Do The Basics and Do Them Well

Do the Basics and Do Them Well

Road Safety firstly comes down to the vehicle condition and is only as good as the person in charge of that specific vehicle. If it doesn’t get looked after, the safety aspect dramatically reduces before you have even got onto the road. How many people regularly check their cars? How many people know what and where to check?
You would be surprised how many people lack the knowledge. I have put together a very brief few words of basic important checks as shown below. The motor industry uses the acronym FLOWER as well as others. Most fleet companies, emergency services and other company car drivers have to do these checks before each shift or journey. I have to do daily vehicle checks before my shift and document it also. So think to yourself, if they do it daily, just how much risk I am taking by doing it sporadically or not at all.
I regularly see people who have had a breakdown through neglect. When I approach the driver and ask, for example when the oil level was last checked? When did you top up the water? A reply I quite often get back is “they checked it on the MOT last year” or “I didn’t know I had to”.

This simply isn’t good enough. Do the right things, check your car, and check it weekly. Not only could it perhaps save a life, but it’ll make the car run better which in turn could prolong the life of the vehicle and save you money.
Road safety covers a large spectrum and raises many questions, some easy to answer and others not. Who is responsible for it? Who cleans up when things go wrong? Who pays for campaigns and what can I do to protect myself, and other road users?
The first and most important thing to remember is that each and every one of us has a responsibility for road safety. Car drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians all have a duty of care to other road users. It’s simple really, common sense and a little bit of thought is all that it takes.

Your car

Your car – for many, a daunting sight when the bonnet is lifted. But in fact, as a driver it really isn’t. You only need to know the essentials – where does engine oil go? Where does coolant go? Where is my washer bottle? It isn’t just under your bonnet that needs checking, walk around your whole car, especially if going on a long journey. It won’t take long and could save serious injury or even a life. Here is a quick but easy way to think about your vehicle checks.

FLOWER

Fuel – don’t leave it until the light comes on to fill up. This will avoid unnecessary breakdown in an unknown, and perhaps dangerous location.

Lights – check all exterior lights for operation and condition and that make sure lenses are clean. Other drivers being able to see you are as important as you seeing where you are going.

Oil – the oil level should be checked regularly. Leaving it until the red warning light comes on could cause engine damage. On average, manufacturers state a car engine can use 1 litre of oil to 1000 miles. (Check your vehicle handbook on how to check it.)

Water – check coolant level frequently. (Again your handbook will show you how). If the level is always low, check for leaks. An overheating engine could cause catastrophic damage. Also its imperative to remember to check the washer bottle and be sure to keep it topped up with the correct ratio of water and screen wash to minimise freezing and maximise cleaning. Using a vehicle with an empty washer bottle isn’t just illegal and a MOT failure its dangerous during winter months.

Electrics – your car battery is the heart of your car and if this fails your car won’t start. Old batteries should be changed before it fails. You may or may not get some notice your battery is going. Sluggish starting in the mornings may be a indications. Also ensure your wipers and heaters in the car work to enhance visibility.

Rubber – tyres have a crucial part to play. The legal limit for tread depth is 1.6mm but during winter months I don’t let mine get below 3mm. Tread depth, pressures and age are all important factors that work together to maximise the working of the tyre. Handling, braking and fuel consumption can be seriously compromised if tyres are faulty, resulting in accidents, serious injury and in some cases a loss of life.

If you are in any doubt on how to or what to check on vehicles, don’t forget about it. Don’t think it’ll be ok. Go to a garage and ask a professional for help.

Please don’t neglect vehicle checks. They are more important than you realise. Proactive is always better than being reactive when it’s too late. Do the basics and do them well.

Winter Is Here

 

Driving in Ice and Snow

It’s not just wet weather you need to be prepared for. I’ve compiled a small list of what to have handy in your car and a few crucial items to keep you safe and prepared if you get caught out on the roads. Winter is dynamic. It changes very quickly and does catch people out. Being prepared could save a lot of time and stress, not just for you but also for emergency services.
• How many people run their car below 1/4 of a tank? This leaves you at risk of breaking down in vulnerable locations. Keep fuel level above half during periods of cold weather.
• Lights – ensure all lights are working as they should and lenses are kept clean. This is key to maintaining good visibility to other road users.
• Windscreen Washers – it is illegal, an MOT failure and dangerous to use a car with an empty washer bottle. Keep it topped up with the correct ratio of water and screen wash to reduce the risk of freezing and maximise the cleaning efficiency.
• Wiper Blades – these should be in one piece. Free of splits and not worn. If they smear or create lines then replace. Visibility may already be difficult during heavy rain / snow. Good wipers will help.
• Fluid levels – keep engine oil and radiator level topped up.
• Tyres – critical for keeping you on the road. During wet / Snowy times, grip is essential. Less grip, longer stopping distances and less handling capability. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. Don’t let them get this low heading into winter. Change them at 2-3mm for safety.

