Stupid things happen when you are in that state. When asked how old she was by the operator he replied "two and a half" - clearly a bit blindsided by the whole thing. She's not!! I shouted from the other room. That's your son. And then to myself "she's a tiny little baby". "Birth normal?" they asked "How much did she weigh?". Shit!!! Why can't I remember EXACTLY HOW MUCH MY DAUGHTER WEIGHED???
By this point, Beth was wide awake and grinning from ear to ear. She was stripped to her nappy and looked as though she had a pretty severe case of sunburn. All the lights were on. We were up and down the stairs. In all of this my darling boy didn't stir once. He was too caught up in his dinosaur dreams.
The response team arrived first. Three men, all called Matt (they introduced themselves in turn and there was a beat missed when in any normal scenario a mildly amusing comment would have been made about them all having the same name. It wasn't the time or the place and everyone knew it). Beth grinned at them all, and then promptly stopped grinning when they pricked her heel and took blood to test her sugar levels. A million questions were asked about changing washing powder (negative), history of eczema (negative) and known allergies (I have no idea. She's tiny. She only consumes what my body provides. She's not yet needed any medication). The paramedics arrived. More questions. The decision to take her in was made. It felt precautionary, but still - my baby was leaving the house in an ambulance. There a few things scarier than that.
I left with Beth. MD's parents were summoned and he would follow once they arrived to stay with Finn. Unbeknown to me at the time, he cried when he phoned them. I sat in the ambulance staring at Beth who was asleep before we hit the A1. The paramedic told me about her daughter's forthcoming wedding in Cyprus, whilst I silently willed mine to be ok. It was a bumpy ride to Lincoln. The suspension was shot to shit and it sounded as though we were carrying a crate of guinea pigs in the back. There was a sign above my head which I read as "EGG ROLLS". I thought that was a pretty strange thing to have a compartment for on an ambulance, before I realised it was in fact "ECG ROLLS". I'd left my glasses at home.
A&E at midnight is not a happy place. Aside from the fact that it is unlikely you will be there yourself unless you are experiencing a bit of a crisis, your companions for the duration of your wait will most likely be a motley crew of the public's finest. In the red corner we had a couple in their early twenties who barrel rolled in with a couple of policemen, clearly accompanying one of their less than sober friends who had taken a tumble in to someone's fist. Whilst he received some TLC care of the NHS, his concerned friends flirted shamelessly with one another over the vending machine ("how about I buy you a coffee and a packet of Quavers" he offered gallantly. "Thanks but you really don't have to" she giggled. Now there's a story to tell the grandkids). In the blue corner was a family of four - Mum, Dad and twin boys about four years old, one of whom had cut his foot and was awaiting a clean up and a plaster. Having been called through by the nurse, Dad disappeared outside, reappearing 10 minutes later with a family sized Domino's and four cans of Fanta - dinner for four, it would appear. It was a feast for the eyes and ears - a melting pot of the old and young, the scared and the foolhardy. And Beth slept through it all.
We were seen by Triage, and then by a junior doctor. She sat next to the reams of notes made throughout the evening and asked why we had brought Beth in. We relayed the story again. I could feel MD getting irked. "she's had the rash for two days?" she asked. "Have you even read those" he demanded, nodding at the notes. She glanced at him, and then the notes. She stripped my baby to her nappy and rolled her around to examine her. At one point she nearly rolled her on to the floor. "I think it's a viral rash" she said finally. I'm not sure who she was trying to convince, herself or us (surely one of the first lessons in how to become a doctor is to sound convincing and authoritative. i think she must have been absent from class that day). "what's that?" asked MD. "well, it's a rash caused by... er... a virus. A viral rash" she replied. "And...?" I asked. "Keep an eye on it and bring her back if it gets worse" was the offered suggestion.
We left shortly after. Beth dozing once again, MD and I feeling all at once grateful for this thing they call the NHS - this service that is free at the point of use and "always on" despite Mr Hunt's attempts to worry us into thinking otherwise, and yet more than a little frustrated by the blindingly obvious need for improvement in certain areas, from the dreary and downright grubby looking waiting area to the approach and attitude of a small minority.
This morning she woke with a smile. She fed well and the rash is slowly fading. She's sleeping in my arms as I write this and the whole experience feels a bit dreamlike. Of course, she'll have no recollection whatsoever of the events that unfolded, but that panic, that feeling of helplessness, and then all consuming, utter relief, they will all stay with me forever. As will the knowledge that for someone out there, only a double pepperoni with extra cheese will ease the boredom of a trip to A&E at midnight.