Thursday, 30 April 2020

Chapter Fourteen

My Leonites feature again in this chapter.

I called them Study Visits To California but they were more than that they were the ultimate school trips. Two years in preparation a group of fifteen of us would spend three weeks in California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico. Over two years participating student would save up for the flight. We then had a programme to raise the money to engage in as many adventures as we could in the three weeks. This was the fourth study visit I organised.

Arriving at the Virgin Atlantic check in desk at London Heathrow's Terminal Three there was a problem. We had paid for economy tickets on the flight to Los Angeles but the system had us all travelling in business class. I had Peter and Matthew with me, Jean was our female member of staff and eleven Leonites with me. A muddle somewhere had us booked into business class. This was going to be a great Easter holiday if we could somehow get onto the aircraft.

Rebekah was not well enough to join us so Maureen and she were going on holiday to Watchet in Somerset. She was again on call for a kidney transplant but it wasn't going to happen.

You and your sons can travel business class,” the check in lady said, “the rest of the party will go in economy.”

It's a school party and I am in charge,” I explained. “I can't travel without being with the students.”

The check out clerk thought for a moment before saying, “Sod it you can all travel business class !”

Thank you Richard Branson.

I was embarrassed but smiled when boarding for business class passengers was called, a Leonite turned waved and said to other waiting passengers; “Farewell to you all having to travel in economy !”

We were welcomed on board with glasses of champagne. I turned a blind eye when my Leonites swigged the bubbles. However, when glass number three was being handed out I did point out to the cabin crew that these Leonites were aged fourteen and fifteen.

It is a long flight from London to Los Angeles, eleven hours. I have made the flight several times but just this once in business class. Anyone who has travelled to The USA will know that immigration at any American port is one of the most unfriendly experiences on the planet, indeed those sad people employed to man border points are a human sub-species of disrespect. Even being fast tracked through business class these unfortunates fail to comprehend the way a passenger is feeling after a long-haul flight. So well wound up by this part of the trip we made our way to the rental desk to collect our mini'-bus.

The next step was for me to drive a mini-'bus load of excited teenage Leonites from one side of Los Angeles to the other. GREAT. We checked into our hotel then walked to the local McDonald's then bed. California is eight hours behind London and jet-lag has to be experienced to be understood. Awake at 2am which was 10am at home I went for a walk only to find the Leonites in the outside swimming pool. Back to bed then first thing in the morning LA time, early afternoon at home we were lining up at the gates of Disneyland, The Happiest Place On Earth.

I wondered what Maureen and Rebekah were doing at home. They were going on holiday to Watchet in Somerset, staying in The Lorna Doone Caravan Site but that was not just yet, their holiday would coincide with the end of our time in California. What a time we were to have in California.

After a full day in Disneyland we spent the next day in Great Universal Studios, Hollywood and a quick drive through Beverley Hills. Then down to San Diego and for me the precarious drive over The Coranado Bay Bridge. If you have ever been to San Diego you will know what I mean. We then crossed over into Mexico to spend a day in Tijuana.

Off then to Las Vagas, now that is a weird place ! From there we flew down The Grand Canyon. WOW. Our mini-'bus then drove through Death Valley, the hottest place on the continent where I managed to boil the engine. A day and a night camping in Yosemite National Park before heading to The City By The Bay. All the touristy bits in San Francisco before crossing The Golden Gate Bridge and heading up The Readwood Highway to The Giant Redwoods.

Sorry Rebekah but this beats Watchet and a caravan in Somerset. We were having a great time in America but The US of A is not a place to be unwell. If you can pay then expert medical attention is always there but if you can not pay then tough luck ! In Britain money does not come into it, where The National Health Service is concerned Love is all you need. In America doctors treat the patients who can pay. In Britain The National Health Service doe not treat anyone, it CARES for them.

Back to California. Down from the Giant Redwoods to Sacramento, out to pan for gold at Sutters Mill. Over to South Lake Tahoe, cross the mountains into Nevada. Spend time in Virginia City before making our was back to Los Angeles. An overnight drive which was not easy but we could all chill out on Malibu Beach before heading back to Los Angeles Airport and an overnight flight home. This flight was in economy, Virgin Atlantic had fixed its mix up meaning all business class seats were filled by premium paying passengers.

An overnight drive followed by an overnight flight. The word that springs to mind is knackered. Collecting luggage and cruising through passport control I was met by a friend. “You are not to worry,” my friend said. “Rebekah had a kidney transplant last night, I will take you straight to the hospital.”

