by Andrew Foote
Although I knew that Jus was in the safest possible hands, the urgency to get the dogs back home and for me to be by his side was all but overpowering however the adrenaline rush had dissipated and I was starting to hurt. I tried to run but at best all I could manage was jogging speed and even that made me feel dizzy and sick so it was with a feeling of relief that I found myself sitting on the front lawn awaiting the arrival of the police car.
I vaguely remember getting into the car but the next thing I knew was waking on a hospital ward, my Mum sitting by my side.
"Where's Jus? I need to see him!"
I went to sit up but my Mum put her hand on my chest and gently pushed me back down on the pillow.
"Oh no you don't! You're beaten Alexis. You've got to get some rest. Safe to say Justin is in ICU and being well cared for. There's nothing we can do except wait."
I looked down at my right arm and saw an IV connected to a thin plastic pipe and following this pipe I noticed that is led to an upturned bottle containing a clear liquid.
"Why am I here Mum? What's all this? I'm okay honestly!"
"From the top. You're here because you passed out in the police car and had to be stretchered in. You had to be cleaned up, you were plastered in mud and this," pointing to the IV "is an intravenous drip which is feeding you a saline fluid because you're seriously dehydrated and more, you're clinically exhausted so you will be here for a few days yet."
"Intensive Care Unit."
"Oh shit! Is Jus really that ill?"
"He's very poorly Alexis. More than that I cannot tell you. We're not family you see but if you give me your word not to go pulling any stunts like trying to get out of bed then I go and find Sir George and see if I can get an update. Sound reasonable?"
"Yes Mum. I promise. Has anyone told the army? I promised to let them know if we had any news."
"All taken care of. You try and get some rest and I'll go and try and find Sir George so don't expect me back too soon."
"Okay. I know when I've been defeated."
Shortly after my Mum had disappeared two doctors came into the room. The younger of the two took a hypodermic and helped himself to a sample of my blood. I watched this with fascination, something not lost on him.
He smiled down on me.
"Most people don't like to watch us do this! Obviously it doesn't bother you then?"
"No? Why should it?"
"It's just that some folk get a bit squeamish when they see needles, that's all."
"I think I'm past caring. I've seen enough for one day. What do you want my blood for?"
"We're going to check to make sure you're rehydrating sufficiently. Do you know what that is?"
"I've not been drinking enough water?"
The doctor laughed. "Well something like that! Talking of which, there's a jug of the stuff by your bed. It wouldn't hurt you to drink as much of it as you can and if you run out, shout for a nurse and she'll get you some more, okay?"
"But what if I need to take a leak? I'm not allowed out of bed."
"Well if you do then again you shout for a nurse but actually I don't think you'll want to go! Your body needs it too much to waste any!"
The older of the two sat beside me on the bed.
"Well young sir, you really did a fine job of knackering yourself didn't you?!"
"Oh yes! You pushed yourself way past your limits to the point where your body just shut down on you. No need for concern though, you'll be up and about with no damage done in a day or so."
"What about my friend Justin? Do you know him, how is he?"
"That's one of the reasons I've come to see you. I'm not your doctor, Doctor James here is yours, I'm the one taking care of your friend."
"It's somewhat unethical but Sir George Appleby has absolutely insisted we tell you as much as we know."
I smiled at this.
"I can almost hear him saying that Doc!"
"Yes! I bet you can as well! First and foremost, Justin is a very poorly lad but I would go far as to say that had it not been for your quick thinking, getting him into dry clothing and your master stroke of having the dogs right next to him, he might not have survived to get this far however we have a long way to go before we know if he will fully recover. Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you Alexis?"
"I'm not sure. You mean he will recover but maybe not 100%?"
"Oh dear. Look, there's no easy way for me to tell you this so here goes.
There are a number of directions this can lead. The first and worse case is that he might never regain consciousness. You see he got so cold and so malnourished that his brain began to shut down in order to save energy and so just enough was active to sustain life, keep him breathing and his heart beating. Had you not got to him when you did and also take the action you did, either he would've died or the damage to his brain would have been irreversible but there are encouraging signs.
The second worse-case is that he makes a partial recovery but is still left brain damaged but to what degree and how he might be affected? Well it's too early to tell.
The third and best case is that he will make a full recovery and be no worse off for his ordeal and that of course, is the one we're working towards."
I was stunned! I wanted to cry but nothing happened!
"Look. It isn't all doom and gloom Alexis! Like you he's young and that means his brain is still developing so there's every likelihood it can repair itself. Now had it been an older person, I wouldn't dare be so optimistic but in Justin's case, I am although I still have to keep in mind the other possibilities."
"I see. I understand. What of his physical injuries Doc?"
"Battered and badly bruised, two broken ribs and a broken arm. His ribs? I'm really not concerned about them but his arm is a different kettle of fish."
"We're monitoring it just to make sure it doesn't become infected. You see, part of the bone broke through the skin tissue and that could lead to septicaemia or worse, it could become gangrenous."
