My worst enemy is my memory…

William would be four this year. We would be planning his transition to pre-school. Buying him his first little uniform. We would be watching him play and encourage his little brother, perhaps having a calming effect, perhaps feeding his boisterous side; we will never know. We would have to keep reminding him to be quiet, be careful not to wake your little brother. So many things that we should be doing, but we’re not.

Everyday is full of moments, where we are stuck in a time, a time where life stood still. The only way I can explain what it is like to live with losing a child is like being on a train. You can see life, almost reach out and touch it but you have to mind the step. There is something permanent between you and it. Sometimes you sit, motionless from behind a pane of glass, taking in all that is going on around you, sensitive to your surroundings, hyper-sensitive, noises, colours, movements, proving all too much. Other times you sit back and watch it whizzing by, knowing that you can’t get off, you are in transit, your world is moving, but you are stationary, perfectly stationary. I feel as though I am a ghost. I can see in, but people can’t see me.

Sometimes I’m strong enough to stand and get off at the stations. Step over the gap. Feel the rush of air in my hair. Be a part of life. I think taking part gets easier with time, I suppose more experienced with the grief. Perhaps recognising your personal cues, noticing subtle changes in your mood, your  motivation, knowing when rough times are coming, eventually you learn that your train is waiting, all you have to do is get back on it when your knees buckle. And they do buckle. Sometimes I have a bad week, and I put one in front of the other just for one solitary ‘good’ day.

Every time I sit in front of a camera and talk about William, about his death, about how much it hurts to miss him, it takes days, sometimes weeks of sitting in my carriage on that train to prepare. My eyes shut, feet firmly rooted to the floor, preparing. Preparing to relive, preparing to reignite that fear, those emotions, and go ‘there’. But it doesn’t quite compare, it doesn’t even come close to what I had to endure today.

You know when you have children and all of a sudden a switch is flicked over, it is no longer about you, but this tiny, fragile, human being you have created, and the FEAR. People try to explain the fear to you, an emotion like no other, a feeling of complete helplessness, like you are living in constant dread that something bad is going to happen to your little bundle of joy, every time the phone rings and it flashes up ‘nursery’, you fear the worst. Every time they step outside, within 3 seconds you have visualised every possible option of what could go wrong. The cars, falling debris, is there anything they could potentially trip on, eat? anything? maybe a piano might fall out of the sky and land on them? irrational, I know, but we have all been there. That feeling of not having total control over our little ones, even worse knowing they have no fear, leaping around the front room like they’re in mortal combat, but what we see is mortal danger. Now imagine all those fears being realised. That moment, when completely out of your control, their life is taken, snuffed out in one single heartbeat, not because you put them in harm’s way but because those that were supposed to relinquish the danger, increased it. Because their incompetence led to your child taking their last breath at the tender age of one. That fear is no longer a fear, but reality.

Now I know, I know what it is like to live the unimaginable, the pain that just cannot be expelled. I know what it is like to live without my child, I know what it is like to have stretch marks, but no baby to cradle in my arms. I know what it is like to go in to hospital with my baby and to walk away broken, leaving my baby behind. I know what it is like to wake every morning, knowing I will never see, hold, touch, smell, kiss or soothe my baby to sleep ever again. Ever.

Now imagine living like that and then adding another baby into the mix. All the fear that I experienced first time round with William is now tangible, it is no longer fear to me but a plausible, possible outcome. It is almost an expectation. In 52 days Arthur will be 382 days old, the age William was when he lost his life. I feel completely and fully committed to the belief that Arthur is on loan, that in 52 days he will be taken away, and it is soul-destroying. No one can convince me otherwise, no one can assure me that Arthur won’t die, no one has that power. No amount of counselling, EMDR, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, writing, talking or other form of therapy will make me feel any differently; and if Arthur reaches 383 days old I am of the belief that it is borrowed time.

