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Life Chez Dee Episode #125: 5th Dec

I didn’t sleep last night. Happy that we’d had such a lovely, albeit very cold and wet, day out in Manchester to celebrate Justin’s birthday, and to see my big boy, who is loving University life, but goodness how I miss him. We ate, drank, chatted, and wandered and it was such a lovely day together. Such a bittersweet time. The birthday celebrations for Justin, and yet the memories of 5 years ago are so painful.

5th December is a date etched into my heart. The day five years ago that I watched my boy take his last breath. The memory of that, the panic, the trauma, the pain, the helplessness, the emptiness NEVER goes away. I don’t want it to go away, this is part of me, and however painful this is, this is still a connection I have, a continuing bond with Edward. The importance and the significance of this cannot be underestimated.

Time heals they say. No it doesn’t. Time puts other things around the pain, but that pain is still there. I am not the same person, I have changed beyond recognition to many, how could I not? I defy anyone to not change after going through something as traumatic as the sudden death of a child. I was ripped apart, torn, beaten, battered and bruised, and have been kicked about every single day since. I ache so much for my boy to still be here, and with each year that passes, there is an added ache of another year I have gone through without him, and another year I have yet to face.

Another year has gone by. Another year gone without my boy. Another year of celebrations and making memories with the other boys, with Justin and without Edward to share in them. Another year of missing Edward so dreadfully it still hurts.

Every school run, every joke shared, every photograph, every holiday we go on, every day trip out together, Edward is missing. Every mealtime, every family celebration, every trip to a cinema, theatre or restaurant, Edward is missing. He has been missing for five years, he is missing from now, he is missing from all the years to come. He is with me in every thought I have from the moment I wake, to the moment I sleep. The days go by, the weeks, and now the years without him, and it doesn’t get better, the loss, the heartache, the emptiness, the yearning are there, with us, all the time, forever.

I have grown around the pain, it is still there inside and it still opens up. I describe this pain as volcanic. The pain is the lava bubbling inside, sometimes a crack appears and the lava, or the pain, oozes and is there, present and seeping, but it allows me to still function, other times the plates move, the crack opens up and the lava, or pain, comes out with force … the volcano erupts. The eruption destroys everything, consumes everything, and there is nothing which can prevent the devastation and wreckage it causes. Edward’s death destroyed us.

Death of a child is like no other death. Death of a child is an out of order death. I say this time and again, and for those of you who have read and understood what I say, I needn’t say it again, but there are so many who just cannot comprehend this, and wonder why time hasn’t healed. If you can’t imagine this, then don’t … it isn’t a nice place to go. To truly understand, you have to have worn these “ugly shoes” of mine, and I wouldn’t want you to own a pair, I really wouldn’t.

On 5th December 2016 my life changed forever. There are many life changing moments we all go through in life, the first notable one for me being when I got married. Again when William was born, again when Edward was born, and again when Oliver was born. These were all life changing events which blew me away, changed me forever, changed me from the Liz I was before the event, to a different Liz after the event. These were wonderful events, with wonderful memories.

And then there was the life changing event of Edward’s death. A very different life, a very different Liz.

I have read in the news this week, and indeed listened to the radio, where there has been lots of discussion about why people won’t have the covid vaccinations or boosters. They don’t need it, they’re young, they’re fit, they’re healthy, they’re taking their chances, they’re not being dictated to; they’re not playing a part in the conspiracy, they’re not putting chemicals inside them. I try to remain open to hearing and accepting the thoughts of others, but with regards to this, the reasoning behind many of these statements is both ignorant and selfish in my opinion, and this I’m alright Jack attitude doesn’t really sit well with me.

What I say to you now isn’t to do with Covid at all, but it is a lot to do with vaccinations. Vaccinations work, and vaccinations save lives.

Edward was young, he was fit, he was strong, he was healthy, and just four days before his death won Military School, being the best boy for PT in strength stamina and speed. Meningitis took the life of Edward in just a few hours.

Edward died from a cruel and indiscriminate disease which was preventable with vaccination. Why had he not had the vaccine? Because I didn’t know there was one. As a mum you assume that the doctors, that the government tell you about all the vaccinations they need to have to protect them through life. I have always kept the children up to date with vaccinations.

Unbeknown to me, and indeed to many parents I’d guess, the government and the JCVI work statistically, and decided that the Meningitis ACWY vaccine would be given to children at 14 years old. This would be a booster vaccine as the children had received meningitis vaccinations as babies. Edward wasn’t considered to be at high risk of contracting this disease at 10 years old. What I have learned since is that is utter tosh, and that anyone …. I repeat, ANYONE, can contract meningitis. Anyone of any age, sex, race, or gender. It doesn’t care if you are fit or fat, young or old, rich or poor; it is cruel and it doesn’t discriminate.

