My youngest child, Dominic (5) and more recently his two older siblings (Lilia 7 and Elliot 9) are lucky enough to be counted among the thousands of children that Great Ormond Street Hospital looks after every year.
I say lucky as Dominic is determined to be a complicated medical mystery, in his time being seen by consultants from respiratory, cardiac, neuromuscular, surgical, genetics, endocrine, gastroenterology, neurophysiology and the spinal team (apologies to any of the specialities I may have inadvertently forgotten).
It is lucky really that the hospital tends to enjoy a challenge, and all credit to Dominic’s utterly wonderful lead consultant, Dr Catherine DeVile that she still endeavours to concisely summarise his ever-increasing 5 volumes of medical notes to anyone new who is brave kind enough to try and diagnose his yet undiscovered underlying condition.
As is probably obvious, we have spent a [large] majority of Dominic’s life either living on the wards or drifting about the hospital. You may very well have sat next to us in the outpatient department, as we do seem to be there most weeks. Dominic is hard to miss, being a tiny, rather alarmingly cute boy in a wheelchair with flame spoke guards and LED flashing front wheels. Understated it is not.
In our time under the care of the hospital, we have been lucky to have met lots of amazing children who all have remarkable stories to tell. We have also met quite a few of their mothers who, trust me, are in every way as brave and inspirational as their children. Therefore, in honour of Mother’s Day, which is just around the corner, I thought it would be only fitting to acknowledge the women behind those amazing children who Great Ormond Street Hospital look after.
Mother’s day this year coincidently marks a year since Dominic was finally discharged from Woodland Ward (now Squirrel) after an 8 month long stay and three complicated bowel operations. During that time we got to meet and talk to a lot of mothers, most of whom were experiencing motherhood in a way that no parenting manual could have ever prepared them for.
These are the mothers that you might see staring blankly ahead of them in the hospital canteen, or stood in their dressing gown outside the main entrance blowing on a cup of tea and clutching cigarettes. They are the ones filled with relief as they follow their child’s bed back from the operating theatres and who are lost in thought as they step past you in the lift on their way to the intensive care units.
You would pass these women in the corridor without a second glance, but they are quite probably the bravest mothers you will ever have a chance to meet. These are mothers who understand what is important in life, mothers who acknowledge fear but live in hope.
As a mother who always lives in hope, I would like to thank those doctors who are drawn to Great Ormond Street Hospital by a desire to find answers for children like mine and those people who raise money so more children can be seen.
And to all those mothers keeping vigil by their children’s bedside this Mother’s Day, I salute you. Even though you may feel at your most vulnerable, you are just as courageous as that child whose side you can’t leave- they did, after all, have to learn their strength and bravery from someone.
Renata is involved in the S.W.A.N.(Syndromes Without a Name) project which aims to bring together families of undiagnosed children.