Arthur is now the same size that William was, he sleeps in the same positions and like most infants is living with an insufferable cold. Par for the course when they start nursery, multiple children together is like a germ fest, but you can’t stop them living, socialising and growing up. Arthur has been suffering with a cold for nearly four weeks now. It has been worse at times and I have taken him to the doctors on several occasions. I knew that it was viral and not bacterial but I feel reassured knowing that his throat, ears and chest were clear. Towards the end of last week his little cough had become worse but during the night he became a little wheezy, and the next morning it seemed worse so we called 111. We saw a doctor and he was prescribed antibiotics. Arthur napped at lunch time but when he woke he just didn’t seem himself and he had a temperature. We called 111 and they sent a paramedic. This paramedic determined based on Arthur’s observations that an ambulance should come to take Arthur to hospital. Arthur’s temperature was 39.1c, he started to vomit and his respiratory rate was double what it should be. He was just not himself at all.

I was already panicking and experiencing flashbacks from the paramedics being in our front room. The big, bright yellow wagon parked outside, just like when William died, blocking the road; a paramedic car too. It just haunted me. The equipment, the vocabulary, the dark green uniform. I knew Arthur was not seriously unwell, I knew he was ‘safe’ to some extent, but what I wanted was for them to go and revive my other baby, who I imagined to be lying on his nursery floor, dead. it took all my might to convince myself he was not there. The mind is a dangerous and powerful entity. You may not see it on the outside but if you could just see inside you would see torment.

Every single second of being conveyed to hospital in an ambulance was agonising. Cradling my little baby, one who looks so similar to William, sat on the same trolley’s, in an ambulance that looked identical, on the same route, the same visuals, the same sounds. As I sat there cradling Arthur I closed my eyes, and I smelled his hair, the same, sweet strawberry smell as William. Knowing that Arthur was safe, I wished and prayed so hard that the tiny little poorly baby I was cradling was William, that he was alive, that what happened on the 14th December 2014 was a nightmare and I was now waking up. But it wasn’t.

I will never wake up from that nightmare, but what is certain is that everyday there are triggers; reminders that force me back there, and I don’t want to go back there, but I have no choice. You see, living the way I live isn’t a choice, it is something that I must bear, I’m fed the tools with which I must rebuild my life. It is not how I want it, nor how I planned it. It is something that changes daily and no matter how much I fight grief I cannot change it. I must embrace all the changes that each day brings. I feel safe in the knowledge that with every step I take it is one step closer to my little William.

One Step Closer…


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

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PTSD and me

Today as I stepped out of bed on day 550 without you I looked out of the window for some inspiration. I didn’t find any.

There is no one day easier than another, I am yet to wake up any morning and think, well I don’t miss you as much today. My thoughts are always with you. My tears are all for you. I suspect you can see mummy from the little white fluffy cloud on which you now reside; but I know if you can see your mummy you’ll also know that she can’t help it. I have long since given up thinking that time heals, that one day I’ll come to terms with losing you. Simply, I won’t, how can I?

More than ever I can’t cope with knowing that I couldn’t save you. You didn’t deserve this. You deserved the world. You deserved to be happy. You deserved the chance to live your life how you chose. Your life so cruelly taken away from you by others. Maybe that day they went into work with something on their mind, perhaps they were tired. But you gave your life for their mistakes, there is no bigger sacrifice, and if mummy could she would give everything for you to have breath back in your broken little body.

Sweetheart, I think that some people think that after 550 days I should be functioning better, that I should be capable of getting through a day without breaking down. Or that perhaps I shouldn’t be as vulnerable and fragile as I am. I don’t think anyone will ever understand the path that I tread. It is not a path that anyone else can say they have been on, after all, only I know my pain of losing you. Daddy treads his own path, others tread different paths. But no one treads mummy’s path.

The moment that mummy heard those words ‘I’m sorry my love, but he’s gone’ my life changed irrevocably. There was no going back, no going back to the normal life we had created together. No more cosy morning snuggles, no watching you point your toes and jiggle your little feet when you are excited, no sneaking into your room in the night to stroke your silky soft hair. Mummy used to do that, you probably knew that, but you let me, because you know mummy needed to. What I would do to just hold you one more time.