Can I please go home and have a bath first ?”

I did go home and I did have a bath. Peter and Matthew went to stay with grandparents and I went to Guys Hospital in London. I did not drive myself but turned to Valley Medical Transport for help. During that journey I learned what had happened.

Rebekah and Maureen were sitting in the caravan when the bleep went off. Maureen went to the phone box in the caravan site and phoned Guys Hospital. She then drove home paying no regard for motorway speed limit, she drove home not to London. In Milton Keynes she contacted Valley Medical Transport who took Beck and Maureen to the hospital.

Valley Medical Transport was for a short time a private charity based in Emmerson Valley Milton Keynes. I was a trustee of this charity and went out on two mercy missions as well as experiencing first hand its love, love supporting the love of our Amazing NHS.

Chapter Thirteen

It was a filthy night !  The wind was battering the side of our house and rain hitting the ground so hard it was bouncing up again for several inches. I hate winter afternoons when it becomes prematurely dark, on this day it felt as if it had been dark since lunch time.

So begins a chapter in my book NOT THE CONCRETE COWS, what I am about to relate took place in December.

I had gone out in the car to meet my son's school; 'bus and save him the drenching walking home would have given.

As I pulled up in front of my home my wife was standing there waiting to meet me. Valley Medical has just 'phoned, can you go with a driver to Heathrow Airport ?  there's a baby being flown in from Ireland for a kidney transplant in London.

A quick snatch for my camera, notebook and some money before I was standing in the driveway waiting for the car.  I heard the sirens well before it pulled up, its blue flashing lights illuminating the entire street. A night of high drama was about to unfold.

London Heathrow is not the most accessible place on earth and hardly user friendly. On a stormy night with extensive roadworks on the M1 it was going to be difficult. It was the time when the extra lane was being added to the section between Luton and the A5 junction with contractors thinking it would be fun to close down most of the access points onto the motorway.

The kidney is an organ that will tolerate being out of the body for quite some time but the shorter the period between donor and recipient the better.

The identity of the donor is kept strictly confidential so this particular organ could have come from anywhere in the country, indeed Northern Europe. There was no way we could know the time scale involved but we did know that Valley Medical had been charged with getting the patient from the airport to the hospital as quickly as possible.

With the frustration of the motorway roadworks we decided to opt for the A5. My job was to sit in the passenger seat and work the siren leaving the driver to concentrate fully on the road. I have to confess to a certain thrill and sense of power as the flick of a switch screamed the cars ahead of us out of the way. But it was a terrific responsibility, not only was it important we get through as quickly as possible but safety had to be preserved not only foe ourselves but also for every other road user.

The charity's office had faxed all police forces along our route to advise them of our movements. On the M25 officers in a police Range Rover waved and gave us the thumbs up as we passed.

The weather was steadily worsening with gales battering the car. A severe weather warning was in force and we could help thinking about or infant charge high over the Irish Sea. What kind of flight was he having ?

At Terminal One the police were waiting for us and directed the car to a reserved parking place right outside the Aer Lingus gate. It was the first time I have never had any difficulty parking at Heathrow !

Inside Aer Lingus staff we trying hard to cope with the worst night for flying all year. Many aircraft had been unable to take off from the smaller Irish airfields and out Dublin flight had been delayed. There was nothing we could do but wait.

The airline staff were brilliant. The patient was highlighted on the passenger computer and a special escort detailed to meet him and his mother once the plane was on the ground. Heathrow's police then liaised with customs and immigration to ensure no delay but first the aircraft had to land.

I am afraid I may have made something of a nuisance of myself as I pestered Aer Lingus staff for updates on the aircraft's progress.

"It's just twenty minutes away Sir."

"It's holding in the stack, shouldn't be too long now."

Then, just as we were about to suggest w ask air traffic control if they could run up a ladder and bring everybody down came the news we wanted. "They're on final approach now."

"The aircraft's on the ground now. Shouldn't be much longer."

Eventually young Jamie and his Mum excitedly emerged. Into the car and we were off towards London on the M4.

It was two weeks before Christmas and the lights of Harrod's shone more brightly than those on the car. We covered the distance from the airport to Guys Hospital in just half an hour delivering young Jamie in time for his transplant operation. Another successful mission or Milton Keynes based Valley Medical Transport.

Valley Medical Transplant was soon to play an important role in Rebekah's life.

