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1 Year

Well, I won’t lie, it was a really tough day.

In all fairness it was always going to be.

We all feel the pain of the last year and no matter how hard you try to forget the really bad moments, they still appear in your mind like an old fashioned showreel.

I forced myself out of bed and after a long, hard cry we ventured out of the flat to spend the day at the beach. It was a day Lennon truly would of enjoyed. The girls spent most of the day in the sea and building sand turtles fittingly named ‘Len’ and ‘Len Len’ after their brother.

In the evening we went out for a meal and sat by the harbour, eating ice creams and reminiscing about all the good times we shared in Torquay as a family of five.

As the day went on everyone’s mood slowly improved – helped somewhat by the sand, sea and sun. And the memories of the last time we were all together in Torquay – Lennon shrieking and arm flapping with delight whilst watching the fairground rides, and how thrilled he was being pushed out to sea in his dinghy. He loved the water and it seemed most appropriate that we spent the day by the sea.

We did struggle to decide what to do. People asked us what would we do on the anniversary of Lennon’s death?

To me, anniversaries mark happy days. Days to remember positive life events: a wedding anniversary for instance.

A celebration.

The day Lennon died is not a day to celebrate. August the 3rd will remain the saddest, most traumatic day of my life and I do not wish to celebrate the day my brave little soldier died.

If I could of slept through that day, I would of.

Ian has been amazing since we arrived. He has been cooking, making sure we are all fed and taken over the responsibility of the girls. I have barely lifted a finger.

It’s just what I needed. I don’t have enough energy or gumption to organise a p@£s up in a brewery at the moment.

Everything feels numb.

I didn’t need to ask him to take over, he simply did.

It’s hard to say whole year has passed, the words get stuck in my throat. Mainly because it doesn’t seem possible that my darling boy has been gone for 366 days now.

The fog of grief is slowly lifting, but the pain is still there. A constant reminder of the missing piece to my jigsaw.

1 year on through Ian’s eyes

This time last year was the toughest point of my life, it had been a 10 year plus roller coaster ride with Lennon. Some massive highs and terrible lows. But as a family we had taken it on. We always knew that Lennon would not live into adulthood. When he was in PICU at 2 years old the doctors didn’t think he was going to survive. From that moment on me and Nik dedicated our lives to him and made every moment count. Without Nik’s ability and determination we would of never have made double figures.

Since Len’s death we have had to rebuild -both emotionally and financially. It hasn’t been easy. I knew when Len died, it would be my job to lift Nik and the girls. Hopefully I have, and I’m proud of what they have achieved in a tough year.

Life will never be the same, but we will continue to make the most of it just as Len would have wanted us to.

Reading over the messages we received this time last year meant a lot. So many people I didn’t even know were following our story.

My aim was for Len to never be forgotten and touch as many peoples life’s as possible.

I think we achieved that!!

#forever10

Almost a year …

The clock carries on ticking and life moves on.

A life without Lennon.

Whatever I do, it is always with Lennon at the forefront of my mind. He is still my first thought when I awake to a new day and my last thought before I fall asleep.

Sleep has not been my friend for the last few weeks though. I lie awake having flashbacks of the days leading up to and after Lennon’s death. When I finally do fall asleep I toss and turn and wake up crying.

—————

Quite a lot has happened over the last couple of months.

I have a part time job for the NHS in Urgent Care. It’s only 10 hours a week at the weekends but I have found it to be a welcome distraction from my grief – I don’t feel so sad when my mind is occupied.

My blog won a BAPS (Bloody Awesome Parents) award for ‘Best Newcomer’. The very gorgeous Gethin Jones presented me with my award and I cannot tell you how surprised I was! Ian and I had a lovely evenings amongst families who also walk a similar path to us.

Gethin Jones presenting my award and me trying my best to hold my tears in!

I assisted in delivering a petition to Number 10 on behalf of The Disabled Children’s Partnership.

Delivering The Disabled Children’s Partnership’s short breaks petition to No10 Downing Street.

I met with Nadhim Zahari, the Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families. I was lucky enough to talk to him about the lack of care for complex children who fall in the gap between health and social care. And how there needs to be clear guidance on which body is responsible for them.

Meeting Nadhim Zahawi at Portcullis House, Westminster.

Isla won ‘The Hinton award’ at school – an award given to the KS2 pupil who has shown real grit and determination to overcome challenges throughout the year. I am overwhelmingly proud of her, she’s had such a tough year.

Isla with her award.