Some people don’t understand that by the time I have managed to dress myself in the morning, I have already been awake crying for several hours, if I’ve been to sleep at all. Some people don’t understand that some days fast movement, lots of noise or colour gives me a sensory overload. Trying to explain to someone why I’m so hypersensitive is virtually impossible, let alone trying to explain how the flashbacks cripple me. You see people don’t understand PTSD, people think I should stop thinking about it. How can I? Could they? I don’t think so, not if they had witnessed losing you. I can’t stop thinking about it, I don’t have a choice. PTSD isn’t simply a memory recollection, something you can summon and then change to think about something completely different. When my brain decides, I will re-live the moment that I found you again. Frozen in bed, not being able to move, paralysed by fear, in my mind, you are next door, in your cot, passed away. Somehow the light, the sounds, the smells are the same. It is that morning again. I can’t remember how many hours I sat cross-legged on your floor, hands tightly gripping the bars of your cot, head pressed against the bars so hard there were two lines on my forehead, staring, my eyes pleading with the spot where you took your last breath, pleading for you to not be there, not like that, not again. I think it took 6 hours for my brain to realise that you weren’t there. For those 6 hours in my mind I had been staring at your broken little body. But of course you weren’t there. Try telling my mind that. It is like being trapped in a nightmare, not able to wake up because of course you are already awake. Being suffocated by the nightmare as you have no idea that it isn’t real or that it isn’t really happening again.

PTSD is so debilitating. I don’t get a choice, I can’t just not think about ‘it’. The trauma of losing you so vivid, mummy is forced to re-live losing you all over again, I can’t help it. It’s not just a memory, it’s not something that I can distract myself from. It is not something that I can explain to people unless of course they have experienced it. They do not understand that one minute you are seemingly ok and confident to the next minute being scared to exist in what is a co-dependent bubble. And when it strikes it is like having a wound re-opened, and left constantly open. Social situations are a no go area, draining, emotionally exhausting, overwhelming, frozen and incapable of functioning. In a nutshell PTSD is not being able to differentiate in your mind the past, the present and the future.

I wish people would be patient, I wish people would not judge. I wish I didn’t have to keep justifying how and why I feel like I’m in a sinking abyss. No one will ever understand the pain of losing you, a life sentence, one that will not be over until I take my last breath and we are together again.

You will never know sweetheart how much mummy needs you. You changed my life, mummy is so blessed that you picked me. I sit here looking at your photo’s, your captivating smile, your sparkling eyes coming alive from every photo. You probably see mummy touch your photos, hoping that she can feel you chubby soft skin once more; but I never will. I remember the last time I ever held you. I traced every inch of your little body with my finger, my eyes closed, assigning every little fold and crease to memory. Even then, twenty days after you had passed away you were still perfect. God, mummy misses you so much. People just don’t get it. It just does not get easier.

So, my message to the lovely people who I encounter every day in my life, please don’t judge, don’t criticise, be patient, be calm, be respectful and most of all, give me time. I estimate it will take a lifetime.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

The best apology is changed behaviour…

Those days after William died, the day when I kissed William’s soft skin and whispered in his ear ‘please tell them what happened my darling boy’, the days spent waiting, wondering, hoping they would find something, something that would tell us what had happened to our beautiful little boy. As I would sit staring out of the window ruminating about my little boys broken body being transported up-country on his own to be operated on in a procedure that should be reserved for adults only. Wondering if he was ok, wondering whether they would look after him, wondering how the pathologist found the strength to do that job. I was told it would take a while for the post-mortem results to come back but just five days later William was returned home, and we were given preliminary results. Something we hadn’t anticipated, after all ‘SIDS?’ had been mentioned on William’s medical record. Something I later found out. But I knew, I knew that William didn’t just die. I was right.

In those five days I had pulled my hair out strand by strand and scratched my skin until it bled, anxiety winning the most debilitating war, whilst I waited. Can you imagine being in a position where you beg God, where you hope, where you wish that your child died of something so rare that no-one could have spotted it, that the 382 glorious days we were blessed with were borrowed time, that William would have been taken anyway. Can you imagine feeling that way? Toying with the possibilities in your head and deciding on one that somehow you might find easier to live with. But no, William didn’t ‘just die’, he didn’t die from something so ultra rare that he was no longer suffering from, William died from something common, sepsis.

When the pediatrician came and sat on my sofa, my pleading eyes, begging her to tell me something I could make peace with, but she didn’t. She told me that William died from something that doctors should be looking out for. Not long after, I spoke to the pathologist himself, he told me that William’s little chest was full of viscous, purulent fluid. Why didn’t the doctor pick this up? The one who listened to William’s chest just before he died. The one who told us his chest was entirely clear.

