This blog post is a massive thank you to the NHS and in particular, the unsung heroes-the children’s community nurses, nurses, play specialists and many more who make difficult situations easier. These past couple of months have been a scary time for us as a family.
We welcomed our beautiful new baby (and 3rd girl!) Evelyn in March and soon after, our middle daughter; 2 year old Eloise, became very unwell and had to be admitted to hospital. Eloise had mastoiditis; an ear infection had ruptured through her ear drum and through to her skull (thought to be caused by chickenpox). We only took her to the GP when she woke up from a nap and her ear was suddenly bulging out away from her head, it was instantly noticeable. Please seek immediate help if you think yourself or your child has mastoiditis, as it can be fatal.
She had seemed a bit unwell and tired in the lead up but we thought she was just recovering from her bad bout of chickenpox (she even had one on her eyeball, but ironically it was the ones we couldn’t see that we should have worried about). The GP told us she would probably just need an overnight stay of IV antibiotics at the hospital. But Eloise ended up staying for a couple of weeks, having surgery on her head and ear, while fighting severe infection. She was also suffering from a blood clot in her head, which we are still treating 3 months later with blood thinner injections. Incredibly, the infection didn’t reach her brain and without the amazing nurses and doctors, Eloise would not be here.
We are so thankful Eloise is okay, and especially thankful to every nurse and doctor (especially those at Bristol Children’s Hospital-what a fantastic hospital!) that treated her and showed her kindness. But in particular, the amazing community nurses. They bridged the gap between us and the hospital, and they were ready to come to our house at the drop of a hat should Eloise need it. Specifically, we are thankful for Eloise’s amazing nurse Zoe, who made the whole journey easier on us and Eloise during her recovery, as even though Eloise has been home for 3 months, it has been a struggle and full of upset for her. She has twice daily injections, weekly blood tests, an insuflon tube in her leg changed a minimum of twice a week, as well as several A & E trips we have had to encounter afterwards too. Zoe went above and beyond to treat our 2 year old with the respect and kindness she deserved. Not all of the medics we encountered did, but it meant we appreciated the ones that did even more.
The weeks leading up to Eloise being unwell were tiring, with a newborn and 2 girls poorly with chickenpox and eye infections, we didn’t think it could get more exhausting-we couldn’t have been more wrong! The week Eloise was admitted, we not only had to worry about Eloise, a newborn, an upset 4 year old who had to go to school, but we also had to worry about job interviews, as my husband Dan had been told that same week that he would be being made redundant from his job. I'm not sure how, but somehow we found the strength to get through the week.
The staff at the hospital did everything they could to make our little 2 year old more at ease. It was heart-breaking to see Eloise suffering so much. She was so tiny and scared, recoiling from any doctor or nurse that would touch her. One of the things that put a smile on Eloise’s face when she wouldn’t smile or talk to anyone (including me), was the fantastic Captain Starlight entertainers. This crazy duo dressed in superhero costumes, made Eloise a balloon animal Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony, which was her favourite at the time. This was entirely free and something the Starlight Children’s Foundation do to make children’s hospital stays that little bit more tolerable. Another thing that made Eloise’s time at the hospital easier were the play areas and the unlimited access to toys, books, DVD players, game consoles etc., that the children could choose to take back to their beds with them, they were invaluable resources to distract them with. The dedicated ‘play specialists’ would visit each child every day to see if there were any particular toys they could bring them. On our weekly appointments at the hospital after Eloise was discharged, the nurses would give her stickers, toys, easter eggs, colouring packs. They would even just come out to the waiting area to come and talk to her while she was playing. Even after a tiring 2am visit to A & E, nurses would come in and blow bubbles at Eloise to try and distract her and make her smile. These acts of kindness we will never forget.
On Friday, we will stop giving her the injections, which we cannot wait for! We never thought we would see the end of her treatment. When we brought her home, it was overwhelming and scary. My phone was full of alarms for her injections and medication, there was just too much to remember, as well as trying to get Eloise through the next 3 months without any major accidents (blood thinners meant she would bleed more).
Our families have been AMAZING. Without their support, we could not have kept going. At the end of this journey, we find ourselves with the same Eloise as before, just a little tougher and with a big scar she likes to show off (miraculously she hasn’t lost any hearing which is common with the illness she had), Dan has a better job than before, a happy 4 year old looking forward to her birthday and a chubby, thriving 4 month old baby, who we can all enjoy properly now.
The NHS have been AMAZING, not only through these past 3 months, but throughout our lifetimes. Without them, it wouldn’t just be Eloise missing from our lives, but myself and many other members of our families. Thank you to the fantastic Bristol Children’s Hospital. They do an amazing job of looking after all the children there. The main charity funding the hospital and providing things from lifesaving equipment to play therapy, is The Grand Appeal. We hope that people continue to support them. The latest fundraiser from The Grand Appeal is the Gromit Unleashed 2 Trail, which opened this week throughout Bristol. We cannot wait to get out there and find them all!
Finally, the biggest thank you goes to our Eloise, who kept us going with her resilience and ability to smile despite everything. This gave us the hope that everything would be okay in the end. We love you Eloise and we are so proud of you.