New Year, take note!
By Nicola Sheldon
When it started we were in the middle of a blissful day. The kids had gone out on a lovely walk and came home red cheeked smelling of outdoors. The fire was crackling away, the youngest was snoring on my lap, the eldest was upstairs playing need wars with daddy, and Thomas had dozed off watching Paw Patrol.
It all changed in an instant, when over the top of Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, I heard an all too familiar choking sound. Thomas had woken with a bump and was about to vomit! I tried to quickly extricate myself from his sleeping brother and threw myself across the room to no avail. Vomit every where.
His clothes were drenched, the chair straps were drenched, and it was dripping through to the sofa below. A strong acidic smell assaulted my nostrils. As this is not an uncommon occurance everything I needed was right to hand to start cleaning Thomas up, muslins and wet wipes.
Once clean, I roll him out of his seat, onto the sofa, position him carefully on his side, and push some furniture against it to stop him rolling off. We haven’t yet received the second pair of straps for his seat, so thanking NRS for being typically slow at collecting equipment, I run upstairs and pull the straps from his old chair out of the package under the bed and run back.
I start methodically stripping the dirty straps, finding their matching clean pair, and threading them back through the seat, wiping the chair and the sofa as I go. I hear an ominous gurgle and before I can reach for another muslin I see vomit fountain into the air from Thomas’s mouth.
Once I again I throw myself toward him, scooping the back of his head and lifting it up to protect his airway. I watch helplessly as the vomit pools between the sofa cushions, it’s ever expanding puddle absorbing the pile of fresh clothes I had laid out ready. By this point I was lying across the footstool and sofa, holding Thomas’s hips down with one hand and propping his head up with my other elbow.
Unable to move without lying Thomas down again, I took a deep breath and shouted for help as loud as I could. The boys came running to see what was wrong and Chris and I set to work cleaning Thomas, cleaning the sofa, collecting the washing, getting Thomas changed and dressed, getting him comfortable in his other seating.
My eight year old sits impatiently waiting to finish his game, so once Thomas is settled I send Chris off to play again while I finish up. I’m still battling with straps that don’t like to adjust in his original chair, when once again I hear that gag.
I run to the playroom, and immediately see Thomas bubbling at the mouth as the vomit threatens once again. I have just enough time to cup my hands under his chin for him to fill them with ever more acidic vomit, which drips through the cracks in my fingers. He’s thrown his head back and is gagging on the fluid left in his mouth.
With no other choice, I quickly fling the contents of my hands onto the floor and push an arm behind his head to bring it forward. For a moment we stay there, my hands covered in vomit, the remnants falling in thick stringy droplets from Thomas’s mouth. The dog lapping up the puddle on the floor and my two year old quietly playing with the Duplo on the floor.
“SHIT!!!!” I shout while stamping my foot several times in rage on the floor. The tears building behind my eyes. Happy New Year I mutter to myself ironically, as once I’ve assessed that Thomas is safe, I start the process, once again, of cleaning him up.
I wash my hands, I wash the floor. I find more new clothes. I strip Thomas down, we move him back to his original (now clean) chair, I wash down the new dirty chair. Chris is back and I take 10 minutes to myself. To just take a breath. And to think.
It occurs to me, that this new year, more than most, people are needing to feel hopeful. Hopeful for an easier year than the one just passed. For a time where they don’t have to spend every day fearful for their own health, or the health of a loved one. Wary of an invisible aggressor who could strike at any time. And while I do not live a life without hope, there are also moments of great despair.
An easier year, a year where I don’t have to worry about my loved one, where I do not spend everyday with one ear on alert for an invisible aggressor, will be the bleakest of years. For it will mean that Thomas is no longer with us. I cannot hope for that.
So I raise my weary body, I swallow back those tears, and I take the paracetamol for those damn tension headaches and I turn to face this new year. This won’t be that year for us, and like a fierce mama bear I stand guard before my charge, with my talons out, my shackles raised and a fire in my eyes. Ready to strike to the ground any foe, new or old, or dares take us on.