Early afternoon, that same day...
Mum had arranged my already growing 'Get well soon' card collection along the window sill next to my bed, and the colourful well wishes really did brighten up the boring hospital room.
She had spoken to some of the family and close family friends letting them know what had happened, and they all shared the same shocked reaction, she also allowed my Granny to share the task of spreading the word, as no matter how many times Mum told the story, it wasn't getting any easier. My mobile phones inbox was full to the brim with texts asking, 'What had happened?' 'Why was I in hospital?' 'Was it true?' Although I was extremely grateful that people were being so caring and concerned, I didn't feel ready to talk to any body just yet, I was still in shock, and none if it made any sense to me. So Chris took over in dealing with the answering of questions, and replying to the sympathy messages I was receiving from my friends and acquaintances.
I'd hoped people didn't think I was being rude, but I'd asked, Mum, Dad, Anna and Chris to put people off from coming to visit me just for a couple of days. I didn't have the energy to entertain people's questioning face to face while keeping my spirits unnaturally, upbeat. My immediate family and I needed to be able to just be with each other, and I needed time to gain some sort of acceptance to what had happened.
There was a knock at the door. It was about 2pm. A man, with a thick moustache, a protruding pot belly, and small, gold, hoop earring surrounding his left earlobe was stood at the door with a wheel chair... The porter was here. 'Rebecca? I'm here to take you for your MRI scan,' he said with a well practised smile spreading from ear-with-earring to ear. Mum and Dad walked me from my bed, as they'd been told to, and helped me in to the wheel chair.
We exited Ward E1 and glided through the cold corridors of the hospital. My mum was engaged in small talk with the porter, while I sat silently and listened to them. I watched as the hustle and bustle of the hospital passed me by. I smiled at other patients in wheelchairs as they smiled at me, all of us sharing some sort of empathy with one another. Then soon enough we had reached our destination. The porter signed me in with the receptionist and left us saying he would come back for us when the scan was finished. So Mum wheeled me to the waiting area, where there was just one other person waiting. He was a frail looking old man wearing a hospital gown with a blanket covering his knees. He said, 'Hello,' to us and told us this was his second time in, 'One of these machines.' The lovely old man told me I had nothing to worry about, and that other than the machine being very noisy, there was nothing to it, other than lying down. If I'm honest, it was a comfort speaking to the dear old man, if he wasn't scared then why should I be?
After a while a technician came to collect the old man, and he waved at me and Mum, as he was wheeled in to the room to have his scan. For a short time it was just us two sat in the waiting room. Where we were sat was situated facing a door, and above the door was the word, 'Exit,' I remember joking to my mum that while we were alone and no one was watching, we should head through the exit door and never look back. If only...
A nurse came to join us where we were sitting, and told us her patient was currently in the scanner (the old man.) She got talking to my mum, and I occasionally joined in, but due to tiredness I couldn't give the nurse my full attention. She couldn't believe what my mum was telling her, 'A stroke, at 21?' she gasped. I was getting used to peoples reaction. They continued to talk until the friendly, old man was back in our company. Both of them wished us good luck and bid us farewell, and then it was my turn...
I asked if my mum was allowed to come in with me, but she wasn't, so I was going solo. The same technician wheeled me back wards in to the room, and I practised a feeble smile, as my mum gave me an encouraging look.
The room I entered was quite a strange sight. The light fittings on the walls were painted gold and the bulbs inside were glowing dimly. The walls were decorated in an oriental style with the image of a landscape creeping across the walls. Juxtaposed to the delicate, slightly over-the-top décor, there it was, slap bang in the middle of the room, a giant, intimidating machine, cold, grey and extremely uninviting.
I was helped on to the bed that slides in to the scanner and mimicking my experience with the CT scan, and was told that I had to lie extremely still. The technician told me that the machine was going to be very loud when it was scanning me, and he gave me some headphones to put on and asked what radio station I would like on, and I requested Radio 1. Probably sensing my anxiety, he gently rested his hand on mine, and told me that it would be over in 15 minutes, and that I would be fine. Then I entered the tunnel, and I listened as the scanner began to start working.
Even with headphones on, I could barely hear the radio presenter Greg James commentate his show, over the clashing and banging of the machine. Every so often the noise would settle down for a few seconds, and then all of a sudden and almighty sound would make me nearly jump out of my skin. Keeping as still as possible was far more of a challenge than I anticipated.
Lying there I once again felt alone. I thought about my Mum sat only feet away outside the room, worried out of her mind. My Dad and Sister, sat waiting in my hospital room, doing their best to hold it together for Mum, and trying to act as normal as possible, while still dealing with it themselves. Then Chris, this was his final year at uni, he had exams, and coursework, he didn't need this on top of the pressure of finals. My Gran and the rest of the family, spreading the word and taking the pressure off my Mum, and my fantastic, loyal friends, being kept in the dark and not really understanding what was going on, but still sending their love and support my way. They were amazing. They are amazing. But when it came down to it, I was on my own. My body had done this to me, no one else... Me. They couldn't do anything to fix me, no matter how much they wanted to. This was my fight, a fight against my own body, and I didn't know whether I was going to win. Lying there, reflecting, whilst the noise of the MRI scan filled my ears, a feeling of deep, overwhelming sadness washed over me. My heart ached as I thought about how my own body had turned against me, and I felt my eyes and cheeks begin to burn, and I gritted my teeth to stop the tears from flowing out.
The noise halted, and I listened to the whirring of the machine as it began to switch itself off. Slowly the bed I was lying on departed from the confined tunnel and I grinned at the technician as he removed the headphones from my ears and helped me back in to the wheel chair. He pushed me out of the oriental inspired room and back into the waiting room, where the bright, fluorescent lighting gave me a slight squint. Mum and the familiar porter greeted me, and I was glad to be separated from my own, lonely company.
I grabbed Mums hand and she squeezed it, amazingly feeling instantly calmer, and off we went, straight through the doors under the exit sign that I had previously been admiring... yet I wasn't going anywhere, I wasn't escaping. I was going back to Ward E1...