Chapter Twelve

I have to confess I have been looking forward to writing this chapter, the people who I will be writing about are very special to me as you will see as you read on in future chapters. Ok let's get started.

I came very close to having a nervous breakdown. I did not want to go out of the house, I could not face anyone. I had let me beautiful daughter down. I had messed up with Anglia Television. The governors of Leon School had given me three months paid leave and given a contract to a former deputy headmaster to cover my classes and internally appointed a head of year to look after my students. I was going to have to face that mess ! What would Leon School Headmaster Bruce Abbott have to say ? What a mess. What a terrible mess I had made.

On Day Three I emerged from my hideaway and went to the school. Headmaster Abbott welcomed me with open arms. My classes were made up of good teenagers, I was not by a long way the best teacher the profession had ever known but we had fun. Nobody ever misbehaved in my classes, I am not sure all worked as hard as they could but we had fun. Under the school's former deputy head my classes had turned into riots ! As deputy head my colleague was strict and respected, highly respected by pupils and colleagues alike. Now every class was a riot. Why ? He resigned there and then, he forfeited the three months salary he was entitled to. He left.

I don't know what you do with your year group ! I don't want them ! Have them back and good luck !” The member of staff washed his hands of my students.

So I was back.

The three hundred or so of my students gathered in the hall for assembly. I left my office, walked into the hall and made my way to the front. I could hear whispers: What's he doing here ? Why's he back ? Addressing the assembly I explained. My students immediately threw their arms of love around me.

Life for me at Leon School returned to normal, the love and strength of my students lifted me up and took away any and every thought of a nervous breakdown.

That assembly happened in 1990. I am now writing these words in May 2020, thirty years later. I was head of year at Leon School for eighteen years. I am proud of my students, I call them my LEONITES. Not a single day goes by without a Leonite showing my family love. Many have joined our incredible National Health Service. Many knew Beck and her smile. So many Leonites are in 2020 spreading her smile to make people happy, 2020 and the years beyond.

I loved my students and in that assembly when I was at the lowest point in my life they loved me back.

Chapter Eleven

Two failed transplants, dialysis discounted things were just not looking good. While I was accepting the situation on a day by day basis I was worried what the future held. Rebekah was fighting, she was happy and living childhood to the full, she was always smiling. Did she understand ? I do not know ? Was she too young to understand ? I don't think that she was.

Our Amazing NHS, the loving doctors caring for Rebekah did not have time to spend considering a future which in any way contemplated failure. They came up with Plan B.

I do not actually remember how the idea was put to Maureen and I but we were invited to undergo a simple test to see if either of us were a close enough match to be a live donor, for one of us to give one of our kidneys to save Rebekah's life. No, I do not remember the process but I remember as if it happened just moments ago a telephone call.

I was in my office at Leon School when the phone rang. It was Doctor Susan Rigden from Guys Hospital in London.

Are you sitting down ?” Doctor Rigden asked.


You may like to.”

I am not sure if I sat down or not.

It is you,” Sue continued. “You are best match so it will be your kidney we use for Rebekah.”

I was happy, I was deliriously happy. But it was going to be a long road with many medical tests, each a hurdle I had to clear before the twin operations could be planned.

My chest was shaved and a series of sticky things were placed all over me. These were connected to a heart monitor. The cardiologist poured over the machine and studied the printed out result. His face showed there was something wrong.

Could you try to relax,” he said.

Relax !” I replied. “You have just said there is something wrong with my heart and you want me to relax !”

We both smiled and all was well, I had a perfectly working heart. Hurdle cleared.

The position of my two kidneys within my body and all connections to those kidneys had to be mapped precisely. I lay back on an examination couch with ex-ray cameras looking on. I was injected with some substance in the left groin while cameras tracked everything for the left kidney. I was then injected in the right groin to do the same for the right kidney. I was able to watch everything on a monitor. Fascinating ! Hurdled cleared.

The next hurdle was a bit of a climb but I made it. Doctor Rigden actually called me a bit of a fatty ! Nice professional assessment there Sue ! So what was the big deal ? Just tell the surgeon doing my operation to make sure the knife was sharp. Hurdled cleared.

Geoff Koffman would be working on Rebekah while another transplant surgeon would be un-transplanting, extracting the kidney from my body. He kept warning me that my operation was the more painful and I would experience a lot of pain for quite some time to come. Geoff did I need to know that ? Don't give me another hurdle to clear OK !

