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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quality, not Quantity.