Monday, 24 July 2017

Still the newspaper blog, this time disguising the real reason why my son was rushed to hospital...

At the end of January 2010, my (now 16-year old) son, Ben, had been on the waiting list for eating disorder treatment for a while. His descent into anorexia had been rapid and, if you've read my book Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia you'll know that, at the end of January, he was rushed into hospital with a dangerously slow pulse rate of just 29 bpm. Meanwhile I was still attempting to write the light-hearted blog for that regional newspaper. So the following post disguises what was really going on and the sheer horror of it all (with notes in red made today).

Not a week I want to repeat…

How’s your week been? Mine’s been one of those where everything goes out of the window because you get a call from the school nurse saying your son should go to A&E… fast!

Worse, it isn’t a broken nose (like last time), or a broken hand (like the time before), it’s Ben’s heart which is doing ‘funny things’ and beating at half the rate it’s supposed to.

Mine stops as I start to panic. And it’s totally true you go ice cold when you get this kind of news…

For the first time ever in the history of visiting A&E we’re spirited past the usual queue. In a flash, Ben’s covered in sticker things and wired to a machine.

Next, he’s wheeled into Resus where they stick a massive needle in his arm to take loads of blood while still monitoring his heart on the machine that goes beep.

And because his arteries are like mine i.e. difficult to locate, they have a heck of a job trying to get the big needle in. Ben’s had some pretty hair-raising things done in his time, what with in-growing toenails, several teeth out, the various bone breakages and so on, but this is the first time I’ve seen him actually cry…

Me... well… If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, a zillion thoughts rush through your head from “I must ring his dad” to “This is my only child and this is his only heart”…

Suddenly I’m at the nurses’ station saying “Excuse me, I don’t feel very well – they’re sticking needles in my son”. A glass of water later and a “Pull yourself together, Bev!” pep talk to myself and I’m on the phone to Ben’s dad saying, “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, but…”

Next we have a succession of important looking doctors frowning, taking notes and repeatedly checking the machine. “Smile and tell me it’s all OK and we can go home!!” I will them to say. But instead they say he needs to be transferred to the specialist cardiac unit at the other hospital in our city.

I say something stupid like: “What shall I do with my car? It’s in the pay-and-display?” They give me a withering look.

So while Ben’s being transferred by ambulance, I’m busy moving my car to somewhere I can call a taxi to take me to the city centre. (Nowhere to park and who knows how long I will be?)

It’s like a nightmare. The traffic is horrendous. The only taxi number I’ve got can’t be there for 30 minutes. So I have to drive to my mum’s, borrow her phone book and explain what’s happened without worrying her.

Taxi after taxi say they’ll be AGES… Finally I find one that can at mum’s in five minutes, but the traffic is in gridlock. Eventually I arrive to find Ben lying in a ward with three old men who sound like they smoke 60 a day.

And so it goes on… wires… monitors… doctors… nurses… questions… heart x-rays…

Me analysing the staff’s body language for clues as they’re predictably non-committal with what they say.

Oddly, Ben seems to be pretty OK except for the massive needle in his arm and the constant beeping of the machine. In fact he’s so OK he makes me go down to the shop to get him something to eat because the hospital sandwich they’ve given him looks as if it’s six weeks old.

Comment: Incorrect. The reason why he wouldn't eat it was that it didn't come up to his perfect standards (but, yes, it was a pretty unappetising sandwich). I panicked, knowing that he needed to eat, so I dashed down to the shop, spending ages there trying to pick out something which he might just eat - like fruit. 

Then he sends his Dad down to get some more food!

Comment: Actually that's correct. More fruit. 

It’s funny how your mind works. Half of it panics with visions of cardiac arrests, heart transplants and worse…

The other half thinks, well if they’re allowing him to eat they obviously aren’t planning to operate. And, he’s at this end of the ward, not that end (the ‘emergency’ end). And, he’s not seeing the consultant until the morning; if it was critical he’d be seeing him now. Stuff like that…

At 8.30 pm Paul and I have to leave and we’re exhausted. None of us has a good night’s sleep. I’m up at 4am, head hurting, half wondering if I’ll receive an emergency phone call… Meanwhile Ben’s trying to sleep with a massive needle in his arm, surrounded by old men snoring like pneumatic drills.


By the time the consultant does his rounds, Ben’s heart has stabilised, there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with it and he’s allowed to go home. No clues as to why it might have happened except that sometimes sporty teenagers can get dips in their heartbeat.

Comment: Incorrect. It doesn't turn out OK, as you and I well know! But it is correct in that the consultant didn't know why this had happened. The fact that Ben was developing anorexia didn't flash up any warning bells (despite Bradycardia - low pulse rate - being one of the complications of an eating disorder). On learning that Ben did a lot of sport (he was addicted to exercise, as a means of purging calories), the consultant said that some athletes have low pulse rates, so that was possibly the reason. The fact that Ben was developing an eating disorder and any exercise was for purging purposes only was ignored.

But of course if he ever feels ‘strange’ again, he’s to come straight back. But, thankfully, the consultant doesn’t seem unduly concerned.

Mind you, I’m expecting the kind of mature, larger-than-life consultant who strides into the ward, James Robertson Justice / Sir Lancelot Spratt style.

What we actually get is someone who looks like a sixth former. Can I trust his opinion, I wonder to myself...?

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