I knew the way to the PAH like the back of my hand so I knew when we were close. The sick feeling in my stomach kicked in again and as we turned right and approached the main entrance, I saw a few bodies. Mum. Mum was there. It was late at night, really late I think and I knew things had to be seriously bad for my mum to be out of the house that late at night. Was my baby dead already? Is that why I had a party waiting for me? I don’t even know where my brother went from there, I just remember being in a waiting area, waiting to be checked into the ward I would be a patient on. I did not care! Where the fuck is my baby is all I kept thinking. I had no idea what was going on. Mum must have told me, but nothing registered. James told me (as I am typing this) that he was also waiting for me with my mum and that he came to the ward with me and that he answered most of the questions that I was asked. I remember being really confused. And these nurses and a Dr kept asking me questions and then talking amongst themselves, probably about where I was supposed to go, the transfer had been a bit of a rushed job it seemed.
James’s account is quite different. When he arrived at PAH he went with Betty to the NICU. He watched as the highly skilled staff moved Betty from the transporter incubator into the open incubator which would be her bed for the time being. Unbeknown to me, the journey from QAH to PAH had been very turbulent. James is a man of few words and he very rarely shows emotion. His description of the transition from Portsmouth to Southampton brought tears even to his eyes. He told me that Betty had had a few ‘moments’ in transit. The first moment was in the lift at QAH before they had even left the building. The transport team had to stop the lift and perform lifesaving treatment to Betty before setting off again. In the ambulance on the way this happened again. The ambulance is different to normal ambulances. It is white and it says Neonatal Intensive Care Ambulance of the sides and it only transports babies. And it is an incredibly precious and important piece of kit. Right now Southampton Neonatal Unit are raising funds to purchase another ambulance so that no baby should have to wait to be moved in order to receive life-saving treatment.
Despite the rocky move, they arrived in Southampton and headed to Nursery 3, NICU. Betty was moved from the transport incubator into the open one with apparent ease according to James.
I have a very patchy recollection of the next bit but James tells me that me and him went together to the NICU and saw Betty. The staff were absolutely incredible, they really were. They let us see her together after they put the chest drain in. I knew from my own nursing experience that chest drains are not pleasant at all so there was no way I was going to stay and watch them do that to my little girl. They also wouldn’t let us stay for it, and rightly so. We were shown to the bedroom on the ward, on the actual NICU. I can remember bits and pieces from that room. The shower. The two single beds pushed together.
The lack of sleep and the tears. I am sure I got up and went to sit with Betty at some ungodly hour. I was so close to her and I couldn’t sleep. The nurses would have been kind. I don’t remember but I know they were always kind. If I fell asleep I would wake and feel a punch to my stomach, a reality check, yes this is happening.
On our way to that room I bumped into a nurse with a familiar face. An old school friend who had always wanted to work on mums unit. We looked at each other, both equally bemused. She hugged me and I cried. I have no idea what else was said, if anything at all. But knowing she worked there gave me more faith. I knew mums unit was a centre of excellence, they are the best at what they do. But at the same time, doctors kept telling me that Betty was really sick and she quite feasibly could die. So my head was to shot to shit.
Surprise surprise I do not remember that first night. I know what the room looked like but we were in it for two nights. We were told that the parents with the sickest baby get to stay in that room. So, it’s a tough one because you don’t want any other baby to be even as sick, let alone sicker than your own baby but at the same time, you don’t want your baby to be the most sick. So along with all the other thoughts running round my head, I was thinking, please someone tell us we have to leave that room. I don’t want my baby to be the sickest baby here. And sure enough, two days later we were approached and told that there was a baby sicker than ours, so we had to move to Ronald McDonald House. I had heard people talk about this place over the last 48 hours but I had no reason to question it, it was just another weird thing. Everything was weird.
Mum was there every day, I don’t know which day it was but I remember being on my knees, leaning on one of the sofas in the parent room on the NICU. Mum had asked me something, I don’t know what, but I remember my response. I was sobbing, painful, hearty tears, and my whole body in agony from the emotional torture I was going through. I remember saying to my mum “I want to run away, I want it all to stop…..” And in true Carol fashion she said, as clear as day, “well you can’t”. And that was it. She told me I couldn’t run away, my little girl was just over there and needed me. I recognised the words I used. I meant it. I meant it when I said I want it all to stop. My patients say that. My suicidal patients, the ones that really want to die, they just want ‘it all to stop’. And that was where I was. I had a plan. If my little girl was to be taken by the angels, I would go with her… I was 100% set on that. In my head I had a clear plan. Something else I ask my patients when assessing their level of risk about suicide and intent. Have you made a plan? Do you know how you will do it? If the answer is yes, then the risk is high. And that was me. I didn’t tell anyone, not until right now as I type, no one knows this. But yes, I was going to end my life if my little girl didn’t make it. I couldn’t comprehend it, the thought of her not being here, I just could not. It wasn’t a world I was prepared to live in. I always have a contingency, and this is the darkest one to date, but I took comfort from it. I had a way out.