"But then you'd be looking on amputation, wouldn't you?"
"Quite possibly. Any other questions?"
"Just one Doc. When will I be allowed to see him?"
"As soon as Dr James is happy for you to be up and about, I think it can only be a good thing that you spend as much time as possible with him. It's very good therapy."
"Now that I don't understand. Jus is in a coma. He can't see me, he can't hear me so how come it makes for good therapy?"
"Good question! It is widely believed that many coma patients retain the ability to distinguish sounds and indeed patients who have woken from a coma report and can recall entire conversations so it may well be that despite Justin appearing not to have any consciousness, he may well be able to make out your voice. Do you enjoy reading?"
"Very much so. I read all the time."
"Then might I suggest that as soon as you're up and about you find a good book and read out loud to him? It can't hurt and it may very well accelerate his recovery."
"I'm on it Doc! Seriously, I cannot wait!"
"Good lad! Just keep resting and let you poor old body recover and drink, drink, drink that water!"
Forcing yourself to drink gallons of water is very boring but I managed about eight pints that day and at nine that evening I was very aware that I needed the toilet!
"NURSE?? Nurse I need to take a piss!"
One of the junior nurses came into my room and handed me a glass bottle which reminded me of an enormous willy with one big fat bollock that had a flat bottom.
"Are you going to be okay by yourself or do you want me to give you a hand?"
"You are jesting, right?! I need to take a leak not get a stiffie!"
"No need to be embarrassed! I did it before for you?"
"Yeah well, I wasn't awake then!"
"Have it your own way then. Shout me once you're done."
Now it's really difficult trying to take a leak whilst sitting in bed! Your brain is convinced you're deliberately trying to piss in it but eventually and after thinking about the sound of running taps, babbling brooks and the like, I managed to let it go.
I called for the nurse.
"Well, well! Not bad for somebody who's supposed to be dehydrated! I think you were faking it just so you could be near me!"
"Curses! Woe for I am undone!"
"Okay smart-arse! I'm going to take another blood sample so don't go feinting on me"
"Oh fair lady, t'will not be mine own blood that weakens me but more thine exquisite beauty and perfect countenance."
"Yeah right but you've got to admit, its poetic bullshit?"
"Maybe but bullshit none the less! You make me laugh. I like you!"
The following morning I was really up for it, starving hungry as well!
Today, instead of my 'water-only' diet I was allowed tea. No milk, no sugar, just tea but it tasted like nectar from the Gods but when I asked my favourite nurse if I could have seconds she told me that I wasn't allowed anything else until the doctor had seen me.
I didn't have to wait very long and joy of joys, he was happy with my recovery.
"Well matey. I'll get the nurse to remove the IV, you've no need for that anymore and also you can have some breakfast and then? Well you can get dressed and have a wander around but take it steady! Your legs will feel a bit wobbly to begin with."
"Doc? Getting dressed might be a problem 'cos if memory serves, I came in here in just my wetsuit and I'm not about to go wandering around the hospital in that!"
"Oh I don't know? It might just give the other patients something to laugh about!"
I stuck my tongue out at him.
"Ha-ha! Patricia said you were a bit of a card!"
"Patricia? Who's Patricia?"
"Your nurse maybe?"
"Oh right! The girl with the flaxen hair! Patricia, oh fair Patricia. Would that I could make thee mine?"
"Fancy her then do you?"
"Nah. Not really."
"You have to admit, she is very pretty though."
"Hey! I didn't say she wasn't pretty, I merely said I didn't fancy her. Anyway she's way too young for me, now if you wanna introduce me to the Matron??"
"That does it! Nothing much wrong with you! I'll get 'the fair Patricia' to come and take your breakfast order. Not Matron unfortunately for you, she's busy!"
"Thanks Doc. I mean thanks for everything."
"You're welcome Alexis. Anything else before I go?"
"Well there is one thing. Do you know how Jus is?"
"Last I heard was that he's warming up and he's got some colour in his cheeks but later on you can go see for yourself. Patricia will show you the way."
"Why only warming up?"
"You can't just heat someone up from near freezing to 98.4F just like that. Too dangerous, too much of a shock to the system. Has to be done gradually."
"Oh okay. I didn't realise."
Doc James left and Nurse Patricia came in.
"So Mr Alexis? The Doctor says you can have some breakfast. What would you like? A nice big full-fat fry-up perhaps?"
"Ooo yeah! I could murder one of those!"
"Well tough titty! You're getting half a grapefruit and a bowl of porridge!"
"Ah c'mon? That is so not fair! Anyway I hate porridge."
"Very well. Because I love you so much, I'll substitute the porridge for cornflakes."
"You are just too good to me."
Actually I was so famished I recon I could've made a meal out of soggy cardboard and in truth the cornflakes bore a strange resemblance to that as they must've been sitting outside for a couple of days. No matter, the grapefruit was good!
I eased myself out of bed and 'bugger! He wasn't wrong!' My legs felt like jelly!