What I know now is that if everyone who was eligible had taken up the vaccine, then there would have been herd immunity, and this herd immunity would protect those who hadn’t had the vaccine. People think it won’t happen to them, they don’t need a vaccine, they won’t get ill; they won’t die; they don’t want chemicals in their body, they’re not being told what to do; they want natural immunity, I’ve even received ignorant comments from parents telling me that they still wouldn’t have the meningitis vaccine and that they think it more important to give their children vegetables and a healthy diet. Aside from this being unbelievably cruel to say this to a mother who has lost her child, let me respond with this … Edward had a healthy diet; Edward ate vegetables; meningitis didn’t care how healthy he was, or how much veg he ate!

Vaccines work … let us think about how many diseases are no longer a threat to us because of vaccination: Smallpox, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, TB. Because these diseases are no longer a threat to us (or at least no longer a threat to us in this part of the world) we don’t see the need for vaccination. But the reason these are no longer a threat to us is because of vaccination. All of these diseases are preventable with vaccination and with herd immunity. Flu is no different; Covid is no different. This is about helping; helping yourselves and helping others.

When you have the vaccine you stop the NHS being overwhelmed with seriously ill people; you protect the elderly and the vulnerable; you protect those with underlying health conditions; and you protect yourselves, as you really don’t know how your body and your immune system is going to react to getting a virus or a disease until you catch it. So let us not forget about mask wearing too, as the same objections are generally spouted by, but not limited to the same anti vaxxers. It is not just about catching Covid and/or coping with it, it is about carrying a virus and spreading it to others without even knowing. Protection increases the more people who have a vaccine. Vaccines work, but they need your help too, they need people to take up what is on offer, and they need you to be vigilant with diseases

If everyone eligible had taken up the ACWY vaccine, Edward may still be here.

I say this to those who won’t have the covid vaccine. Not everything in life is about you, sometimes you need to see the bigger picture, sometimes you need to think of others and not just yourselves. Having a vaccine is to look after you, look after your family, look after all the other people you don’t even know.

On the radio this week I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “I’ve had covid and it was dreadful, but I’ve had it now and I don’t want to have the vaccine as I probably don’t need it, and anyway the virus keeps changing and I don’t want to keep having to go and have boosters.”

Have the boosters, don’t take chances, protect yourself, protect others, protect the many. You wouldn’t get on a plane than hadn’t been checked over in the last five years would you? You wouldn’t say oh it was checked before its first flight, I don’t want to keep checking it, I’d be having to check it all the time and then I’d have to keep making tweaks to it to make it safe. It’s the same thing!

Would you run a red light? It’s the law that we stop when the traffic lights are red. It’s about safety; the protection of others and the protection of ourselves. Do we say that we’re not going to bother? We can see the road is clear so we don’t see the point of stopping? Do we say that we’re not going to be controlled by the government, by the police, by the law? No. We know it is about the safety of ourselves and others. It is the same thing! Wearing a mask and getting the vaccine is the same thing! Protect yourself, protect others.

But the people who are spouting the conspiracy theories, or professing the I’m alright Jack attitude to life, clearly haven’t lost someone close to them. This has turned into a rant, which wasn’t my intention, but this has really hit a nerve for me. I know I say all this from a personal perspective, but I know first hand the price of there not being herd immunity. Maybe your views would be different if you had lost a loved one, or a child, to a virus or disease preventable through vaccination.

I make this plea. Don’t let your ignorance mean the death of another; and don’t let your dying words, or the words of your loved one be that you wished you’d had the vaccine.

I’ve had my rant now, and so I turn my attention back to Edward. How do we mark this day? It isn’t a celebration, and yet even though our time with Edward was short, I give thanks that I had those 10 years with my boy. I am grateful to have been able to love so much, and be loved so much, that the pain is this great. I’m so grateful to the many who remember Edward, not just this date, but the memories of the every day too, and to those who still share their memories with us; it really is very special and very much needed and appreciated.

We want more research into meningitis, and if there is more research, there may be more vaccines. Today The Edward Dee Fund is making a donation of £5,000 to Meningitis Research Foundation in the hope that with more research, and more vaccines, we can prevent this cruel and indiscriminate disease. Giving £5K to MRF is something which the charity can do to mark this day; another act of love for others, a legacy for Edward.

We’ve been to see Edward today and have taken him a Christmas Tree, a really beautiful tree. Five years ago Edward was prancing about our sitting room with tinsel round his head as we decorated our Christmas Tree. How different it is this year, and every year now. I struggle to decorate our Christmas Tree; it’s something I just find too painful to do. But Edward loved to do this, Edward loved trees … climbing them, whittling wood, burning wood. And so Edward will always have his tree.

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