PARENTS

Figuring Out Fatherhood: Three Days On MacGregor Ward

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
Figuring Out Fatherhood: Three days on MacGregor Ward

You know it's going to be a long night when you hear your baby coughing over the monitor, followed by your wife's voice calling downstairs.

"Oh no...oh no! Ben, get up here!"

Projectile vomiting, the scourge of every parent's once calm evening. I have never seen so much sick coming out of one baby's mouth and nose. Fast-forward an hour, and my wife is being shown to an isolation room on MacGregor Ward, the children's ward in Warwick Hospital, a very sickly baby in her arms.

I'm receiving text updates at home, two snoring boys in bunk beds next door. I have the bed all to myself, but it's a bittersweet novelty. As the night progresses, Jemima is being sick so frequently that she's fast becoming dehydrated, and during the night she is put on an IV drip - which my wife describes as 'horrendous'.

It's amazing how quickly children can go downhill when they're unwell – earlier that day she was a happy, smiling little girl, and when I go to see her the next day she's looking fairly miserable, her right hand bandaged up so she doesn't yank out the drip, her vest off, chubby thighs on display.

As she is suffering from a contagious illness, we are unable to leave the room – essentially, we are imprisoned in a rectangle 12 feet long and eight feet wide, and which houses a cot, a sink, a chair (which pulls out into an uncomfortable bed – or so I'm told) and a small television on a moveable metal arm.

Jemima is in hospital for three days in all, during which she perks up and transforms into a bubbly, laughing little baby who captivates the hearts of all the nurses with her beaming smile. These smiles come between bouts of sick and diarrhoea, of course, which punctuate each day.

It's at times like these when you realise just how important and dependable family can be. My wife's mother was a saint, looking after our sons so I could go to work, and my mother was equally as brilliant, picking up Isaac and Noah and taking them back to hers when I came down with the same illness Jemima was suffering from.

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But it is my wife who really showed what she was made of over the past few days. For anyone to stay in that room for three days and three nights and not go mad, purely because she loves someone so much she cannot bear to be apart from them, is something I will admire forever.

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They are both home now, exhausted but happy – and, so far, we have had no more bouts of vomit. The discharge note states that Jemima had viral gastroenteritis, which must have been horrible for her. Still, as babies do, she has bounced back quickly.

For many parents, the hospital is their second home, and as much as I'd like it to be, I fear this is not the last we've seen of MacGregor Ward.

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