Sunday, June 07, 2009

One more day

The story of five year old Samuel Puttick and his parents Neil and Kazumi has made me shed more than my fair share of tears this week.
Samuel, paralysed from the neck down at just 18 months old died last week of meningitis. But the tragedy doesn’t end there. His parents were so consumed with grief at their loss that they took their precious son’s body, bundled it into a rucksack along with some of his favourite toys and jumped – along with it – off Beachy Head.
The parents were, by all reports, completely devoted to each other and simply could not imagine life without their only child.
They are a family who endured more tragedy in their time together than most of us do in a life time and my heart broke thinking of what they must have been through and what prompted these two people to take their own lives.
As a parent the loss of a child is, without a doubt, my biggest fear. (Of course if I’m ever asked in an interview I answer that my biggest fear is fish. I prefer to keep things light hearted and I don’t like, even for a second, to contemplate the loss of either of my children).
If I’m honest I don’t like to contemplate the loss of anyone I love – but for some reason the loss of a child is the worst fear imaginable. From the minute they enter your life they grab your heart and hold on tight and you can’t imagine them being gone from your existence even for one second.
The Putticks found out last week what it was like to experience that unimaginable loss and for me the scariest thing is that for any of us, life can change in a heartbeat.
Last week we had a health scare with the baby. She’d had a bad dose and was generally unwell – but amazingly still quite smiley, unlike me who adopts a Mother of Sorrows approach to even the common cold. But on Wednesday she got worse. Her high pitched screaming set off alarm bells in my head and when I noticed a purplish rash on her legs, I did fear the absolute worst.
Like a screaming harpee I called to my husband to bring me a glass and when the marks on her leg did not fade under the pressure of the glass I felt the relative peace and calm of our last 12 weeks fall away from under me. My baby was sick. Potentially she was seriously ill. Potentially we could lose her.
I have never felt so scared.
Thankfully, and here I must commend the medical staff at Cityview Medical, we were seen within half and hour and dispatched to hospital. Cara underwent blood tests and was put on a high dose antibiotic for three days. I spent my nights sleeping in a small and uncomfortable bed checking her every 3 minutes for signs of the rash spreading, or her temperature rising again and just making sure she was still breathing.
We were incredibly lucky. She didn’t have meningitis, as it turns out. It was a viral infection – but for those three days I sailed close to where no parent should ever have to go. I felt lost. I felt terrified and yet at the same time I felt lucky. My daughter was receiving superb medical attention. Our concerns were being taken exceptionally seriously. We may not have wanted to be in hospital in the first place but we knew we were in the best place possible for a sick child.
While there, and in isolation, I watched countless parents walk up and down the corridor with their babies and children. I wondered were they all as scared as I was? Where they having the same fears? Where they also realising just how lucky they were?
When I was pregnant with Cara a friend sent me a copy of a book called ‘Waiting for Birdy’ by Catherine Newman which, to simplify it, is the true life story of one woman’s second foray into parenthood.
At one stage in the book her son develops a viral infection – one which makes him quite seriously ill. As she writes about his recovery she muses that she is lucky in that she has so much to lose. I have to say I understand where she was coming from.
The whole experience – and indeed the story of the Putticks – has reminded me of an old poem that I bring out to read when the “joys” of parenthood become too much.
“Just for Today” by Sally Meyer says what all parents should remember – especially when the wains have been driving us to distraction and making us want to reach for the vodka and/or a king sized chocolate bar.
It seems apt that I share it a passage from it with you, today.

And tonight when you are sleeping safe and warm in your bed,
I will think of the mothers and fatherswho mourn for the children they have lost.
I will remember the parents who sit by hospital beds,
watching over the little ones they love.
I will weep for those parents whose children are cold,
hungry and suffering,
and .... this evening,when I kneel down to pray,
I will simply be grateful for all that I have
and not ask for anything...
except just one more day.

1 comment:

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

That is beautiful, Claire. That last passage. We are never thankful enough.

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