I can’t show you how lovely she looks.

I was looking out the window of the hospital Intensive Care Unit the day before yesterday. From a comfortable waiting room. I was on the second floor and looking at a flat roof covered in gravel, and there was a medical ‘thing’ in a plastic wrapper lying there. Close enough to see it was something ‘invasive’, but too far to discern just what exactly. I wondered how it got there.

But I know for sure how I got there. In a Police car with the two gently concerned officers who called at my house at mid-day, and made me drop my half-eaten lunch and step over all the bags of shopping I’d just brought in from the supermarket.

It was the  “Are you the next of kin…………” phrase we are familiar with, but hope not to hear.

I said “Yes”.

And then I was whisked off to the Intensive Care Unit. Their explanation as we drove was stark “You partner collapsed. Her heart stopped. She had just parked her work car in the car park and she and her colleague ran to the office. She fell. Her colleague thought she’d tripped. But realized it wasn’t a trip. She shouted for help and banged the door and started cpr. Two colleagues ran out, one called an ambulance the other with real presence of mind ran across the road to the Fire Station opposite and returned with a fireman with a defib unit. A passing Police car returning to the Police Station saw the commotion and got involved. Three people with first responder skills on site within minutes.”

I was confronted by a big bed surrounded by lots of beeping, chirping, humming machines. Each one had wires, tubes, lines but all converging on one small woman in the bed, lying very still. There’s a chiller unit working hard to lower her temperature. This I’m told will help prevent the brain swelling which they’ve detected, from getting any worse. Her small hand is frozen.

Yesterday the scene was the same when I arrived in the morning.

But to my surprise there was a picture of our wee lad William (aged 5) smiling up from the bottom of his mum’s bed. One of our friends had thoughtfully printed it off, put it in frame and brought it in. Those little things that matter at times like this, that you don’t think about until someone does them for you.

The nurses are quiet and considerate. “You might find writing a diary is useful” said one. “Many relatives find it useful  and maybe therapeutic to keep a log of whats happening and how they feel. Even if you don’t write much its useful”

“Thank you” I said “I do a wee bit of writing and can understand that. But actually I’m more of a photographer and try and make sense of stuff visually, if that makes any sense?” Is it ok for me to take a photograph? Just so that I can show Melanie this when she…if she….well you know what I mean………”

I’m really really sorry but you can’t. Its our rules I’m afraid. Under the Incapacity Act your partner hasn’t given her consent so I can’t permit you to”

“Oh. Right. Ok I understand”. I said. But in that moment I didn’t really understand.

I came home via my friend Cat’s house. She’d collected William from his primary school, and looked after him all afternoon and into the evening.

“How is it?” she asked, with a warm hug, just what I needed at that moment, as I see my wee boy laughing and playing behind her with her two wee boys, one his classmate in Primary 1.

“Tomorrow they’re going to switch off some of the support equipment and see what happens. She’s sedated, and ventilated so they’ll ease off on that, then its scans, heart, brain and just try to get a sense of whats going on. But they are completely stumped to explain what’s caused this. No idea.”

Cat told me she had gone in to the hospital late in the evening the previous night, after I had collected William, to see Melanie.

“I was amazed” she said quietly “at how lovely Melanie looked. She’s a pretty lady anyway, but she just looked particularly lovely. She was incredibly peaceful but looked radiant, just glowing!”

She was right. I had not missed that either. Melanie has dark mediterranean skin, long dark hair and is slim and elegant. She’s a fit, active and youthful 40 years old, and is fiercely intelligent to go with it. Formidable. And lovely. Cat was right, she looked amazing, flawless olive skin, with her thick dark hair swept back.

But I can’t show you how lovely she looks, so I’m taking the nurse’s advice and am writing this down, just to tell you.

( Read John’s humbling update to this ‘story’ is here)


Author — John Macpherson

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

Discussion (49 Comments)

  1. Alex Bates says:

    I really hope your wife is OK

    • Alex – many thanks. Just in, took my wee boy to see his mum ‘sleeping’. He was happy. But he didn’t want to stay because he is tired with all the fun his friends have arranged for him in my absence. Mum is stable. Maybe tomorrow we’ll know more. Your concern is greatly appreciated.

  2. duckrabbit says:

    Hi John,

    sorry. Terrible blubbery phone message left on your answer machine. We’re all knocked by what’s happened to your family and desperately hoping the best for Melanie.



  3. John, I’m sorry to read of this situation for Melanie, your son and yourself. I’ll hold you all in my thoughts and prayers. Best wishes and trust that it will come good in the end.

  4. John,

    A horrible situation. You and your family are in our thoughts.

    RC crew

    • Hey folks, Ray – really kind of you to express your concern so warmly and generously. You know about stories, often you follow their paths because you’re…well….just curious, but other times you’re part of the story as it unfolds and the path it’s leading you on curves in a direction that prevents you seeing round that corner. This is all corners just now.

