The ticking of a time bomb:
🎶 Come, tell me your trouble
I’m not your answer but I’m a listening ear
Reality has left you reeling
All facts and no feeling
No faith and all fear 🎶
- Brooke Fraser
The phone rings. You answer only to hear the words you have been fearing since your child’s birth, “There has been an incident…”.
It is difficult to put into words the feelings you carry with you when someone you love walks around with a ticking time bomb in their chest. Is it anger, pain, disappointment, helplessness, fear, or a combination of all those things? Watching someone go through tests on a regular basis, take medication for something that is suspected but not diagnosed, and adjusting their life as a precautionary measure for something that may or may not happen, makes you realise how fragile life really is.
While something is merely a suspicion it is easier to be naive. Once that feared phone call comes in however, all naivety is gone. During a swimming lesson your child has been found floating facedown in the pool. The first and most important question asked is, “Was our child pulled out in time?” After that you go into autopilot, organising what needs to done for the days ahead in hospital.
What is so hard to get your head around with a heart rhythm disorder is that unless you have medical equipment attached during an episode, it is very hard to know what actually happened with the heart. Despite the best equipment and appropriate tests, you cannot replicate the incident. You are left with the same unanswered questions and the diagnosis goes back into the “suspected” category. The treatment and prevention will always be administered as if the suspected heart rhythm disorder is present, as the risks of not applying prevention are too high.
One thing I have noticed when no concrete explanation or diagnosis is given to a circumstance, is that you start to doubt the seriousness of what really happened. In the interests of self-preservation, you start to tell yourself that perhaps it wasn’t the heart but something less serious. What about epilepsy? Maybe just a case of fainting? Possibly panic from nearly drowning? In downplaying the incident you also make the psychological trauma of the event less important, and this I believe hinders moving forward in a healthy manner. The truth is, the psychological trauma of nearly losing your child is real and inescapable, something we have to come to terms with one way or another.
The human response to going through such an experience is to look for something, or someone, to blame. Have the medical institution failed in their job to prevent such a thing from happening? Do we blame ourselves for normalising life too much by allowing our child to do normal physical activities that other children do? Did we fail to see something during the day that was telling us that things weren’t alright? Is DNA to blame for a heart that doesn’t function appropriately? Do I blame myself for forgetting to administer medication that particular morning?
The honest truth is that there really is no-one or nothing to blame, instead blame should be replaced with gratefulness. Grateful that we live in a country and time where, within minutes of being pulled from the water, there are ambulances, firemen, police and a trauma helicopter present to ensure the safety of our child’s life. Grateful for technology and the expertise of the people who dedicate their lives to healing broken bodies, providing us with the best chance to prevent the loss of life. This gratefulness is how we will carry on living as normal a life as possible, celebrating the fact that our child is still with us.
Even though we continue to live under a constant cloud of uncertainty and the ticking of a time-bomb, we will not give in to fear. The only way to move forward is to live life in its fullness, so a balanced normality will resume. Should the worst happen and life is taken from us, we do not want to be guilty of having allowed fear to take quality of life from the living.