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Proudly Supporting

My Children's Hearts - the Good, the Not So Good and the Resilient

By Carol Duncan - 21st January 2011

I was going to write about the kids heading back to school, moving up a year and so on. I still might. But first ... I'm starting to have an uneasy relationship with Christmas.  
My mother died suddenly at our home on Boxing Day in 2007; we had moved in just a few days before and this was her first visit to our new home which included a lovely guestroom and ensuite downstairs specially for Grandma's visits. And while I had never imagined I might one day find myself on my hands and knees trying to resuscitate my mother, we picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off and got on with Mr then-5 starting school and Mr then-6 heading into Year One. Christmases 2008 and 2009 were reasonably uneventful so we were looking forward to Christmas 2010 - although I confess there are still boxes we haven't unpacked.

When mum was alive, we used to alternate Christmas from spending it with her, to spending it with my in-laws, but since my mother's death there's been an unspoken insistence that we will now spend Christmas Day with my mother-in-law. We have an uneasy relationship. I wish it wasn't so and I know that her intentions are good, but there it is. I think that we both deal with it pretty well and I know that I certainly emphasise a warm and close relationship between her and my sons. Their relationship with her is, and needs to be, independent of mine and I promote that in every way that I can.

Thing is ... I don't want to spend every Christmas with the in-laws, at their home. I want my sons and my little family to develop and cherish our own traditions. Both last year and this Christmas just gone we have headed to the Blue Mountains on Boxing Day to spend a week roaming mountains and canyons and caves at Jenolan, cafes and antique stores and teahouses in the middle of nowhere. And the entire family love it.

I think this most recent Christmas has provided me with the catalyst I need to be more 'clear' about what my little family is going to do for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Mr 9 came downstairs and told me he was 'feeling funny' and his heart was 'trying to leap out of my chest'. Mr 7 was born with a very serious congenital heart condition which fortunately was fully repaired via major open heart surgery when he was just eight days old. Have I told you that story? Anyway, I felt Mr 9's pulse - as much for him to think I was doing something useful as anything else - and I noticed that it felt a bit odd. By odd I actually mean that I couldn't really feel it at all, it was terribly fast. I felt Mr 7's pulse as a comparison and it was slow and steady and strong. Back to Mr 9 and it still felt a bit strange to me. I asked my husband to have a little feel of it and he gave me an odd look, I gave him an odd look in return and we wondered just what we should do. Were we imagining it? Missing his pulse altogether? Feeling the wrong spot of his neck and wrist?

Fortunately, a family member turned up to collect some old baby things from us and he just happens to be an anaethetist. "Have a little feel of this for me?" I asked. He suggested, calmly, that it felt a bit fast and we might like to organise an ECG just to put our minds at rest. It is Christmas Eve, we're leaving for our holiday in two days, it will be impossible to get into the doctor and then to pathology for an ECG, so I took Mr 9 off to our local emergency department. Initially it seemed absolutely nothing was wrong so I took this photo for him to take to school to show his friends his hospital adventure.

To cut a long story short, Mr 9 has been diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White syndrome - a problem with one of the electrical pathways in his heart. Fortunately the cardiologist on call at the John Hunter Hospital here in Newcastle is the man who has looked after Mr 7's lovely heart since the day he was born.

Finding out that BOTH of my lovely boys have a heart issue was an awful shock. I confess I had a couple of rough days with it but we have seen our cardiologist now and know where we stand. We have a plan and everything will be fine.

This is what I know. We are resilient. All of us. My little family. My kids. You and your kids. All the people in Queensland whose lives have been turned upside down and inside out by the recent floods. Sometimes things happen to us that we've never imagined. Things both good and bad. We lose loved ones, we gain new people to love. And who love us.

Yes, things ALWAYS get better.

Oh ... turns out the pair of them need glasses, too!  Sheesh!

Have a wonderful 2011!  We will!  No matter what!

Comments (12)

SusanW's picture

Resilient mother, resilient children

Hugs to you and your boys Carol. Your boys are lucky to have a mother who is teaching them to deal with challenges in such a positive way. I'm glad that the right people where in the right place at the right time to help you on Christmas Eve. :-)

I understand your comments about Christmas traditions as well. There are expectations from my husband's family about how we will spend our Christmas Day (and sometimes Christmas Eve and Christmas night). It is hard balancing the needs of your own family (partner, children) with the wishes of extended family. I'm still trying to work out a happy compromise.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2011 after your rocky end to 2010. xx

My children's hearts

This was a lovely article, Carol. Reading it I could only think "thank goodness Mum's heart seems to be so good". Your boys will do just fine. x