My son, Jamie, started having problems with his chest when he was about a year old. Instead of shaking off common infections like other children his age, a cold for Jamie would develop in to a bad chest infection or croup that frequently resulted in an admission to hospital for treatment.
In November 2016, Jamie, who was three at the time, caught a cold which turned in to another suspected chest infection. He was admitted to Jungle Ward at the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales but this time the treatment didn’t seem to be working and instead, his condition continued to deteriorate.
As we sat at his bedside it was like we were watching him disappear in front of our eyes. He was turning grey and the life seemed to be draining from him. A nurse came in to check on him and the look on her face spoke to the greatest fear in my head. She called every available hand and before I knew it, he was being moved to another bed and prepared for potential cardiac arrest. I turned around and behind me were so many people, each asking me questions.
In the background I could hear machines going crazy as his body was struggling to cope. I was even asked if I consented to surgery if he needed it to drain his stomach. I just looked at the doctor in sheer disbelief! A tube was put up his nose and an IV line in his arm and he didn’t even fight it. In his eyes you could see fear but he just lay there.
An X-ray on Jamie’s chest revealed that he had pneumonia. We were told that, unless he started responding to treatment soon, he would be sedated and put on a ventilator to try and prevent any further deterioration. As Jamie was taken to the critical care unit, we were being prepared for the worst. We were told to contact family because he was so poorly and that the next few hours were critical. I could never describe to you in any words what it feels like to hear that statement said about your child.
The next few hours were just a blur of answering questions while trying not to take my eyes off Jamie’s. I tried not to cry and I put a smile on my face as Jamie tried to gage what was going on by his mummy’s reactions, so I had to be strong for him. But inside I was lifeless, stuck in my very own nightmare and unable to wake myself up.
In the long hours that followed, I watched Jamie constantly as he drifted in and out of consciousness, willing him to pull through. I think it was the nurses that pulled me through that awful time. Each one that took over a shift or walked past, gazed at my beautiful boy with hope and love. They seemed to sympathise with my pain and talked to me, asking all sorts of questions about him and what sort of things he liked. They went above and beyond what was asked of them and it genuinely felt like it was more than just a job for them.
By the following morning, Jamie’s condition had started to improve and by late afternoon, he was well enough to leave critical care. Back on Jungle ward we were greeted with the same warmth and compassion.. The staff there were just as amazing, asking more than just the necessary questions, staying probably longer than they should have to chat. It felt so homely in the strangest way. We felt like a family with these people who had been strangers only a few days before.
After a few more days in hospital, Jamie was miraculously well enough to go home. He has since been diagnosed as anaemic and atopic – which means he’s predisposed to developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions. Most days he is happy and carefree and people are often shocked to hear the struggles he faces because he takes it in his stride. We try to keep life as normal as possible for him so he doesn’t feel any different from all his friends, but with ambulance rushes, hospital admissions, clinic appointments and daily medication, it can sometimes be difficult.
Jamie has been re-admitted to the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital several times since last November but it’s never been anywhere near as bad as the time we nearly lost him. I cannot thank the staff enough for being just the caring human beings that they are. I called them angels back then and I still stand by that now. They pulled us all out of the hardest period of our life and gave us back the Jamie Thomas we know and love.
So why have I signed Jamie and I up for the Family Fun Walk? Because we want to give back to the amazing children’s hospital that saved him – to change someone else’s darkest day in to a better one. It’s something little on our part that could make a big difference to another family. Every little amount counts.
By Natasha Wall, Jamie’s mum.
To register for this year’s Family Fun Walk, click here.