From the moment William was taken from us, from 08:47am on the 14th December 2014, from the moment the paramedic uttered those words “I’m sorry my love, but he’s gone” the questioning began. A constant reel of questions on repeat. In my head I would answer a question, but then immediately pick apart the answer and start the process again. That hasn’t stopped, what I do know is how William died, but what I will never be able to answer is why? Why William? William was well looked after, and loved beyond comprehension. I will never know why those doctors involved in William’s care made mistakes, I will never know why we, as parents weren’t listened to.

Very soon after William died it was obvious that things had gone desperately wrong with his care. Within a few weeks it was already apparent that the process after a child dies had flaws that are simply unacceptable. We were left to approach the doctor – the same doctor who had let William down – for help. Can someone help us? Is there someone I can talk to? Appointments that required us to dress, drive miles to the doctors, and sit in the very room where William was sent home rather than being referred to the hospital, and take advice from the very doctor who had examined William. We were offered 6 sessions of counselling. SIX. Of course it wouldn’t start tomorrow it would be at the earliest, next week. As I sat down for session number one, I was reminded that this would be the first of six sessions that lasted approximately 50 minutes. At this point I knew I was on my own.

We had what is called a ‘rapid response practitioner’ someone who you can liaise with. Someone who would tell you what was happening, what would happen next and what to expect. Any bereaved parent will tell you, this is virtually impossible, the waiting is excruciating. The not knowing is equally as painful as knowing, but the parental instincts inside me told me I had to know. So the journey begun. The journey of looking at William’s death objectively.

I’m not really sure what people think, those looking in, those not immediately involved with William, or indeed following our story about what it takes, but it is not a case of filling in a complaint form and sending it off to the NHS. I’ve not written a blog for a while. Mostly because once I sit down, I just want to be left alone with my own thoughts, not because I’m feeling better, I’m not. You see, what I’ve had to endure these last 520 days are something I do not wish upon my worst enemy. I have lost count of the meetings I have attended, conference calls I’ve dialled in to, I lost count of the emails I sent at around the 600 mark, the departments I’ve had to phone, chase, follow-up, push, and persist for them to do what they are supposed to do without me asking, the doctor’s surgery, SERCO, South Western Ambulance Service CEO, the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group MD, the Child Death Overview Panel, the Coroner’s office, the pathologist, numerous pediatrician’s, rapid response practitioner’s, NHS England South, NHS South South West and that is not an exhaustive list; and that is before the inquest even begun in June 2015.

After the inquest, when the actual investigations into Williams death started was when the real journey started. I don’t think anybody really knows exactly what it has taken, just Paul. I have read through the transcript of the telephone calls I made to the health professionals in the days leading up to William’s death, I heard his little voice in the recordings, I’ve listened to the 999 call I made when William died, I’ve read and re-read William’s medical records and the witness statements, I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve printed and annotated William’s post-mortem report, I have analysed NICE guidelines, the British Medical Journals and I won’t even list the different Royal College guidelines, I have contacted and spoken to many highly respected medical consultants in microbiology, thoracic, cardiology, infectious diseases, pediatrics, and pathologists, oh and the genetics team. I have studied case-law and how this is applied to medico-legal reports. I have studied and learned medical terminology and what it means and how it is applied. I have liaised with the NHS 111 pathways team including the director, the Director of patient Safety for hospitals at the CQC, I have seen, used and experienced the algorithms used by NHS pathways, I have had to deal with the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, the council and of course NHS England, I won’t continue.

What is the purpose of me telling you some of what is involved? I’m telling you this because when I set out to get William the justice he deserves I wanted to do one thing, and one thing only. I wanted to make sure that those involved in William’s care understood that my son’s life, William’s life is more important than any system. That despite the fact he couldn’t talk, his voice mattered and still does, and as William’s mum it was my job to ensure that his voice was heard. After 520 days we have finally received a full written apology from NHS England on behalf of those organisations involved in William’s care. We have had apologies from each party involved, and of course from the Government. I am exhausted, I am weak, I didn’t have any strength to begin with and I certainly don’t have any now, I am physically and emotionally spent. I have fought so damn hard, and although you might think I have succeeded, I don’t win anything, there is no reward, William doesn’t come back, he is still gone, and I am still left wondering why.

