Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hemiplegia Awareness Week

It was a few days before Christmas, our first Christmas as parents as our son had been born in the spring of that year. But instead of shopping for presents for our baby, we were sitting in the waiting room of the Sick Kids in Edinburgh. It was busy and noisy, everyone hot and bothered in winter coats, babies bundled up in those all in one suits and prams causing chaos. 

It had been a difficult year. Just after I'd discovered I was pregnant my husband's job had been moved from Peterborough up to Edinburgh. We were delighted about this but the timing was terrible. I'd been left to sell the house and sort things out whilst still working full time, and odd hours, as a reporter with the Eastern Daily Press. I finally moved up to join my husband in the lower villa we'd bought just two weeks before our son was born. Apart from the stress of work, selling and buying houses and moving, I'd done everything I could to prepare for a healthy baby. I'd cut out alcohol, kept fit, eaten well, read everything I could find about pregnancy and babies. 

Our son was born naturally at the Simpson Royal Memorial Pavillion in Edinburgh in late May 1990. Everything seemed to go well, he was a week late but was a good weight. It wasn't easy being a new parent in a place where I'd just moved to and knew virtually no one. Neither of our families were nearby - the nearest were north of Glasgow and my parents were in Yorkshire. 

Our son was about three months old when I realised he wasn't using one hand as well as the other. The one person who I knew in the area was on old school friend who had studied medicine at Edinburgh and had stayed on in the city. She was also a relatively new parent and so was able to comment that at that age babies normally use both hands equally. The next time I saw the health visitor at the clinic I mentioned the difference I'd noticed, but it wasn't the usual one that I'd got to know and she obviously thought I was just an over anxious new mum. But the difference between his hands continued and the next time I saw my regular health visitor I mentioned it again. I was whisked in to see the GP. She said she would refer him for tests. I was thinking it was something like a trapped nerve but she vaguely indicated that it could be something else. We had know idea what she could mean and we remained naively hopeful. 

So when we were finally called in to see the specialist at the Sick Kids we had no idea we were about to be hit with a boulder of news from a great height. What the specialist had to say remains a blur. I went into the room believing a simple operation could solve this problem and came out with a disabled child. We had been given the news as if he was confirming something we already knew, starkly, without warning, your son has cerebral palsy; next patient please. We found ourselves back in the corridor with our lives turned upside down. Thankfully a physiotherapist made arrangements to see us a couple of days later and she then answered all our questions. But it was a long two days. 

As a journalist I had covered countless numbers of stories about disabled children, people campaigning, fundraising and, of course, these had been some of the most serious cases. I had no idea there was a spectrum, no idea what to expect at all. As we'd left the hospital to return home I found I couldn't look at my baby, as if the saying of those words .cerebral palsy. had cursed him, somehow transforming my son from the bright, healthy adorable eight month old baby I'd taken in to what? I had no idea. 

In June this year we attended my son's graduation. He gained an honours degree in history and politics and is now studying for a masters. He is involved in several societies at the university and also fences and is preparing to take his black belt in karate. We are immeasurably proud of him. 

1 comment:

  1. Being a new parent is a challenge in itself and you've obviously come a very long way yourselves. Be proud of your son and also give yourselves a pat on the back for coping with all the difficulties and steep learning curves