The First Day of My Life was an Emergency

Posted: March 28, 2010 in Random Ramblings

The whole first day of my life was an emergency. Of course this day may not be strictly classified as my own childhood memory as, at the age of zero minutes old, taking in the scenery, the sights and sounds of my first moments, was not a priority. I was however reminded of my first day on Earth continuously throughout the course of my childhood, by my mother, father and the aunt who remained a strong presence in the hospital that day.
But as I say, the day was an emergency in itself. I announced that I had had enough of the nine months incarceration in my mother’s womb, it was time to break out. I could not have chosen a worse moment. My mother was sitting on the wall of a church in Cork City. She had, for some reason accompanied my father to the church that day to wait while he recorded another couple’s wedding. My father works as a videographer and therefore could not come away when I decided to break out!
The taxi driver was very helpful and did not leave my mother until she was safely delivered into the hands of an able doctor. The man’s only condition for the taxi ride to Cork University Hospital was that my mother did not give birth in the back seat! I can appreciate his dry wit now but I’m sure that at the time, my exhausted mother would have happily strangled him. Looking back on it, I suppose he was the first person to help me in my formative years. Without him my mother would not have been delivered to the hospital and I would have been delivered in a field!
Several hours later and finally I had arrived into the world, when my mother awoke from the anaesthesia, there was no incubator beside her bed. There was just my aunt, who would later become my godmother. She waited impatiently to announce that I was in fact a boy. In retrospect, we call that time our “dark days”. My mother lamented the absence of a sleeping bundle of joy bitterly, but she always knew that the first day of my life would be an emergency.
I had been whisked away in a flash, so I have been told so many times before. They wheeled me, the new-born, fragile baby, in an incubator, through the hospital, doctors and nurses ran ahead to warn the ambulance paramedics. My mother has recounted many times how a priest ran after the frantic doctors reading from the bible, my parents had insisted that I be baptised before the operation. They could not perform it in the hospital I was born in, that is why I had to be moved in the ambulance. I can not say the operation was life saving, but it was life changing. However there were risks involved. When I was put to sleep for that first, pivotal operation, there was a chance I would never wake again.
“Look at that spine!” said the doctor, surveying an x-ray of my spinal column. “It’s like a piano!” This apparently meant it was in a good condition. It was this doctor, a paediatrician and another, a neurologist, who were perhaps the most important people in my early life. I do personally remember these two men because they remained my doctors for the next 18 years of my life. My paediatrician was so important a part of my first few days because, although my parents are and were then, full of determination, it was he who instilled hope in them. The neurosurgeon was vital because he improved my quality of life so much from that first week of my life when he performed that dangerous but highly successful procedure.
I was born with a condition called Spina Bifida, which means I will never be able to walk. Things could have been a great deal worse however. We all knew the first day of my existence would be an arduous one, the doctors conveyed a bleak message, there was a high chance of death in the early days of my life. There was a greater chance that I would have even more severe disabilities than I do. There was even a possibility that I would be mentally impeded, the picture that the doctors painted was that I would be a burden.
The most influential people in my life have always been my parents. I have so many fond memories of my early years with them. Perhaps one of my fondest however is not my own but one passed onto me by my mother. When that doctor told my parents, ever before I was born, that I would be a burden, my father turned to him and defiantly stated “No, he will not be ‘a’ burden, he will be our burden!” It may not seem sentimental to write about being called a burden, but my father was, in saying this, expressing more love than I think he realises.
Although this is my mother’s memory, I regard it as one of the fondest of my own. It meant that from the moment I was born I belonged somewhere. No matter what, because of this memory I know I will always be loved. Love is the most important thing in life. Once you have it nothing else matters.
It turned out that I was not, in fact, a burden on society. It was through the determination of my parents and the determination they instilled in me that I went from success to success in life. I now have vivid memories of my first day at school, my best friends and of being accepted onto the Irish athletics squad. This is all a result of that first, frantic, life-changing day.


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