Showing posts tagged with: 'bereavement'


Why, Daddy?

Sun 16th Mar 2008 by Ben Palmer.

We just had a lovely weekend away, and drove back to London, in heavy traffic, in time for tea. The trouble was, Emily and Harry were so worn out from all the fun that they slept most of the way back.

Roll on to bedtime, and Harry can't sleep. An hour of requests for a cup of milk, a footstep here etc etc, and suddenly it became a little sob from the top of the stairs, so I went up.

There he was, sitting on the step with his two photographs of Jessica laid neatly side by side; the ones that travel with him, and always sit beside his bed.

'I just want to talk about Mummy.'

'OK darling, of course we can. What would you like to talk about?'

'Why did Mummy die? What is an infection anyway? Why do people die too early? How did the doctors know she was dead?'

I tried to field the questions as best I could, in suitable language, without causing extra alarm, worry or distress, but still they came.

'What medicine did they give Mummy? How did she actually die? What other question would be a good one to ask, Daddy?'

I can't lie to Harry about what happened, he has a right to know. But not at six years old, surely? I can't even tell him that all of the answers lie in four lever arch files, each three inches or so thick, full of medical notes, charts, statements, legal and medical analysis and argument - he'll want to read it, and then he'll get angry when I don't let him.

All I can do is promise him that the doctors did everything they could to save his Mummy, after she was admitted to A&E and once in Intensive Care. This reassures him, even if his curiousity isn't satisfied.

One day he's going to ask about before she went to hospital, and he's going to be so angry.

'There's nothing we can do to bring Mummy back, Harry, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.'

'What's Jessica's trust, Daddy?'

'It's Daddy's work - trying to stop other Mummy's dying like yours did.'

'What is child fever, anyway?'

'Childbed Fever? It's what Mummy died of. It's an infection that can kill you after you have a baby.'

'Why Daddy? Why did God want Mummy to die? He controls everything, so he shouldn't have let her die.'

I wish I knew all the answers, like Harry expects me to.

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What rubbish

Fri 15th Feb 2008 by Ben Palmer.

For as long as I can remember now, my work place at home has been the end of the kitchen table rather than my desk in the upstairs study. Working with my computer at the table has had its advantages - I am either in the same or the next door room to Harry and Emily when they play.

The trouble is, my piles of paper have grown, my office paraphenalia has increased, and the fight for space with craft materials, pens, half assembled wooden models and homework has increasingly been going the children's way. This morning I decided that it was time to again venture into the study I shared with Jessica.

Over the last few years it has been filled with christmas decorations, unused furniture and pictures, boxes filled with Jessica's clothes and anything else that didn't have somewhere to go. All of this I transferred into the spare bedroom today and I can see the floor again. What I needed to do next was to sort through the piles and piles of paper (before I move the piles up from the kitchen) so I grabbed a roll of bin bags and set to.

Incredibly I managed to fill seven recycling bags and two bin liners before the children's bedtime. I can now see myself going back in there to work, although now it's evening I'm back at the kitchen table.

A great deal of what I have recycled is Jessica's carefully filed paperwork. I had to stop several times and think, 'do I really want to be throwing this out?' No is the honest answer, but it is finally time. The memories of her are not in files or desk drawers, so their contents must go, but the clothes will stay for the time being. After all, one day Emily may want to wear some of them, even if she does have to wait for the fashion to come full circle again.

There was just one hand written scrap of paper I found that I wanted to share. I had torn it off the bottom of a letter sent to me a few months after Jessica died, and pinned it onto the notice board:

"A man is truly blessed when he has angelic children, because what ever happens during the day; when he comes home at night he is in heaven."

It still evokes mixed emotions, but I like it nevertheless.

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Intervention

Tue 29th Jan 2008 by Ben Palmer.

For the last two weeks we've been without our nanny, who's on leave. In the past, being without help for this amount of time would have filled me with fear, dread and at times depression.

For the first time since Jessica died I feel I am coping. Maybe it's because both children are at school/nursery during the weekday, but I don't think that's the extent. Possibly I've graduated as a Mum (albeit with a very basic level of qualification) or possibly it's because I also feel I'm able to help do something about the terrible condition that killed our wife and mother. Something, anything that prevents another's death is good.

