My Heart Bleeds for Archie

I have been following the Archie Battersbee case, as anything in the news surrounding brain damage, always catches my eye. So now the parents case is going to appeal against the ruling that the Judge made in the Doctor’s favour to turn off Archie’s life support as they believe that it is likely that he is brain stem dead. Likely? Just likely, not definitely!

What agonies his parents have endured since an ‘incident’, which his Mum thinks was an online game that went wrong back in April when their 12 year old son was found unconscious in his bedroom. He has not re-gained consciousness since then, although his Mum is convinced that recently he has squeezed her hand. I simply cannot imagine being in that Mother’s shoes :

  • Her 12 year old son was a happy, fit young man at the start of his life and now he is lying in a hospital bed, with machines keeping him alive, until the medical profession decide to switch them off. her son was ‘normal’ and now, due to a lack of oxygen to his young brain presumably, he is permanently brain damaged.
  • She is losing control over making decisions for her son, the medical profession have overruled her gut feel to give her son more time to heal. She is convinced that her son is still ‘in there’ and just needs longer to recover. Whether she imagined him squeezing her hand or not, we will never know, but I am certain that I too , in that same situation, would be searching for hopeful signs, just the same as she is.
  • She has had to subject herself to the scrutiny of the press in order to get public support for Archie. I saw her interviewed on the BBC News and she was impressively calm and collected, given the subject matter they were discussing. She admitted that inside she was in emotional turmoil, but she had managed to find her professional self in order to speak to the media and get her opinions across.
  • The guilt that she will be suffering that Archie took this life changing action in her home, in his bedroom, will no doubt haunt her forever. Should she have been monitoring her 12 year old’s online activities more closely than she was? Undoubtedly, with the benefit of hindsight, yes she should.
  • She is separated from Archie’s father, although they jointly parent, so she seems to be voicing her appeal and media coverage on her own. I hope that she has plenty of support from friends and family.
  • Hope is a killer. Archie’s mother is hopeful that time will heal her son and that he will make some kind of recovery. She will be reading something positive into every flicker of his eyelids or a light squeeze of her hand. I can appreciate that she is driven on by hope, but should the appeal be unsuccessful, that hope will make it so difficult for her to recover and move on.

So Joshua too has suffered brain damage but his was caused by a stroke, through no fault of his own actions. Joshua’s brain damage was described by the medical profession as ‘devastating’ but he is certainly not brain dead. Despite what the doctors warned us, Joshua can walk, talk, hear and see and he has developed better than any of them predicted. At no point during his 11 days in Special Care did any doctor threaten or advise to turn his oxygen off. They were uncertain how this new baby would develop, but were certainly willing to give him as much time as he needed to develop and learn new skills. They talked about the Elasticity of young brains; That other parts of the brain learn to take on the functions that the damaged parts should control. Surely even at 12, Archie still has a young brain that could adapt if there is enough good tissue left? Undoubtedly he will be changed by his brain damage and will not be as able as he once was, but I am sure his parents would settle for that , to still have him in their lives. But as a young, ambitious keen boxer, would Archie want to exist in his new restricted body? Joshua has never known anything else than a body which is difficult to move around, which does not work on the right side like it should and that is plagued by epileptic seizures.

The real agony in all of this news story however is that Archie’s parents have lost control of their son’s future. The medical profession have the authority to make a life and death decision for their son. This decision will be based upon their medical opinion and scientific tests to assess his brain activity. There will be no room for emotion in that decision, yet his parents are only fueled by love and emotion for their son, so they are looking at the same case from totally different perspectives, so of course they will be pushing for a different outcome.

I wish Archie Battersbee and his parents well in their appeal and hope and pray that the glimmer of hope that they are seeing in their son, can be validated by the medical profession and that he can go on to live a happy and healthy life after this ordeal. Our situations are totally different, but Joshua is living proof that there can be life, love and laughter after devastating brain damage.

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