Two of our Nascot Lawn families featured on BBC1 Panorama – the programme and an online version. It made difficult viewing for Ian and I. We were taken back to the extraordinary life we led with Lennon and it was a stark reminder of just how different and ordinary life is now.

Lennon’s school held a memorial morning for Lennon and unveiled the most perfect art display dedicated to him and his love of swimming. The whole morning was so well thought out and planned, with Lennon’s teachers singing and playing guitar – Lennon loved it when Nathan played his guitar! It felt comforting to return to Lennon’s favourite place and see all the staff again. I was so pleased to hear that they still think and talk about Lennon everyday, he is still very much a part of the school.

Lennon’s memorial at Amwell View school, at the entrance to the swimming pool.

The amazing charity Post Pals invited us on a weekend away to Chessington. It was a fun packed weekend and the girls thoroughly enjoyed it. We had the most amazing experience feeding giraffes and discovered that Florence is almost as much of a thrill seeker as her brother after insisting on going on the Vampire ride multiple times!

Feeding the giraffes at Chessington World of Adventures.

Better Removals are naming one of their new removal vans ‘Lennon’ in memory of our little soldier.

And I have given a few talks on my life and experiences as a Carer and mum to Lennon and really enjoyed it – I could talk about Lennon all day everyday!

One of the slides I use in my presentations to show the importance of communication between professionals.

—————

Blogging and campaigning for Nascot Lawn and disabled children has given me a purpose since Lennon died. I would give anything to have my old life back with him. That wish will never come true, but the next best thing is to share Lennon’s experiences in life, with the aim of educating others to help improve the lives of children similar to Lennon.

Lennon’s journey can educate countless people and change so many lives. Now he is not here, it is my job to share Lennon’s story and help others to learn from him.

A future without Lennon feels totally unbearable to me, despite not seeing him for almost year. But I need to find a way to survive the rest of my life, and the only way that seems possible at the moment is to keep Lennon’s memory alive in any way possible.

I still have moments when I wish that I could ‘jump off’ this ride, just for a minute to catch my breath. This year has gone way too quickly. Tears spring to my eyes and a lump appears in my throat at the mere thought of it being a whole year since Lennon was encapsulated inside our little family.

This week we will travel down to Torquay as a family of four, but we know Lennon will be with us in spirit. Our last family holiday was summer 2016 in Torquay – I’ll never forget how much Lennon enjoyed it and how much fun we all had. The weather was glorious and we managed to get Lennon into the sea. Believe me it wasn’t easy and we narrowly avoided an adrenal crisis from the cold water but it was worth it just to have those memories to hold on to now.

Lennon enjoying the sea.
Full dressing change in his wheelchair!

Ian and the girls don’t want to be at home on the anniversary of Lennon’s death. They don’t want to remember the hurt, shock and deep sadness we felt in the weeks after Lennon died. They don’t want to return to the darkness we all endured.

I have to respect their wishes and needs. The next best place to home is Torquay and the warmth of all the happy memories it holds. Lennon was always so content and relaxed at the coast. His little face always glowed in the sunshine.

I have no expectations for the day. I hope to be able to get out of bed, dressed and out of the flat and give my girls a good day.

A day that Lennon would of enjoyed.

A day we can reminisce over the amazing memories we have of Lennon, our little soldier.

Family of Five, Always.

The hidden depths of the NHS

I have been asked a few times now to write a blog post to celebrate the NHS turning 70. If you have stumbled across my blog before you will know that without the NHS Lennon would not of survived much past his birth.

Lennon at 7 days old.

I’ve thought long and hard about which of our experiences I should write about to commemorate NHS70 – Neonatal Intensive Care, Great Ormond St, Paediatric Intensive Care, the CATS retrieval team, our local hospital and community nursing team, Nascot Lawn, Lennon’s school nursing team, the Children’s Continuing Care team….. the list goes on.

Lennon ‘helping’ to carry his most recent set of notes!

I’ve already shared some of those experiences and I wanted to chose something a little different – a side of the NHS that people maybe do not think about.

Dying.

When we think about the NHS we think of peoples lives being saved, pioneering treatment, miracles. We don’t often see the other side of the NHS, but it is there and we shouldn’t ignore it.

When I think back to the care Lennon received from the NHS throughout his life, the time I think about most is the day he died. I can not fault the care and compassion that Lennon, Ian and myself received in the final few hours of Lennon’s life.

Sleeping post theatre.

