Kids’ A&E – does it really need to be said? “Don’t abuse the staff”

A shout-out to my local hospital’s Paediatric A&E staff, who really seem in the trenches at the moment.

I was there yesterday/last night with a child for 11 hours, and it was especially busy – lots of kids with sports-/playing-related injuries to the norm – so the waiting time reflected that.

Numerous times I heard parents kicking off massively at the staff – who were being absolute superstars and keeping calm despite the rush and the treatment they were giving – screaming at them because their kid was still waiting to be seen by a doctor 2/3 hours after arrival (even though there was a sign stating that would be the case).

Staff had to repeatedly explain about their system – after kids are triaged they’re seen in order of severity (eg my son’s condition is severe but the issue not time-sensitive so we waited 6 hours before bloods were even taken as there were more urgent cases).

I was so shocked; the doctors and nurses who are helping our kids shouldn’t have to deal with that when clearly totally up with walls with a packed waiting room. When I was leaving the doctor actually thanked me for how I treated them, ie basic empathy.

All the drama also wasted crucial time that could have been spent better elsewhere, and made stress levels for all more heightened.

For any of us unfortunate enough to have to visit this department, it’s a stressful scenario for sure as I know well, especially for the kids themselves, but let’s try to show the staff the compassion and respect we expect to be shown back.

The land of the free

I dropped my twins to nursery this morning, and my daughter (almost 4) had a small wobble when I was heading off, and needed to be hugged and comforted by one of her teachers, and reassured I’d be back in a few hours.

I walked away, my heart breaking, thinking of all the kids in the US right now being taken from their parents, when even in a safe, trusted environment small kids are so fragile and vulnerable, needing comfort about even the smallest planned separation from their parent.

And the parents… broken from getting their kids, despite all the danger, to what they think will be a place where things might be better in comparison to the violence of where they’ve left… to be told their kids are being taken for baths, and then realising they’ve actually been separated.

The similarities with Nazi Germany are chilling. Being a Jew was made illegal, and this then used to dehumanize Jewish people and justify their treatment. The constant hammering on about these people’s ‘illegal’ status by Trump and the Republicans, and that being used to justify what is totally inhumane at every level, is history repeating itself.

To apply for asylum you have to enter a country, apply for asylum immediately and then you’re not ‘illegal’; the US is stopping people from applying for asylum, and taking their kids before they have a chance to do this, which is a violation of US and international law. When I try to imagine the hopelessness of people who can’t go back or forwards, it crushes me. And the terror the kids must feel… unimaginable.

It’s reprehensible what’s happening. Families coming to seek asylum, being arrested before they have the ability to do so – kids stripped from them and put in cages. And the US government and a portion of the population condoning this. Dark, dark times.

The Sisterhood

Something happened yesterday to remind me how motherhood, as soon as you enter the trenches, goes from concept to sisterhood: suddenly you are tapped into a network of other women who are dealing – or have have had to deal – with much of the same hopes, fears, anxieties, challenges etc.

But where is the line between personal experience and empathy for those having a different, sometimes more challenging, journey? Should those experiencing the latter, with additional challenges, ‘man up’, or should the former make more effort to don the other’s shoes and have empathy? Or both?

The incident in question that got me mulling on this was small, but it did get me thinking: someone in a local group shared an amusing picture of a toddler mistaking a mannequin for a real woman, and latching on. The caption was ‘real mamas are best’.

A lot read it as a cute/funny/a joke – can absolutely understand how – but others immediately reacted differently, seeing how the phrasing used could be problematic when considering those who are struggling right now to breastfeed, don’t feel like a ‘proper’ mum, or – as my experience goes – have people around them commenting negatively on the fact they’re formula feeding.

Being affected by others’ comments was never an issue for me personally, I’m relieved to say, though I’ve seen people really hit hard by others’ words. With twins in different locations for a month, and one tube fed who projectile vomited from extreme reflux up to 30 times a day until he was 14 months, breastfeeding would have been, 100%, a logistical impossibility for me. We had a complex pregnancy and knew formula feeding was likely to be our road, and had done the relevant research. Interestingly when I asked in my NCT course for info about up-to-date guidelines I was told, no, we don’t give info like that as we only actively promote breastfeeding. Okaaaaay… not very helpful. What happens when that woman, determined to breastfeed, can’t but has no info and a screaming, hungry child? This approach by them is hugely problematic in my opinion, especially as to formula feed properly there is a really specific method, and – having been trained by Great Ormond Street Hospital about best practice – I so often see parents out and about, mixing up bottles in such a way that won’t kill the bacteria in the formula powder, which can be incredibly dangerous for little ones.

