Doctors and lawyers must do right thing and listen to instincts of Archie Battersbee’s mother, says Bev Turner
This is a story about the life – and death – of a much loved, energetic little boy, but it’s much more than that
It’s about the relationship between the state and the individual; it’s about who ultimately makes enormous decisions about our children and it’s very much about medics versus mothers.
We’ve all watched Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, appearing on media outlets including GB News since her fight went public.
She defies all assumptions about a mum facing her worst fear – she’s calm, rational, articulate and full of common sense.
She’s tapping into reserves of strength and dignity that frightened mothers fighting for their children do not know they have until they need them.
We have watched Holly argue that all she is asking for is time...time to see if Archie improves, especially as the worst case chronological scenarios that the family were given have not materialised.
Her son is fighting on and she can see that. Asking for time does not seem unreasonable.
In 2010 I got the phone call that everyone dreads to say that someone I loved had been injured; my then husband, Olympian James Cracknell had been hit by a truck whilst cycling across America and was in a coma.
He had sustained a very serious brain injury and I didn’t know as I boarded the plane whether he would be alive or dead when I got off.
I know what it’s like to be met by a team of white coats and name badges; to start a steep learning curve of medical language and to have difficult conversations when I could see that James’s care was not optimum.
But the comparison with Archie and Holly ends there. We were lucky – James survived, albeit with challenges.
And I was caring for my husband – not my child – I don’t know how I would have got out of bed in the morning had it been my son.
But what I learnt during that nightmare and in the proceeding eight years that we remained married was that doctors do not always get it right – particularly when it comes to the area of neurology of which we know surprisingly little.
It seems that neurologists are a uniquely negative type of doctor.
I was warned that James would never be able to look after the children on his own; he’d never drive; he’d suffer regular seizures; he would make no improvement whatsoever, they said, after three years – all of that was proven wrong.
Archie was injured less than four months ago and in brain injury terms that is nothing.
Surely the hospital could have agreed to a few more months – I wonder, what is their rush?
Hollie now says that with all legal routes exhausted, she wants Archie transferred to a hospice to pass away. She must be granted this request.
In his book Being Mortal, surgeon Atul Gawande concludes that, contrary to much western thought, there is such a thing as a good death.
He argues that our lives have narrative – we all want to be the authors of our own stories, and in stories endings matter.
I remember hearing a mother speak at a conference once.
She learnt late on in her pregnancy that her baby had died in utero.
She had planned a homebirth. She was advised by doctors that this was now a bad idea.
Why? She asked. My baby had already died…She hired a private midwife and gave birth to her deceased baby in a pool at home and told this story to a room of damp eyes as a positive experience – when fate had taken away control, she had taken some back and that allowed her to live life with fewer demons.
Hollie Dance has been trying to create the best possible last chapter for her son.
She must now be allowed to transfer Archie to a hospice – away from the negativity and acrimony of that hospital setting.
This story and that family need to move away from turmoil and conflict to a space of compassion and love.
Hollie has already admitted that she will need some ‘serious therapy’ at some stage.
The dam of emotion she has kept at bay will burst at some point. But that will be made less painful if she can be given some agency at this stage of the process.
For Hollie, Archie’s siblings and even their own children one day the route to healing can be helped even at this late stage.
The doctors and lawyers must do that right thing – and listen to the instincts of the mother.