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Gulliver x

It’s hard to believe but I’ve been writing a weekly column for the Evening Post off and on for over 30 years.  Some weeks its harder than others.  What shall I write about this week?  Everyday I find myself noting down possible subjects to write 1200 words about at the end of the week.  As I have what people have kindly called a ‘portfolio’ career every week is very different. I get to meet a vast variety of people and visit lots of venues and locations.

This week’s column is one of the most difficult I have written and if it hadn’t been for a request from The Swansea Bay University Health Board I would never have thought to write it.

I suppose this weekly column is like so much you see on social media.  Every week a tale of triumph, even better if that triumph comes after struggling with adversity.  It shows my life reflected in the glow of meeting some famous person or traveling somewhere exotic.  It’s the best of my life I want you to see.  It’s the highlights with all the boring, disappointments carefully edited out.

My Father’s funeral during COVID days May 2020

Occasionally I have shared some painful moments.  Like the time only seven of us stood around my father’s grave during Covid.  I even reposted that column during the ‘Partygate’ Affair revelations finally came to light.

On the whole I feel everyone has even troubles of their own without needing to hear me feeling sorry for myself.

Putting the ‘Band of the Century’ Back Together.

If I look back at the various blogs I wrote last September all I can see are smiles.  I was preparing for a Concert at the Swansea Grand Theatre to celebrate my Golden Jubilee, 50 years to the day that I signed to Elton John’s Rocket Record Company.

There’s a strange man in my bed!

I was talking about how great it was to play with my band again in Builth Wells at a massive Centenary Celebration for the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon. I even write a funny story about having to share a bed with my old college football captain when we found out he had booked a double bedroom not a room with 2 single beds!

But…underneath it all my heart was breaking. 

I was on my way to the Swansea.com stadium when I got a phone call.  It looked like my daughter who was 21 weeks pregnant wasn’t very well. Now I have had the privilege of being a dad 4 times over.  Along the way we had the occasional scare, but it always turned out alright in the end.

My first born was a particularly difficult birth.  As a kid, which is what I was at the time, hearing the consultant say the words ‘Emergency Caesarean’ threw me into an uncontrollable panic.  I was ushered into a small room and all I could do was fall to my knees and pray.  I basically offered God anything he wanted from me if mother and child could be brought through it all safely.  He obviously heard because an hour later I was holding a perfect little girl. 

Disappointed by the fact Swansea had lost I suddenly realised I’d better phone home for an update.   I remember the dark black weight falling on me when I was told my daughter’s waters had broken and she was in hospital.  Looking back the next few weeks were a blur.  I was trying to concentrate on my work but also spend as much time caring for grandchildren, supporting my daughter and son in law.

My lovely grandson Gulliver.

5 days later Gulliver was born.  He was 18 weeks early and weighed less than half a bag of sugar.

The next week had a dream like quality to it.  Apart from the enormous sadness we felt about the situation I can’t describe the joy and love that we felt for this tiny little bundle.  My daughter never left his side and the support and understanding we all had from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team was amazing. 

One day I was sat next to my daughter and Gulliver when a whole team of doctors arrived to assess the situation as they stood around his incubator.  What was amazing was the various accents I heard trying their best to save our little boy.  I know we call it the National Health Service but on that day it very much felt like the Inter-National Health Service.

As well as trying everything they could to save Gulliver they were also very honest after the prognosis.  Realising the time we were going to have with him was short they suggested that we might want to let close family members know that if they wanted to meet Gulliver it would be good if they came sooner rather than later.  I will still remember with tears and smiles that last evening we all spent together taking it in turns to cradle our boy.

In the meantime I had messaged people all over the world asking them to pray for Gulliver.  Although the answer to these prayers wasn’t what I wanted I must admit we all felt that in that room we were surrounded by a whole host of people holding us up and wishing us well.

Sadly after 6 days of the most amazing care Gulliver left us. 

As I started to share with people I knew what we were going through I soon found out that our experience was anything other than unusual.  So many broken hearts for a lost little one that I never knew anything about.

On the day Gulliver was born I found myself hosting the Swansea Bay University Health Board Awards.  As you can imagine it was a tough gig. Just before I brought the evening to a conclusion I told the audience of dedicated health workers my story.  I wanted them to know that what they did was far more than a job.  That their love was almost as important as their skill and that we, the people, loved them for that.

Cwtch Clos

It was a few weeks later I was contacted by the Board about a fund raising project they had in mind.  As a family we were fortunate to live very near Singleton Hospital. The unit provided a room close to Gulliver for my daughter to be with him 24/7 and the rest of us could be there in 5 minutes.

But what if you lived in West Wales or had gone into labour whilst on holiday in the area?

The hospital actually have 5 two-bedroomed houses on the grounds where families can stay to be close to their babies. With the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit caring for nearly 500 babies a year the houses have been well used and are now in need of a face lift. Can you help us raise £160,000?

 

My initial reaction to an invitation like this is to say yes, if I can, but I knew this was not my story.  After chatting to the family we all felt that being involved in a project like this would help us all as we remembered Gulliver.

If you’ve been touched by Gulliver’s Story or if you have been through something similar perhaps would consider supporting this amazing charity.

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/nicuhouses

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