Monday, 10 December 2012

Obligatory One Armed Hug

A few days after leaving hospital, it was bonfire night... One of my favourite nights of the year. I had spent the previous 72 or so hours trying to settle back in to home life, and trying to establish a routine similar to the one I had in hospital. Mum never left my side, I needed her more than ever. Luckily her work was amazingly sympathetic with our situation and told her she could stay with me for as long as she felt she needed to.
Previous bonfire nights for my family and I had always consisted of going to a local bonfire and firework display on the Saturday closest to the 5th November. We'd all wrap up in big coats, hats and scarves, and don our wellie's in preparation for the muddy fields we were about to squelch around on.

Like I assumed most other things would be, bonfire night was going to be different, post stroke.

Dad and Chris wanted to get me out of my funk and get me in the spirit of things. Chris had invited two of our closest friends round, and he and Dad had gone out and bought a massive box of fireworks for us to have our own mini display at home in the back garden. At first I didn't think Mum would be thrilled with the idea, as we'd never done it before and Dad and Chris were teasing her with their grand ideas of the display they imagined they'd put on, but Mum was really excited. I think the whole family wanted to make everything as normal as possible for me and so they didn't want me to miss out on anything we usually took part in.
I wanted to get as excited as the rest of my family were, but the anxiety that I'd been feeling since coming home hadn't left me.
I smiled along as Mum made plans to cook baked potatoes for everyone, and looked on as Dad and Chris decided where in the garden they should let off the fireworks. I desperately wanted to enjoy myself, and feel normal, but I was having to bite my tongue to stop myself from revealing that all I really wanted to do was curl up on the settee, wrapped in my duvet, and aimlessly watch TV without having to interact with anyone. I wanted to lose myself in a film, or comedy series, and watch fictional characters live their lives, rather than deal with my own sorry story.
I felt a growing ball of nerves in my chest as I anticipated my friends coming over. They'd visited me in hospital where I could watch over as my family entertained them, but I would have to make an effort with them when they came to my house.
How should I act? What do I do when they ask me questions? What if I get upset? Will they still act normal around me?
I didn't know what to do. Before the stroke I had been so socially confident. I would have been happy to be the leader of any conversation and I adored the company of a large crowd. Post stroke I felt very socially awkward and shy. I just wanted to be with my close family and any time I had a visitor, which was more than once a day, I didn't want to be left alone with them. I was frustrating myself. My feelings and thought processes were annoying me, but it felt like I couldn't do anything about it, I felt lost in the maze of my own mind with no way out.
I painted on my brightest smile and and sat up as straight as possible on the settee when I heard the knock at   the door that I had been so anxiously anticipating. As our friends walked into the living room, my nerves were at their most aggressive, though I did my utmost to conceal them behind the acting skills I was so quickly acquiring.
I gave out the obligatory one armed hugs and tried to immerse myself in to the conversation that had quickly fired up between everyone else in the house. I felt myself start to relax slightly. but it was as if there was a barrier in my subconscious telling me not to get too comfortable and to always be on guard. I felt fidgety and agitated, I just wanted to run upstairs for a moment to catch my breath and take control of my feelings... But I couldn't. I couldn't run anywhere. I could barely walk anywhere. I was trapped.
It was soon time for Dad and Chris's  firework display. Everyone made their way to the garden, moving slowly so as to try and imitate my snails pace. I tried to make a joke out of it not wanting anyone to feel sorry for me, but I was embarrassed and felt let down by my stupid body.
When in the garden, I sat between my Mum and my friend on the bench and we covered our knees in a blanket so as to stop our knees feeling the biting, November cold. Anna dished out the sparklers while the men prepared the launch pad, (4 bricks.) The air was filled with dispersed smoke from surrounding home made bonfires, and the smoky smell erupted a nostalgic feeling that sparked contented emotions from memories of previous bonfire nights.
I snuggled in between my two loved ones and looked around at the rest of my family and friends seeing the excitement that was building in their faces as we waited for the first firework to be let off. Maybe this bonfire night was different...Different in a good way.
As the whistling scream sounded from the first firework filled my ears, I forced my brain to concentrate on nothing else but the bursts of colour that filled the sky with a bang.
Different...Different in a good way.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Lost at Sea

I awoke with bleary eyes, not quite registering to my surroundings. I stared at the fireplace and then steered my eyes towards the big flat screen telly in the corner of the room. I was home.
I had only been in the house around four hours, yet I had slept solidly on the settee for three of those hours. I panicked when I realised i was alone in the living room. Where were Mum and Anna? I didn't want to be on my own. What If it happened again? What if no one was there to find me?
I was used to the noise and business of the ward, seeing nurse after nurse pass by the door to my side room, popping their heads round the corner to check if I was OK. But now it was quiet, no one to help me if I needed them. What if something bad happened?
Thankfully my ears began to register to the muffled attempted whispers of my Mum and Sister in the kitchen. They had obviously been trying to keep the noise down so as to not wake me. I welcomed the sound of their familiar voices and smiled, as I realised they weren't very good at whispering at all, they simply talked with an added husky tone.
I called them in to the living room, and my sister flopped on to the arm chair, and showed no sympathy to the fact that Mum hadn't let her watch telly due to me sleeping and in turn had persuaded her to help in the kitchen. I grinned at my sister, who was now leisurely flicking through the channels, volume well above what it needed to be, as Mum rolled her eyes and left us both to watch one of our many favourite reality shows.
I snuggled my head on to the pillow and coiled myself in to the blanket that had been put on me, trying to fight the tempting urge to drop back off to sleep. It was getting on to being late afternoon, yet the day that I'd had seemed to have had so much packed in to it. It was now surreal that just hours before I had been in my hospital room, the only place where I had lived in my new body, and if I'm honest the place that made me feel more content than the thought of being any where else.
I thought I would welcome the freedom and familiarity of being back at home with open arms, but as a cuddled deep in to my blanket the feeling of anxious uncertainty crept up through my skin, like a vine on an ageing tree. I buried myself in to the settee trying to concentrate on the programme Anna had put on the telly, but I felt as if I was lost at sea, screaming for safety and reassurance, yet nobody hearing my cries.
The dream of coming home to the house where i had lived my whole life, was now being crushed by an overwhelming realisation that I was on my own. I had to deal with this thing that had taken over my body, my life, and it hit me that deep down I had thought getting out of hospital and getting back to my house with my family, would be, just as it was before... But it wasn't. Life was different. I was different.
I inwardly scolded myself for constantly having begged the Doctors and physios to let me out of hospital. I knew I had worn them down and their decision had partly been because I was so adamant. But now I was regretting that I had been so persistent. Maybe I wasn't ready to deal with the reality of it all yet. I was safe and isolated it that hospital room. Everything was routined. I knew exactly what was going to happen and when it was going to happen. Being at home, where I should have felt safe and happy, I now felt out of my depth.
The afternoon slid into evening, and Dad and Chris were now home. Chris didn't leave my side. I was tucked under his arm, as the five of us watched television together, just as we always had before the 18th October 2011. Chris didn't hold back his feelings of sheer glee and relief that I was out of hospital and out of the confines and Big Brother type environment of Ward E1. I tried to emulate the happiness that my family were feeling to have me back with them, but as I tried to relax next to Chris and lose myself in the programme we were watching I couldn't shift the growing knot of fear that was multiplying deep within me. The journey for me was only just starting, and I couldn't see the end, I couldn't see a finishing point. I didn't know where my life was leading, or what was going to happen. At 21 years old, I felt well beyond my years.
Being in hospital, I knew exactly what would happen in my day, and when. I could lose myself in the schedule that had been manipulated for me, I had only to focus on the day and tasks in hand... Now my focus had slipped. My life was blurred, and I couldn't rip myself away from the painful thought that just over two weeks previously, I had been cocky enough to think that I had finally got everything sorted, and I knew exactly where my life's path was taking me.
Soon enough it was time for bed. Chris and Mum lead me upstairs to help with my needs in the bathroom and getting my pyjamas on.
After brushing my teeth, Mum helped me along to my bedroom where Chris was sat on the bed waiting for me. I sat on the bed and heaved my left side so as it followed my right. Chris tucked me in and lay next to me on his side, propped up by his elbow. Mum stroked my head and was ready to say goodnight, when silent, hot tears began to stream down the sides of my face. Mum's face crumpled in to understanding, and Chris pounced in to a seating position asking what the matter was, and if I was OK.
'I'm scared, it's going to happen again.'
I hadn't been in my room, or lay in my bed since the morning the paramedics were carrying out my shocked and paralysed body. Just lying in the bedroom I could replay in my mind the events of that fateful Tuesday morning, like they had just happened a minute ago. Everything in the room was so familiar, everything was as it always had been, nothing had changed... except me.
Chris and Mum tried to console and reassure me as best as possible and with them both at my side the crippling tiredness that rarely left me these days washed over me like a tidal wave of darkness and through heaving, dry sobs I drifted off to sleep.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bec Beau's Reading of the blog post 'Such a lucky girl'

Intro to my vlog (Video Blog)

Hi all,
I have made a short video for you to see me, the writer behind the story of 'Such a Lucky Girl'
I thought it would be nice for you all to get to know me a little better by hearing my voice, and understanding my reasons behind writing the blog.
Also another reason behind my decision to use other media to interpret my story is because today, 18th October 2012, is my 1 year Stroke anniversary (Strokeyversary) Therefore I thought it would be kind of cool to mark the occasion!
So, enjoy!
And thank you for your constant interest in my story! You, the readers, have made this year that little bit easier for me.
Lots of love, Bec x