I remember the look on the consultants face as the surgeon told us that there was nothing more they could do for Lennon. I’ll never forget the tears rolling down her cheeks when she came in at 3am and removed the ventilator tube that was keeping Lennon alive. It was almost like she could feel our pain. She somehow understood exactly how much Lennon meant to us and how hard we had battled to keep him alive for so long. She knew what we had given up in order for our little soldier to live his life.

I could not fault the nurses that watched over him in his final hours, they were incredibly calm and gentle. They washed and dressed Lennon in clean pyjamas, made sure he was comfortable and kept him alive until we were ready to say our final goodbyes.

They made space in Lennon’s bed for me to get in and hold onto him.

They listened to us and made sure they knew our wishes down to the finest of details. They gave us the space and time that we needed and they understood how much that moment would stay with us for the rest our lives.

After Lennon died, the nurses helped us take foot prints, hand prints, and locks of hair. They let us stay with him as long as we needed to.

They both knew Lennon. One had looked after Lennon when he was first transferred to the children’s ward at Lister aged 6 months. It must of been so hard for her to watch him die. We bumped into her at the end of her shift. Her eyes welled up with tears as she told us she had personally taken Lennon down to the morgue and then rang around to break the news to the professionals involved in Lennon’s care. I can imagine the amount of strength she mustered to do that, just so I didn’t have to.

Sometimes the smallest of gestures have the biggest of impacts.

The staff at Addenbrookes knew I wanted Lennon to be at Keech as soon as possible. I didn’t want him to be alone. They worked tirelessly to make it happen and Lennon arrived at Keech just 12 hours after he had died.

It takes a certain kind of person to care for a dying child and their family.

In the weeks after Lennon died we received letters, cards, flowers and phone calls from all over the NHS. Consultants and surgeons from Great Ormond St and Lister, nurses who had cared for Lennon, therapists who had worked hard with him and seen him flourish and develop over the years. They all took time out from their busy lives to remind us how amazing our son was, how he fought the odds and how they would miss him dearly. None of them had to do that, but they did.

The cards and flowers we received in the days after Lennon died.

It was clear that Lennon’s death had affected many people within the NHS. We all think of doctors and nurses as life savers, and they are. But they also see a sadder side of the NHS and sometimes have to admit defeat and watch their patients die.

Our NHS saves lives, but it also grieves the lives it couldn’t save.

We must not forget the impact that has.

Thank you to the NHS for giving us 10 amazing years with our little soldier Lennon, and for being there when it mattered the most.

We will be eternally grateful ❤️

Mummy, Daddy, Lennon x

Quality not Quantity – Life’s Short.

By the time Lennon turned 2 years old, he had spent the majority of his life in hospital – predominantly in Intensive Care. The short amounts of time we did get to spend at home were fraught with anxiety and worry.

Lennon was oxygen dependent, needed regular suction and was fed into a jejunostomy (a surgical feeding tube placed into his small bowel). His stomach contents drained out into a bag and we needed to calculate these fluid losses in order to replace the lost volumes as Lennon had stage 3 kidney failure.

He required multiple medications throughout the day and night including hormone injections.

He regularly stopped breathing and on occasion, needed me to resuscitate him at home.

Lennon had also been diagnosed as being deaf blind.

Lennon and Isla in Rainforest ward, Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Caring for Lennon was an immense responsibility and at times I felt completely out of my depth – my head bopping continuously above and below the surface of stormy waters.

When he stopped breathing, I found my own breath stuck heavy in my chest.

The pressure was enormous and all consuming.

I love Lennon and I would do anything for him, absolutely anything – nothing was too much.

I gave up my life to look after Lennon and keep him alive. I quit my much loved career, hardly saw my friends and rarely left the house or Lennon’s hospital bed side.

Lennon was admitted to Intensive Care for the fifth time when he 2 years and 1 month old.

He was very poorly. He had a central line infection and bronchiolitis. His bowel had failed on Christmas Eve, just 2 weeks prior, and he was surviving on intravenous nutrition.

His existing diagnoses of renal failure and pan hypopituitarism made providing life support for Lennon complicated. The outlook was bleak and the doctors had asked Lennon’s father, Ian, and I to consider turning off Lennon’s support and ending his difficult and problematic life.

Lennon’s fifth time in Pediatric Intensive Care, Aged 2.

We were both horrified at the very thought of life without our little soldier. I wanted so much more for him. I yearned for him to experience life – joy, excitement and happiness. And I wanted others to experience the elation that came along with Lennon’s achievements, and for him to leave a footprint on the lives of other, just as he had on our lives.

Of course, we said No – Lennon would be one to decide when he no longer had the energy to survive.

