As the date for his scopes, endoscopy and colonscopy, approached, and filled with dozens of questions, I read the information sheets sent by GOSH and forum links found through vague internet searches to understand what would be involved. Our trip to London was going to be a 2 night stay and this is where GOSH really comes into its own. They have the most amazing facility for families such as ours with children who need to be there for more than a flying visit and are travelling from outside of the M25. The Patient Hotel is situated opposite the main entrance to the hospital and is free – yes you read that correctly! – accommodation provided to patients and their families who need to stay overnight. All they ask is a £10 deposit for the room, returnable when you check-out and a £10 deposit for the TV remote control, which is similarly refunded.
Each room is large and practical as well as comfortable, allowing for hospital beds or other specialised medical equipment to be reassuringly on hand without crowding the space. There is a large kitchen and sitting room area open to everyone on every floor as well as a pile of menus for the local restaurants and takeaways. When you’re facing the trauma of your child being in hospital for however long, having one less thing to think about is invaluable and knowing that you’re on hand for the hospital, a real god-send.
M was due to be seen for his pre-op first thing in the morning, so we travelled up to London by train the night before, leaving G once again in my Mum’s capable hands. We settled quickly into our room before heading out to have some dinner and then to get some sleep before the challenging days ahead. The pre-op was an emotionally charged occasion for us all. M was allowed to eat breakfast on that morning (Wednesday), but would then be unable to eat any solid food until after his scopes, which were being performed on the following day (Thursday). His bowels needed to be “prepped” for the scopes, so his system was flushed out completed by a series of strong laxatives given in intervals during the Wednesday.
M approached the whole experience with a stoicism that belied his years. He chatted cheerfully to the nurses we met during the pre-op, listened intently when the anesthetist talked about the procedure and refused the “magic” cream to numb his arm whilst his cannula was put in. Armed with the list of the few things he was allowed to consume before his operation and filled with more than my fair-share of trepidation, we left GOSH at lunchtime to while away the hours before bed.
M understood that Mummy would have to eat during his 24+ hours without food because of my diabetes, but he asked Daddy to stick to his enforced fast with him. Mike gladly agreed and the pair of them survived on ice-lollies and fruit juice whilst I enjoyed, somewhat guiltily, the sandwiches and snacks I needed to keep me going throughout the day.
With a long day ahead of us, we prepared as best we could. We know M would experience intense diarrhoea as his bowels were emptied, so we bought some boys training pants to keep his clothes from being spoiled. We also decided to take him to the theatre to see “Stick Man” by Julia Donaldson. This took us into the evening and we finally headed back to our room at GOSH. I had hoped that M would settle to sleep quite quickly, though looking back at it now, I have no idea why I thought that day would be so very different to any other! I think I had hoped that the lack of food since 7am would mean that his body would be tired and push him towards sleep, but instead he and I sat up watching “Monsters Inc” on our portable DVD until at least 11pm.
M was understandably nervous about what was going to happen, though we had taken time to explain it to him and to answer any questions he had. I suspect that his sense of humour was probably what helped him the most, the prospect of a camera going down his throat, but even more hysterically, up his bottom, to take photos of his tummy had him giggling for days and even now, he laughs every time he thinks of it.
By midnight on that Wednesday evening, our room was finally quiet and whilst it took me a little longer to drift off to sleep, we all managed to get a reasonably good night’s rest.