‘Come on, back to the keyboard,’ she said, ‘Connie computer will blow a fuse if she finds out you’re two-timing her with me. I’d better go home and try to get some sleep before visiting time tonight. She blew him a kiss.
‘Let me know if we’ll be able to visit tonight, won’t you?’
He promised that he would.
She left – he stood for a moment watching her leave.
Mid-afternoon, the hospital phoned – more exactly, Tracy phoned from the hospital where she’d gone in to check on her mum’s progress. She said that it would be all right for them to return. The doctors would have a word with them about what they’d found so far, but Lucy was still in a coma.
Saturday evening at the hospital
Her mum had a meal waiting for Mel when she got back. While she was eating, she told her mum and dad what was happening at the hospital – and that she’d probably go to visit straight after her evening meal. Her mum was still worried, because she’d just returned from the other side of the world and would be jet-lagged – even though Mel had promised to try to get some shuteye when she’d eaten.
While she was resting, Jamie phoned and spoke to Jean to say that the doctors had said it would be okay now for the family to visit. He asked her to let Mel know.
When Mel arrived at the hospital, she had to wait outside the ward for a while because waiting was limited at the bedside. She sat with Jamie and with Neil, Lucy’s dad.
Tony, Tracy and Fiona, Lucy’s mum, were in the ward.
Jamie explained what the doctors had said. It had been a good job that Tracy had acted so quickly. There had been a blockage in a blood vessel providing oxygen to the brain. The doctors had carried out a series of scans and other tests and had then induced a coma to relieve pressure in the brain while they provided some treatment using a catheter from her groin up to the blockage to remove it. They expected that Lucy would only remain in the coma until her brain had had time to respond to the medication she was being given.
‘Will she be okay when she recovers consciousness,’ Mel asked.
‘They can’t give us guarantees, and they’ll need to assess her at that stage,’ he replied.
‘How’s your dad now?’ she asked.
‘I think that he’s relieved in one way but worried in another. He’s glad that they think they caught the blockage before the brain was too badly deprived of oxygen, but worried about the remaining possibilities of long-term damage.
‘How do you mean?’ she asked.
‘From what I gathered,’ he said, ‘she’ll probably have at least some degree of paralysis on the right side of her body – her arm, leg or both could be affected. That could affect her writing and maybe her walking.’
‘Oh, my God,’ she said, ‘Poor Lucy. How long for?’
‘I’ll come to that in a minute,’ he said, ‘because there could be other problems – such as her speech and memory loss.’
‘Christ!’ she exclaimed, ‘That’s awful.’
‘The doctors can’t tell us more about how likely any of these problems will be, but they assured us that most strokes are associated with some degree of recovery. It will depend on how severely damaged the brain was. They mentioned rehabilitation programmes like speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Those could take months to make real progress.’
Not long afterwards, Tony, Fiona and Tracy emerged from the ward and told the others that they could go in.
Mel was shocked when she saw Lucy. Jamie and Neil had seen her earlier. Although Lucy looked peaceful, there seemed to be machines, displays and noises all around her, and all manner of tubes connected to her. Jamie took Mel’s hand and explained, as well as he could, their various purposes. The doctors had said that they should talk to her as she might be able to hear them – and in any case it might be therapeutic for them as family. So, they did. After a while, Jamie said to Mel that she must be tired and offered to drive her home. She thanked him for his concern but said that she’d be okay driving herself and that she’d come again the following day. She left feeling guilty yet knew that there was nothing that she could have done to help by staying.
Sunday morning at home
Mel slept late and her mum and dad left her to do so – keen to let her body and mind have a chance to recover both from her time in New Zealand and the shock of Lucy’s stroke.
When she came down, it was close to lunchtime and Jack was due to be joining them with his fiancée, Elsa. It would be the first time that Mel had met her. She went to help her mum in the kitchen – her dad was still ploughing his way through the Sunday morning papers. Already, she could smell the lamb roasting in the oven and the vegetables. Her mum was parboiling some potatoes ready to use for roast potatoes. There wasn’t much remaining for Mel to do except to lay the table with cutlery, condiments and wineglasses.
Over the meal, she plied Elsa with questions to get to know her better until Jack begged her to allow Elsa to eat her lunch in peace. Elsa, however, wanted to know all about Mel’s vacation. Most of what she had to say was about places she’d visited and things she’d seen. When she came to describe the scene at the Mount Cook campsite when she’d had to use her personal attack alarm, her mum’s face turned white with shock and her mouth opened in horror.
Mel had to recount all that had led up to it again plus the immediate response of the other people of the holiday park. Jack was furious that his sister had experienced such fear, and her dad hoped that Mel would make sure not to take on any future outings to such lonely places alone. Elsa said that Mel had been very brave and wanted to see the photos that she’d taken. Mel said that she’d send copies of the best shots to Jack via an internet portal once they’d all been culled, processed and sorted into collections.
The rest of the conversation was about Lucy. Brian felt the need to tease Mel by describing Lucy to Elsa as Mel’s future mother-in-law. She squirmed on her chair and blushed radish-red with embarrassment as she tried to change the subject. Jean told Brian to leave Mel alone – Lucy’s stroke was no laughing matter. Brian agreed that she was right and apologised.
