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My last 24 hours

This post was inspired by a blog I read yesterday where a mum describes the final few days with her son before & after he passed to the other side.  It made me think a lot about my final hours with Órla Rose, our last few conversations, the last food I shared with her and our last hugs & kisses.  I can already tell by the excruciating pain in my heart and the tears flowing down my cheeks that this is going to be a difficult post to write and may take some time but my purpose in starting this blog was firstly as a tribute to my beautiful daughter so that all could share in her short life, secondly to help me grieve & cry and let out my emotions rather than holding everything in and thirdly to show other grieving parents how I’m coping and maybe just maybe they won’t feel so alone on this horrible road. 

So I’ll begin by saying that this day was no different from the last few weeks, my little one had end stages of cystic fibrosis her poor lungs were saturated with mucus and infection.

Órla was a late diagnosis, she was diagnosed with autism when she was 4 and so any illness,any bug, any bowel problems were always related back to her autism so it was only when I took her to A+E that they started listening to me ( gps had her on ongoing anti biotics).  The tests were done and the results were in and our little baba of 6 years & 10 months old was confirmed as having cf and unfortunately alot of damage was already done. 

Fast forward almost 3 years exactly and Órla had not eaten in over 10 days and was on high doses of morphine and an oxygen machine was permantly on in the room (she refused to wear the mask or cannula). Her dad & I had decided to stop forcing treatment 4 months before this as her quality of life was now more important to us and I can honestly say she was her happiest in those final months since she got diagnosed & began treatment.

Her poor little body was just a bag of bones, she refused to wear clothes (one of her autism traits) so we watched how quickly devastating this disease is.  I knew we were close to her end, she hardly spoke and was in and out of consciousness a lot of the time.  Her consultant came to see us every few days and I had googled how long a child could survive without food (do u know it can take months in some children as their little hearts are so strong). 

Her dad & I were not living together and I had a feeling that she could go at any time so I asked him to come stay at the house and take time off work.  Saturday & Sunday passed and there was not much change.  We took it in turns to sit with her as she watched television and then I slept on the couch at night.  She was always sleepy but if you turned the tv off she would tell me to turn it back on. 

 She wanted me to stroke her legs as she loved massages but she said to “do it gently” as her legs were sore, I had noticed they were very swollen which I know is a sign the heart is struggling.  She hadn’t been to the toilet in a few days and she went to get up to go but fell before she reached the door so I lifted her and it was at that moment I realised just how frail my daughter was, it was like lifting her as a baby.  I knew time was running out so I carried her back to her bed and sat beside her holding her hand.  She asked me to get her iPad but she only sat it beside her.  A few hours into the night and she said she was hungry and wanted some cereal (again I now know this is not unusual in the final hours), she took a few bites then sat back to watch cartoons.  I must have dosed off because she told me I was snoring and to stop it.  

It was very difficult to watch her as she could not get comfortable and kept moving, her face was skeletal as was the rest of her little body I barely recognised her as my Órla.  She tossed & turned another few hours and then it was Monday morning, time for my eldest daughter Zoëy to go to college.  I explained to Órla that her dad would sit with her and I would be as quick as I could. She said she wanted to come with us but I said she wasn’t well enough but she didn’t want me to go so I got my ex to drop Zoëy instead.  

Zoëy said goodbye to her sister and that she would see her later, little did we know that was the last time she was to see her alive.  Zoëy found out the day before she was pregnant so she got to tell Órla she was going to be an aunty.  Her response was “so what” but she had asked me later on what the baby would look like so I know she was taking it in.

The next two hours continued to be restless so I decided to give her some of the calming medication I had been given for her in the hope that she could get a few hours sleep.  She took half of it but spilled the rest but it seemed to help and she held out her hands to me, I asked her what she wanted as my autistic daughter didn’t usually like hugs so she said “a hug of course” and I got one of the longest hugs I ever got from her so long that I said lets get you settled for a little sleep now.  She seemed to drift off and I thought it was the ideal time for me to get a few hours sleep before the next night. I asked her dad to read her a story and not to leave her even for a second as she seemed so frail and I went out to the kitchen to call my mum and ask her to come over to help that evening.

Some time later I’m not sure how long but I think it was only minutes he came out of the room and said he thought she had gone, he’d heard a noise that he thought was her last breath.  I ran in and went to feel her pulse but there was nothing.  Her dad then started whaling out loud and I got really annoyed and told him to stop in case she could hear him and she was just sleeping, I also noticed he’d turned off the oxygen machine and I yelled at him again to turn it on what if she was still with us.  Silly now I know but I was so angry with myself & him for choosing that time to leave the room so I wasn’t there when she needed me right at the end.  I have since resigned myself that her big hug was her goodbye to me and that maybe she felt I couldn’t cope with hearing her last breath.

