Random thoughts from a random mind

I don't suffer from randomness… I, obviously, quite enjoy it!!

Carl – ‘My Brave-Hearted’ Son

I feel I must warn you that this post isn’t full of humour today.

If you are a regular follower of my rubbish very entertaining take on life, then I have to say that I’m taking a break from my comical self. It’s too easy for me to be funny all the time. Being serious doesn’t come naturally to me.

I do apologise.

Firstly, I will put a link to my son’s post so you can read both sides of his story, (if you would like to.) Also you will be able to see that having a sense of humour has carried on down through my children.


Carl was born on 20th January, 1985. I had gone into labour whilst making some (very large) pasties on a cold Sunday. In fact it was snowing outside and had been for a few days in Plymouth. I’d just put in a tray of three to be baked for later that day. (I enjoyed cooking back then.)

Due to the weather, we were told by the hospital to make our way as soon as possible and an ambulance was called. It arrived fairly swiftly too. I remember the two ambulance men coming up to the door to support me to the vehicle. On the way I slipped a bit but was held up by the two men either side of me.

I remember one of them saying, ‘Oh be careful, we don’t want you to have a snowman,’ which raised a chuckle.

After a fairly long labour Carl was delivered. (He wasn’t going to be Carl until I had him. Up ’til then it was ‘Kieran’)

Obviously the DRs did their routine checks and I was mortified to be told that my baby was born with a hole in his heart.

As the years went by and lots of regular visits to the hospital, it seemed that Carl’s heart problem wasn’t as bad as I’d first thought. He had to have antibiotics if he had tonsilitis or if he had any dental work done but that always seemed to be OK.

Well it was OK until April 1995 when Carl was 10 years old.

He’d had a a cough for a while and had started to go off his food. I made appointments with the DRs surgery and they just said that it was a virus. They gave him antibiotics on the first week but he got worse. Again, I took him back to the Drs and again they gave him antibiotics and still told me that it was a virus.

Now, when you are a mother, you know when there’s something wrong with your child and I knew there was something more than a ‘virus’ wrong with Carl. It had got into the 2nd week when I felt that this was serious. We went back to the GP but this time I cried because I knew something was wrong. The doctor, this time, checked his chest and without any more hesitation told us to go to the hospital as soon as we could.

Once there, Carl’s lung collapsed, he had a swollen spleen, he had pneumonia and his liver was also large. He had lost a lot of weight because he wouldn’t eat and the doctors then told me that he had a condition called Endocarditis (an infection around the hole in his heart). For Carl to have a chance of survival our local hospital thought it best to send him to a specialist hospital in Southampton.

The following months were the worst months of my life, and Carl’s obviously. I stayed with him every minute of every day whilst the doctors battled to save him. They, first, tried intraveinous antibiotics which helped for a while but, because he still wasn’t eating, his weight had plummeted to around 4stone. Which, for a 10 year old boy, was seriously underweight and didn’t aid his recovery. He slept almost all the time and I was petrified for him. He also developed Septicemia in the days that followed. 

Whilst I was in Southampton with him, his youngest sister, 18 months then, and his elder brother who was 12 stayed with family in Plymouth. His brother struggled with the knowledge that his brother was so ill and was getting into trouble at school. Obviously I missed my other children but I couldn’t leave Carl. They did come up with family to visit at the weekends but I wanted them with me. 

One day a few weeks into the 3rd month, Dr Chang came to see me. He told me that the antibiotics weren’t killing the infection and the only option they had was to cut the infection out of his heart and put a patch over the hole. He tried to be optimistic but he had to warn me that Carl had a 20% chance of surviving. The operation was to be done the next day. I rang my family to bring my other children to see him before he went to the theatre. 

The hospital had accommodation nearby, Heartbeat House, which allowed families to stay whilst their children were being hospitalised. This place was a Godsend because I could be with my other two children whilst Carl was so ill. 

The operation took over six hours and I was so worried.  

Carl was in intensive care for what seemed like an eternity and I sat near him all the time. The Drs and nurses were amazing people and made sure they kept me informed hourly. I think it was day two of his time in I.T.U when they started to bring him around after his open heart surgery. I noticed that he was wriggling his finger a lot which had that device called a Pulse Oximeter on it to display the oxygen level of his blood.  He couldn’t talk because he had a tube in his throat but I could tell he was trying to tell me something. I had to leave the room while they took out tubes and wires but when I went back in Carl whispered something to me.

He had said, ‘My finger is killing me.’ 

I found this quite funny considering that he’d had a massive operation on his heart and all he complained about was his finger.

Coming back onto the ward was a big step for Carl but he wasn’t responding too well. In fact the Dr had told me that he was giving up the will to live. This scared the hell out of me.

The only time he looked up from his bed was when a little baby from the next room had crawled up to his door and gurgled something at him. I thought then that he was missing his baby sister. I hadn’t let her come in too much as I was worried about all the machines and how she would cope with seeing her brother in pain. With this in mind, I spoke to the nurses and they suggested I brought her in.

She was 18months old at the time and quite a lively toddler but as soon as she saw him she wanted to get up on the bed with him.I let her cuddle him and from that moment on Carl started to respond. She shouted at the nurses when they tried to take blood from her brother because he didn’t want any needles in him.

She pushed one nurse away and said, ‘He doesn’t want it!’ in her matter of fact voice.

My daughter was helping her brother in a way that medication couldn’t. He still wouldn’t eat so the hospital staff inserted a nasogastric tube into his nose and fed him a nutritional formula to help him feel better. He had two blood transfusions also which made a great difference to him.

In a few weeks after the operation Carl started to recover. He had put on a little weight due to the feeding tube but he still wouldn’t eat. I didn’t care what he ate as long as he did. I didn’t nag him but I offered to get him whatever he’d wanted whenever he wanted it. Every day he said he didn’t want anything.

That was until around one evening around 5:45 when he said, ‘Mum, I fancy a Drifter Bar.’

The shop in the hospital was about to shut. The ward was on the top floor. The lifts took ages to get to the top but I managed (me who can’t walk one centimetre without getting stitch) to get to the door of the shop just as they were closing the shutters. I had to yell to the shocked assistants to get their attention.


That got their attention alright. I told them all the ‘whys and wherefores’ crouching under the barrier, to which they replied with a bar of chocolate. I even gave them too much money without getting the change because I was on a mission. Usain Bolt would’ve been proud of my sprint to the lifts with my ‘Gold Medal’ clutched in my hand.

I had the biggest smile on my face when he ate one of the fingers of chocolate because I knew that my son was getting better and that’s all that mattered.

I can’t thank all the staff at Southampton General Hospital enough for the dedicated work they do every day. I donate to their charity http://www.heartbeat.co.uk/home whenever I can and I will never forget what they did for my family.

Carl is doing really well now and has his own blog at http://carlparmenter.wordpress.com/


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