The general theme of the spring issue is celebrating life. I normally struggle to bend this nonsense to any theme, preferring to just fire out my usual brain farts and letting our talented editor justify it. However, this month I think I’ve nailed it.

I’m a comedian, everything is for sale. My mum and dad have always supported me. I was showered with love and affection They didn’t have much but I never went without, and I have to say I totally resent them for it.

Happiness is useless when you’re a comedian. “How was your childhood, Scott?” “Comfortable.” “Well good luck with the autobiography mate! Got a real Angela’s Ashes on your hands there!”

You need fuel in this game. Richard Pryor grew up in a brothel, Eminem lived in a trailer park, and apparently Greta Thunberg’s parents never recycled. You need something. Well, my something came in 2010, weighed 8lbs and looked exactly like me.

Olivia is thirteen now, and a typical lazy teenager. I’d show you a picture but it’s hard to get one of her awake, she’s like a badger on spring watch. She always has one earbud in, listening to music, it looks like she’s working undercover. She always looks suspicious. My wife said, “She might’ve been radicalised, she could be part of a cell?” I said, “Well if she is, it’s probably a sleeper one!”

Her room is a state. She lives like a rockstar on their final weekend. I panicked the other day cos I thought I’d found blood up the walls, turns out it was just a highly pressurised Fruit Corner. Those thinks are like IED’s aren’t they?!

When she was just ten weeks old though, we discovered something was wrong. Something that sent us into half a year of hospital stays, private jets and bizarre celebrity encounters.

It was August 17th 2010. Olivia is sleeping all the time. This kid saw less daylight than Dracula, we still didn’t know what colour her eyes were!

One afternoon she had a nap. She woke up, her eyes were glazed, she was limp and her lips were blue. She was also struggling to breathe. We picked her up and she recovered. The next day she did it again, twice.

We called an ambulance, they had them back in 2010, and the paramedic took her blood sugar, it was 1.1.

I know, I didn’t know what that meant either 1.1, well at least it’s not 1.2?  Normal is 3-5 apparently. No wonder why she glazed over, this kid was practically unconscious.

We were new parents we didn’t know anything!? I’d just finished decorating the nursery, I still had the gloss paint on my finger nails. I didn’t realise I should have been liquidising Crunchies every day!

They didn’t tell us this at the ante-natal classes! I learnt about winding, testing the temperature of some bathwater with your elbow and how to push a plastic baby through a roll neck sweater. There wasn’t a session on what happens when things go absolutely mental.

We spent ten days in hospital and then they sent us home and told us it was just a transient blood sugar issue and there was nothing to worry about.

Now look, I love the NHS, as you’ll read later, but they sometimes take a while to get it right. My dad had a health scare recently he went to the hospital for a scan. My brother came to pick him up. The nurse brought out a totally different bloke. Just standing there holding his reading glasses.

My brother said, “That’s not my dad!” The bloke said, “That’s not my son!” They just looked at each other confused.

Anyway, we’ve kept him, it’s just easier for the paperwork apparently.

A week later we put Olivia down for a sleep. And we knew, we just knew. We took her sugar. 1.6, I tried again, 1.6. This is the thing when it comes to a crisis, you don’t want to face what something might be, you’d rather live in the denial, rather than the reality.

It’s like if you find a lump, you try to tell yourself the simplest, least scary explanation. This isn’t a lump it’s just an extra bit of muscle! It’s completely natural to have an extra bicep in my armpit! It’s self-preservation.

We went back into hospital, where we stayed for the next four months. Olivia was diagnosed with CHI, Congenital Hyperinsulinism. A condition which is the reverse of diabetes. It’s genetic. Her pancreas was producing too much insulin and causing her blood sugar to drop.

They said that there was a spike of this disease in the Nottingham area. So many children had this. So now not only was I worrying about our daughter’s life, I was also worrying about mine, because my wife clearly now thinks I’ve been putting it about. Even to this day every time she sees a blonde-haired blue-eyed child chugging a Lucozade, she gives me a nudge.