Tbc

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Grief

One small little word that has one huge impact on my life.

So how am I doing on this journey?

Most people would say I’m doing really great, I’m out socialising again, drinking and laughing.  I celebrated what would have been Órla’s 11th birthday (oh my god for a moment there I forgot what birthday it was how could I forget?) with dancing and music and relatively few (seen) tears.  I’m sharing pictures of me on Facebook doing lots of exciting things …. Going on my first cruise, going to Kerry with two friends, nights out in Belfast, countless meals out or charity nights.  For someone who spent the last 3+ years caring for a terminally ill child I’m out more than I ever was.  My nails have never looked so manicured, my skin has never had so much cream put on it, I’ve even started wearing make up again on my nights out.  Yep to most people I’m doing pretty amazing.

To my friends I’m still struggling and fighting hard to keep on top of things. I’m desperate to keep Órla’s memory alive and raising as much cash as I can to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis.  I mention Órla as much as I can but in casual conversations whilst still being interested in their children and their lives.  I cry sometimes a few tears and sometimes they see my struggles but then I push back the memories and close the door on my emotions again.  They pity me, they can’t imagine the pain but because they love me they will continue being there for me, continue inviting me out and being by my side.  I love these people.

To my close family my mum and my daughter they know I am broken, they see me struggling with grief every day, they know and understand how much effort it is for me to get out of bed in the mornings, how showering & brushing my teeth are no longer important rituals to me.  They support me & cry with me on a regular basis they honestly feel my pain as much as it possible to.  Their constantly checking to see if I’ve taken my meds or eaten that day.  They know what grief has done to me, but they still have hope that I’m coping that I’m moving forward.

Then there’s God (and Órla),  now they really know how I am.  They know my every thought, they know the long nights of uncontrollable sobbing of not being able to catch a breath, they know how dark my thoughts can be and how close to the edge I get.  They know how shattered my heart is and how it will never ever heal again.  They hear my pleas to help keep me strong and keep me fighting to get through this.  Their with me when I go through the details of those last days.  They know how my life has changed forever and will never smile and feel joy like I have in the past, or at least they know it’s how I feel these days.

struggling

Today I am struggling with my emotions, if I’m honest I’ve been feeling like this quite a bit lately. I feel that I’m losing control.

Since losing Órla I feel I have no purpose anymore.  I spent all of her 9+ years fighting for her. Fighting to get a diagnosis of her autism, fighting to get her statemented for school so she would get extra help.  This then turned to fighting to get a diagnosis of why she kept getting ill all the time and why the anti biotics never seemed to work.  After receiving a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis it was fighting to keep her healthy and when things started to go downhill it was fighting to keep her quality of life as happy as I could.  Now all the fighting is over and my babies gone, I don’t want to fight anymore I just want to give up.

At first during the first few weeks and months I couldn’t bare to leave the front room where I bought the bed in which Órla spent her last days.  I didn’t want to open the curtains or socialise with anyone including my other grown-up daughter and my mother who had been living with me since my dad passed two mere months before Órla joined him.  I continued going to see my councillor who I had been seeing since the year before.  I cried and cried till there was no more tears left.  Slowly I got rid of the bed stained by Órla’s death and moved upstairs to her bedroom.  Week by week I got through all the firsts, her 10th birthday less than 3 months after she died spent away from home in a spa hotel with mum and my remaining daughter, the first Halloween (her favourite holiday) again spent away from home in some hotel with mum.  The first Christmas spent far away in Canada with my sister, the first Easter spent at home with no one to do an Easter egg hunt for and finally the first anniversary of my child’s passing a day spent trying to forget what had happened the year before with the help of alcohol.

Now here I am approaching what would have been Órla’s 11th birthday but is now her 2nd birthday spent in heaven and I feel more lost today than I did all those months ago when she first left me. 

Everything has changed so much, my dads gone, my daughters gone, my other daughter has a beautiful son, I now live half my time in Newry with them and the other half in Dublin with my mum.  I’m torn between two worlds one where my dad & Órla live and the other divided between houses.  My relationship with my husband had been bad for a long time due to violence and cheating and I only stayed with him for Órla’s sake, with her gone I was free to break lose and I haven’t spoken to him in over a year.  So much in my life has changed.

The reality of my life is hitting me hard.  Alcohol and depression are closely becoming my best friends.  I’m forcing myself to get out and about to mix with old and new friends and some days I can feel ok and go to bed and sleep well but then suddenly the next moment I’m right back down to where I was in those first dark days.  Today is one of those days.

Miss you Órla, miss you daddy life will never be the same.