This story goes to show that sometimes, just sometimes, it’s not the kids you need to worry about, but us adults. To tell it I need to backtrack just a little, and return to when Wil was about 8 months old.
At this time I was still completing my police training. I was almost at the end, and was just going through the final classes and exams. This involved me completing a 2 hour round trip every day, Monday to Friday, to Netley, Southampton. The training was pretty much 9am-5pm. But at least I had weekends off!
The story starts at the stables, which are just down the track from us. They are run by a very lovely local lady who Ivan and I are friends with. Ivan and I were yet to have any horses of our own and so we used to go down there to groom, muck-out, and feed for her sometimes. Wil loved being down there. He was as happy as a wasp in a jam factory and used to love playing in the straw and stroking the ponies. Now this particular day, it was a Saturday, we had gone to turn two of the ponies out into their paddock. As we passed a neighbour, I stopped with my pony to chat. Ivan carried on a little further and turned his pony, called Daisy, out into the paddock. Daisy was the most beautiful, angelic looking pony you could meet. However, this particular day, probably wondering where her friend was, Daisy decided to make a bid for freedom. She galloped straight at Ivan, and through the small gap that he had left.
The first I knew of it, was the sound of thundering hoofs heading towards me down the track. My pony started to spook, and looking up, whilst trying to calm my pony, I saw Ivan, seemingly skiing the gravel beside Daisy, who was effectively his speed boat! You see, Ivan, being the hero that he is, had managed to grab hold of her halter as she fled past and was hanging on for dear life. This all seemed to unfold in slow motion, though I am sure that it only took a couple of seconds. He was doing a sterling job, but even the best of heros couldn’t hold on forever. Ivan was quickly deposited on the track, after being dragged along momentarily on his knees, and was left in a heap in a cloud of Daisys’ dust.
The neighbours and I grabbed the ponies and secured them, then rushed to Ivan’s aid. Most unfortunately for Ivan, our track is mostly made up of flint. When we managed to get Ivan stood up, he had a large, horse-shoe shaped laceration across his left knee-cap. There was a large skin-flap and copious amounts of blood too. Now Ivan is genuinely big and brave, but even for him he did well to suck up the pain and hobble to retrieve Wil, who was secured safely in his push-chair, completely oblivious of any drama. We then hobbled up the track to our home. Once we got there I had a closer inspection. There was no way a plaster was going to be man enough for this job. Off to A&E we went.
We arrived at our local A&E, about 8 miles away in Salisbury, and to their credit, were seen very quickly. The very nice Dr sluiced the wound out, barely able to hide his pleasure at the task, and proceeded to stitch up Ivan’s gash. OK, I could have looked at a better choice of words here. His wound, alright, the Dr stitched up his wound. He then sent us home, Ivan loaded with pain-killers and a suture care leaflet. We had been there about an hour. That was easy. Or at least that’s what we thought.
The next morning, Ivan was having a wash at the sink in the bathroom. His knee was clearly causing him discomfort, but he was soldiering on as usual. I was in the bedroom next door, when I heard a rather loud thud! Running into the bathroom I found Ivan, dazed, and confused, sprawled unceremoniously in the empty tub. It goes without saying, that I am completely ashamed of it now, but the first thing I did was laugh at the sight. I did quickly remember to ask if he was OK, and what had happened. Ivan said that one minute he had been standing at the sink, and the next he was in his current predicament, clearly having passed out. Oh no! Not good. Taking a look at his knee, there were clear signs that the wound area wasn’t happy. Houston, we had a problem. Or more accurately, an infection. The fact that it had caused him to pass out, couldn’t be a great sign. Salisbury A&E, here we come again. Little did we know, this was only the start of things to come.
The first inklings of worry I had were on the journey into A&E. Ivan was starting to show signs that the infection was taking hold. He was hot & cold, clearly in pain, and he was also a bit confused. Of course, it took me a while to recognise the latter, not being far from the norm with him. Confused he was all the same.
On arrival at A&E we were again seen quickly. A different Dr this time, diagnosed an infection. He prescribed Ivan some antibiotics and sent us home. The next couple of days, Ivan’s leg seemed to stay about the same. On the Wednesday however, he woke up with a massive swelling. Yes, his leg! Get your minds up out of the gutter. His knee was now so swollen, that he couldn’t bend it anymore. And worse, there were worrying red lines spreading around his leg, and red tightening to other areas of it. It was time to visit A&E again. Now Ivan had to go with his Dad, as I was at police training. They seemed to be their usual efficient selves and saw him quickly. The Dr was obviously worried and admitted him straight away, to administer IV antibiotics. That evening I took Wil to visit Ivan in hospital. He looked awful. I thought the IV antibiotics were supposed to speed up the healing. Instead, his leg looked even more infected. I could visibly see the redness creeping past the lines the nurses had drawn on his leg, in order to track the infection. These had long been breached and the infection was flooding his leg. Ivan put on a brave face, but couldn’t hide the fact that he was feeling incredibly unwell. Wil definitely helped being there. He clambered all over Daddy, making him smile. Luckily Ivan had been put in a side room by himself. This was going to prove invaluable in the weeks to come.
