When my autistic son had a major operation last year, I was so stressed about him being on a busy ward that I drove into a hospital car park which was too low and crunched the roof of our van.
It wasn't James' first operation, he has had nine altogether, to treat his Cerebral palsy. Some have involved cutting into muscle and bone, and have been very painful.
However, much more distressing to James is the process of going to hospital itself. He has a learning disability and autistic spectrum disorder (a condition which affects behaviour, communication and interaction).
Crowded, busy waiting rooms make him overwhelmed and tense. Having to cope for long periods without knowing precisely what is going to happen makes him anxious and potentially violent.
The last time he had an operation he had destroyed an entire cubicle, because the hospital WiFi signal was patchy and he kept losing the connection on his iPad.
The other children on the ward had been terrified. So on this day, having trashed the van (fortunately James was in another vehicle) I was praying that he would be put in a side room on his own. I had asked ahead and been told the side rooms were in great demand for contagious or terminally ill patients. A decision would be made on the day.
We arrived in reception and although I was gibbering from my accident, James was particularly calm and happy. He smiled at the nurses, trying to hug them, and the doctor decided he would be fine on the ward.
Then, suddenly, James's mood flipped, he banged his fist on the table, hit his hand on the wall, snatched the anaesthetist's glasses off her face and threw them on the floor.
I have never been so pleased to see James misbehave! Very quickly we were shown into a side room where James stayed for the next 10 days.
Hospitals are under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled patients. James can be a danger to himself and others in noisy environments. Given this, I would have thought there was at least an argument that it was reasonable to expect a side room to be available to him for a major operation.
Given also, James's diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder, a condition which affects communication and behaviour, I would have thought it reasonable for a manager at the hospital to discuss this with me in advance.
Hospitals have limited space and resources so I understood why this didn't happen and I have nothing but gratitude and admiration for the staff on the ward.
I do know, however, that if I hadn't been so stressed by what might happen that day, the roof might still be on my car.
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