Thought for the Week: Goodness and gratitude

Jill Allum reflects on goodness and gratitude

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London has been in the news in recent years. In 1982 the medical staff there saved the life of my daughter of twelve. Pip had chickenpox and, unlike my three sons, had very few spots; but as she deteriorated rapidly we found out it had gone into her brain and liver.

After a few days, she was sinking into unconsciousness. A doctor called in the night and said: ‘It’s a throat infection.’ But next morning she was writhing on the floor. The doctor arrived and got her into an ambulance, which waited for ages before finding a hospital that would take her. Finally, she was accepted by a mental hospital! By now she was in a deep coma. She was then moved in the night to the main hospital. The next day I was in an ambulance with her, hurtling to Great Ormond Street through snow and ice. It was a Sunday and they couldn’t get the stretcher through the revolving doors!

At last, she went into a ward and it seemed like a play on television: everyone running, a monitor put in her brain, me sleeping on the floor. The next day she was in intensive care, amongst the tiny babies in incubators. They fought for her life with horrible drugs and by Tuesday had a diagnosis: Reye’s syndrome.

That evening I tried to tell my village, near Colchester. Everyone I phoned was out. Finally, one person was in, who said: ‘They’re all in the Methodist church praying.’ She ran to the church and burst in with the news. Later, the rector told me that the Anglicans were there too and when the news arrived it was electrifying! A few days later the radiologist monitoring her brain gave me a ‘thumbs up’ from outside our cubicle. She came from Colchester and later said: ‘I went home at the weekend. The whole town is praying for her!’ Then one day I was told she would live!

The chapel had become extremely important. The messages left on the altar steps were so moving. Once I flung myself into the chaplain’s arms sobbing. As I need to write, I wrote pages every day. Friends from home arrived, took each day’s progress, so the members of our churches could pray for that day’s needs. The upholding was tremendous. Each event, like coming off the breathing machine, was recorded. At the end, one of our wonderful nurses took all my writings to use for her special study.

And so Pip came through. I lived in or near GOSH for four weeks. At last I could take her home – in a taxi with the kindest driver. She still needed time to recover until the day came when she was well enough to go back to her high school. She was in the top form of the second year and when she came out of intensive care she could not do three times four! But she slowly recovered and we thank GOSH and all the wonderful people who prayed for her from the bottom of our hearts. There is such goodness to be grateful for in the world – as well as the darkness we so often see on the news.

I am proud that my eldest son, Pete, wore the GOSH ‘crying child’ on his cycling shirt when he did the London to Paris cycle ride and raised money for the hospital.

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