And in the moment the word No left my mouth, I made a vow to Lennon, and myself, that his life would be as rich and fulfilled as possible.

Lennon slowly improved and eventually came home – still with a complex and time consuming medical routine. It was then that we were referred to Palliative Care at our nearest children’s hospice, Keech hospice in Luton. Keech’s holistic approach enabled us to care for Lennon at home and keep him there.

I spent the next 8 years researching, planning and booking the most amazing experiences for Lennon, and memories for our family. Yes, he was life limited, in a wheelchair, was deaf blind and had a profound and multiple learning disabilities – but why should that be a reason to stop someone from experiencing a full rainbow of life? Why should he miss out?

We took Lennon swimming at Keech Hospice as much as we possibly could – this was always a mammoth task. Changing Lennon’s dressings, keeping an eye on his dropping blood sugars, and keeping him warm was difficult but his excitement and enthusiasm to be in the water made all the stress of the situation melt away.

Lennon loved to swim, he would of swam everyday if he could of.

We went Ice skating as a family every year on Lennon’s Birthday in December, it became a family tradition. Lennon loved ice skating and the faster the better. One year Ian went so fast he managed to fall over and tip Lennon’s wheelchair backwards into the ice – I was totally horrified and I’m sure my heart missed a beat. Lennon on the other hand, thought the whole experience was hilarious and seemed to be asking Ian to repeat the whole scenario!

Birthday ice skating.

Disney on Ice became a twice yearly event. When it came to Lennon, you couldn’t go wrong with ice skating and Disney together in one venue – two of his most favorite things!

We fundraised and purchased a walking frame and a special bike.

Lennon spent hours toddling around in his walking frame when he was well, and in the summer, we used to stand his walking frame in a paddling pool and he would splash away with such delight.

Playing in the paddling pool.

The bike was incredible – it was a life changer for Lennon. He was a real thrill seeker and was enraptured by speed. Ian would take him for long bike rides, speeding through long, windy country lanes. Lennon flapping his arms and screaming with delight!

Lennon picking Isla up from school on his bike.

I found a company who provided ski lessons to people with a disability. This was a little trickier and took a lot of planning. Lennon’s pan hypopituitarism meant his body disagreed with cold temperatures. But we found ways to work around that. Skiing became a favorite activity for Lennon – the buzz of sweeping down the slopes enraptured him. His face exuded excitement and happiness.

We also took him down the mini slope in a donut ring!

Neither Ian nor I have ever skied, yet our disabled son has.

My little thrill seeker. Lennon loved skiing – the faster the better!

We desperately wanted to take Lennon to Euro Disney – we knew he would love it! But the professionals had forbidden us to leave the country without trained medical support.

Year after year we applied to The Caudwell Children’s yearly trip to Disney Land, Florida – ‘Destination Dreams’. Every year they take 25 children and their families plus a team of 12 doctors and nurses. It solved our problem of needing to travel with medical support. And in 2015 we were selected!

Destination Dreams was the trip of a lifetime. It took months of planning and we travelled with almost 50kg of medical supplies, a file jam packed with medical notes, letters from doctors and emergency plans. But it was oh so worth it!

We stayed in Give Kids the World and visited the parks. I was shocked that so many of the rides had adapted carts for wheelchair users and ecstatic that for one week Lennon did not have to be excluded from anything. My little thrill seeker absolutely loved the rides! The fast and higher, the more he delighted he was. He adored the characters and was mesmerized when we Mickey Mouse in Magic Kingdom. I think the Electric Parade at Magic Kingdom was his highlight. His permanent beaming face on that trip will remain imprinted in my memory forever.

Meeting Princess Elsa. Magic Kingdom, Florida.

Lennon sadly died on 3rd August 2017, in the same Intensive Care Unit that had asked us to turn off his life support eight and a half years earlier. It was Lennon’s time – his exhausted little body had run out of fight. We had been luck enough to of been under palliative care for over 8 years, and therefore we had talked about the final stages of Lennon’s life many times. Palliative care gave us the knowledge to enable us to make educated decisions over time and not have to make quick decisions during the hardest time of our lives. We had always wanted Lennon to die at Keech Hospice, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. The team at Addenbrookes and the lovely staff at Keech worked hard planning, and Lennon made his final journey to the hospice less than 12 hours after he died. He stayed there until his funeral.

We will be eternally grateful for those extra eight and a half years. Eight and half years packed full of joy, excitement and happiness.

Horse riding with school.

And yes, Lennon did make an immeasurable impact on the lives of everyone he came into contact with. He is remembered by many as ‘The boy with the Midas touch’.