Such a Lucky Girl

I sat and listened as my Mum and the Occupational therapist conversed over what amendments my house would have to undertake for the hospital staff to be happy to discharge me. Fiercely trying to listen intently on the discussion that was going on, constantly trying to drag my mind back in to the present , rather than letting it wander off in to the piled high compartments of worry that were stored quite prominently at the forefront of my mind.
The stair case in my house didn’t have a handrail leading up it, therefore it was important that one was immediately fitted. It was also decided that I should have a removable bench fitted into my bathtub, as the shower in my house is placed over the bath and I did not have the ability to climb in and out of it, or to stand and shower safely.
I watched from my bed, in silence as Mum and the Occupational therapist finalised the details so that the work to make my house ‘stroke proof’ could get underway. I couldn’t help but think how embarrassing it would be when people entered my bathroom and saw the bath bench... not even my Granny uses one of them! But all of this was necessary to get me home, and that’s where I wanted to be wasn’t it? For the last two weeks of me being in hospital I couldn’t think of anything else other than getting out of there. I’d been pestering the physio’s to let me go, and never went a session without telling them how much I wanted to get out of here. But now that it was finally here, they were finally letting me out of the ward... I was scared.
I was going back to the place where, when I last saw it, I was being lifted in to an ambulance. I would be going back to the bed where I woke up paralysed. I would be going back to my home a different person, a broken person. Maybe it wasn’t going to be as comforting and familiar as I had imagined it would be. If anything, my house was going to be alien to me.
The stairs I once ran up in a pair of 6 inch heels, because I’d forgotten my lip gloss, while a taxi was waiting outside to take me and my friends on a night out, would now be stairs that I’d have to slowly learn to walk up and down. The kettle in my kitchen that I’d used thousands of times to make cups of tea for myself, friends and family, was now out of bounds in case I lost my balance and scalded myself. The shower where I used to spend far too long, singing at the top of my lungs and slipping about trying to dance would no longer be my private stage, as I had to rely on my Mum to help wash and dress me.
I knew that leaving the hospital wasn’t the end of what had happened, but merely the beginning of a very long, tiring and emotional road. In my small hospital room, I could hide away from reality and indulge myself in the day to day routine of hospital life that I had so quickly gotten used to. Going home I knew I’d have to take responsibility for what had happened to me, and I knew the hard work was only just beginning. I was starting to doubt whether I was ready for this.
As I was falling asleep that night, while Chris sat in the chair next to my bed, his head resting on the pillow next to mine while his hand gently stroked my brow, my suspicions were strong that this would be the last time that Chris would see me off to sleep in Ward E1.
6am woken for observation: blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels. Drifted back to sleep. 8am breakfast arrived. Ate my brown bread roll, drank my orange juice, and turned on the telly. 9am I get a phone call off mum, ‘The man is here to fit the banister, so I will be a bit late.’ 9.15am The Occupational Therapist said she’d like to help shower and dress me, to see how well I was coping. 9.45am Go back to room, a little embarrassed to find Mum and Anna are waiting for me. 10am The Consultant discharges me from hospital, says he has booked me in for even more tests but as an outpatient and that he will see me in 4 weeks time.
I was going home.
Mum had brought in with her some thank you cards for me to write and 5 big boxes of chocolates that we were giving to the ward staff as a small token of how grateful we were to them.  I didn’t know how to put it in to words how thankful I was. They’d cared for me faultlessly for two weeks and had treated me like a human being rather than just another patient. I was in awe of them. I’d never really understood or taken seriously the job of a Physiotherapist or Occupational therapist, but they were the people I entrusted my body to. They know how to make me better. I also got to see firsthand how hard a nurse has to work and yet the majority of them still managed to take the time to chat with me, and pop their heads round the door of my room just to make sure I was OK. I will forever be eternally grateful for how I was cared for on Ward E1.
I sat on my bed as I watched Mum and Anna collect my room away. Each card and picture that had been placed on the long windowsill or stuck to the bare wall was being handled with care and placed softly in to a bag. My clothes were being taken from my small side cupboard and folded neatly into a holdall bag. The sink was cleared of my tooth brush and tooth paste, and my cluttered table was once again empty. My heart was filled with a strange melancholy feeling as I searched round the room that now looked just as it did when I was first introduced to it. My safe haven would now belong to another resident of The Ward for the Elderly.
The Occupational Therapist and the Student physio that I had been working with for the last 2 weeks entered my room and told me the taxi was here and ready to take me home. Hospital rules stated that I had to be taken home by these members of staff because they had to be satisfied that I would be safe in my house before they could formally discharge me.
So Mum and Anna hurried off out of the ward, as Mum would have to drive her car home, and I let my eyes do one last sweep of the room. Noticing my lonely, white phone charger, still stuck in the plug socket on the wall, I pulled it out and shoved it in my pocket. It was time.
‘Bye room...’
The nurses at the nurse’s station all waved goodbye to me, and the senior phsyio I had been working with hurried out of the physio gym to give me a quick hug and to tell me she was going to miss me. As we made our way to the door to the ward, I soaked in all the familiar sights the bathroom I used, the communal area, the staff kitchen, the occupation therapists room... and then we were in the corridor.
I could see the taxi waiting for us through the double doors ahead. The weather was bright with hardly a cloud in the sky, but it was fresh and chilly, with a pleasant breeze sinking into my cheeks. I was helped in to the car and exchanged, ‘Hellos’ with the taxi driver... then we were off. It felt so surreal to be outdoors, away from the hospital. I hadn’t been in a moving vehicle since being in the ambulance. I gazed out of the window, spotting certain people I recognised, and hoping they wouldn’t see me. I didn’t want to interact with anybody just yet. I had to focus on getting home.
As my house is only 5 minutes away from the hospital, before I knew it I had entered on to the street where I live. I had a jolt of excitement mixed with anxiety bounce through my chest, and there it was... My house.  My lovely little house, with its four symmetrical windows, and its burgundy wooden door placed centrally with its silver number attached to it.  My cute little front garden cordoned off by a simple front wall, where when I was little I used to put on dance shows for the neighbours.  My Mums colourful hanging baskets, swinging next to the doors and windows, ready to face, and be defeated by the cruel, icy winter ahead.  I couldn’t help but let out a smile and say, ‘Hi house!’
Something was missing though... Where were Mum and Anna? Somehow we beat them home. How embarrassing. I didn’t have a key. I couldn’t help but laugh, and soon enough Mums little red car turned the corner of the street, and the four of us, including the taxi driver let out a little cheer.
Mum couldn’t apologise enough, and said she couldn’t understand how we beat her to it. None of us could understand it, she left about 10 minutes before we did. That’s my Mum all over, she’d be late to her own funeral.
I walked timidly up the driveway, following Mum and Anna, and holding on to the physio, and watched as Mum pushed and turned her key in to the lock on the door. Being helped up the step, good foot first, I entered the living room and drank in that oh so familiar sight. It was just how I had left it. I sat awkwardly on the settee as Mum offered drinks to our guests, who declined as they wanted to get on with their assessment of the house.  Now I was here, home, I wasn’t going anywhere. I watched as both professionals exited the door to the living room to scan the rest of the downstairs, and Mum sat quietly next to me on the arm of the chair with her arm around me. Both physio and OT re-entered the living room, and said they would like me to go upstairs with them so I could test out the new banisters and take a seat on my new bath bench.
It was strange going up the stairs, slowly, one step at a time. My body wanted to bound up them like I always had for the past 21 years, but my brain wouldn’t let it, my brain didn’t know how to let it. I followed the rehab team in to the bathroom and Mum and Anna followed me. The 5 of us stood around the bath, eagerly waiting for me to try out my new bench. I sat on it with my legs hanging over the side of the bath and with the help of my right arm I heaved my left leg in to the bath and swung my right leg to follow... simple enough. Getting my legs out of the bath was slightly easier as my right leg took the lead and was able to reach the floor to steady myself while I dragged my left leg out. With the agreement that there would be someone supervising and helping me in the bathroom at all times, and also helping me up and down stairs, both Occupational Therapist and Physio were happy to formally discharge me.
We exited the bathroom and made our way down the stairs, very cautiously on my part, and when back in the living room the student physio handed my Mum a sheet of exercises for me to do daily until the local rehab team started their work with me, and with that it was time to say goodbye. I gave them both the most warm and sincere, one armed hugs I could muster. I was going to miss them. They were my life lines. I hadn’t spent a day in my new body without them. I had truly needed these people.
Mum, Anna and I watched from the front door as they made their way back down the drive and into the taxi which had been patiently waiting for them, and we waved until the car was out of sight.
Back in the living room I flopped on the settee and Anna placed a cushion under my head. I was beyond tired and my emotions were so confused. Mum knelt on the floor beside me stroked my head and grabbed the bag that was filled with all the Get Well cards I had received, as she wanted to display them around the living room. I watched as she tipped the bag they spilled out on to the floor, there had to have been over 100. Mum looked at them all, and assessing with her eyes she saw how many cards there were, ‘Oh wow Bec,’ she said to me, ‘You are such a lucky girl...’ And after a pause,f where we both established the irony we laughed, hard.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Free Falling