I gingerly made my way over to the cupboard and retrieved the clothes my Mum had left for me and stripping out of the hospital gown, I pulled on my tee shirt.
The devil had got inside of me, well actually he'd been in residence since the previous evening but now was my last chance to have a bit of fun with Nurse Patricia!
With only my tee shirt to cover my modesty (who am I kidding here!) I turned my back to the door and called for her.
She walked into the room and giggled.
"Well now! That's a sight for sore eyes! What is it you require of me My Lord?"
"Can you help me get dressed?"
"Now let me see! - - - No! You had your chance last night when you were taking a pee but you turned me down so I don't love you anymore!"
It was hard to tell which of us was laughing hardest!
"Be gone curse-ed wench! I will send for my dresser!"
Patricia left the room in fits of giggles leaving me to finish getting dressed. The thought crossed my mind, 'what would I have done if she had actually helped me?'
I took a look around the room, had a glass of water for old time's sake and walked out and over to the nurses station.
"Thanks for everything Patricia. I never realised that being in hospital could be so much fun!"
"Don't start me laughing again you!"
"No. I really mean it. You've been wonderful."
"You want to know summat? I'm going to miss you but now you'll probably want me to point you in the direction of………..your boyfriend?"
"Huh!! I mean………how did you guess??"
"That was the easy bit. I can recognise love when I see it you know? You incessant questions about Justin and how he was doing and not only that, I heard about what you've been doing in an effort to try and find him, chasing around some moorland with a bunch of Commando's and then what you did the other night? That has pure love running through it like a stick of Blackpool Rock!
Go now. Right at the end of the corridor and then second left." And with that she gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Look I know you will spending every waking hour with Justin but if you need a break or just somebody to talk to, come and find me okay?"
"I promise. You're brilliant!"
I followed her directions to the Intensive Care Ward and was met by Sir George.
"Alex. This so nice! I'm really sorry we didn't come to visit you but well…………you can understand that we………"
"Please Sir? I'm not the one who's poorly? I just pushed myself a bit too hard but I'm alright. How's Jus?"
"Much the same. They're getting his body temperature up slowly and by all accounts, once it's normal they'll be better able to appraise him."
"Yes. That's what I was told. Can I see him please?"
"I'll go and ask the Staff Nurse. I'm sure there won't be a problem."
The minutes seemed to drag but finally a nurse in a dark blue uniform came in to the room.
"You must be Alexis Greening?"
"Yes nurse. I am he."
"Come this way please."
'No joking around with this one' I thought!
I followed her into an office where she gestured towards a chair.
"Take a seat. We have things to talk through before I can allow you to see your friend."
I sat down and the nurse shuffled through some papers before looking up at me with a smile.
"I'm sorry Alexis. You're the one who found Justin, aren't you?"
"I thought perhaps you were merely a school friend which is why I was a bit off-hand with you. We only have very seriously ill patients on this ward and normally we discourage visitors other than family but given the circumstances, you are very welcome so long as you don't go making any undue noise."
"I just want to be with him, maybe read to him? The Doc thought that might be a good idea?"
"And so it is but just keep your voice to a conversational level.
The other thing is, we are taking every precaution to shield him from infection so he's being what we call 'barrier nursed'. Do you know what that is?"
"No idea. Until the other night I'd never set foot in a hospital. I was even born on our boat, my Dad acting as the midwife."
"You must live a very healthy life-style!
Okay, barrier nursing means what it says. We bar everyone from seeing Justin unless they're checked medically and dress appropriately and that means no outdoor shoes, we provide sterilised footwear, you have to wear a sterilised surgical gown and cap and also a facemask. Okay so far?"
While you were asleep, your records were checked, blood samples and urine tests carried out and you checked out 100% fit but here comes the difficult part and it might embarrass you but I need you to be truthful.
Are you sexually active Alexis?"
I definitely wanted to die!!
"Yes. I am."
"Thank you. Can you tell me who your girlfriend is?"
"I don't have a girlfriend actually."
"No, no! When I said 'sexually active', I was meaning with someone else?"
"I knew what you meant and I still don't have a girlfriend and actually, I don't want one!"
"Ahh! I see……… Justin?"
"Yes. I'm in love with him."
"And is he in love with you?"
"Okay Alexis. Don't worry. Thank you for you honesty. We have no need for further tests, that is if he has been your only partner."
I started to tear-up.
"What do you think I am? Some sort of a fucking whore?? Of course he's been my only partner for God's sake!"
"I'm sorry Alexis but you must understand. If we are to do the best for Justin, we need your every co-operation even if that means being intrusive into your private life. I never meant to embarrass you.
Have you heard of the Hippocratic Oath?"
"It means we are bound by law not to reveal information concerning our patients to anyone unless they're another doctor or unless we have your written consent. Anything you say to me will never leave this hospital.
Now, do we have an agreement?"
"Yes, sorry for my outburst."
"Forget it ever happened! Now let's go and get you changed."
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