One of the worst things about being a parent is the all-encompassing feeling of helplessness when you have to hand over your child into someone else’s care – and there’s nothing that you can do about it.
I’m not talking about day-to-day stuff, like dropping them off at school (though the first time you go through that is pretty shocking), or when they go for their first sleepover with a friend you don’t know. Nope, I’m talking about watching your child slip into unconsciousness prior to an operation.
I thought I could be brave and hold it together. But as we walked from the ward to the operating table, it was me holding on to my 12-year-old son for support. Instead of giving him strength, I was greedily taking it from him.
As the staff attached extra patches to monitor his heart rate and whatever else, my knees started to shake. He took the injections like an old pro, asking interesting questions while I couldn’t even speak. And then his eyes closed and I was told to kiss and run.
Then the waiting begins, when you know it’s stupid to worry as any thoughts you do have will not make a blind bit of difference.
And so you fill time, first by mopping up your tears, then walking outside, then back in, then having something to eat, then going to the original ward, then going outside again.
You’d think after a long, long day of waiting by a bedside that the actual operation would go by quickly. But it drags and it drags (much like all those people standing outside the hospital’s front door puffing away on cigarettes).
Whatever people say about the Queen Alexandra Hospital at Cosham – and they say a lot – I have to say I was delighted with the wonderful nurses, doctors and anaesthetist who took my son into their care and then safely brought him back, confused, starving and operated-on.
As long as the wait is, however uncomfortable the chairs and expensive the shop, the care and dedication are spot-on.
And as for my feelings of helplessness? Turns out that this time I had absolutely nothing to worry about.