Mike’s Story – A Volunteer Journey…
Editorial Note – this article contains references to first aid, child loss and suicide. Please be aware of this when reading, and look after yourself…
My journey into fatherhood did not have the easiest start.
When I began to open up to the people around me about what happened to my little family on the night of Sunday 29th November 2020, some called me a hero and some called me brave and courageous.
I didn’t feel courageous, brave, or anything close to heroic.
I felt as though someone was punishing me.
Some people exclaimed “That’s a parent’s worst nightmare.” I disagreed every time with the response “No, it’s a parent’s second worst nightmare”.
The first worst nightmare of a parent is the death of a child.
That’s easy for me to say because on the night of Sunday 29th November 2020 I was lucky to have the skills and training to save my son’s life. Yet, for five minutes as a Dad, I felt the heartbreak that other Mums and Dads who have experienced the loss their children feel for a lifetime.
I still get flashbacks of the night, especially when I look at this picture of my son, Atlas. This specific picture was taken on the day he came home. Atlas was born on Saturday 28th November 2020 and came home the day after, Sunday 29th November 2020. I can now ground myself, shake the flashbacks off but if you asked me to do that eighteen months ago? Not a chance. The flashbacks would’ve caused me heartbreak, floods of tears, uncontrollable shakes, reoccurring nightmares, wetting the bed, and worse of all, sleepless nights.
To make a long story short… The night Atlas came home at 10:30pm at night, his Mum (my fiancèe) and myself were on the phone to NHS 111, and the gentleman on the other end of the phone ended up uttering the words that will resonate within me every time I think of them.
“I’m sorry, you have to initiate CPR.“
HE APOLOGISED. Why? Was it standard practice? Or was it because he asked a new Dad to initiate life saving first aid on his one day old son? I will never know but those words will ring in my head until the day I die.
I cleared the dining room table, not giving an utter second thought about the plates. I then initiated CPR on Atlas. The gentleman on NHS 111 informed myself and my fiancée that he was sending an ambulance on blue lights. I gave the first five life breathes and begun the compressions but before I could give the next set of life breathes Atlas suddenly took a large breathe in, jolted, coughed and then cried. Our front room filled with blue lights. Atlas stopped crying.
The whole experience felt out-of-bodied. I could see myself giving the life breathes, performing the compressions, and seeing Atlas breathe again. Once he came back into my life, I reentered my own body.
The paramedics came in. Trying to reassure us that Atlas was Ok. It didn’t help. The happiest day of my life. Bringing Atlas home. Was nearly the saddest day of my life.
Atlas and his Mum stayed at hospital to monitor Atlas and his breathing. Me? I went two doors up and knocked on my Mum and Dad’s door so loud and fast that as soon as my brother answered the door asking what was up. I screamed through flooding tears, “I’ve just had to give my own son CPR!”
I was ushered in after the paramedics left with my fiancée and son. I cried for 45 minutes. Then after minutes of silence. I tried to speak. I was speechless. After a few hours. I went home and cried myself to sleep.
Atlas and his Mum came home the next day. Nothing was said to explain what happened, why it happened or if anything was wrong with Atlas.
Well, something must be wrong? Are they sure? Was it Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? Surely not?
We tried to move on…
However, just six days later I was rushing back to A&E with Atlas again. Suspected meningitis. Could things get worse now? A week went by and Atlas recovered from whatever was making him ill.
We all were living under one roof again. Except I became the primary care giver to both my son and fiancée. I did this for two whole months until my fiancée finally sought out help.
I returned to work. Needing my own help. I got a huge amount of support from Dad Matters UK and from work. Both organisations helped me day by day. Talking to me. Checking up on me. Listening to me.
I did things for myself too to help with the trauma, the PND, the PTSD, and the risk of suicide such as, poetry.
I wrote this poem, entitled Sunday 29th November 2020. please click to read it in a new tab.
Each week I spoke with my Dad Matters UK coordinator., Dan. I spoke with my line managers at work. Keeping myself safe. I recently wrote about my suicide attempt. I still feel guilty for wanting to commit suicide. I now use that guilt to empower myself. Move forward. Enable and empower new Dads and Dads to be.
I wanted to give back to an organisation that helped me through the toughest four months of my life. If it wasn’t for their support and empowerment. They wouldn’t be one of the reasons why both me and Atlas still breathe.
I volunteer for Dad Matters UK and facilitate Walk ‘n’ Talks in the Bolton area, and provide Outreach to the Dads to be and new Dads of Bolton. I’m hoping to give more time in the future because Dad does Matter.
Though I was lucky to save Atlas, my heart goes out to those Mums and Dads who have experienced the loss of a child. It’s one of the reasons why I volunteer for Dad Matters UK, I want to help Dads through the grief, the PTSD, the fear of becoming a parent again, the fear of sleeping in case something happens, I want to support you, Dad, through these hard times, and most of all, I want to see you grow, thrive, and become the DAD that your child LOVES and NEEDS.
If you are a Dad who has ever had to initiate life saving first aid. Please take this advice, you are not alone, reach out, talk about it because if you don’t, it’ll consume you like it nearly did with me.
Our children are special to us. The Mums of our children are special to us. But remember, you’re special in the eyes of your children and their mums.
I hope to see you soon at one of our Walk ‘n’Talk events…
For support please see our Get Support page.