  5. Valerie says:

    Dear John,

    Thinking of you, Mélanie and William and hoping for the best.
    lots of love

  6. John,
    I hope for the best. Best of wishes for you and your family!

    Warmest regards,


  7. John says:

    This news has me near shock, John. I’m very sorry to hear it. Melanie, you, and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. Ed says:

    John, all the thoughts of the Brydon household are with you and your family. Ed

  9. Ray K says:

    John – hard to write with the tears You are all in my thoughts and hopes. Take care my friend.

    • You and me both with wet faces. I woke at 3am and was reflecting on the diary suggestion the nurse had made and it seemed to make more sense to write this post. Life lobs these curve balls every now and again. Just having to be patient and hopeful at the moment.

  10. Very sorry to hear this John, best wishes to you

  11. Justin Leighton says:

    just sending love

    • Thanks Justin. Back into the fray this morning. She still looks amazing. I took my wee boy in last night to see her on the advice of the nursing staff. I’d taken pictures (naturally against hospital protocol) but only of the kit and its connections to Melanie’s arms and explained to him what he would see and what all the machines were for. So he got to spend five minutes and see her ‘sleeping’.

      In the world of a five year old sleeping is a good place to be so he was content when we left.

  12. Lewis Bush says:

    This is just awful John, thinking of you all.

  13. Such a terrible thing, so touchingly written. Hope with every fibre that you hear better news soon.

  14. JR says:

    I had the same thing happen to me when my wife was about the same age. Two weeks in intensive care and me and my young daughter in bits. Suzy pulled through and is fine now- I hope with all my heart for the same outcome for you John.

  15. Oh John that sounds so very difficult for you all – wishing for a good outcome soon.

  16. Simon Carter says:

    best wishes to you all and hope its good news from here on.

  17. Niall McDiarmid says:

    Best wishes to all of you John. My thoughts are with you – hoping for good news soon.

    • Thanks Niall – some little moment today where a light flickered across Melanie’s face, still a little dim, but its a step forwards. Removal of sedation in next few days will reveal a bit more.

  18. julie says:

    Love and best wishes from Stateside. Hoping things improve.
    From a big fan,

  19. Magda says:

    Dear John

    Firstly – best wishes to your partner and your family. Only tonight, while having a break from editing final project for my studies I managed to look at twitter and saw link to this blog post. Needless to say it put my stress in to perspective and reminded whats really important. It also reminded me of similar situation in my life… about 13 years ago, upon returning home from work I saw my father in tears telling me that mum had serious accident. The brain damage meant she was in coma and later in medically induced coma to aid recovery. It was extremely difficult time for all of us, but even in most optimistic moments I couldn’t expect recovery my mum made later. I wish the same for your partner.

    big hug


    • Thank you Magda – we had some flickers of comprehension today despite heavy sedation, responding to commands – hand and foot movement – and a bit of eye movement. Once sedation is dropped we’ll have a better sense of where we’re placed. Bodies are resilient, and Melanie is young and strong. Time, patience and more time.

  20. I cannot even imagine what you must be going through. I sincerely wish you all the very best. Somehow, in some way, things will turn out to be alright. They always do, even though the “alright” doesn’t fit what we imaged the “alright” to be at the time. Thinking of you…

  21. Catherine says:

    Thinking of all of you and wishing for the best.

  22. Richard Waller says:

    Hi John,

    I was a friend of colleague of Melanie’s whilst a Greenwich in the late 1990s and was shocked to hear the news which was passed on my Martin Webb. I don’t really know what to say except you’re very much in my thoughts and that I hope and pray that Melanie continues to make the slow improvements your blog suggests she is.

    Thanks for sharing the news of the situation on your blog. I hope that the writing in in combination with the photography helps you to deal with such a traumatic situation.

    If it is appropriate to send a card or something simple to let Melanie know how many people out there are rooting for her, let me know.

    Richard Waller

    • Richard (and everyone I’ve not replied to) thanks for your wishes. Melanie awake now, this morning ventilator removed and she is able to talk. Just about to go in to see her! Great news!

      What can you and colleagues do? No flowers – please send a picture of yourselves, with a wee message on the back – make your faces happy smiling aspirational and say what your relationship to Melanie is – reason why are in this post http://www.duckrabbit.info/2013/11/the-power-of-photography/ so worth a read to see what I’m up to!
      Many thanks

  23. Richard Waller says:

    Morning John,

    Absolutely delighted to hear that Melanie is making good progress. After the initial shock I guess each small step on the long road to recovery must give you renewed optimism for the future.

    Would be delighted to send a photo with a message. Could you send your postal address to my email account? I’ll have a careful read through the particular post tonight.

    Best wishes,

  24. Farhiz says:

    Dear John,

    I just read your post. I hope your wife recovers soon and completely. Keep well.

    • Thank you Farhiz – she progresses daily, surprising doctors with her enthusiasm. She realizes how fortunate she has been and is very positive. Still some problems to overcome but that will take a lot of time. Time she now has, thanks to her colleagues who saved her life.

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