Annie had a cerebral haemorrhage due to the rupture of a cavernous hemangioma when she was 5 weeks old. She nearly died and was in hospital for 10 days. The doctors did not know for a long time what the problem was. At 9 o’ clock in the morning she gave her first smile to James (my husband) but then she refused her feed, and started to cry. I remember telling James how hot she was, then very suddenly she stopped crying and lost her colour. Her eyes were only half open. I thought it was odd but maybe she had exhausted herself crying and had fallen asleep. I therefore put her in her bouncer and watched her over the next hour but wasn’t unduly worried until her colour and breathing worsened, and then I told James one of us would have to take her to the doctors straight away.
He took her, and I still didn’t realise it was serious until he phoned me 15 minutes later, and with his voice breaking said I should drop what I was doing, and leave for the hospital immediately. In hindsight I shouldn’t have driven myself, because I went far too fast and over virtually every kerb in my path, all the time saying please god, just let her be okay.
Apparently she had started fitting in the car and her temperature had dropped to just 33, and started laboured breathing.
When I saw her she was laid on a table looking tiny with an oxygen mask and woollen hat and aluminium foil on. breathing roughly. The doctor and nurse looked stony-faced and asked us what we had done to her. We didn’t know it then, but her symptoms were the same as a maltreated child. I thought I had somehow allowed her to get too cold until a different doctor in the high-dependency unit she was moved to said she suspected meningitis, and they would have to do a lumbar puncture (stick a long needle into her thin back).
Over the next few hours results started to come back, all negative. Annie’s temperature returned to normal but she was still unresponsive and sleepy. I didn’t realise how sick she had been until I overheard a doctor tell a colleague that on arrival Annie’s vital signs were such that she wasn’t expected to survive. I also overheard (and I admit I actually listened at a closed door I was so desperate for information) several doctors discussing her case. James had left when they mentioned words such as serious squint in right eye, haemorrhage, and brain damage and I remember spending a long night watching her instead of sleeping, imagining she was going to be blind and severely permanently brain damaged.