Lennon’s fun packed life proves that palliative care is not about giving up, there are always ways to live your life – in the capacity and time that you have – to the maximum.

Playing football with Daddy.

Quality, not Quantity.

8 months

“The pain you feel now will ease with time.”

So far, I have found this to be statement untrue. As yet the pain has not decreased at all, in fact it feels like it has increased. With each day that passes I miss Lennon more and more, and it hurts. The gapping hole in our lives feels like it is slowly growing.

I’ve gone from sleeping like a log to sleeping badly. I’ve never struggled to sleep before. I toss and turn in bed, trying to turn my complex thoughts into some form of sense.

Recently Lennon appears frequently in my dreams – sometimes he is alive, others he is dead. And despite waking up some nights sobbing, struggling to catch my breath, I do get great comfort from seeing him. I find myself feeling upset when I don’t dream about him.

Sleeping peacefully.

Every morning I get up to yet another day without Lennon.

There are days when I have to force myself out of bed. Grief is exhausting – it seems to steal my energy leaving my head foggy. If it wasn’t for my girls I don’t think I would make the effort to get up and dressed every day.

Florence has been struggling with her grief. Her behaviour has been awful for over a month now. Granted, she has never been an ‘easy’ child (anyone who’s spent time with her will know that!) but even school have noticed that she is talking about Lennon more so than usual.

She regularly asks where Lennon has gone and it’s so hard for us to explain. Lennon is dead, but I have no idea ‘where’ he is….

Florence and Lennon enjoying the swings.

My little girl needs bereavement support – support that I cannot give her.

Florence is a strong, stubborn child and doesn’t like to ‘talk’ or explain how she feels. She is a complex character and even I, as her mother, find her difficult to understand.

Isla however is the opposite. She is an outwardly sensitive child who wears her heart on her sleeve. She is much easier to read and will always approach someone when her feelings overwhelm her.

Isla and Lennon during one of Lennon’s long stays at Great Ormond Street. Even then she missed him when he wasn’t at home.

Isla has fantastic support at school, which is good as she doesn’t like to get upset in front of Ian and I. School is her safe place to grieve. She struggles in the holidays – there is no where for her to hide her grief from us and the Lennon shaped hole in our home is so much more apparent in the school holidays.

Isla misses her brother and is struggling to coming to terms with the fact that she will never see her big brother again.

Watching my children grieve for their brother is as painful as my own grief.

Enjoying Torquay together.

I have been having flashbacks. My mind wanders back to that day. I replay moments minute by minute. I remember the last time he was at home, in his bed. I see Ian carrying him out to the ambulance.

I find myself back in the Intensive care unit, signing the consent form for Lennon to go to theatre. Lying next to him in bed while the doctors turns of his life support.

I try my hardest to override those thoughts with happy memories – Lennon’s bright, beaming smile and his clicking noises.

Big smiles for Daddy! 
Lennon enjoying the freedom of his walking frame.

Life without Lennon is still so difficult to comprehend.

I cannot imagine life without grief and pain and I cannot imagine the pain getting easier with time.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

Lennon, Mummy and Daddy x

One in a Million

Lennon first saw a Geneticist when we was 6 months old and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Great Ormond St.

Lennon was 12 weeks premature and up until he rapidly deteriorated and became ventilator dependant, aged 5 months, the doctors and nurses involved in his care had all thought his medical problems were a result of being born too soon.

It wasn’t until Lennon’s first admission to GOSH, when many professionals from different specialist teams came to examine him, that it was suggested Lennon most likely had a genetic condition.

Lennon in Intensive Care.

That was just the start of our Genetic journey into finding a diagnosis for our little soldier – and the beginning of my love hate relationship with Google.

Over the first 4 years of Lennon’s life, he underwent every genetic and metabolic test available in the UK. All sorts of diagnosis’ were mentioned over that time – Schinzel Giedion syndrome, Rett syndrome, Mitochondrial disease, Pallister-Killian syndrome, the list goes on.

Lennon had blood samples, DNA, salvia and skin samples, muscle biopsies, bowel biopsies and lumbar punctures taken.

At Great Ormond Street hospital undergoing a round of testing.

I became obsessed. Google was my best friend, yet my worst of enemies.

I rang the Genetics team on a regular basis, pestering anyone who answered the phone for test results.

All the tests came back negative including a DNA micro-array analysis.

Lennon was then put on the DDD study. Over the years we never had any results from it, despite my many information seeking phone calls. When the study finished in June 2017, we were told that Lennon was never signed up because his sample processed as ‘incomplete’ and was never followed up.

