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Short Story Competition: Runner Up Entry!

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Here is the short story we’ve chosen as the runner up which is called ‘Bye Oswald’ by Julie Hands. For so many children, this isn’t just a fictional story, it’s their real life as a child carer. We loved the way it captures a day in the life of a child carer and highlights the stresses and responsibilities children like Oswald face every day. Enjoy!

‘BYE OSWALD’ By Julie Hands

Chapter One

“Bye Oswald”, his Dad called as he walked out the door to catch his train to the airport. Oswald’s Dad worked in Germany all week, coming home late on Fridays and leaving early on Monday mornings. It was only 5am but Oswald had to get up. He is one of the very many young carers in Wales who have to look after a member of their family. In Oswald’s case, he had to help his Mum. Jane, Oswald’s Mum has diabetes and because of complications she is confined to a wheelchair. Every morning Oswald gets up at 5am, gets himself dressed, makes his and his Mum’s breakfast, then he goes to help her get up. Jane tries her best to help as much as she can and some days are easier than others. Today is a hard day. Oswald struggled to get his mum to sit up, first he had to empty her catheter bag which was very full, after flushing the contents away, washing his hands, he handed her the flannel, so with help she can wash herself, and he dried her and helped her get dressed. Oswald always felt embarrassed doing up his Mum’s bra and helping her with her knickers. Jane felt embarrassed for him but today she couldn’t help him, silent tears fell down her face as he struggled to fasten and pull up her clothes, his face bright red with the effort it took for a little 6 year old boy to dress his fully grown parent. Eventually she was dressed. Then the really hard part, getting her into her wheelchair. Oswald moved the chair nearer the bed, put the brakes on, and then positioned himself to lift her and swing her round. Thankfully Jane wasn’t very heavy, but it still took a huge amount of time and effort for Oswald to make sure his Mum was safely and comfortably in her chair. From start to finish, it took him an hour to sort his Mum out every morning.

Chapter Two

Once she was settled, he had to test her blood sugars, and give her the right amount of insulin by injection before they could finally get to their favourite part, breakfast together. They would sit and eat their cereal and drink their juice, chatting and laughing and telling stories. Then Oswald had to clear up, wash up the dishes, clean his Mum’s and his teeth, and then settle his Mum in the lounge. After he made sure that she had snacks and drinks available, he got himself ready for School. He made his lunch, got dressed and packed his bag. He put a plate of food for her lunch in the fridge for when he popped back. He said goodbye and made it to school just as the bell rang. Oswald had to cross two very busy roads to get to school, which he found very scary and often wished he had his Mum to help him. Oswald just gritted his teeth, made sure he looked and listened and made it across safely time after time. He knew he couldn’t just run for it, as his Mum needed him. Oswald nearly fell asleep in class, but his friend Jack nudged him before the teacher saw him. “Were you up late playing on your Xbox?” Jack asked him. “Yes, I was”, Oswald replied, even though he didn’t have one, Jack wouldn’t understand the real reason Oswald was so tired. His Mum had had a hypo in the night and when she does an alarm goes off in his room. Even though Dad was there last night, Oswald had to help him sort Mum out. It had taken lots of orange juice to get her out of her hypo, and then her catheter bag needed emptying, so that and a 5am start, Oswald was shattered. At playtime, Oswald went and sat in the playhouse for some peace and quiet. He could hear his friends playing and running around but he was too tired to do anything. Unbeknown to Oswald, he was being watched by his classroom assistant. Miss Atkins had been watching him for months, making notes of when he was at school, when he wasn’t, what he was wearing etc. Miss Atkins had approached the school’s Child Protection Officer and between them, they had rung his Doctor and Health Visitor for advice. They set about compiling a report on him. They had tried to ring his parents several times but couldn’t get hold of them. Oswald’s family couldn’t afford a landline phone and they only had a pay as you go mobile for emergencies only. They had to prioritise what they paid for, bills, food, household things and money to get Dad to work was more important than a telephone. Therefore they didn’t know what was going on.

