Lauren Aquilina: Getting A Grip

It was 2012. I’d been in hospital for a year. It was Christmas. I was waiting to be transferred to London, but it had snowed for a couple of weeks, and even the ambulances outside the window were getting stuck. My friend in the bed next to mine and I (we were the only two in the bay, but had pulled the curtains across in front of our beds and broken the one in between it to make out own private room, and put christmas decorations EVERYWHERE) had gone for a late night walk, as we often did. We dragged my drip stand all the way to the main entrance, and we sat on the information desk because the whole place was dead. We looked in front of us and saw a christmas tree. It was christmas eve and apart from that single tree you wouldn’t have known it was Christmas anywhere other than the children’s ward we were living on.

We both burst into tears. We sat there, and we talked about how it didn’t feel like christmas and how badly we wanted to be with our families, and we just cried. Uncle security guard (a completely awesome security guard who would sit in my room and talk to me for ages, turned out to be a family friend, and made me his honorary niece because he really is like an uncle to me and he picked my mood up off of the floor a lot and really motivated me and encouraged me long after that admission ended) found us both, and gave me a bar of chocolate he’d been on his way to deliver, to cheer me up.

My friend and I went back to the ward. We played a game of pool, and then she smashed up the games room because she was so upset, throwing the pool balls everywhere. The nurses understood, they left her be; our favourite nurse found us and hugged us both and we cried into her uniform as she tucked us under her arms like we were ducklings. My friend got into bed and I laid there watching as she cried herself to sleep, occasionally managing to make her laugh before we both broke down again. We had the games console in our little den with us (part of a TV unit provided by the amazing charity Starlight which provides things and experiences for sick children in and out of hospital) but it didn’t help. We wanted to be home and we missed our families and the outside world more than ever (she’d only been there a couple of weeks, and it looked like she would be let out within the next couple of days). Christmas made it so much more difficult to be where we were and we just couldn’t contain our emotion any more. I curled up myself with one of the cuddly toys that one of my favourite nurses had given me, and decided music might help, seeing as sleep wouldn’t take me away from reality.

“You’re alone, you’re on your own. So what? Have you gone blind? Have you forgotten what you have and what is yours? Glass half empty, glass half full – well either way you won’t be going thirsty. Count your blessings, not your flaws.

You’ve got it all, you lost your mind in the sound, there’s so much more, yo can reclaim your crown. You’re in control, rid of the monsters inside your head. Put all your faults to bed. You can be king again.” – Lauren Aquilina, King

I found that song, and those words made me get a grip. I took comfort in them, I downloaded the song, put it on repeat, tried to forget that it was Christmas eve, and went to sleep with my IV pumps whirring gently next to me, pushing their cargo into my PICC line.

Every time I had a little bit of a wobble and the overwhelming despair closed in, I played that song, and it pulled me back to reality, forcing me to accept how lucky I actually was and get a grip. The person who had written and recorded that song (Lauren Aquilina) was about a year older than me, and she had such a great attitude, so I felt I had no right other than to live by the mentality she taught with that song. Also, I found it inspiring, that someone so close in age to me could achieve such awesome things. I didn’t want to do awesome things, I did’t even want rid of my PICC line, I just wanted to raise money for charity and possibly become a doctor or an author or an artist (I was young, I wanted to be many unachievable things, clearly… Although I’m not so far from a few of them now), and Lauren Aquilina made that feel achievable.

I was terrified about going to London, as the last time I’d been to the specialist children’s hospital attached to the hospital I was due to return to, I’d ended up on a ventilator in the paediatric intensive care unit, had to have emergency surgery because of a staff error, and pulled out my own breathing tube in the PICU before they’d had time to deflate the balloon thing that kept it in place, which had annoyed my trachea and made me make an awful sound every time I inhaled (and almost meant they had to put me back into a medically induced come and intubate me again to give me time to recover). I was terrified, but three weeks later in the ambulance that took me there, with one of the many nurses I looked at as an extra mum, and a paramedic who knew my aunt (who is also a paramedic, and would abandon her patients in the middle of the corridor and run at me and my drip stand to give me a hug if she bumped into me at the hospital), I listened to that song over and over (along with a bit of Imagine Dragons) until I got a grip again. It was after that awful, awful, highly traumatic admission, that I discovered “Pompeii” by Bastille on my journey back to my local hospital.


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