“The RCA panel / team are indebted to William’s parents for their persistence in ensuring that all of the facts were understood and that lessons would be learnt, and for their understanding approach in the context of devastating circumstances for them. The parents of William do want an apology from the parties and organisations concerned. SWASFT has already issued a formal apology to them. NHS England will give an overall apology to them on behalf of all the NHS organisations involved. The OOH doctor formally recorded his apology at the inquest. One of the GP’s from the practice has communicated in writing an apology to the parents and a private meeting between this GP and mum has also taken place…a final conclusion…the panel have concluded that if William’s parents had not been involved as openly and fully…the full extent of the contributory factors and learning would not have been identified…I want to offer this as a written apology on behalf of all of the NHS organisations involved in William’s care.”

Never underestimate the power that a mother’s love has. This is all driven by love, by William, by my darling little Grumpus.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

My inspiration for 2016 – William

My boy and I

My boy and I

As the evening draws in and darkness approaches, I say goodbye to 2015, but I do not welcome 2016. For I would not have cuddled my baby in 2016. This year I didn’t hold my baby alive, and next year I would not have held him at all. Although William lived for 382 days, he did not live one full calendar year.

Not only does today represent the end of a very hard and very painful year, today marks 382 days without my baby. William has been gone the same number of days today as we were blessed with him. How does that seem possible? The most exhilarating and amazing 382 days, compared to the most harrowing 382 days. I simply cannot make sense of it, I still cannot understand, accept or seemingly learn to live with it. I’m happy with that, right now, I don’t want to. Why should I? Losing William has enriched my life with the ability to see past what most people understand as a ‘good life’. To really understand the depth of love is to lose it, not until after you lose it do you realise how much you relied upon that love. How much you needed that love. How much you needed that person.

Earlier, I sat and thought to myself, ‘you’re not even 30 and you’ve outlived your child’. I sat in William’s room and looked at his tiny little clothes, thinking how small they would look next to him now had he been here. His room should not be tidy, it should be cluttered with his toys. His cot should be a bed. His changing mat replaced with a potty. Our home is stuck in a particular time. A time that stood still the moment William took his last breath. Will that change? I don’t know, not yet, I don’t want it to. William’s high chair is still in the kitchen, his cups and beakers are still in the cupboard, his cereals still stand on his shelf along with his other food bits. Well past their sell by date, but somehow to get rid of these would be like somehow getting rid of a piece of William. I am not ready for that separation yet. William’s pram is by the front door, the stones in the wheels from the last time it was used. His little coat still hangs on its peg and his toys still have pride of place in the front room. His car seat still adorns the back seat; every time I look in the rear view mirror I see it and it makes me smile. Imagining catching his eye as I drove along, his little face would burst into the biggest smile, babbling away, deep in conversation with himself after nursery. The replacement beaker still stands on my bedside table from the night he died, in case he needed another. The beaker that he last drank from in his cot is where he left it, the last thing he ever touched. I sometimes pick it up and place my fingers round the handles, knowing his chubby little fingers gripped this very handle. Knowing that his touch was once here. I still haven’t washed his handprints from the inside of my bedroom window. An ever lasting reminder that ‘William was here’. His toys are still in the bath and his toothbrush and toothpaste still in their little pot. For us, nothing has changed, our life hasn’t moved on, our life at a standstill, forever waiting, but I know we’ll be waiting a lifetime, William’s sweet giggle won’t ever resonate through our house again, his cheeky grin won’t fill my rear view mirror and his little fingers won’t ever hold that beaker again.

Some might say that we struggle to move on because we keep those things in their places, but that is not true, William was and still is a part of this household and this family. I need William’s things around me, to look at, to touch and hold, sometimes I remember a different memory and it makes me smile. Time does not heal, whoever said that was so very wrong, time may give you the ability to live a different life but it does not heal the gaping chasm that William has left. The scar tissue has not begun to form. I have no protection from falling in that pit. As time passes my flashbacks and PTSD seem to be increasingly more and more crippling. I don’t need triggers, those thoughts, visions and memories are right there, right in the forefront of my mind. This is what grief really does to you. There is no let up. It does not discriminate. It holds you firmly in its grip. Am I depressed? Yes, clinically so. Do I take medication to help me sleep, to stave away the crippling symptoms of anxiety, to help lift my mood, to help discourage suicidal ideation? Yes. Do I have a drink? Yes, just like you I have shit days, sometimes things go wrong, normal things, like the washing machine that William decided he needed in heaven on Christmas Eve. Do I struggle to get out of bed? Yes. Do I struggle to concentrate? Yes. Do I struggle to remember things? Yes. Do I struggle to go out, to be motivated? Yes. Do I care? No. I am simply a machine. I plug myself in at the end of the day, I recharge and get up and do my jobs the next day. Do I do them with conviction? No. Do I do them with care? No. Do I do them because I want to? No. Do I do them with hope? No. Am I worried? No. This is life. This is the card that I have been dealt, but goodness me, I’m in better shape than William is. His little life snuffed out because people did not do what they were supposed to do.

