What doesn’t kill you…

The Perfect Holiday?

Holidays are something most of us aspire to having every now and then, whether it be a few weeks in the sun or a weekend in a tent. The chance to relax and unwind, to take a break from the chores in life, to reset your brain in order to focus on your chosen career. A time to get away from life as we know it and take a well deserved break.

You work hard all year round, save up money to pay for some time away from the daily grind, get stressed out with all the packing and things to organise before you leave, knowing that a yearned for blissful time is just around the corner.

But what happens when the reality of your holiday is quite unlike anything you were expecting it to be?

Let me share with you a little story… (actually it’s quite a long story, you might want to grab a brew and some biscuits!)

As some of you may be aware I am a single mum to my two amazing children, holidays for us up until last year were very rare and generally consisted of a few days in a tent or caravan. My children asked time and time again when we could have a holiday abroad and I desperately wanted to make it happen for them. Last year I worked hard enough to achieve one of my goals, to be able to take us on our first ever holiday abroad together, and we loved it! Two weeks in a great resort in Turkey was all it promised to be. My children wanted to do it again, so I made sure I earned enough money to take us away again, another two weeks in Turkey were booked and we were all looking forward to it immensely, excitedly talking together about the experiences we would immerse ourselves in.. Life hasn’t been easy for us and this year has been full of challenges, two weeks to clear my head was just what I needed to.

Only this time it hasn’t been the holiday we so eagerly awaited.

At 1am on July 29th after no sleep, the children because they were excited, me because I was frantically trying to get as many jobs done at home before we went, we left our house to begin our summer adventure. What we didn’t know at the time was just what an adventure we had ahead of us! The first 48 hours of the holiday passed without incidence, and consisted of fun in the pool and me getting stuck into some books and making a start on my tan, both highly important summer holiday tasks!

On 31st July I discovered that I had been bitten by one of those nasty mozzie creatures, but this was no normal bite, half my arm had become infected and it was looking spectacularly odd! After a visit to the on site nurse it was quickly established that it needed to be treated so I was taken to a medical clinic nearby where the bite was drained off and I had a dose of IV antibiotics, sent back with a prescription and some cream and went back to enjoying the sunshine and my books! I was pleasantly surprised by how easily, simply and quickly it was a dealt with. A minor hiccup, no big deal at all.

But there’s more!

On 2nd August I couldn’t stop looking at my daughters face, in particular her eyes and head, and this wasn’t because I was marvelling at the beautiful creation I had made! It was because she was looking rather peculiar and when I asked if her face felt ok she said no. Her eyes and her forehead had started to swell, and was getting bigger by what seemed like the minute! Another trip to the resort nurse saw us again needing to visit the local medical clinic. An allergic reaction to the heat was diagnosed, and some creams issued to use. We were back at the resort early in the afternoon but by the evening things had got a considerably worse. The following day she was doing a pretty awesome Elephant Man impression and we were back at the clinic again, where further medication was issued. The following day again it was still worse and another trip to the medical centre took place, where the doctor referred us straight to the nearest hospital. More medication issued after several examinations with a few doctors and then we were once again back at our resort.

The following day my daughters eyes had closed up completely and it was clear that this wasn’t going away. In addition to that she woke up with severe stomach pains, so bad she was in tears, which is very strange with eyes that are swollen shut! Once again we made the by now familiar trip to the medical centre where we were then sent straight to hospital. The stomach pains were becoming worse, her John Merrick facial features were in full swing and once again we made the hour long journey to the hospital where we were admitted straight away.

By now the state of her face was the least of our concerns as the pain in tummy had increased. Now if you’ve ever had a poorly child, which let’s face it, who hasn’t, seeing your child in pain and in hospital is not pleasant, add to that being in a hospital where everyone speaks Turkish, of which you know and understand none of, it adds another surprise element! (The exception to this is Merhaba, which means hello!)

A translator was brought into the room and despite the language barrier, the facial expressions, sounds and tones of voice that were being used by the doctors needed no explanation, there was something very wrong with my little girl. The translator told us that they suspected her appendix was the cause of her pain, bloods were taken and we were whisked off for an ultrasound. There was no translator in the room, but the flurry of doctors that appeared, the frantic scribble of a report by the sonographer and the sense of urgency in the room needed no translation. She needed an operation and she needed it now! Being a Sunday there was no paediatric surgeon at the hospital, so one was called in and within two hours she was under the knife.

