• sjdawsonauthor


The year was 1968 and it was quite a year, Martin Luther King was assassinated on April the 4th, followed by Robert F Kennedy on June 5th, the first heart transplant was performed in the UK, the tenth in the world, Enid Blyton died on the 28th aged 71 and I arrived.

There was no long arduous labour I just popped out eager to be part of this world. That was the easy bit; my mum was not given the chance to hold me, I was taken immediately and placed into an incubator.

My parents lived in a bungalow in the then small village of Grimsargh, a few miles outside of Preston. My mother was only 19 years old when she married my father who was 25. She fell pregnant very early into the marriage and by the time I was born, my mother aged just 24 had already had two miscarriages in between of me and my sister.

I was classed as dismature; the placenta had stopped growing, so from 6 months onwards my supply of nutrition and oxygen had been cut off. The doctors believed I must have found an air pocket which helped me to survive.

I was born at the Preston Royal Infirmary, a tiny shrivelled figure weighing 4lbs and given little to no chance of survival. My parents were told if I did survive, I would have both physical and mental disabilities due to the complications inside the womb.

My feet were deformed; bent backwards with my toes bent over one another and I had a heart murmur. The physiotherapist worked manipulating my feet and toes to try and straighten them every day and I had tiny splints attached to my legs.

Unlike today, where parents can interact with their baby in an incubator, back then, my parents were not able to hold me or even touch me. All they could do was watch through a glass window as I lay alone fighting for my life.

With my weight dropping to just 2lbs, the hospital feared the worst and arranged for me to be baptised and given my last rights.

My parents visited every day; my mum took the bus, often with my sister in tow and came later with my father after he finished work. They did not have a telephone in the house, so they never knew until they arrived at the hospital, if I had survived another day. I can only imagine the stress and anguish they must have gone through.

I was cared for by some amazing nurses, doctors and physiotherapists but in particular, the sister of the ward. During the most critical time, she cared for me; Christmas Eve they were not certain I would survive the night. She refused to hand me over to the night staff to care for me. Her shift had finished but she nursed me through that night when she could have been with her family. I believe I owe my life to her.

My mum explained to me that when she arrived at the hospital each day, she would walk down the corridors with her head down. She never looked up from the floor; too scared to interpret the look in a nurse’s eye, the look of pity which would tell her I had died.

If she could just make it to the room where I lay without seeing that look, she could hold onto the hope a bit longer.

So the day she arrived, looked through the glass to see I was gone, she believed her fears had come true. Panic set in as she desperately searched for me, hardly able to see as tears blurred her vision.

The sister on the ward rushed over to let her know the truth; I was out of danger and had been moved. Three months of fear, agony and heartache was over, or was it?

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