Monday, November 14, 2011

Fragments of family life.

This is Bobby, he is my daughter Aoife’s most loved toy. Sadly he is fraying badly on the ears, the hands and feet. If you look closely, you can see his rather chewed looking toes. My daughter doesn’t seem to mind. His blanket has fallen off numerous times and been replaced in a variety of positions. At present the blanket is back to the original setting, his tummy. His ears and nose have been fixed several times, only to have the cotton chewed off by daughter
He is adored. We realised quite early on (at six months – more on that later) that Bobby was becoming precious. So we bought another Bobby (named Bob Bobby) as a possible alternative in case of Bobby loss. It soon became evident that Bob Bobby would never replace Bobby. As you can see from Bob Bobby's picture, above, he is rounded and undamaged with no fraying bits at all.
Thankfully, we have never lost Bobby and at present, Bobby is under house arrest to prevent future possible losses and hysteria. Initially, we thought that Bob Bobby had been rejected because of the colour difference, so I was quite excited a year later to find Annie. Sadly, she too has never found a place in our daughter’s heart. Bobby is the teddy and for a few years, all other toys, when presented for naming, were named Bobby. If we had another child, male or female, my daughter would want to call her new sibling Bobby.
The reason for this enduring love? When my daughter was 6 months’ old she contracted meningitis, the scary one. Meningococcal meningitis. She had a nasty cold that didn’t go away, then one morning she was limp and grey and we rushed her to hospital. Everything after that is a bit of a tearful  blur. We were in France on holiday at the time, which made the whole experience more surreal.  

The facts I remember are: Leaving the house in the middle of breakfast with a half drunk cup of tea on the kitchen table beside a bowl of uneaten cereal and the dishes in the sink. Calling our friends (who were arriving that day for a holiday) to tell them why we wouldn’t be there. They still describe the scene they found as the Mary Celeste kitchen

Being told immediately that she was very ill and needed to be transferred by ambulance to another hospital with paediatric facilities. We followed behind the ambulance in our car

They gave her a lumbar puncture to take fluid from her spine. We were asked to leave the room.

Being told by a sympathetic doctor that yes, it was very serious, as I collapsed into a hopeless heap after they confirmed the diagnosis

Our friend Mark came to collect our son Owain, who was three at the time and pretty confused.

A transfer for Aoife from one hospital to another in a helicopter, there was only room for one person on the plane with her; the medic, so we drove.  The silence between us and the unasked question was whether she would survive the journey.

We sat with her, day and night, for 15 days. Thankfully our friends Nick and Nikki were able to look after their own two children and Owain, and us, in a kind of numb disbelief.

Aoife was put into a medical coma. Catheterized, put on a ventilator. Basically they shut her body down so that her brain could rest and try to fight against the meningitis, with the aid of lots of lovely modern medicines, antibiotics and opiates.

She had lots of tubes going in and out of her body. She was alive, surviving, fighting.

The high dependency unit for brain injuries can be a very sad place. Hollow eyed people pass each other wordlessly, not wanting to share hope or loss.

The medical staff in the hospitals in France were unfailingly wonderful.

When eventually she started to recover, we stopped holding our breath and started eating properly and started smiling. I still cried every journey to the hospital to take over from my husband, not knowing what to expect.

We were told that we could take toys into the hospital and put them in her cot. Bobby was purchased on the way home at an enormous supermarket.

Eventually the tubes were slowly taken away. Our girl started coming back.

We were lucky. Aoife is alive and well. She is a stubborn and determined girl of 5 now. She had health and developmental checks for two years after her recovery, to check her hearing and her progress. She is fine. 

                                      Aoife in the kitchen in France, a year after the meningitis scare

Aoife this year at home in Spain

And Bobby...well Bobby was there with her, not from the start but from the recovery. He has been her companion ever since. He is smelly and battered and falling apart at the seams (literally) but he is a best loved toy. Bob Bobby cannot replace him and Annie cannot replace him, he is her best beloved and we tolerate him and love him almost as much as Aoife does because of the survival that he represents.


  1. Oh Sian, I'm all teary reading this. How terrible that time must have been for you? I can't imagine how scary and emotional it was. Your gorgeous Aoife is one precious little lady. We have three teddies that are identical too. They look the same to me but Sibs knows which is which, and a bit like Bobby, she has a favorite too. x

  2. As the tears flow down my cheeks I remember only too well that surreal holiday with you. I remember seeing her with the tubes in her tiny body, the disheavelled kitchen which you had just left, I remember listening to Fleetwood Mac, driving you back from the hosptial. I remember the loaded, quiet questions about the possibility of having another child.... just in case.

    How life is put into perspective as moment like that. I'm glad that I remember. I'm glad that I shared your pain, I'm glad that we could be there for you, but most of all I'm glad we all came out the other side stronger.

    Love to you all.


  3. ah, I could kick you that made me cry so much. I had no idea the menengitis incident was that dire and intense. I think you told me about it after but you are so understated. I"m sorry i didn't know it was so so desperate. So glad you wrote this and I read it. Diane


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