Now if you are a super duper Mary Poppins type of mum you would have foreseen these events unfolding and arrived with your bag full of all the necessary items you would need for a stint in hospital. Obviously I am not one of those mums and I didn’t event have clean pair of undercrackers in my possession! I hadn’t bothered to set my phone up for international calling and texts so couldn’t even let my older son who had stayed at the resort know what was happening. I was worrying about him, I was worrying about my daughter and trying to get my head around what had happened, and I was worrying about the fact that I had nothing to wash with and the sweltering heat was making me smell like a dead animal!

The surgeon had uttered those awful words that strikes fear in every woman when a man speaks them ‘you can trust me, trust me’ (in my experience this is always absolutely the worst thing you can do when a man says trust me) so when the operation took longer than they said it would I was worried sick that something has gone wrong. When they finally wheeled my sleepy little lady back into the room tears of relief sprang unexpectedly from my eyes. The worst bit was over, or so I thought!

I had managed to get word to my son what was happening but it didn’t stop me worrying about him. He has his own complex needs, and despite being almost sixteen I knew that this would be something he would struggle with. He assured me that he was fine and I knew that he was safe, with food and drink on tap at the all inclusive resort , a comfy room and a pool to make use off. He was happy, he was safe.

However the tour operator had other ideas. They kindly informed me that I had two choices, come back to the hotel so my son wasn’t on his own, or they call the police and social authorities and have him taken into care. At this point I’m not ashamed to say that I began to crumble and sobs begun to escape.
I told them in no uncertain terms that doing that to my son would utterly destroy him, what did they expect me to do, I couldn’t leave my ten year old daughter in a foreign hospital where her needs could not even be understood, yet alone met. They offered to then put him in a taxi, by himself, with a total stranger, to make the hour long journey in a strange country to join us at the hospital. I explained that there was no way he could cope with doing that, I tried explaining autism and it’s associated difficulties, they were not understanding at all.

There were phone calls going backwards and forwards and by the time I spoke to my son he was distressed because of what the tour operator had told him, that he had no choice than to join us at the hotel and it was being arranged for him to go there. He didn’t know what was going on, neither did I. What was happening was the one of the holiday reps was coming in a taxi with him and bringing him to the hospital. My son doesn’t cope well with change, anything that is different to how it should be, and hates hospitals. However none of that was taken into consideration, instead they took it upon themselves to force him into going along with what they said, all because he is under 16, he is 16 in two months. Ironically he is classed as an adult when they want money from me, but a child in all other respects. Go figure!

Whilst this was happening a friend in the UK was arranging flights to come out to stay at the resort asap to be with my son as soon as possible. It was a solution to the issue which would cause my boy the least amount of distress, however the tour operator was again extremely unhelpful in trying to get this arranged.

After a longer than usual recovery, after my friend flying out, we were discharged from the hospital after 5 days. Desperate to get back to the hotel so we could shower and so my daughter could get into bed we arrived at the resort to be informed that they were changing our hotel room. The last thing I wanted to do was to pack everything up, move it all into a new room, then unpack it all again, but that is what I had to do. In a room that was further away from the main facilities and only accessible by step. Not ideal for a child recovering form surgery ( who in addition is recovering from a broken foot that happened in the weeks preceding our holiday)

Four hours after we got back from hospital everything was sorted, we had 3 full days of our holiday left, I was determined to make the most of them. The universe however had a different idea entirely and decided that it needed to throw some more shit our way!

It was 2 days later when was taking ten minutes to myself (and drinking the obligatory holiday cocktail) that my son came running over to me, my daughter was bleeding. The doctor was called and we were taken to a clinic where the doctor told me that she was bleeding because of something she had eaten and was ‘fine’ (a word I have come to realise Turkish doctors say to shut you up!)

However to put my mind at rest they would send us to hospital once again. I knew the doctor was wrong and the midnight blood tests and 1am emergency ultrasound were proof of that.

The ultrasound was a horrendous experience for my daughter and she screamed in pain and was in tears during the whole procedure, it was awful to watch and she squeezed my hand so tightly I thought my fingers would break. She was started on IV antibiotics and pain relief immediately an infection was raging through her body, she was a very poorly little girl. A CT scan a few hours later confirmed it was the infection that was causing the bleeding.

We spent another 5 days in the hospital, our return flights came and went without us as she wasn’t well enough to leave hospital. When we were discharged thinking we could then arrange getting home we were told that we would need to return to the hospital in one week for her to be examined again and a fit to fly document hopefully issued. My daughter was to rest, she couldn’t go in the pool or the sea, she could do basically nothing. There were a lot of tears from her, she was in pain, fed up, bored and just wanted to go home, we all did. Our holiday was the stuff of nightmares, and we were living it.

Reassuring my children that in one week would be able to go home, we again tried to make the most of our extended holiday.

