Perfect Stranger


Sunday looked set to be a perfect family day at home. We had shunned all invitations and decided to stay home enjoying the sunshine in our own garden with the men’s Wimbledon Tennis final showing in the background and we even had a lie in with the girls not waking until 6.23am.

The day showed such promise and still pottering in our pj’s come lunchtime i remember saying to myself as i hung the last of the washing out on the line, what a perfect day it was.

That, right there had to be my mistake because very soon after that the day took a dramatic turn.

Whilst finishing up our lunch my littlest girl Jools started to get very grumpy. Her grumpiness escalated so i lifted her from her high chair and noticed her skin colour was a little on the bluey/purple side. Her nose was running and when i looked close enough i noticed she was shaking a little. Up to that point there had been no indication that she was unwell.

With my panic rising i took her and laid her down checking her over. I called my husband in to look at her trying to not let the panic reach my voice and take over. The look on his face told me he was as concerned as I. I took her temperature 38.2 degrees (it should be between 36-37 degrees) and gave her some Calpol (paracetamol). As i cradled her whilst she cried she showed signs of wanting her afternoon nap so i took her off and laid her on my bed covering her with a cotton blanket to try to regulate her temperature. She fell asleep quite easily.

I didn’t take my eyes off her. I watched her breath and slowly watched the colour return to her skin. She woke an hour later with her temperature having dropped and a sunny smile greeting me. She looked as good as new.

Ok, just a blip i thought? During her nap i had read online that baby’s skin colour can change as the blood capillaries open up and rush to the surface in an attempt to cool the baby and it can give the look of a purply colour. Maybe that’s what happened.

After bringing her downstairs and watching her play, within twenty minutes she was crying again and had crawled into my lap. Where she lay, just watching me. She felt hot. She looked drowsy. I took her temperature it was now 39.2! Again the panic set in. She’s 10 months old and still so vulnerable, i’m still so aware of this.

As a rule of thumb i always err on the side of caution especially when it comes to my little girls. Mentally i prepare myself for the day when i am standing over their hospital bed willing God to keep them safe from some accident or illness. If I am lucky enough and that day never comes then i will have lost nothing other than the reminder that life is so precious and to take nothing for granted. A twisted way to think perhaps, but that’s just how it is for me.

Conscious of not wanting to be seen to over react, which I do a lot you see, I asked my husband what he thought we should do. Mentally I’m already in the car on the way to the local A&E….

He suggested we called the NHS Direct helpline. Ok, mentally i turned the engine of the car off… I called the new NHS 111 number, when you need medical advice fast but it’s not an Emergency, that you are aware of. We went straight through to a woman who began asking all the relevant questions, who I was, who i was calling for, where we lived, number, and most importantly what the problem was.

As i spoke my daughter is laying in my lap just watching me, whimpering, feeling hotter and hotter. I’m using all my resolve to not reveal the whites of my eyes with the fear that is starting to set in. Mentally, I’ve turned the engine back on….

After she had listened to all that i told her she told me what a fine job i had done and there was nothing else i could do right now. She told me i would be put through to a local clinician who would call me back within up to two hours, however should anything change with my daughter and should she appear to deteriorate to call 999 immediately.

I put the phone down and took a deep breath, limbering up for what would happen next.

Literally 4 minutes later the phone rang and it was Joyce the local Clinician calling as they promised. She asked me to go over everything in detail again and to take Jools temperature again. It was still 39 degrees but had come down .2 since my first call and the Infant bruprofen I had administered was starting to kick in.

I told Joyce I was worried i had missed something, i’m not an expert i said. Oh, but you are she said to me. You are an expert when it comes to your daughter. No one knows your daughter like you do. That was it, i could feel my bottom lip go. Reassurance that I was doing the right thing was all i needed. This perfect stranger on the end of the phone had done more for the calming of my mental state by telling me i had done such a good job. Mentally, I’ve turned the engine off again and opened the car door, to get some air….

On the basis that Jools didn’t seem in pain, just uncomfortable, there were no rashes or obvious signs of swelling or bleeding just a very, very high temperature (on what was a hot day) it was too early to say which way she would go. I am very much aware that high temperatures in babies are something to be watched with extreme caution, at this age they are unable to regulate their own body temperature and should they get too hot or too cold febrile convulsions are a frightening reality. Joyce asked me what my instinct was telling me. She asked me if i thought there could be something seriously wrong that might have been missed. In hindsight how marvellous was her stance to put her trust in the mother’s instinct and to use it as a way to gauge the situation.

Looking at my daughter lying in my lap, i collected my thoughts and came to  the conclusion that I didn’t think she was in pain and we were therefore best to watch and wait what happens next before we decided we needed to seek further medical attention.

Joyce gave me lots of pointers and advice and finished off by saying that at any time should i change my mind and think there was something drastically wrong i was to act on it. The confidence this woman gave me in dealing with my baby was immense. I didn’t feel like a neurotic mother (which i am) or a nuisance (which i can easily be).

I can not recommend the NHS 111 service more highly. The service, care and advice we received proved helpful and invaluable at what was a really stressful time. The NHS comes under such intense scrutiny and criticism, sometimes justified but each time i have been at their mercy i have received nothing but the very best care and compassion. The people are what make the difference.

Just as well, because less than 2 hours after making that phone call Jools was crawling, laughing and playing with her big sister. Like nothing had happened. I watched, staggered by the marked difference in her behaviour, it was almost embarrassing. Had we imagined it? It was like a light switch had gone on and off so quick was her deterioration and recovery.

And this was just in time to watch THE very last set with Murray taking home the Mens Champion title at Wimbledon.

What a perfectly bizarre day it had been for us as family and my conversation with a perfect stranger.


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