Children's bedtime tonight was prompt and relatively struggle free, but Emily interrupted our bedtime rituals with, 'Daddy, I really miss Carly [our nanny] and Mummy.'

"We'll see Carly again soon, darling, and ..."

"But I still miss Mummy, Daddy."

"... we know we can't see Mummy, but we can look at her photograph, because she's safe in Heaven now. Mummy doesn't want you to be sad, Emily."

"Oww. But I reeeally miss my Mummy. I want to see her now, Daddy."

Even when they're without tears, these conversations leave me in no doubt as to why I want to start the ball of change rolling.

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Friday's Child is nearly ready

Wed 23rd Jan 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Thanks to Virgin Books and my hard-working editor, Friday's Child is almost finished. It'll be ready to print in a few weeks, in time for the June launch. It's got an updated cover as well, and for the first time I've seen the full book jacket - now I can imagine it on the bookshelves. I hope the reviewers are kind, though - it's my life, my inner thoughts and feelings. I also hope that it changes people's understanding of this cruel, painful killer.

From the jacket:

fridays_child_final_cover.jpg'In the summer of 2004, Ben Palmer was overjoyed when his wife Jessica gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Emily was their first daughter and a little sister for their three-year-old son Harry. They had everything they had ever wanted.

Six days later, Jessica died of childbed fever, an archaic illness that causes blood poisoning, a condition that can be easily detected and prevented.

This is Ben’s raw, moving account of dealing with his grief while raising two small children as a single parent, and of how he successfully sued the NHS for negligence. As he struggles to comprehend his loss and to care for their two young children, he is overwhelmed by shock, anger, despair and guilt, before finally finding hope in the future, thanks to the love and support of his friends and family.

A story of living with a cruel and needless loss, this is also a story of two people who loved each other for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; till death tragically parted them.'

Friday's Child is now available to order from Amazon

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Wish upon a star

Sun 6th Jan 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Amongst other Christmas goodies, I gave Harry and Emily a very special present. It wasn't immediately the most exciting, nor the biggest, but it has had a big effect, and one which I hope will last them for the rest of their lives.

I gave them a 'Name A Star' gift box, with a registration form for the star at RA:0h30m33s, DEC:3°13'29" which, after great discussion, is now called Jessica Palmer's Star, or Mummy's Star to us, but that could be confusing because, "another Mummy might have a star, Daddy".

The idea stemmed from the great work that Harry has been doing with his Skyscape of Memories at the Winston's Wish website (which I commend to anyone with children who have lost a loved one of any age or generation) and even if the star is not visible to the naked eye, it will forever be close to our hearts.

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Angels

Mon 10th Dec 2007 by Ben Palmer.

Harry and I have just been to watch Emily's nursery nativity play. After the wise men had visited Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus in the stable and the Innkeeper had given up all hope of getting back to sleep, Emily arrived on stage as one of the angels.

She walked past us looking beautiful and so pleased to see us; trying to balance some serious acting and a big grin. When she stood on the walls of the stable she was quite definitely the best angel on the end of the line to the far right.

Nursery was collecting for Winston's Wish 'Wish Upon A Star' campaign afterwards. When I'd added a contribution, Harry wrote on a star. "I miss you Mummy love from Harry" and "I miss you Mummy love from Emily" before we stuck it onto a skyscape poster on the door. They were both really pleased, but in the car afterwards Emily burst into tears.

Silly Daddy thought she was saying, "I want my muzzy," when anybody could tell it was Mummy that she wanted. During the rest of the conversation, we decided to head over to the Winston's Wish website after tea, and create a star. Then we'll tell Mummy all about the play and how good Emily was.

"Cos, Daddy, Mummy's with the angels, so she'll know," Emily told me seriously, still with a tear on her cheek.

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Mums all around

Thu 22nd Nov 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I went out to dinner with the Mums from Harry's class again last night. It was a good turn out, a newly renovated pub with good food and a steady flow of wine and conversation.