Another test took the entire day. This I remember so well. I arrived early at the renal department in Guys Hospital where some kind of substance was injected into my body. Doctors had difficulty getting a shunt into a vein in my body, a shunt from which blood would be taken every hour for six hours to monitor how my kidneys were processing what ever it was that had been injected into me.

SIX HOURS ! Sometimes I was told to sit, rest and read a book. For other hours I was told to go out, to walk and exercise. I would go and walk along the river, pass HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge. Both of these would pay their part later in Rebekah's story.

I don't remember exactly what the test was all about but all was OK. Hurdle cleared.

It was not time to start making some firm plans for the dual operations. I was told that I needed to take three months off work. The governors of Leon School met and voted to give me three months of paid leave. A former deputy headmaster was employed to cover my teaching timetable. A member of staff was assigned to take on my duties as head of year. I was not comfortable about this. The member of staff thought that I was far too familiar and relaxed with my students. Yes, I was strict and ran a tight ship but needed to maintain a greater distance. While I was away this person would sort my regime out ! He could try if he wanted to but once back it would not take me long to under whatever he did during my absence.

Wishing to support Elizabeth Ward and to help promote the organ donor card I contacted Anglia Television News to ask if the dual operations could be featured. Editors loved the idea and planned a short documentary. The hospital gave permission for film crews to be in both operating theatre. Camera crew members would have to be medically screened and all equipment sterilised.

All was ready.

The day before Rebekah and I were due to be admitted to Guys Hospital there was a final meeting. We were asked to wait in the small consultation room, Geoff Koffman was in theatre and wanted to be a part of the meeting. Why did Geoff need to speak with us ? We had talked so many times over recent weeks, what was left to talk about ? I had a terrible feeling.

Geoff walked in still in his theatre gown and his mask hanging round his neck. He had come immediately from theatre without taking time change. I knew my feeling was right.

Geoff explained why everything was being called off. To take a kidney out of my body was for a doctor to harm a patient. To do so was not ethical. If the organ taken from my body worked in Beck's then all would be OK but if it failed then the doctors could be accused of being unethical. We all knew that. However, in making final checks across all the tests it was felt the chance of Rebekah rejecting my kidney was too great.

I begged for a change of mind but I was appealing against a decision made by some of the top medics in the country. Me without any professional background. I had to accept the decision. I had fallen at the final hurdle.

Driving home I was gutted. I had let my daughter down. At home I did not go outside or speak to anyone other than my family for two days. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I did not want to do anything but I had to telephone Anglia Television and explain. A camera crew came, filmed Beck riding her bike up and down the road then ran a short news report telling our story and promoting the donor card.

Chapter Ten

With two failed kidney transplant, Rebekah's immune system being too strong dialysis was considered. Not the dialysis where a patient is hooked up to a machine while the patient lays back on a bed but what is called CAPD – Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis.

A bag of dialysis fluid flows slowly under gravity into the body, does its job extracting the toxins then flows out into a collecting bag. The patient can move about and lead a semi-normal life while the dialysis system works. CAPD – Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis. A patient had to have input and output shunts to which the two bags were attached.

Rebekah was put forward for CAPD and for the minor operation she would need to have the shunts inserted. This was not anywhere near as good as a working transplanted organ. Rebekah's body was too strong, two transplants had failed so the option of CAPD was seriously considered. I wasn't happy but I went along with it.

After no more than three clinic appointment minds were changed. I was not happy, I was desperate to secure a working renal system for my darling daughter. The doctors had another plan, a better plan, Plan B.

Chapter Nine

Once Rebekah was well enough after the failed transplant we went back on call for another attempt. By this time I had paid BT to put an extension in the bedroom but the call did not come during the night when we were all asleep in bed. The call did not come quickly as it had first time round, we waited several weeks. I am not sure if the call came on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon but it was at the week-end. I had not kept the car topped up with petrol so that was the first thing ton do before anything else. Strange how some things stick in the memory while others fade but I so clearly remember pulling into the petrol station.

Rebekah and her doll Chell went down to meet Geoff Koffman and his team in the operating theatre while Maureen and I waited outside. This time the life-saving transplant almost felt routine.

One thing I do not remember is what happened to Maureen once beck was upstairs in the small side room of Dickens Ward in Guys Tower. It was I who spent that first night sleeping on the floor by the side of Rebekah's bed.

