5 years on from our 10-week admission

We arrived in Great Ormond Street Hospital on Wednesday 13th November 2013. Martha was having her pre-admission tests ready for her second operation the next day. I was petrified, I'd written a post making a deal with God a couple of days earlier promising all kinds as long as my baby girl survived.

We honestly thought we'd only be there for 10 days. She'd been allowed home a little over two weeks after her first operation, surely she was stronger as she was 12 weeks older. This operation was to close the Ventricular Septal Defect (a hole between the two pumping chambers) and in my head, it was a straightforward procedure.

But it seemed that if God had heard my prayer, he wasn't going to just give me everything on a plate. We were going to have to work hard for our happy ending. If I thought the first few days post-op were going to be hard, the 9 weeks that followed was going to give me a run for my money.

Looking back now, I honestly don't know how we made it through. Living apart for over two months. I only saw Osh and Isabella a handful of times in those ten weeks. Mark having to work Monday to Friday, solo parenting and spending his Saturday's making a train journey to London and back again before getting a shop in and catching up on chores on a Sunday. My life was Intensive care and drinking tea in a Hospital cafe, reading trashy magazines in waiting rooms. We didn't know if there would be a baby to bring back home with us at the end of it. We saw 4 other families say goodbye to their children early in December and the whole time I was convinced it would be us next.

Compared to the 5 years which have followed, 10 weeks is no time at all. But back then, there was never an end in sight. Every other day we'd be facing a new problem, each one more complicated than it's predecessor. Before we knew it, we'd been there for 6 weeks and it was Christmas.

I remember telling a Doctor that I just wanted to be home in time for our wedding anniversary in February as I fancied a weekend away for a much needed break. He said that was a good time scale to aim for. I silently prayed that we'd be home long before that. The end came quite quickly and out of nowhere. It was Sunday 19th January and our Nurse (Clare) said she was starting to bundle Martha's drug timings together to make it easier when we were at home. She must have seen my face because the next words out of her mouth were "They haven't told you, have they?" What had been discussed was that pending the results of an ECHO and Pacemaker test, Martha Grace would finally be coming home that week. I rang Mark to tell him, he was in Asda. On Wednesday 22nd of January, we boarded the train with a baby and everything we'd accumulated over 10-weeks, one suitcase was full of meds, medical grade formula and feeding tubes. But I felt like I was walking on air.

The truth is when you're going through something like this - you don't have a plan. You don't know how you're going to make it from one week to the next, but somehow you just do. You turn on auto-pilot, everyone pulls together and you make it through - together. It's exhausting. The whole experience is traumatic and that extends to the siblings and grandparents.

I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone. But if you ever find yourself in the same position, just know that you will make it through. It might not seem like it at times, but you will come out the other side. It might take ten days, ten weeks or ten months - but it will be worth it. You'll do it all again if it means you'd get another 5 years.


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