I did not have a normal life as a teenager. Arguably, many people don’t. Everyone has their troubles, their sad song, something that makes their heartache so much it feels like it will fall apart. Most people I know have had an operation for something, they have had their tonsils out, an appendix eviction or had a broken bone or two. The only operation I have ever had has been heart surgery and I plan to keep it the only surgery I have in my lifetime all being permitted.
When I was 14 I had open heart surgery at Great Ormond Street hospital and it is an experience that I will never forget.
(Now, a time as any, is one where I would like to mention that we should truly appreciate the NHS for what it is and all of the amazing staff that work, run and contribute to it. Without my operation I would have died, I among many others. We must remember that although something may be flawed, it is still useful and very much important.)
I remember how nervous I felt every time I walked through those doors and the universal smiles that each patient would give to the other. I remember the names of each child on my unit, and the names of those that I saw, then one morning did not see again. I remember the name of every nurse, doctor and consultant I received care from. Some things that happened in that hospital that I will never discuss with anyone. Certain things that happened in that hospital will stay with me forever. Every day it gets easier to look back on such a hard time in my life, but it is a struggle every day nonetheless.
Great Ormond Street is labelled as one of the most advanced centres of medicine for children medicine in the entire world. It provides treatments, surgeries and experimental trials of modern medicine to children of all ages. The world is very lucky to have such an amazing place which has provided both a solace for those who have been lost and a sanctuary for those who were able to walk back out of those doors as I was as lucky enough to do.
One of the main things I learnt from returning from my time in that place is that many did not — for a majority of my teenage years I was an utter brat, I acted (and can still act) very spoilt even though I was/am not; I was and can be stroppy, obnoxious and would talk the death of my parents despite their generosity, kindness and constant love. Coming kissing distance with death makes you very much aware of everything you have to lose, and more importantly what you certainly do not want to lose. I did not want to leave my parents behind because I worried they would never realise how much I truly loved them. I did not want to leave my sister behind because we completed each other more than any person ever could. I didn’t want to leave my friends behind because I still had so much time and love to give – so many memories to make and cherish when I was the grey weird grandma with the amazing stories. I was not the invincible Robin Hood I thought I was. I had a very large reality check that I could not escape or get away from.
No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can tell you that your feelings are wrong or the way you think is wrong. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell within yourself. There are no maps of the change or righteousness. You just come out the other side, you rise from the ashes and spread your wings because eventually, whatever time you spend among the embers, you will rise.
“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”