Life ticked on every day. But it wasn’t easy for any of us. During the week I would get up and sort Wil out, then tend the animals and walk the dogs, then drop Wil off at the parent-in-laws. I would then go to police training, picking Wil up on my return. We would nip home, sort tea and the animals, and then head off to the hospital for a couple of hours. It would then be home to bed for Wil and a catch up at home for me. We both missed Ivan terribly. Wil was a star though and took all the upheavel in his stride. Our visits were vital to Ivan, and though Wil didn’t understand why Daddy couldn’t play, he never moaned or cried, he just got on with it.
The problem was, the antibiotics weren’t working. The small, horse-shoe shaped laceration, was becoming bigger and bigger as they took Ivan into surgery every other day, to cut away the dying flesh.
I really am an optimistic person, half-full, never half-empty. After about 10 days of Ivan being in hospital however, I really started to lose hope. Ivan still wasn’t responding to the antibiotics. I could see him fading before our eyes, becoming more confused, more unwell. He was becoming weak, and disorientated, and was often asleep when we visited. His leg was truly a mess. Of course, I made sure that I put on a brave face and a smile for Ivan, and I always remained outwardly positive. But inside, I had really started to think that he was either going to lose his leg. Or worse. I was going to lose the love of my life, and Wil was going to lose his Daddy. To make things even more complicated, we were due to get married two weeks later. The registry office had been booked and plans were all finalised. I just couldn’t help but wonder whether Ivan would even be alive for it, let alone out of hospital. I was starting to run out of hope due to the speed his health was declining.
Friends and family, as is their tradition, were amazing and rallied around like they always did. Ivan also had no end of visitors. It got to about two weeks in, I pretty much was crying myself to sleep each night, when the change came. One day I visited Ivan and he was up in his bed. He had colour to his cheeks, and a weak smile on his face. I just went over to him and held him and cried, He was going to be OK. Wil and I were not going to lose the man so precious to us both. My heart swelled, and I felt the hope flood back into it. There was someway to go, but he had turned the corner.
Amazingly from that day, the improvements came thick and fast. His leg was still a mess, but he was beating the infection. I was getting Ivan back, and Wil his Daddy. We were so happy.
They now started to talk about what they were going to do with his leg. Luckily there was one of the top plastic surgeons resident at the hospital, and they would be performing the operation. There was no way they could just stitch it up. The innocent laceration he had started with, now needed a skin, muscle, and vascular graft in order to repair his leg. They said that the operation would take 4 hours. First they had to wait for the swelling in his leg to go down enough, in order that they could carry out the operation. We were now a week away from the wedding. Our biggest question was, would Ivan be out in time, and well enough to go? They just couldn’t give us an answer.
The day came for the operation a couple of days later. It was supposed to take about 4 hours. The plan was to cut a strip from the inside of his knee, down the inside of his leg, remove the bottom half of his calf muscle and swing this round, bringing the skin and the veins too, and place it in his knee, re-attaching everything to ensure a blood flow, and then suturing the wound and his leg. I gave Ivan a kiss and a hug, and said I would wait at home for them to call. The 4 hours passed, and I started to get worried. What was happening? Why hadn’t they called? What had gone wrong? I was absolutely beside myself with panic when they eventually rang. The operation had taken 9 hours, but he was finally out, and the surgeon was very happy with the results.
We had 5 days until the wedding. Was he going to be out in time? Ivan absolutely wanted to go ahead with it. The fact that Ivan was so ill had made him, well both of us, realise just how fragile life was. It also reiterated just how much love we had as a family unit. We needed to seal that officially, both as a public showing of what we meant to each other, and also as a precaution should something happen to either of us. On a practical level, it also gave him something to focus on, a real reason to fight to get better. The Doctors though, weren’t convinced. They warned him not to get his hopes up. We refused to cancel it though. But was his determination going to be enough?
One things for sure though. In Ivan’s mind, that sweet little pony Daisy, had been forever more re-christened. From this day forward she is only to be referred to as Killer.
That is if he doesn’t tell his other tale, about how the massive scarring on his leg was caused by that shark attack….
NB – Please note, no pony was hurt in either the unfolding, or telling of this drama. Nor were they to blame for any injury sustained by any person/s