My apologies for starting this presentation with a PowerPoint but that part of Hermione’s story is sometimes too difficult to share.
Hermione was in hospital for a mere 4 weeks and we were sent home with the following advice… to establish feeding and watch for further seizures and then to simply wait and see.
We had been told that Hermione’s brain damage was severe and that it would impact all her movements, that the likely long term diagnosis would be cerebral palsy and that she would have lifelong mobility and learning problems.
We were told by one consultant they that she may not be able to move her arms and legs purposefully or use the muscles in her face to form any expressions; such as a smile.
To say that we were devastated and terrified of what the future now held for Hermione would be an understatement and we found ourselves in a dark and frightening place. We were dealing with the unknown, and living with the resentment and anger of knowing that the events leading up to her brain trauma simply should not have happened.
I spent the first year of Hermione’s life avoiding situations that impacted on my already vulnerable and emotional state. I didn’t take her to any mummy and baby classes for fear of watching other mums celebrate their children reaching milestones. I avoided coffee mornings and get-togethers with my friends who had children. I was just so sad, by what had happened to her.
But one thing I did do , with the support of my husband and family was to draw on my own professional background to teach Hermione, and it became apparent very early on that Hermione was showing real signs of intelligence; so I ploughed all my efforts into extending her knowledge and educating her. But this could only take me so far and although I had become fully makaton trained and sought advice in the relatively sparse NHS therapy appointments…I knew my skill set was limited.
I knew I needed more advanced and specific skills to enable Hermione to flourish both educationally and physically but got so annoyed that there didn’t seem to be the help out there.
The ‘wait and see’ approach didn’t sit well with us and my own personal drive to ‘heal’ Hermione. But I just became more and more frustrated that the system that created her problem seemingly was unable to help me to rectify it.
Just after Hermione’s first birthday, someone, by chance, mentioned Playskill to me. And, after a little research I made a phone call.
A lady called Andrea answered the phone and I explained Hermione’s story to her. Andrea said this to me:
‘WE can help you. That’s what we do, it sounds like Playskill would be perfect for Hermione’
That phone call changed everything for me and I have never looked back. Andrea was right, Playskill have helped Hermione to be the little girl she is today. They have been amazingly patient, kind and supportive and have gently guided Hermione to reach her targets term by term. In addition to that, in a world where Hermione is growing up feeling she is very different, she gets to play with other children just like her; children who wear lycra suits and use walkers and talking aids and because of that, she gets to feel the same, that having all this equipment is normal for lots of children and that it is ok.
But what they may not have realised is that they have helped to heal me too. They took me on when I was desperate to find answers, when I felt like I had run out hope.
Playskill doesn’t just make children better, it helps to make families better too. It ‘up skills’ parents to be the parents our children need us to be and it allows us the time to learn, to ask questions, to have time with therapists and exerts so that we come away from a session feeling inspired and able to support our children further.
Not only that, It provides a safe space in which we can talk, laugh and sometimes cry with other family members who have all found themselves on this unknown journey. And although we all have different stories and reasons for our children to be there, we share a commonalty and therefore there is no judgement, just understanding.
I don’t know how well Hermione will recover from her brain trauma. But what I do know is that I now have the skills to help her to get there. Playskill have been an integral part of that for which I will forever be grateful.
I’d like to finish this presentation as I started, with the shortest of clips to show you that there is always hope, even when you think it’s been lost.