life

Remembering Meg…


At approximately 4am on October 29, 1995, Dr Derek said, ‘I’m sorry, Meg just died’.

I don’t recall what I said, but I vividly remember every detail of that moment seeing her, in her bed in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s hospital Intensive Care Unit. It was if my mind took a snapshot of that exact moment when Meg, my first child left this world and my life changed forever.

And like an old album, every now and then, I dust off my mind and remember.

I’ve only shared the memory of that early morning with a couple of close friends over the years, not necessarily because of the pain recalling that traumatic time caused, it was more about how people would react. I would see pity in their eyes and whilst well intentioned, I simply didn’t want to feel like that person.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to write about it here, now. Maybe it’s because her ‘anniversary’ has just passed, or maybe it’s because sometimes it simply feels right to write about a time that had a profound effect on my life.

Meg was born with a severe heart condition known as a Tetralogy of Fallot: a combination of 4 defects, three of which included Tricuspid Atresia, Sub-Pulminary Stenois and a Ventricular Septal Defect.

Her prognosis was not positive, however cardiologists advised that her condition could be managed with a blalock taussig shunt, followed by intense medication with a view to perform an operation know as a Fontan when she reached 2 years of age.

At 6 weeks old, surgeons performed the shunt operation, and in the 8 months following, Meg seemed to be doing okay. She required regular visits to the hospital as she was on a blood thinning drug called Warfarin, and her doses needed to be closely monitored.

Apart from being quite ‘blue’ (cyanosis) she was a happy baby who seemed to have an uncanny ability to draw people to her. For example, if we were out shopping, people often commented. I recall one lady smiling as she walked toward Meg. When she reached us she said to me, “I’m sorry if this sounds strange, but I simply had to come over and see your baby, it’s as if she’s calling me…”.

It did sound strange, yet this happened often. Meg was not any more beautiful than any other baby, but she had something about her. I sometimes thought she knew her time on earth was short and therefore somehow radiated this, which drew people to her.

Due to her condition, she did not reach the usual milestones. She did not crawl, nor was she able to roll easily as young babies do. She could however sit upright once we had helped her to the position. She loved to just sit and either watch me doing whatever needed doing, or just playing with her favourite toys.

Sadly though, her time away from ICU was short-lived. At 8 months old she went into heart failure, which revealed a shocking diagnosis: mitral valve regurgitation that required immediate open heart surgery to replace the valve. To say this was a major setback is an understatement, this diagnosis was catastrophic for it meant there was little chance of the future Fontan operation being performed. However the medical team did not reveal this to us at the time, I guess it served no purpose, for whilst this diagnosis left little hope for Meg’s future, there was still a fragment of hope that we all, medical team included, needed to hold onto.

The following day Meg underwent the 6 hour operation to replace her Mitral Valve. The risk involved in performing this procedure on someone so young was high and whilst the surgical team had prepared us, there were no words to help ease the emotional turmoil. Thankfully she came through the surgery well and we were by her side in ICU later that afternoon.

The medical team had prepared us earlier regarding what to expect when we saw Meg in ICU post surgery, and whilst it was confronting, I saw past the numerous tubes and beeping machines that enveloped her, and simply saw my sweet, beautiful baby.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, she began show small signs of improvement and there was a glimmer of hope that she may grow into a beautiful woman, whose life would be filled with love and laughter.

This was not to be.

On October 28, 1995 Meg was re-admitted into ICU and placed on a ventilator. Throughout that day she fought hard, yet in the early hours of the following morning we received a call in our hospital accommodation. I will never forget those six words.

“Jen, come quickly, Meg’s taken a dive…’

Strange wording, yet the team in ICU had become friends, with staff adoring Meg. It could be said the wording was not professional, but it didn’t matter to us as we hurriedly dressed and raced downstairs to the ICU.

Walking into her room was like walking into a nightmare.

