For the last two weeks, I’ve been up to my eyes and elbows in nappies, baby wipes and sleepless nights, but also in tubes, equipment alarms and potential life threatening medical emergencies. We’ve had Lucy (all names have been changed to protect privacy), a gorgeous little 20 month girl with us for respite, so Estelle and Bill, her regular foster carers, can have a much needed break. It was all very last minute, as the planned respite fell through, leaving Estelle stranded with airline tickets but no respite. I got the referral on the day J went off for his activity camp and within three days Lucy was with us, huge smile and piles of medical equipment.
Although Peg fed trained, I had a refresher course for my benefit as much as Lucy’s, and I’m not ashamed to say that I was scared. Lucy has an inherited disorder which left her needing essential help feeding and swallowing, and she has a tube inserted directly into her stomach, leaving her very vulnerable to infections and choking, as well as any complications with the tube or equipment. Estelle was wonderful; she gave me her own training in Lucy’s particular needs, sent me details of what Lucy likes, what she responds positively too and how to define an emergency. She also said she’d call me from Jamaica when she lands for any last minute advice.
Ok, I’ll admit it; the first night was hell! Lucy was out of her comfort zone and missing Estelle, and I was a bag of nerves and trying to look and feel competent! Hubby collected an excited J from camp, who was full of how he’d won ‘Most improved Climber’, and he wanted to see the baby. Hubby explained how ill Lucy was, but we haven’t had a baby since J’s been with us and he was overflowing with questions. He ran through the door and stopped dead staring at the room full of medical equipment and the baby nestled in a bouncer attached to a feeding tube. J’s questions can’t be held back for long and within minutes he was kneeling in front of her, making her laugh and firing endless medical questions at me. M hadn’t been away, so was aware of the preparations and training going on over the days preceding Lucy’s stay, and had already met her. She stood back listening to the answers whilst texting, but I could see she was interested. For the first few days with Lucy, M watched from the side lines but quickly got involved, entertaining her and helping me sterilize equipment.
The other member of the household who was very taken with Lucy was our dog, Luke. He was at first intrigued and curious, but quickly learnt to stay out of the way while I was doing anything medical. Estelle did call when she landed in Jamaica and I was grateful to be able to clarify concerns and instructions. She reassured me that I was doing fine and that I could call her if I needed to, but as the days and nights passed, I settled into a routine and Estelle and Bill weren’t called. The nights were tiring with Lucy rolling onto a tube and setting off alarms, coughing or choking, or just being a normal baby and grizzling. It was hard to know the difference, but by the end of the first week, I was handling it like I’d always done it; changing feed packs, measuring medication and playing nappy grab with a lively 20 month old!
Due to Lucy’s age and medical needs, she slept in our bedroom and I had to go to bed when she did as she couldn’t be left alone due to her choking risk. However, it was still M and J’s summer holidays and Hubby had to provide entertainment, make some meals and ferry two socially active children around. Lucy’s medical needs began to blend more in the background and we enjoyed having a baby to cuddle, nurture and entertain. Luke fell in love with Lucy and the adoration was mutual. Every time he would walk in wagging his tail, Lucy would squeal with delight and clap her hands. Luke took to his self-appointed position of protector with gusto, positioning himself by her cot or bouncer. He was the perfect baby entertainer and Lucy never tired of him.
I managed to get out and about with Lucy when she wasn’t connected to the feeding packs, and we discovered she was mesmerised by the bright lights of our local coffee shop, staring and clapping in delight as they changed colour. We also had J’s birthday celebrations while Lucy was with us and she loved the noise and brightly coloured paper. She had wormed her way quickly into our hearts and all of us, including Luke, would miss her when she returned home.
As the day approached when we would be taking her back to Estelle’s, I realised how much we had all become attached to this beautiful but vulnerable little girl, who’s delightful beaming face and giggle would make us all smile. Returning her to her foster carers was a lovely reunion to watch; Estelle and Bill, although obviously needing the rest, were glad to have Lucy back. I marvelled at how they coped on a general basis, as they were in their late 60’s but Estelle said their age gave them confidence and the time to devote to Lucy.
Later that day, after dropping Lucy off, we got back to normal surprisingly quickly, me making dinner, Hubby finishing off some work emails whilst J and M bickered about Strictly Come Dancing and who was going to win. I managed to get each of them alone for a few minutes and thanked them for their support and kindness with Lucy, which they both appreciated. I also gave Luke an extra pet and cuddle, as he was looking for Lucy, and I told him what a good boy he was.