Sitting in my room, on my chair, my hospital table placed just above my knees with a white towel placed across it, I was practising pouring water from one cup to another using my left hand. This resulted in a very wet towel, and a very sad, empty cup. After around the 5th trial, I kicked the table away with my right leg, and breathed a heavy sigh of frustration as I dropped with a slump in to the back of my chair. Noticing my dismay, the occupational therapist decided to move me on to another exercise. She placed a square board in front of me, where stuck on it were the tops of around 20 bottles with their lids screwed on, and the aim of the game was, I had to practise screwing each bottle lid on and off the bottle top. As it was explained to me, a simple exercise like this was good for practising my fine finger movement and also my wrist mobility.
Grasping my first bottle lid, my fingers fumbled as they tried with all their might to twist and release. It was harder than anticipated. It made me sad. Before this had happened I didn't even have to think about opening a bottle. Everything that came so naturally before just didn't now. Everything I did now needed so much more effort, I couldn't do anything without thinking about it, and everything was so, so slow!
I was now used to being told that I was doing well, and that I should be proud of myself, but there was no one who truly knew what I was going through, what I was feeling. The physio's and OT's might have learnt about it, and know the things to do to help me get better, but they hadn't personally been through it. I couldn't speak to the other patients on the ward about it because they were so much older than me. They were lovely to say hello to and share small talk with, but I just couldn't relate to them in any other sense than having a stroke. I felt very alone. There was so much going on in my head, so many questions, and although I was constantly surrounded by friends and loved ones, I felt distant in a sense that there was no one else around me going through what I was going through, and I was scared,
I was scared that two weeks previous, I had been able to drive a car, make a cup of tea, walk unassisted, and I was scared how quickly all that had changed. I went to sleep OK. I woke up trapped in a body that was no longer familiar, and that no longer honoured the demands I gave it.
I couldn't help slipping in and out of these bouts of sadness and despair. I had to work so hard to pull myself out of these moods and concentrate on the moment I was in and the tasks I faced. I wanted to be positive all the time, I wanted the smiles on my face to have truth behind them, but my life had been flipped on to it's head, and I was just 21 years old. I had so many feelings trapped inside my head that it felt like they were overflowing and spilling in to my veins, travelling around my body, converting the mental pain I was feeling in to physical. My body literally ached when I thought about what had happened to me. I felt at times as though I was going to explode, but I just couldn't let myself show my true feelings. I couldn't let my family and the hospital staff see that I felt like I was free falling from an incredible height in to the terrifying unknown... I had to make out I was fine, so that they would be fine.
While my feeble fingers were working their way around the board of bottle tops, my physio's entered the room, and suggested that we take a walk out of the ward and to the cafe down the corridor. The Occupational Therapist nodded her head in agreeance to this suggestion and explained that she thought it would be good for me to glimpse some new scenery. She walked with Mum, the two physio's and I to the entrance to the ward, and waved us off in to the corridor.
I literally breathed in the new view and grasping the physio we, at my pace, made our way along the corridor with the cafe in sight. Hospital staff and visitors were hurrying along the corridor, all with their own destinations and goals in sight, each one of them not having to think about the actions and movements that were taking place in their body as they bustled along the bright and airy passageway. I watched in envy as the people I saw took advantage of their brains and bodies working together in harmony, many of them giving me a sympathetic smile as they passed me on their commutes.
With jealousy threatening to rear it's ugly head with full throttle, I made the wise decision to blur out my surroundings and concentrate on my very own personal goals. Counting the steps I took. Breathing with every second foot fall. Until finally, we made it!
Entering the cafe I realised that I had just walked the furthest I had ever walked since being in hospital, and all I focused on was finding the nearest chair. After sitting for 5 minutes and idly chatting with Mum and the physio's, we decided to make out way back to the ward, and I was very ready for a nap. I stood up, and attempted to psych myself up for the walk back to the ward and then all of a sudden my balance had been disturbed and I was toppling to the floor.
Someone had bumped in to me in a hurry to get on with their day, and my body didn't know how to cope with the impact. Luckily the student physio had quick reactions, and caught me on my way to the floor. The person who bumped in to me made a quick and insincere apology, hardly turning round and making eye contact and carried on her way. I was embarrassed. There were a few onlookers sat having their lunch, staring, probably to see if I was OK. But I just wanted to get back to the safety of my ward. There were too many people around, I felt uncomfortable, like a fish out of water. I clung to the physio and focused on the door to the ward, as I made my unsteady return journey.
Trying to focus on the achievement I had just made I smiled at how proud my family and physio's were of me, but I did not enjoy that experience in the cafe. I wanted to get home so much, but my anxiety levels had now crept to a new height, the thought of too many people in one place at one time now made me nervous...Was my life ever going to be the same? Would I ever feel like a normal, young person ever again?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Heaven and Hell

Life is one big mystery. Not one person can predict what tomorrow may bring... what the next second may bring. We all have those days where we think we've cracked it, where we think we've figured out what the route of our own individual path is, and are certain of where it's going to take us... but it only takes a second, a millisecond for all that certainty to be thrown on its head.
Life isn't boring, it's not meant to be predictable. We don't want to look back on our years and just see a pattern, a routine. We want to look back and see the fights, the heartaches, the struggles, the tears and then remember the triumphs, the victories, the smiles and laughter that follow. 
Life is a gift, and it is precious. It only throws at us what it knows we can cope with. Everything we go through makes us who we are. We need to embrace the good times and the bad, and not let anything stop us from living.
We only get this one life, so live it... and love it.

The morning with the psychologists had really taken it out of me, so while my family milled about in my small side room that I now called my temporary home, I drifted in to a deep sleep, that couldn't even be disturbed by the phsyios, who had come to collect me for the days session. Mum woke me gently, and I automatically let out an exasperated groan when I saw the physios eagerly waiting for me at the end of my bed. 
Everything about me was tired. My body was tired. My brain was tired. I just couldn't be bothered. The  physios were so happy all the time, so excited to work and make progress. It was annoying me that day.  I didn't want to work, I didn't want to smile and be happy. I wanted to sleep. I had no patience for myself never mind anyone else, and I didn't want to be told that I was, 'Doing a great job,' and 'Doing so well!' Because I wasn't. I was broken. These people in navy blue uniforms, who's bodies worked fine, who didn't have a clue what it felt like to not be able to feel your arm and leg properly, were not who I wanted to spend my time with at that moment. I didn't want to spend my time with anyone... I wanted to sleep.
My feelings aside, the politeness that had been drilled in to me by my parents from toddler state, betrayed me and took over my bitterness. I swallowed back a heavy sigh and with some help, heaved myself in to a sitting position on the edge of the bed, and slipped on my granny style pink slippers, that supported my whole foot.  
I was nervous. I'd been in the hospital well over a week and I hadn't had to think about going up and down stairs. My days had been spent on flat even ground and that was proving more than enough of a challenge. As the phyios, Mum and I made our way to the nearest stair well at snails pace, I felt my heart start to race slightly, and the back of my neck began to feel hot. I was panicking. What if I couldn't do it. My breathing quickened as I thought about the challenge that lay ahead. What would happen if i couldn't walk up and down stairs? Would they ever let me go home? 
We walked past the different bays on the ward that housed such poorly people. Before hand I had avoided this area of the ward, not really wanting to come in contact with such sad sights. I couldn't help but stare.  There was nobody on this ward that was even close to my age. My heart ached as I saw the state that stroke had left some of these elderly people. Their independence ripped away from them. Being fed by tubes, surrounded by pillows so they didn't hurt themselves, their eyes staring, slipping in and out of focus. It made me shudder. What I was seeing could have been my fate... but it wasn't. I had to get my head in to gear... I had to stop feeling sorry for myself. 
OK stairs... Give me your worst!
We entered the echoey stare well. I looked up between the banisters and saw the stairs wrap in a spiral. I felt dizzy at the height the stairs rose to, and the toes on my right foot seemed to grip tight to the bottom of my slipper, as though my subconscious had made the decision that I wasn't moving from the spot where i stood. The stairs looked pale, cold and hard. Their right angled edges looked sharp and dangerous. They were made of solid concrete. The bannister that creeped and curved up along the staircase was black, shiny and thin. I didn't trust it... Would it save me if I slipped?.. Could I save myself?
I placed my hand on the rail and the student physio wrapped one arm around my lower back and gripped my other hand in his free one. The rule of the stairs was, 'Good foot to heaven, bad foot to hell...' I placed my good leg on the first stair and gripping tight on to the phsyio dragged my left leg to follow... I'd done it. I repeated the same actions around eight times till I'd reached the top of the first set of stairs. I felt my body de-tense and my teeth unclenched themselves. Then, gripping to the physio once more, i turned around and stared at my Mum. I'd made it up the stairs, one step at a time.... I now had to make it down... Looking down, those eight steps that i'd just climbed now felt like I was staring from the top of Everest. I started to shake and my balance was letting me down. I pleaded with the student physio to not let go of me, and he promised he wouldn't. With the sight of those elderly patients who bodies lay there motionless, etched in to my brain, I shivered in a deep breath and let my left leg fall on to the top step with my right leg following it at lightening speed... 
Left leg down, right leg followed.
Left leg down, right leg followed.
Left leg down, right leg followed.
... and finally I was on flat ground once again.
I'd done it! I'd tackled the stairs and won! 
Still leaning on the student physio, with my legs shaking uncontrollably, I grabbed my Mums hand and smiled... I smiled a genuine, happy smile. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Sitting on the hospital chair with the table on wheels resting above my knees, I was attempting to do a jigsaw puzzle, trying with all my might to motivate my left arm, hand and fingers to do some of the work. The picture I was trying to create with the jigsaw pieces, was of a box of chocolates. I tried to enjoy it but I was so bored. I knew it was good therapy for my arm though, so I carried on, forcing a smile to all the staff that popped their heads round my door, to 'Check how I was getting on.' How I kept my eyes from rolling, I'll never know.
Finally there was a knock at my door from someone who didn't want to congratulate me on my jigsaw skills, and a familiar blonde haired, tattoo'd and pierced figure entered the room, followed by a more timid looking, young woman carrying a clip board.
It was the psychologist and her accomplice.
Mum and Anna who had been having the age old 'homework argument,' were asked if they wouldn't mind leaving the room while the psychologists did whatever it was they had come to do. With uneasy eyes I followed them as they left the room, and Mum  looked back giving me a reassuring nod before the door clicked shut.
One of the psychologists made a remark about how appetising the chocolates on the jigsaw looked, and trying hard to sound genuine I agreed with her, though truthfully I had begun to despise those chocolates.
The psychologists had come to conduct a few tests with me. They wanted to see how my memory was doing and also test how my brain was working logically.
I began to feel nervous, and little flutters started to develop in my tummy.
What if I didn't pass?
What if something was wrong with my memory and I just hadn't noticed?
The lead psychologist must have seen my face change, and attempted to reassure me that this was very routine and that there was nothing to worry about.
Here goes...
First I was asked things about myself: My name. My date of birth. My star sign. My address.
Then I was asked things such as, What year was it? What month were we in?
Easy peasy.
I began to relax in to the questions. The self doubt I'd had at the beginning of the session was leaving me. I was asked to listen to riddles that the psychologist would recite, and then repeat them back to her. I was also given some simple sums to do. Then a sheet of paper was put in front of me. On the paper were some diagrams. First of all I had to follow a pattern on the paper, then I was asked to draw out a clock, and with the hands of the clock represent a certain time.
If anything I was enjoying the session. It was quite reassuring doing these simple 'mind tests' because maybe there had been a little bit anxiety all along as to whether or not my mind had been affected.
The last 'test' they had for me went like this. The psychologist would say a letter from the alphabet, and I was given sixty seconds to say as many things beginning with that letter excluding things with proper names.
My letter was 'F', and the start button on the stop watch was pressed...
I started off so well. I had been an English student after all, this should have been a piece of cake. Then I began to struggle. Why couldn't I think of any damn words that began with 'F'. I started to panic myself. Maybe my mind was broken. I could see the seconds on the stopwatch going up and up, and I couldn't think straight. My heart was pounding and my cheeks were burning. I tried to swing my focus back to the task I'd been set, but it was as though I'd already admitted defeat. I had two sets of eyes, staring encouragingly and sympathetically at me. I threw as many words as I could out there before the timer of the clock went.

