In the operating theatre as my son drifts off . . .

MY colleague stared at me blankly. (But then most of them do.) This time the perplexed reaction wasn’t provoked by one of my toe-curling puns – such as: “What’s the best time to play golf?” Tee-time – but because I’d mentioned the classic TV series Dallas.

If I hadn’t elicited a glimmer of recognition with Dallas, I certainly wouldn’t have done so with Kramer vs. Kramer, the 1979 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep as divorcees who fight a custody battle over son Billy.

At one point the youngster falls from playground equipment and cuts his face badly. I can’t remember the exact details, but there are a few “ooh . . . ah . . . wince” moments for father and son as the wound is stitched. We’ve had our own wincey moments recently, after James uncharacteristically shot down a slope in a bike park. His front wheel stopped, somehow, and he didn’t.

I reached A&E in time to go with him to the X-ray room and view pictures of his wrist bones in a very unusual arrangement. The gas-and-air cylinder in A&E was a godsend... and when I’d finished with it I let him have some, too.

The bones were later manipulated back into position under general anaesthetic and secured in a plaster cast, before we spent the night in hospital. Unfortunately, a week later, X-rays showed he was among the three-in-100 or so people for whom this technique doesn’t work. So he’s just been in to have the wrist wired. More anaesthetic. More anguish. A fresh cast.


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It’s a strange feeling sharing such an episode with your anxious child: not something you’d wish for, but a huge privilege. Accompanying him to the operating theatre, squeezing a hand as he drifts into unconsciousness, and getting through those initial painful hours after he returns is an experience neither of you will forget. A social worker I know once said that it’s overcoming the crisis moments that binds people together like glue. She was right.

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