On the other side of the bed

Pedro and María Antonia (© Pedro Riera)

One of the things I remember vividly about my childhood is spending more time with my grandparents than my parents.

Mum and Dad often took trips to Madrid and I would stay at my Grandma and Grandad’s house while they were away. My parents phoned every evening, but even as a small boy I could see that their calls made my grandparents sad. At the time I didn’t understand what was going on, and couldn’t have done anything to help even if I had. All I wanted was for my parents to come home.

The next time my parents were planning a trip to Madrid, I begged them to let me go too. I thought that the trips they went on were holidays and I was missing out. I was so stubborn that eventually my parents grew tired of listening to my tantrums and complaints and agreed to take me. But just a few hours after arriving in Madrid, I wanted to go home. After a short time at the Ramon y Cajal Hospital, where my sister was having continual medical tests, I started crying that I wanted to leave. I was so determined to go home that I didn’t even want to visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium (the home ground of the Real Madrid football team).

Now these memories make me smile, and even my parents find them funny. But visiting my sister in hospital was not a pleasant experience. When my parents asked me the following year if I wanted to go again, the answer was short and to the point: “no!”

It’s important not to forget that those on the other side of the hospital bed – parents, siblings, and friends – also live through their own anguish. It’s heartbreaking to see someone you love suffering and feeling unable to help.
But you’re helping just by being there. Having someone to support them through the daily struggles, to cuddle them and share the smiles is what gives a sick child the strength to carry on. The most precious gift you can give them is love.

Pedro’s sister, María Antonia, was born with Tetralogy of Fallot. She has just celebrated her 30th birthday.

Author: Pedro Riera