Tick Tock

The rush as you get dressed, just 90 seconds earlier getting the phone call at just before 6:30am on a Thursday telling you to come up, quickly put your jeans and shoes on, to rush to wake up your oldest brother and tell him it was time. The nerve-wracking ride up the hospital and trying to find a parking space before entering the hospital and eventually the room. The anxious wait as you sit there with your family, waiting for the moment to come. The silence killing you more and more as each passing moment goes, listening to the machines whirling away keeping someone alive despite being in a partial coma. Even the sound of tears and crying from other people in the room is the smallest comfort to you, knowing you don’t have to, at least for a few seconds, listen to the background noise of respirators and breathing equipment.

Tick Tock

The smell of toast and tea filling the room, the breath of smoke too. The former you love, the latter you hate. The sterile smell of hospital, however, is much worse, so you accept both of them at least this once. The rustling of paper as you flick through that day’s copies of the Daily Mirror, the Sun, even the Daily Star and one of the local papers in an effort to distract yourself from what was about to happen at some point. The mindless yonder of going through phones and reading Facebook and Twitter and Instagram for that same reason. The need to distract yourself by any means is strong and you take it, whether it be another dozen baby pictures on Facebook or reading right-wing newspapers, where Indyref was in the not too distant past and Brexit and ‘President Trump’ were still things in the far flung future.

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The need to escape the room for ten or fifteen minutes as you sit with your second oldest brother, who called you earlier to come up, in his jeep and sitting in near absolute silence, the only thing breaking it is the sound of the rain lashing down on the roof and windscreen. The thoughts going through your head as you sit there, thinking what you could have done differently. Could you prove to her you’d be alright if, God forbid, the worst happened? Could you have done more to show her how much you cared? Was she proud of me? Could you have been a better son?

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The influx of people outside immediate family starting to come into the room and – whether in minutes, hours or even days – sit and wait as the inevitable happened. The mood suddenly changing from sombre to a bit more jovial as people reminisce memories and stories, making things a lot more bearable than the silence of earlier in the morning. The smell of smoke is heavier than earlier, however. The worry is there, though, on whether the head nurse will kick people out for there being too many people in the room at once, even if these are people who have a case for being there anyway.

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The smell of mashed spuds, beans, sausages and other food in the hospital canteen as you and your sister-in-law go and gather lunches for most of the immediate family and those who hadn’t eaten at all and have that be a nice distraction, perhaps slightly jovial with a bit of banter. The mood dramatically dropping as you walk back in the room with said food and find the priest just start giving, for the second time in two months, Last Rites. The emotion on display is a lot more evident than this morning, though there’s more people in the room than this morning. The sound of tears and sobbing minutes earlier is filled after by eeery silence. The humming of medical equipment, the nurses and doctors talking and walking up and down the ward, the sound of televisions in other rooms are the only other noises in the background for approximately twenty minutes.

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The weariness, the exhaustion and the lack of energy are all starting to creep in. The waiting room down the hall is your only sanctuary right now to get some sleep. The jacket you wear is your only blanket, nothing else being around you. The best you can manage is one hour or two hours at a time. The Big Mac with just red sauce and chips from McDonalds you asked for dinner is the only sustenance you can manage, barely able to eat the food from earlier in the day, and even then, you can’t even finish that. The waiting room empty again, you try and get more shut eye, during which, a non-immediate family member Snapchats your sleeping carcass (you’re not told of it until after the fact). The sound of being woken up again by a family member asking if you want supper back from the chippy, to wit, you get curry, chicken nuggets and chips which you barely eat not in the waiting room, but in the actual patient room, which you go back up to now fully awake – to your disdain – and find there’s still a packed room of family members on both sides of the family passing around stories and just talking about the family business.

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The sound of silence reverberating around the ward as all the non-immediate family have all gone home for the evening whilst others patients get their sleep while the only people left in the room is a rotating cycle of immediate family while another sleeps down in the waiting room. The best you can manage in regards to sleep again is, at best, half an hour in an uncomfortable mattress on the floor in the room before heading out the room to go to the now-empty nurses desk, sitting next to the entrance of the ward. The only noise which emits during the night being the buzzer to let someone back in if they went out for fresh air. The tedium of reading the previous day’s papers is compounded even more by reading weeks or even months old gossip magazines. The desperation for time to pass if sleep isn’t to happen is strong when all your reading materials from weeks and months ago get you through three or four hours to at least 6 or 7am.

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The relief when you are told you can go home is palpable, albeit bittersweet and majorly guilt-ridden after feeling that brief bit of said relief. The awareness of you knowing you should still be there, but you’re so exhausted, so anxious and so sick of being in the hospital for 24 continuous hours by that point that you’ll take any time you can to get out of there, selfish as it is. The additional half-hour you sit waiting in the room and reading the day’s papers to pass time even further before you finally get to go home. The instruction you lay out before you leave – call if there’s any updates – is said with a lot more authority than anything you’ve ever said to anyone you’ve ever met in your entire life to that point. The kiss you leave on her forehead, not knowing if it’d be the last one she’d ever get from you alive rather than the two additional ones she got before the end came.

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The small relief you have in sitting at home, alone, is telling, the small bit of happiness you get in seeing your dog climb all over you having not seen another human for 24 hours – or at the very least, someone in his family – is knowing and the respite you get from being in that hospital – a building you never ever want to be in again for a sustained period of time – is of a tiny bit of comfort to you.

Because the next four days are going to be hard for you, so take all the time you can get.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

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