“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine”
I was being asked by the A&E doctor who was treating Mojo early on Monday morning as she lay writhing in apparent pain, pouring with sweat and screaming.
I wasn’t fine.
Mojo was very unwell indeed following a brief and violent tummy bug and we were here again, to do battle with her sodium level. Blood results brought the news that her sodium level was 180. Now a ‘normal’ blood sodium level is between 135 – 145. Mojo’s sits around the 152 mark, we began medicating her when it reached the ‘dangerous’ height of 160 in March. So being told it was 180 was like receiving a body blow, the feeling of having a lead weight pressing on my chest began to kick in. The decision was taken to put her on a drip to deal with her extreme dehydration. My mouth was responding to all the questions but in my head I was just repeating over and over 180! One Hundred and Eighty….she should be in a coma. All the while Mojo is crying and writhing and flinching away from any attempt to soothe her. The adrenaline in my body (which was the only thing keeping me upright) was making my hands shake and I could barely hold the cup of water the nurse had given me. My hands were covered in blood from a nose bleed I’d had just as we were trying to mobilise to get her to hospital. Somewhere at the back of my mind I was aware that I was wearing a very brightly coloured bra and a white vest top and that covered in blood, sweat and sick I must look atrocious.
The hours pass surreally in the hospital, particularly in A&E where there are no windows and the high stress levels mean you lose track completely of the time. The cannula was put in (awful awful awful to watch someone do that to your baby, and usually repeatedly as she sweats so much it must be like trying to cannulise an eel). The drip was started and the waiting game began.
Eventually there was a little relief, we were to be moved up to the ward.
The nights in hospital are tough, sleep (on a tiny camp bed) is broken every couple of hours by the checks the nurses do on her stats, heartbeat, oxygenation of her blood, blood pressure and temperature. In our case this time the drip machine was an unwelcome source of random beeping. It’s usually during the night that I find myself crying in frustration, it’s always the small things that tip me over the edge like a beeping monitor or a squeaky door. Mojo was really unsettled and I lay with my head on her pillow stroking her hair and telling her baby mojo stories, which are a concept borrowed from my niece who loves to hear stories about herself when she was a baby. I told her in detail about the day that she was born and about bringing her home and her first walk in the park and her first smile. As the talking soothed her she reached out and stroked my face and there was a moment that I was grateful for the opportunity to share such a magic few hours with my girl, a flash of respite after a nightmare few days.
Earlier that evening I’d been in the parents’ kitchen on the ward and exchanged a smile with a man who was microwaving the same ready meal as I was. He had a glazed, frightened, nauseous look, this guy was a newbie, not expecting to be in the hospital that night, not quite understanding why he’s there or how it happened. If I was to guess I would have said accident. As we made small talk (I showed him how the microwave worked and where to find a fork!) it turned out his 12 year old son had just been diagnosed with a tumor. I told him how amazing the treatments they have for these things are now and how tremendously resilient children are and how I was sure his son would amaze him with both his bravery and recovery. I left him staring out of the window, not eating his ready meal. My heart broke for him.
The following morning brought more relief, she was improving and we were to be moved to another lower maintenance ward. I went out to use the phone to keep all anxious family updated. I also went to the Chapel in the hospital where I sat for 40 minutes and cried. I cried because we were here again, and facing the reality of her condition again, I cried because I knew this would not be the last time I would sit and cry in this Chapel, I cried because one day will be the last day I cry in the hospital Chapel and none of us know how soon that day will come.
When I got back I was faced with a completely different scene, Imogen was suddenly really distressed again, having slept intermittently there was clearly something very wrong and she was going down hill. Quickly. As she turned over Bill noticed that the whole of one side of her body was swelling, her face was puffy and her legs looked huge. I felt indignant, this wasn’t allowed to happen, I’d though she was better, I thought we’d survived this one. As the doctors arrived to check her over a few phrases were used which make my blood run cold, the worst of which is ‘Rapid deterioration’. I hate it as it was the phrase used in the letter we had from palliative care when Imogen was born which told us that ‘rapid deterioration’ could be expected. As the doctors worked I found myself thinking that if this is IT, if this is THE rapid deterioration that leads to us losing her then her last night on earth would have been spent with me telling her stories and stroking each others faces. I was convincing myself that deep down I must have known that’s why I’d let her sit up with me that night, It was too painful to bear. Blood tests were rushed off and we were told not to panic. Yeah right.
Two long hours passed, she calmed down and we calmed down. I had to call family to update them, I paced the corridor, trying to formulate an explanation which would be non-panic-inducing and yet detailed enough to warn them things might be seriously wrong. Mid phone call I was summoned back to the room for results. It was good, her sodium was right down and all her other blood work was normal. The swelling was apparently due to a lack of protein in her system making her body push the excess water into her muscles temporarily. Instantly calm once again descended.
Once we knew everything was okay I went home for my first shower in four days, as I got in the car I turned on the radio and having already covered my relationship with music in this blog it was obvious that anything with any significance could have set me off…
Bon Jovi, Living on a Prayer. I did that strange half laugh half cry thing all the way home.
The rest of the story is uneventful, the next 48 hours were calm, she came off her drip and we jumped through all the necessary hoops to get her discharged home where life continues as if nothing happened. It has to, life goes on (Thank God).