The Worst Day Of My Life

It happened two weeks ago today. The day started as most Sundays do, for me: up early, a little work on the computer, get the kids sorted with breakfast and into their hockey kit, and out the door to hockey training, hopefully giving my wife a lie in. Training was the same as ever – my youngest trained first with the minis, and mid-morning my wife turned up to collect her, while I continued helping with the girls under 12’s, in which my eldest daughter trains. Nothing extraordinary, lots of running about, with a match at the end. My daughter and I got into the car, drove home, all the time talking about what had gone on during training.

After getting indoors, we both took off our shoes, socks and shin pads. Normally what happens is, I sit down and have a well deserved drink for five minutes and then jump straight into the shower, as I’m normally caked in sweat from chasing the ball around with all the much younger and fitter kids, plus don’t forget, I’ve done double training. But that day was different. Very different.

After only a few minutes, it became clear that my eldest daughter, Jaina, who I’d just trained with, was feeling unwell. She complained of a really bad headache and said that the light was hurting her eyes. How strange. Nothing had happened to her during training….. I’d been with her all the time. We instantly got her to lie down in our bed, closing the blinds to make the room a bit darker and a little more comfortable. My wife and I took it in turns to be with her for a few minutes at a time. All thought of a shower had disappeared from my head. Moments later she started throwing up. I was on sick duty (holding the bowl……I’m much practised at it now. You never actually get used to it, but it has become an almost automatic reaction), while my wife was on the phone to the out of hours doctor. Cue more sick, and more pain from her headache.

As you can imagine, we were incredibly worried. As I tried to reassure my daughter, I could hear my wife on the phone being told to bring her up to the out of hours surgery at the hospital. My wife and I make a good team, our different skills with the kids complementing and completing each other. We swept into action. I chucked on my sandals and brought the car round, with a bowl in the front seat for Jaina. My wife put some shoes and socks on her, and then we managed to cajole her into the car.

I drove sensibly and quickly to the hospital, all the time trying to reassure her that it was going to be okay, and cursing one set of traffic lights that got stuck on red for many minutes more than they should……..typical. On arrival, I parked the car at the nearest point, and managed to help Jaina up the twisting ramp towards the Accident and Emergency entrance to the hospital. Just as we got outside the doors….she was sick again, off to one side of the main walkway. By this time, she was shivering and shaking uncontrollably, as well as being understandably upset. Inside we went to join the queue. We waited patiently. After a few minutes we managed to book in and were asked to go and take a seat and wait to see the doctor. The seats we were guided to were almost right outside the main door to the A&E ward. As we sat there, my daughter in a really bad state, a male nurse or doctor, (I’m not sure which) from A&E strolled out of the door, and looked in a cupboard directly opposite us. When he turned around, he took one look at my daughter and asked if we were waiting to go into A & E. I replied no, and that we were waiting to see the out of hours doctor. The man’s response and actions were truly brilliant. He told us that she needed to be in A&E and within a matter of ninety seconds or so, had sorted all the admin out. If he should be reading this, then I owe you a big THANK YOU. I looked around much later to do just that, but of course he wasn’t there, and with everything going on, I totally forgot to ask anyone else in the A&E department. We were immediately escorted into one of the cubicles, where the nurses and doctors took over.

It was a distressing time for my daughter, and I (still in my hockey kit and sandals), as they took blood pressure, temperature, etc, all the time my daughter complaining of a headache, still throwing up, with her vision blurred. I stood back and let the wonderful staff get on with their jobs, all the time in view of my daughter, letting her know that her dad was there, and even though she had blurred vision, she still would have known it was me because I had my bright orange hockey tee shirt on with my name emblazoned across it. I stood out like a blazing star in the darkness of space, and to the staff, more likely because I hadn’t showered after having spent the whole morning on a hockey pitch.

After having all the checks, and been assessed by an A&E doctor, it wasn’t long before the paediatrician turned up. She was polite, good mannered and inspired confidence from both my daughter and I. She examined my daughter thoroughly, inserted a needle into her wrist to take some blood, and then had to rush off. In the meantime, the nurses never left her sight, along with me. I have to say that by this time, I was more than a little fraught, but tried my best to keep the worry from my face, hopefully replacing it with a confident smile.