The key to driving in winter months is this: perform slow and gentle manoeuvres. Reduce speed & don’t be aggressive. Once you lose control on ice or snow, you become a passenger. The best advice I can give anyone if you do have to drive is this: to be able to drive on a snowy or icy surface, keep speeds and engine revs low, do not use first gear to move away. Always use second or third gear and this will make a massive difference and reduce the chance of the drive wheels spinning and you getting stuck. Increase the distance between you and the car in front. Stopping distances for ice/snow can be up to 10 times longer than usual. Slow down on icy roads.
Inside the Car

So now we’ve spoke about the car, what should you carry inside it? These items below could make things easier if for example if you break down on a motorway and have to wait for recovery.
• A warm coat or blanket
• A torch, either with spare batteries or a wind up type.
• A shovel
• A ice scraper
• De-icer
• A mobile phone – fully charged or with a in car charger
• Some food or Drink.
• Suitable footwear in case you need to walk
• Any essential medication if you regularly need it.
• Your wallet.

This is just a small guide to helping you on a journey during the winter months. There are of course many things to consider. If the weather is severe, why risk going out at all? Don’t go to look at floods, don’t drive to remote locations to look at the snow or take photos, and yes, it does happen. I’ve seen it first-hand. Plan your route, think about stopping locations. Let people know when and which way you are travelling. If travelling in adverse conditions, allow more time. Slow down. It’s better to get there late than never.

My final word is plan and be prepared. Don’t become complacent thinking it’ll never happen to you. It can happen to anyone. Always expect the unexpected.

Rain Rain Rain…

Wet Weather / Flooding
Wet weather driving can be challenging. It demands concentration higher than that of a nice sunny day. Again, the journey will be safer and easier if your car is ready for the conditions. During heavy rain, surface water can accumulate on roads. This in turn will again require the driver to adapt their style of driving. Headlights and wipers should be in good condition and used alongside demisters. Slow down and give yourself more distance between you and the vehicle in front, braking distances can greatly increase during a wet spell.

Good tyres will improve handling and braking performance but will also reduce the risk of aquaplaning; this is when the tyres cannot cut through the water and therefore lose contact with the road surface, causing loss of control momentarily. Wet weather has different levels of severity; a quick shower, drizzle or a prolonged torrential downpour, which in turn can cause flash flooding.

As an ex Swift Water Rescue Technician, I understand how unpredictable, dangerous and devastating water can be. Educating drivers is critical during a flooding event. Over recent years I’ve seen dozens of people getting into difficulty in a flood situation. So what are the risks of driving in to floodwater? 

There are many: engine failure due to water ingress, damage to your car inside due to floodwater, embarrassment of being rescued by the Fire Service. Is this not enough? Well how about losing your life or serious injury?

Moving water is highly dangerous. Just 6 inches of fast flowing water will sweep an adult off their feet, 12 inches will make a car float, and 2 feet of moving water will wash a car away. Do those figures get you thinking? No? Well how about all the others dangers you cannot see? What’s under the surface? Possibly raised man hole covers, washed away roads, and other debris. Then there is the risk of deadly disease and contaminates in floodwater that you cannot see.

All of these pose a risk not only to you, but also rescuers who will come to get you. Fords are incredibly dangerous; they change minute by minute depending on rainfall and rising river levels. They do kill people. Stay away from a flooded ford. A massive issue during flooding events are drivers moving signs like these.

Flood road closed signs.

These signs are there to protect you and other road users. DO NOT MOVE THEM. I have been in a flood environment, stood in full water- rescue gear arguing with people who insisted on coming past me. This wastes time; it’s irresponsible and puts lives at risk. Heed warnings and take advice from police or fire. The best advice I can give is if you see a flood, or road closed sign, turn around. Don’t risk your car, don’t risk your life. Turn your vehicle around and go back. A few more minutes on the journey is better than never getting there at all. 