The floor to the left side of her bed was smeared with the remains of a blood bag that had been accidentally dropped. Dr Derek stood beside her bed, the frayed edges of his jeans stained red from remnants of the broken bag. The buttons on his white, collared shirt had been incorrectly fastened, making his shirt look oddly ‘uneven’. He’d been the doctor on call when the buzzers went off, dressed quickly, and as a result misplaced buttons.

Again, I do not know why or how I’ve remembered this tragic time in great detail, as I wrote above, it really is as if my mind took a snapshot and it’s now stored in my memory forever.

Across from Derek was a female doctor I’d not seen before, she was frantically working on Meg and I could hear her saying, ‘fuck, I cant find it…’. Alongside her there were a number of other medical staff calmly, yet methodically adjusting tubes and checking monitors.

I walked around to the right side of her bed, gently kissed her forehead and placed my mouth to her ear. I clearly remember my words. “It’s okay Meggie, you can go if you need to, I’ll understand…”. I do not know why I said those words, and for a very long time after her death, I blamed myself. If only I’d asked her to fight harder, would she have still been here today?

I now realise that was not the case. I loved her deeply and maybe deep down in my heart saying those words was some kind of acceptance. I don’t know, I really don’t. I only know that my heart broke into a million pieces when a few minutes later, Dr Derek spoke those six words I’d never wanted to hear.

At that moment, my world fell apart. And in the months that followed, the grief I felt was indescribable. But the old adage, time heals, is true.

A few months after she died, I remember reading a story about a man who’d lost his teenage daughter. His words resonated and they are words I have carried with me and lived by.

When tragedy strikes your life you can be one of two things: bitter or better. I choose better”.

Today, 24 years later, I have put the pieces of my life back together, knowing I am a better person for having had that beautiful soul in my life. Meg taught me many things and I’m so, so grateful I had the honour of being her mother.

Remembering Meg: a gentle, wise and magical soul…

Note: There may not be many who do read this post as I lost all of my followers last year due to a massive faux pas when trying to upgrade my blog. But it’s not about who reads it, it’s more about documenting digitally, knowing it will be here when I need it.

photography, travel

Not all who wander are lost…


Wandering excites the senses and creates a myriad of experiences.

Emotive, exciting & reflective experiences that shape who we are.

What follows is a small snapshot of experiences that have shaped my greatest loves: travel, animals and photography…

life, travel

A French love affair…


Walking along paths framed by wheat fields, climbing across majestic mountains and traversing through forests whilst being stalked by horses was an experience I’ll never forget.

And already, I deeply miss walking the Camino.

I miss the feeling of knowing the morning heralded another day of simply being in the present. Another day of simply placing one foot in front of another, hour after hour. It was so humbling and and so rewarding.

I truly wish I’d had more time to finish the entire Camino: unfortunately I did not.

But like others before me, I will return.

Instead, I’m continuing my love affair with France, a country I adore. The language, the landscape and the friendliness of the people.

Some may ‘tut tut’ at that last sentence, but I’ve always found French people to be warm and friendly.

This visit is no different.

My chance encounter with a French couple who’d just completed the entire Camino [Le Puy en Valay to Finisterre, approx 1600kms]. They happily shared very useful advice on walking Le Puy.

Bruno, my Airbnb host who warmly accepted my very last minute booking ( 1 hour), and who then praised my poor French language skills.

The wonderful people who invited me into the masses to enjoy and support Gay Pride.

And today: the wait staff at a restaurant where I stopped for lunch. They chatted animatedly with me before inviting me to join them later for drinks and dinner. I declined as I needed to get back to my Airbnb, however I was humbled by their kindness.

Tomorrow I head further north for a few days of walking through old villages, before heading to Lyon to spend time with an old, dear friend who I’ve not seen in quite a few years.

And just as my love affair with France continues, so does my love of travelling solo.

I’m never lonely, never frightened and despite missing my precious sons, special friends and of course my beloved sausages, life is sweet.

