The Inside Out

On the morning of 25th August 1997, not long after my fiftieth birthday, I stood in the kitchen, making an early morning pot of tea, and musing on forthcoming events, which were a family holiday cycling along the Camel trail in Padstow,Cornwall, combined with the organisation of a company fun weekend for Nortel Optoelectronics for around 6,000 people. I was a director of our event company. My wife, who worked in the professional theatre as an actress and entertainer is well suited to the business, while who, I after a poor academic start, eventually gained a degree in Pure Philosophy from Kings College, am not temperamentally suited to our extraverted people-oriented business.
The migraine type headache I had had for the past two weeks, continued to throb, but apart from that I felt generally happy, this happiness marred only slightly by a gentle melancholia, and some healthy apprehension about the size of the forthcoming corporate event, and my wife’s holiday mood. As it turned out this was the calm before the storm……I was about to become the central player in a Franz Kafka-like horror movie!

As I waited for the kettle to boil, I stood lost in thought, and became aware of a deep sense of remorse. It was as though I had done some irreparable harm. I’d felt something similar a year or so earlier, when I had taken our young daughters Lucy and Laura for a bike ride in Windsor Great Park. They were nervous of cycling and I had not looked after them properly, trying to hurry them through an automatically closing gate, resulting in a collision; a cut leg with tears from Laura and recrimination and sniffles from Lucy. I was angry and ranted on, feeling guilty that a chance of creating an ideal childhood memory had been lost forever.
I took two mugs of tea up to the bedroom and was pleasantly surprised when my wife pulled me back into bed. I got in and was just beginning to enjoy myself, in spite of the blinding headache when suddenly I was fighting with my left arm, which had developed a will of its own, and was moving by itself, contorting into a painful cramp. I was bewildered by the symptoms and thought I was having a heart attack. Despite attending aerobics classes twice weekly, I’d been half expecting a heart attack because of the unrelenting obsess ional way in which I was I working. In fact I was having an epileptic fit, caused by a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage. My wife experienced this as having a gagging corpse on top of her, with my eyes rolling up into my head and blood trickling from my mouth. All I can recall is losing the battle to regain control of my left arm and yielding fearfully to the pain and power of the seizure as I lapsed into unconsciousness.
The next recollection I have is the sound of kindly male voices calling my name out of a black void and a cold draught and the roar of helicopter rotors “This must be really serious, I thought, quickly followed by a sense that now I could finally relax, I don’t have to do anything, I can just lie her and be taken care of….no responsibilities….” I put down the waves of cold passing over me as the rushing air and the bare metal interior of the helicopter and the experience began to feel like an adventure. Unbeknown to me the worlds of my nearest and dearest had been thrown into chaos as they rushed from all over the country to arrive at my bedside in an intensive care unit much later that evening……………

It was Bank Holiday Monday that Terry brought the morning tea up to the bedroom and I pulled him into bed again beside me, he had been so withdrawn and moody for the last few weeks, I thought it was my fault, maybe we weren’t having enough sex! Terry seemed quite interested in the idea! Then it happened! Suddenly Terry said “Stop, Stop “ and collapsed on top of me, shaking and jerking and to my horror I saw blood trickle from the corner of his mouth…I was terrified and I thought he was having a heart attack. I grabbed a beach towel to cover my nakedness and ran down to get my mobile phone…. I ran past the two terrified kids who been watching children’s TV and who now realised something was wrong and started to cry.

I ran outside…….. my mobile wouldn’t work!…..there was no signal!…. I ran into the road, stabbing 999 wildly on the mobile and finally getting through to the emergency services. I tried to remember the address of the holiday cottage to tell the girl on the end of the line where we were, she said, “Go and knock on one of the neighbour’s doors while you are waiting for the ambulance” ………so still clutching the beach towel round me, I rang the bell of what turned out to be an elderly couple’s house. (I love that saying “ I have always relied on the kindness of strangers” from “A Streetcar named Desire” The elderly couple were so kind, they came back with me immediately, the old man bringing some of his emergency angina pills in case it was a heart attack.
I led them upstairs past the cowering kids, and in fear and trepidation went into our bedroom expecting Terry to be dead. He wasn’t….. the epileptic fit, for that’s what it was, had stopped, but he was breathing in an awful rasping way, and the trickle of blood from his mouth looked ominous and frightening. Between myself and the elderly couple, we managed to roll him over into recovery position, and I tried to talk to him whilst we waited for the ambulance to arrive.

The Inside Out

dhounsom

Joined May 2008

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Artist's Description

This is the story of how my husband survived a devastating brain haemorrhage and stroke. It is our personal accounts of the lives and loves we both had, before we met and married and the difficult, and often recriminating long walk back to some kind of equilibrium, and the fact that the welfare of our daughters’ was more important to us than anything else.

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