Subsequently, we were invited on to the genome 100k project and we had an appointment booked with Lennon’s Geneticist at GOSH for October 2017, for myself, Ian and Lennon to provide DNA samples and sign up. But Lennon died in August, just missing out on that appointment.

My quest to find a diagnosis for Lennon was beginning to consume my life.

Until one day when I sat down and really thought about it. What would a diagnosis change? What would a diagnosis mean? How would a diagnosis change Lennon’s life and how we help him to live it?

I slowly came to the conclusion that a diagnosis was just a word. A word that would explain the wonder of Lennon. Just one word to write on forms and tell people.

But that was all.

That one word wouldn’t change Lennon and it wouldn’t change how we looked after Lennon – nothing would be any different.

Enjoying the FunFair.

I began to forget about a diagnosis and focused my energies on researching, planning and booking the most amazing experiences for Lennon, and memories for our family.

Yes, he was undiagnosed and no one really knew what the future really had in store him.

Yes, Lennon was in a wheelchair, was deaf blind and had a profound and multiple learning disabilities and complex medical needs, but why should any of those factors be a reason to stop someone from experiencing a full rainbow of life? Why should Lennon miss out on living a full life?

We took Lennon swimming as much as we possibly could – this was always a mammoth task. Changing Lennon’s dressings, keeping an eye on his dropping blood sugars, and keeping him warm was difficult but his excitement and enthusiasm to be in the water made all the stress of the situation melt away.

We went Ice skating as a family every year on Lennon’s Birthday in December, it became a family tradition. Lennon loved ice skating and roller skating – the faster the better!

Speeding around the rink at Rollercity.

We fundraised and purchased a walking frame and a special bike.

Lennon spent hours toddling around in his walking frame when he was well, and in the summer, we used to stand his walking frame in a paddling pool and he would splash away with such delight.

Splashing in the paddling pool.

The bike was incredible – it was a life changer for Lennon. He was a real thrill seeker and was enraptured by speed. Ian would take him for long bike rides, speeding through long, windy country lanes. Lennon flapping his arms and screaming with delight!

Lennon thoroughly enjoyed his bike.

I found a company who provided ski lessons to people with a disability. This was a little trickier and took a lot of planning. Lennon’s pan hypopituitarism meant his body disagreed with cold temperatures. But we found ways to work around that. Skiing became a favorite activity for Lennon – the buzz of sweeping down the slopes enraptured him. His face exuded excitement and happiness.

We also took him down the mini slope in a donut ring!

Neither Ian nor I have ever skied, yet our disabled son has.

One of Lennon’s favourite activities. 

We will be eternally grateful for the 10 and a half years we had with Lennon. A short life, but most certainly a life packed full of joy, excitement and happiness. And Lennon’s full life serves as a reminder that no matter what your disability or diagnosis, there are always ways to live your life – in the capacity you have – to the maximum.

Horse riding with school.

A few weeks ago I spoke to the Genetics team at GOSH. They informed me that they had stored various samples of Lennon’s – including his DNA, meaning that Lennon can still join the genome 100k protect. Ian and I have an appointment in March to provide our own DNA to be submitted alongside Lennon’s and to sign the forms.

And so the quest for Lennon’s diagnosis continues. Lennon truly was one in a million, and I’m certain when someone eventually finds a diagnosis for Lennon it will be extremely rare!

Our family of 5 x

6 months

On the 3rd February 2018 it was 6 months since our darling boy departed life.

6 months without hearing his loud clicking noises or his cheeky belly laugh.

6 months without seeing his big glassy blue eyes or his arms flapping wildly.

6 months of not climbing into my little soldiers bed every night to squeeze him tightly and kiss him goodnight.

Lennon in bed. He loved sleeping at home in his own bed.

The pain of living my life without Lennon increases everyday. I miss him. I miss my old life. I miss being Lennon’s Mummy. It hurts. It is still a deep, heavy pain that I cannot describe.

I’m beginning to realise that grief doesn’t leave you – It becomes a permanent fixture in your life. You have to learn to co-exist with grief.

—–

A few nights ago I had a vivid dream about Lennon. So intense and lifelike that for the first few seconds upon waking, I thought it was true.

I dreamt that Lennon had returned to life. I didn’t know how, but he was back with us, where he belongs.

I thought how lucky it was that we had kept his wheelchair – we could take him outside.

Lennon loved to be outside.

Lennon at his ‘happy place’ the village ford. He could sit for hours watching the ducks and the water flowing underneath the bridge. 