This year I have been well and truly submerged against my will into everyone’s worst nightmare. The terror that runs through my veins, the fear that makes my heart beat, very few people have experienced and I’m thankful for that. My eyes have been opened to a world of mental health that I only knew existed in the media. Don’t walk around with your eyes closed, make eye contact with people on the bus, the tube or walking down the street. If someone drops something, help them to pick it up. If someone elderly say hi, say hello back. Take the time to love, because you don’t know however small these little gestures are to you, to someone else they will be the highlight of their day or week. For someone else you can bring joy and comfort. Not just family and friends but strangers. Life is too short, I know this, you know this, please don’t walk around with your head down, rushing everywhere. Don’t sit on the bus on your phone, say hi. Give that homeless person a sandwich and a hot drink. Pick up the phone to your elderly relatives whom you rarely speak to, they won’t be there forever, they helped create the world that you live in today. You are their inspiration, be someone else’s. Most importantly. Look at your child and know, really know that you are their world. So make sure they know that they are yours.

My life is run on passion and love and drive and determination, my life is run simply on my resounding, unwavering love for William. He is my guiding light. He is my hope. He is what drives me, knowing I must get the answers, knowing I must fight for him, knowing that I will never settle for anything less than the truth. My life is not run on hope for the future, nor happiness but a bittersweet necessity to share my son with the world.

To be blessed with William, was to be blessed with love. My life furnished with everything it could ever possibly need and more. I cannot even begin to put in to words the sheer desperation I have to be with my son. The only hope I have is that is not too far away, hard I know, but the truth. But for now, my only wish for 2016 is that everyone will learn what really happened to William and what should have happened and in doing so educate themselves about sepsis and hope that those that made mistakes never make them again.

For now, I say goodbye to the last year that I ever held my child. Something I don’t want to do, but of course, no one can stop time. If they could I would have stopped it a long time ago. My wish for all of you in 2016 is that it brings you as much comfort as you have all brought me in 2015. That it brings you time with your loved ones that cannot be replaced. Love, learn and be inspired. William is my inspiration. My life and my love.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

 

Christmas and grief

Sitting on Santa's knee for the first time

Sitting on Santa’s knee for the first time

Today is a sad day, every day is a sad day, but this time last year we announced when William’s funeral would be. Instead of uploading hundreds of photos that all seemed to look identical, William covered in paper and sellotape, playing with the boxes that the toys came in, instead we were inviting people to his funeral.

Christmas, a time of year that over the centuries has evolved from its very religious beginnings, now a commercialised time of year, that we all use as an excuse to down tools and spend time with our loved ones. Who can blame you? No-one needs an excuse to see that joy on their little ones faces, that excitement of knowing Father Christmas is coming, writing a letter to Santa, leaving a mince-pie, carrot and a tipple for Santa on Christmas Eve, visiting any number of events laid on by local attractions for our children to sit on Santa’s knee, and finally that sound of tiny stomping feet and squeals of glee, when they discover Santa has been, a stocking brimming full of toys that will be played with once, a tree that is barely recognisable under the weight of all the gifts.

We had none of that. We will never have any of that. William didn’t get to learn about Father Christmas, William didn’t get to star in his first nativity, William didn’t get to write a letter to Santa, he did sit on Santa’s knee, his bear containing William’s ashes gripped tightly by Santa, but that isn’t what we imagined would be the first time William would sit on Santa’s knee. We didn’t get to track Santa’s sleigh as he visited those in the Far East before he made it to the UK, we didn’t get to buy him a personalised book from Santa. On Christmas morning we awoke to silence, no little feet stomping down the corridor, no squealing, no excited little face, no ‘mummy, daddy, he’s been’. No William.

