The morning after.


I wake with a start, fighting for breath.  I’m not sure where I am and I can’t remember how I got here.  There is only blackness.  I find it incredibly hard to open my eyes and the light seems determined to cut my head in half.  The headache I can understand, I know I was drinking too much.  But there’s something more fundamentally wrong this time.  Where the hell am I?  I turn my head to one side and my head is spinning slowly.  When I open my eyes they keep looking in the direction that my head is spinning.  There’s something really wrong with me.  Now I have it.  I’m in a hospital.  Well, that’s probably a good thing, but how did I get here exactly?  I close my eyes and move my head upright again to stop the spinning.  It slows down and dies away and I think I pass out again.

I wake again with only one thought.  My mouth is a desert.  I think there are several species of lizard living in it fighting to survive on the moisture that’s left.  I send out raiding parties to find a new oasis but find nothing.  I’m going to have to open my eyes and maybe speak.  Oh god.  Communication with the outside world seems like something that happened only in my distant past.  I can sense someone moving nearby and I manage to open my eyes slowly.
“You’re awake.  How are you?”
It’s a nurse.
It’s all I can say before passing out again.

I wake up again feeling a little better.  There’s a tube going into my arm and I’m absorbing water at a reckless pace.  The headache is still like nothing I’ve felt before.  It’s intense and over my whole head.  My thoughts are slow and shattered.  Forming more than a few words into a sentence is an impossible task.  Moving is only slightly easier.  I sit up and wish I hadn’t….the room spins badly and I let out a moan as I fall back on the pillow. 
“Just rest.  How are you?”
“I don’t know…..where am I”
“Where do you think you are?”
“I’m in a hospital in Melbourne I hope.”
“How…am I here?”
“You don’t remember?”
This effort has drained me of all my energy and I simply cannot speak anymore.  I think I pass out again.

“You’ve got to go.”
I don’t know where I am anymore.  I open my eyes slowly and remember the hospital.  I still have no idea how I’m here or why I feel so bad.  There’s something seriously wrong with me.
“You’ve been here long enough.  You’ve got to go.”
“Go where?”
I can picture my room with absolute clarity and the idea of lying in my bed sounds damn fine to me.  I manage to sit up and turn sideways on the bed.  I then have to stop and look at the floor until my head stops spinning.
“Why am I so dizzy?”
“You were very drunk.”
“Yes.  But I’ve done that many times.  This is new.”
“You’ve got to go.”
“Where’s my wallet?  My sunglasses?”
“Your wallet is here.”
I examine it and discover plenty of money still there, but my credit card is missing.  What happened last night?

I sign some paperwork and shamble onto the street.  My sunglasses are missing.  I have more than enough money to get home and a taxi is waiting at the door.  I arrive home about one o’clock on Thursday afternoon.  I get a phone call on my mobile.  It’s the hospital telling me they have my sunglasses if I can come back and get them.  For some reason I call a taxi and go fetch them.  I just want everything to be back to normal.  My flatmates know there’s something really wrong with me.  I have no energy and the dizziness is crippling.  I have a shower and notice in the mirror that there’s a faint bruise on my forehead, near the temple.  The effort of the journey has drained me utterly and when I get home I sleep until the next day.

I am not in any way better.  Nothing has changed.  I realise I need to call my work, I tell them I’m very sick and hope to be in on Monday.  I don’t believe for a moment that’s true.  I call my bank and cancel my credit card, then collapse again.  I sleep another twelve hours and that night I send a message to my mother asking if there’s some obvious medical reason I’m in such bad shape, she’s a nurse and might be able to figure it out.  I manage to eat a plate of a curry that I’d cooked a few days earlier and fall asleep again.

