A couple of weeks back we had some hospital appointments with Arun in London. As we were in the building we popped into the neo-natal unit in University College Hospital where he was born so prematurely and spent six months in intensive care.
Within moments word got round that Arun was back in the building and we were swamped by a sea of happy faces all of whom were delighted to see the tiny baby they had nursed, now growing up into a happy little toddler. As he was hugged, kissed and swirled around by the hospital staff it gave me cause to reflect on all the people I have met on my journey as Arun’s father and the impact that they have had on my life.
When in the hospital, we were touched by the professionalism, care and compassion of everyone from the cleaners, to the nurses, to the consultants. Despite the fact that they were doing the most harrowing of jobs, working in difficult conditions, they were always bright, positive and cheerful. Everyone knows that the job that doctors and nurses do is important but it isn’t until you see them help a loved one that you can grasp the enormity of what they do. On countless occasions, I stood by and watched helpless as they saved my son’s life, be it through life saving surgery, making the right judgement calls or even intervening to resuscitate him when all else had failed. As I went home from the neo-natal unit each day I would thank them because I knew they were doing something I could not do: they were keeping my son alive.
It was not just in the hospital: everywhere I was touched by people’s compassion. Our friends rallied round us and came to meet us at the most inconvenient times and inconvenient places. People would travel for 50 miles to meet us for a quick drink in a pub round the corner from us. Our families called us daily to see how the boys were getting on. We had a constant stream of e-mails and text messages of support. Those who were religious prayed for us and the boys daily. More than at any time in my life I knew that my family and I were loved and even on the darkest of days this made a huge difference. Even my employer, a supposed hard-nose, multi-national, investment bank could not have been more understanding or accommodating.
For six months, we virtually lived in the neo-natal unit. We spent countless hours with the other parents of babies in the unit and we are still close to many of the families we met. The mothers meet for coffee and cakes – the fathers meet for a beer. Clare and I are lucky to have met such good people and have formed friendships that will stand the test of time. More importantly, Arun knows some of the other babies that were in the unit with him. He now has little playmates who have been through the same experiences as him and I like to think he has made some friends for life.
The emotions and the experiences all came flooding back to me as we stood smiling and gleeful in the hospital. However, I was brought back down to earth with a thump when Angela, one of the consultants that cared for Arun took me to one side and introduced me to a man with a furrowed brow, hollow cheeks and rivers of red running through his eyes. I immediately recognised the mixture of stress, lack of sleep and bad diet that had laid him low. I knew that face because it had stared back at me from my mirror for six months. George had 26 week old twins in intensive care. He introduced me to his wife and I saw in her face the same mix of exhaustion and anxiety. Angela just said to me, “Talk to them. Help them.”
Whilst it was lovely to catch up with our joyful old friends, Clare and I looked at each other and immediately knew that we had to cross the street and do whatever we could for our new friends. After all, scores of people had done the same for us three years ago. Whilst devastated for what George and his young family were going through, I was delighted that I might be able to help.