***Long Post – Tea & Cake Required***
When I was a child I had no idea my mum was disabled. She was just my Mum, I knew no different. As I got older myself and my school friends began to notice she was different. I endured a little while of the kids calling my mum a spastic, it really upset me. One day I told Mum and she said “laugh with them and join in, they’ll soon get bored and move on.” I told Mum that I couldn’t call her names. She said I’d only need to do it once or twice. She was right. When I became a teenager I gradually found out all about Mum’s disabilities and she told me “if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.” This has stuck with me for my entire life.
In 1971 when Mum was 21 she, and a couple of friends, got jobs has maids in hotels in Bournemouth. At the time my Mum was also applying to emigrate to Canada. She had a job lined up and was waiting for the go ahead from the Canadian Government. One of her friends had brought a scooter and was showing it off to my Mum and others. Mum, being the dare devil she was wanted a go on the scooter even though she had never ridden one before. In the 70’s there were no laws for wearing helmets or protective gear on scooters and motorbikes.
Mum had a tootle up the road and on the way back down the scooter stalled whilst she was changing gears. I have no idea what speed she was doing but Mum was flung from the scooter. She bounced off a parked car, was hit by a car travelling in the other direction and finally landed hard on the curb. From witness reports Mum got to her knees, whilst bleeding from her eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and said “what a stupid thing to do” before collapsing. An ambulance was called and she was whisked to hospital. The hospital contacted my Grandparents and told them to get there ASAP as they were not expecting Mum to survive.
Mum was in a coma for 3 months. Doctors kept telling my Grandparents to turn off the life support because even if Mum woke up she would be a “cabbage” (their words! It was the ’70s!). My Grandparents flat refused to give up on Mum and told the hospital that she had a strong set of family genes and would be fine. After 3 months Mum began to wake up. Mum was suffering from major physical and head injuries.
Mum’s skull was cracked all the way round except for about an inch above her right eye. If that had cracked too the doctors would’ve been able to lift the top of her skull off! Mum smashed her pelvis, lost all of her teeth and had a huge patch of skin missing from her right arm. I think there were other minor injuries that we haven’t been told about.
Over the next couple of years my Uncle taught Mum how to speak, read, write and draw again. He spent all of his spare time helping rehabilitate Mum. Mum was told that she’d never walk again. Mum is a very determined, independent and stubborn woman. She insisted on having therapy to help her try to walk. Mum pushed her bodies bounderies and eventually learned to walk again. Her doctors were amazed. Mum couldn’t walk far but she could stand and walk a bit. She had become a walking miracle.
Mum then went to a residential college for the disabled and got her qualification in Book Keeping. Mum returned home and got a book keeping job at a local factory. Her manager used to pick her up and take her home too.
What Mum didn’t know was that just as she had her accident she had been given the all clear to go to Canada. Even though Mum’s dreams had been torn apart and her life dramatically changed, she was just grateful to be alive. Every time a doctor to her she couldn’t do something she tried her hardest to do it and usually succeeded. The hospital doctors told Mum she wouldn’t be able to have children.
Mum met my Dad through a disabled club my Dad used to work for. They became best friends and eventually married. Mum was desperate to have children. Mum and Dad spoke to the hospital doctors and they said having children would kill Mum. Then they spoke to the GP who had known Mum since she was a baby. Her GP told her that she can do what she wants and that he believed that she could and would have children.
In 1979 Mum became pregnant with me. The doctors made it clear that her life was priority and if anything was to go wrong they would save her. Mum & Dad believed all would be fine. Apart from me being an awkward baby, lying on nerves, kicking her dinner of her lap and lying with my neck resting on a sharp piece of her damaged pelvis, all was good with the pregnancy. When Mum went into labour, little did she or Dad know that it’d be 36 hours before I was born! When I eventually made my entrance into this world my heart had stop beating and I wasn’t breathing. The nurses soon bought me back to life and Mum had overcome another hurdle. Had yet again stuck her fingers up at life and said “look, you can’t and won’t stop me!”
Mum and Dad bought me home once the doctors were confident that Mum & I were fine. They shortly caught for my brother and he was born 6 weeks premature. He was born 12 days before my 1st birthday! Mum had lost her dream of living in Canada but was living her new dream of raising a family. We were cherished by both Mum & Dad, even though they didn’t have much money they both strived to make us as happy as possible. It worked.
in 2002 I got a call from my brother to get to the hospital ASAP. Mum was ill, on deaths door. I got to the hospital and was told by a consultant that her blood pressure was teary 200 over 100-and-something, that her heart and brain could not sustain such high pressure and that she could, probably would, die of a stroke or heart attack at anytime. Despite her condition she was on a bed in the corridor of the A&E department. I understand they were busy but surely they could move her to a private room. I ripped the consultants head off! Shouting “if Mum is that ill why is she on a bed in the corridor where she could be seen by everyone?! Could we not have some privacy at such a heartbreaking time?!” The answer I got was “Sorry, we’re overloaded.” I walked away as I did not want to be evicted from the hospital for smashing his face in.
The doctors pumped Mum full of various drugs to try to bring her blood pressure down even though they were not entirely convinced it would work. They tried their best and that’s what counted. That’s what helped Mum to survive with no incident. No stroke, no heart attack! Her blood pressure began to drop, we all cried with relief. Mum wasn’t out of the danger zone but she was improving. During the entire episode Mum kept saying she felt fine, wanted a fag and wanted to go home! Mum was in hospital for a couple of weeks and came home with a much better blood pressure reading. It was still high but not life threatening. Recently I took her to hospital because she felt ill. They took her blood pressure and it was perfect. It has taken 15 years and several types of blood pressure tablets but Mum yet again has stuck her fingers up at the grim reaper!
Life threw two massive curve balls at Mum, they should’ve killed her but she caught both of them and threw them back with such force she has left a wake of people in awe of her strength, determination and success. Mum is my main hero, my inspiration and my life mentor. I love her so much and am grateful for every day she is still with us.
My second hero is my Nana, Mum’s Mum. When I was a toddler Nana and Grandad were on holiday. She kept complaining of a terrible headache but refused to go to a doctor and just took painkillers. She soon collapsed and was taken to a local hospital. It turns out that she had 5 burst blood vessels in her brain. To save her they immediately several holes into her skull to relieve the pressure from the build up of blood and to reduce the damage to her brain. My family had been warned that there was minimal chance of survival due to the severity of the bleeds. Their quick actions and Nana’s determination to survive worked and within a few weeks Nana was in the clear. The bleeds had stop and the burst veins had been treated. Apparently we went to visit her often, she was worried about our reaction to her shaved head and the dents left by the drilled holes. We didn’t take any notice. She was our Nana, no matter how she looked. Within a few months Nana was home and back to normal. She lived until she was 86! She lived for nearly 20 years after the bleeds.
I have strong, strong genes and mindset. This diagnosis of Degenerative Disk Disease will not kill me. My life will change but I’ll still be here. I may suffer chronic pain but I’m still alive. I have caught the curve ball and am just building up to throw it back after my surgery. My Mum & Nana taught me that with a lot of determination and hard work we can survive anything. Dig your heels in and don’t let life ruin you. I am lucky to have the resources from my heroes to carry me through whatever life throws at me.