The topic moved on to Christmas preparations and arrangements. Jean realised that, for Jamie’s family, this would be one to remember for all the wrong reasons. She couldn’t see how they’d be able to celebrate at all and wished that there were a way for her to help. She also remembered that she still hadn’t bought Jamie anything as a present but wondered whether any gift other than his mum’s recovery would be appropriate.
After lunch, leaving everyone else downstairs to relax and talk, Mel went upstairs to phone Stacy to see if she were free to talk. She answered Mel’s call immediately. She was with Connor, after lunch in the hotel where they’d had their wedding reception.
Because of where she was, and her being with Connor, it wasn’t a good time to relate all the details of her trip to Stacy, so the conversation was more of a quick catchup. Stacy was sorry to hear about Lucy and asked Mel to pass on her best wishes to the family. She also asked how Jamie was taking it and how it was affecting his relationship with her.
Mel said that, in the circumstances, she felt that any romantic developments would have to be put on the back-burner. She said that it looked like being a crap Christmas.
Thursday 19th December – evening visiting.
For the following days, the family had agreed that, while Lucy remained in a coma, and was stable and comfortable, the best thing to do would be to try to carry on life as normal as possible. Tony and his mum and dad would visit each afternoon to monitor Lucy’s progress and report her status by phone messages. Jamie and Mel would visit each evening, but work in their usual roles in the shop, with Marcus helping, during the daytime.
The amount of business taken on the shopfloor in those last few days in the lead-up to Christmas was at record levels, and Jamie’s online business was almost equal in value. Stock was disappearing from the shelves almost as quickly as it was arriving.
During Thursday afternoon, Tony phoned Jamie at the shop to say that the doctors were bringing Lucy out of her coma, but she’d probably be at least confused to begin with, so he shouldn’t raise his hopes too high just yet.
Jamie went to the office to check the shop’s CCTV and saw that Mel and Marcus were both been busy with customers.
He went down to lend a hand at the till and, when there was an opportunity, he told Mel the news. They hugged each other with delight.
‘Get a room you two,’ Marcus suggested.
They looked at each other and laughed.
At close of business, Jamie suggested to her that he’d pick her up that evening and drive her to the hospital – as he’d been doing all week.
Once again, when they arrived, they had to wait outside for a while because of visiting restrictions, but when they went in, they were thrilled to see Lucy sitting propped up on pillows.
She smiled at them and waved them to come and sit down. Her face sagged slightly on one side, and it seemed as if that was affecting her speech, which was laboured. She seemed to be finding difficulty in choosing and articulating her words and it was clearly frustrating her. Her eyes betrayed that frustration and sometimes her body shook with the effort it was taking – trying to remember words and trying to say them. It was as if her brain knew what it wanted to get across, but she recognised that she couldn’t get her mouth to say the words.
She tried to explain, by a mixture of mime and words, that she was conscious about her appearance, her speech and her clumsiness – fearful about whether she’d ever fully recover.
Tony had described the situation to them during his phone call earlier. He’d said that one of her arms wasn’t working properly – as if it was partly paralysed. Lucy could move it, but not properly control it, and a nurse had explained that she’d also need some form of support to be able to walk for a while. All of that would have to wait until she’d had some further assessment and physio sessions to help her regain the use of her limbs.
Mel sat by her side and held her hand as they talked, and Lucy seemed as delighted to see her as she was to see Jamie. After a while though, it became clear that the effort was tiring Lucy, and they both gave her a hug before they left, promising to return the following day.
When they re-entered the waiting area, Tracy was waiting, in her nurse’s uniform, to go in following them. She’d not long since come off shift. They explained to her how tired her mum was becoming. Mel could see the tears forming in Tracy’s eyes. She turned and the three of them went to sit down and talk. Mel put her arm around Tracy’s shoulders and held her as she sobbed. Her mum’s stroke had really upset her, and she was worried about her prospects for recovery.
She understood better than they did, with her experience as a nurse, what it would be like for her mum at the moment, but it didn’t make it any easier for her.
She explained to them the various forms of therapy that Lucy faced. She described the exercises and massage necessary to assist her to get back the use of her arms and legs; the speech therapy work; and the therapies to help her regain independence with basic things such as getting dressed, bathing and preparing meals.
To complement all that kind of work, continued support and patience from the family would be essential – she said that she’d already started asking around for advice from different nursing specialists she knew. She mentioned that she’d heard of some local support groups, but she didn’t think that her mum would be willing to join any of them.
Lucy had always been a strong presence, but Tracy wasn’t sure how she’d face having to depend on others for some time ahead; how she’d deal with this early warning of her mortality.
Mel asked her what support Tracy could expect from the hospital trust to be able to spend time away from work with her mum. Tracy said that the trust was being brilliant, but that, in any case, she was getting a lot of help from Jake and his mum and dad. They were looking after Elaine until she got home. She told them that she’d been glad that they’d had a chance to talk, but she’d just pop-in to see her mum for a moment to say goodnight. Jamie said that he and Mel would head off.
Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
The next set of shots will show scenes from around the town that I saw that Saturday. This is a shot of some people enjoying the sunshine while relaxing at a local café.
For all these shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/160 secs @ f/8, focal length 48 mm, and ISO 160.