Ten years ago today, July 4th 2009, I learned to fear answering the telephone. Four words changed the lives of everyone in our little family and that of many of our friends. My son, over a hundred miles away in Bournemouth, was in hospital… and we were advised to come at once. He had not regained consciousness since he had been brought in and, at that point, they did not seem to understand why. They thought he had suffered a brain haemorrhage.
They were almost right. Nick had been stabbed through the brain in a senseless attack. The puncture wound was so small it had, at first, been missed, but shards of bone were lodged in his brain and the ten inch screwdriver that had been rammed through his temple had compromised the brain stem. He was in a coma and not expected to live.
I have written, in great detail, of that time. I have told of the moment when the call came through, of the terror and despair, of the kindness and hope of those dreadful days… days that became weeks and months of fear and struggle as we all learned to adapt to a redefined future that was not only full of unknowns, but which was likely to shape the rest of our lives.
When Nick finally woke, it was to severe disability. Paralysed, unable to speak at all, his vision compromised and utterly dependent. The prognosis was grim… especially as it was clear that the bright young businessman with a razor sharp mind was still there… trapped in a broken and uncooperative body and a brain that would not allow the mind to express itself as it should.
In those early days, as soon as Nick began to awaken, my one determination was that he should believe in himself and have all the support he needed. We were told that patients who had people there for them did best… so every day for months, we drove the round trip to be at his bedside for every moment we were allowed and drove back to care for the rest of the family.
After the hospitals, he was admitted to rehab to begin the long fight back to a normality yet to be defined. It was six months before he was allowed to come home and two years before he was once more able to move into a place of his own.
At that point, Nick still needed an enormous amount of help and I was there from morning till night every day. In spite of the excitement about creating a beautiful home for himself, there were so many things that could go wrong and did, that it was as scary a time as you can imagine.
But, Nick was always determined to walk again, to regain his life and independence. He worked harder than you would believe possible, right from the start, with a ferocious will to succeed, even while he knew that, realistically, the likelihood of achieving his goal was minimal. Neither optimism nor hope need be blind.
That was ten years ago exactly. Independence day… and my son’s re-birthday, as he calls it. It is a long time… but in many ways, seems no time at all. When you are living with the consequences of such an event, you cannot simply ‘put it behind you’… it colours your every day, even in small ways that pass almost unnoticed. It was only today that it dawned on me, for instance, why I have an almost pathological fear of answering an unknown number on a telephone…
Time, though, changes many things. Ten years on, Nick still cannot walk unaided and he faces many daily challenges, any of which could stop him in his tracks. There was a gradual acceptance of new limitations, but accepting that they exist does not mean accepting them as unbreachable barriers. It just means finding new ways of achieving the impossible.
So far, his motto seems to be holding true.
Possum ergo facit. I can therefore I do.
And he does.