It is Saturday morning. Kevin is at work. I am sitting at the computer in the living room, having a break. The house is a mess; I’ve got housework to catch up. I’ve had a busy week at work and I am on ‘holiday’ as I am going in hospital for surgery on Monday. The phone rings. There’s still so much to do and I’m still in my dressing gown.
The voice asks me if I’m me, then says she is sister from Poole ICU and… “We have your son”.
It doesn’t make sense. I look out of the window, but Alex’s bike is parked there. I had heard him come home in the early hours. The woman is talking. There must be some mistake. She keeps asking me if I’m ok. Keeps asking me to keep talking to her. My elder son… Nick… has had a brain haemorrhage. That is ridiculous. My kids are disgustingly healthy. Time seems to go off in all directions. I’m talking to her calmly and dealing with it. Yet I feel like I’m screaming inside. I’m checking where everyone is. It cannot be right. What in hell’s name is Nick doing in Poole? He lives in Bournemouth. I have to get down there as soon as possible. He’s very poorly, they said. I’m trying not to panic. I can feel my heart racing. Bet my blood pressure would be high now. Mouth’s dry.
They’ve sent brain scans to Southampton. He may be moved there before I get there. She’ll phone me and let me know.
He’s not conscious. Hasn’t been conscious.
Very poorly? I’m scared of that.
She lets me go. I’m dialling Kev’s number. He’s driving his lorry. He’s in Wycombe. Too far. I tell him I have to go. Tell him why. He says to come to the yard and pick him up. That’s the wrong way! He is on his way back to the yard.
Oh gods, I have to tell Alex. How can I tell him? Calm.
My mind is planning the route as I run upstairs. Calm.
“Alex!” No calm. Even to me my voice sounds appalling. Hammers are pounding in my head. My mouth feels like sandpaper. He shoots out of bed, wearing just a pair of tatty grey boxers. He is sleepy eyed and white. Somehow, he knows. “It’s Nick”, I tell him. Tell him what I have just been told, trying to soften it, not knowing how. His face contorts and tears start streaming. He’s getting dressed.
Ryan, my step son, is standing white faced on the landing. “I heard”, he says. “Go get Dad. I’ll stay with Alex”.
Fear, white hot, icy, gut wrenching fear. I can’t see to drive. The tears won’t stop. I brush them away. Cars get in my way, I swear and scream at them. I shouldn’t be driving. I put my foot down. It is Saturday morning, the roads are too busy. I don’t care. I scream at the traffic through town. Just get out of the bloody way. The dual carriageway next. Relief. How fast can this car go? Foot to the floor. Lovely country lanes, who gives a shit… keep the foot on the floor, grip the wheel so tight it hurts.
Kevin’s lorry screams into the yard in a cloud of dust. Fuck knows what speed he’s been doing. We are in the car and away in minutes, stopping only to grab Alex on the way. They won’t let me drive. I don’t blame them, but I want to. I need to be able to do something.
I watch the road signs, watch the miles, count them, watch the minutes, the hour, calculate how much longer…
Phone rings. Nick is on his way to Southampton for brain surgery. I’m screaming inside. None of this makes sense! They think he was attacked. They think he has been stabbed. We have to go to Southampton. ICU high dependency at the Wessex. Alex is sobbing in the back.
Roads are clear, then suburban streets. Crowded car park. Signs in bland corridors. Locked doors and buzzers.Intercom. “Wait there, someone will be with you shortly”. I can feel a scream building inside. I want to see my son. I want to see that it’s not so bad, that it sounds worse than it is. That it is a mistake.
They let us in to another corridor. Show us into a little room. The doctor will be here shortly. There are police waiting…
The doctors come. Two of them, Big men. Too big for the little room. Nick has been stabbed. He is in a coma. They explain the coma scale.. Nick is as bad as it gets. He has bits of bone in his brain. They have to clean the wound. He is going to surgery in ten minutes. They don’t think he can survive…..
They let us go. I can finally see my son. I have ten minutes to say goodbye. Ten minutes to give him a lifetime of love. Ten minutes to watch my soul scream and Alex die inside. Ten minutes to lose both my sons.
The ward is clean, bright, silent. No-one here is conscious save the nurses. There is a policeman by a bed. My back aches from trying to stand up.
It isn’t Nick… but it is… the face is bloody and swollen, unrecognisable, tubes everywhere, machines, beeping. I can’t cry. Alex is sobbing, Kevin is holding him up, tears streaming down his face too. I can’t cry. Nick mustn’t see me cry.
He can’t see anyway. My face is wet. They let me hold his hand. I need permission to hold his hand. The policeman is crying too. I will not say goodbye.
It is time.. we haven’t had ten minutes! Surely we haven’t! They usher us out. Alex swears, punching the wall in the corridor. Kevin stops him. Holds his hands. Gives him to me.
We are taken back to that little room and the police to wait.
They have already launched a murder investigation. That tells me everything.
There is no hope.