Beep Beep.

I sat there chewing the inside of my bottom lip, swallowing hard, tying to smile as they counted up the amount of words I had managed to say. That horribly familiar stinging around the rims of my eyes making an appearance.
Nine words.
They told me that usually they expect a minimum of eleven words, but I wasn't to worry. They could see that I'd began to panic, and under any other circumstances they were sure I'd have been able to exceed eleven words without a problem... But what if I couldn't.
The psychologists told me that I'd passed the rest of the tests with flying colours, and that there was nothing to worry about when it came to my mental abilities.
But why couldn't I just have thought of two more words.
Yet another thing where I had let myself down. Could my brain not just be on my side for once?
Not wanting to be analysed any further I tried my best to shake off my urge to cry, and smiled my biggest smile as we ended the session and said our good byes for the day.
Mum and Anna came bustling back in to the room wanting to know all about what I had been up to, and I explained to them the tests that had been conducted and what they were for. But a part of me wanted to leave out the test which I narrowly failed... So I didn't tell them. I couldn't deal with any more sympathy any more feeling sorry for me. I didn't want to hear the reassuring that I knew I would get, and them telling me not to worry because I SHOULD have passed that test easily.
The frustration I felt internally wanted to scream from within me...But no time.
I had physio to do, and we were about to tackle the stairs...

To this day, when I have a moment to myself I find myself imagining words beginning with 'F'...I should have passed.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


As Mum was plaiting my hair, an overwhelming instinct made me reach for the back of my head with my right hand. Maybe Mum didn't want to tell me... Not this again!

I was 10 years old and Mum had made me a Drs appointment, but I didn't know why. There we were sat in the waiting room, me aimlessly kicking the chair in front of me, bored, while Mum was fiddling with my hair. I had no idea why we were there, and quite frankly, I didn't care! I was loving that I had a morning off school... Maybe Mum would give me the whole day off!
As I stared at the huge fish tank, filled with murky green water, and barely visible goldfish, that was placed at the front of the room, my name was called. I trundled after Mum through the waiting room, dragging my feet clad with clumpy black school shoes, and skulked behind Mum as she knocked on the door to the Drs room.
We entered and I sat next to the Drs desk, my feet dangling from the chair, unable to touch the floor, and Mum pulled up a chair and sat beside me. The Dr asked, 'How can I help today?' I didn't have a clue, i was more bothered about whether my tamagotchi pet was still alive, as it lay in Mums bag. I looked at Mum and let her do he talking.
Mum explained to the Dr that I was developing little bald spots on the back of my head... This was news to me. The Dr stood up and I sat there, legs dangling, as both adults surrounded the back of my head. There was a lot of 'Hmm'ing' going on as I felt the Drs fingers examining my head. All the while I sat there just waiting to find out what exactly was going on with my hair!
The Dr sat back down in front of me and began to ask me questions, 'Do you have a habit of pulling at your hair?' No. 'Do you wear your ponytails too tight?' No. 'Have you banged your head?' No. 'Do you get worried and nervous at all?'...Well, sometimes... But doesn't every body?
The Dr explained to me and Mum that I had something called Alopecia Areata, or 'spot baldness'. I was losing hair in patches. The Dr said a ten year old shouldn't be stressed, and told my Mum to keep an eye on me. He said there was no cure for this, the hair would hopefully eventually just grow back, and I may just grow out of the condition all together.
How hadn't I noticed this? I suddenly became ever so conscious of my hair... Had people in school noticed? Were people making fun of me behind my back? This was so unfair!
After walking in to the Drs a somewhat carefree ten year old, I now walked out very self conscious, very aware of my appearance, knowing I was different to the other girls in my school, constantly reaching to feel that the bald spots on the back of my head were covered.
I went back to school that day a changed little girl. I had always had to contend with the whispers and giggles behind my back, when getting changed for PE, when the other children saw the massive scar on my back. But my scar could always be hidden by my clothes on any other occasion, so I only worried about it when it came to PE. But you can't hide your head. Every time the wind blew, my hands reached to grab my head. Every time I bent down to pick something up off the floor, one hand would be holding my hair in place. I never allowed other girls to play with my hair in the play ground, and I felt like I could have a panic attack if anyone came near my head.
I hoped, and prayed, and begged to God that I would grow out of the alopecia quickly, and when little sprouts of hair began to cover the bald spots on my head, the elation I felt reached such great enormity, and just in time before I started high school... But as soon as one bald patch grew back, another appeared, and another... and another.
Mum and Dad used to always try and reassure me that I was lucky that I had lots of thick dark hair, that could cover the bald patches easily, but as an adolescent, pubescent teenager, going through my first few years at high school, losing my hair seemed like the end of the world. I felt weird, and unusual, and was so scared that the bullies would spot my bald patches. I was never relaxed, never at peace and on top of that there was a hell of a lot more people at High School that I had to explain my scar to. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, bodies changing, hormones raging, boys becoming the centre of your world, and girls developing a bitchy bone. I just wanted to fit in, and blend in to the crowd... Being different was like hell on earth... But I was doing well at hiding my baldy's. Three years on and nobody had noticed yet, or if they had, they were kind enough not to point it out. Then I woke up one school day morning in year 9...
My bald patches had always been at the back or sides of my my head, and my hair was thick and heavy enough to fall over them, but as I looked in the bathroom mirror, I burst in to tears. I thought there had been a lot of hair on my pillow that morning when I woke up, and as always my hand instinctively reached for the place the hair had fallen from... I had a huge bald patch right at the front of my head on my hairline. I cried to my Mum and begged her to let me have the day of school, but she said I was going to have to go in sooner or later. She sat with me as I dragged the hair from the other side of my head (luckily, side partings were in,) and I fiercely gripped the hair in to place, spraying enough hair spray on my head to make me a hazard at a bonfire.
The weekend after I discovered the baldy at the front of my head, one also developed right in the middle at the top of my head. So Mum did some research and discovered a place about 30 minutes away from where I live, that specialise in wigs, extensions, and camouflage for bald spots.
Mum booked an appointment for me, and we made our way down there. The people there were so lovely, and sympathetic, and reassured me that there are lots of people out there with the same condition. They assessed the baldys and told me the best thing for mine would be a type of makeup for the head. The only way I can describe it is like a thick, brown, foundation.
I couldn't use it on the bald patch on the front of my head, but I could us it on the spot on the top of my head, and any that appear on the back. That way, if the wind blew, or my hair fell out of place there wouldn't be an obvious bright white patch of scalp showing.
The head makeup made me feel so much more relaxed, and confident, feelings that were quite alien to me.
Throughout the rest of my time at high school and college, I kept getting my little and big baldys, but the older I got the less embarrassed I was to reveal to people that I had alopecia. But I still hated it. Hair is so important to us girls, well it is to me. Every time one bald patch grew back a little bit of hope that it could be the last one was always distinguished by the appearance of a new one.
At the end of 2010 quite a big baldy had disappeared, and sprouts of light coloured hair were growing rapidly in its place... I waited for another one to appear. Yet for the first time, in a very long time, I had a full head of hair! I could style it however I wanted to, and styling my hair was something I had become very good at. Living with these bald patches had forced me in to understanding how to work with my hair, making it look good while hiding my baldy friends. I was so happy!

'Mum, my alopecia's back isn't it?'

