Violet’s third birthday

Last week was a hard week for us as it was our daughter’s third birthday and along with the happy memories we also had memories of her difficult birth, where both of us nearly died, and the memory of her having heart surgery too.

Violet at Alder Hey
When she was at Alder Hey in intensive care, when we couldn’t hold her she held our fingers & later on in her life she took comfort from holding hands.

This time three years ago she spent her first 10 days in various NICU wards, at St Mary’s hospital first before she was transferred to Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. In Liverpool she had open-heart surgery at just 4 days old.  We had to sign a million legal forms and contracts saying we knew the odds were stacked against her.  That we knew she might not survive and return alive from the operating theatre.   And that if she did there was a chance of brain damage; disabilities and the heart problem might not be “fixed”.  We also knew her chance of survival without the operation was nil and she was only alive because of the additional hormones and support she was being given.

I still remember the day she went off to the operating theatre that morning was only the second time I had actually held my daughter in the four days since her birth. The first time being the day after she was born just before she left St Mary’s Hospital in an ambulance for Alder Hey, with her daddy in a taxi in hot pursuit, as we didn’t want her to be alone without at least one of us.  I had to remain in St Mary’s because of all the injuries I sustained during labour and as soon as I could be discharged to head over to Liverpool I was.

Me & Violet at Alder Hey
The second time I held her just before her heart operation

The days before her operation and the hours before it we spent time talking to her about what we were going to do together once she was out of the hospital.  We chatted about all the different people she would meet, describing friends and family members to her in detail.  We spoke about all the places we would take her to including New Zealand to see her Uncle Tom, Cyprus to see her Aunty Mel and Bali for mummy & daddy’s honeymoon.  We chatted about her Grandma and Nanna.  Said she would learn to swim.  We basically described to her then the life she ended up having crammed into a 15-month period.  I wish I had have mentioned university and her own children to her then perhaps she’d have stayed around for longer!

Me & Violet in Cyprus
Violet in Cyprus in April 2016

When they took her down to the operating theatre I couldn’t watch, as I knew I would end up screaming and it would distress Violet, so instead I collapsed onto the floor of the nearby family room sobbing.  Her brave daddy on the other hand walked her down to the operating theatre, talking calming to her the whole time reassuring her, reminding her how much she was loved and how strong she was, that she could do this.

Violet & daddy in Alder Hey
The bond between father & daughter was strong from day one

Then commenced the longest 8 hours of our life as we hung around the hospital waiting for a phone call and finally received it saying she was out and still alive! We were so relieved and our hearts sank when we returned to the NICU ward to be told that the specialist team wanted to speak to us before we saw her.  We thought oh no this is where we get told something bad has happened but we were told the opposite that the surgeon thought it was an 100% success and she wouldn’t need any other operations on that part of her heart again ever.  You know what we discovered he was 100% right too, as her post mortem showed his operation was a permanent fix.   This is the reason we are fundraising in her name for Alder Hey so superstar surgeons can continue to work their magic on baby’s that are told they only have a slim chance of survival.

Last week these memories all felt like it was someone else’s story, as though it was a different life and it played in my mind like a feature length film.

The thing I found hardest was the realization that ordinarily I would have spent the weekend before her birthday preparing for it by buying her gifts, cards and organizing a birthday party for her.  Then the night before I’d have been putting an excited little girl to bed and wrapping her presents to set up for the morning.

Violet opening birthday presents
Here she’s opening first birthday presents & getting excited about bows!

This year instead of planning her party the weekend before I focused on doing some planning for the Violet Ball to be held in her memory on 29thSeptember to raise money for Alder Hey to thank them for saving her life at 4 days old.  Instead of wrapping her presents the night before her birthday we decided to make up little “Random act of kindness” parcels containing little packets of sweets, including Parma Violets, and then on her birthday we distributed them all around the area where we live.  Including taking some to her nursery, leaving some on the benches near the playgrounds in the local parks where she loved the swings, left some near the mural on Beech Road that has a violet coloured balloon in her memory, some elsewhere on Beech Road near to where she attended Babel Baby classes and we placed some on benches in the cemetery close to her grave after we took her birthday balloons.

The challenge now will be deciding what we do next year for her fourth birthday? Please let us know your ideas as all will be considered.

Thanks for reading

Love

Sarah xx

A Literal Broken Heart


When I was a teenager and even throughout my twenties I would talk about having a broken heart over an unrequited love or a relationship break up. Later on once I hit my thirties my parents 38-year marriage came to a sudden end and again I was “heart broken”. The world as I knew it ceased to exist. Then my beloved dog Max died suddenly that Christmas Eve and I was “heart broken” again.

It seems heartache and being “heart broken” is a familiar feeling that us humans often talk about but what I have experienced in the last few years shows that everything is relative and you can only compare the experiences you have been through personally. If you are fortunate to have only ever suffered the break up of a relationship then you will know this to be your worst emotional pain. If you have lost a relative or pet then this might be the worst pain imaginable.

Max
Max

After I lost my amazing dog Max I decided that I probably wouldn’t have another as the pain and grief after losing him I felt was unbearable, so I couldn’t face ever putting myself through that again.

Six years later I became a mother to Violet who was born with a heart defect and had to be rushed into open heart surgery at four days old, the stress and anxiety during those nine hours she was under the knife was at the time I thought unbearable, so we were relieved afterwards when we were told her heart was a perfect fix.

Me & Violet at Alder Hey
Reunited for the first time in several days after she was transferred to Alder Hey in Liverpool & I was still at St Mary’s in Manchester.  Cuddles before heart surgery.

Every time she had to go to hospital for a heart check up of course we were stressed again praying all would be ok and it always was, until she was rushed into hospital with suspected pneumonia in September 2016. The anxiety during those ten days in hospital was again almost unbearable and I think I even told friends that there was nothing worse than watching your child poorly, being tortured whilst doctors inject them/take samples and attach them to drips and there being nothing you can do to take the pain away from them.

Violet in Children's hospital MCR.JPG
Violet during her time in Manchester Children’s Hospital in the days before she died

Then suddenly she died. Our precious daughter died. We then discovered a totally new level of pain and heartache that we had never even come close to before. Every other type of “heartache” I had experienced in my life until this moment paled into comparison. I actually felt my world had truly come to an end and the pain then and now is still sometimes unbearable but bear it we do, as we have no choice in the matter.  It is indescribable to anyone who hasn’t gone through it and an unimaginably scary though to those of you who have children who are alive.

Anyway within six months of Violet’s death I discovered that not only do I have a metaphorical “broken heart” but I was diagnosed with an actual physical broken heart too. It was discovered that I have what they call an ASD or hole in between the top two chambers of my heart so I now have truly broken heart both physically and emotionally. How ironic?

So life wise I guess the positive take on all of this is that it has helped us (my family) to put things into perspective. We no longer stress about the small things in life anymore and I tell myself that, at the end of the day, I have been through the worst thing imaginable, so everything else, including possible open heart surgery on myself is easy in comparison.

Dexter
Dexter

Nine years after the loss of my beloved dog Max we adopted a two-year-old German Shepherd, as I now realise that I can cope with the loss of a pet if I can somehow survive the loss of two children. So we welcomed Dexter to our family and we now have a giant fur baby to look after who gives us unconditional love. What’s not to love about that, even if it only lasts for 8 years? It is relative after all and we have chosen to live in the present moment, as who knows if a bus will hit us tomorrow, so make the most of today folks always.

Love Sarah x