Showing posts tagged with: 'children'


Many returns

Mon 8th Sep 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Tonight our long summer holidays end. We've had an amazing time, visiting Scotland and Portugal, enjoying glorious sunshine in both, but tomorrow all three of us start again at school. I go back in my working capacity in I.T., Harry returns now in Upper School and Emily joins us for her first day at 'big school' in Reception.

How vividly I remember Harry's first day three years ago: shy and nervous, clinging to my arm. How quickly he learned to adore his teacher, an adoration Emily is already learning, before she has started, of the same teacher in the same classroom. How happy Emily will be. How proud a mother Jessica would have been.

But enough of holidays and school. I must also reverse the partially deliberate neglection of the blog and Jessica's Trust. I must pick up the reins and gallop into the enormous amount of work, the Charity Commission's queries, notes that need be written for the meetings I have and the speech I must deliver to a conference of midwives in October.

I feel recharged and energised, and as if I didn't already have enough reason to put my back into Jessica's Trust, I have heard from yet more families who have been deeply affected by childbed fever with horrendous long term illness. We must look beyond the statistics of maternal death to these uncounted cases of horrific suffering and pain from genital tract sepsis and its consequences.

In the meantime, my apologies for going AWOL and my warmest thanks to all those who have left messages of support and appreciation.

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Hot off the press

Thu 5th Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Publication day is here. This time a year ago I was discussing what would make a suitable title for my book with my agent, prior to submitting a 30,000 word proposal to a handful of publishing editors.

Twelve months and 60,000 words later, it is in stock, on the shelves and on sale. Tomorrow there's a 3,000 word extract in a national newspaper and on Saturday another is printing an interview I did with them a couple of weeks ago. I can barely believe it's true.

Last night I went out for an extremely nice dinner with friends, stopping at their house for glass of champagne.

'Look children, it's Ben's book,' Sally said.
'Wow. You're famous,' was her son's response, before climbing over the fence to play in the neighbour's garden.

It'd be easy to enjoy the 'fame' but that's not why I wrote Friday's Child.

I emailed some friends earlier, to remind them that they could buy a copy if they felt inclined, and got a response back from someone I met directly because of Jessica's death.

His email read, 'Would you believe this morning I have been out for our first scan at 12 weeks – thanks so much for raising awareness of childbed fever on behalf of this prospective Dad!'

The book is dedicated to Harry and Emily, but it is on the shelves and in the press for all prospective Mums and Dads. That's why I did it and I hope it saves lives.

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Time for T

Mon 28th Apr 2008 by Ben Palmer.

A little over seven years ago, Jessica met a group of fellow first time pregnant girls at her first ante-natal class.

Two girls emigrated, but five of them went on going to the classes, every week for six weeks or so. The classes came to an end and one by one they gave birth within the space of a few weeks: four boys and a girl.

The five of them continued to meet every week, usually for lunch on Wednesdays, until the children started going to nursery school. The meetings became more irregular, but they stayed in touch and sometimes us Dads joined them for dinner. In the years since, the number of children has grown to eleven.

Since Jessica's death the girls have welcomed me into their group as an honorary Mum, and have supported me hugely in the years since. Her death could not have affected them more - they were such a close knit group.

Today we formed a new group of our own: Jessica's Trust is now formalised with the five of us as trustees. The change from 'trust' to 'Trust' in the masthead reflects this.

I am hugely grateful to the girls for agreeing to help me. There is much to be done, but first we apply to become a Registered Charity.

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Taxing talk

Wed 16th Apr 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Harry and Emily love art. They love SMart and SMarteenies as well, and regularly watch more CBBC than CBeebies now, often catching Newsround. However, I don't know if they saw the coverage of Mark Speight's death on the programme.

The coverage, which I also missed, has evoked much sentiment and anger, I read. Why is this? Do we think that children cannot cope with death? Must we shield them from All That Is Bad?

What then when it happens closer to home? How will they cope with it?

It is important for children to understand the process of life, of aging and of death - but we can teach them this without instilling fear and uncertainty, without the gore and trauma, and without the stigma of suicide in this particular case. Which is what I understand the BBC did.

It can't be better to say nothing, even when they notice that a presenter has left their favourite program without saying goodbye - that would be too big a betrayal of their love and confidence.

Children are wiser than we sometimes credit them for, and they need to understand, but in a way that makes them feel safe and loved - even if that means we do have to face up to our own fears and insecurities.

There are only two certainties in this life, and children really don't need to know about tax just yet - that's too cruel.

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No crawling

Tue 15th Apr 2008 by Ben Palmer.

So, the man from the big company came and looked at my floorboards yesterday - the ones outside the house that I replaced last week - and confirmed woodworm. 'The quickest survey I've ever done,' he told me. He did examine the rest of the floorboards, upstairs and downstairs, and has prescribed 'fogging' under the ground floor. The rest of the house has a clean bill of health, fortunately.

His array of quotes, measurements, costings and policy documents covered the kitchen table as he gave me a not-unreasonable quote, which I accepted there and then. 'The sooner the better,' I said to him, and so the men in masks come tomorrow.

I was worried about the effects that wood-boring critter-killer would have on small children, but the answer was reassuring: 'Just don't let your children crawl under the floor for 24 hours, that's what Health & Safety guidelines say.'

This morning Harry went back to school, but could we find his holiday homework folder before he went? Not a bit of it.

My best guess is that it got swept up with quotes and policies, so it was interesting explaining to the Form teacher today, 'Harry did do it, but we can't find it... We think the wood worm killer has it by mistake.'

At least it's more original than saying that the dog ate it.

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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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Inventive Care Unit

Sun 2nd Mar 2008 by Ben Palmer.

I woke this morning to find myself in hospital. A nurse was standing beside my bed.

"You're very, very ill."

Oh no, not again. "Can you make me better?"

"Yes, this is to take the splinter out of your nose; this is an injection to fill your arm with slime; just a little bit more. Now I need to listen to your heart with my this."

Then the nurse went very quiet, and a doctor hovered in the doorway behind her.

"Tell it like it is, nurse - can you hear my heart - is it still beating?"

"No, but it doesn't matter because now you can have a lollipop - here, eat this one and then you can have some more treats."

"Oh thank you nurse, can I give you a kiss too?"

She recoiled in horror, "NO! Nurses don't like kisses, Daddy. Now I have to go and be a tiger."

[update 3/3/2008]
Since posting this, I've realised that it's actually quite topical. This was totally accidental, unless Emily had been reading the papers before waking me...

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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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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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