An Unexpected Christmas Day

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As I write this post, I’m simply trying to make sense of all that has happened in the past 24 hours.  My Christmas day has been very different to how I had planned (and I am a meticulous planner so I knew exactly how it was going to look)  It has been a very scary time but what has shone through is the adaptability of children, kindness of people and our amazing NHS.

Last evening, Mr S, myself and my Father in law who was staying with us for Christmas were all settled on the sofa waiting for the children to fall asleep.  The men were drifting off to sleep in front of the tv and it all felt very cosy and a typical Christmas eve.  I’m not really sure what happened next as one minute we were sitting on the sofa and the next I was aware that my Father in law was struggling for breath making terrible noises, then that he had stopped breathing and didn’t appear conscious and then after a terrifying amount of time and some shaking he was violently sick which seemed to restart his breathing. We called 999 and then had an agonising 50 minute wait.  We live rurally and this is the response time on some nights from the closest ambulance station, as not all are 24 hours. We followed the excellent advice of the 999 operator and one of us stayed with him whilst the other collected his medication etc..  Little Miss also got up at this point as she had been alerted by the commotion, so we needed to reassure her and try to get her back to bed (on Christmas eve, of all nights)  The paramedics were amazing and quickly did a load of tests on my Father in Law and gave him oxygen.  Again despite our attempts to get her to bed Little Miss reappeared and found the oxygen the most frightening as Granddad was wearing a mask and clearly struggling to breathe.  It was decided that my father in law needed to go hospital, another 45 minute drive and Mr S quickly followed in his car to give us some transport for his return.  It was now when our neighbours alerted by the ambulance texted us and on learning it was my Father in law offered to come and stay on Christmas eve so we could both get to the hospital, even though they knew we were likely to be gone most of the night.  Whilst we decided I should stay for the children, my neighbour said to call at any time of the night and she would come over, her kindness has continued throughout the day today.  When Mr S and his dad left, I think the enormity of what had happened hit me.  Little Miss was still awake, she was upset and needed a lot of comfort and of course being a child she asked the question outright is Grandad going to die and it was a question at that time that I really couldn’t answer.  We talked about all the specially trained people who would be helping Grandad and that it was a good time to say a little prayer too.  It was at this point that I was so proud of her as she said Christmas didn’t matter and all she just wanted was for Grandad to be better.  After half an hour of comforting and cuddles, she finally fell asleep and then I had to call Mr S’ sister to tell her what had happened.  It was another of those conversations you don’t wish to make and you try to sound reassuring and confident when in fact you’re wobbling yourself.  After the difficult conversations and cleaning up, it was around midnight and I was left with a dilemma about Christmas presents.  Our two still believe in Santa and had left out mince pies and stockings, however the last thing I wanted to think about was the morning, I was living by the minute, desperate for updates from Mr S. However I also didn’t want to create more bad memories from this incident, so hesitantly got the presents together and put them in the front room.  Normally I make such a fuss of this, its a real highlight but I did it very simply.  I also do a stocking for everyone in our house for Christmas and made sure Grandad’s was there in the middle of the pile.  I spoke to Mr S again who said that his dad was still in A&E and on oxygen and that he would stay with him for as long as he was able to but for me to try and get some sleep and to try and carry on as normal for the children.  Needless to say I slept poorly, worried about my lovely Father in law and thinking on how to deal with Christmas morning.  At around 5.30am, Mr S returned as his dad was now on a ward and in a more comfortable state, he managed an hour’s sleep before Little Man who had slept through this all woke us up all excited for Christmas.  The first thing we had to tell him was about Grandad, amazingly he had slept through the whole thing despite the ambulance and the flashing blue lights being outside his window, however he is convinced he woke up and saw Rudolph and Santa’s sleigh last night!

The children were excited about their presents but I think their thoughts were very much with Grandad too, he was missing and he is normally with us for Christmas day if we’re at home.  Little Miss had to be persuaded to open her presents from Grandad as she wanted to wait for him.  After the presents, the children got a bonus visit from their auntie who came in to go back to the hospital with Mr S, she lives 2 hours away and had to be stopped from driving through in the middle of the night.  Christmas day then became a bit of a waiting game, I stayed with the children whilst Mr S and his sister were at the hospital waiting for news.  We’ve spent the day playing with the new toys, watching a bit of Christmas television and having our neighbours popping in to see the children  too.  I swapped our Christmas dinner and tea around (minus the leftover turkey which hadn’t been cooked) but then the later it got in the day I swapped Boxing day lunch (always cold meat, salad and chips) for Christmas day, the children couldn’t believe that they were allowed to have chips on Christmas day!  Mr S returned home around 4pm having survived on one hour’s sleep since Sunday morning, he  played with the children, had something to eat and then exhausted went to bed.  At present, Mr S’ sister is with her dad who is feeling much better in hospital and has been seen by a consultant who has diagnosed a serious chest infection.  The last update is that he is awaiting some drugs and then may be able to go home.  As home is far from both his children, its been agreed that Mr S’ sister will look after him at her home as it is in a big city with easy access to medical facilities if needed. We are due to go on a Butlins break on Wednesday but at present we’re simply taking each day at a time.

Its been a strange old day, worrying but also trying hard to keep everything as it should be for Christmas.  Its also made me reflect on what’s important, not once today have the children complained about Christmas day being a bit rubbish, they are more interested in Grandad.  The people we have encountered in the past 24 hours have all been brilliant, the paramedics, NHS staff, nurses, doctors were superb.  Our neighbours rallied round to help too.  Perhaps this year we didn’t get the Christmas we had imagined but perhaps it showed us all what Christmas is really about, acts of kindness and looking after each other.

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