Wind 

This brings its own set of challenges. It requires speed to be reduced to minimise risk of vehicles being blown over & also drivers to think about their journey. Lorises, vans & caravans are all at high risk.

Remember it isn’t just you on the roads. During windy times think ahead. Think about what wind does, it causes destruction,  so naturally there will be debris. This debris could be anywhere. Gardens pathways & roads. Slow down & expect the unexpected. If you see significant damage causing obstruction on the roads, call 101 &  tell the police. If you see a threat of harm or to life, call 999.

My final note is this;

32 % of all flood related deaths are from drowining in a vehicle. 

That’s too high, that’s because of ignorance and people thinking they know best. Listen to the professionals. Environment Agency, Fire & Rescue & Police are they to help & protect you. They know what’s going on. Keep a eye on the local press, social media & television. 

Don’t be a hero. The U.K. is currently being battered by floods & storms, agencies have enough work to do. Don’t add to it. 

#FloodAware 

University and Speech Therapy

0454B705-4940-4DD0-8D2A-32B7940CD8D4Today was the first time I’d set foot in a university. I didn’t get good enough grades to go to uni from school. I didn’t want to go. I thought uni was for extremely clever people. Out of my reach & not accessible.

I won’t lie, Academically I’m not brilliant. I can’t work things out on paperwork too well – I’m more of a doer. I like to do things practically and see the results. That’s what makes me happy.

I was invited along to Birmingham City University by the Speech & Language Therapy department. You see, having a son with speech problems and ongoing therapy isn’t just hard work, it’s rewarding but also frustrating at the same time.

Speech therapy is quite simply an amazing job! The people who do it are immensely passionate and dedicated in what they do and helping others – they are a huge family of highly skilled and trained professionals. They strive to do the best and more in the people and families they meet whatever the issue is. Someone is there to help. But, I see one problem: Awareness.

People have little or no knowledge of this amazing profession – unless they have to have therapy. People don’t realise just how much work is involved in helping not just people with speech issues – but for example, swallowing problems, stroke recovery and other complex problems. I often  wonder to myself how many people are out there around the UK who can’t communicate or have problems doing so but have no idea there could be help near by. I’m sure there will be many.

Today I was asked if I’d go to speak to a panel from the HCPC about what the university can do to help others and what would benefit courses and new students wishing to enter into Speech Therapy. I struggled to understand why someone like me, with no formal qualifications in SLT would be useful to such a great university, I mean, what could I bring to the table. I’m just a mechanic by trade! This was daunting.

On arrival I was greeted by Gillian Rudd & her colleague. Gillian is a true legend in her field with passion I’ve never seen before. I was introduced to more of her colleagues and we chatted. Everyone was just brilliant. I was made to feel welcome, at ease and part of the team instantly.

I sat with the panel from the HCPC and listens and talked. We answered questions and had discussions. It was a good morning. Productive and reassuring.

I won’t go into to much more detail but I will finish with the following:

The speech and language profession is huge, incredible and passionate. They are people of all ages, backgrounds and who have their own stories & reasons for doing what they do. But they all share the passion to make other people’s lives better than what they were when they first met.

I cannot wait to work along side people at Birmingham University. I may not be qualified to teach etc but I can share my story. My highs and low points. What works and what doesn’t in the speech therapy world from a parents perspective. Something which today I’ve learnt is invaluable to teaching professions, therapists and new students. I’m proud to be a very small part in a huge amazing machine.

Don’t take my word for it. Google speech and language therapy. Go onto social media: Twitter and Facebook is just brilliant for discussion, contacts and resources.

If you are someone looking to get into SLT, do it. You will not regret it. I love inputting in my own little way & will give back whatever I can to help others. It’s a small price to pay when our son has been given many just a voice but also confidence.

If you are a practising SLT: thank you.

Keep up the fantastic work & never give up. You make such a difference.

#SpeakUpForCommunication #SpeakUpForSLCN #MySLTDay

Another Year Gone

Wow. Where has 2018 gone?

Years ago people told me “time goes so fast as you get older”. So here I am 6 weeks away from my 40th birthday and yes, those people were spot on. Time is just disappearing at a crazy rate.

But I look back on a year that’s had mixed fortunes. Mainly good but some lows also.

2018 was the first full year in my new job & in fact new career. The learning curves were as steep Mount Everest & at times I questioned if I’d made the right move. As I approach the 18 month mark I can see I have, but I haven’t stopped learning. I’ve just got better & more confident – mainly down to my teammates who’ve given constructive criticism along the way.