Whenever I’ve been into A&E before, there are times that seem to go very slowly. Not the case on this day. The time was flying by, and nothing seemed to be standing still. The paediatrician returned, to check on her young charge. It was at this point that things seemed to go rapidly downhill. I stood on one side of the bed, holding my daughter’s hand, while the paediatrician stood on the other, shining a light into her eyes. It was then that my daughter started to slur her words. She was motioning to her tee shirt with both hands, but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand what it was she wanted. I put my ear up to her mouth, willing her to whisper the instructions so that I could understand and help her. STILL, I couldn’t understand. I looked up into the face of the doctor, sharing for a fraction of a second a look that scared the life out of me. I knew then that things had just taken a downward twist, and while I and the nurses tried to comfort my ever confused daughter, the good doctor and her colleagues kicked into action. I could hear her demanding somebody phone up and book my daughter in for a CT scan of the head. Helpless to do anything else, I held Jaina’s hand and whispered words of encouragement to her.

It was almost certainly minutes, but it only seemed like seconds before we were surrounded by doctors and nurses. I think there were either three doctors and three nurses, or it might have been two doctors and three nurses, but anyway, we sped along the corridors, everything getting out of our way as we headed for the CT scanner, a crash kit standing out on the end of the bed in its bright red bag. On the way, my daughter seemed to become even more confused, as if that were possible. She kept trying to sit up on the moving bed, and when one of the nurses asked somebody in front to open the double doors we were about to go through, my daughter sat bolt upright and tried to open them herself (that’s her great manners kicking in……so proud), but at the time it was deeply worrying. The doctors and nurses had to get her to lie down, which confused her even more. Once we got to the scanner, they moved the bed next to the scanner and raised it up to the same height. Then we all had to try and get my daughter to scoot over. By this time, she had absolutely no understanding of what it was she was being asked to do. To say it broke my heart was an understatement. I was devastated, as well as being unbelievably scared. I watched as they managed to get her to lie down, and stuffed foam around her head to try and get her comfortable, and to stay still. It didn’t seem to be working. It was at this point that I was asked to leave and step outside. Clearly it wasn’t possible for anyone else to be in the room when the scan was taking place. I wasn’t allowed in the control room either, despite the fact that I could hear what was going on. I could hear them all talk about how she wasn’t staying still. Outside, all alone in the corridor/waiting room……….I cried. I’d wanted to before, but was in view of my daughter all the time, and wanted not to show her how scared I actually was. This was the single worst moment of my life. On my own, my daughter in the scanner, something clearly very wrong with her, my wife and other daughter at home, waiting to hear what was going on. I thought she was going to die!

After what seemed like a small lifetime, the scan finished, and I was allowed back in. I had managed to grab one of the hospital’s phones at some point, and had phoned my wife to let her know what was going on. But of course I couldn’t tell her the full extent, and exactly how worried I was, surrounded by hospital staff as I was.

On going back into the scanner, my daughter seemed as confused as ever. We managed to get back to the resuscitation room back at A&E without too much fuss, all the time accompanied by the same brilliant, professional staff. One thing that I missed out about waiting outside the scanner, the one positive I managed to take out of the whole thing, was the fact of where we were. At that moment in time, there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather have been than Salisbury District Hospital. I’ve been up there on more occasions than I care to remember, and both children were born there – the staff are always magnificent, and this time was no different.

There was of course more standing around (for me anyway), always trying to smile and reassure my daughter, more blood to be taken, needles to be poked in my daughters hand/wrist through which painkillers needed to be applied.

A little while later, my wife and youngest daughter arrived, shortly after they’d decided to move Jaina up to Sarum (the children’s) ward. They both looked, pretty much how I felt…….shocked, stunned, concerned and frightened. We all waited in the resuscitation room as preparations for the move went on around us. Teddies were found for both the kids (what a wonderful move…………a great distraction for them both), before it was time to go. Just as we were about to set off, my youngest daughter piped up, “I feel sick!”. Just when you think it can’t get any worse. My wife rushed her off to the nearest toilet, while I continued alongside Jaina as she was wheeled throughout the hospital. All was fine, apart from the fact that she was more than a little freaked out when we all entered the lift. She couldn’t understand where she was, despite me trying to explain that it was only a ‘lift’. We made it to the ward, and were promptly put into a beautiful room with its own shower and toilet. (Just a shame I had no change of clothes….still in hockey kit, still more than a little smelly)

Soon after, my wife and youngest appeared, having managed to find us. There’d been no sickness from her, it appeared that she was just worried about her sister. The caring nurses came in and introduced themselves, and then started all the regular checks that they would be doing throughout the night. Jaina was by now very drowsy, after all the painkillers and the morphine that they’d given her. It was something of a relief for me to see her close her eyes and get some rest after the ordeal that she’d been through. In the meantime, my wife and I fought (in a nice way) about who would stay the night with her. It was eventually agreed that it made more sense for me to stay, with her going home to look after our youngest. We arranged to speak in the morning, and that they would come up after that, depending on what was going on. The two of them reluctantly headed home.

