternoon we were sitting on the bed, building puzzles and playing with Manster (Emma's talking hamster) when Josh and his mom and dad passed by to say goodbye. Josh was been discharged. Life was returning to normal for the family...or so we thought.
Mark and Christian, Josh's dad, went off to the local pub for a celebratory drink - Josh was home and Emma was on the mend - all was good in the world. The next thing Josh's mom called frantic. Josh had stopped breathing and had slipped back into a coma. They were already back at the hospital and Christian left in a whirl-wind to see what was happening. That was Friday evening. Saturday morning the doctor came past to discharge Emma. I knew he was with Josh in the ICU the night before so I asked how he was doing. "Not well. Not well at all. It doesn't look good." was the very serious and sombre response. "But from falling off a scooter?" I asked. The fall was what landed Josh in hospital. It was what alerted the doctors to the fact that something was very wrong. It could have been a tumour or a clot. Josh didn't fall off the scooter and hurt himself. Josh was hurting before he fell off.
Saturday morning we got the dreaded sms to say Josh had passed away. Only a few days ago Josh was a healthy active little boy of nine. Suddenly Josh was no more. From planning an overseas trip the family was now planning a funeral. We sat in quiet disbelief for a long time lucky to have Emma home with us, but grieving for a family who would never see their son again. "Who makes that decision?" Mark asked "Who decides that one family leaves with their child in their arms and another family leaves empty handed and broken hearted?"
From that moment on I made a promise to myself (and a silent one to Emma) that I will cherish every moment with her, no matter the time of day (or night). The words 'not now' will never be used when Emma wants to play or read or just sit on the couch. Every opportunity I get I will tell her how much I love her. Mark always tells her "he loves her more" when she says "Love you dad" and our latest expression of love is "I love you the most, more than toast!"
We will jump in those puddles, we will play in the mud. We will make funny faces and sing funny songs. We will hug and kiss her until Emma says "no more". Every moment with Emma is a treasure for us and too often life is as short as the words "If only..."