The photography has been a massive positive this last 12 months. I’ve printed and sold 2019 calendars, I’ve been asked to do photo shoots & my images were liked 33,000 times on Instagram. New bookings are in the diary for 2019 & I’ve made a deal with myself to travel more next year to explore & share my journey with you.

I’m not going to talk about the lows at thats the past & it’s not good to dwell on it.

But I will say this. Social media is just brilliant. Personally & professionally Twitter & Facebook have helped me along the way & I’d like to thank you all for the support with both accounts.

But this year has to end for me with the highlight of my kids. Connie has progressed massively and done so well at school and out of school. She’s matured & been a truly brilliant little girl. She’s helpful & polite with an amazing personality.

George, well what can I say. He’s had his moments. He’s a boy & 5 years old. Moments of frustration but this year he made the huge leap from mumbling and noises to full and understandable conversations and words. Our son can speak. The road ahead is still rocky and will be challenging but he talks. That in itself is something that’s truly priceless.

In October I was invited to an award ceremony by the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists. I was told I’d won a award for my work on social media raising awareness of what they do. It was a truly humbling night and for me, the ultimate high of 2018. Now I look forward to working with them more in 2019. After all, their speech therapists have given my son a voice, it’s the least I can do.

So that’s it. 2018 has been and almost gone. 2019 is only 3 days away. There’s lots of exciting things happening in the future and I can’t wait.

Thank you to everyone who’s been there for me. Supported me through times of hardship but those who’ve shared my good times too. Thank you for supporting and helping my Twitter account flourish with retweet reach of in excess of 4 million per month sometimes. That’s just mind blowing.

I’d like to wish you all a very happy 2019. Thank you again. Stay safe & always look out for each other.

The Job No Parent Wants

The Kiss Of Life

As a Community First Responder, the worst 999 call you to get sent to is a peadiatric one. As a parent it’s everyone’s worst nightmare. For me, that nightmare came true. I want to share my story – my nightmare. The events of that day that will always stay with me. Its just trying it make it easier that counts.

I’m writing this for varied reasons, not for praise or for people to feel sorry for me, but in the hope it’ll help me over come and help it fade away somewhere to the back of my brain. I hope it’ll make the tears stop running down my cheeks during  my day at work. I don’t know if it will, but I can try. But what I do want is this: people to imagine themselves in my shoes that day, imagine the emotions, panic, terror. And learn from it! Would you know what to do? Would you stay calm? Knowledge does save lives.

It’s Thursday January 15th. 2300 and my son, George who is 15 months at the time was a unhappy little boy. He’s been unsettled since putting him to bed at 1900. The reason, like all other children, he’s teething. He’s cutting three teeth at once. Poor little man. I’m on my rest days for the next 2 days so it’s my turn to sit in with him. He can’t sleep, he’s crying in his sleep and burning up. Calpol and Nurofen work for a short time but then lose the effect. In the end I decide it’s impossible to stay downstairs so I went to bed. I go and sit in his room, strip him off to just his nappy ( to help with keeping cool) and rock him. Stroking his hair, talking to him. Comforting him. The night went on. We didn’t sleep much. I think about 2 hours in total. But it’s OK, that’s what you do for your kids.

It’s 7 am on the fateful day. Friday the 16th of January. My wife Kaz and the daughter, Connie who’s 4 have woken up. I’m on the sofa with a grouchy George . I’ve taken his temperature and like most of the night it’s hovering around 39 degrees. He’s miserable, off his food and still burning up. He just wants cuddles. He has more Calpol and an hour later his body temperature is now 40.1 degrees. Enough is enough. Kaz took Connie to nursery and then went off to work herself in the local primary school just up the road from where we live. I told her to keep her phone handy in case I needed to let her know how we got on. I managed to get a appointment with our GP, 1040 am. It couldn’t come quick enough. He wasn’t a happy boy. Hot and grumpy.

