I’ve wanted to write this for a while, well since it happened, but for various reasons I haven’t. Partly because I’ve been too tired and too drained from recovering to even consider it, partly because I’ve been scared of “cashing in” on my experiences and becoming a bore, and partly because it’s just been too damn hard.
Ultimately I decided that now I feel physically able to sit up and write I should do it, because to continue writing and living without acknowledging one of the most terrifying experiences in my life would be artificial, and I always strive for honesty in my writing, even when it’s hard.
Last week I contracted Influenza A, swine flu. A lot of people get it without realising, a lot of people get it and get very ill, and some people get it and die. You’re more likely to get very ill or die if you’re very young, very old, pregnant, or suffering from any kind of auto immune conditions. I am both pregnant and have an auto immune condition. And it nearly killed me.
On the morning of Wednesday 17th I had terrible pains in my abdomen, I felt nauseous, weak and dizzy. I couldn’t stand for long without collapsing and I couldn’t eat. I threw up copiously between getting agonising pains. My lovely mother in law cleaned my kitchen and looked after the children whilst I lay on the sofa, then my dad came and got worried enough to call my mum. My mum came and took me to the doctors. The doctor took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature and phoned the hospital. My mum phoned The Boy and we all loaded into the car and we went.
I don’t remember much of the journey. I kept losing consciousness. I vividly remember blackness fading in around me then my mum smacking me in the leg and The Boy pulling at my hair from the seat behind to get my head upright. I found the lightness around me again and focussed, then felt the black returning, my body getting heavy. I suddenly realised I was going to die. I was going to die and my baby girl was in the back of the car watching, a look of terror on her face, and my new baby was growing inside me and completely dependent on me. And I was going to leave them. I told my mum and The Boy that Miss Rose would need cuddles, I begged them to hug her, I begged them to look after her. I didn’t think I’d be there to do it myself.
When we got to the hospital I was loaded into a wheelchair and rushed up to the maternity unit where I was attached to various tubes, had more checks done whilst worried faces surrounded me and doctors came and went. My mother in law arrived and stroked my face, my mum held my hand and promised I’d be okay. The Boy sat beside me with a look of grim determination on his face. I begged to go home, they told me not a chance.
I was moved to high dependency. Blood was taken, checks were done. I was pumped full of loads of different drugs because they didn’t know what was wrong and they didn’t want to take any risks. I kept asking them to check on my baby and they kept saying the needed to stablise me first. The more I asked and the more they refused the more frightened I got. They weren’t listening because my baby would be dead and they didn’t want me dealing with that when I was already so weak.
Eventually they listened and found the heart beat. My baby was alive. My baby’s heart was beating away loud and proud. I sobbed so much and I felt rested.
My mum took Miss Rose home and The Boy stayed with me. He slept overnight on an uncomfortable chair, helping me any time I needed it, and waking every time the nurses came in for my hourly vitals checks. My temperature was too high, my pulse was too fast, my blood pressure was too low. More fluids, more blood tests. Still no diagnosis.
Then Thursday came. I was improving and then I crashed. I crashed hard. I don’t remember much but I remember doctors faces blurring in and out. I remember being sick repeatedly as The Boy held back my hair and mopped up my face. I remember shaking and passing out then coming to then passing out. The Boy later told me that that was when he was working out how he was going to deal with my death, how he was going to tell my mum, how he was going to tell Miss Rose. How would he be the one to tell people I had died. How he would raise our little girl without me. More fluids, more drugs, more tests.
When it looked like I was stablised again, it was generally believed that even if I survived, there was no chance the baby would. There was no way the baby was going to survive what my body was going through when I was barely surviving it.
The baby survived. We had a scan on the Friday to check my internal organs for failure and whilst they were there they looked at the baby for us. The baby moving around with it’s little heart beat good and strong. I cried. He cried. How this baby is alive I do not know.
Then the diagnosis arrived, delivered by a nurse in a mask, gown and gloves whereas before everyone came and went like normal. Influenza A, swine flu. We were moved to an end room away from the rest of the ward, quarantined, and rarely visited. Food was left at the door and anyone who did come in was masked up and didn’t come close unless it was for yet more drip changes, more blood tests.
The care I was given was incredible and not a moment do I ever feel anything except gratitude and respect for the armies of nurses, midwives and doctors who were constantly caring for me day and night. They were wonderful and are all a true credit to the NHS.
When I was sent home I was still very ill, still very weak. I had a huge bag of drugs and spent most of my time asleep. Weak but alive, tired but with a baby alive and well in my womb. I wasn’t leaving The Boy without his love, my mother without a daughter, and my little girl without a mum. My body wasn’t giving out before my baby was big enough to survive without it. I am here.
The love and support I have been shown by my friends and family is immeasurable. Not a single person hasn’t expressed love and concern, offered help in any way they can. The Boy’s mum and my mum have, between them, morphed into some giant eight limbed love ball that shows up, cleans, cooks, and then disappears again without a word of complaint, and between them have loved and cared for my little girl when we were trapped in hospital. The Boy has sat by my side, held my hand, cleaned my face, and kissed my cheeks when doctors wouldn’t come near me. He has been at my side every step, gone without sleep and without food, and not once complained about it. He has assured me that no matter what, he will be there for Miss Rose, he will continue to love her and raise her and be her father because he loves her and he loves me.
Last week I nearly died. Last week my baby nearly died. But we didn’t. We are here. And we are loved. My gosh we are loved. If ever I had cause to doubt it before, if ever I worried I’d never be good enough, never be fully accepted, never be truly loved, that doubt has been removed. We are loved. We are loved. We are so very loved.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!