Saturday, 6 September 2008

A family crisis

I suppose it takes me around ten steps to get from our bed to the phone in the hall. So when, around three o’clock on Thursday morning it rang, I was already partly awake and prepared for something unpleasant by the time I picked it up. No one except Swansea drunks getting a wrong number calls at that hour unless it’s an emergency. And emergency it was: our grandson Simeon, 15 days old, was in intensive care, anaesthetised and ventilated, with something unknown, but serious, wrong with him. Three hours drive away, all we could do was pray and lie awake hoping that there would not be a second phone call.

Thursday was the first proper day of teaching for me and I can assure you it was not a good one. However I do have to say my colleagues were universally superb in their sympathy and support. Bit by bit during the day the details came out and a tentative diagnosis (still not fully confirmed at the moment) made of what is called CAH or Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: courtesy of the web you can read all about it. But over the last couple of days Simeon has gradually recovered, being shifted first to high dependency and then to a normal ward while he recovers some weight and, I presume, more tests are done. If it is CAH the prognosis is reasonably good although with current technology he will have a lifetime of being dependent on replacement steroids. Which, as someone said, means that he will probably be ruled out from ever competing in the Olympics.

Let me make three cautious observations. The first is that we have come to take for granted the wonder of childbirth and healthy children. When you think about it, it’s a pretty amazing for a baby to shift from being effectively a parasitic creature taking food and oxygen from the mother to being a (more or less) self-sustaining and self-regulating organism. Somehow we have come to consider it to be a right that this proceeds automatically and without trouble. We shouldn’t do so. Two of my colleagues have had neo-natal fatalities recently.

The second observation was that things like this make you realise the true importance of family, friends and the faith. As I lay in bed my thoughts turned to last week’s blog on the iPhone and the whole topic seemed pathetically insignificant. Perhaps being reminded of one’s true priorities is no bad thing.

The third observation is that contrary to what you might expect I don’t think I ever once rounded on God and angrily demanded ‘Why Simeon?’. I suppose if things had turned out worse (and of course he is not out of the woods yet) I might have done so. I think – intellectually at least – I have come round to the view that being a child of God does not exempt you from suffering. I think I would almost be embarrassed to be in a situation in which I was granted immunity from the world’s woes. No one respects those who dodge military service or jury duty through family influence. In a world full of wounded people perhaps we need to have scars.

Anyway I will keep you in touch. Have a good week.