However as I should’ve realised by this point, nothing would go to plan.

Within a few days my daughter was vomiting uncontrollably, we were again taken to the clinic then transferred to the hospital, where we had already spent most of out holiday. Pumped full of drugs again after yet more blood tests and scans we were surprised and concerned when the surgeon said that everything was ‘fine’ and she could be discharged with the all important fit to fly letter.

On receipt of all the medical notes however, my insurance company doctor had concerns over the information they had received from the hospital. Her blood infection markers and ultrasound test results were in fact not ‘fine’ at all. They informed me that we would need to visit a totally different hospital where another set of tests would need to be carried out. A 90 minute taxi journey took us to our next hospital where a day full of more tests were carried out. My daughter was exhausted, in pain, sick and totally fed up. A sizable area of inflammation was discovered and more IV drugs given. We were told we would need to stay overnight, it was yet another blow, but we hoped one more step in the right direction to getting us home.

As if all this hadn’t been traumatic enough, I was also subjected to a vision I would happily have stayed oblivious too…

Whilst at the pool I witnessed an old, grey haired chap in a very small, very tight thong!! My fragile state could not deal with any further distress, but there it was, in all it’s teeny tiny glory to forever haunt me!

As I write this we have now been in Turkey 4 weeks, we all just want to go home, one of my friends has asked if I have accidentally moved here! I am considering the need to learn more Turkish words in the form of ‘me love you long time’ and ‘will you marry me’ I figure if we never leave I may as well embrace the situation!

We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be home this week, the ramifications of our extended ‘holiday’ have spilled over to impact so many different areas of our lives, including my finances as I have obviously not been working. The physical pain my daughter has suffered is bad enough, the emotional and mental suffering we are all dealing with is making matters even more difficult to cope with.

I really do try to find the positives in any situation, no matter how bad they are, and I think that is what has kept me going through this 4 weeks of hell. Don’t get me wrong, it has been really tough to do, and I have cried lots! But I have also learnt lots too and there have been some seemingly small but significant wins throughout his awful time.

I have received a huge amount of support from my friends, colleagues and business acquaintances. (Not from my family, but we won’t go there!) It has overwhelmed me that there are so many who care about my children and I as I didn’t think we really mattered to so many people.

I’ve had extra days to work on getting a tan (and drinking more cocktails!)

My son has coped with all of this better than I thought he would, he’s swinging between good and bad emotions at a rate I’m finding difficult to keep up with, but he’s done it, and I am incredibly proud of him. He has also had positive experiences with seeing and doing different things that he wouldn’t otherwise have enjoyed.

My daughter has shown awesome bravery for one so young to be dealing with all of this.

I have been forced to dig very deep into the reserves of resilience that I thought I had maxed out long ago. I’ve realised that I should give myself more credit for being able to deal with whatever I am faced.

The three of us, my wonderful little family have come through this together, and we are stronger together because of it.

Things could have been much worse, in so many ways that don’t bear thinking about in regards to my daughters physical health.

I discovered a love for Pina Colada! (Not sure this is a positive but it could lead to a reduction in the amount of wine I drink!)

Travel Insurance, never go anywhere without it, like ever! Had I not had this it is likely that I would be faced with selling my house to cover the medical bills, we also would not have been able to continue our stay in the resort.

There’s no getting away from it, it’s been an utterly stressful experience, I’ve had moments of total despair, anger, frustration and tears. I’ve raged at the unfairness of it all, working so hard to provide this holiday and the reality of it being quite like nothing I could ever have imagined. We aren’t out of the woods yet, and until we are all safe back in our home I don’t think I will believe this is all over.

Have my expectations of future holidays changed, absolutely yes!

Will we still strive to take holidays in the future and enjoy them, totally!

Will I always have a hospital bag at the ready (like a woman permanently stuck in the last month of pregnancy) Yes!

Have I developed a phobia of mature men in tight thongs, most definitely!

Has it become abundantly clear who cares enough to get in touch through all of this, oh indeed it has!

Will I be glad to leave this place and get home, without a shadow of a doubt! (Even with the mountain of washing and what will be close to 5 weeks of life to catch up on!

I can either let adversity get the better of me, or I can learn from it and grow into a better person. I choose not to let anything keep me down for too long. I choose to show my children shit things will happen, it’s how you deal with that shit which is the most important part. Roll around in it, stink of it and complain about it, or clean it up, clear it out and move the f#*k on!

If you made it through what I fear has become an overly long piece of writing, be thankful that I didn’t include everything else that’s happened, these are just the highlights! Seriously though, thanks for reading, and whatever you do before you go away, check your travel insurance and pack extra undercrackers for emergencies!!

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