Do you know who Sting is ? He was the principal songwriter, lead singer, and bassist for the new wave rock band the Police from 1977 to 1984, and launched a solo career in 1985. Shortly after Rebekah was moved to the main area of Dickens Ward he turned up to visit the children. What lovely thing to have done. Thank you Sting. By the way I love your music.

I am going to talk about this in a later chapter but let me tell you here that meals for patients in Milton Keynes Hospital are among the finest anywhere. That was not the case at Guys Hospital where without exception they were the most ungastronomic imaginable. But there was a solution. McDonald's opened a branch just outside Guys Tower, Heaven ! For Rebekah and other patients, not to mention their parents, McDonald's became the standard menu. The company must have made a fortune. I wonder if such enthusiasm would have abounded had that which I am about to share with you been common knowledge.

The new McDonald's was built on a former vacant plot of land within the hospital campus. I am guessing it must have been vacant for a long time. I am talking around the late 1980's. The Great Plague of London was 1665/1666 and this vacant plot was a plague pit ! Those preparing the site started finding bodies. Very quickly boarding was put up to hide the pit while skeletons were removed to be reburied. McDonald's boasted this new branch was the first anywhere to be built within a hospital, the company never said a word about it being the first branch to be located at a former plague pit !

Guys Hospital opened in 1721. It was founded by Thomas Guy. He was a book seller and a bit of a financial speculator. There was a quiet area and garden within the busy hospital where his statue could be found. I would often sit there in the quiet. At the far side of the hospital complex can be found Southwark Cathedral. With construction starting in 1839 the hospital predates it by more than a century. Maureen and Rebekah would often walk to sit in the cathedral grounds where by chance they met Reverend Robinson. He was a special man who showed much love to Rebekah, when she was at home and not in hospital they exchanged letters. Southwark Cathedral and Reverend Robinson, however came after the time in Beck's story I am here relating. Following her second transplant she was never well enough to leave her bed on the ward.

Just as it had on the occasion of the first transplant everything failed on Day Thirteen. Beck, Chell and Geoff Koffman went back into theatre to remove the kidney. Again Rebekah's immune system was too strong to accept the addition to her body.

This time I was upset, of course I was, but I accepted it as fate. My daughter's life was not going to be saved by way of a kidney transplant but her life would be saved.

Fight Bekah, fight. That was something we used to instil into Beck, she may have lost her second transplant but she was still fighting. Also fighting was the NHS and all within it, fighting with every weapon of love it could think of to care for my darling daughter.

Chapter Eight

I was not pleased when I learned that the IRA had taken its terror campaign direct into the route Rebekah and I used to get to the clinic at Guys Hospital. Sadly at this time the terror campaign and killings of the Irish Republican Army were all too common.

On Saturday 23rd April 1993 the IRA exploded a huge bomb on Bishopsgate in the heart of The City Of London.

I was going to have problems getting to Guys Hospital the following week and for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately the police set up a highly efficient diversion around the crater in the road. It was easy to follow and really did not add any time or inconvenience to the journey.

For as long as I continued to take Rebekah to Guys Hospital there were police check points as we entered the financial district in The City Of London. A man and a small child in a car did not arouse suspicion among the armed guards, we were always waved through.

Chapter Seven

So the routine was for Beck and I to drive down to London by car, park in the NCP and walk the short distance to Guys Tower. Over the months I had worked a very clever route into the centre of London avoiding traffic. We would take the A5 South, boycotting the M1, skirt through the edge of Saint Albans then join the M25 at London Colney. Remember there were no such things at sat navs back then, all this came out of my very own brain ! Leave the motorway at the A10 duck and dive through houses getting ever closer to the city. Through Bishopsgate, turn right at The Monument, over London Bridge and arrive hassle free at Guys Hospital.

Margaret Thatcher was the boss so strikes were not as common as they had been but still the odd trade union though it was living in the dark ages of the 1970's so gave it a go. On one day when Beck and I were off to the clinic the buses and underground in London declared a non working day. When we arrived the NCP was full and people were parking along the roads ignoring the double yellow lines. I decided we would do the same. If only ! We could not find a double yellow line to park on ! Round and round and round I drove until magic, we found a space.

Off into the clinic, promptly seen by Doctor Sue Rigden, no new medication to collect from the pharmacy so why not make a trip to McDonald's before heading back to the car ? That burger and fries spelt disaster !

Excuse me office, somebody appears to have nicked my car.”