Shattered and barely awake, I put George into his car seat as he was crying. He didn’t want me to let him go. I had no choice. He needed a doctor to check him out. I got to the surgery parked the car and got him out. He cuddled tight and buried his head in my shoulder with his arms around me. We entered the reception, clicked our name on the screen and sat down in a full waiting room. Today we were seeing a advanced practitioner. I’d seen her once before and she was great. Sitting waiting, George got off my lap, walked around then would come back to me for a hug. He’d break the odd smile to a couple of ladies, then come running back if any man dare looked at him. He was almost his normal self. Flirty, cheeky and mischievous. But it was short lived. He’d tired himself out so came back, still with a temperature and cuddled up, it was difficult, cuddling will only make him warmer but hes poorly, he needs those cuddles. Catch 22.

His name got flashed up on the screen. We took the short walk past the pharmacy, and the main reception in the surgery, down the hallway and found our room. I knocked and we walked in. On sitting at the desk It was as if George knew we were her for him. He cuddled tight and refused to look up. He was being stubborn. So after some coaxing and me pretending to be checked over he came round to our way of thinking. I explained the situation and awful night we’d had. Immediately she took his temp, it was 41.8 degrees. We quickly stripped him off. Nappy only. She did the regular checks. Ears, clear, throat, clear. Chest, very slight crackle which could suggest a chest infection. But hardly anything to worry about. But as a precaution she gave us antibiotics to see if this could shift any infection and start to reduce his temp. After a few more checks, she gave us some advice, I put some light clothes back on him, picked him up and started to leave the room. Suddenly George perked up. He was smiling, pointing to the practitioner, waving and blowing her a kiss. Little monkey. But great, perhaps he was returning to normal.

As we walked back to the reception area, George was still chirpier than he was at home, shouting in is own way, pointing to the bright lights in the ceiling and all the people as they walking passed us. We walked over to the right hand side to the open plan pharmacy counter. I gave his prescription to the lady, and moved backwards to the seating area. We sat down. On my right was a helpful gent who kept talking and smiling to George as we waited. In the end George did give in, he smiled back and even waved. Then I dropped the car keys, the gent next to me bent down and picked them up for me. By this time George was sat on my left thigh. Hes a big lad, and yep hes heavy too. I turned to the right to talk to this gent as I felt George cuddle up to me. Then it happened. My world had almost ended in that split second.

Something didn’t feel right, my left arm felt under a lot more load. George kicked my leg. I looked down at him, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and that was it, he went floppy. Fuck me, whats happened? Then as quick as his eyes rolled he turned instantly blue. George, my only son was in respiratory arrest. As stupid as it sounds for that millisecond I didn’t register, this couldn’t be happening to me, not the CFR, not my boy. This is serious. Holy shit. I remember my coat and keys all going onto the floor as I jumped up. I picked him up in both arms, I shouted to the reception to call a ambulance and get me a doctor, he was still blue, floppy and unresponsive. I looked at his chest, no signs on any movement. As I ran towards the main reception, I sealed my lips around his mouth and nose and gave him 2 Rescue breaths. Still nothing. He was unresponsive. I got to the reception and had to put him down. For some strange reason I asked if it was ok to put him down. Due to Georges size it wasn’t possible to hold him in one arm and do mouth to mouth. So by this time, My gorgeous son is lifeless, blue and making no effort to breath on his own. My Daddy head is off. My CFR head is on. We are in a packed doctors waiting room with my son lifeless on the counter. Hes lying on his back, tears are filling my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. I gave George another breath and in between looked up for a split second to see the receptionist in bits, that finished me off. This is a real as it gets. I remember muttering the words “Come on mate, help me out, don’t do this to me. Not here.” I gave one more breath as a GP arrived. He asked me to pick him up and move him to another room.

For the short walk I still gave breaths to George. Still mumbling how he cant do this to me, talking to him, asking him to help me out. Tears now rolling down my cheeks. Then we lay him down on the bed. I didn’t want to let him go, lose skin to skin contact but I knew I had to. With my CFR head on I asked for a OP airway, something we use to secure a airway in a patient. My son still wasn’t breathing, I inserted the airway and started using a thing called a Bag Valve Mask.

This delivers high flow oxygen into the lungs. By this time at least 3 doctors including the nurse practitioner had all come rushing into the room. She took over on the BVM. We stripped George back off, lifted his vest. Sheer panic. George was Bright red with mottled skin. Shit. What was this? Was it Sepsis? Why is this happening. Still no respiratory effort. Then it hit me. CFR head off, Daddy head back on. I was now a mess. Crying knelt down next to my son, stroking his temple. whispering to him, begging for him to open his eyes and look at me, but trying not to let the ever growing number of doctors see my  emotions, I was a professional, but I was also a Dad. The Doctor in charge placed a stethoscope on his chest and muttered the words “his airway is compromised but he has a pulse” This is good, he still has a pulse. (In young children, getting oxygen into the body is priority).

