Pat's daughter took her own daughter to A&E at Lincoln County Hospital after a fall on to a hard surface.
It swelled up immediately and my daughter and her partner of seven years were distraught and besides themselves at what had happened. They already felt responsible enough. Within 15 minutes he was at hospital and that is where the real nightmare began.When my own eldest daughter was about two years old, I had a similar, though far less traumatic, experience. It was a Saturday, and we had been fooling about in the house. The game was for D1 to climb up 3 or 4 stairs, then I would sit on the bottom step and she would climb on my back. I would grip her arms, stand up, and give her a piggy-back round the house, to the tune of much mirth and merriment. The usual dismount method was for me to return and sit on the bottom step, when she would climb off me. On one occasion, however, she asked to be let down in the kitchen. I bent forward and rolled her off my back, while holding her wrists. When her feet touched the ground she started to cry, and I realised that I had twisted her arm in the dismount. Usual offers of a kiss better and a biscuit, but when she was still distressed after 10 minutes I realised that it needed medical attention. I jumped in the car with her and took her to the nearest A&E Department, which was at Scunthorpe Hospital, about 20 miles away.
The doctors and nurses at LCH were more concerned that she was a child abuser who had battered her baby than they were about his health. She was traumatised because of his injury and wracked with fear that this powerful organisation, grilling both parents and trying to confuse them about what happened, would take her children from her as they inferred this was a case for Social Services to investigate.
I was in weekend garb of scruffy jeans and trainers, and before I left the house I flung on an old leather jacket. When we reached the hospital, we were placed in a waiting room, with D1 still screaming the place down. A nurse and doctor approached and, in full view and hearing of the other patients, stared to quiz me about how it happened. I gave the story, and they were clearly not satisfied, and asked me what had really happened, over and over again. I had never experienced anything like it before. I was 32 years old, middle-class and professional (I was a middle-management schoolteacher at the time), and I was not used to having my word questioned, or my accounts of events disbelieved. I was irritated, and mainly concerned to have D1 looked at without unnecessary delay. It was only when I looked at myself and saw what they saw - a big, bearded bloke dressed scruffily, with a skinny, blonde girl-child in tow - and realised what was happening: they thought I had beaten her up. In response, I changed the register of my voice towards RP and cranked up the difficulty rating of my vocabulary. Not quite "do you know who I am?", but at the very least "I am not the scruffy, child-battering oik that I might
appear at first sight".
Eventually, they seemed satisfied, and we were shown in to see the doctor. He was an elderly Indian man of great gentleness and calm, who diagnosed a slightly dislocated elbow and twisted it back in a second. I am not ashamed to say that I wept tears of gratitude and relief as I thanked him. It was a grim and quite sobering experience. When I spoke of it afterwards, I was careful to say that I understood that they have to be careful, and that I didn't resent being mistaken for a child abuser, far from it, oh no, they have to do their jobs, and so on. And I still think that is true.
But I think back to what might have happened if things had turned out differently: if I hadn't been able to persuade them I was a good Dad who just happened to look a bit of a no-good hard case. Or if I had really been a bit of a no-good hard case who just happened to want the best for his daughter. Social services involved, children taken away for interview and examination, decisions made behind closed doors, decisions that you aren't allowed to question, or even know about. There's a nightmare there, and it's only one unlucky step away.
Good luck to Pat's daughter. I wish her well.