BBC Operation Ouch Award Winners

I will never forget the moment. Mid September 2021, late afternoon, standing in the kitchen, my mobile rings from an unknown number – I thought it’s either a client, the bank or the tax man… none of whom I particularly wanted to speak to, but I reluctantly answered…

Sam: “Hello…”

Caroline: “Hi is that Sam, Avaana’s dad?…”

Sam: “Yes it is…”

Caroline: “It’s Caroline from Operation Ouch – just wanted to let you know that out of the Operation Ouch finalists for the First Aid Award, we have chosen Avaana as our winner!”

Cue tears filling my eyes, snot in my nose, voice shaking – trying to act cool and calm on the phone… really trying to play it down, “ah well that’s great” – great?! That’s bloody mind bogglingly fantastically amazing!!! 

But I need to tell you why this means so much – yes she won an award, yes she/ we got to experience some amazing things with the filming and yes she was privileged to receive such a beautiful prize – and all those things are great… but it was special because it was the rainbow after the storm. Our girls being in such a horrible helpless scary situation to being rewarded for their acts of courage during those hard moments… to me symbolises light finding a way through darkness.

My whole philosophy since this tumour turned up has been about looking for the positives, not accepting my fate in a negative way but fighting for all the beautiful things I have in my life… and this situation just perfectly brought all of that together.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me take you back to around September 2020 – I had gone roughly 6-7 months without any seizures, things were going well. And then one morning when I was looking after the girls on my own, I had a big seizure which completely knocked me out. At the time Avaana was only 5 and Arya was only 3 – AJ had just finished reception and Ary had just started nursery. I think you get what I’m trying to say… they were both just babies. I was sleeping in bed with Arya when my body started seizing which woke Arya up and she started screaming which is what woke Avaana up. She came running in from her room and quickly took Arya back into her room and calmed her down, she also took my mobile from the bedside table. Avaana called my wife who was at work at that time and explained what happened. My wife called 999 whilst hurriedly trying to make her way back to us, the London ambulance service wanted to speak with Avaana to assess the situation… so my wife called Avaana back and told her to expect a call from a funny number and it will be the paramedics in the ambulance who want to ask some questions. Midway through this conversation the paramedics started calling and Avaana told my wife to put the phone down cause she needed to answer the call 😂! She calmly listened to their instructions as they asked her about my breathing etc. and soon after I came around. Avaana shoved the phone to my ear and said someone was on the line – I had absolutely no idea what was going on, the person on the other line said it was London Ambulance and they should be with me in a few minutes… at which point I apologised to them and said that my daughter must have called them in error! I was about to tell Avaana off for taking my phone! My father in law, my aunt, the paramedics all came bursting through the door a few minutes later and that’s when I knew something had gone wrong – but I actually was totally unaware of having had a seizure or how the ambulance had come to my house. It was only in the ambulance that one of the paramedics explained what had happened and what an amazing daughter I have and I just remember being overwhelmed with emotion – good and bad, so much pride for the way they acted, so much anger and disappointment that they had to go through the situation. 

Few life lessons:

  • Go through emergency situations with your kids! Make sure they know who and how to call people in an emergency. One practical thing you can do is put pictures next to all your favourites on your phone so that your kids have the options of easily calling parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. 
  • Include your kids in big moments – this is a totally personal choice, and I’m not saying tell them every tiny detail about everything but I think when there is a life changing situation going on, from our experience it’s made them feel more comfortable and in a way safer by being part of the conversation rather than us whispering it to each other behind their back. Funny example, when I had my seizure with the girls, I fell out of the bed… now that Arya knows this could happen, she makes sure I sleep in the middle of the bed so I have less chance of falling out! 
  • Bad things do happen in life, but don’t let them define you – yes this was a really crappy situation. Me and Chindhu were left with a lot of questions, a lot of finger pointing, How could we have let this happen to them? Despite my seizures being controlled for 6 months obviously my medication needed further adjusting till it was enough to keep the seizures under control. I was quite angry at myself as well as everyone else around me because all of sudden nobody trusted me to be alone with my girls on my own, I was quite offended. But the fact is none of us (including myself) wanted to put them in that situation again and sometimes it’s just a difficult process we need to work through together. Whatever the situation, there is always another perspective to look at it from – then I think we can learn from the bad and use it to help prepare for something better further down the road. Fact: God’s plan for my life is far greater than my own.

One thing I wanted to highlight is the innocence and uncorrupted nature of a child’s mind. Back then when 5 year old Avaana was speaking to the paramedics telling her that her dad wasn’t waking up whilst trying to keep her 3 year old sister calm, all she could think about was helping me. The only thoughts in her head were completely selfless and all she wanted to do was make things better. She wasn’t thinking “if I help daddy then I might get a present”! As adults we sometimes look for an angle that makes us look good. But she found courage, strength and calmness to deal with the situation purely to help the people around her… and as a result look what happened: this award and all the amazing experiences have found her, not the other way around. People came to us to nominate her for the award – truth be told, we didn’t even know it existed! Sometimes the greatest moments in life can come from us just living and doing the right thing rather than always chasing what we want or what we think we deserve.

Nomination episode:

Winner episode:

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