Monday, 6 August 2012


An appointment was booked with the ward psychologist, and within hours there was a knock at my door and a fresh faced, young, blonde woman stood there waiting to be greeted. The woman with scattered piercings and tattoos creeping into vision from corners of her clothing, had a trusting smile and knowledgable eyes, and I instantly knew she was the person I had been waiting to see... The psychologist.
After brief introductions, and friendly handshakes, the psychologist said she would like to conduct this introductory session in her room, away from the bustling ward. For some reason a shockwave of panic rippled through my chest at the thought of going with her, alone... Was I ready to talk about this? Was I ready to face the facts?
I couldn't do it alone, I just couldn't. I needed my Mum, and i clung to her gaze, trying to tell her with my eyes not to leave me alone with this stranger, who was ready to delve deep in to my soul.
'Right Rebecca, shall we go?'

'I want my mum to come with us!'

The psychologist looked from me to my Mum, and back to me again. Wary of my sudden outburst and channeling in on my distress, I could see her already beginning to analyse me. Eventually she smiled warmly, relief spreading through my veins, and she agreed to allow my mum to be a spectator in my session.
The three of us ever so slowly made our way to a room I wasn't yet familiar with on the ward. It was a a long, thin room, with dull, beige walls, the odd poster scattered here and there, and a white board where I, straight away sieved through the scrawl, and spotted my name and the time of my appointment.
I was seated on a chair facing where the psychologist sat, with a desk next to her, where she casually rested her elbow, pen in hand. Mum was seated in the corner, not too far away from me, and I was comfortable in the knowledge that my peripheral vision always had her in its grasp.
The session began with the psychologist explaining to me what her job was and what the session plan was. I was fully aware of this, and had heard it all before from previous counsellors I had seen, but I politely let her continue, nodding at the right points, and convincing her that I understood with my well queued smiles.
Soon enough, too soon for my liking, the psychologist had ended her little speech, and the questions were about to begin. I felt so vulnerable and so out of my depth, because I didn't know how I felt. I hadn't even begun to accept what had happened to me, and in my own mind at that time, I wasn't ready to start accepting it.
The questioning started, and I answered truthfully, telling her all about the day of the stroke and what my time on the ward had been like. I went on to expose to her that I had already had counselling in the past, and explained why I had. I also told her that I was already on anti depressants, all the while the pen that had once lay limply in her hand, had now developed what seemed like a life of its own, and was dancing rapidly along a piece of paper, her fingers guiding its way.
I felt that up to this point the session was going smoothly, and I had definitely relaxed in her company, but I wasn't to get too complacent, as very quickly the conversation turned to questioning the present emotional state i was in.
I sat there for what seemed like and age, feeling her eyes burning deep in to my brain as she sat there silent, patient. I gazed down at my limp, left hand, and then my eyes glided down the left side of my body as it assessed its wellbeing. My jumbled thoughts seemed to be settling slightly, but i didn't like where they were finding their resting place. That oh so familiar burning feeling began the creep up my cheeks, and along the rims of my eyes, and my vision began to blur as pools of water, created by my tear-ducts quickly flooded my eye sockets and began to spill down my cheeks. I kept my head down, but the obvious water drop stains, creating a pattern on my pyjama bottoms, gave the game away. The psychologist allowed me to cry, and silently offered me a box of tissues, and as I took one I saw the box being offered over to the corner of the room, when I looked and saw tears stream down the face of my poor, devoted Mum.
I felt so let down, so angered and so betrayed by my own body. There was no one else to blame, no one to shout at, or be disappointed in, no one to take away the limelight and accept responsibility. It was my fault.
I was hurt.
My heart hurt.
My brain hurt.

I was exhausted.

The psychologist continued to talk at me, telling me what I was feeling was completely normal after what had happened to me. But my brain had transported itself in to its own little world of despair. I wasn't ready to accept this, not yet.
The session ended, though i don't quite remember how. I was in a complete daze.
I clung on to Mum as we made our way back to my room, not wanting to ever let go of her...Wanting her to make this all go away.

Then I slept...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Baby Elephant

The remainder of my stay on Ward E1 was very regimented and routined; Woken at 6am for obs.  Breakfast at 8am. Family arrive at 9am. Physio session before lunch. Lunch at 12pm. Occupational Therapy session. Visitors at 2pm. Dinner at 5pm. Visitors, again at 7pm. Family leave at 10pm... Then I attempt to sleep.

A couple of days before I was allowed to go home from hospital I was approached by the ward sister, and asked if I would like to visit the wards psychologist.

I have had previous experience with counselors, as in the past I have suffered from anxiety and depression caused predominantly by exams, and exam pressure. This was the reason I chose to leave university. 
When leaving High School to go to college, I had no idea what A levels I wanted to study, or whether I wanted to study them at all. All I'd ever wanted to be was a hairdresser or work in the beauty industry, but I achieved good GCSE results, and was told by teachers and other adults that I would be wasting them if I went in to hairdressing. So naively I took their advice and decided to go to sixth form college... It was where all my friends were going after all. 
I suffered, miserably through my first year of sixth form, all the while losing my confidence, not wanting to see friends, doing badly on tests (which is something I had never done before.) I was arguing with my Mum constantly, and I was gaining weight and not bothering with my appearance. 
I remember feeling lower than low, the only way I have ever known how to describe it is feeling as though my brain was filled with a dark cloud, and a weight filled my chest as though I had a baby elephant standing on it at all times. 
I briefly turned to self harming. There's no way to explain what makes a person do this. You don't simply wake up one day and decide, 'I want to hurt myself.' All I remember is being in the shower, crying my eyes out, which by that time was something of a norm, and digging too deeply with the razor  in to my leg... I felt no pain. I felt nothing. All I could do was watch the blood run from my leg, and breathe a sigh of relief. 
I quickly loathed myself for what I had done, and stuck toilet paper to my leg to suppress the bleeding, knowing I couldn't let anyone see what I had done, and promising myself I wouldn't do it again... But I did do it again... When my brain felt like it couldn't hold any more worry or pain, I went to the bathroom and released it myself... Never wincing, no stinging... Nothing.
I am very fortunate that my Mum realised what I was doing before it became a full blown habit (luckily I have no scars,)  and after crying with me, and me finally expressing to her what was going through my mind, she booked a Drs appointment and within hours I was seen.
I sat and cried my eyes out to the Dr and finally poured my soul out in to the open. The Dr told me to quit college immediately and she got me on a waiting list to see a Youth Counselor. 
Amazing doesn't do justice in describing the work Youth Counselors do. Through my 4 months of sessions with my counselor, I was able to rationalise that it was OK for me not to be happy at college, and I was allowed to make my own decisions. 
You'd think I'd have learnt... But I was young...
After 8 months of recuperation, and getting my life back on track... I decided to finish my Alevels. So I went back to college, and hated every minute, but I was stronger, and I did it... This then made me decide to go to university.
As I've told you before, my first year of university was amazing. I loved it. I loved the lessons, the teachers, and I adored the new friends I had made... But exam time was the same. I was physically ill at the thought of having to do my exams. I couldn't sleep, I cried all the time, and my thoughts were leading down that dark path again. I tried, I really tried to convince myself that I could do it, it was only the exams that were doing this to me, but I just wasn't strong enough. 
I completed the first year of my degree with a 2:1, something which I tried to make spur me on to complete the degree, but in the end I was too poorly.
One night, when Mum and Dad had gone to bed, I was sat on my laptop, talking to Chris, who was in Barcelona at the time. The tears began to stream from my eyes, and my vision became blurred. My brain felt as though it was being squeezed, as though someone was trying to make it burst, and while typing on the keyboard of my laptop, I couldn't seem to type anything that made sense. My fingers were just tapping the keys at random, while I stared blankly at the screen seeing nothing...
I woke up on the floor, my laptop lay askew next to me, my face was drenched in tears, my head pounding...
There I was again, sat in the Drs, weirdly in the same room, that I had been sat in just over two years before... I was proscribed anti depressants, while the Dr sat with me, her eyes glazed with tears, my Mum sat opposite my smiling through silent sobs, while I once again admitted defeat.
I went to have more sessions with a counselor, this time, I decided there was no going back.
The counselling, along with the antidepressants, were the perfect cure for me, I needed something to level me out, as all my life I have been nothing but a worrier, a ball of anxious nerves (though many people wouldn't realise this... I became professional in the art of hiding my feelings.)

I am not ashamed to admit that I need a tablet to help me feel normal, because the relief I felt when the baby elephant had been lifted off my chest, makes me want to shout it from the roof tops.
After another 8 months or so of convalescing, working part time, and finally becoming 'me' again, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a hairdresser, and I was finally content...

18th October 2011

After discussing it with Mum, Dad and Chris, I decided I would see the Ward psychologist...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Mum didn't leave my side while I was in hospital, unless it was to go home to sleep. It was as though the cord had been re-attached and I was a tiny baby again. I was completely dependant once more, and my Mum wasn't fazed by it one bit. Her role as Mother and protector was now the only job she was interested in. 