The room is now full. Doctors, nurses, health visitors, receptionists and me. All huddled around my boy. Working hard and staying focused. In tears I’d tried calling the wife. No luck. I rang my sister in law and told her to go pick the wife up. She could hear my panic. I had to tell her. I struggled to say those words, “George isn’t breathing and a ambulance is on the way. Hurry up”. A few minutes later with 13 or so people in the room, With George still being supported for his breathing the paramedics arrived. I was still on my knees, holding my sons hand. Stroking his temple. The Doctors were amazing. holding my hands while still looking after George, rubbing my arm. Talking to me. Convincing me it would be ok. George was still unresponsive with low oxygen levels. I wasn’t convinced. They instantly recognised me from the job. They have backed me up before when I’ve been on CFR duty. They looked at me as if i was booked on. I shook my head and said through the tears, “No hes my son”. I gave a brief history of what happened. They were simply great. They decided to get him onto a stretcher and into the ambulance. As the Para picked him up, George opened his eyes. Shit. Wow. I couldn’t hold it in. I sobbed my heart out. He wasn’t noisey, or crying, but his eyes were open, that’s all that mattered. He was still poorly. As they secured George to the stretcher while still on oxygen, the doctors hugged me, held my hands and told me they were there for me. What a comfort. What a great team.

So here we are, Daddy head still on but doing what I’ve done so many times to my own patients, wheeling them out to the ambulance on a stretcher. Problem is, my son was poorly. I didn’t want to be here. Not this time. Just as the ramp lowered, Kaz arrived with another teacher closely followed by the sister & mother in law. As expected the wife was in bits. My mother is law, who is usually our rock, was unconsolable. This in turn got me welled up. I wasn’t going to cry again. Not in the street. I held it in and we agreed the wife will travel in the back. George was now making noise. Not a cry, but trying. I hear the paramedic tell the sister in law don’t panic, and don’t try to follow us. “Take your time” he said. We are about to set off, All calmed down slightly. As we pulled off I breathed a sigh of relief. A slow drive, no rushing. Surely this means hes going to be ok. But then I heard those three words from the speakers in the ambulance ” 999 mode activated”. Fuck. This isn’t good. Blue lights and sirens are on. The ambulance is going at speed. Its a 6 mile drive from where we were on a Friday morning. Shit traffic. Lets hope they move. I was willing them all to move.

As predicted, most people moved. The sirens never went off. The Paramedics driving was simply impeccable. Highly skilled but not mind readers. But we still had issues. People didn’t move. They panicked. To them it was another blue light vehicle. One of many they see on the roads daily.  I was swearing. Cursing. Don’t they bloody know what blue lights mean, move that car. NOW. My tears started and the paramedic did his best to keep me with it. He had other priorities. We hear noises from the back. George was breathing on his own but slowly. His oxygen levels were still low so still needed a mask.

On arrival in Resus, doctor’s were waiting. George was crying. But that was music to my ears. More doctors gathered round, they got a history and gave oxygen. But now George was fighting the mask being put on. This is good. Hes coming back. Kaz sat on the bed with him, but I could see the monitor, His Sats levels, his heartbeat. They weren’t normal and I didn’t want to see them. Sometimes knowledge can be good, but it can also be bad. Twenty minutes passed and things settled down. Sister and mother in law Arrived. George was coming back to normality. I couldn’t hold the tears in. My sister in law asked if I needed some air, I couldn’t speak. I just nodded. She knew. We walked out side, I turned round and she already had her arms open. I Sobbed for 20 minutes. I relived the last hour so many times. So many what ifs. Thank god for my training.

George was moved to a ward where he stabilized considerably. I stayed with him until about 2200. The wife went home for an hour to make it as normal as we could for Connie, Our 4 year old Daughter. She had no clue about the drama that day. I lay next to George on the bed. Talking to him as he slept. Stroking his hair. Patting his back. He was breathing normally on his own. I cried lots that 2 hours on the bed. Kaz came back and it was my turn to go home. I had to fight it. I didn’t want to leave but he was in good care. I drove home. Alone. No Radio. Just me and my thoughts. Crying most of the way. Drying my eyes before walking in to the house. The mother in law gave me a hug and left. Its now 2335 at night and I’m alone. Connie is in a deep sleep. I went to her room. Watched and listened as she slept. Crying. Gave her a kiss and came down. I opened a bottle of whiskey and then stood on my door step hoping to catch a glimpse of a neighbour. Wanting a hug, someone to tell me it’ll be ok and have a drink with me. No one came. Did I sleep? Simply no. Too many things in my head.