Chapter Three

Soon it was lunchtime. Oswald ran out as fast as he could to get home to his Mum. He let himself in and found his Mum slumped in her chair having another hypo. He ran over and started giving her some juice. Unfortunately Jane was also prone to having seizures at the same time, so suddenly she started thrashing about, accidently knocking Oswald over. Just then Miss Atkins stormed into the room. She had followed Oswald to find out what was going on. She had seen Oswald being knocked over and rushed in to help. Oswald had got himself up, and was trying to calm his Mum down and drink some juice. “What is going on Oswald?” Miss Atkins asked. Oswald jumped, “what are you doing here Miss?” he asked. “I followed you home, as I am very concerned about you”, she replied, “and rightly so by the looks of things”. “My Mum is a diabetic, please help me” Oswald begged. “Ok, first come over here and ring for an ambulance and I will try and make sure your Mum doesn’t hurt herself” Miss Atkins said. Oswald did as he was told, and soon the paramedics were rushing inside of his house. They set to work getting his Mum out of her hypo and seizure. Eventually she was calmer and the decision was made that they would take her to hospital. Oswald with Miss Atkins help gathered together some clothes and her medication. Miss Atkins had phoned the school to let them know what was going on and took Oswald to the hospital following the ambulance. Much later his Dad arrived at the hospital and they sat with Oswald on his Dad’s lap whilst they waited for the Doctor to talk to them. Finally the Doctor came and called them into his office. “Jane is on the wrong medication, which is causing her to have more low blood sugars, so therefore she is having more hypos and unfortunately also causing her to have more seizures” he said. Oswald looked at the Doctor with tears falling down his face and said, “It isn’t my fault then? I thought I hadn’t given her enough insulin this morning or enough breakfast” “No Oswald it isn’t your fault”, the Doctor said,” you have been a very good boy and tried very hard to look after your Mum, now it is my turn. Your Mum has to stay in hospital for a while whilst we work out the right medication for her. Is that ok with you Oswald?” Oswald nodded, “yes please” he asked. “What will happen to me though, who will look after me? The Doctor smiled and said, “Well you have been doing a very good job of looking after yourself, but your Dad has something to tell you.”

Chapter Four

Dad looked at Oswald and told him “I have had a transfer to the office near here. I have been working in Germany to set it all up and now it is ready. I will be home every day, you will be going to school and playing with your friends and doing what every other 6 year old likes to do. My company is helping pay for a nurse to come in to look after Mum during the day and I will be there in the evenings and weekends.” Oswald hugged his Dad and burst into tears. “Why are you crying Oswald?”his Dad asked. “Because I am happy, I thought I was going to get told off because I had made Mum come to hospital, and you leave work, I thought I hadn’t done my job properly” Oswald said. Both the Doctor and Oswald’s Dad started crying too. “No son, I haven’t done my job properly, you aren’t meant to care for your Mum that is what I should have been doing. From now on, I will be looking after you and your Mum with all the help we are able to get. Someone is also coming in to clean for us and Grandma is coming to stay for a while to teach me to cook. Your job now is to be a little boy and have lots of sleep and fun.” Dad said. Oswald just sat there taking it all in, “ok” he whispered,” but I will still be able to help a bit wont I? I love having breakfast with Mum”. Dad took him into his arms and gave him a big cuddle. “You can most definitely still have breakfast with Mum and me; we are going to be a proper family from now on. I am so sorry that you have had to look after your Mum for so long, but with your help, I will look after her now” Dad said. The Doctor agreed,” you will have to show us too what your Mum likes to eat, you will make a fantastic Doctor when you are older, come on let’s see if your Mum is up to having visitors now”

Chapter Five

The three of them walked off to find Mum. Jane was sitting up in bed with her eyes closed, but when she heard Oswald, she opened her eyes and beckoned him to come closer for a hug. “I love you so much Oswald and I can’t thank you enough for looking after me so well, I am the proudest Mum in the world to have such an amazing son like you” Mum said with tears pouring down her face. “I love you too Mum” Oswald said, “but I am looking forward to teaching Dad how to look after you now” The Doctor walked out of the room and closed the door and left Dad and Oswald to explain everything to Mum. He looked back with a big smile, knowing that for this family there was a happy ending. Oswald would be able to be a little boy again but for many more children and their families out there, their lives wouldn’t be changing and there would be no happy endings in the near future for them.

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