Thirty three years ago I was in Charing Cross Hospital waiting for my daughter to come out of the operating theatre. She was having her tonsils and adenoids out, which was a good thing as she had suffered dreadfully with throat and ear infections for about half her life hitherto. She was about three and a bit and tiny and jolly and not in the least worried about anything. The hospital bed had made a wonderful trampoline and she bounced and bounced until the inevitable happened and she fell out. This delayed the op by a day while they waited to see if she was concussed or not. She wasn’t. All was well.
She had been well prepared for the operation. She had her teddy, Booboo, with her and the nurses put a name tag on him just like hers. We had bought a very expensive Playmobil set Going into hospital and used it to explain everything. This, however, did not work for me. I remember bursting into tears as soon as they took her away and being comforted by a sweet nurse who was taken aback by her own feelings of the routineness of it all. She was wonderful. If only I could remember her name.
So today I feel the same. And although everyone is very kind indeed in this hospital in Łódź I am still feeling very tearful. this time they’ve taken her away to get rid of a lump in her neck not cancer, thank goodness, but still very unpleasant. She has been remarkably calm – the surgeons have been very reassuring, the nurses and staff splendid, but I, I am silly and thoughtful and full of memories and comparisons.
The ward in Charing Cross Hospital is etched into my memory as being very cramped. Four little patients and four parents with mattresses on the floor. One little patient had her mother there and her grandmother! This was because the child was one, the mother was fourteen and not old enough to sign any papers for her baby. She was a super little mum, just didn’t have the years. So grandmother looked after us all. There were no facilities for food or drinks for the parents. Kasia would barely let me out of her sight, so going to the canteen was not an option. So Grandma would collect orders and go out for us all. I am eternally grateful to her. Did I let her know at the time? I hope so but I can’t be sure.
Here in Łódź I have also met some fantastic people. A girl of seventeen who is undergoing her sixth operation. She came in looking quite confident and sophisticated, but then became a little girl again when the op was due. Her teddy bear suddenly looked bigger and she looked very tiny in her bed. Her mother and I had a long chat – all mothers are the same when it comes to children , whether they’re three or thirty six. You just want to take all the discomfort away.
This became very clear to me this afternoon after the op was over when I took a cab to Auchan, supermarket of choice here in Łódź, and I was wandering around with my little plastic basket on a trolley searching for bland, blended foods. It reminded me so much of when Kasia was tiny and I used to go searching for baby foods in the local chemists in Ealing. Your child’s vulnerability is as worrying when she’s adult as when an infant.