Mummy's little helper

In the depths of my despair, I found a true angel in you...

Published by: Sarah Veness
Published on: 21st January 2010

Dear Rebecca,

Sometimes just looking at your beautiful smile was enough to get me through the day. Your blue eyes would sparkle as you flashed a toothy grin.
Instantly, whatever worries were on my mind would melt away.
As a mum of five, life could be pretty manic. I already had your older sister Emma and brother Jake before meeting your dad Gavin. Then you and your little brothers Todd and Ross came along.
On top of that, Todd had a spinal deformity, sacral agenesis, and was severely disabled with no muscles in his bowel or bladder.
You were only five when he was born, but took his problems in your stride. 'I'll read him a story,' you'd say, pulling him on to your lap.
It wasn't long before you were feeding and changing him, too.
And when I wasn't looking after you rascals, I was trying to run a hair salon. I loved my hectic life, but there were times my health caught up with me. Suffering from diabetes, if my insulin levels got too high or low, I could have seizures and blackouts.
Then, one afternoon, when you were nine, I noticed something.
'My right eye's gone blurry,' I told your dad. We were in the garden having a barbecue.
'I-I can't feel the right side of my face,' I whispered, heart racing.
'I'll take you to hospital,' said Daddy. I nodded, head spinning.
Was I having a stroke, heart attack... Not wanting to scare you, I made an excuse about needing more burgers, and left Emma in charge. By the time I got to Southampton General, I couldn't see out of my right eye.
'Who'll look after the kids if I'm in hospital?' I panicked.
'Let's get you sorted first,' soothed your dad.
Doctors ran tests, discovered what was wrong. 'You've contracted mononeuritis multiplex,' the doctor said. 'It's a complication of your diabetes.'
My optic nerve had died. There was nothing they could do.?
Then they dropped a bombshell.
'It's likely to happen to your other eye, too,' the doctor added.
'No,' I gasped. 'I can't go blind.'
'I'm here,' promised Daddy. 'And so are the kids, we'll look after you.'
But how could I expect you lot to care for me - I was Mum, I should be running around after everyone. But I pulled myself together before arriving home.
I'd decided not to tell you what lay ahead, I didn't want to worry you. But one look at my babies, and it was a struggle to stop the tears. 'One day, I won't see their beautiful faces,' I sobbed to Dad.
One day, I'd wake up and that would be it - utter darkness forever.
The thought terrified me, but I tried to stay positive. I'd always been busy - I couldn't slow down now and show you kids I wasn't strong enough to face this.
Three years ticked by, and I began to forget the doctor's words.
I grew confident. Perhaps it wouldn't happen? But I was wrong.
Waking up one morning in February 2008, when you were nine, it was dark. I couldn't see a thing. I'd had so many nightmares about the day I'd wake up blind, I wasn't sure if I was still asleep.
But my eyes were open, I was sure of it. Trembling, I shook Daddy awake. 'It-it's happened,' I croaked. 'I've gone blind.'
You must have heard me sobbing, because a few minutes later, I heard the floorboard creek outside our bedroom. 'Mum,' you whispered, knocking on the door. 'Everything okay?'
'I suppose I can't hide this any longer,' I sighed.
'What's wrong?' you asked, voice trembling.
Curling up on my bed, I ran my hand through your long hair.
'You know I have diabetes,' I started. 'Well, something's gone wrong... and I can't see.'
God, I wish I could have seen your face, known how to comfort you. Instead, all I could hear was your steady breathing. 'Don't worry,' you cried. 'I'll look after the boys.'
Hospital tests confirmed I was now permanently blind.
At home, I sat on the sofa, crying. Minutes later, I felt you sit beside me. Silently, you rested your head on my shoulder. Your hair smelled of coconut.
I suppose that would be how I'd tell you all apart now, by touch and smell. Even though you were a child, you knew words couldn't comfort me.
From then on, my independence was ripped from me. I couldn't even inject my own insulin, relying on you or Dad. 'Time for your injection,' you'd sing.
I was always bumping into cupboards and tripping over toys. 'You can't leave your toys out any more,' you'd tell the boys.
Despite your support, I became depressed. One day, at my lowest, my brother Jason came around.
'Life's not worth living,' I sobbed. 'I want to die.'
Suddenly, I heard a noise in the other room. Feeling my way in, I found you huddled in a ball, crying. 'Don't you dare kill yourself,' you said. 'I'm always here to help.'
That was the wake-up call I needed - there was no way I could ever leave you. Patiently, you began to pull me out of my depression. 'Right,' you said the next day. 'We're going to have a test.'
'What kind?' I had to chuckle.
'I'm going to take you around the house, testing you on where the furniture is.' Taking my hand, you tugged me off the sofa and into the kitchen. 'How many steps to the sofa?' you asked.
'Er... 12,' I replied.
'You got it right,' you cheered.
Every day after school, you helped bath the boys and put them to bed. Then we'd put on some music and bake cakes. It was like our roles had reversed. 'Here's 200g of flour,' you'd say, tipping it into the bowl. 'Now you stir.'
I loved this time together.?
As the months passed, I realised something. Sight or no sight, I was the luckiest mum in the world.
I've got so much to live for and it's thanks to you, Rebecca - you're my eyes. Though at the same time, I want for you to live a normal, independent life.
There's no doubt about it Rebecca, you're going to grow into an amazing woman. And I'm here for you, to give you advice and help, like you've done for me. You don't have to worry about me. I don't need sight. You've taught me how to live without it, and I can't thank you enough.

Love Mum xx
Alison Travers, 39, Southamptom