Following on from my last Post Road Trip to England with little ones on Board, On the way back to SW France, we decided to pay a visit to our cousins in Brittany. After all, it’s sort of on the way home isn’t it? WRONG! It was actually more than 600km detour. Still, my parents were traveling with us with my brother and cousin – it would be fun.
I was traveling with the 3 little ones in the back (James 9, Luc 6 and Frankie 3) and my second eldest Ryan (17) in the front. We followed the camper van – it was a bit slow but we’d decided to stick together until lunchtime and then I’d speed off in my car and get there quicker. Within about 45 minutes my Dad pulled over into an aire and I followed. My cousin Ginny was feeling sick. They thought it was the fumes from the hydrogen converting contraption my Dad had set up in the back of the camper to reduce fuel consumption (don’t ask). It was decided that it was better that Ginny travel with me, and Ryan (my very capable and sensible son) travel with them in the Camper. The reasoning was it would be a more comfortable ride for Ginny (reclining leather seats, air con etc) and we could get her home quicker. It has to be said at this point that Ginny had a serious operation earlier this year and was still recovering from the affects of it.
So off we set again, complete with some plastic “sick” bags provided by my Dad "just in case". Well, within 5 minutes the inevitable happened and I’ve never heard or seen anything like it. It kept the kids quiet - they just sat wide eyed while we all tried to ignore the fact that poor Ginny was chucking her guts up. I pulled over at the next aire for her to sort herself out – unfortunately the sick bags had safety holes in, so she was covered in drips of bright yellow vomit. Hmmm nice! After about 10 minutes she said she’d be OK, although she didn’t look OK. So off we set again, after a few minutes of silence the kids start talking about the smell and how it makes them feel sick. “Don’t talk about it, you’ll get me going again” says Ginny and sure enough off she goes again. We pass a sign for a hospital on the motorway and I start thinking “shall I make a joke about taking her there”, but then think better of it – it didn’t feel like the time for jokes. A bit further on and Ginny says “I’m sorry Nikki but I think you’re going to have to take me to that hospital”. “Oh my God” I think, but I don’t say it out loud. “OK” I say trying my best to stay calm, but the signs for the hospital disappear so we must have passed the turn off. I pull off at the next aire – it’s one of those with only a loo and a telephone. I park the car and run out towards the telephone and as I look back I see Ginny stagger out of the car and collapse on the grass at the side of the road. Oh dear – I don’t know which way to turn. I decide it's best to call for the pompiers first. But, I’ve no idea where I am as I haven’t been paying attention to the signs (one of the many problems with sat navs). There is no mention in the telephone box of where we are either (how useful). I desperately try to explain “I’m about an hour from Dunkirk on the motorway”. “Which direction are you heading” they ask “Towards Brittany” I reply. Well that whittles it down then! Luckily a guy in a van arrived to service the toilets and I got him to phone the pompiers and explain where we were.
I go back to Ginny who is lying on the grass moaning “Please hurry up, when are they coming?”. I tell her they’re on their way and should be here soon. Luckily an English couple have stopped to help and the lady is talking to Ginny while I run around after the little ones. Then, the heavens open and it starts pouring with rain - Luc and Frankie start jumping up and down in the puddles. The lady has a brolly and gives Luc the job of holding the umbrella over Ginny – good idea to give him a responsibility, why didn’t I think of that? I get Frankie in the car and put a DVD on for her. The pompiers are taking ages – it’s been 20 minutes already and they’re still not here. The service man phones them again. The kind lady looks at me and says “What about you, are you alright?”. Not the best question to ask me at that particular moment. “No, not really”, comes my wimpish reply, Tears well up and a few drop, then I pull myself together – this is not the time for self-pity! So there we are standing in the pouring rain, still waiting for the pompiers and Ginny moaning on the floor – by this time the service guy has wrapped her in silver foil. We must have looked a site! The police pull up but no pompier. I have to answer lots of questions, James helps a lot with the translating (very handy having a sensible fluent French speaking 9 year old in situations like these). He was brilliant I have to say. I try phoning my Dad’s mobile again and again but there’s no response. The English lady asks “Was there anyone else in the car with him?”, “Only my Mum who doesn’t have a mobile and my brother and I don’t have his mobile number”. “Oh and there’s Ryan” pipes up James. Of course, why didin’t I think of that! Ryan’s traveling with them, he’s got his blackberry and I’m always messaging him. I call him and he answers immediately. I still have no idea where I am or where she’s going to be taken but I tell them to stop wherever they are and start heading back..
At last the pompier arrive and there’s sighs of relief all round. The pompiers try lifting her– it’s not easy and she cracks a joke as they struggle to hoist her, rather ungainly, onto the stretcher. That’s a good sign, I think to myself, at least she hasn’t lost her sense of humour.