A quick call on the radio confirmed it had been nicked, nicked by the cops for being illegally parked and taken to the pound. Perhaps I should explain that in those days parking was a police matter and not something for cowboy local authorities to play games with as it is now.

Can you tell me where it is ?”

Another call on the radio. It was way south of the river in Lambeth. OK, with no buses and no underground how the hell was I to get there and recover my car ? Taxi, the only way. That taxi driver refused to charge me for the ride, he even insisted on waiting which I confirmed my car was there before he left. One hundred pound paid and the car recovered. No sat nav remember, I then had to navigate home. If only we had not gone to McDonald's we may well have got away with it. Expensive burger !

But it was not over yet ! I had paid the one hundred quid to get the car out of the pound but there was still the parking fine to pay !

When Sue Rigden called the next day to check something I told her what had happened. She said she would write to the police and ask if the parking fine could be waived. Just a week later I received a letter from London's police. Yes, the parking fine was waived and enclosed was a cheque to refund the one hundred pounds.

Thank you Doctor Sue Rigden, thank you our NHS, thank you London cops !

Chapter Six

In telling Rebekah's biography and through it celebrating the love of our National Health service I do not to forget the work of the dispensing chemists and the behind the scenes work of scientists in the drug industry.

As a small child there was a family friend, Doctor Clark. Before becoming a doctor he had been a pharmacist. How old would I have been ? Perhaps ten, no not quite that old. I decided I wanted to take inspiration from Doctor Clark and become a dispensing chemist. Well I did have my kinds chemistry set didn't I ? No, I did not follow that career path.

Think about it, being a dispensing chemist must be a thoroughly boring job. I mean all you do is take bits of paper issued by the doctor, take the medicine off the shelf, put it in a bag and hand it over to the patient. Hardly exciting is it ? Yet to take on this responsibility you need years of training and need to be a clever person, I was not clever enough to have followed the example of Doctor Clark our family friend.

Without the pharmacist no doctor can operate, no patient can be treated, no life can be saved. If you apply that to the work of a dispensing chemist then routine and boring is the last thing it can be. There is far more to the role of a dispensing chemist than taking bits of paper issued by the doctor, take the medicine off the shelf, put it in a bag and hand it over to the patient.

I would like to tell you the tale of the two pharmacists in Rebekah's early life, P and I Smith of Whaddon Way near our home and the basement pharmacy at Guys Hospital. I will begin with the later.

All of Rebekah's test results from the clinic and supporting medication were recorded in a small green notebook, I knew everything by heart. While I was not clever enough myself to be a chemist I knew precisely what every drug was and what its job within her treatment was. I could even spell correctly the individual drugs. When a new drug was added to this I dreaded it happening ! A new drug meant the first issuing of the medication had to be collected from the basement pharmacy.

How many patients were there in Guys Hospital ? In the 1980's and early 1990's I do not have a clue. A quick Google search says there are today four hundred. I am sure that is not accurate, can't be. That basement pharmacy had to serve every medication prescribed to every patient in every bed as well as to those who were issued prescriptions from the many different out patients clinics. The task faced every day, yes operation was full on every day of the week, must have been phenomenal. The responsibility would have been enormous. To get the dose or medication wrong would have disastrous results.

Reflecting back as I write this chapter is easy, easy to understand what was happening and why it took so long to be handed the medication but back then patience among patients was not common. Having driven to London, attended the clinic all Beck and I wanted to do was to go to McDonald's and head home, spending more than an hour waiting in that gloomy basement pharmacy was not something either of us wanted to endure.

If only I could wind the clock back I would stand up in the basement pharmacy and shout at the top of my voice what a wonderful staff there were doing. Without their skills, dedication and love there would be no role for any doctor or nurse in Guys Hospital, patients could forget about being ill for there is nothing anyone could do to care for them.

P & I Smith Chemists as been where it is on Whaddon Way Milton Keynes for as long as I can remember. It was run in Rebekah's day as it is today by Mr Patel. Getting a repeat prescription from this shop was as easy as it was hard getting the original from Guys Hospital. Every day many, many people go to collect routine prescriptions from P & I Smith, all those years ago Beck depended on its services. But for Mr Patel and his team their work could never be routine. Without P & I Smith serving its local community our loving doctor's surgery could not operate. Did we take P & I Smith for grated ? Yes we did. Do patients today take P & I Smith for granted ? I am sure they do.

