I can’t show you how lovely she looks.Written by John Macpherson
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)