Who are you and what do you do?
Hi I am Sam, a mum of two beautiful girls and a home school educator and carer. I spend my days looking after my eldest daughter at home and spend 95% of my time thinking how I can become a successful person in a way that the rest of the world sees success. I really enjoy organising events and hope for that to be my career one day.
You’ve organised the Stress Ball to raise fund for PoetsIN Schools. Tell us some of the back story as to why this is important to you.
In 2013, I was raising 2 beautiful daughters; Keira who was 7 and Roxy who was 4. I was married and had been since before having our girls, we had a beautiful home and some pets, our life was normal. We struggled with the occasional money worry or family trouble but nothing that was out of the ordinary. Keira was a dancer and gymnast she also attended some acting classes and loved being on stage and centre of attention. She became very good at her gymnastics and competed in competitions coming 3rd in the county in her trio once, she also performed in numerous shows including one in the West End with her dance and theatre school. Life was good.
When did everything change?
Things changed when Keira returned to school after a week off for a sickness bug. Keira started complaining of stomach pains and was crying a lot. She wouldn’t sleep and couldn’t eat, something numerous appointments with the doctors failed to diagnose; until one day we decided A and E was our only option.
After much pushing, prodding, medication and taking observations they performed an X-ray, throughout which Keira screamed pretty much the whole process. It was very distressing behaviour that confused the staff there. Late that evening a doctor explained that he felt that there was a faecal impaction in her bowels and prescribed a laxative to her, 4 times a day.
Sounds horrible. How did she respond?
There ensued a hellish week force feeding Keira a foul liquid all day, every day; promising she’d be better soon as she cried in pain from going to the toilet now up to 10 times a day.
We went back to the doctors who revealed an incorrect diagnosis and immediately put a stop to the medication. They still had no idea or physical reason why she should be in pain.
Many appointments with hospital and doctors later, as well as absences from school, tests were still coming back clear. We had to work very slowly to get Keira back to school, all the while assuring her there was nothing wrong despite her feeling there was. Each morning at school, she would be peeled off me in tears begging me not to leave her. It was slowly destroying me and having a profound effect on life at home.
We can imagine. Did things get better?
Things got worse when Keira refused to enter her bedroom meaning neither of us got any sleep. Eating was irregular and separation from me became impossible. Fear reached such levels that she would have to be physically restrained for up to 4 hours at a time by me as it was the only way to keep her from thrashing about and becoming inconsolable. We would sleep on a blanket on the floor in the lounge and if I set foot into a supermarket with her, she would physically sob and shout “take me home, mummy, get me out, help me”. I got so many looks of disgust.
With school no longer became an option, so I had Keira 24/7 without a breaks as she was too frightened to leave my side, to the extent that neither of us went to the toilet alone and she would sit on my kitchen floor or hold on to my jumper whilst I cooked dinner.
Interventions and therapies were unsuccessful until we met a psychologist through CAMHS who suggested medication. I was wary after so many scare stories but with mine, Keira’s and Roxy’s life becoming unbearable I didn’t know how else to could carry on. I couldn’t bear to see Keira struggling to cope each day and my youngest having to witness everything at such a young age.
What happened next?
I had no choice – the medication started!
We started very slowly and had problems on the way. On Christmas Eve 2016, Keira told me she wanted to die, something no mother should hear their 10-year-old child say. My marriage split up too, leaving me to pay the mortgage and care for my children without being able to go to work. We managed though working from home and the house became a little calmer; and with the medication being increased, life also became slightly more normal.
Here we are now, after many appointments, therapy cycles, medication reviews, a divorce, a new partner and a move of home all whilst home educating but trying to get my daughter back into school.
Is it obvious Keira is as anxious as you say?
And if you met Keira, you would struggle to see that anything is wrong with until you;
1) Took her away from my side
2) Put her in a school environment for more than an hour or two on her own.
So what happens now?
3 years on, we are still fighting authorities, medical needs and many more to get the help we need and access to full time education.
I feel strong enough to talk about our experience so far and am starting to accept our future; which is me and Keira side by side, taking one day at a time to help her grow and manage – all whilst keeping Roxy’s life as normal as possible.
And what’s next for you?
Now I want to help other children and parents who are in the same situation and get early access to funded intervention therapies or help with educational costs via an online school if children are unable to attend a physical school.
My immediate aim is to fundraise for PoetsIN and to develop their program and mental health support for children – PoetsIN Schools.
Ultimately, my wish is to be a fundraiser for PoetsIN whilst attending the appointments that I need to, the school runs and of course many days with Keira by my side. I hope to take my tough times and turn them into support and education for others. This for me would be the key to a future with positivity and the purpose in life that I need.
Massive thanks to Sam for sharing her story and for arranging the Stress Ball – happening tomorrow. We’ll share the good news after the event; and we look forward to working with Sam on more fundraisers.