Silence speaks when words can’t… or so the saying goes.
The lack of updates about Will’s progress is not because there has been nothing to say - but because there is too much, changing too often to keep on top of it ourselves, let alone to keep Will’s amazing support team and community up to speed.
But it’s Mothers Day - and today I have woken up to all four children under the one roof. It's been a hell of a couple of weeks, but we have woken up joyful and hopeful (a bit snotty and coughy… but hopeful all the same). I’m not sure how long after Will’s recovery did we have enough strength to envision Will coming home from hospital… but once that vision came to mind, like everything we do, it became our single focus and driving force.
We were always told that Will would be in hospital for 6-9 months… but we were never going to accept that… perhaps naively, possibly stupidly, we always thought we could do things better at home. As we worked tirelessly (and I mean a full team of people working madly around the clock) to get my parent's house ready to accomodate Will and his staff of nurses, carers and rehab clinicians - I would dream about pulling into the driveway with Will in the car with streamers and balloons, a group of friends there to greet us, champagne popping and thousands of you cheering and applauding when you read the news on our update page.
I should have known better! Spinal Cord Injury isn’t your typical run of the mill injury - it doesn’t follow the rules, so why would the homecoming be any different! Don’t get me wrong - Will bolted out of the blocks like nothing we’ve ever seen. Day 1 at home saw him and his mates head off to the VFL footy just like nothing had ever changed.
My most happiest phone call since January 17 was Will ringing me after having been home for 2 hours to say: “Mum, we’re going to the footy (that would be him and his posse of friends that were at the house).”
“How are you getting there Will?”
“We’re walking,” Will informed me, with a tone of “how else do we ever get to the footy”.
“Oh, and I need some money to take,” Will added.
“Welcome home Will,” I muttered under my breath with tears in my eyes. And off Will went, without a care in the world or a thought about logistics. So he nearly got hypothermia having never experienced his body’s inability to regulate temperature since living for four months in the controlled environment of a hospital - but he did well, exceptionally well. His friends did well, exceptionally well… and life looked like it was going to sail along pretty smoothly. Good time for a “He’s Home” post. Absolutely.
But I just thought I’d catch my breath now that things were going to be soooooo much easier not driving into the hospital and we were going to have sooooo much more time on our hands now that we were not having our days interrupted by doctors and hospital protocols. But that breath never came (so the post never came) and our days became increasingly crazy with nurses to hire and train, rehab clinicians to interview and set-up, equipment to buy, mouths to feed, washing to do and more washing to do (say a little alleluia to my mum Wen)… oh, and don’t forget a house to pack up and 4 months worth of hospital crap to unpack… AND… wait for it… another bloody infection to fight!
Oh, but not an infection that decided to take Will to ground, an infection that decided to flatten the whole family. I have no doubts that as the staff at the Royal Childrens Hospital waved us good bye on the day we took Will home, they were taking bets as to how soon we would come running back finding that life with a newly acquired spinal cord injury patient is busy to the point of suffocating. I’m just not sure anyone would have bet 48 hours!
What sort of reality check is it when your injured son catches a pretty nasty virus from his younger siblings only 24 hours after being home? Who knows why, but this virus got Will, not just physically, but emotionally too. Maybe he thought that once he got out of hospital he would be “well” again - or maybe this virus felt like a smack in the face sent as a warning to not get too far in front of ourselves… but Will was frustrated, angry, flat, sick and tired - all at the one time.
Spinal cord injury patients don’t get sick like you and I - they get really sick. Without the ability to cough or sweat the virus goes to the chest pretty darn quickly and refuses to budge. I could write and write and describe the days that followed and the action plan we put in place but, whilst fighting the illness ourselves, our immediate team of soldiers got creative and resourceful and managed to keep Will out of hospital (seriously, as if team Murray were going to crumble that quickly!).
We managed to help him fight the infection and regain his strength and now that he’s nearly fully recovered, we’re patting ourselves on the back and celebrating like we have just cured the incurable! In fact, I could literally write and write about the last 10 days, and all the balls thrown at us at unimaginable speed.
But none of it is important, because the fact is that Will IS HOME. And no matter how difficult or busy it is, we should be blowing the party blowers and popping the champagne because it is amazing to have our family under the one roof.
It is a gift to have a team of people who together have enough smarts and determination to put into place the necessary things to enable us to care for Will outside of a hospital. …It’s not perfect, it’s not how it used to be - but it’s going to be ok because we’re going to make it ok. It’s confronting and scary and often overwhelming. But as we celebrate Mothers Day with all of our family together, it’s hopeful, so very, very hopeful.
Happy Mothers Day to all the Mums reading this post… your struggles as a mum may not look like mine do at the moment, but I’m sure there have been struggles. Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you’re doing a great job… I’m going to today.