To the staff in the PICU

In 2014 staff in a U.K. PICU cared for my son. In 2015 I wrote a blog post thanking them and I’m hopeful that some of them saw it. 

Today, almost three years from when they cared for Oscar, I want to republish some of my original post: 

“I want to thank you all for the care Oscar received, but i don’t know that thank you will ever be enough.

Oscar had HLHS with RAS, and once admitted to the PICU on April 2nd 2014, he never left. He took one trip to theatre and tried out three different bays, but that PICU was his home.

He was the baby that had perfected that brilliant frown whenever a doctor came near…I called him “Baby Grumpy Face.” He was the baby who screamed every time his blankets were removed on his first night and then protested silently every time after, once he was on the ventilator.

He was the baby you could barely find in his bed, due to the number of cuddly toys he had. The baby that seemed to pick his favourite as that duck comforter that he got after his theatre trip, over any toy that his family had bought for him.

He was the baby that was obsessed with the heater over his bed. I called it his shiny friend. After all it was the only thing in that hospital that seemed to be constantly with him, and hadn’t tried to take his blood/insert a line. We bought a mobile to attach to that heater, but I get the feeling he just prefered the heater.

Oscar was the baby who liked being the centre of attention. He seemed to have an ability to make his alarms go off when the doctors approached and were talking about him, but not looking directly at him. He was the baby who liked having his forehead, cheeks and chin stroked, and I am pretty sure would cry on occasions, just because he knew this would be the result.

Oscar was the baby with the brilliant sock collection. After all, socks were about the only thing he could wear. My favourites were his superman socks. They seemed appropriate, and resulted in another of his nicknames: Baby Superman.

And You? You are the staff that I will be forever grateful to for giving us the chance to make these memories. For me it doesn’t matter that you didn’t save him. We knew weeks before he was even born that saving him was impossible. That is why we had chosen comfort care at our local hospital. He had a “close to 0% chance of surviving.” We thought if we were lucky we would have minutes with him after birth.

When we got the chance to have a little longer we jumped at it, but I always knew that longer wouldn’t be forever. I knew there would be no happy ending, we were just being given the amazing opportunity to make more memories.

And you? The PICU staff made that possible. You guided us through those precious 23 days we got to spend with our son, and you made things so much easier to bear.

I’m sorry I don’t remember your names, but I remember your faces and I remember what you did for us.

This is going to be a long list of thank you’s and I know I cannot possibly include everyone, but maybe I can write enough so that you can see just how grateful we are.

Thank you to the retrieval team. You were the ones who got Oscar to the PICU. Seeing him in his travel pod was terrifying. Giving me a Kitkat to eat…I’ve no idea whether that is standard procedure, but oddly it did help. No idea why!

You came back later in our PICU stay to check on us and Oscar, even thinking to bring Oscar some clothes, as you knew we had nothing with us for him. He was only able to wear one of the babygros on one occasion, but without your kind thought, we would never have seen Oscar wearing clothes in the PICU. Thank you.

Thank you to each and every nurse who looked after Oscar. From the ones who spent a day (or more) based at the bottom of his bed, to the ones who just covered someones lunch break. You are all completely amazing.

Thank you for writing in Oscar’s diary. Especially overnight, when he used to stay awake and sometimes be a little mischievous. We would have no idea about those moments, had you not recorded them.

Thank you for encouraging me to do Oscar’s cares, even after we had been given bad news and I didn’t think that I wanted to. You guided me through it, despite my tears and you were right. I am glad I was able to do those small things for him.

Thank you to the nurse, who played Oscar “twinkle twinkle little star” on the sound box when we weren’t there, even though we said we didn’t want it played when we were there (we came in to find it playing.) I think of him as my little star now, and hearing that song reminds me of him. As much as hearing the song on repeat annoyed us, Oscar seemed to like it. Funnily enough, when we moved house we found it was the tune our  new doorbell played, and that made me smile.

Thank you to the nurses, who decorated Oscars bed when we weren’t there. This is one of my treasured possessions now.

Thank you to the nurses who answered my 101 questions about all the equipment that surrounded Oscar. Thank you to those who took the time to explain everything that was going on. Knowing what each medication was, somehow made me feel a little more involved.

