Hospital memories part 1 – Spain
I opened my eyes in a brightly lit hospital. An oxygen mask covered my mouth. I was unable to move my head, I had a metal halo screwed into my skull. I tried to raise my arm but my body lay lifeless. Nobody seemed to be speaking English. Nobody seemed to be aware of me. I could only muster a mumble but was unheard.
Never in my life have I been more scared, confused and utterly helpless.
I have no idea how long it had been since my body was dragged from the water but I started to recall the events of earlier. My only option was to try and put the pieces together while waiting powerless.
A couple of different nurses tried to talk to me but with my lack of Spanish the best their English extended to was “hospital” and “wait”. Visibly frustrating for them as well as myself.
Taking any guess at timescale would be pointless. The morphine drip hazed my judgement of an already confusing situation. It felt like a lifetime but eventually a British looking woman arrived with a team of doctors and nurses. She began to translate.
In hindsight I realise that the information provided at that point did not register with the impact it should have. It is possible that she tried to gently cushion the blow but it is more likely I filtered out what I didn’t want to hear. I do not doubt she would have covered the basics, I had broken my neck and my condition was still very fragile. I would be paralysed from the neck down.
Before she left she told me that I had friends who had been waiting downstairs and asked if I wanted to see them. 5 minutes later Ryan (my very closest friend) Ross (The Groom) and Liam (The Best Man) were by my side.
One of the first things I remember was asking who won the Scottish cup. We were travelling the same day as the final and I was relieved to find out that Celtic won with Peppier-Doumbe (remember him?) scoring the goal. Prioritising this was a reflection of my state of mind and the lack of importance I was paying to my situation.
I was insistent that they would go and enjoy the weekend, I would be fine. I felt guilty for causing so much bother on the first day and didn’t want them making a big deal out of nothing. I appreciate now what a difficult situation they were in. How would they get me to accept what was happening when I was still unwilling to face the situation?
They eventually left under the strict instruction not to contact my family. I didn’t want to worry them insisting I would just explain it all when I got home. I never realised how deeply I was emerged in denial but looking back now I was clearly out of touch with reality.
It was not long before the three of them were back. I had been talking some more with the doctors and I was starting to get my head round what had happened. When Ryan insisted that he would need to phone my parents I dejectedly agreed.
I would never wish this task on my enemy and to this day I am grateful to him for undertaking the horrible responsibility. I will always feel guilty for putting Ryan and my family through that experience. Writing this is difficult as it forces me to recall conversations that caused a great deal of pain to people I love.
Ryan called my mother’s mobile from my own phone. My mum was pleasantly surprised to see my name appear, assuming I was calling to let her know I was having a great time. As soon as she heard Ryan’s voice on the other end she knew something was wrong. He didn’t get very far before my mum broke down and dropped the phone. The image I have of her shaking in the hallway will always torment me. My dad, who is very calm and methodical in emergencies, picked up the phone and took in the rest of the information. After trying to settle my mum he had to find the words to break the news to my sister. He made the call and explained to her what had happened. My sister threw up where she was standing. I hate to imagine how horrifying that phone call must have been, one small mistake causing so much pain to others. My brother-in-law and my father finished the conversation before going on to make more difficult phone calls to family and friends.
I will never forgive myself for putting them all through that. My actions should not have placed such a heavy burden on my friends shoulders. My actions should not have had my parents terrified they would never see me alive again. My actions should not have been the cause of so much pain and worrying for so many people. It was not just my life that felt the impact of my actions. It was only with time that I recognised how far-reaching the ripple effect was.
That damage cannot be undone and painful imagery does not fade with time. I am told that my apologies are not necessary but they are all I have to offer. The personal consequences of my actions are much easier to accept than the knock-on consequences they had on others.
Within one hour flights were booked for my mum, dad and sister. Ryan organised a hotel near the hospital.
I don’t know how long it took for them to travel but my friends were constantly by my side. Ryan, Ross and Liam seemed to be working in shifts to keep me company. Only once did I allow the rest of the group to visit. I had caused enough disruption and wanted them to enjoy the weekend as much as they could. I was starting to realise by now that this was not a realistic request.
Hearing the voice of my mum was comforting but I was terrified for her. She was talking to Ross and Ryan in the corridor and I could hear the distress underneath a thin mask of composure. My dad and my sister were there also but my mum came in alone first.
Despite us both having spent so long worrying about what to say she just stood at the side of my bed in silence. I looked back and some time passed without any words. I smiled and my mum placed her hand on mine. I could not feel it and she knew I could not feel it but it mattered to neither of us. My mum smiled back and no words were needed. I don’t remember who spoke first but after we began talking my dad and my sister joined us.
I am not religious but my parents are. I was happy to pray with them, it gave them comfort.
Over the next couple of days my friends travelled home, with the exception of Ryan. He stayed to be there for myself and my family. We all appreciated that. The hospital allowed someone to stay with me 24hrs a day, despite it being against policy.
I remember plenty of laughter. I like to think that we helped each other through those days. There was no place for tears or self-pity. All we could do was stay positive and take one minute at a time. I am still proud of how the family held each other up.
An interpreter, and therefore a source of information, made herself available round the clock from then on. With my mother’s medical background she and everyone else had a good grasp of reality. I was still somewhat ignorant, but they do say it can be bliss.
This has taken much longer and been more difficult than I anticipated. If you have stuck with me until now then I thank you very much.
At this stage of the story I am about to be go into surgery. Telling the tale of what followed will be another intense experience. Raw memories that I deliberately avoid.
I will pick it up later