Our floor was clear of wrapping paper, we didn’t have an obstacle course of toys littered around the house. We didn’t have a little boy to give his first brussel sprout too. We didn’t get to show him a cracker, he didn’t get to wear a party hat or a cute little outfit. We didn’t have the struggle to put him to bed, too high on the simplicity of playing with his toys. We didn’t get to pack him and 500 toys into the car to visit family and friends, where his beautiful smile would make anyone’s Christmas. No, we had nothing.

Instead we went away, we went to stay somewhere completely unfamiliar, needing to get away from the suffocation of William’s absence in our home. But, regardless of where we were, the crushing pain packed itself in our suitcase and followed us. My heart hurts, it physically hurts in my chest, it doesn’t go away when I breathe in or out, whether I lie down or stand up, whether I have a glass of wine or not. My chest is crushed, my heart aching, aching to hold my little boy on Christmas. Last Christmas William’s fragile and broken body was still with us. I held him for several hours twice on Christmas day. I cried over his beautiful presence, I held him so close, I feared I might squash him. This year, we didn’t even have that. There are very few that will understand this pain.

Paul and I stayed in a beautiful hideaway in Dartmoor National Park, there were families with children there, but we spoke to lots of couples who like us were ‘hiding’. Christmas not a happy time for them either. Some vastly wealthy couples, but grief does not discriminate, a loss of both parents recently meant one couple needed to be somewhere unfamiliar. At Christmas dinner, we had William’s teddy in a high chair, the chap on the next table ordered his parents favourite wine. Simple things, that somehow bring us closer to those loved ones we so desperately pine for. We met a U.S district judge, a man with a very powerful and influential position in society, reduced to tears by William’s story. For some Christmas isn’t a time of joy or craziness, it has become a time of painful reflection. A time that you look at your watch and hope that another hour has passed.

Every painful aspect a reminder of what should be, William would have loved the Christmas tress in every room, William would have loved splashing in the muddy puddles in his wellies, William would have loved the array of treats littered around the castle to keep the kids entertained, William would have loved afternoon tea, bitesize little sandwiches, perfect for his dinky little fingers, William would have loved to have found the stocking hanging on our door on Christmas morning, William would have loved to decorate the Christmas tree in our room, William would have loved the table magician, William would have loved the owl that sat on the reception desk, William would have loved watching the hunt as the horses and hounds made their way off the estate, William would have loved to sit in front of the grand fire by the most extravagant Christmas tree waiting for Father Christmas to call his name out to go and collect his present, William would have loved to watch the ferret racing, William would have loved the playbarn, William would have loved everything, but William was robbed of all of those things and we were robbed of William. All I wanted for Christmas was my son. Just one second, just one cuddle, just one stroke of those chubby little cheeks, just one look at that infectious smile, just one smell, just one touch. Just William. This is a wish that will never be answered.

I have felt nothing but guilt, my whole body consumed by Williams last few hours, what must my boy have been feeling, what did he want to say but couldn’t, what sort of mother am I to listen to what I was told to do, what sort of mother am I to listen to people who had no idea what they were doing, not just one person but multiple people, not just once but multiple times. The one thing I wanted to do and prided myself on was protecting my little boy, knowing that no-one could ever protect him and love him like I do. But sepsis does not discriminate, William was not unlucky, William was let down in the most unimaginable way possible. They have taken away our Christmas, our birthdays, every day, our life, our William. No manner of apology or putting right what went wrong will change anything, nothing will bring William back. Nothing can make Christmas bearable. Nothing can take away the fear, the anxiety and the guilt that any mother would feel for not somehow saving her child.

During midnight mass in the local church, William’s teddy wrapped in my embrace, I struggled to make it through the service, the tears came rolling down my cheeks, choking on the tears, the words the heart cannot speak. As I stood, I went to the vicar and I asked him to please pray with me. He held me and William, and he prayed that his little soul would be in peace and to bless his beautiful soul. He also prayed for me, William’s mummy, to find comfort. I am yet to find any. I know that day will come, I know that day will be when I get to join my son again. In a place where there are no hours, days or years, where it is eternity. Where there is peace from this suffering, where I know that I will never be separated from my darling little boy again. A place where the first thing I will do is find my son, and the second will be to never let him go again. On that day, and that day only I be happy.


 

www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead