Into the Dark
This post is difficult to write. If you have followed this blog so far you will know that I have been at death’s door on a number of occasions but, thus far, found it wheelchair inaccessible. In September 2018 death installed a ramp.
We returned from our cruise relaxed and happy. There had been a lot of effort involved, particularly on the parts of Polly and Nina, but we’d proved it could be done and that it had been great fun. On the 25th we celebrated our silver wedding anniversary and days later Matty, our eldest, headed off to university to study History, and Sam started at a well-known school of the performing arts, having successfully auditioned for a much-coveted place to study Theatre. Polly was all set to continue studying for her OU degree in Psychology and to carry on working with sick and disabled children in hospitals, hospices and specialist treatment centres in London and beyond. I was much recovered from my summer stint in hospital, and generally, things were looking up.
I awoke one morning, at the tail end of September, bathed in a sheen of sweat and horribly short of breath despite being on a ventilator and wearing a pressure mask. Once again, an ambulance rushed me to St Helier Hospital, where they started the process of accessing me. I was resigned to spending the next ten days hooked up to an IV drip full of antibiotics and painkillers. The accursed gallstones had struck again, I presumed, but before a formal diagnosis could be made something terrible occurred.
My memories of what happened next are hazy and fragmentary, but I remember being wheeled on a trolley, maybe to a ward or perhaps to just another cubicle, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, I never got there. I remember a sudden excruciating pain and being violently sick directly into the pressure mask I was wearing. I remember thinking this can’t be good…
I woke to find Polly looking down at me. She was asking me questions.
I woke to find Polly stroking my head. She was asking me if I knew where I was.
I woke to find Polly looking anxious. I tried to say something but could make no sound.
I hurt all over. Every breath hurt. My mouth hurt.
I was lying on a bed in the café of a department store. I could see the escalator. Maybe Debenhams had an Intensive Care Unit. Odd.
I was in a kitchen, next to the back door. There was flowery wallpaper and another door with lots of yellow and faded pink strips of plastic hanging from it.
I was in a very old building with diamond leaded windows. There was something I needed to find urgently.
Polly was asking me if I knew where I was. I was in some kind of hospital ward, but the beds were all at funny angles to each other. I nodded.
Polly was introducing me to a nurse and asking if I recognised her. Nope, not a clue. I nodded anyway; it seemed only polite. She saved your life, Polly told me. Okay, good to know. She performed CPR on you when your heart stopped. My heart, what?
It would be a long time before I learned what had happened; indeed, it only as I’m writing this post that Polly has filled me in on some of the grimmer details. I vomited into my pressure mask and immediately had that vomit blown into my lungs under pressure. I went into respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest. The nurse mentioned above had grabbed a stall, stood on it, and started CPR. A crash team arrived, and they were preparing to use a defibrillator when I suddenly had a pulse, albeit a weak and thready one. My blood pressure crashed; my face had turned to a deep dark shade of purple. My eyes were open, my pupils fixed and dilated. The team struggled to get a line into me as my veins collapsed. They cut into my neck and groin. It was difficult to incubate me, as my airways had collapsed. I was rushed to Resus.
After an age had passed a doctor came to talk to her. He told her that I had gone into a second cardiac arrest, and they were struggling to revive me. It might, he said, be kinder to stop. It was only as he was leaving that Polly took in what he had just said. No, wait, she cried, he wants you to do everything, he wants to see his boys grow up. The doctor left.
And Polly waited.
When at last Polly was allowed in to see me, she was met with a grizzly scene. There was blood everywhere, and there were banks of machines and monitors with wires and tubes inserted into my neck and my mouth. It looked like a battle had taken place. It looked as if they had literally fought to save me. I was deathly pale, and Polly’s first thought was that she had made a terrible mistake and that she hadn’t been kind at all.