The glue that was holding everything together, stopping my Mum from falling apart, doing everything in his power to keep everything as calm and normal as possible... My Dad. 
Though Mum took the lead when it came to speaking to Dr's and nurses, and being the one to take care of my personal needs, Dad was always there, is always there, one step behind her. My Dad has this amazing power to make people smile, even in the most harrowing, and traumatic of times. From my first hour of being in hospital, he's been there to lighten the mood, and keep peoples spirits up... Keep people going.
Dad was the one who accompanied me to have my ultrasound scans. The dopplers on my leg and neck. 
As the porter pushed me down the windy hospital corridors Dad held my hand the whole time... Daddy's girl. He chatted away to the porter, just as Mum had always done, asking him about his working day, and empathising with the long hours. As I held my Dads hand a surge of pride ran through my veins and radiated my heart. He had been so wonderful, just as he has been my whole life. It wasn't until then that I had really understood and appreciated how he had been. I was his daughter too, his baby, and he had to register the information that his baby had had a stroke, just as my Mum had. Yet I hadn't even spared a thought for how he was doing, how he was processing the news. But my Dad is my superhero. He seems to be able to handle anything, taking it on the chin, and go with the flow. As he held my hand while we travelled down those haunting, hospital corridors, I don't think I have ever appreciated my father more. 
We arrived at our destination, and the Porter parked me against a wall behind another patient in a wheel chair, and left saying he'd be with us shortly. Dad laughed at where I had been positioned... I suppose me and this poor other patient did look like cattle ready for the slaughter, waiting patiently in our queue.
Dad knelt beside me, grasped my head in his had and kissed my ear. I leaned my head on his shoulder, and he asked me how I was doing. I needed my Dad. I don't think I had realised it until that morning, the morning of my ultrasounds. All I could think was, 'What would I have done this last week without my Daddy? How would we have all coped without him?'
The patient parked up in front of me was wheeled in to a room to our left, and almost immediately after she was out of sight, my name was called, and Dad wheeled me in to the room facing straight ahead of where we sat.
The room was dark. We were greeted by two women. One a short, middle aged nurse with a protruding bosom and a kind smile, the other a young, blonde woman, wearing a white jacket, who could have only been in her early thirties. The jolly nurse ushered us further in to the room and towards the bed that was situated next to a complicated looking machine. Both the nurse and technician introduced themselves and and explained what would be happening in that darkened room. I was told that they were going to scan up my calves and around my neck, with the ultra sound scanner, (this was something I had only ever seen being used on pregnant belly's before.) The nurse told me that I would have to take my trousers off, and looked at my Dad as if telepathically telling him to leave the room... I didn't want him to go. I didn't want my Daddy to leave me. I never wanted to be alone any more. 
I told the nurse my Dad could stay. I was going to be wearing knickers after all, and he's my Dad! The nurse smiled at us, as if it was a pleasure to see this 'Father/Daughter' relationship, and she proceeded to help me pull my trousers off, and Dad helped me on to the bed.
The lights where turned off completely in the room, and there was only the glow coming from the screen of the intimidating machinery. Dad looked on, arms folded, stern, interested, as the technician began to scan up and a long my leg, digging deeper in certain parts, and stopping to process images on the machine. I watched the screen, seeing only black and white. 
After thoroughly scanning my legs, the technician moved on to scan my neck. She mirrored her previous actions, digging deeper in crevices, making my tongue bulge in to the walls of my throat. I know they were looking to find some sort of sign of abnormality, but their attempts came to a conclusive fail. They couldn't find anything. My arteries were perfect... I suppose this was a good thing but still... No answers. Dad seemed happy, but mirrored my frustration in still having no answers.
I was helped back in to my trousers, and Dad secured me back in to my wheel chair, fiercely wrapping my dressing gown around me, protecting me from the cold... Protecting me from everything. 
The efficiency of the porters was always a question mark, but exiting the darkened room, our eyes battling with the light of the waiting room, there stood the porter we had been acquainted with just 20 minutes before, leaning on the wall, whistling away. The three of us made our way back to ward E1, a journey I was becoming so used to, yet still with no answers, no new information to give to my Mum, no conclusion... Dad never letting my hand go.

I love you, Daddy.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Basil Ganglia Nucleus

Waking up with stinging eyes, and sore sinuses, the ward was a busier place than it had been the last two days. There was a buzz around the nurses station as Monday morning loomed over Ward E1. The florescent light seemed even harsher this morning, and it bullied my eyes in to a squint, as I watched a nurse come bustling in to my room dragging along with her that oh so familiar machine. Knowing the routine I had my arm held out ready and waiting for the cuff to be wrapped around it, and I dropped my head to the side, allowing the thermometer access to my ear. She seemed satisfied with the results and left me to my thoughts. 
I shut my eyes, and listened as the nurses gathered for their morning update. If I'm honest, I enjoyed this start to my day. It was interesting hearing the goings on of the ward; what patients were staying, what patients were going. I heard information on any night time disruptions, and whether there'd be any newly admitted patients that coming day. Although I was comfortably safe and very happy in my little cocoon of a side room, it felt good to hear what was going on else where, I didn't feel so ostracised, and out of the loop... I sort of felt part of the Ward E1 'gang' hearing about the other patients.  
After having the previous week off, Dad had to go back in to work that Monday, and I also forced Chris to go and do a couple of hours in uni. He had his January exams ahead of him, and with it being the last year of his degree course it was vital that he didn't miss any more lectures. Both Dad and Chris promised me that they'd be at the hospital as soon as they were finished, and I was happy for them to be getting on with things as normal, though I felt sorry for the forthcoming questions I was certain they'd be bombarded with.
So it was just Mum and Anna who appeared from around the nurses station at 9 o'clock that morning. As usual I had already had my brown bread roll with jam and butter, and apple juice for breakfast, and I had Lorraine Kelly's smiley face staring at through the small television screen. Mum helped me out of bed, and collected my wash bag, and we made our way slowly to the bathroom. Meanwhile Anna plonked her self on the big comfy chair, with her college art book laid out in front of her, but with no intention or purpose to use it. 
Mum sat on the lid of the toilet seat and chatted to me about the events of the day before, as I sat in the shower chair letting the warm water stream over my head, muling over what she was saying. As was now usual, she washed my hair for me, and scrubbed my back, and then when I was washed from head to toe, she cuddled me in to a hospital towel. 
Her hugs had so much meaning in them, and I understood and welcomed them gratefully. I needed my Mum more than I had ever needed her. The unnerved and frightened feeling I had adopted yesterday, when I was told I might have to be moved on to a ward, still hadn't quite left me. What if they had moved me? Mum wouldn't be here with me now. She wouldn't be the one washing my hair and helping me in to my bra and knickers... It would have been a stranger. I needed the woman who brought me in to this world, the woman who raised me and who was part of the partnership that made me into who I am. I just really, really needed my Mum. 
As she wrapped me in that towel, her hug told me that she understood, and I knew then, that she wouldn't have had any body else doing the job she was doing. 

Dry and clean, with my hair knotted in to a plait, we re-entered my little room to find Anna scrambling to look like she was attempting to do some college work. Mum laughed and rolled her eyes, as Anna gave her a cheeky look. The time will have been about 10.00am, no sooner as I had sat on my bed I was forced to look up as there was a knock on the door. My consultant who I was now familiar with was standing thee with two registrars and the ward sister. The four of them entered the room, and greeted my Mum and Sister as they did so. 
The consultant tiptoed around the subject of asking whether my sister would mind leaving the room while he spoke to my Mum and I, (he's a very polite, and kind man) and Anna, though with a subtle eye roll, headed off to the day room, dragging along with her, her art book and pencils.
The consultant began by asking me about myself, about my life style and about the events in my life leading up to Tuesday 18th October. I was confused as these were already questions I'd been asked multiple times, but I obliged, and ran through everything he'd already heard. He then went on to ask my Mum about our family history, heart disease, heart attacks...strokes? Mum reeled off the people in my Dads family who had suffered heart attacks, and were plagued with high blood pressure, many of whom were heavy smokers. She  then went on to tell the consultant that my Grandad, my Mum's Dad, had inhabited this same room, only 2 weeks before I was admitted, due to suffering a very mild stroke. The difference between me, and my Grandad... he's 83, I'm 21.
With a grave expression manipulating his face, the consultants voice softened as he said, 'I'm asking you these questions again, as we have received the MRI scan results and they also confirm that you have had a stroke, in the right part of your brain, in the 'basil ganglia nucleus.'' I stared at him as he went on to say, 'We still don't know why this has happened, so I am going to run another series of blood tests to try and find an explanation. I am also going to book you in for a doppler scan of the neck and leg.' As he reeled off a list of the blood tests he wanted doing, some apparently were repeats of what I'd already had, I watched as his registrars took notes at a rapid pace, not stopping to look up, and their pens never leaving the paper.
I looked at my Mum, and tears filled my eyes and spilled over on to my cheeks. Why was I crying? He was only confirming what we already knew... I think a part of me had hoped that the MRI scan would maybe come back with another explanation as to why I no longer worked properly, but not so deep down, I knew I was being silly. I think the fresh tears were acknowledgement of what reality I was living... I had to accept this now. 
As the consultant finalised the details of what he wanted doing with the registrars, he focused on me, and my tears. He walked closer to me and put his hand on mine, and didn't question why I was crying. I attempted a laugh and apologised to him, explaining my hope for a different outcome of results. He smiled back in sympathy, and told me the words I have now, nearly nine months on become so used to hearing, 'You have age on your side.'
The four people stood before me, concluding their notes, and discussing the next steps, and with a kind smiles, and gentle shakes of the hand, Mum and I waved them off on their ward rounds.
Mum kissed me on the cheek, squeezed my hand, and confided that a part of her had been hoping for a different answer too.  

