I could hear everything going on around me. I Could hear the Nurse saying, ‘Brain scan, bloods, ECG.’ I sensed somebody beside my bed. A woman repeating my name, ‘Alison, Alison…Alison, I know you can hear me.’ And she was right. I could hear her, but I couldn’t respond; I wasn’t able to respond. There I was, trapped. I could hear, but I felt nothing: I felt nothing, could taste nothing and my eyes were sealed by the fate of impending death.
The ward was full of the rush of trolleys being pushed by porters from the emergency department waiting room to re-cuss and ward bays. The Nurse Call buttons were bellowing from different directions, and fast-paced footsteps of nurses in their thick-soled black shoes squeaked speedily in response to these alarms. I wasn’t expecting Daniel to come. He was either so deeply disturbed by what had happened that he was packing up his clothes ready to leave the house and start a new life in a new country with his ex girlfriend, or had left the house in such a sleep-deprived frenzy, that he had crashed his car into the back of a stalling lorry. I imagined the crash was fatal. I saw Daniel slam on the brakes, then the crash with the lorry; Daniel’s head ricochet from the steering wheel again and again, as more and more cars screeched into each other behind him. There, with a concave and broken forehead, I saw him die in a glass infused, bloody debris of panic. What had I done? Had I killed someone? Daniel? Me? If I somehow pulled through and someone found out about this, I would probably lose my job, my house.
In the midst of this, I could hear the weary voice of a frustrated woman talking about her elderly companion. In a thick Cardiff brawl she tirelessly pleaded for the nurses to do something to help, adding ‘she’s 94, she won’t pull through by ‘erself.’ I couldn’t tell what the emergency was, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was the blaze tone of the health professional who said, ‘We’ll have to wait for the doctors, but I don’t want to get your hopes up. 94 years is a good age.’ In that moment my concerns switched from Daniel and why he wasn’t here. I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream for the inner me to wake up and say something. I wanted to say those words that every terrified friend or family member of a sick person needed to hear: ‘we’ll do everything we can.’ These two people needed the defence of another, they needed to know that caring for the old people in this country wasn’t a defunct practice, that some of us still cared, still valued the right of the person to choose, where it was possible to do so, the length of their own life.
As another Nurse Call alarm bellowed once more and the wails of the sick echoed throughout the ward, my worries about the old woman and Daniel became blurred by a thousand other thoughts in my head. There was a race between the good and the bad; both were flying fast,but it was only bad that succeeded. The truth about what had happened frightened me; I didn’t want to leave a life I loved. I didn’t want to die. I really didn’t want to die.
‘Alison? Alison?’ The familiar voice of the woman returned but this time the implication of her tone was that she had become detective: she had found out some new information and wanted to find out how much I knew. If this was a ruse to prise me from my sleep, it didn’t work. Explanations of life, of existence, of my existence, had become old hat. Attempts at justifications merely left me feeling fed up that I am seldom ever believed. This new attempt to waken me just made me want to retreat further into myself; burrow deeper into my unconsciousness and stay there – there where it was secure, there where there were more fulfilling, happy dreams than conscious, anxiety-inducing thoughts. There where the repetitive calls of my name did not need a response.
It was warm inside my body. Deeper and deeper I fell into my unconscious until my mind was adrift free-flowing images, like I was floating on the shores of a quietly, bobbing sea. I could no longer hear what was going on around me, no longer hear the woman. But she wasn’t gone. Apparently inspired by the last experience before this new, deeper sleep, my subconscious made her the opening feature of my dreams. She was beside my bed again but instead of her part indifferent, part frustrated presence, she was on her knees, palms together, finger tips pointing upwards to her chin, eyes closed and praying; praying as though my potential recovery would hold some personal, spiritual and emotional reward for her. The murmuring was gradually mimicked by others: doctors, nurses, support workers, porters, all abandoned bays, trolleys and patients to be by my bedside. Everyone surrounded my bed. Even other patients and the relatives of these patients couldn’t help but peep in through the bay curtains, but nobody distracted the evangelists from their aim which was, ultimately, to save me: the person who had now convinced them that miracles do exist.