Martin's Green Jumper Day #NGU

Thu 14 May

Several people have asked me, what is ‘Green Jumper Day?’

I hope they didn’t expend too much time and energy searching via Google. I strongly suspect that if they did, it would have rendered them just as clueless as they were before they searched.

You see GJD a is a very personal thing. It is not an official day! It is a tradition (followed by me alone) that I started 5 years ago on the first dated anniversary of 1st May 2015.
Exactly 1 year before, we had faced one of the ‘darkest hours’ of my 55 years of family life.

1st May 2014 was the day when my youngest son Jake went into the operating theatre at Leeds General Infirmary and underwent a 7 hour ‘face down’ operation into the deepest recesses of his brain.

The complicated and delicate surgery was to try to rectify a persistent and life-threatening bleed on the brain. Without that surgery we had been told the night before, 30 April 2014, that he would ‘die on the ward.’

So, on 1 May 2014 at 08.30 Jake went into surgery and my wife Nicky and I spent the next 7 hours stumbling around the streets of Leeds trying, blindly trying to kill time as we endured the longest of days.

It was one of the coldest days of the year and Nicky had forgotten to pack her coat as we travelled over from Halifax early that morning. In true heroic fashion I offered her my coat, only for my teeth to start chattering incessantly as the bitter chill of that of that cold morning air bit into my bones.

To keep warm and kill time we went into Debenhams, Leeds.

It was there, in the basement that I found the green jumper. It was pretty smart: a Jeff Banks design and it cost me just £15 which I thought was a steal! The jumper was bought and worn for the next 6+ hours of neurosurgery and whilst it was still bitterly cold, at least it gave me a second level of protective warmth. It got me through the day!

Happily, Jake survived that bout of neurosurgery and a second subsequent 10 hour operation in February 2016 which finally resolved the issues that were causing a repeated bleed on his brain.

Back on the night of 1 May 2014 as I watched my son writhing and groaning with pain in the recovery room next to the operating theatre, I tried to offer him some consoling, though pretty useless words of comfort.

Jake couldn’t hear or see me, so I stooped down very close to his ear and repeated how much I loved him and how proud I was of him. He stopped writhing with pain for the briefest of moments, opened his eyes and in 3 words produced the best and most welcome un-PC insult I have ever received:
“You look *******.”

Just 24 hours earlier, as a 16-year-old of 1-week duration, and therefore with ‘capacity’ to make his own decisions, Jake had given his written consent for that operation. The risks with this surgery had been clearly and unequivocally explained and exposed. He was warned that being confined to a wheelchair, perpetual disability, mutism, or death were very real possibilities during or after surgery.

Perhaps you can now understand why that green jumper-inspired insult was one of the best things I have ever heard?
So Green Jumper Day on 1 May, remains an annual tradition in our household, seemingly followed by just the one subscriber: me! The rest of the family think I am nuts and they are probably right!

Rosie, my daughter, couldn’t ever remember what it signified yesterday morning in a series of messages after I had wished them ‘Happy GJD‘ in an early morning text. That is despite her knowing the story and having read all about the Green Jumper in my book ‘Bedbugs, Blisters and Brain Surgery’ published in April 2019.

That green jumper will continue to be worn by me on 1 May every year until it or I wear out.

We will all have our own quirky behaviours in how we are dealing with this Covid challenge. You are probably now realising that I am probably way quirkier than most.

In a time when individually and collectively our own anxieties and fears are probably at an all-time high, I hope the madness of my Green Jumper experience will give someone, somewhere, a small ‘reason to be cheerful’ and a cause for some renewed hope and optimism.

You see: the chips really were down for Jake on that May Day 2014.

My Green Jumper, perhaps helps to explain why, within all this Coronavirus inspired crisis, I flatly refuse to be pessimistic and I for one will ‘never, never, never give up!’

As a family we got our miracle back in those dark days of brain surgery in 2014 and 2016 and I hope and pray that we all can get a similar, collectively positive breakthrough, within Covid 19.

We are all just going to have to dig a bit deeper and wait for it a little longer I suspect.

I hope it also clarifies why Jake and I went for a little stroll of 500 miles in length, in April 2017, one year on from his second operation. We walked right across the north of Spain on the iconic pilgrim route known as The Camino de Santiago. Out of adversity he and I got one of the best ever ‘dad and lad’ experiences.

Maybe, in a similar way, out of real national and international adversity, we will get a super special legacy of fantastic family experiences inspired during Lockdown 2020? I truly hope so.

Thanks for the read.

Martin #NGU (Never Give Up)

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