What do you do when your son is lying on a bed in an intensive care unit being monitored in case he needs to be whisked away to surgery because too much blood is leaking into his brain?
My son, Billy, aged 18, suddenly complained of a headache Wednesday night (it’s Friday as I write this) and it was not the normal sort of headache he had ever experienced. Within minutes he was vomiting and then becoming drowsy. I had already called the NHS Direct number as I wasn’t at first sure this was an accident and emergency, but I soon realised it was and told the woman on the phone I had to go and call an ambulance. She told me that she already had.
Billy became semi-conscious very quickly and was taken to my local hospital in Worthing. Like all anxious and confused parents, scared that the worse was about to happen, I didn’t feel his case was being looked as serious enough. The nurses appeared to go through the motions and were not terribly concerned, however, when a CT scan was decided upon and the results revealed he had bleeding in the brain, a second ambulance was dispatched.
Billy was taken to Haywards Heath to Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre and immediately placed in intensive care. My ex-wife Dawn stayed in the ambulance and my daughter Georgie and I followed in my car. It was about 3.30am by now.
More scans and tests were carried out and we, the family, were told the bad news and given a range of not good to absolutely bloody awful possibilities that was destined for our lovely, otherwise healthy and vibrant son. It was a bombshell and hit us right between the eyes. Basically, he could die.
A lot of mumbo jumbo medical speak was given to us, descriptions, explanations and possible outcomes – the advantage of this, the disadvantage of that; it was more that scary, it was horrific.
In essence, the situation is that a small part of Billy’s brain has leaked; blood from the main artery is filling his cranium. Ordinarily this can be corrected with a small valve or coil to reduce the pressure of the blood, however, this is not possible in his case because the other side of the bleeding, are a series of abnormal capillaries that service the brain’s blood supply.
Once Billy’s natural body functions has dispersed the leaking blood, which is a waiting game with an individually appointed nurse dedicated to monitor him, then a decision as to how to approach the leak and clot can be taken. Although the hospital in Haywards Heath is pretty good, it may be essential for Billy to be moved to another specialist unit in Sheffield – a total of some 5 hours journey from home.
Naturally, Billy has to go where the medical specialists and equipment are, that is not in question at all. The distance does nothing to calm the nerves, easy the anxiety and worry that the family is experiencing.
Yesterday, a procedure, the name of which has been lost in the general maze of confusion and fear, was performed on Billy. A tube containing a special dye was inserted in his main artery and sent up to his brain. It was inserted right down in his groin. The dye is picked out from blood by the CT scanner and therefore the amount of damage, flow of leakage and so forth can be gleaned by the surgeons.
This may be a regular procedure carried out by the team, but naturally, it is a frightening prospected for a loved one.
The range of emotions over the past 48 hours have been immense. The overriding thought, regardless of how much one is reminded of the professionalism, experience and dedication the surgeons have, is of losing my son. You never think it will happen to you. It has and it is very hard to handle.
I love my boy so very much. He is so very young to have to go through this. It is impossible to imagine how it can get any better. The waiting game is the hardest of all and trying to deal with the minute hand as it slowly makes its tedious way around the clockface is damn near impossible.
We wait for more information and a glimmer of hope.
So far, we have had good access to Billy and he drifts in and out of consciousness. He seems to know where he is, although the full extent of his injury and serious nature of it all is beyond his comprehension. It’s probably better that way.
Life on this planet can be tough.