Death, Rebirth, Faith, Fear, Belief, Loss, Change, Connections, Life
by Rob Willmore

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead” Oscar Wilde


The image tells the story of a woman who lost faith. I have named her Mrs X* for reasons of confidentiality and to add to the mystery of the image, the viewer can decide for themselves who she is. Mrs X and her husband tried for many months for a baby. She failed. After trying for a period longer she had multiple miscarriages but finally gave birth to a child with downs-syndrome. This child died shortly thereafter. They gave the child a proper funeral believing that that could have been their only child. The emotions Mrs walker must have felt are unimaginable - from her loss of faith in a fundamental aspect of womanhood to losing a new-born child after having waited so long.

The couple tried again for a baby for many months before suddenly Mrs X became pregnant again. This time she gave birth to a perfectly healthy little boy. She called him her little ‘miracle’ child which resonates with her regaining of faith in everything she had lost and gone through previously. The family returned home within days of giving birth to start a new beginning and push bad memories behind them.

Five weeks later baby George* started breathing rapidly and had turned slightly grey. His mother called for an emergency appointment with her GP immediately having gone through the trauma of losing her very first child she wasn’t going to take a risk with her second. The locum GP on duty looked over George and simply diagnosed a small fever or cold and suggested rest and plenty of fluids. Mrs X left feeling worried. She had a gut instinct something was wrong – a psychological connection only a mother has with her child and made the decision, clearly against the GP’s casual diagnosis, to rush George to the Children’s Hospital.

Thirty two and a half minutes later George was diagnosed with acute heart failure. Thirteen minutes later he went into cardiac arrest. The GP couldn’t have been more wrong. George was suffering from a rare condition which meant he had an electrical fault with his heart. Over the next four weeks Mrs X and her husband “travelled to hell and back again multiple times” - George was kept in intensive care in a coma, his prognosis unclear for a period of a week. Eventually his condition improved and his strength started to return. Once moved onto the children’s ward they thought him to be in the clear before a member of staff accidently administered an overdose of a drug which caused him to crash again. The healthcare system had failed them far too many times. Eventually, George’s slow recovery reinforced Mrs X belief that he really was her little miracle child and eventually he returned home.

Rebirth, Faith, Fear, Belief. Loss, Change, Connections, Life - These are some of the themes I hoped the viewer of the photograph would be able to pick out. I hope that every person could see the photograph in a different light and take from it what they may but the specific subject and composition are key in the telling of the photograph’s story.

The image conveys many of the deeper parts of this story. The initial struggle and loss of her first child provided me with the environment for the photo to be taken in. The grave the mother and son look down at is that of her first child. I deliberately reduced the hue of the colours to give it an almost black and white quality. This attempts to convey the sorrow and sadness associated with the memories of that time of her life, how she wants them to fade away into nothing. The lack of colour could also represent the lack of life she felt within herself and the fruitlessness she was surrounded by. The short quote by Oscar Wilde I thought reflected strongly upon the narrative. After her many miscarriages she could have given up, she could have blamed herself, her husband or the many lost children, but she fought on, she kept love in her heart. She could have given up and lost hope when her son was rushed to hospital, she could have lost everything so many times but she kept courage and heart and believed she and little George could pull through.

The two red hats picked out in colour are a main focus of the photo. They suggest the intuition and instinct a mother has for her child – the invisible link that exists within families that made Mrs X take George to hospital on that doomed morning. It’s not worth thinking about the consequences had she taken her locum GP’s advice directly and returned home. The reaching out of the woman’s right hand in the photo represents her extreme love for her son. It represents the need and requirement he has within her life. Most of all it represents her reaching out and the determination not to lose a child again having battled so very hard and suffered so much already. I wanted a space between the hands to allow the concept of maternal instinct to be shown as not physical but a spiritual aspect of the relationship. It also allowed the idea of George being removed from his mother so early on so early on in his life. The first few weeks of a baby’s life are special for a family - but George was taken away from his mother and his loving, caring home environment - a barrier of plastic was erected and lines and drips fed into him in intensive care.

In the mother’s left hand is a short chain with a crucifix on it. It lies loosely in her hand, it is unclear to the view if it is slowly sliding out from between her fingers or if it remains stationary just within reach. This subtle section of the photo also has considerable significance within the narrative. It shows the loss of faith Mrs X has on so many levels. Initially in her inability to reproduce and then as a mother not able to look after her first new-born child. It then leads on to a different loss of faith – that of her belief and faith in the medical profession. The Rod of Asclepius is an ancient symbol sometimes used to symbolise the medical profession and is of similar shape to a crucifix. How she could maintain her faith after the misdiagnosis of something as major as acute heart failure and the overdose of medication shall remain a mystery. It is up to the viewer to decide if the chain slips from her fingers or if the diligence of the medical team to stabilise and promote George’s eventual recovery was enough to restore her faith.

The background is filled with a stone wall - its cold, stark and jagged face adds another factor to the mixing pot. Often walls are used to suggest dead ends with no other direction to go except back again in this case I think it represents the challenges over come to reach the photo. The trials and tribulations Mrs X has gone through, the pressure on her relationship not only with her GP but also her with husband, family and friends. Finally the daffodils in the child’s right hand symbolise rebirth and new beginnings. Daffodils are the sign of spring approaching, sun and rain renewing the greenery of the earth allowing plants to bud and grow once again. The daffodils complete the photograph and its narrative in a sense: George flourished into a lively little boy and what’s more, he has a second miracle brother to complement him. The dirty and overgrown, black and white memories of the past can be put to rest while the forthcoming future is only full of life and belief in better things to yet come.

*name changed to protect confidentiality

Rob Willmore, GP Attachment 2013