But my own body made that final call anyway: the trauma of my son nearly dying on day 5 meant I lost my letdown, and even though I’d been breastfeeding his healthy sister successfully to that point with mix feeding, as I wasn’t producing enough for her – not to mind feeding a second newborn also who wouldn’t latch so was getting his milk through hand expressing – it just wouldn’t physically come out anymore. It was the least of my worries at that time, though.

For so many, the way you’re treated when you formula feed can be incredibly affecting, and I know some who’ve had postnatal depression triggered by the fact that – despite doing all the research – breastfeeding didn’t work, added to that the fact people feel they can be quite judgemental. If I had a penny for every time someone saw me feeding and decided to tell me about someone with twins who successfully breastfed them… “isn’t that amazing?” Erm, to be honest, right now I’m just about able to keep these two and myself alive, but round of applause to your mate. I’ve even been called lazy when NG-tube feeding my son – maybe 2/3 months old at the time – in public.

What surprised me a little in the online conversation was, despite others having a similar reaction to me, so many came back to say, well, I formula fed and I personally don’t see this post that way, so there’s no problem.

To that I say: does that mean people who feel a bit jolted by this have to, therefore, just “get over” their issue? Is your experience the barometer here?

Or is it not possible to understand people will have different reactions to yourself, and that the best thing all round is to have a bit of empathy and sensitivity.

We’re all on this crazy train together, and need to support each other, and build each other up, and not push down. When I see women not having empathy with others who might be having a difficult time, or feeling a bit smug because things are going more smoothly for them versus the women around them for whatever reason – baby instantly took to the boob… everything just slots into line – it does make me sad. While this parenting journey is one of the best possible, it can be lonely and isolating, and I know I personally feel at my strongest surrounded by people who try to build me up and help. So my pact is to continue as much as I can to do this, and I urge you to do the same!

London Marathon done… now what?!!

I started this blog to document my journey from zero fitness in July 2017 to the London Marathon in April 2018.

When I started getting back into running last summer, my twins had just turned 3, and the 3 years of coping with pretty enormous amounts of stress had left me pretty burnt out across the board.

The challenges that come from having two newborns, then two toddlers, and managing a career, with no family living nearby, are huge. And for us, as one has had kidney failure from birth, we have a whole extra layer (medicalised care/hospital appointments and stays/stress and anxiety/responsibly/restriction and limitations) that is pretty hard to ever truly get across to those not in a similar camp.

In summary, there wasn’t a huge amount of time left for self-care in the early years of the twins’ arrival, but by the time they turned 3, I was just about feeling afloat enough to try to grasp some time back for me. When I see other mums able to get back into fitness 5 or 6 months after having a baby (even sooner sometimes!), I’m so pleased for them that it’s possible, but it does hit home just how hammered we were, by everything, which can be really saddening, looking back.

However, I’m just relieved I got there eventually, and the journey to the marathon was incredibly therapeutic: it forced me to find the time, somewhere, to start routinely looking after myself physically, as well as mentally. Also, having the chance to facilitate Great Ormond Street having more money in the pot has felt great too – allowing me to feel proactive. Feeling a lack of control is unfortunately something you feel daily when you’re dealing with a serious health condition in a child, so anything to combat that is a plus.

Having this blog has really helped, as the accountability – knowing people have been reading, or following me on Facebook/Instagram – has motivated me to get out there on days I haven’t felt I’ve had the motivation or energy. It’s also helped emotionally too; I love to write, but have had little time, and this has created a space to get thoughts down without too much time/commitment needed. It’s been an enlightening experience, and quite calming.