That night was one of the longest I’ve ever had to endure. Mainly through worry, but the fact that I got about forty-five minutes of sleep didn’t help. In the late evening, just when I was thinking about getting some rest on the magical fold down bed that the room had, my daughter found her second wind, becoming wide awake and more ‘with it’ than she had in many, many hours, despite still having a really painful headache. The nurses and doctors prescribed more painkillers, which were duly added through a drip. We were told it would take twenty or so minutes for the drip to work, and then about half an hour for the painkillers to ‘kick in’. By the morning, the nurses and doctors must have been sick of the sight of me, because if we went through this once, we must have gone through it about five or six times, each time waiting the required amount of time, before my daughter said that her head still hurt, and then me wandering out to the doctors and nurses and making a fuss. Each time the staff were great, moving on to the next course of action

Eventually, my daughter started to drop off to sleep, with me cuddled up next to her. The time…….6am. Having been up all night, as soon as she was asleep I, too, dropped off, only to wake up and find her talking to me and wide awake, at just before 7am. That was all the sleep I was destined to have that day. I can’t begin to explain how rough I felt. (Oh, and still in my hockey kit……….GREAT!!!)

The good thing was though, she looked brighter and more herself since any point since the whole saga had started. She even asked me if I could go and find her some breakfast. So off I trudged and found the kitchen, nearly locking myself in, or at least that’s what I thought. You would also think that a toaster is a toaster is a toaster. But not so. I only just managed to refrain from burning the toast to a crisp, but with said toast and orange juice in hand, I returned. Quite quickly it was all gobbled up. Things were no doubt looking up. All we had to do now was to wait for the doctors to do their rounds.

My wife and youngest daughter both appeared early morning, both looking slightly better than the day before. Both kids then disappeared into the playing area of the ward, ably assisted by a wonderful volunteer who works there two days a week, who had them leaf painting, drawing, cutting out, sticking things on the wall…….all the things my kids really love to do. She was great and also deserves a big THANK YOU.

Not long after, the doctors came round and checked out my daughter. It was difficult, because her condition had changed so much. They weren’t quite sure what was going on, because she’d improved so much, apart from the severe headache. Anyhow, in the afternoon, she was discharged, with migraine pills to be taken in the evening, an MRI scan booked, and told to rest up. We went home, all of us glad to be back. For me, a shower at last.

Anyhow, the story’s still on going. We had to go back on Wednesday because the pain in her head is still bad. The great staff once again checked her out, gave her some drops for her nose and requested that we take her off of the Calpol and ibuprofen that she’d been taking. We’re still waiting for the MRI appointment, which she has to do without anaesthetic. The doctor who looked at her on Wednesday was fantastic, and put her at ease in an instant. But it’s clear to me she’s still not right, as while he was writing up her prescription, she burst into tears because her head hurt so much. It was all I could do not to cry again. It broke my heart, but it was at least good that the doctor could see just how bad it gets at times.

So we’re waiting, and taking care of her, but why I hear you ask have you written all of this. Hmmmmm………..it’s difficult to know exactly. I think first and foremost I want to thank the wonderful staff at the hospital – all of them. The are amazing and looked after my daughter so well. I know that she couldn’t have been in better hands. From the nice A&E doctor/nurse who took one look at us and got us in there really quickly, to the A&E doctors, the paediatrician, the nursing staff and everyone on the ward……..THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart.

I also owe a big thank you to the school where I work. Obviously I’ve had lots of time off due to this, and they’ve been magnificent, plus all the staff have been their usual caring, concerned selves and have enquired and asked after my daughter, which all means so much. So a big THANK YOU there.

But I suppose the main reason that I’ve written all of this down is for my benefit. I find writing, whatever it is, helps me express my feelings and acts as an outlet for me, whether I’m writing a blog post or one of my books, and that day was something I just needed to write down and get out of my system. I’m pretty sure my daughter won’t read this, well not for a few years yet, not unless she’s much sneakier than I would give her credit for…..which is a blessing. But perhaps when she’s older she should know exactly what happened, from somebody who was there all the time with her. Anyway, when I say it was the worst day of my life, believe you me, I’m not kidding, and I hope to never have to go through anything like that again. So THANK YOU for reading, and know this: if you live in and around Salisbury, or are just visiting, you can be sure that if you’re taken ill, and have to have a visit to Salisbury District Hospital, then it is my humble opinion that you are most definitely in very, very good hands.

Your thoughts are much appreciated..........Thanks!