I phoned the kids (20 & 25) who both live in Wellington, told them what had happened and asked them to meet their mum at the hospital. They got there before her.
I went home and tried to book the 7a.m flight the next morning. Thanks to a Guns ‘n’ Roses concert in the capital the following day all flights to Wellington were booked until 6pm. The only option was a 9a.m. seat from Blenheim, a 90 minute drive away.
I spent the next few hours emailing and phoning family in New Zealand and the UK, packing a bag with essentials for both of us, and checking the house could be left for the foseeable future. I got to bed after midnight and got up again by 5a.m. I may have even slept.
The drive to Blenheim was a blur of tears and unneccesary speed and I was at the hospital by 9.45a.m. just under 12 hours after she was admitted.
During the night they had put a drain into her head and stabilised her. She was being assisted to breath and had no right side feeling. She was barely able to open her eyes and could faintly squeeze my hand to acknowledge my presence and that confirmed to me she could hear what was going on.
The kids were both still at the hospital and my brother had flown down from Auckland to support us.
Our son is doing a postgraduate psychology doctorate. “You’re looking at this from a slightly different viewpoint to the rest of us aren’t you?” I asked him.
“I do have a slightly morbid curiosity.” he confessed. But at least he was able to talk on more equal terms with the neurosurgeon when it came to discussing and interpreting the MRI scan.
That afternoon we had a meeting with the neurosurgeon, a curiously comforting hybrid of Boris Johnson and David Attenborough. He said she was lucky to be alive. Having suffered a ‘massive brain bleed’ (his exact words) the next few days would be critical and he gave no promises or assurances for her prognosis.
She was likely to remain in ICU for many weeks until they were happy there was no longer any blood remaining and they could safely remove the drain, Thankfully there was no longer any pressure on her brain. They wanted to get her breathing unaided but this meant being able to sit her up which was impossible in her current semi-conscious state. the longer the breathing tube remained, the greater the risk of inducing pneumonia.
I was assured she was not in pain, which given the prodigious quantities of strong drugs she was on, was not surprising. A dedicated (in more than one sense) nurse stood at the foot of her bed constantly, checking vital signs every 15 minutes, fiddling and calibrating equipment and making notes. I found myself watching every breath and heartbeat on the monitor, reacting each time she somehow made the numbers change or made the trace pitch and dive unexpectedly.
As she lay there thought how happy I was that I had known this woman since we were both around 9 years old. We had gone through school together, grown up together and now we were going through the toughest challenge we had ever been given together. No one knew her better then me. I was thankful I could read the merest eyebrow twitch, because at the moment it was the only way she could let me know she was still in there somewhere, fighting to get out. When the doctors came around and tried to get a response by squeezing her hand and failed, I could tell them I had got one 20 minutes earlier. She wouldn’t have the stamina for another one for at least an hour after that.