When do I call an ambulance? How low do I let it go before I dial 999? I used to think it was amusing when my blood pressure dropped. “There it goes again,” I’d chuckle. Now it’s serious. 56/36 is no longer a joke. It is sickening. It is life-threatening. I can’t go on like this. It’s like I’ve been disembowelled, the contents of my abdomen scooped out and flung to the floor
What’s happened? I am laying face down, looking into my visor and there is blood in the visor and the blood is dripping down, splash, splash, splash. And someone is screaming, and I hear voices, lots of voices, and I guess people are standing around but it is all confusing. “Is he dead?” It’s a woman shouting. Her voice is frightened and shrill and hysterical. I think, “No, I am not dead, I’m here and I’m conscious but I need to get it together, need to analyse the situation, make it clearer in my mind before I move.” So I go to get up but nothing happens, and I try to push down with my arms but nothing happens, and I try to move my head but nothing happens, and I suddenly realise that I can’t feel myself, don’t know where my legs or arms are, or whether I am facing up or down. But the blood keeps dripping into the visor and so I know my head is looking towards the ground.
“I can’t move!” I blurt out. “I can’t move …”
I have my first result. Through a small cellophane window in the colostomy pouch I observe the stoma. It is amazing to see. The stools squiggle out like soft sausages. The stoma itself is wrinkled, the edges smooth and rounded. It seems to have a life force of its own, spontaneously opening up like a flower and expelling its offending load — a series of six to eight centimetre long stools as thick as a man’s finger. With a squelching fizzle they ooze into the bag. I’m fascinated by the whole process. When all the stools are discharged the stoma relaxes, the creases and folds come together and the hole closes up.
Arriving at my bed, she lifts me bodily from the chair and throws me down onto the mattress. Suddenly many doctors and nurses gather around my bedside. Despite my lack of awareness, I am very frightened. It feels as if I’ve been disembowelled. I’m quickly hooked up to various monitors. “He’s crashed,” I hear a doctor say. He asks what medication I’m on. A nurse tells him I had my first dose of clonidine an hour ago. He asked how many milligrams. I’m not sure of the reply. From a distant star, I hear him say the dose is too high. Sister Maria remarks that I am tachycardic …
The guy in the next bed has visitors. His wife and daughter are sitting on chairs by his bedside. Jimmy bows to the visitors, takes the woman’s hand and kisses it. It’s theatrical gesture, done I assume to make the person feel special. Perhaps he gets a thrill from kissing the backs of females hands? She smiles but there is a look of unease on her face, as if she doesn’t know whether to be embarrassed or delighted …
Me and Tom goad each other into going first. It doesn’t feel right. We are shy. The man tries to persuade us, says he’ll get his cock out too. My heart is beating fast. I have a sense of fear and fascination. But the sense of fear is stronger and so I make some excuse about needing to be home. I quickly leave the cabin and climb down the ladder. Tom follows. The old man stays in the cabin. He doesn’t pursue us. We hurry out of the boatyard.
I can’t sleep and when I do sleep — which is only for a few minutes — I have maddening dreams. Excruciating pain in my neck. Won’t go away. I know it’s pointless but again I plead for drugs: sleeping tablets, Valium, pethadine, anything to get rid of this pain and help me sleep. The night nurse says he is sorry but he can’t prescribe anything without a doctor’s say so.
“I told my GP I was experiencing agonising spasms and pain. My blood-pressure was shooting up when I spasmed. My head felt as though it was splitting apart. I asked for the most powerful medication he had. I’d been through all the usual painkillers: paracetamol through to codeine and tramadol. They were useless, so he prescribed morphine.”
I am hoisted onto the bed, then undressed by two male orderlies. It’s a horrible, undignified process. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I am not. They plug my sheath into a night drainage bag, which hangs from a clip attached to the metal frame of the bed. No turning back now. I put mind into hospital mode. No point in making a fuss about anything. Go with the flow. As far as I am concerned the future can only happen when I get out of this place.
“Push our beds closer, please Jo … I can’t hold the joint without Malcolm’s help.” She takes the brakes off and moves my bed sideways towards his. The joint is already burning. He takes a couple of drags and then holds it out so I can drag on it, too. There’s me, my arm through the monkey pole and leaning over as far as I can go. Feels good to draw on the joint. I take three or four deep slugs and then fall back onto my pillow, close my eyes and quietly mellow away.