Regular readers of my blog will know that we’re a family who love to get out and about as much as possible. My philosophy tends to be along the lines of “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing” which I usually follow, within sensible limits weather-wise. I am always amazed by how well Jessica copes with some of our outdoor walks in view of her heart condition. She is a good little walker, loves the great outdoors and doesn’t let her half her heart hold her back from living life to the full. That said though, there are always a few things that I am conscious of when we are out and about together.
1) Keeping warm
Jessica’s heart condition and poor circulation means that she can get cold very easily and go quite blue, especially on her hands, feet, cheeks and lips. Long-sleeved thermal vests, tights under trousers and plenty of thin layers are essential in the winter, along with warm hats and gloves. Sometimes she has so many layers on that I have a mini Michelin man walking along next to me, but at least she is warm! I’ve also learned now what level of “blueness” is fine when we are out and about in cold weather and when to be concerned. Jessica will now also tell me when she is “cold and a bit blue” and needs to go inside to warm up (or have extra layers put on) and it’s quite reassuring that her limit and my comfort level, with regards to her colour, align quite nicely.
Keeping warm is also important with water play – even on a hot summer day, if our activities involve swimming or splashing, I will always make sure I have warm cardigans with me to help warm Jessica back up as quickly as possible.
2) Allowing plenty of time
Jessica isn’t very fast on her feet and so we tend to take quite a leisurely pace on our walks, making sure that we have time to stop and take a rest if Jessica is getting tired or a little out of breath. She is good at knowing her own limits and we tend to be guided by her on when she needs to stop. I also find the golden rule from Little Hearts Matter (“if you become so breathless, you can’t talk – STOP!”) very useful in helping me to know when I might need to intervene.
3) Opportunities for rest
For longer walks or full days out, having the buggy or the toddler carrier with me is useful so that either child can rest their legs for a while. Now that Sophie is getting bigger, she is mostly happy to walk but Jessica will still ask to be carried or to go in the buggy because she is getting tired.
Being well hydrated is extra important for children with heart conditions like Jessica has, as dehydration will thicken her blood and raise her blood pressure, and so we always make sure we have plenty of water with us.
Jessica’s colour and her energy levels are the two main things that I am always subconsciously aware of when out and about as these tend to be the key indicators of whether she is coping well. Whilst I know that I am always constantly assessing her, I try not to hold her back or treat her any differently from Sophie. Seeing my two girls out and about together, having fun exploring and making memories brings me so much joy and I hope that we will continue to have lots of great outdoor adventures together as a family.