A LIFE OF TRUE BLISS
How many of you can guess who this is? Very few I suspect, but his connection to BLISS and my life is quite a story. For a start I will put you out of your misery by telling you that BLISS is the main national neo-natal charity in the United Kingdom. It raises millions of pounds every year to help maternity units deal with very premature or seriously ill new born babies, while supporting the parents of such children in every way possible. And the connection?
Well this photograph was taken two years ago when my then 25 year old youngest child, Benedict, was given the national fund-raiser of the year award by the charity. Here he is seen addressing some 750 distinguished health professionals on the role of the charity at the annual AGM after receiving his award. But listen to this.
The young chap you see berating all and sundry about how much more they could do for this cause had a very good reason to feel so strongly about the subject. He was born on the 17th of October 1990 exactly 23 weeks and four days after his conception. Under British law he could just have been left to die, but thanks to truly caring and humane doctors and nurses he wasn’t. He now holds two records. He is the most premature baby born in Merseyside in the last century to have reached the level of academic and public achievement he has, and is happily married. He holds a lst class hons degree in physiology, a Masters degree with merit in the archaeology of death and memory and is currently in the middle of his PhD course in digital humanities. He is on three regional National Health Service committees, including being the youngest member of the panel which assesses proposed medical research programmes to decide whether they merit public funding. But how do we know the exact date of his conception so precisely? Well my wife and I had not long recovered from influenza and we made love for the first time in seven weeks shortly before she became pregnant. The only way we could be mistaken would be if he had been even more premature. The actual birth was an incredible drama in itself.
Three days before the birth my wife had an abscess on her appendix and she was rushed into hospital but they delayed the caesarean section for a day to give Ben one slim hope of life by filling his tiny unborn lungs with an experimental drug so he could breathe outside the womb. I was told that neither of them would survive. But the combination of medical determination and expertise, total nursing commitment to saving a virtually ‘certain to die’ baby, and the prayers said over both of them by the priest who baptised him as the umbilical cord was being cut, combined to perform a medical miracle. My wife and son spent many weeks in hospital but both returned home eventually with no lasting ill-effects of their experience save that we could not have any more children. And the chap you see at the start of my story enjoys his spare time helping look after the needs of premature children like the baby boy he is playing with here. Indeed he has even written a short book on the development of neo-natal care in the last 150 years.
It is thanks to BLISS and all it does that thousands of babies and their parents now have the chance of watching their children grow into the people they always hoped for. I, for one, can never thank all those people who helped us, and are helped by BLISS, for giving my wife and I a measure of ‘bliss’ that we never dreamed we would be blessed with.