It’s when I come out of my Pilates course at 7:30pm that I realise something is up. Six missed phone calls from my daughter! Then I see her text message.
I’m in A&E with Rose.
What? Shaking, I ring her mobile number.
“A shelf fell on the floor, scattering the bolts that held them together,” she tells me in that voice which we both use when we’re trying to be calm. “I was gathering them up when I heard Rose coughing badly in the next room. She said she’d swallowed one.”
My heart goes into freefall.
Our local hospital is a good 40-minute drive. Running home, I leap into my own car and make my way, taking care to adhere to safety speed limits while wishing that I could press a magic button and be there right now.
When I arrive. Rose is dancing round A & E like a little fairy.
“They’ve X-rayed her abdomen,” says my daughter, “and now we are waiting to see the doctor.”
I know the NHS often gets criticised but the staff that night are absolutely amazing.
A very nice doctor explains that the bolt didn’t show up in the abdomen but might (at a pinch) be in her throat or even further down. It was ‘unlikely’ but if we wanted to be certain, Rose needs further x-rays,
So off she dances (still coughing) while I befriend an elderly man waiting by his wife on a stretcher.
It turns out that we live in neighbouring seaside villages. His wife had fallen and probably broken her hip. My heart goes out to the two of them – especially as my own husband is having a hip op very soon.
Then we wait for the results. If anyone needs reminding about the frailty of life, you only have to look round Casualty. It’s all here.
A young girl is comforting someone who might be a sister or a friend who seems seriously ill. An old man on a walking frame is being asked if he’s alright on his own when he is discharged.
“I’ll have to be, won’t I?” he retorts. Once more it makes me realise how precious family and loved ones are.
Then we are called in. Our hearts are in our mouths.
Meanwhile my son-in-law is at home with little George, desperate for news. If only I hadn’t been at Pilates, he could have come in with my daughter and I could have babysat.
There is no sign of any foreign body, says the doctor. But Rose is still coughing. We go home, not sure whether to be worried or not.
That night, my daughter sleeps by my granddaughter’s bed just to make sure.
The next day is a granny day. I’m on “poo check duty” just in case the bolt has been hiding in that X-ray.
I keep suggesting she “tries to go” but she is adamant that she doesn’t need to. On top of everything, it’s a rainy day and we’ve mislaid one of the remote controls so I can’t even fall back on Hey Duggee. (If you haven’t watched this, you’re missing a treat!)
Maybe Rose has swallowed the remote too, texts my husband. It’s not funny.
Still, we have lots of fun, doing arty crafty stuff and having jump-in-the-puddle walks. But no visits to the loo and still lots of coughing. My grandmotherly instinct tells me to take her to the GP.
“Are you sure she swallowed it? She might just have perceived that she did so,” he says carefully.
My mind suddenly shoots back to when my daughter was three and came into the house from our garden, clutching yew berries from a neighbour’s overhanging branch.
When I asked if she’d eaten any, she nodded her head so we shot off to Casualty where they made her sick.
There was no sign of the said berries. Like mother, like daughter?
The bolt is one of those things that – like the berries – we will no doubt laugh about in years to come. But not just yet.
The next day, I take Rose to nursery where the wonderful staff promise to watch out for emerging foreign bodies.
George – who’s always been very clingy – is going too. Regular readers might remember that last week, I stayed with him all morning and we had a great time.
Today, I sneak out after half an hour and drive home, feeling wretched. Should I have said goodbye? If I had, he’d have yelled. But now he might feel I’ve deserted him.
I go back to my place to check up on husband- with-crutches but the phone goes before I’ve even removed my coat. It’s one of the nursery workers.
“I’m on my way,” I say.
“Actually,” she says, “he’s just stopped. In fact, he’s engaging with one of the tractors. I’ll call you back in five minutes and let you know how he’s doing.”
She’s as good as her word. George seems happy again so I run off to the tennis courts to meet my friends for all of twenty minutes.
I play two games with my mobile in my pocket – just in case – and then it rings.
George is getting a bit tearful again. So I leap into the car. Oh no! There are roadworks. Just my luck….
When I arrive, George leaps into my arms. I have to say there is something very gratifying about being needed by a small one after all these years!
We decide to end the session on a positive note so I stay for another ten minutes and play with him. By the time we leaves, he is happy.
Then I rush down to the launderette to pick up my daughter’s washing (her machine has broken down and ours is full); have an extremely messy highchair lunch; and scoot back to collect my granddaughter.
“No,” say the nursery staff. She still hasn’t been. And yes, she told them all about the bolt she swallowed….
“Maybe she’s going to be a writer,” says my husband. “You lot make a lot up, don’t you?”
The next day I get a text from my son in law. She’s done a you-know-what!
Any sign of something metallic? I text back.
No. But the coughing has stopped. It’s a mystery.
Meanwhile, I’ve been going round our own house and throwing away anything that could be remotely swallowable…..
I Looked Away by Jane Corry is published by Penguin Viking. To buy, go to https://amzn.to/2Lq2rew and https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Looked-Away/23635139