Anna trundled in with her book and pencils, and slumped into a chair, her eyes raised at Mum, ready for a confrontation about how much work she had achieved, in her time away from us. My Mum and Sister began in their little sparring match of words, acting out their age old argument about homework, Mum giving Anna her death stare, Anna taking no notice whatsoever. 
Watching the two most important women in my life acting just as they would at home, made me laugh out loud. Disregarding the meeting I had just had with my consultant, I allowed myself to be immersed in their normality, if that's what you can call it, and strangely...I felt normal too. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Losing It 2: The Worst Day

As I sat there and sobbed, I looked around at my friends, their eyes filled with sorrow, quiet tears dripping from their eyelashes. I turned, and with my desperate eyes I looked at my Mum, she wasn't crying, her eyes told the story of a protector, a heroine. Her face was stoic and I could tell she meant business, she politely and calmly told the nurse, that she was not happy with her daughter being put on a ward, and how could she find it acceptable to place a 21 year old in the company of very poorly and elderly patients. She went on to ask the nurse, did she think I didn't have enough to cope with, and was there no way that this other patient couldn't be placed somewhere else.
Through my anguish, I was so proud of my Mum. Usually she is a woman who just accepts things and goes with the flow, she hates confrontation, and finds it easier to just please other people sometimes. But on that day, my Mum was a lioness, her back was up, and it was as if she had bound a giant paw of protection around me, her cub.
The nurse said to me, 'There is no way we can let you discharge yourself Rebecca, it's too soon for you to leave the hospital.' I felt my heavy chest heaving, as though there was a brick lying in each lung. My whole body felt weighed down with despair. I stared up at the nurse, dry sobs exiting my mouth, and told her, 'I can't move, I just can't...please.'
Whether it was the strict words from my Mum, or the fact that my pleads had ground her down, or whether she had finally welcomed some realisation to the situation I was in, but the nurse finally accepted my request, and said to me, 'I'll see what I can do.' She left the room, and I was never bothered with the anxiety of having to move again. I later found out that the patient who needed use of my room, had in fact been moved to a completely different ward due to her symptoms, so the overwhelming upset I had been put through had in fact been unnecessary, much to my dismay.
Although I had now been told I could stay put, the room, my room, no longer felt safe. It was now occurring to me that it could just be taken away from me at any time, and what if it did happen again, and my Mum or Dad weren't there to protect me. I had never wanted to be in my own house, in my own bed, surround by my own familiar things, more. Mum had phoned Dad and told him of the drama that had just taken place, and he and Chris decided to make their way back to the hospital. They were far from impressed.
My friends were in my company. They had wiped their eyes, and were now shocked at how the nurse had delivered the news. They did their best to cheer me up and make me see that I was now not going to be moved any where, but I had been pushed beyond the positive and upbeat barrier I had been attempting to uphold.
My brain felt as though it was drowning in sadness, my heart being strangled grief. I was grieving for the old me. Until then I had held on to hope, hope that maybe, just maybe, I'd wake up, and as quickly as my body had been damaged, it would repair in the same speed. But that wasn't going to happen. I was surrounded by the friends that were the last people to be in the company of the old me, and they were all the same, they would leave the hospital and carry on as normal, nothing had changed for them. My whole world had changed, and there was no set date as to when I would be fixed, there was no definitive answer... there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Mum and Dad took charge of the rest of visiting hours, and held polite conversation with my friends, while I attempted to input where possible.  They left telling me they'd text me and that they would see me soon, and I gulped a ghost of a smile, as I watched them leave.
I had nothing to give...
Dad and Chris wanted the full story of what had happened with the nurse, and I allowed a small part of my mind to listen as Mum relayed the story, while the majority of my brain held thoughts far removed from the present. I sat in the hospital chair, as usual surrounded by my family, but all I could do was stare in to my mind, my eyes glazed, my ears not registering fully. I feared opening my mouth to speak, knowing that once I did I would practically vomit all of this pent up emotion that had recently took shelter in my body.
I allowed my head to fall on to the hospital table that was parked in front of me, and I closed my eyes, tears spilling from the corners, and dripping in to, and tickling my ear. Chris sat beside my and stroked my hair. They all did their best to console me, telling me I would get over this blip and carry on as I had been doing. I tried to believe that they were telling the truth, but at the same time couldn't imagine how I could possibly come back from feeling so low.
That same night Mum walked me to the toilet just as she usually did, and Dad and Chris were talking to one of the nurses at the nurses station. On my way out of the bathroom, I felt my self wanting to collapse. A nurse grabbed the closest thing to a wheel chair (a commode) and allowed me to fall in to it.  Two nurses rushed me in to my room shutting out my family, and lifted me in to bed, they handed me my buzzer and told me to call them if I needed to get back out of bed, and to not attempt to do it on my own. They left and my family re-entered to say good night to me. I clutched on to their lingering stares as they waved and smiled their way out of my room, and as soon as I knew they had gone I buried my face in to my pillow and sobbed.

That was the worst day.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Losing It

Sunday morning came, and I was five days in to inhabiting my new body.

Something was different that morning.  

My routine was the same. I was woken up by a nurse. I had my usual blood pressure, oxygen level, and temperature checks. I waited for, and had my brown roll for breakfast. Then my family arrived.
We slipped in to our now, day to day pattern of catching up on any new happenings. I gave them the ward update, and they kept me informed of the constant incoming of love, support and well wishes.
I put myself through the gruelling task of my physio exercises, giving it my all, beads of sweat being produced on my brow, and concentrating so hard that my teeth began to ache as they were being ground together. I laughed along with my family, and joined in on light hearted jokes, about facial expressions I was making, and unusual noises I was producing in my effort.

What was wrong?

I had another day of visitors planned. More friends and family to see. More people to sit with me and listen in shock and awe, as I repeat the story of Tuesday 18th October 2011. Three more of my closest friends were coming to see me. These were the friends that I'd been with at the pub quiz. Apart from my Mum and Sister, they were the last people to see the old me. The normal me. The unbroken me. They were with me the last time I drove my car, the last time I was able to walk unaided, without a limp and at a normal pace. While with them at the pub quiz on that Monday night, I will have casually tapped my fingers on the table in frustration at not knowing an answer to a question, I will have waved my hands about dramatically when an answer was on the tip of my tongue, and I will have high fived, enthusiastically when I found out that we'd gotten answers correct. I couldn't do any of these things any more... At least not with my left hand.

I felt very reflective that Sunday. 

2 o'clock came. Visiting hours. My friends appeared in the door way to my room. Their faces mirrored those of all the other visitors I'd had- happy mouths, uncertain eyes. I greeted them with one armed hugs, and gratefully accepted the cards and magazines they had in tow. My Mum was the only family member I had with me at that time, as I had persuaded Dad and Chris to go home and watch the football. 
It was derby day, Manchester United vs. Manchester City. They didn't want to leave me, but I forced them to go home, and get away from the hospital for a couple of hours. Every part of me ached at the thought of them being at home without me.  
The visit was going well. I'd gone through Tuesdays events, with my three friends, and their reaction was just what I was used to now. Then one of my friends reminded me of something that had happened the Saturday prior to the stroke. It had been one of the three friends that had come to visit me, birthday party on the Saturday, and  a few of us had been getting ready for it at my house. The friend that reminded me of Saturdays events, had come round, and the first thing she'd told me was that she'd been to see a psychic and the psychic had spoken about me. Now generally I am not a believer in all things supernatural, but I was interested to hear what had been said. Apparently the psychic had mentioned that a friend of the girl, who was training to be a hairdresser, was going to be in trouble. I was the only person she knew who was training to be a hairdresser... I was a little bit spooked by it, but it was soon forgotten... Until that Sunday, at visiting.  
We were all slightly freaked out by it... Massive coincidence? I don't know...

Something in my body and mind felt different.

We continued in our discussions about the psychic, and trailed off in to different conversations; remembering how the pub quiz went, talking about how their weeks had been, discussing people who had been getting in contact to ask about me... Then there was a knock at the door.
A familiar nurse entered the room. I hadn't quite taken to this nurse, she was abrupt and extremely matter of fact- she reminded me of a strict school teacher. She didn't acknowledge any of my visitors, not even my Mum, she didn't even say, 'Hello,' to me. The words that came out of her mouth, made my stomach drop, 'Right, Rebecca, we have a problem.' 'We have a problem?' I thought. I continued to look at her without answering. 'You might not like this, but we're going to have to move you from this room,' she said. I could feel my cheeks burning, and the rims of my eyes starting to sting. 'Why?' I breathed. This was my safe haven, my own little room, away from the scary ward filled with very poorly, elderly people. The nurse explained, while half rolling her eyes, that they wanted to put another patient in my room and put me on a ward, and then she went on to say, 'You won't be allowed all these visitors, whenever you want on the ward.'
My whole body convulsed, and I burst in to tears. Hot streams of salty water were pouring from my eyes, as I begged with the nurse. I hated myself for sounding selfish, I didn't own the room, and I felt sad for the person who needed  to be in a room of their own, but I felt safe in there. So much had changed around me, and it hadn't even been a week yet. That room was the only constant thing in my life at that time. I could hide away from the reality of my situation in there, and in that split second of the nurse telling me I had to move, everything did become real...
My Mum told the nurse that it wasn't fair to move me, as I would be surrounded by people, double and triple my age. There was no one on the ward at that time, that was any where near my age. Also being in a side room allowed immediate family members to be with me at all times through the day. They were keeping me going... Without them I was scared of myself. 
My Mum washed and dressed me, she tied my hair in to pony tails and helped me brush my teeth, she took me to the toilet and helped me pull up and down my pants. I'd already surrendered my dignity to her, I couldn't go through all of that again with a stranger.
I couldn't do it, so I told the nurse, if I had to move then I wanted to discharge myself. I felt myself losing it. I was crumbling, and any little bit of strength that I thought I had, was thinning into nothing... 