At one point talk turned to Harry and how he has coped with not having a Mummy, and one of the Mums told me about a telly program, The Mummy Diaries in which Julie Stokes, the founder of Winston's Wish, helps young families cope with their mothers' terminal cancers.

Purely by chance, because I wasn't looking for it, I flicked over to it tonight just as the last of the three programmes in the series was starting. It was a gentle and beautiful programme about some very brave people. In their planning and understanding of the possible death of Mummy I could see so much of our family since Jessica's death - the same fears and worries were there.

I am humbled by some of the bravery I have seen. Children are stronger, more resilient and wiser than we adults may always credit and I am proud to be made aware of how well Harry and Emily measure up in those respects.

Next time we get together as a class, we're going to try and get the Dads to come along as well.

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Hair today

Sat 6th Oct 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I've neglected the blogosphere a bit lately - I've just had too much to do, but now it's a quiet Saturday and the supermarket has been suitably raided for the week, calm is (temporarily) restored to the Palmer house.

When I watch Harry on the sitting room floor, painstakingly drawing individual leaves on a tree, I am proud. When I watch Emily putting together an underwater scene jigsaw, with the six hair clips, two bunches, twelve hair bands, necklace and two bracelets that she made me put on her this morning, I am proud.

I couldn't wish two more beautiful, loving and kind children on anybody.

But I would do anything I could to stop the fate that has fallen on them from hitting another child.

To say "Goodbye, see you later" to your mother and go to nursery one morning and never see her again, to only be held by your mother for the first five days of your life is wrong. It is also unnecessary.

I hope that by speaking up I am making a small difference, but I won't rest until this country (at least) is free of this Third World disease of the Middle Ages. I loved my wife too much and I love her memory and our children too much.

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It is strange

Wed 22nd Aug 2007 by Ben Palmer.

"Does it feel strange, having people read about your life?" I was asked today by a Mum. "I feel it's a bit voyeuristic reading your blog."

I hadn't really thought about it that way. I know my parents, siblings, friends and some of the Mums and teachers at both Harry's and Emily's school read my blog - sometimes that's the only way people know what I'm up to, because I'm totally useless with a telephone and can be fairly forgetful about email as well sometimes. My web stats page tells me others read it too, but I often think of it as a number, not real people.

Every blogger has their own reason, and mine is two-fold. I want people to know about, and remember, puerperal sepsis: there is no reason or need for a mother in Britain (or any developed nation) to die from it, so fore-warned is fore-armed.

I also like writing about my children - they mean everything to me - and I like writing about the highs and lows of being a single parent and about coping, every day, with children who say things like, "I don't have a Mummy, 'cos she died and went to live in heaven."

It's not meant to be a sob story, though people do. It's meant to be a taste of a strange life that, God forbid, most will never know. Next time your other half has a go at you for forgetting to do something, for doing the wrong thing or just generally stuffing up; relish it - it keeps your feet on the ground, and proves that you're loved. Well it did for me, and it's one of the things I miss most.

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Premature baby dies - Daily Mail

Fri 17th Aug 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I've just read this horrific story: Premature baby dies after mother has to deliver it herself in new hospital in the Daily Mail.

Where were the midwives that the health service so badly needs? When are we going to lose the initiatives, the spin, the New Labour hypocrisy and get a decent level of maternity care so that childbirth becomes as safe as we keep being told it is. How many more lives must be lost?

Hospital managers have to realise that 'sincere condolences' and 'being kept up to date with changes' is not a substitute for gold standard care. No amount of empty words will console this poor mother.

Rest in peace, Edward.

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What is childbed fever?

Childbed fever is an infection of the womb in new mothers which can lead to septicaemia. If left untreated infection will cause organ failure and death - even in young, fit mothers.
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What are the symptoms? »
Childbed fever: the facts »

What's the aim?

We would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever is still a very real threat to a mother's life.
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Can I help? »

Who is Jessica?

Jessica Palmer was a Mum. She died in June 2004, at 34 years old, of childbed fever caused by Group A streptococcus.
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This website contains general information about childbed fever. The information is not complete or comprehensive. You should not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should consult your doctor or other healthcare provider; and if you think you may be suffering from childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should seek immediately medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.
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