“Baby Jake is a special little man!”
“This is the first I’ve heard of him,” I told the co-ordinator.
“You’ve nothing to worry about Patsy. His mum is excellent.” Reluctantly I agreed to stand in for a colleague who was sick.
A young girl answered my knock at the door.
“I’m Patsy,” I said holding up my ID. “Community Nursing Service. I’m afraid I may have come to the wrong flat. I’m so sorry to bother you.”
“No. It’s here,” she replied standing aside. “Come in.”
“Is Lindsey out at the moment,” I asked, feeling a little concerned that baby Jake may have been left in the care of a minor.
“Hi, I’m Lindsey.” she replied offering her hand.
“I’m very pleased to meet you Lindsey,” I said, trying to hide my surprise. “And now, I want to come clean and admit that I know very little about Jake’s care needs.”
Mum smiled faintly. She wasn’t hearing this for the first time.
“There’s no need to worry. I’ll run through everything with you.”
Such a wisp of a girl, gaunt with dark circles under her eyes, yet my case notes confirmed she was 17 years old. I followed her into the bedroom.
Baby Jake, secured by cushions, was lying on his side in bed. The light was dimmed and tranquil panpipes could be heard playing softly in the background. A low hiss was escaping from the green face mask which delivered piped oxygen to his lungs.
I was struck by the mop of thick, dark hair, just like Mums. Baby Jake was fifteen months old. Hardly a new born, yet having none of the faculties or attributes of a toddler.
For a few moments I said nothing, but looking around and taking stock of the medical equipment and accoutrements that littered the room, I turned to Mum.
“Wish you hadn’t come?” she smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll be in the next bedroom.”
My attention focused again on baby Jake. In a lifetime of nursing I’d never felt quite so daunted by the challenge I was faced with. I was here to give this young mum a break and a good nights’ rest to enable her to cope with the demands of her son’s multi and complex medical needs.
Silently, I forwarded one of those SOS quickies straight up the stairs to Heaven!
I bent to stroke the flushed, steroid bloated cheek. Jake began to twitch. My introductory, comforting gesture had triggered a seizure which stiffened his flaccid limbs and threw him from his side and onto his back.
I stared down at the beautiful child in my care. Eyes, black as coal and fringed with long dark lashes, danced uncontrollably to and fro, unfocused, unseeing.
“Does he like musical chimes?” I asked fingering the mobile above his head. Mum was replacing tea light candles in the window bottom.
“Jake has no hearing,” she told me. “This one’s his favourite smell,” she said as she struck the match. “I think it’s because he was born in the springtime.”
Before long, the warm, rose like aroma of wild cherry blossom permeated the room.
Slowly, something began to stir, deep down inside. Instinctively I knew that I wasn’t here just for the night. Rather I was in for the long haul. I was going to see this through to the very last!
In his four short years on earth, Jake never felt the sunshine on his face or tasted ice cream; had never once heard his mum’s voice, or known how much she ached to see him return her smile. Just once.
Yet there was an almost tangible ‘knowing’ between mother and son. Repeated infections took him back into hospital time and again. Mum was always by his side, waiting to bring him home, waiting to light his favourite candle, the one she knew he liked.
She stood firm when pressured to make a decision about continuing treatment. She insisted that when Jake was ready to go she would let him.
When that time came, against all advice Mum brought Jake home. Bette Midler’s lyrics played well into the night.
‘Did you ever know that you’re my hero,’ was what Mum wanted Jake to feel as she held him close.
As dawn broke, through torrents of tears, she finally handed him over to Jesus.
‘Thank you, thank you, thank God for you. You are the wind beneath my wings.’
The song ended but the sweet Cherry Tree fragrance burned on. Forever!
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