I’ve thought about “what’s next”, now the London Marathon is over, and I’ve done the various updates I’ve planned to do (on the Moonwalk, fundraising in my Irish village etc). I’ve decided that – as my weighloss journey is still ongoing (*loud sigh*), and I want to keep the fitness up – I’ll carry on with the blog, as a way of keeping up that motivation. Even if no one reads it, it will be a forum where I can keep myself on track, and can’t phone it in!

Today was Day One of the next phase: exercise and diet with a focus on getting the number on the scale down, as well as concentrating on the fitness.

It’s 30 weeks (209 days) to Christmas Day. I’m not going to set a very fixed goal, but hoping to get a couple of stone off by then. Any more, then bonus!

So it was trainers on this morning, and the fruit is stocked up. Onwards and upwards!!

The snapshot moment…

Yesterday I ran past a mother of very tiny twins, who were all wrapped up in their double buggy, having their morning nap. She was slowly pushing them, and looked so so tired.

She caught my eye, and I gave her an empathetic smile and carried on, as she enjoyed the break from double wailing, but I inevitably thought about her a few times during the day. She looked so incredibly worn out – broken.

I know how likely it is that she will have thought one of the following in the moment we locked eyes:

  • Look at that woman running – that’s what you can have the freedom to do when you don’t have twins;
  • I bet that woman got loads of sleep last night;
  • I bet she doesn’t have twins;
  • I bet she has no idea of how hard I’m finding this;
  • I bet she has no idea of how alone I feel;
  • I bet she doesn’t realize how soooooooo very tired I am;
  • I’m never going to be free enough to do anything like that, without two humans needing me every second. The way things are now… that is all I can see forever.

I know this because, when you’re in the trenches with two newborns, all you can see is your reality, and how it is in that moment, and you can’t even fathom a time when it will ever be less stressful and fraught.

We had so much going on in terms on the additional needs of one twin, that, for the first year, we just felt like we were barely staying afloat, between juggling both kids and everything else in the mix on little to no sleep. But here I am, three years on, training for a marathon (!) – something I couldn’t have imagined when I was where this woman is at right now, only a couple of months into this crazy journey. To be honest, I couldn’t have imagined it even a year ago!

In that snapshot moment, when she saw me run past, she won’t know the journey I’ve had… just like I – when I’m having/have had bad moments, and see that parent who looks like they have it much more together – don’t know their story.

That snapshot moment, when you’re at your worst, can serve to make you feel even more isolated as your mind imagines everything you haven’t got.

It can be helpful for us to reflexively try to step back and think: no matter how many people have it easier, so many people will always have it worse, and the healthiest thing, I find, is to just worry about your own bubble and try to deal with everything in that, and don’t compare. And that, especially for anyone reading this with a tiny one (or ones!), no matter the phase it does get easier!

snapshot

The unpredictable predictability of having a fragile child…

Earlier today, someone online mentioned this phrase – the unpredictable predictability of having a fragile child – and it really struck a chord, as it sums up life with a chronically ill child so well.

Life with kids will always be unpredictable – the chaos that goes with them is seldom tame! But when you have a sick child, there is a whole extra layer of worry and stress, and, in truth, resignation, that (at what is ALWAYS the worst time – e.g. us about to leave for a plane from London to Singapore!) they’ll get sick.

In truth I think that’s partly how we cope: if you’re always prepared it’s never a real shock. It’s a self-protective strategy that’s really necessary, as when things do kick off, they tend to be very urgent, and you need your entire focus to be able to juggle all the necessary balls, with no room for an emotional reaction.

Sometimes I wonder if that unpredictable predictability swings the other day too. Having been through the mill, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve basked in happiness at just doing something utterly predictable and ‘normal’ – we’ve all gone to a cafe, and every child ate, and wasn’t sick; we went on a weekend away, and there was no infection/high temperature/A&E visit needed.

While having a fragile child has more additional challenges than I can summarize here, I do think it doesn’t only bring stresses, but also an ability to really appreciate the everyday and the mundane (e.g. mundane at home = at least we’re not in hospital!), and every time that child laughs in happiness – totally lost in a positive moment – the sound, and the relief you feel that they can still laugh like that despite everything they’re dealing with, is enough to crush your heart.
Follow me on Facebook.

follow me on Twitter.

sick child