Now, to counter the insulin production, the doctors gave Olivia drug called Diazoxide. He said there’s a few side effects we should be aware of. She could put on weight, she could get dehydrated, and she’s going to get really hairy!

What?! Say that again, hairy?! This is a medical professional?! Hairy?!

Also, they are in the wrong order! Hairy is the headline there, isn’t it? Forget dehydrated I want to know if I’m going to be the father to an Ewok! The next question is how hairy? Are we talking a fourteen-year-old boy with his first tash or full Bill Oddie?

He wasn’t joking. By the third week if it wasn’t for her Peppa Pig baby grow I wouldn’t have known where the front was.

A lot of people in here have winded a baby, but not many have combed one, and gelled their back hair into a mohawk, there was so much of it. She had eyebrows like both Noel and Liam Gallagher! It was obviously traumatic but there were positives, she did win best in show at Crufts that year.

We’d now been in hospital for months now, it was too dangerous for us to go home, I forgot what real life was, separated from normality with a single pane of glass. I’d watch people walking dogs, going to work, our life was on hold.

We were a shell of our former selves, falling apart, not sleeping, we’d both lost loads of weight, my cheekbones jutted out! Eyes sunken and dark and I’ve got to admit I looked……beautiful.

Sadness is sexy! I was a shell of a man and broken but I was a 32-inch waist! There is no better diet than anxiety – couch to panic attack in less than a month! Heads would turn! “Who is that fit guy with the hairy baby and the thousand-yard stare? He’s gorgeous!”

We were told by the specialists that there are two versions of this disease. Focal or diffuse. Focal is a lesion or growth on the pancreas, which depending on where it is located, can be operated on, removed and the child is totally cured.

If it’s in the head, they can’t operate and you child has to live with it. If it’s in the tail it can be cut away, and the child can live a normal life, with 70% of their pancreas. It’s quite common. People live with one kidney; one lung and even no heart, just look at Katie Hopkins, she’s thriving.

Diffuse effects the whole pancreas, the only solution is a lifetime of medical care or a complete pancreatomy leaving your child diabetic for life. Olivia had one of them, and the odds were 50/50.

They said we needed to go for a scan to confirm it. They said there were only two machines in the world that could scan a baby’s pancreas. One was in Berlin the other was in Philadelphia. Are you taking the mickey? Who’s doing these scans, David Bowie, and Tom Hanks?

I was straight away Googling things to do in Philadelphia! We’re going to see where the Fresh Price of Bel Air was born and raised, visit the playground where he spent most of his days! I was so excited!

And so, on 8th November 2010 we flew to Berlin.

Berlin was a lucky break. Jemma is fluent in German, she also knew the country, she’d been there loads of times.

I don’t speak German, but I do look it. Once I was in a bar in Spain during the World Cup in 2002 and a German man started banging on about the German back four. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t German. So, I just nodded and said Klinsmann every three words. I ended up being his best man. Shout out to Hans, love you man.

They flew us to Germany on a private jet. I know that seems excessive! But how else would they have done it?! Ryan Air?!

You only get 10kg baggage allowance, so good luck bringing on your own ICU nurse. Can you imagine, having to weigh her at check in, cramming her into that metal luggage size checker they have?

“She will fit, it’s her stethoscope that’s stopping it!”

We flew out from Manchester from a private lounge behind the main airport. I never knew this world existed. It was reserved for footballers, sheiks, and business leaders.

There was the WWE plane on the tarmac and a load of wrestlers had just arrived, for a show at the Manchester arena. I’m sitting there holding my hairy baby as these massive humans walk past. They just kept coming. Triple H, Brett the Hitman Hart, The Rock, then this massive shadow descended over us, it was The Undertaker. I must admit I held Olivia a bit tighter when I saw him, “Hands off pal, not yet mate!”