To those who fear solo travel, fear not, for it truly is an amazing experience that heightens the senses and soothes the soul…

❤️❤️🐾🐾❤️❤️

dogs

Living a Sausage life..


A dear friend messaged me the other day and spoke about how the best ideas are those that come from the heart. And when you follow those ideas with passion, those ideas are more often than not, successful.

For a very long time I had an idea, one that was born from love and driven by my passion for animals, in particular dachshunds, aka Sausage Dogs.

My idea was to create a space for Sausages to come and stay whilst their humans are away.  A place where they feel loved, secure and a place where they socialise with my own beloved Sausages.

So I took my idea and made it a reality: Stanley & Bear, a hotel for Sausages is open and thriving. 

dogs

the serious business of being a dog…


Being a dog is a very serious business.

It’s a dog’s business to inspect, sniff AND sample all foods a human consumes.

It’s a dog’s business to always accompany the human to the bathroom.

It’s a dog’s business to occupy 2/3’ds of the human’s bed.

It’s a dog’s business to always travel in car with the human.

It’s a dog’s business to love and be loved.

Ah, the serious business of being a dog…

 

dogs

Dogs do speak, just listen to their ears…


Dogs can speak. Just as humans use sign language, I believe so do our 4-legged friends, but instead of using their paws, they use their ears.

If you take the time to listen to their ears, you’ll see they actually speak volumes.

I decided to gather a few images of doggy speak, and who better to demonstrate that speak than my beloved Stanley, Eddie and two other 4-legged friends I met on recent travels?

As I went about my business, so did they: sniffing, sleeping, catching a few winter rays, or simply going about the important business of being a dog.

But I did manage to capture a little of how their dogships communicate – with a little caption ‘translation’…

 

life

Still, stagnant water…


It’s that same road again,
the cycle repeats.
The scenery never changing,
it remains cold and bleak.
At times there is sunshine,
Rays of hope, light and love.
The clouds though take over,
Raining sadness from above.
Try to find light,
in the bleak, endless hail.
Searching for a rainbow,
To repair what’s now frail
The darkness, the shadows,
the whispering thoughts.
The endless days,
equating to nought.
Petalless flowers,
dry, yellowing grass.
Still stagnant waters,
a sad, heavy heart…

 

 

travel

In 5 years …


A good friend asked me recently, ‘Jen, do you ever think about where you will be in 5 years?’

On hearing his words, I did not need to think about where I’ll be, for I already knew as a destination has danced in my mind for many years. Now, as my life changes and my family now shape their own futures, the path to that destination is becoming a reality.

So where shall I be? 

I shall be somewhere in France, perhaps sipping a good Pinot Noir or Gris, whilst basking in the hue of glorious sunset from the verandah of my home.

Along the verandah’s balustrade, brightly coloured flowers stretch upward and fresh herbs, of which I use to excite my cooking adorn the ledge. In the garden, my precious sausage dogs are taking in the scents, before rolling with passion on the freshly mowed grass.

In the small, yet quaint living room an overstuffed sofa bed bought from a second hand store, lies in wait for my two grown boys who are soon to arrive.

My french is now reasonable and in the last 5 years I have trekked the Annapurna, floated in the Dead Sea and gazed in wonder at the natural beauty of the Northern Lights.

My life is full of simple pleasures. Daily jaunts to the colourful market where freshly baked baguettes and locally grown produce are in abundance. Summer evenings see friends gathering under the vine covered terrace, their faces taking on a warm, orange glow from the abundance of fairy lights intertwined through the vine’s branches. Soft music filters through the night air, as does the laughter of people living a life well loved.

In the winter months snowflakes dance through the frosty air before blanketing the ground, and transforming my garden into a shimmering winter wonderland. Inside, I’m curled upon that comfy sofa in front of a flickering log fire, with the company of a good book and my beloved dogs.

I am content, I have fulfilled long held dreams.

Mostly though, I’m full of love for my beautiful children and loyal dogs who are, and always will be my greatest achievement.