Each Christmas Rebekah used to send a card to Mr Patel and P & I Smith. As I write Rebekah's biography and celebrate out amazing, incredible, loving NHS I want to explain what a vital role our pharmacies have within the NHS. They too do not treat patients, they care for them.

Chapter Five

It was not just in later years that Rebekah was known as Little Miss Sunshine. In this chapter of her biography let me share some of her smiles, as I do can I remind our readers that these smiles were transplanted by the love and care she received from the doctors and nurses who loved her through what could have been a difficult childhood. Because of the care she received Beck had a very happy childhood.

The day of the self haircut: Beck gave me a smile the day she decided to cut her hair. Sneaking a pair of scissors out into the garden she trimmed her fringe giving it more ups and downs than any mountain range in the world. Maureen was not impressed but I thought it was funny. Thanks beck for the smile.

Some up some down: Rebekah's normal style of hair was what she called some up, some down. This consisted in her hair being combed down round the back of her head. Then some hair would be pulled and tied into a ponytail to hang over the back of the already styled

Tuppence: When Rebekah said she wanted to go horse riding I agreed but with one strict condition, we were not going to have a horse of our own ! Beck used to go every Saturday to a youth group by the name of Interaction at Peartree Bridge in Milton Keynes. She was very small for her age, the only horse suitable for her to ride was a small pony known as Tuppence. Beck didn't really take to horse riding, gave up after a few weeks and no we did not ever own a horse !

The hockey game: Now this is something I remember well. Beck was quite young, perhaps seven or eight. She was in the school hockey team playing against another school. I was standing with some other parents. There was a young boy also watching. He pointed Rebekah out, I can clearly visualise her now hockey stick in hand and giving it all. See her, she could die you know and look how hard she is playing. The lad said.

Guys Hospital School: Attending the renal clinic at Guys Hospital we would book in, Beck would be weighed and her height checked. A urine sample was then taken and sent to the lab. While waiting there were nursery teachers from Guys Hospital's in house school who kept the waiting children occupied with educational games. It was important for Beck to be putting on weight and to be growing in height. Geraldine the sister who ran the clinic would stretch Beck to be as tall as possible. I also used to cheat. Before the clinic we would both go to London Bridge Station where there was an amazing patisserie. I used to stuff Beck with two or three cheese croissants and as many cans of Coca Cola as her bladder could hold. If I could get away with it I would push things in her pockets to increase her weight. But back to Guys Hospital School. It was during the clinic visits and the activities of this school that Rebekah decided she wanted, when she grew up, to be a nursery school teacher. Indeed that is what she became.

Eeyore: When Matthew was a baby his favourite teddy bear was Winnie The Pooh. Telling stories from Christopher Robin Peter's adopted character was Piglet. Maureen sewed a Piglet toy for Peter. Rebekah chose Eeyore, the grumpy donkey. Her character could not have been more different to Eeyore but she loved this Disney character. In later life her e-mail address was

Have passport will travel: I know that many of my former students from Leon School will read this biography, indeed some of you have contributed to the writing. I am now going to let you into a secret. Do you remember all those school trips I used to organise ?

The termly visits to Alton Towers ? How about the Disneyland Paris Flyers ? Never fewer than four coach loads would depart school on Friday, drive overnight to Paris where we all spent the day in Disneyland. Then over night back to Milton Keynes to crash out at home and back to school on Monday.

We went to Holland, to Italy and to Germany. We went to Egypt and of course we went to America.

You former students of mine, I call you my Leonites, will be thinking I organised all these exciting adventures for you. I suppose in a way I did but selfishly I planned things for Peter, Matthew and Rebekah. You guys and gals tagged on.

For Rebekah to travel to America we had to get special medical permission. I remember Doctor Susan Rigden saying It may well do her good. It did. On returning from three weeks in California, Nevada and Arizona her kidney function had improved. We went to the Giant Redwoods, Yosemite, San Franciso, panned for gold at Sutters Fort, flew down the Grand Canyon, nipped into Mexico at Tijuana, played the one armed bandits in Las Vegas and chilled out on Malibu Beach. Oh yes we went to Disneyland, the real one in Los Angeles and went to Great Universal Studios. We cruised Hollywood Boulevard and checked out The Walk of Fame.

Two important things here. For a a seriously sick child to have enjoyed trips like that nothing could have happened without my students, my Leonites. Nothing could have happened without the skills of those in our NHS who cared for Beck.

Thank you for making a little girl smile.

