Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

"Look at that plumbing, it's wonderful, darling!" It was, too, underneath the sink the steel waste pipe was plumb perpendicular, the hot and cold inlets came out of the wall at exactly the right spots and turned neatly through 90 degrees to connect perfectly with the taps. It was a utilitarian work of art, a marvellous manifold. It gave me confidence.

Even after we'd spent three days in the room, to behold that plumbing arrangement was still a source of satisfaction. We've spent the past week or so in hospital again. Ever since the twins were born premature in April, we've been in and out of hospitals. We were supposed to have been staying with my mum and dad on holiday in Bournemouth, but all that has really happened is that we've had a change of hospitals.

Merrily, we'd left the babies and all the instructions with Granny, and headed along the coast for a cream tea. As we left, both twins were happily staring at their fingers and neither had ever looked more bouncing and ready for life, but on our way home the phone rang, and it was my mum saying, in her calmest voice, "I might just get them to have a look at Artie, but don't worry, the ambulance is on its way". We sweated out the traffic and made it to Poole hospital as they arrived.

The babies are up and down so quickly. In a couple of days on the ward, Artie was getting a bit better and then Gally went all blue and floppy again, so we had another heart-in-mouth dash across town with him to A&E.

The waiting room of A&E is about the last place you'd want to go on holiday. An elderly man with a large nose appeared to have fallen on it. He sat there with great dignity and a huge red nose, clutching his walking stick with both hands. Someone else had done something unthinkable to an eye and was leaning back in their chair holding a makeshift dressing to it.

The first time Gally went blue was the worst. It was about midnight and we made the 18-mile trip to Banbury in less than 15 minutes. There was no traffic and I shot red lights, beeping the horn. I called the hospital from Bloxham and said, "Prem infant, suspected apnoea, ETA five minutes, have resus gear ready please". I've done so much talking to doctors that I now almost speak the language, and when we arrived at A&E, they were ready for us. "We thought you were an ambulance!" they said. I might have to get a siren if things carry on like this.

Gally quickly responded to the oxygen and started to howl, which was a great relief. They don't cry when they're really sick. It turned out that he had E-coli and we'd caught it just in time. Premature babies are much more prone to infections.

This time it's viral infections, but they're both on the mend. And Poole hospital is the best yet. We're camping with the babies in a room that suggests a Japanese hotel, with a view of the harbour and the swish houses on sandbanks. It's really rather nice.