I was pushing Lennon in his chair up a steep hill, but he was too heavy and we couldn’t reach the peak.

Then he was back in his bedroom, lying in his beloved fishbowl bed. I had forgotten to administer his medications. I was angry and disappointed with myself that I had forgotten my strict, daily routine and worried that he would become poorly because of a stupid mistake I had made.

I loved watching him sleep, especially when he put his hands under his head.

I subsequently moved Lennon’s large medication unit into his bedroom to help me remember.

—–

It was all a dream. When the cold, unwanted truth hit me, I sobbed.

I was crest fallen that he wasn’t back, he is gone. Gone forever.

I was also saddened by the thought that I have lost my skills. Skills that I had proudly built up over 10 years. Procedures that I will never carry out again. Replacing a surgical jejunostomy tube, passing a nasal gastric tube, deep throat suctioning, replacing a gastrostomy button, putting on an ileostomy bag, accessing a port-a-Cath and taking blood.

Preparing Lennon’s medications during a hospital stay.

All that expertise built up over so many years. I was proud of the responsibility I had bestowed upon me – yes, the pressure of it was immense and overwhelming, but being competent in all the procedures Lennon needed to enable him to stay at home with his family and away from hospitals was incredibly gratifying.

Keeping Lennon at home was very important to me.

Life has changed so much.

It is becoming more and more apparent to me that I am no longer a part of the ‘Special kids mums’ club. I am no longer living an extraordinary life.

I am a bereaved mother.

Forever.

I can’t go back – no matter how much I wish that I could.

Lennon and Mummy x

Who is a Young Carer?

I had never thought of my daughters, Isla age 9 and Florence age 5, as being young carers and I had never identified them to Carers in Herts (our local charity supporting carers), although their school did know about Lennon and that their home life was not ‘normal’.

It had taken me a long time to realise that I was a Carer myself. In my eyes we were a just ordinary family with an extraordinary member!

What is a young carer?

I thought you could only be a young carer if you were a child caring for their parent.

I was wrong.

The Carers Trust defines a young carer as ‘someone under 18 who helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol’.

My girls helped me look after Lennon, their brother.

‘A young carer might help out with practical tasks, such as housework or preparing meals. They may provide help with personal care such as getting washed and dressed. They might help out with looking after their siblings’.

Isla and Florence helped to get Lennon washed and dressed, they made their own breakfast in the morning. Isla would help make Florence’s packed lunch and help her to get dressed for school.

How did I not realise that my daughters were young carers?!

Maybe because they were born into their life, and they had never known any different.

They were born into their caring role.

After Lennon died I met Jodie Deards, the Carers Lead for East and North Herts NHS trust at Lister Hospital and winner of the ‘Commitment to Carers’ award at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017.

Since meeting Jodie I have become much more aware of what defines a young carer and the impact caring has on their lives whilst they are growing up.

At a time when they should be out having fun with their friends, doing homework and worrying about what clothes they should wear, young carers are busy helping out with cooking, cleaning and laundry, and providing both emotional support and physical care.

The facts shocked me –

There are roughly 700,000 young carers in the UK – that equates to 1 in every 12 secondary school age children.

And 1 in every 12 of those young carers is likely to be caring for more than 15 hours every week.

The Family Action report ‘Be Bothered’ written in 2012 and based on young carers and their education, found that most young carers are not known to be caring by school staff – Being a young carer can be a hidden cause of poor attendance, underachievement and bullying, and many young carers drop out of school or achieve no qualifications.

This in turn will have a huge impact on the rest of their lives.

Young Carers have dreams, ambitions and aspirations for the future just like every other young person and we should be making sure that they get the support and help that they deserve to achieve those dreams, ambitions and aspirations.

If you think you are a Young Carer or you know someone who might be, please visit The Carers Trust and find your local Young Carers support services – https://carers.org/search/network-partners

Jodie’s 5 top tips for Young Carers

1. Let someone know you have a caring role, such as your teacher.

2. Ask for help – nobody can cope alone.

3. Get a break and make time for yourself.

4. When you get tired or angry, step away and take a few minutes to listen to your favourite music.

5. You don’t need to do it alone – contact Young Carers in your county for support. If you are in Hertfordshire please contact Carers in Herts. http://www.carersinherts.org.uk/how-we-can-help/young-carers

For further information regarding Young Carers please visit –

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support/young-carers-rights/?

https://carers.org/about-us/about-young-carers

Our first Christmas and New Year without Lennon

We made it through Christmas and New Year, and escaped only slightly scathed out of the other side and into 2018.