George rapidly improved and was allowed home the following day. I was on tender hooks. I Found myself checking his temperature hourly. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be in that position. The days passed. No reoccurrence. My boy was back. They found a heart murmur while he was in hospital. This was monitored for a little while and then given the all clear. life can return to normal. Finally.

So now you’ve read it, tell me how you feel? Did you cry? Did it put a lump in your throat?  I cried four or five times typing it. But its not about that. Its about what lessons can be learnt. If I didn’t know what to do, would George still be here? No one knows but that’s not a chance any parent should take. Every parent should know Basic Life Support. Its a simple as that. I tweet the following poster a lot. Of course there are courses to go on. There are websites. Some of which are listed below.

babyShare this poster. Show your friends and grandparents. You simply cannot predict who it’ll happen to. Illness doesn’t discriminate. But its how you react that makes all the difference. A calm approach will help you but also those around you. It will help your child if they can hear you.

Here is the website for St Johns Ambulance. Again, share this with family and friends. The more people that know basic life support the better. Its simple to do.

http://www.sja.org.uk/sja/first-aid-advice/first-aid-for-parents/unconscious-not-breathing/child.aspx

There are three lessons to be learnt from this. Don’t dismiss them. Acknowledge them. Listen to them.  It could save a life.

  1. Get your self up to date with Basic Life Support. Book a course.
  2. Make sure you are blue light aware. Vital minutes could be lost trying to get through traffic. The Link below is a short clip of what to do if you see blue lights. Watch it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btRHvQEIkcU
  3. Appreciate the tremendous job that healthcare professionals do. Sometimes in very hard circumstances. remember they are only human like you. They have feelings.

Five months have passed and there here isn’t a day that passes where I don’t have tears. Where I don’t think about what ifs. I look at him playing and well up. I well up at certain TV programmes. The bond I have with George is truly immense. I’ve been back to the doctors to say thank you, to give them a gift, to give them a hug, and yes we all cried together. They were simply tremendous. We have a special connection. When I hold George as he drifts off to sleep I watch his breathing. When I see his eyes close it takes me back to that morning. But I hold him, I smile to myself as I kiss him on the forehead. We make eye contact and just look at each other for a little while. I talk to him softly about the day we’ve had. About the future to come. About us going to the pub where he can buy me a pint and talk like adults. Best mates. But none of this would happen if I didn’t have my training. Like I said earlier, you cant predict when or who it’ll happen to. But you can be prepared.

The Gift of Voice

A while ago I asked my Twitter followers the following question;

What should I write my next blog on?

I had dozens of replies. All good ones too. All about road safety. I read the answers and thought about it. I picked one. Then it hit me. Why don’t I write about the journey with my son through Speech Therapy.

Now I know this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but to me it’s been instrumental & a massive part not only of George’s life, but our family too. In a world where people are quick to judge, point the finger, be horrible, blame, and shout we seem to forget its good to give credit where credit is due..

… so, in this blog you’ll see the power of speech therapy & the amazing work speech and language therapists, their assistants & resources do. It really is something else.

We all assume having voice & being able to communicate is a given. It’s taken for granted and people forget it isn’t the same for everyone – for whatever reason but it’s how you deal with it that counts.

For us, it started with George’s check up with the health visitor. She sensed something wasnt right. George’s speech was way behind someone of his age. We were referred to a speech therapist at our local outreach centre to have a chat.

There, we met Megan & Susie. These 2 wonderful ladies are the first point of call on our speech therapy journey. For many weeks, we took George along & it seemed like we were losing the battle. They came to our house, he gained confidence & worked really hard while the ladies gave us resources and instructions to help him at home. George had regular assessments during the time with susie & Megan.

After a while it was decided George should have an assessment to see if he requires intense therapy. This would mean twice a week for 3 hours each session George would work closely with therapists in an almost one on one environment. George had the assessment & he deemed as in need due to being so far behind, and yes indeed this was a sad time hearing that about your own son, but a relief that someone was going to help.

So it began, we were all introduced to the ladies at Worcester Early Years Language Centre (WEYLC).

