A lady is at the door. I have no idea who she is.
“Hi Fran,” Mat embraces her with his whole body.
She wears a long cardigan and big sturdy boots, her black and red hair quaffed perfectly into an elegant sphere.
She walks over to my bed.
“Hi Lucy. How are you doing?”
“Good”, I say. “Well… better”.
“Lucy, this is Fran,” Mat says. “She was there at the accident. Her car was just ahead of us when it happened, but she turned around, parked up and ran over to us with blankets. Then she gave me a ride to the hospital.”
Fran settles in the chair next to my bed.
Mat smiles at her, “oh, and she came back later that night to bring me chicken”.
“I didn’t want you to forget to eat,” Fran jumps in. “I am here to look after you; to look after you both”. She grins, looking from me to Mat, from Mat to me, “so from now on, just call me your black mum”.
I smile back, wondering if I am dreaming. How can a complete stranger be so kind? Offer to become part of our lives at the hardest of times? My heart hurts.
The door opens again.
“Hi Lucy. Dr Curzen is ready for you”.
Minutes later I am being wheeled down the corridor, overwhelmed with stimulation of so many different ceilings for my eyes to explore. I am pushed through a swinging double door, and into a giant grey fridge. It reminds me of the warehouse my dad used to store things in at work.
Dishy surgeon waves at me from the edge of my vision as a mask is placed on to my face. There are some words then there is nothing but black and softness.
I wake to discover with elation that I am to be part of something spectacular. My surgeon, who is now wearing a delightful knitted hat, has chosen me to be part of a live-feed into the premiere of the film Moana. They will be filming patients all around the country as they wake up from surgery, squeezing us all into different shaped beds and spinning us around in time to Maui’s spectacular musical number “You’re Welcome”. Hollywood donated heavily to the hospital, I am told by a friendly merman in bed next to me, and this is their way of saying thank you. I am wedged into a giant star that glows yellow and purple and sprays glitter from the front, and wheeled into a giant SMEG fridge.
I wake again, desperately disappointed to be lying on a glitterless gurney. Dishy surgeon stands over me, eyebrows raised, looking very pleased with himself.
*Oh, I tell you what I want, what I really, really want. So tell me what you want what you really, really want.*
He nods his head toward the blaring stereo, “you know, ‘cuz you’re British,” he grins.
I squint at him, pressing my whole face together.
I bloody hate the Spice Girls.
I drift in and out of consciousness as I’m wheeled back to my room, confused by what I see every time I open my eyes. I seem to have woken up in the same place, but not the same place – like Mike in ‘the upside down’ – everything is the same but different. There are moving patterns on the ceiling, and balloons, everywhere. There is a floating pirate ship above my bed that follows me, beckoning me on board.
“I can’t come in again, not this time,” I tell the tiny people, “I have to eat my Jello soon”.
I arrive back at my room, desperate to share this new world with Mum and Mat, but they just don’t see the things I see.
“But, look,” I whine, pointing at the dancing clocks next to my window.
I wonder if I have gained some kind of second sight from all of the surgeries. Like those people who wake from a coma and suddenly know how to speak Japanese and play the accordion.
Mum brings a teddy bear in with a balloon tied to it. Oh God.
“Get that out of here!” I yell.
I don’t like it. I don’t like the way it moves.
I sleep, I’m not sure for how long, and wake again, groggy. I feel as if my entire body is made of cement, and imagine, for a short while, if I could just roll over and sleep on my side. Imagine the pure joy of my body suddenly belonging to me again.
There is a knock at my door.
“Can I come in?” a lady pokes her head through the door.
Her curly, sun-kissed hair is tucked behind her ears. She wears orange earrings and red glasses.
“You probably don’t remember me,” she says, perching on the edge of my bed close to my head, “but I was the trauma nurse who met you when you were brought in by the ambulance”.
I look at her again; those kind brown eyes; that easy, gentle smile; “It’s going to be OK. You’re going to be OK”.
“I do remember you!” I say.
“I have a rule that I don’t get close to people when they first come into ICU,” she gazes at the door. “It makes it more difficult if… you know…”
I do know.
“I’ve been to your room so many times, and hung around outside your door. I always ask the nurses about you, but this is the first time I have had the courage to come in”.
I don’t know what to say. She leans in to hug me.
“Thank you!” I settle on, my face soaked with gratitude.