I wake up early on Saturday afternoon with my aunt sitting on my bed telling me I’m leaving with her to stay at her house for a few days.  That sounds like a good idea and I manage to pack a backpack and shamble along with me aunt.  In all this time I still can’t figure out how I ended up in hospital.  I can remember the earlier parts of the night, meeting for a pub quiz night, moving to another bar and having beers.  Then I’m walking down Flinders street in the middle of Melbourne city with a clear plan to get a taxi home.  I’m walking to the taxi rank and then… I’m in a taxi.. and then… suddenly I’m standing on a street.  There’s policemen and an ambulance.  I’m talking to people.  I have no idea what’s going on.  The ambulance people ask me if I have cover.  I do and show them.  I think I get into the ambulance.  I don’t know why.  I feel fine, even good, very happy.  Then nothing.  Then the nightmare that has been the last few days begins.  I get to my aunt’s house and she makes me eat a vegetable soup.  The one hour of being awake has drained all the energy from me and I sleep until Sunday afternoon.

My aunt tells me I’m going to her doctor first thing Monday morning to find out why I’m still crippled.  The dizziness has not got any better at all.  I cant walk for more than fifty metres without feeling dangerously exhausted.  I’m afraid to go very far, since I’m sure I will collapse again and wake up back in hospital.  This has been one of the most confusing and terrifying experiences of my life.  I finally send some messages to my friends telling them I’m in a bad way and ask them if they can tell me anything that might explain it.  The last friend who was with me that night left the bar at some point before me.  He tells me I wasn’t very drunk at all, still telling stories and having fun, nothing unusual at all.  I have no way of knowing how long I was there, but I do remember talking to some strangers for a while….but I’m sure I was alone when I was looking for the taxi….but now I think there were two people in the back of the taxi…I’m not sure, it’s not clear.  Nothing is clear.

The doctor examines me briefly and sends me to get a CAT scan.  I’m not really sure what’s going on, it’s all too complex.  I just get in a taxi and end up at a building with the machine in it.  When I sit up after the scan is done the operator looks at me with incredible concern and tells me to move slowly and take all the time I need.  I sit in the building with the machine, I think I’m waiting for the pictures….but I’m not sure.  I’m so tired.  I walk out and go back to my aunt’s house and fall asleep for a few more hours.  I have a message from the doctor on my mobile telling me to come back to her office as soon as I can.  I manage to return and she asks if I want to lie down.  I do so.
“You have bruises the size of matchheads on the surface of your brain.  A number of them.  You hit your head very hard right here.”
She indicates the bruised spot.
“What does that mean?  How long will I feel like this?”
“There’s no hard answers.  You might be like this for a few weeks, months or possibly permanently.  We wont know until we see how you go over the next few weeks.”
It’s probably the worst news I’ve ever heard.
“Why did the hospital kick me out when I have a brain injury?”
“I don’t know.  I think they just thought you were drunk.”
“Did they say anything about how I go there?  I’m still not sure.”
“Only that you arrived in the ambulance and they kept you overnight for observation.”
“Well they didn’t fucking observe very much.”
The burst of anger leaves me drained again and I melt onto the bed and pass out.

I wake up half an hour later to find her talking with my aunt and writing a medical certificate for my work.  I will be spending the next few weeks at home largely asleep.  My anger at the hospital surges for the first week, but I don’t want to make their life any harder.  I’ve worked as IT support in a hospital and I’m sure they had good reasons to let me go at the time.  I’m really angry at myself for landing in this situation.  I spend a lot of time forming theories on what happened, a spiked drink, people following me home to rob me, jumping out of the taxi at some point…all theories, it’s been three years now and I still dont know.  The one thought that drives me through months of slow recovery is that I want to see a Total Eclipse in Turkey.   The thought of missing that is worse than the painful nightmare I’m living in. 

I fly to Istanbul just six weeks after that night.  The first three weeks in Turkey are still recovery time, it takes more than four months to find any kind of normality again after the dizziness stops.  I’m mostly very grateful for my amazing family for looking after me again.  I knew I would be fine once they knew I wasn’t.


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