To the Biker Granny Decked Out in Leather in the NICU

Ten years ago, my son was born 11 weeks prematurely weighing 1 pound, 12 ounces. At 2 weeks old, he developed a life-threatening condition called necrotising enterocolitis, which caused his bowel to perforate. He was transferred to a hospital 50 miles away for surgery.

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As his mother, I was able to room-in at the hospital, but my husband, who had to work, and my parents had to travel there and back each day to see us. One night, just after I’d waved my family goodbye, I went to sit next to my son and his heart stopped beating.

At this point, I was used to alarms regularly beeping at the NICU and nurses calmly attending to babies and fixing the problem of whichever lead had come loose. But this was different. This alarm was constant. The nurses’ distress was evident. “He’s in VF,” she shouted. Three other nurses and a doctor quickly surrounded her. They began performing a heart massage on my tiny boy. The scene before me was too horrific to witness, and I ran from the NICU to a small parents room situated on the other side of the wall to my son’s incubator. As I sat alone, sobbing and listening to all the panic taking place on the other side of the wall, a lady entered the room and sat beside me. She was aged between 50 and 60 and had grey hair, a round face and a kind smile. Dressed head to toe in motorcycle leathers and clutching a helmet, she was an unusual sight for the NICU. When I looked up at her, she simply said, “No one should be alone at a time like this.”

She hugged me tight while I sobbed, and we prayed together. She told me she was the granny of a baby who had just been transferred to the hospital and had raced there on her bike to be with him because his parents couldn’t. Our meeting only lasted about 15 minutes, as I was soon summoned by the doctor. I never saw her again. I don’t even know her name, but in that moment — the most upsetting, terrifying moment of my life, when I really needed someone — she was there. She brought me hope, and for that, I am so grateful.

You see, in that moment, I made a pact with God that I could cope with whatever problems my son would go on to have as long as my boy didn’t die. And he didn’t.

My son’s medical notes show that they stopped CPR that night, but somehow, his heart began to beat again. It found a rhythm, half as fast as it should be but gradually getting stronger. Strong enough for surgery to repair his bowel. Strong enough for him to make it through. His cardiac arrest left him with a brain injury from a lack of oxygen, and this has affected his learning abilities, motor skills and vision. To this day, he continues to defy doctors by walking independently, talking well and learning to read and count at his school for children with special needs. Thankfully, his sense of humor is unaffected.

We have our tough times, but who doesn’t? My life is different from what I once thought it would be, but I’ve accepted that and have learned to embrace the highs and lows. I know my outlook on life today and how I cope with our hurdles continues to be shaped by that single moment with the biker granny in the NICU who brought me hope and made me realize my son is a gift I’ll never give up.

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