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Dead by 10.

PAULA was ill with chest infections so often as a child that a doctor once warned me she might die before she was 10. I remember being worried sick about her health.

There were long periods when she had to have postural drainage three times a day - before school, after school and at one-thirty in the morning.

It was an uncomfortable procedure for Paula, since she had to be turned upside down with her head towards the floor and then have the base of her lungs tapped so that she would spit out the accumulated phlegm.

At just a year old she had been really ill with rubella (German measles). Jess and I were shattered when, on recovering, she refused to eat.

The only thing I could get her to accept were chocolate, milk and occasionally an egg or some boiled potatoes.

This diet continued until she was eight - until after the most serious of all her illnesses, an atypical pneumonia, later called Legionnaires' Disease.

All the known medicines for pneumonia didn't work on Paula. She was white as a sheet and her weight dropped to that of a four-year-old.

She became worse and worse. Finally, Paula, who had a temperature of over 100, looked at me and said: "Am I dying, mummy?"

I replied: "Not if I can help it."

I rang Jess's family and mine and asked everyone to say a prayer for Paula. If God existed, I felt sure He would help her.

Then I took her into my bed and she crawled like a little animal to lie flat, her body on mine, her chest on mine. I was never as hot in my life, but I didn't dare move in case a change of position upset her.

Hours passed. I imagined death lurking in every corner of the room. Then, at dawn, Paula opened her eyes and said: "I could eat some boiled potatoes."

I jumped up, put some on to cook, took her temperature and found it was normal.

For the first time, since the age of one, she ate and ate and ate . . . sometimes four or five cooked meals a day.

It was, after the day of Paula's birth, the very best day of my life and I sang like thunder for hours.

Big Girls Don't Cry is published by John Blake Publishing, priced pounds 17.99. To order a copy for pounds 15, inclusive of postage and packing, call 020 7381 0666.


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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 13, 2006
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