First Person Article Assignment

My Daughter Could Have Died Without Heroic Story

The floods of 2007 had a dramatic affect on Louise Beech and her family reaching far beyond the devastation it caused for other victims of it, now, long after the waters have subsided and life has returned to normal, they are still having to cope with a completely unrelated but potentially deadly problem that reared its ugly head at the same time that Hull was under water.

We had to move out of our house after being flooded and the stress seemed to have a dramatic affect on my daughter Katie but I knew there was something else wrong with her that was nothing to do with the flooding. She was 7 at the time and I had noticed she was always thirsty so she was drinking more, going to the toilet a lot and she was losing so much weight that she almost looked gaunt.

My husband Joe had also noticed something wasn’t right so between us we decided we had to do something to get to the bottom of it and taking her to the doctor was the obvious thing to do.

So I took her to the doctor, he did a finger prick test and that day our lives changed forever as he confirmed that she had Type 1 Diabetes. She was taken into hospital and kept there for three days, they were the longest three days of my life up to that point.

The whole time I was worrying, wondering what life was going to be like from now on, I didn’t want to let her out of my sight, she was my little baby girl and I wanted to protect her from this horrible condition, but at the same time I didn’t want to ‘just see the condition’ as they say.

When she came out of hospital Katie had been told to take insulin injections to keep her diabetes under control which was a routine that she soon settled into although she clearly didn’t like it.

After about three years though she started rejecting her injections, she was fed up of them and she kept saying she didn’t want diabetes anymore and didn’t want to take her injections and didn’t see why she should have to. I knew if I couldn’t get her to have her injections she would go into a diabetic coma and eventually she would die so I had to think of something to persuade her to have her injections.

The one thing I know I can do for children is tell stories, ever since I was 3-years-old I have been able to make up stories and since I was eight I’ve been writing them down on paper, so I made a bargain with Katie, if she would have her injections each day I promised I would tell her a story, either made-up or true.

At first I told her a few made-up stories, and she said they were a load of rubbish, so then I decided to tell her the true story of my grand-dad. Each time she had her injection I would tell her a little more of the story about his survival floating in a lifeboat in the South Atlantic sea for 50 terrifying days in 1943 when German U-Boats hunted in packs trying to starve Britain into submission by sinking the ships carrying precious and much needed food and other supplies.

At the time it seemed like the story of his survival after being picked up by HMS Rapid was what was keeping Katie alive but once I had finished telling her the story I knew I had to go further and tell this amazing story to the wider public.

First I wrote the short story about it then I wrote the play but I knew eventually I had to write it as a novel. It was when I went to see a psychic with my brother and sister that I was convinced to write the book, it was just as we were leaving that the psychic said to me: “What is it that you’re thinking about writing?”

So in 2013 I started writing the novel called How To Be Brave, based around my experience with Katie and the story of my grand-dad that convinced her to keep taking her precious, life-preserving injections, I finished it in early 2014.

After I had written it How To Be Brave was submitted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary Award, it got shortlisted into the final 10 but didn’t win. I had also been following Karen Sullivan on Twitter and she had been talking about starting her own book publishing business called Orenda Books so I contacted her.

After a bit she agreed to get it proof read, after that she read it twice herself and said she loved it and agreed to publish it.

Since then my life has been transformed, I’m extremely busy in a very good way, I still do the day job as an usher at Hull Truck Theatre, but I’m also doing stuff like book signings all over, I’m heading to London to do a book signing tomorrow, appearing in the Humber Mouth Literature Festival and I’m currently writing my next novel for Orenda Books which will be published next September.

All I’ve wanted to do since I was eight is tell stories and now I am whilst juggling that with marriage, kids, home life, articles, Q&A’s and being one of BBC Radio Humberside’s Mum’s Army and, of course, ensuring that Katie still has her injections.

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