Thank you to the nurses who worked around Oscar’s soft toys, and found novel uses for them, such as using them to help him stay on his side and tol hold various wires out of the way. You never once complained about the number of extra items you had to move just to change his sheet. Thank you also for allowing us to have Oscar laying on his own blankets. It meant a lot to us, as his parents, to be able to provide something for him.

Thank you to the nurses who had to keep handing me boxes of tissues. I may have been an emotional mess, but you all took that completely in your stride. The crying woman next to her son’s bed didn’t faze you at all, and when needed you took the time to comfort me.

Thank you to the nurses who helped us to hold Oscar. Something which should have been simple, cuddling our child, became something of a military opperation due to the number of tubes and wires he was attached to. I loved those cuddles though, they were the highlight of my day when they happened.

Thank you to the doctors who so patiently explained what was going on to us.

Thank you to the surgeons who decided that Oscar was a candidate for surgery. You gave us so much more time than we ever imagined and for that we will be forever grateful.

Thank you for the doctors who never gave up in trying to get new lines into Oscar, even as it became increasingly difficult. Your patience was amazing, and I loved the way you chatted away to him all the time, as if he understood everything you were saying.

Do you remember that frown he used to give you when you were trying to place each new line? You joked once that you were going to try approaching him in a non maroon scrub top to see if that helped. Never mind that he was a newborn, who probably couldn’t see colours…he could identify a doctor from across the room!

Thank you to the cleaning staff who always said hello and asked us how Oscar was when they saw us in the corridors of the hospital. It meant a lot that you knew who our son was.

Thank you to the health care assistant who showed us to our room that first night, and who, again, always said hello when he saw us afterwards.

Thank you to the student nurse who took a real shine to “Oscar Boo.” Thank you for coming to say hi when you worked, even when you were looking after another child that day. Thank you for coming to say goodbye to Oscar after he was gone. I think that was one of your last shifts of your placement, and I realise that after you came to see us, you had to continue your night shift looking after another child. That can’t have been easy. Your name I will mention, Rosie. I know you will be an amazing nurse one day, and I am grateful that you were able to care for Oscar.

I could go on and on saying thank you, and probably still miss things out. My memories of Oscar’s time in the PICU are long and very clear. They form most of Oscar’s lifetime and I never want to forget that. What the staff in the PICU did for us went way beyond just providing medical care for Oscar. They supported us as a family and helped us to make lots of memories.

PICU staff, thank you will never be enough, but I hope this goes some way to showing our appreciation.

It doesn’t matter that we weren’t one of  success stories. I think I always knew that we wouldn’t be. But what you did was give us the gift of time, something we never imagined we would have. You also gave us memories, which despite the situation, are positive. I can never thank you enough for that.”

When I think of the number of patients the staff in a PICU must see, I doubt that they actually remember Oscar. He was there for such a short period of time and it was almost three years ago. That doesn’t really matter to me, I think it’s more important that you know I remember what you did for myself and more importantly, for Oscar. 

I’m guessing that Rosie will be qualified by now. I sometimes wonder how she is doing. I hope she has been able to support countless other patients and their families. 

Oscar’s home was that PICU. When I wasn’t with him, the staff became his family. They cared for him perfectly. They made it possible for me to leave to eat and sleep, because I knew he would be safe. The PICU team were amazing and no matter how many times I say thank you, it will never be enough. 

The memories they helped me build are priceless and it is mostly due to them, that Oscar’s short life was not sad and full of fear. Because of them I can remember what should have been a terrifying PICU stay with happiness. I remember my son, not a baby attached to machines and wires. 

I can smile when I remember this:

A medical procedure that didn’t go to plan, but resulted in the doctor asking if I wanted to take a photo of Oscar’s x-ray. 

The PICU staff are masters of turning the bad into memories that can be remembered fondly. This enables people like me, whose only memories are of their child in a hospital, to remember their child with a smile. To have good memories, that far outweigh the bad.

My hero is Oscar, always will be. There is no one who amazes me more than he did. But, that PICU team? They were most certainly the best sidekicks a baby could have. His team. 

Thank you will never come close, but it’s always nice to hear, right? 

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