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Emotional roller coaster of sports days

Monday, 1 July 2019  |  Admin

The Honest Confessions of a Heart Mum The emotional rollercoaster of our first sports day.

If we go back nearly five years ago when my oldest son was born with an undiagnosed heart defect we didn’t know what the future would hold. After a successful heart surgery at 6 months we were under consultant led care and we always worried if he would be just like everyone else his age. I craved every single day that we would just be like every one else. I wished that medical professionals didn’t get excited when they listened to my son’s chest because he was interesting. I wanted everything to just be okay and normal. We never saw a difference, he kept up with all of his friends, he hit milestones at the same time or even before he should so it was sometimes easy to forget that actually he does have a severe heart defect. As we neared school age, we wondered how it would affect him. Would this be where we finally saw a difference? Would he tire more? Have more time off? Would he be left out or behind? Would he be bale to perform at sports okay? I will never forgot the words our consultant said to us, after all these years they have stuck with me; ‘He may not be the fastest in the class but he won’t be the slowest either’. These words rang in my ears as we came up to his first ever nursery sports day taking place at his brand new school.

I worried he would be upset if he couldn’t keep up, or if he came last. To me it wouldn’t matter just him taking part just like everyone else meant the world to me, something we were told at one point might not ever happen. Of late he has become very competitive, almost with himself and if he cannot do something, or do it well he does get very angry! The other day he mildly twisted his foot jumping off the sofa and stubbornly refused to rest and demanded he went to his Parkour lesson! We had Nan and Elijah’s great Uncle came and we all stood excitedly by the side lines waiting for him to take part in his first race. Dr Derrick’s words still ringing in my ears I watched as he went up to his first race and watching him run with everyone else, just like everyone else and coming in second left me in tears.

If only I could go and visit my past self all those years ago where we were told that his future was uncertain. That he might not walk, or talk or need help with day to day life. People may find it really strange when I get so emotional about these things. I have lost count of the times I have watched him at his weekly swimming lesson in tears, or literally tell the world when he came home after he passed his first ever gymnastic badge. They mean more to me because I was told they might not ever happen. I will always be grateful for his achievements, I will never take them for granted. I don’t think I will ever get bored of watching my child take part in activities just like everyone of his peers. I felt like for once he was a normal little boy. For that short time I forgot about the NICU stay, the life changing diagnosis. I forgot about the wires and tubes that kept him alive, and the aftermath of surgery. I forgot about the fear of his future, the anxiety of his appointments. The worry of if a cold or illness would put us in hospital, or if he can/ cant do something because if his condition. I forgot it all and just watched a little boy run as fast as his little legs could carry him, laughing as we went towards the finish line. I looked across and could see the same look of pride on Greg’s face as well. After then the floodgates were opened and I think the only time I stopped crying was when Greg ran the Dad’s race and came in last after his ankle went half way!

The older children at the finish line all cheered on each and every one of those children and made sure everyone crossed that finish line. it didn’t matter if you won or lost it was just that you finished just like everyone else. Seeing him cross that finish line made me realise that he really is growing up and pretty soon he will be at school doing these sorts of things every day. It gave me hope, that actually we may have a few bumps in the road but he will be just fine. I, on the other hand won’t be and will likely sob in the school bush every day. After five years of us being on a journey that is so different to most, to see him flourish, to thrive and to just be normal is something that is brand new to us. It’s a feeling I never want to forget. I will also never forget this sports day as it wasn’t just that it was his first one, that it was with his nursery which he is soon graduating from or that it was at his new school with all of his new school friends it as because it gave me hope for the future. Being a heart parent is tough, and sometimes it can be hard to hope. To find the light in the dark. The worry, the fear and the anxiety of simple things like a chicken pox outbreak in his nursery class can weigh you down. Sometimes it is easy to focus on the what ifs and worse possible scenarios rather than have hope that actually it can be okay. I don’t think I could be prouder of him and cannot wait to tell his cardiologist next week how well he performed in his first ever sports day and I am still getting over the emotional roller coaster of it all!

Vicki Cockerill is a NICU/ CHD Mum of two boys, working mum and freelance blogger.