Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How it all started

First a bit about us - we are a family of four. Myself (obviously), Nanda (my wife), Kezia (our daughter - now 2 1/2) and Jaime (Nanda's 7 year old son). We live in a small offshore central African country, beautiful and poor. But not as poor as some.

Kezia was very sick at the beginning of May and had to go stay in hospital twice. After a second blood transfusion on 16 May we were told they didn't know what was wrong, but obviously very very sick and we should get her out of the country urgently. Many thanks to Drs I. and B. who knew something was seriously wrong but lacked the diagnostic tools to find out it was Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (more on that anon).

My nearest embassy is in Angola so I could hardly get Nanda's passport to Angola and back for the next flight out on the Saturday and we hadn't yet applied for a UK passport for Kezia. Anyway, the embassy were terrific and faxed Heathrow and the embassy in Lisbon (with a copy to us) explaining the situation, yes in our opinion Kezia is British and to let us in.

The local travel agency got us tickets on the Saturday 20 May flight (there's only one direct flight to Europe per week) and said we could pay on our return! (You wouldn't get that treatment anywhere else!).

At the local airport the immigration authorities didn't want to let us on the plane as Nanda had no visa. Fortunately the UK hon consul was there and smoothed the way.

Again at Lisbon airport they didn't want to let us board the next leg as Nanda hadn't a visa. Showed them the fax, said what are you going to do, Nanda hasn't a Schengen visa, there's no return flight for a week, lock her and sick child up for a week? They finally relented.

At Heathrow yes they had the fax, no problem, we'll give Nanda 6 months straightaway even tho' their return ticket is for a month. You never know ...

My brother was there to meet us. Another 3 1/2 hours up the motorway and we finally arrived at his home about 3 am on Sunday and crashed out. On awaking late morning and after breakfast down to the emergency room at the local hospital.

After not too long a wait, up to Paediatrics. Quiet - they try and send most kids home ay the weekend. Needles, more needles ... Kezia screams and screams. She'd suffered so many needles back home in the recent past. Me, Nanda, the nurses have to hold her down to get blood samples.

After two or so hours, Dr. K. (sorry I haven't written to thank you) tells me he suspects Kezia has leukaemia and that he wants us to transfer to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. I don't tell Nanda immediately but go with my brother to get our belongings. My sister-in-law stays with Nanda and Kezia.

I sob in the car. We get to my brother's house, I want a strong drink, he won't let me. Pull yourself together.

My mind is in turmoil and we return to the hospital. I have to pull myself together and I have to tell Nanda - how?

I tell Nanda. She breaks down. Sobbing and sobbing. She doesn't really know what leukaemia is. I have to explain it's a form of blood cancer (how little did I know then). I tell her to be strong, she has to be strong for Kezia.

At about six the ambulance arrives and transfers us all to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital in Pendlebury.

The story starts.

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