I took everything for granted – My gift of life
From the first glimpse of our newly born child, we are engulfed with overwhelming adoration for our new baby, our gift of life. Parenthood consumes us with unconditional love beyond anything we could ever imagine and a powerful instinct to protect our children from harm. We do all and everything possible to keep our babies safe at all costs.
Becoming a parent is often our first experience of true selflessness. When another life holds more value than our own. Our world takes on a whole new meaning. Life as we previously knew it is gone forever. As we embrace this new identity, our child takes centre stage in every thought and decision we make thereafter. All future actions are based on what is in the best interest of our child.
Such is our role, our love, our devotion, our responsibility. In return, our children love us back without question. They trust us to keep them safe, protect them from danger, fix their problems, wipe their tears. I remember those early days as I looked at my beautiful baby girl in adoration, thinking how lucky I was. This was the best time of my life.
“I took everything I had for granted”
Through time, however, this amazing wonder of life became my normality. I took everything I had for granted, never expecting anything to go wrong. But it did! On 12th September 2002, my daughter contracted menningococcal disease (meningitis in her brain and blood). For the next 9 days, I helplessly looked at my little girl on life support in the Intensive Care Unit of Yorkhill Hospital, Glasgow. Each time I closed my eyes, frightening visions of little white boxes kept creeping into my thoughts. They wouldn’t go away. I was petrified of losing my little girl, my gift of life. I couldn’t sleep, nor eat, nor think. I wanted to wake up from this horrific nightmare. I remember trying to ‘read’ the body language of doctors and nurses, desperately seeking information, signs, anything that could offer hope. Was my little girl going to die? In the depths of the anguish, the fear, the horror, I made internal promises to myself, never sharing with anyone else.
“I will never take anything for granted again!”
After 9 days, Erin’s condition improved and she fully recovered with no late effects. I was grateful and thankful and promised myself never to take life for granted again. Each time those visual memories of Erin lying in intensive care fighting for life entered my thoughts, I pushed them away, distracted myself, I couldn’t cope with the fear of losing my little girl. Over time I was able to lock the trauma and pain away, shut it out, perhaps I even pretended it never happened. The thought of Erin dying was too difficult to think about. My wonder of life returned. For a while. My amazing wonder of life returned, my world was perfect again. I made a promise to myself. I would never let it go.
Over time life returned to normal. Despite my experience of the pain, the tragedy, the terror of witnessing my little girl fight for her life, I somehow allowed normality to creep back in. I began taking everything I had for granted. I thought Erin’s fight for life was ‘our family’s bad experience’ and nothing else could ever happen. What could possibly be worse than nearly losing a child?
“I took everything I had for granted – Again”
Through the experience of Erin’s fight against meningococcal disease I knew first hand how much easier, it was to keep a distance from tragedy and pain. To change our thoughts, focus on ourselves, our life now, our kids, our normality. I took everything I had for granted not once, but twice. Seven years later, on 17th February 2012, my daughter was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) at the age of 11. At the time of diagnosis, Erin was a fit and healthy young girl with no health problems. How incredibly naive of me to think nothing else could go wrong. I assumed what I had would always be. I once was you, I couldn’t see. I thought “It will never happen to me”.