• sjdawsonauthor


Updated: Mar 1

Christmas Eve 1968, the doctors prepared my parents for the fact I might not survive the night. My sister was 4 years old at the time and so they had to still make Christmas special for her while worrying their other daughter might not ever see Christmas. They arrived that day as they had every other day in fear and hope. I had survived and as they looked through the glass at me, I looked back as though I recognised them and smiled.

My dad still gets emotional when he talks about that day. He is adamant I recognised them and he said from that moment he knew I would be alright; that there had been no damage due to the dismaturity complications. My mum and dad were both so happy even the nurses warning them the smile was probably just wind couldn’t dampen their spirits. They knew better, call it a parent’s intuition. Their baby girl had given them the best Christmas present they could have hoped for.

Christmas Eve was the turning point and I was eventually allowed home. I alternated one week at heart clinic the other physiotherapy. This continued despite the fact the doctors were still convinced I would never walk. The splints were replaced by bandages which had to be changed every other day. My feet were still bent upwards against my shins; the bandages helped to force my feet down. Mum and dad hated doing this because I screamed so much due to the pain but is had to be done.

My poor parents had to deal with this and being told not to allow me to get too distressed because of my heart. I had to be fed tiny amounts of formula every 2 hours, I hardly slept for the first 12 months, so neither did anyone else in the house and on the rare occasions I did fall asleep, mum or dad would wake me because they were concerned something was wrong.

The first photograph is me at 4 months old not long out of hospital and in the second I am 6 months old. Both my parents were involved in amateur dramatics and this was taken following a photo shoot for one of the plays. On this photo you can see how my foot is so large due to the bandaging.

On both these photos I’m 8 months old, a month after these were taken, against all the odds I walked.

When mum took me for my physiotherapy, the consultant was so amazed and emotional he broke down and cried. He then opened every curtain on the ward shouting “Look, my baby walks” as he paraded me up and down. Mum and dad were both ecstatic; the novelty, however soon work off as from that day I never sat still.

And so my childhood began; I was a hyperactive child and a huge shock to the system. My parents were used to my sister who had been a very quiet, gently and easy to please baby, then there was me. I was a bit like a miniature whirlwind; my mum put me in a baby bounce thinking I would sit there and gently bounce like my sister, so she got the shock of her life when I waddled myself backwards as far as possible before catapulting the baby bounce so high it nearly came away from the door frame.

I had to be moved into a bed because I kept climbing out of the cot and I never wanting to be in my pushchair, so mum would let me push it. She received the most disgusted looks from other shoppers because I was so small I still looked like a baby.

I didn’t grow very fast and neither did my hair; when it did start to grow it was tiny wisps. People used to laugh at mum who would take me to the hairdressers every week for a trim but the hairdresser told her cutting it would promote growth, he wasn’t wrong my hair grew to be very thick.

I was a bit of a nightmare child, became bored very easily and mastered the art of throwing a tantrum, generally at my sister’s expense! We used to go to school together and if my sister wanted to get the bus home I wanted to walk, if she wanted to walk of course I wanted to take the bus.

Mum used to take me into Preston to the market to buy material to make our clothes. While she was busy choosing the material I found it great fun to get lost and hide in the rolls of material hanging over the table. Mum got her own back; endless hours stood on the dining room table while she pinned the hem shouting ‘turn, turn, stop fidgeting.’

We didn’t have a lot of money but my childhood was filled with love, comfort and a feeling of safety even if sometimes we didn’t appreciate it. My sister wasn’t really one for playing out especially when it was cold, so, when mum made us play out in the snow Virginia thought she was the worst mum in the world and threatened to leave home. Of course, that was all it was but I stood by my sister, packed our bags and demanded we run away.

We got as far as our Gran’s who didn’t live too far from us though we did have to navigate a busy main road and trudge through the deep snow. Gran phoned mum to ask was she missing anything and explained how she had found two wet orphans on her doorstep. After all our efforts, mum hadn’t even noticed we had gone; maybe my sister was on to something after all!!!

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