Hospital memories part 5 – Flashbacks
Last week I was back in hospital for an emergency consultation. The doctor’s clinic happened to be next door to the intensive care ward where I spent the first 3 months of my 16 months in hospital.
It came to light there could be a problem with my heart and that I would need an ECG. The consultant asked if I wanted to go round to intensive care and have it done while I was there.
It had been six years since I was in that room and I was unsure how I would react to being back. I hesitantly agreed to get it out the way.
The large ward looked exactly as I remembered and the only empty bed space happened to be the very same bed I called home for so long.
I wasn’t expecting the reaction to be so powerful. So many memories came flooding back but there was one constant theme. It was the permanent circle of support that surrounded that bed. I have always been grateful to my family and my friends for dragging me through that time and while sitting looking at the empty bed, no machines, no tubes, no get well cards, I remembered just how unwavering that support had been.
The flashbacks were so vivid, as if I was sitting watching them unfold before my eyes. Some amusing, some profound but all powerful and precious.
One of the first, and the most emotional, was the memory of a day I had forgotten. Or maybe just suppressed.
If you know the circumstances surrounding the accident then you will know that I was in Spain for a friends stag weekend. The wedding was only two weeks later. A wedding I was supposed to be an usher at, supposed to read a passage during the service, supposed to party long into the night with all my friends.
I remembered how I struggled through the day of the wedding. Everyone close to me was there together. I had to occupy my thoughts, try in vain to distract myself from what was going on elsewhere.
Unexpectedly, Ross and Lynsey turned up before going on their honeymoon with the DVD of the day. They sat beside me as we watched it on the laptop. I remember crying for the first time since the accident.
Liam, the best man, used his speech as an opportunity to highlight my absence. After some kind words an applause rippled through the room and I felt the love and support of all those important people in my life. Ross, giving the most important speech of his life, took the time to talk about how much I was missed. I could only look at him through tearful eyes and try to show my gratitude. I hadn’t regained my speech since the accident but I remember mouthing the words ‘thank you’. It was all I could manage and the gesture seemed insignificant compared to the appreciation I felt.
There were also plenty of fun times during the early months, fun times I had forgotten about and I sat grinning as the memories came back to me.
I had no neck movement for 4 or 5 weeks so when I had a visitor they sat at the side of the bed but I could only see them out of the corner of my eye. It was much more comfortable, and perfectly safe, to have them gently lift my head and turn my neck to the side so I was facing them.
Little did they know that this was perfectly comfortable and perfectly safe. It was the ideal situation for my twisted sense of humour to take the stage.
I talked them into ‘helping me out’ so they carefully lifted my head off the pillow and as they started to slowly twist my neck I would scream “AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH”.
Their reactions were hilarious. To me anyway. I remember Ross in particular, jumping out of his chair he ran away, screaming for help at the top of his voice, flapping his arms in the air like a big girl. I was in stitches and when he eventually caught on he stopped running. Every nurse, patient and visitor was staring at him when he slowly turned round. Half smiling, half growling and red-faced. We still have a laugh about his reaction to my twisted prank but he was not alone in falling for that one.
The joke only worked once on each person but sitting next to that bed after so many years the memory was a welcome reminder of some of the great times we all shared in spite of the situation. I am sitting smiling right now, refreshing flashbacks lighting up otherwise dark days.
I remembered spending my 26th birthday in hospital. I remembered the days and weeks before it, worried about how I would cope with the contrast to my usual celebrations. I remembered wanting to ignore the date, just another day in hospital.
Most importantly I remembered the surprise and the shock when I was taken to the hospital conference room and 30 of my friends were waiting for me. Room decorated, mountains of food, music playing and some faces I had not seen since the accident. Yet again I was amazed by the love and support offered freely by those around me. They continued to exceed what I could have hoped for from a group of friends. Again, I am sitting smiling. Filled with pride and gratitude for how fortunate I have been.
One more important memory came back to mind.
One morning, in the early hours, I was lying in bed listening to music. I had been reflecting on my friendships and the strong bonds that had held them together over the years. In particular since the accident, those friends continued to surprise me with their loyalty and dedication. With my music on shuffle a song came on that seemed to have been written for that one moment in time. A song that captured how important those friendships were, how they were the foundation to all my positivity and hope. I listened to it 2 or 3 times before writing a long e-mail to those friends I owed so much to. I needed to let them know how I felt and I couldn’t wait, so many important things I wanted to say that I couldn’t risk forgetting.
It was probably the first time I had completely opened up and as I listened to the words again I sent the e-mail and cried. Lying in a dark hospital ward in tears, taken aback by this sudden realisation of how blessed I was.
I came home from that visit to hospital last week and I listened to the song. I cried again but more importantly, I was still smiling.