Monday, 18 June 2012

8 months: Mum and Dad

As it is exactly 8 months today since I had my stroke, I've decided to do a special blog post, dedicated to my parents.
My Mum and Dad met when my Mum was 17 and my Dad was 19. They met in my Grandads pub where Mum worked behind the bar. Dad always tells the story of when he first saw Mum. He went to the pub with his older sister, my late Aunty Lynne, and told her, 'I'm going to marry that girl one day.' I guess for my Dad it was love at first sight... Mum however needed some convincing. My Dad had to ask her out 4 times before she agreed to go on a date with him. She was obviously playing hard to get, but Dad wasn't going to take no for an answer.
Mum and Dad got engaged two years after meeting... My Grandad took some convincing, but he loved my Dad and knew that him saying,'No,' wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
Their engagement wasn't a short one to say the least. They waited six years to get married, and in the same year they married, they got a mortgage and bought the house that we, as a family are still living in today.
My parents let themselves enjoy four years as a newly married couple in a new house before they decided to start trying for children. Mums pregnancy went without a hitch, and her labour lasted five hours. Then, on the 8th August 1990, Mum gave birth to their first child... Me.
I've been trouble from the start...
The second I entered the world, Mum and Dad knew there was something wrong.  The midwife had a student with her helping and observing with the delivery, and just after Mum had given birth, she saw the student give a startled, worried look to the senior midwife, and the senior midwife signal at her to straighten her face... Mum didn't even get a chance to hold me. The midwife's whisked me off for about 15 minutes and Mum and Dad weren't given an explanation why. They had however, noticed a massive dark mark on my back. A consultant came back to the delivery suite with me, and as I was handed to my Dad, my parents were told by the consultant that he was almost sure this mark on my back didn't mean I had spina bifida, they thought it was just a very large mole.
So apart from the massive mole on my back I was otherwise a normal, happy, healthy new born. Mum took me home after spending the recommended five days in hospital, and we began our lives as a new family.
It was decided that I would have this mole, that covered half of my back, removed before I went to primary school, but until then I would have regular check ups with a consultant, as the mole wasn't normal to say the least.
When I was around 20 months old, I went to a consultation appointment, and when the Dr looked at my huge mole, he wasn't happy with what he saw. The mole had gone red round the edges, so he decided there and then that they wouldn't wait to remove it, but get it removed immediately.
They surgeons removed the mole and conducted a skin graft by taking layers of skin from the left cheek of my bottom and placing it on where the mole had been removed. A sponge was then sewn on to the affected area to allow the skin to take to its new home. I spent three weeks in The Duchess of York Children's Hospital. My Mum slept in a bed next to my hospital cot, and Dad came to spend the evening with us, every day, straight after work.
I was discharged from hospital, and sent home, with the instructions to come back in a week to have the sponge removed from my back. Things didn't go too smoothly though. After about four or five days my back started to smell of rotting flesh, and Mum and Dad knew that something wasn't right. I was taken back to hospital to have the sponge removed, and a surgery that should have taken 20 minutes, actually took around 2 hours. For those 2 hours my Mum and Dad were left in the dark, not knowing what was going on, until the surgeon came out to speak to them. He told them that the first skin graft had broken down with infection and they had to do the whole procedure all over again. I had a second skin graft; this time, skin was taken from my left upper thigh, and new sponge was sewn on. Mum spent further four weeks in hospital with me, as a very poorly baby.
On my second discharge from the children's hospital, Mum and Dad were given the news that I'd had cancer. A cancer that is very rare for a 20 month old to have.
The Giant Hairy Mole on my back had actually turned malignant, and there fore I'd had a malignant melanoma. The surgeons, however, were happy that they had removed all of the skin cancer, and didn't believe I needed any further treatment, other than regular check ups. I had to wear special vests for a few years to help my skin graft heal properly, and then a few years after that I was given the all clear. I now live with a scar on my back, the size of a side plate.
So, as I said... Trouble from the start.
I've told this story, to help explain how amazing my parents are, and what they've had to go through.
With me as a child, they haven't had it easy. But through it all, their love for each other has never wavered. Even after 33 years together, they're still crazy in love with each other. Their love is the realest love I know. They've had to deal with so much as parents, but never let it affect them as a couple.

Dad, you are my hero. My superman. You are so funny and so witty, and know how to make light of any situation. You are one of the few people who knows how to make me laugh uncontrollably , the sort of laugh that hurts.  You are so loyal and protective to the people you love, especially to Mum, Anna and me; your girls. You are the hardest working person I know, yet you still manage to come home from work after a twelve hour day and ask Mum what jobs need doing. You love us so unconditionally, no matter what, through and through, a wonderful, utterly devoted husband to Mum, and Dad to me and Anna. You're the perfect man, Dad.
Mum, you're simply amazing. My best friend. You are the strongest woman I know. I cannot put in to words  how much you mean to me. You are my idol. You do everything for everyone and anyone, without ever complaining. You always have the answer to any problem. You are selfless and kind. One in a million.

My aim in life is for Chris and I, to forever be as happy as you both are... If we are, then we'll be the luckiest people in the world.
I love you Mum and Dad,

Friday, 15 June 2012


So, Saturday morning came.
There was a different feel to the hospital this morning. It seemed quieter, calmer, less hectic...The weekend had arrived.  There were different faces floating from room to ward, faces I didn't recognise... The weekend staff were now in charge.
I was nervous as I lay in my hospital bed that morning. Today was going to be a day of visitors, and so far I had only been in the company of my immediate family and the hospital staff. What would I talk about with my friends and family? Should I act normal? What questions would they ask? If I'm honest I was starting to go back on my decision. Did I really want to see people yet? Maybe I wasn't ready.
Mum, on the other hand, had different ideas about this situation. She would not let me change my mind, and was determined I was going to have visitors... What Mum says, goes!
First things first, though, I had to do my physio exercises. I lay on my bed, and attempted to do the thrusting exercise while Mum, Dad, Anna and Chris took it in turns to help me. I was also given an exercise where I had to lift my arm as high as possible, ten times. This exercise, like the others, did not go so well. It took me half an hour to reach the tenth arm lift, and to be honest, it was always more of a hover than a lift. It was so frustrating. I just wanted to scream at my arm and leg, 'Just work, God damn it!' I had to keep a cool head though. I could just see the looks on the faces of my loved ones as I was doing my exercises, smiles full of encouragement, eyes full of dismay. I didn't want to make things harder for them. They were all being so fantastic, so upbeat and positive while in my company, yet I know if I was in their shoes, I couldn't have been quite so courageous.
Visiting hours were looming, and there was a knot growing tighter in the pit of my stomach. I kept telling myself not to be so stupid. These were my friends, and family, people I'd known forever. So why was I scared of seeing them. Why did I feel embarrassed at the thought of having to talk about what had happened and what was going on? Come on Bec, get a grip!

I heard the bell to the ward ring... Visitors were upon us. My heart leapt, as I heard voices growing louder. Then I saw friendly, familiar faces appear from behind the nurses station. They were carrying cards, and flowers and magazines, yet I could tell I wasn't the only one who was nervous. Three of my closest friends had come to see me. They approached me with caution, not knowing what to do. They all hugged me, not really knowing how to go about it, and then sat down on chairs that Dad and Chris had gone to collect for them. At first no one knew where to start... Who should talk first? I asked them how they were and what they'd been up to, and then one of my friends let out a laugh, 'Stop asking about us, and tell us about you Bec!'. They didn't want to talk about them, they wanted to talk about me. They explained to me that they had been nervous to see me as they didn't know what to expect. They didn't know what I was going to look like, or whether I'd be able to hold a conversation properly. Like I've explained previously, a lot of my close family and friends had really been left in the dark. They'd only been engaged in snippets of conversation with Mum, Anna, Dad and Chris, and not many people knew exactly what the situation was.
So I told them exactly what happened, my story from waking up on the Tuesday morning. They didn't really know what to say or do. I didn't expect them to either, because I still didn't know what to say about it.   These friends are in their twenties, just like me, yet they got to walk out of that hospital room and get on with their every day lives. These friends are friends that I used to get glammed up with and go out partying in my heels... now they were visiting me while I was in my dressing gown and slippers.
I loved that they had come to see me, and they, just like my family kept big smiles on their faces, spoke to me as if we were just having a gossip in my front room, and made me laugh, more than I had all week, and although the feeling of nervousness had long surpassed, I now hated myself for feeling envious of my friends. They stayed for around two to three hours, and we talked about people we knew, and read through magazines, discussing different celebrity related articles. They chatted to Mum, Dad, Anna and Chris, and were filled in on the goings on of the ward, but soon enough, it was time for them to leave. They all kissed me good bye and told me they'd be back another day, as long as I was up to it, they hugged my family, and told them to keep them updated and then I watched them go. I would have given anything to have walked out of the ward with them. But I was trapped. Trapped in ward E1 and trapped in my body.
After my visit I was tired, and fed up. There had been moments when my friends had visited, where I felt happy, even content... but those moments, and those feelings didn't last long. But I had to suck it up, curve my lips in to a convincing smile, and await my next set of company.

After a couple more guest appearances from family members, of whom none came empty handed, (I had already racked up around 20 magazines, 3 new pairs of pyjamas, food packages galore, and tons of cards and well wishes.) We were five once again. Yet soon it was time for them to leave. They always stayed till around 9.30pm/10.00pm and then they left to go home, and leave me to try and sleep.
But even though I'd had a full day of family and friends coming to see me, and I was so exhausted, I did not want them to leave that night. I didn't want to say good bye. The thought of them leaving me gave me the feeling where it seems as though your heart could drop through your stomach. I didn't want to be by myself. I wanted to cling on to my Mum and Dad and plead with them not to leave me, beg them to stay and cuddle me to sleep, but I couldn't be that cruel to them.
I said good bye, and made out I was excited to see more of my friends and family the next day. I kissed the four of them, and gritted my back teeth together as I waved them off.
My brain felt as though it was drowning in emotions.
I put in the head phones, to my sisters ipod, shut my eyes, and begged for the tears not to come.
I fell asleep listening to the voice of Stephen Fry reading the story of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'd never wanted a magic wand more, than I did at that time.