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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A Little Jaunt West to East- Day 1

I wasn’t in a very good mood on Saturday 11 July 2015 because I had to get up at 5.00 in the morning and I hadn’t had much sleep the night before, but get up I did with a feeling of a bit of excitement and a bit of tension about what was coming.

Alison Gardner arrived at my flat at 5.30, I’d had breakfast before she got here, and when it got to 6 o clock we set off to the Holiday Inn on the marina which was where we were being picked up at 6.15, carrying plenty of food including chocolate, fruit, breakfast bars and, most importantly, jam sandwiches.

Being stocked up is always a good idea but it can’t half make your neck and shoulders ache carrying loads of food and drink and other stuff in a rucksack on your back.

The minibus was actually early, Darren Palmer picked us up at 6.10, and we went to several other places to pick up fellow walkers, eventually we turned up opposite Darley’s pub to pick up Lisa Jewitt early, and then Darren realised we had missed picking up two other walkers so we dashed off to get them and then came back to find Lisa waiting.

An hour later we were in Castleford outside the Mend A Hose Jungle, home of Castleford Tigers, ready to start our trek back to Hull and the game between our team Hull FC and Castleford Tigers in the Super League.

Start

We set off just after 8 o clock in the morning in bullish mood wondering what the weekend might bring, rugby league was obviously going to be a major talking point but so were practicalities like toilet breaks and eating and drinking.

It depends which way you look at it but it seemed a blessing at first that the sun was out and we were nice and warm and dry and that seemed to lift the already excited mood although maybe not quite as much as the best pair of walking shoes ever seen in Yorkshire.

Footwear

We set a really good pace and were soon walking through places slightly earlier than expected then we had a well earned mini-break in Selby and I was thankfully able to eat and take my medication for my type 2 Diabetes, there was also another photo opportunity.

Selby

After Selby we kept up a punishing speed as thoughts turned to lunchtime and there was a genuine desire to reach a nice country pub so we could sit down, relax and cool off in the shade out of the scorching heat which was by now starting to affect us quite a bit.

Fortunately we found the Fox and Pheasant which is a lovely, traditional country pub and had plenty of ice to put in the drinks, the landlord was obviously very pleased to see a party of 11 charity walkers come in on a Saturday afternoon when there was only one local in at the time.

Fox and Pheasant

A toilet break and a couple of drinks, and nearly toasted jam sandwiches, later and we were ready to carry on walking in the incredible heat and humidity which had dehydrated us in the morning.

Following the Trans Penine Trail is a definite challenge, especially when there’s cows and a bull where you’re walking along the bank of the River Ouse and, of course, they don’t exactly have to aim in anywhere particular when they go to toilet, we were trying to dodge round piles of it for a rather long, uncomfortable distance.

Eventually we got within about 7 miles of the campsite at Newport where we were due to stay that night and left the cows and bulls behind, and the muck, and we had a short break along with Darren and Jodee Sylvester who had come out in the minibus and told us that they had erected our tents and said what a lovely campsite it was.

After a bit more food and drink we set off in confident mood knowing we were coming towards the end of our trek on day 1 and soon came across a sign welcoming us to the historic East Riding of Yorkshire.

Crossing the Border

After completing 30 miles on foot we found we couldn’t walk any further due to a lack of a pavement to walk on and we weren’t going to take any chances on a fast road where cars were travelling easily in excess of 50 or 60 MPH so Darren and Jodee came back out in the minibus to pick us up and take us the last 3 miles to the campsite.

While waiting for the minibus Lisa rang a pub in Newport called The Jolly Sailor and booked us a table for a meal that evening.

On arriving at the campsite we were given a round of applause and a collection soon appeared which the campers had taken for the charity, Life For A Kid, who we were doing this challenge for.

Some of the walkers cracked open cans of lager and Phil Newsom became our official entertainer as he belted out several tunes as he played them on his iPad.

After a shower and a rest we were all ready to go to the Jolly Sailor for the meal we had booked for 8.30, disappointment didn’t really do our feelings justice.

Getting there at 8.10 they weren’t ready for us so we said we would wait in the bar and have a drink, at about 8.45 they came into the bar and took our orders for what we wanted to eat, I ordered a Cumberland Sausage in a giant Yorkshire Pudding with peas, mash and gravy.

About 9 o clock we were told our table was ready and we could go through to the restaurant so through we went.

We were then waiting what seemed a long time so first Lisa and then Jodee went and spoke to them as we grew hungrier and more impatient and I worried because I was breaking out in a cold sweat and my Diabetes was starting to take effect making me feel quite feint.

The response of one of the staff to Jodee telling him we had walked 30 miles that day and were very hungry as a result beggared belief as he replied “Why would they walk that far in one day?”

To say we were disgusted at hearing this is something of an understatement but finally, after waiting more than half an hour we got served with our meals.

To say I was disappointed with the meal itself is also a rather big understatement, it was a cheap frozen Yorkshire Pudding, the type that you can get three for £1 from Asda, as opposed to the home cooked ones that the pub advertised, there were also 3 small frozen sausages that had obviously just been stuck under a grill for a few minutes, instant Smash rather than the proper homemade mash from proper potatoes that they advertised and a tin of peas with a bit of gravy.

Unfortunately by this point I had no option but to eat it because I was so hungry I was feeling sick and, as I’m sure everybody is aware, hunger and Diabetes isn’t a good combination.

After a thoroughly deflating evening we went back to the campsite and collapsed into bed, although I must say that trying to sleep on the floor in a tent isn’t the most comfortable way of spending a night although I did get more sleep than the previous night as sheer exhaustion took over.

End of Day 1