Chapter Four

So with everything carefully put in place Rebekah went on call for a donor kidney.

The transplant surgeon was Geoff Koffman, one of the country's top surgeons and a shining light within the National Health Service. But for all his standing he was very down to earth, to everyone, medical staff. Parents and children he was Geoff. So many people owe their lives to his loving skill. Geoff prepared us for all that would be involved. There was a little patents room attached to Dickens Ward on the ninth floor of Guys Hospital Tower, that was where special consultations took place and that was where Geoff prepared us all for Rebekah to receive a transplant.

I could drive from home to Guys Hospital in around ninety minutes, the call when it came was likely to be at the end of a day or in the evening so traffic would not be heavy. The donor kidney had to be harvested and brought to Guys Hospital, it could survive outside a body for several hours so getting from home to hospital was not an emergency. There was no need for a fast drive, an ambulance with blue lights was not needed just the family car. There would be time to get Peter and Matthew to grandparents to be looked after. No rush.

There were no such things as mobile phones in those days. At home we had a single BT handset in the hall of our home, no extension and no hands free units. The home phone would the primary method by which the hospital would contact us when a donor organ became available. As a back up we were given a small black box, a bleeper. A signal and short text message could be sent to the bleeper if the home phone was not answered.

Each night as we went to bed I would stretch the cord of the BT Trimphone so it rested at the bottom of the stairs. I would prop open the bedroom door so the phone ringing would wake me up. Rebekah had been on call for less than a week when the phone rang. A hospital bag had already been packed. Everyone in the car, the boys went to stay with Nan and Granddad then Maureen, Rebakah and I drove excitedly to London for the life-changing operation.

Chell went down to the operating theatre with Rebekah to assist transplant surgeon Geoff Koffman and his team. I do not remember how long the operation took, an hour perhaps ninety minutes, as soon as Beck was in the recovery room Maureen and I were allowed to join her. As the aesthetic wore off she was taken from the basement operating theatre to Dickens Ward on the ninth floor and into a small private room within the ward.

Even back then the technology was amazing. Each leg of the bed stood on a scale carefully measuring the total weight of the bed. Rebekah was a tiny part of the sum but a computer was so accurately keeping track of her weight. Fluid intake was being carefully measured as was output. Her heart function, breathing and temperature were constantly being monitored. A nurse was on duty and never left her side. Doctors checked on Beck several times an hour.

Do you remember from an earlier chapter how I explained creatinine levels in the blood give an indication of kidney function ? This was extra specially monitored to see if the new kidney was functioning as it should.

You and I have two kidneys located in the small of the back on the left and on the right hand side of our bodies. We can actually function with one kidney, two is a bit of a luxury. When a patient receives a transplant the two failing organs are not removed, the transplanted kidney is located in the lower abdomen. Geoff Koffman explained he had connected the blood supply direct to the heart to give the kidney a better chance of working. I did not understand.

Maureen stayed in London at Guys Hospital with Rebekah, I returned home to look after Peter and Matthew. There was no parent accommodation at the hospital, Maureen had to sleep on the floor by the side of Rebekah's bed. At home lovely Doctor Karia spoke with me and explained what transplant surgeon Geoff Koffman had done. He traced his finger over my chest to explain where everything was placed. Years later I can feel loving finger moving over my body. Does that sound silly ? Honestly, as I write these words I can feel his fingers and can hear his words.

The close monitoring Rebekah was receiving in that side room was not intensive care as we know it but it was intensive love from everyone involved in her case. What an amazing National Health Service we have. A National Health Service where patients are not treated, they are cared for !

Back in the ward there was another family with a little girl of similar age to Beck. A friendship between us all developed.

Rebekah was a strong willed person, even as a child. With a body not properly functioning, never having properly functioned all her life she was still strong. He body was not taking kindly to the alien kidney. Anti-rejection medication was slowing things but not stopping them. Doctors did all they could but they could not slow the rate of rejection. It was inevitable the transplant was going to fail. On Day Thirteen Rebekah and Chell went back down to the operating theatre where Geoff Koffman removed the donor organ.

I was gutted. Rebekah was strong, stronger than I. There was enough function left in her own kidneys for her to recover, return home and await another attempt at a transplant. Shortly after Rebekah came home the little girl who had been her friend on the ward died. Beck took a photograph of the two over them, over the top of the deceased child she wrote died. Over herself she wrote liver – yes she spelt it like that liver.