I ask where they are going to take her “Hopital Charm” they reply and point back towards where we came from. The policeman starts to explain how to get there. I’m thinking “Oh my god, what if I can’t find it?” I think my panicked look said it all and the policeman then tells me not to worry, just follow them. Whew, that was a relief. I phone Ryan to tell him where we were going. They try looking it up on the Sat Nav, but can’t find it – great!
The pompiers were getting ready to leave, I thanked the kind lady for helping us and apologised for delaying their journey. Off we set again, but this time we have a police escort! It was quite a long journey to the hospital and one I won’t forget in a hurry. Firstly we go through a locked emergency exit on the motorway “Are you sure we allowed through here”, say James who (like his Mum) always worries about doing the right thing. “I don’t know but I’m going anyway!”, I tell him – I’m way past caring. After traveling through country lanes we come across some roadworks and it’s a red light, so on go the sirens and I follow the pompiers through. Further on, we go through a red light on a railway track – that was a bit scary, but there was no way I was letting that vehicle out of my site, so over I go nervously checking there’s no train looming. Then I had a bit of a hairy time on a roundabout – the cars gave way to the pompier, then tried carrying on, but I was having none of it. The kids thought it was great fun! Finally, we reached the hospital. and the pompiers gesture to the car park where I need to park (otherwise I think I’d have followed them straight into the emergency area).
In the hospital, I go to the desk and have to answer lots of questions (in French of course) about my cousin. Date of birth – “I think it’s in May and she’s 50 something”, Place of birth – “Somewhere in Buckinghamshire, England”, Home address – “Somewhere in Brittany”. I hadn’t realised I knew so little about my cousin. Whilst trying to answer these questions Luc and Frankie were running up and down the hospital waiting room screaming and shouting. I ask her to write down exactly where we are and I phone Ryan and wait while they punch it into the Sat Nav ......they’ll be about 45 minutes. “45 minutes? Oh no!” I look at the children, over excited, over tired and bored – good combination. I take them over to a vending machine and try and get a bar of chocolate. It swallows my euro and gives me nothing. So what do I do? Cry! Tears pour down my face as I suddenly feel totally overwhelmed by the whole situation. I want it all to go away and leave me alone. Then, Luc looks up at me and starts to giggle “it doesn’t matter that much Mummy”. I smile through my tears – he’s right of course.
I decided the best course of action is to take them back to the car. I couldn’t stand the disapproving looks of the people in the waiting room sat with their obedient children. We sit in the car park and I give them their packed lunch. I'm mechanically munching on a cheese and pickle roll, considering all the scenarios, tears silently streaming down my face, while the kids are squabbling in the back.
Eventually the camper van arrives and what a relief – help at last. After giving everyone an update of what happened I go back into the hospital to find out what’s going on. “She’s still being assessed come back in half an hour”, is the response. After a couple of hours of this, I take Ryan with me to see if he can help me understand what’s going on. This time they tell me I can see her, but only 1 is allowed in. I leave Ryan at the desk and follow them to her room .There she is, sat up in bed smiling, legs astride and a catheter fitted. I’m relieved Ryan didn’t come with me, he wouldn’t have known where to look! “They’ve taken 4 liters of wee from me and I feel so much better” she proudly announces. It seems there had been a problem with the operation she’d had earlier in the year and she hadn’t been able to go properly for months. The doctor preferred it if she stayed in over night, but she should be able to leave in the morning. We decide my parents would take my brother and my 2 youngest in the camper van onto Brittany ahead of us and I stay in a hotel over night with James and Ryan and take her home in the morning. So the camper van left and we went off to look for a hotel. I was relieved she was OK and looking forward to a good night sleep and a buffet breakfast in the morning.
We were just about to check into the hotel when we got a call from the hospital to say that Ginny has been discharged. It seems the consultant saw no reason why she couldn’t leave immediately – as long as she went straight to the doctors the next day. So, we picked her up (it was about 7pm by now) and started off once again. I wasn’t really feeling up to a 7 hour drive after the trauma of the day, but didn’t have much choice.
Ginny was so much brighter, she was joking about her catheter – they’d removed the bag and just left her with a pipe. “I can wee outside like a man now”, she joked (she must have read my posting No peeing outside please we’re British). James thought this was hilarious! Later when we were discussing the days events Ginny commented “You were so calm Nikki”, I smiled, “I didn’t feel calm”, was my modest reply. Then James chipped in from the back “She cried three times!” – thanks James!
The next stage of the journey was difficult because I was so tired. I stopped many times for coffee, but about 1am I decided I just had to have a quick sleep. “It’ll probably be like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare and the others will beat us home” I joked. I had a power nap of about 40 minutes, then drank a coffee followed by a Red Bull and started the final stint. At about 3am, when we were nearly there, we got a call from Ginny’s other half Geoff “Where are you? Uncle Tony’s already here” – we thought he was joking, but no the tortoise had actually beaten the hare after all.
A week later and after a small, successful operation Ginny now informs me she’s “weeing like a good un”, which is more preferable to weeing like a man (I think).