What happened to me in a second on a rainy Wednesday afternoon at the end of May could happen to anybody.
I had to call the paramedics. I’m not local – had in fact just moved into a new area five days previously. My lifelong friends are either in Leicester or London, and my 5 year-old son and I are – through circumstance – kind of alone in the North East, only just starting to get a network of friends and support. Even when the paramedics were speaking to the local walk-in health centre and arranging to pick up my son from his holiday club on the way I was unnerved: the person at the centre stating that if I required treatment or surgery they would have to call in social services to take care of my son. Pretty terrifying.
Luckily, it was a clean break and required only a cast and so we were brought home in a taxi, I crawled on hands and knees over the steps leading into the house and then pulled myself onto my crutches and burst into tears: how on earth was I going to manage on my own with a 5 year-old for possibly 6-8 weeks on crutches and strict instructions to be totally non-weight-bearing?
I managed that night to get dinner sorted, my son bathed and ready for bed and collapsed into bed myself, crying with worry again I’m afraid. I know there are much, much worse things but all things being relative, this was a pretty devastating thing to happen to us.
The next 3-4 days were spent sorting out plans for getting my son to and from school 7 miles away once the half term was over. After countless phone calls to the school, the council, social services, health visitors, it seemed I had little choice but to send my son to school in a taxi without me, as it was impossible physically for me to leave the house. Any parent here tonight will agree that putting a 5 year old alone in a taxi with a stranger feels totally wrong and against everything you do each and every day to ensure your children are safe and feel safe. I did it for 5 days and each of those mornings was terrible until I spoke to the school to confirm he had arrived safely. Added to that daily worry I was stressed about keeping on top of my housework and maintaining the family home in its usual manner.
A health visitor I spoke to happened to mention Safe Families for Children so I Googled it, read the info on the website and – not even sure that I ‘qualified’ for help, thought it would be worth a try. Well, goodness… 3 days later arrived a team of four women, kettle on, tea made, questions asked, solutions offered and that was that: I had a regular, consistent lift to school every day for my son, and some help with housework sorted; and some company for myself and my son organised. Just like that. My team of angels left that Thursday morning and my whole broken ankle experience changed.
Honestly, I can’t find the words to tell you how much Safe Families for Children helped me. Not just with the actual physical help, although that was invaluable: but the feeling of having that support, that care, that assistance in my hour of need enabled me to get through the 6 weeks without sinking into a horrible depression. All of the Safe Families folks who helped out were so helpful, friendly, kept offering to do more, told me I could ask for anything… luckily I managed pretty well and didn’t need to call on them for any more than they originally arranged to do but knowing they were there was a real emotional support in what could have been a sad, lonely period of time.
I hope you know what a fantastic thing you are doing and how much your help and support will be to somebody who either, just like me, has a temporary blip and needs some support or to somebody who may need longer-term help. And, now I am at the other end of my short but nonetheless difficult period, I feel incredibly thankful for both Safe Families and the group of few people I know locally who really rallied round to help us. I feel less alone so, annoying as it was, my broken ankle has actually had benefits!