Alison, Sharon & Helen. They sat down and explained the way they work and what they do. They met George and got on like a house on fire. I won’t lie, at this time I was nervous, emotional & scared. What if George won’t talk. Can’t talk. What does his future hold. Will he be picked on, bullied at school? Why is this happening to us? Silly I know but so many things go through your head. I shared these thoughts with the ladies who instantly put us at ease and seemed very confident – I now see why.

I underestimated them – Really badly!

So every Wednesday afternoon & Friday morning we’d drop George off. That in itself was a huge challenge. George had separation anxiety and in a way most toddlers do, they cry and look at you to make you feel like your the worst parent ever and like you’re doing something bad by leaving them. But, again, the ladies took it all in their stride.

Weeks turned into months, progress was noticeable – massively so, even more so by people who didn’t see him often. I made videos at different times just to see the difference. It’s immense. Targets were set and met. New targets set, worked on and met. George had regular assessments to see how he was doing, in most areas he was doing fine. In the areas he wasn’t, my wife would work with him harder as would the ladies at WEYLC.

George loves WEYLC & the ladies there. He’d often come home sharing his new word of the day, feeling proud & rightly so. He talks about them so much at home. Alison this, Sharon that & to top it all off, he comes home in a truly beautiful mood.

At regular times we met and chatted about performance and what’s needed next. We built up a fantastic relationship with these highly passionate and dedicated professionals. They’d often print off, make and give us resources to bring home to enable us to work with George – you see, this has to be a two way thing. Speech therapists are amazing, but they can’t do it alone. They need help, parents & them and working as a team. George will continue to be supported for his speech in school, just not at such an intense level.

And now is now. The night before his last session at WEYLC.

George CAN talk. Wow.

I’m not going to lie, I’m truly emotional. So many emotions – all of these ladies, have been in George’s life for 18 months & now they’re just going – just like that. Gone – in person, but they’ll always be in our memories, & in years to come, I’ll explain to George who they are and just what immense work they did with him.

They are responsible for so so much. They’ve done what I thought was so far out of reach & impossible, they’ve given our little boy, not only a voice, but they’ve built his confidence up to huge levels. For the last 6 weeks George hasn’t cried when we’ve dropped him off; he doesn’t hold back or hide behind me, he just walks in, hangs his bag up and goes to sit down, sometimes without giving me a kiss or hug goodbye. He laughs and jokes with the ladies on the way in. Again, something that’s taken for granted by so many, had been installed in George through speech therapists and their work. Priceless.

I will miss them as will George but we have amazing memories and a legacy – his voice, to look back on! Without these ladies in his life (lucky boy) our life would of been so so different and much harder. We owe them so so much, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

But it doesn’t end there. As I said earlier, George will get support in school & we’ll continue to work hard with him at home. My wife has been patient, hard working and also instrumental in helping him progress. I started tweeting about his journey and I was stunned.

The Speech therapy social media community is incredible & I’m so glad I can promote it in a positive light & share our story so other people don’t lose heart. It’s overwhelming at times to see so many people doing so much to want to help people of all ages people who they’ve never met.

But, speech therapy isn’t widely available to everyone in the uk. It’s not accessed as easy as we’ve had it – that’s just wrong. Why? How? If a child needs help, they should get it. End of!

I’d like to thank you for reading this – but I’m asking for one more thing;

Click the link below, sign & share this petition set up by Gillian Rudd, a remarkable lady who’s campaigned to get this in parliament, and it worked but she still needs your help. Failing that, google #Bercow10

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/215643

We must ensure EVERY child can get easy access into Speech Therapy regardless of where they live or of their background.

I want to close with this statement:

Speech therapy works. Speech therapists & everyone who works in the environment are incredible. If your child has speech needs, don’t be scared to ask for help. If at first you don’t get it, keep asking. Don’t give up because the rewards are immense. But it’s a team effort. Be prepared to work with them. Build up that friendship. It’ll be one of the best things you’ll ever do.

And remember, if your child struggles, just listen & reassure them. If I couldn’t understand George, I always use to say I didn’t have my ears turned on or they aren’t working.

One last thing – just be proud. Focus on what you’ve achieved, not what you haven’t!

And if you’re a Speech Therapist or assistant having a bad day, just smile to yourself & know that YOU, really do make an incredible difference to so many people. You’re all amazing!

Thank you so so much.