We got on the plane; Liv was in her car seat. The pilot and the co-pilot were sat about three feet from me, and the doctor, nurse and Jem were sat in the rows behind me. At one point the pilot, turned, and said, there are some croissants and a fruit platter under the seat. Help yourself. I had a croissant, Jemma had some melon, it was like the Kardashians meets casualty, I’d have enjoyed it if I wasn’t so utterly traumatised.

It was so weird having this slab of luxury in the middle of this chaos, all on the NHS. It was unbelievable. There are no beds, junior doctors aren’t getting paid enough and we’re being flown to Europe, eating pastries, and rubbing shoulders with the WWE! And let me tell you it’s guilt like that, which really takes the edge off your second glass of champagne.

I looked down over Manchester and could imagine an old woman being told she can’t have a new hip because of us, honestly, I nearly choked on my pain au chocolat.

In Berlin they said only one parent can stay at the bedside. They let us have one night altogether as they could see how much we were struggling but the night after I had to leave. I was told I had some accommodation. I looked at the address. It was in Berlin, two miles away and it was called the Ronald McDonald house.

Now this wasn’t some old guy, a Scottish Saint Called Ronald McDonald, this was the actual Ronald McDonald! The man who sells chicken nuggets.

That guy! I’m at the lowest point in my life and who reaches out to save me, AN ACTUAL CLOWN! That image doesn’t scream compassion, does it?! Florence Nightingale looked compassionate; this guy looks like IT with a perm!

McDonalds had set up a charitable institution to support parents of sick children. That’s pushing its values to the limit, isn’t it? My daughter had blood sugar issues, and I’m being given accommodation by the king of diabetes!

That’s like seeing Fred and Rose West on Airbnb! Or Wetherspoons doing AA meetings, someone putting a Disneyland in the middle of Helmand Province! Or having your package holiday organised by Jeffrey Epstein, it makes no sense!

Now we’re in this weird situation where McDonalds has played a part in saving my child’s life!

The second day we had the scan. They Injected Olivia with a low-level radioactive chemical, to make the pancreas visible. If it goes well, we will see the pancreas. If it goes badly, she’ll probably be the next Marvel superhero.

At that point they took Olivia away from us, put her to sleep and we waited, and we cried, we really went for it. We had held that kid’s hand for months and now we were holding each other.

The Doctor called us over, Olivia was out of the scan. Our happiness was resting in the hands of the Germans, it was like Euro 1996 all over again. We weren’t meant to get the results for twelve days, but the doctor took a shine to us, me looking German and Jemma speaking it, was obviously a potent combination.

He got out a folder, I could see the name, Olivia Bennett, it was her scan. I could see her pancreas, looking like a little chicken nugget. He slid it towards us, “focal” he said, and it’s in the tail. We can cure her!

Jemma immediately burst into tears, as did I once she’d translated for me. I panicked, I said, “Are you a 100% sure? Is this definitely her scan?” I love the NHS but we’re used to England where things are a bit looser, it could be her pancreas, but equally it could be the scan of some German bloke’s liver.

I felt like going up to him, grabbing him by the shirt. “Don’t mess me about mate. I’ve not slept for six months. In the last three days I’ve been on a private jet, I’ve had a sleepover with Ronald McDonald and I’ve got the Undertaker from the WWE wanting my baby!”

“Don’t you dare mess me about mate, alright….…KLINSMANN!”

He assured us it was correct; this nightmare could be over. We both slept that night, a proper sleep for the first time in months. We were going back to Manchester and we had something to bring back with us. Hope, and 200 Marlboro Lights for Jemma’s Mum. You have to, it’s the rules.

Let me try and explain the genetics. Olivia had the faulty gene from me, but it should have been recessive. The faulty gene should have been cancelled out by Jemma’s maternal gene but for some reason Jemma’s gene was silenced. That’s when you know your wife is angry with you, when even her DNA is giving you the silent treatment. Seriously, I forget to put the bin once and she gives me a child with low blood sugar?

My gene was growth promoting, like a gene on steroids, a massive fat necked thick beast of a gene. Not a Gene, it was more like a Dave!

