I apologise for the long silence but I will tell you all about what kept me silent. Last Monday we embarked on a trip to visit my sister in Malta. This was a new experience as it was the first time Amelia and I were going away without daddy. Instead we were going with a friend and her baby. Daddy dropped us off at the airport hotel the night before and we settled in for the night. I spotted Amelia’s first tooth just about to pop through, and as a result she seemed to have a mild temperature and a bit of a sniffle. The morning arrived and we embarked upon our trip!
Twenty-four hours after arrival we arrived back at our apartment after a bit of time out sightseeing and eating. Amelia had still been under the weather with a mild temperature, cough and runny nose. She was not her usual excitable self. On reaching home she was asleep in her buggy. As he woke she seemed to be breathing quite fast and not interested in sitting up or trying to stand as usual. My doctor self kicked in and I checked her temperature, which was normal. I then undressed her to look at her chest as she breathed. She seemed to be putting quite a bit of work into breathing and feeling her chest it felt quite ‘rattly’. I wished I had a stethoscope to listen to her chest and my pulse oximeter for checking how much oxygen was circulating in her blood. But I didn’t. My friend is also a doctor and she agreed that it looked like she was working a bit harder with her breathing. Mummy self kicked in and I decided that she needed to be seen by a doctor. If she was just checked over then I would be reassured. The next question was where should I go. We were on the smaller island of Gozo. I had spotted the sign for the hospital as we had taken the bus earlier that day. Making a quick decision I asked my sister to get us a taxi to take us there.
As we arrived at the hospital I checked her in and watched her breathing rapidly and seeming very miserable. She looked really tired and paler than usual. Not too long after (it seemed like an eternity at the time) we were called through and seen by a doctor. He agreed she seemed unwell and after talking to the on-call Paediatrician he admitted her, put her on oxygen therapy and put a drip in her arm. By this time she was white as a sheet, very drowsy and I was really worried about her. All the worst-case scenarios were running through my mind both in doctor and mummy mode. I felt out of control and worried. I had to get my sister to ring my husband, who was also anxious.
Diagnosed with bronchiolitis, we spent four nights in hospital. Probably the most stressful set of nights and days I’ve experienced. Being in hospital, in a foreign country with little control over the situation was tough to handle. The first night I got an hour sleep, the second three hours and the third and fourth just five-six hours. I was trying to feed little and often to get her off the drip. I was struggling to keep the oxygen on her, and getting told off every time the nurses would catch her without it on. Try convincing an 8-month old that she needs to keep her oxygen on all the time. The nights were long and lonely, and she was worse over night. The tears came regularly. The nurses ignored my tears and worry. My stress levels increased. I was becoming extremely anxious about everything they did or didn’t do. How could I tell if she was tiring and getting worse, what if having a drip gave her a blood infection, etc. At home my husband was having a really bad week a work and worrying about us. I had held off having him come over since they refused to allow more than one parent stay overnight. They wouldn’t even let my sister stay for the ward round despite me having no problem with her being present. Seeing her so ill made me realize just how little she was and the responsibility of being a parent. Nothing else mattered apart from her. Facetime and Skype kept us in touch with home and we spent a lot of time on here. My husband and I would realize we were both awake at 4am and have late night chats. On the Friday we were transferred to the hospital in Malta at my request (apparently I ‘demanded’ we be moved) and my husband arrived. I was so happy to see him and so happy to be in a bigger hospital and have her off the oxygen and drip. She had a really good day and night. So good that they said we could leave hospital on the Saturday afternoon. We were so excited. We had to wait 48 hours before flying home so we used the time to be together and catch up on sleep.
The relief of arriving back in the UK with a baby that was pretty much back to her usual self was immense. I have never been so glad to land back in the UK! Amelia is a resilient little girl. She got sick quickly and she bounced back quickly. In the whole process she got her first tooth and she managed to learn how to pull herself to standing! I’m not sure if she appreciates what the fuss was all about, or why everyone is so glad to see her! Sleep has helped me calm down and have clarity. However, from this experience I have realized there is nothing in the world more important to me than her health and wellbeing. I knew this before but it’s just a much stronger feeling now.
It is also clear to me that having medical knowledge did not make the experience any easier. To some degree it just made it harder as I analysed every last thing that was done. Were they doing the right thing? Should I be worried about something else happening? What will I do if that happens? But how it did help me professionally is that it reinforced the principle that babies change so rapidly. They can get very ill very quick and better really quickly too.