Christmas cards arrived and the sight of Lennon’s name missing from them all stung, tears pricked my eyes with the opening of each one.

You may be surprised when I tell you that only 3 people thought to mention that they knew Christmas would be hard for us this year and they would be thinking of us.

The rest all wished us ‘Happy Christmas’ and prosperous ‘New Year’ – How anyone could possible think that our Christmas would be happy and our New Year prosperous is completely beyond me!

Do you think if your child had died 5 months previous you would have a ‘Happy Christmas’?!

After Lennon’s Birthday and the deep sadness I felt in the festive period, Christmas Day was surprisingly going ok. I had made it out of bed in the morning and was dragged downstairs by 2 very excited girls desperate to see the delights that Santa had left behind during the night. Their excitement and enthusiasm carried me through the day, and I felt pleasantly surprised that Christmas Day wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting it to be.

Isla and Florence on Christmas morning.
All Florence wanted for Christmas was Lennon, and a pink car that she could drive.
Isla opening presents.

Until we sat down to eat Christmas Dinner with Ian’s parents and his uncle. The space where Lennon’s wheelchair sat in the dining room suddenly seemed so vast and empty. I felt sad, and that was the start of the downward spiral.

Someone let it slip that Ian had booked a trip to Paris over Mothers Day with his mates. He intentionally hadn’t consulted with me before he went ahead and paid for it and everyone knew except me. He had been hiding it from me with no intention.

Ian wouldn’t be home on Mothers Day. I will have to get through my first Mothers Day without my son alone.

I couldn’t believe he didn’t even pay me so much as a fleeting thought when he booked it.

That hurt.

I was already struggling with my emotions and the pain of dealing with the first Christmas without my eldest child, this revelation tipped me over the edge – like rubbing salt in a cut.

As soon as we arrived home I made my way straight to bed and didn’t surface until late morning on Boxing Day. I forced myself to get up and dressed for my girls.

Ian and I had a blazing argument.

He walked out.

He came home.

We went drove to my mums separately.

We ate dinner, opens presents and I went home.

I took the Christmas tree down and packed away our first Christmas without Lennon. I wanted Christmas over and done with. I didn’t want anymore Christmas without Lennon.

Our Christmas tree, full of memories.

Ian and I made up. Life’s too short to waste time arguing.

The day after Boxing Day we had tickets for Disney On Ice at The O2 – Lennon’s Christmas present that I had booked in the weeks before he died. We went every Christmas. Lennon wasn’t interested in presents so we spent money on days out instead – Lennon loved experiences and trips out and Disney on Ice was one of his favourites.

Lennon enjoying Disney on Ice, Christmas 2016.

We travelled down on the tube and the atmosphere wasn’t great. The magnitude of the day ahead weighing heavily on us all.

The girls throughly enjoyed it and we all spent most of the performance pointing out the little things Lennon would of loved and talking about how much we missed him not sitting amongst us, shouting and arm flapping.

At the end of the performance, snow floated down and covered us, butterflies flew above the ice and we knew Lennon was right there with us.

The butterflies in the Disney on Ice performance.

The days before New Year were mainly long and dull. Ian went back to work and I didn’t have the energy or the enthusiasm to take the girls anywhere. I felt a heavy fog take over me with a New Year imminent.

New Year has been a sticking point with me since Lennon was born – celebrating a New Year with a life limited child, to me felt completely out of the question. The approaching year could be Lennon’s last – why on earth would we want to celebrate that?!

This time the New Year brought a new torment with it.

2017 knew Lennon.

Lennon knew 2017.

Lennon was alive in 2017.

2018 would not know Lennon.

Lennon would not know 2018.

In 2018, Lennon died last year.

That hurt me.

A lot.

After spending days moping around not getting dressed and crying, by New Years Eve I had realised that I really did need to get out and make some attempt to save my drowning self.

I even put some make up on.

We took the girls for dinner at ASK and then went to the local pub for a few drinks with friends.

Florence enjoying ASK!

We had the girls with us, so no plans to stay out and see the Year change – I knew that would be a step too far for me. So we left the pub at 22:30 with Florence and ventured home. Isla wanted to stay with her friends, so we left her behind.

On the 1st of January 2018 I woke up strangely relieved. Relieved that it was all over. But still sad. Sad that Lennon died last year. Sad as the hard, cold realisation that time moves on hit me yet again.

I don’t want Lennon to be left behind in 2017.

Forever in 2017, Forever 10.

Lennon and Mummy x