It created a lesion in Olivia’s pancreas, causing all sorts of bother. It was stubborn, awkward, and really annoying, I suppose you could say, it was a British Lesion. It stopped the glucose coming down the channel in her pancreas, Suella Braverman would have loved it. As a result, it just pumped out insulin constantly, causing her blood sugar to drop.

It’s complicated but basically all you need to know is like most things in our house, it was all my fault!

The operation was scheduled for 14th December. On the 8th we were taken to Manchester Childrens hospital, our home for the next month, I was worried about how we would settle in, like prisoners being moved to a different wing.

On the second day in Manchester there was a buzz going round the ward. Manchester United were coming in to see the kids and bring them presents.

First the WWE and now this!

We met Wayne Rooney, lovely guy, genuine, gently, softly spoken, gave Olivia a Man United teddy. Wayne held Olivia. I felt bad about that. At the time he was going bald and I’d presented him with a hairy baby, it just felt like I was rubbing it in. I should have said, “We’re going to shave her this afternoon mate, I’ll bag it up for you.”

He’d just had his first hair transplant at this point, I think. It was early days, before it had chance to grow in. I could see through it in the light coming in through the ward, he looked like he’d covered his head in Pritt Stick and done a forward roll across a barber shop floor. His scalp looked like the top of a dandelion clock. I didn’t dare breathe out, lest I blew it off.

We were shattered, but Jemma tried to make conversation. She asked Wayne if his kid liked Christmas. Which still remains the most stupid question she’s ever asked in her life. He said, “He likes the lights,” before gesturing to his PA, handing our daughter back, then wandering off – in the direction of the geriatric ward.

On December 14th they operated on her. I stayed at the side of her bed in intensive care, for two days, sleeping in a chair. That place is serious. Very different to a ward. There were some dark moments in there, in the belly of the hospital. It felt like we were miles away from the world, like being in the engine room of the Death Star. Silence apart from the dark, red glow from the machines, a cocoon of tension and worry.

Sometimes machines would be switched off, parents came in to say goodbye, it was really suffocating at times.

They kept Olivia hooked up to a machine, to check her sugar constantly. Within an hour of the operation the effects started happening. It was amazing. Immediately her sugar started to go up! I was watching them on the machine, 2.5, 3, 3.1, 3.2, 4 all the way past 12! It was like seeing the results come in on Soccer Saturday!

Then the ICU nurse said, “Watch this… here’s what’s weird!” I mean he didn’t say it exactly like that! If he did, he wasn’t a fully qualified nurse. He said, “We need to give her some insulin now!”

The thing that we thought was evil for the best part of a year! Her pancreas was alive and calibrating itself.

Olivia had no side effects at all. You wouldn’t know anything had happened apart from the scar, and her German accent. They were worried about her having problems with speech. She often grunts and says just one word a day, but we put that down to her being a teenager.

It feels like a different life now. Afterwards when she had recovered, we went to a group of fellow parents and children with CHI. It was only then when we realised how lucky we were. Some children there had so much to contend with. Epilepsy, learning difficulties, and mobility issues, we felt so lucky. We still do.

Jemma kept a journal whilst she was in hospital. Like a soldier reporting from the front line. It’s the only way I’ve been able to tell this story. I’ve showed Olivia the book, she’d often ask where her scar on her tummy came from.

Like most teenagers she’s conscious about her looks, which does worry me. So, I try and reassure her:

“Look darling, our bodies aren’t us, it’s not who we are, it’s just a vessel. A canvas upon which life makes its mark. It’s how you cope with those marks which truly shapes you as a person. You’re our wonderful miracle and there’s not a day goes past we’re I don’t appreciate that.”

I remember I looked at her, she looked back, I thought I’ve really made a connection here. Then she tucked her hair behind her ear and I realised…she still had one earbud in.

“Come on darling,” I said, “fancy a McDonald’s?”

Scott Bennett Comedian

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