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We heard you were coming đŸ’

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Today I went to visit a very dear friend on the Sperrin Haematology/Oncology ward in Altnagelvin Hospital. Leah had two admissions there prior to going to Bristol for her transplant and was really well looked after.

As I walked through the door of the South Wing of the hospital today my tears started flowing and I wondered if I had made a big mistake in going there.

As I walked up the stairs and down the corridor, everything was just as I remembered it, all the familiar landmarks, and everything reminded me of Leah.

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By this stage I was in no fit state to visit anyone, but felt I couldn’t turn back as my friend was expecting me.

I was relieved that the entrance to the ward was open as I wasn’t capable of speaking into the intercom. As I approached the nurses station a lovely nurse turned to me and said “We heard you were coming. This must be so difficult for you. We remember Leah.

Then she took me away to sit in a quiet corner and we talked together about Leah’s illness journey and I showed her some photos of Leah taken in Bristol and after that at Christmas.

The nurse brought me a drink and when I was composed she took me to speak to the ward sister and we reminisced about Leah sitting her GCSE modules on the ward and some other happy memories.

Then I went to visit my friend and had a lovely time with her.

Sometimes there is healing in facing painful memories head on and being enveloped in the loving care of those who God provides to minister to us on this journey.

The Health Service is far from perfect and I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, but today I thank God for the very many kind, caring staff who made Leah’s and my journey that bit easier because of their compassionate hearts.

Have you not googled it?

Have you not googled it?

On Saturday 18th May ’13 Leah was admitted to the Sperrin Haematology/Oncology Adult Ward of our local hospital. She had Febrile Neutropenia and was immediately started on intravenous antibiotics – this condition can be fatal if not treated quickly.

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By Sunday morning Leah was feeling much better and was sure that she would be able to sit her two GCSE modules the following day Monday 20th May. However when the consultant came round he said that she would not be allowed out of the hospital to sit her exams. When I queried him on this he replied “Mrs Whyte, this is a life threatening situation, have you not googled it?” I didn’t answer him – I didn’t need google to tell me that my child’s life was in danger. He spoke to the nurse and she reappeared a little while later with a computer printout regarding “febrile neutropenia” – otherwise known as “neutropenic sepsis” and how it could very quickly become fatal it not correctly handled.

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I asked Leah what she wanted to do about her exams and she said that she wanted to sit them, so I said “that’s fine, it’s going to happen“. Inwardly I prayed for strength and wisdom. It was a Sunday morning and I didn’t have contact details for any of the staff in Limavady High School. I was also confined to the hospital with Leah as she didn’t like being left on her own and I didn’t like leaving her.

It’s a long story and various good people helped along the way, but eventually around 6pm Sunday evening I got speaking to Mr M, Leah’s Head of Year, a man who was a tower of strength and compassion throughout Leah’s illness journey. He promised to ring the exam board first thing Monday morning. I then informed the ward staff what we were hoping to arrange.

Monday morning the wonderful Mr M phoned to say that he had authorisation from the exam board for Leah to sit her two exams in the hospital that day. An invigilator was on his way from Limavady High School to the hospital in Derry/Londonderry with the exam papers – English Literature and Chemistry. I went to the nurses station to update them. They informed me that Leah wouldn’t be allowed to sit these exams without authorisation from her consultant and he was busy in clinic. There was considerable stress until the consultant could be contacted and brought to the ward to give his permission. Thankfully everything got sorted out.

Leah sat her exams in the ward sister’s office. It was the first time that a patient had ever sat GCSE modules on this ward. In August ’13 when Leah was in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in Bristol, Mr M phoned us to say that Leah had got an ‘A’ in both of these exams. I immediately phoned the Sperrin Ward to let them know and to thank them for all of their help – Leah was always very well cared for on this ward.

This photo was taken in hospital at 9.30am on Monday 20th May 2013 while Leah was doing some last minute revision for her exams.

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Some days are just harder than others

Some days are just harder than others

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Today was my younger daughter’s appointment at the fracture clinic in Altnagelvin Hospital.
I explained to her before we left the house that Mummy feels sad when she goes near the hospital because it brings back so many memories & not to be worried if I started crying.
The easiest place to park is opposite the South Wing where the Sperrin Oncology/Haematology Ward is, where Leah had two admissions & sat two of her GCSE modules – & got an ‘A’ in both.
I managed to park, walk up the steps & enter the hospital without shedding a tear.
I was just starting to relax when it hit me – today is the 20th of February……..how come I never thought of this before?
Wednesday 20th February 2013 started like any normal working day – I got up, got dressed and went to work.
I never suspected as I got dressed that morning that the clothes that I was putting on me would be what I would sleep in that night – and the next night too.
In fact it was Friday lunch hour before I managed to shower and change.
Leah had been having hematological investigations since the day of her 15th birthday – New Year’s Eve 31st December ’12.
By Wednesday 20th February ’13 Leah was as yet undiagnosed.
A few friends had been asking me for weeks to meet them for a meal and I had kept putting them off.
I was worried about Leah and I didn’t want to leave the house unnecessarily in case she took unwell when I wasn’t there.
Wednesday 20th February was the day that I had finally agreed to meet up with them for a meal after work.
We went to a really nice Chinese restaurant called the Mandarin Palace.
We chatted and laughed and caught up on each other’s news – it felt good to have a bit of rest and relaxation.
I had just swallowed the last bite of dessert when my mobile phone rang – it was my husband “I think you had better come home, Leah’s not feeling well.”
Leah was severely neutropenic and her consultant had me well warned that if she ever became unwell that I wasn’t to waste time taking her to the GP or A&E, I was to immediately phone the Oncology/Hematology helpline.
We paid the bill, hugged, wished each other well and said goodbye.
I went home and assessed Leah’s situation, spoke to the staff on the Sperrin Ward and was asked to bring her in.
Although it was midterm, Leah filled her overnight bag with school work – she wanted to make the best possible use of any time spent in hospital.
I was as yet totally unaccustomed to this new way of life and I didn’t pack even as much as a toothbrush for myself.
The nurse who was cutting off my younger daughter’s plaster today didn’t notice my distress at first.
Then he tried to give me directions to X-ray but I got totally confused.
You would think that I should know my way round my local hospital by now, especially when you consider how much time I’ve spent in it.
Its hard though when your eyes are filled with tears & your mind is full of memories.
The nurse was very caring & he took me into a side room and talked to me until I had regained enough composure to continue.
My young daughter got her X-ray quite quickly & we returned to Clinic 3.
A pleasant young doctor told her the good news that her arm was well healed and no further treatment was required – what a relief.
A close friend who works in the hospital then met us for a drink & buns in the outpatients cafe.
After this I dropped my young daughter off for a day of fun and games with some of her school-friends – they are off school for mid-term.
This has been very kindly organized by two of the parents and they have the use of a church hall for the day.
As I pulled up outside Ballykelly Church of Ireland hall I remembered that the last time I was there was to take Leah to “BK Banter” – something she absolutely loved attending – so many memories.
It’s good to have memories – lots of them – some days are just harder than others.