In Dreams Ch. 02byDenham_Forrest©
Regaining my composure I walked back to Ottilie's room.
"See Ottilie he's here, Taylor only went to the loo." Sylvia was saying to the comatose Ottilie as I entered the room. "Ottilie, Ottilie," she repeated, "Taylor's here now. Ottilie..."
"It's no good, she's gone again by the look of it." Sylvia said with tears running down her face.
The nurses and doctors fussed around Ottilie for a few minutes but very soon most of them left except a staff nurse who took Ottilie's pulse and temperature and then made copious notes on her file. Eventually she said, "I'm sorry. But it is a good sign." and then she left the five of us alone.
Apparently the three girls were chatting after I'd gone off to the toilet and Ottilie had suddenly asked them where I'd gone. For an instant all three had been so shocked that they hadn't even replied to her. Then Joan had realised that something significant had just happened and thought she had to do something, pushed the big red button that had a sign saying "Do not touch!" fixed above it.
Regretfully "Where has Taylor gone?" Were the only four words Ottilie uttered that day.
But then the following evening I definitely heard her say "Hello Sylvia." Ottilie's voice was weak, hardly more than a whisper and somewhat croaky as one might expect if you haven't used you larynx for a while. Actu-ally she'd sounded very similar to how she sounded when she talked or mumbled in her sleep, but a lot... I don't know... more distinct I suppose you might call it. There was no mistaking that she had to be awake.
And the day after that, Ottilie asked where I was again. But of course I wasn't there to witness it that time either.
That night Tara positively refused to go home to her grandfather's house and insisted that she stay at the hospital with me. I still wasn't experienced enough as a father to argue the point without the possibility of that confrontation deteriorating into a shouting match. We were in the wrong place and the time wasn't right for me to risk that happening. Besides she didn't have to go to school the next day because of the holidays.
I was sat in the armchair, supposedly supplied for the patients use only; but experience had proved it to be the best one for dozing in. For a long time Tara had sat by her mother's bed in the darkened room. Leaning forward. her arms resting on the bed as she chatted away to the unconscious form before her. I'm afraid that I didn't listen to what she was actually saying to her mother.
Probably I did doze or fall asleep for a while, it had been an eventful few days. So at what time Tara plonked herself on my lap I'm not sure; but she was soon fast asleep her arms draped around my neck, her head resting on my shoulder.
I assume that I fell asleep shortly after Tara had.
"Are you awake, Taylor?" Ottilie's croaky voice roused me from my slumber.
Opening my eyes I could only just make out that Ottilie's head was no longer pointing straight up as if looking at the ceiling. It had to be turned towards me, for I could just make out her eyes gazing back into mine.
"Yes Ottilie I'm awake." I replied quietly, for some inexplicable reason not wanting to disturb Tara.
"Thank you for coming Taylor. Our daughter's beautiful, isn't she?"
"Like her mother!" I replied.
"You always were so sweet. I'm sorry Taylor, I made such a mess of things, didn't I?"
"Now don't be hard on yourself Ottie. If anyone's' to blame its..."
I stopped speaking as I realised that Ottilie was no longer looking back at me. I could clearly make out the outline of her profile; her head was looking up towards the ceiling again. Suddenly I wasn't at all sure her head had moved at all.
"Did I just dream that?" I was forced to ask myself.
The next thing I was aware of was Tara fidgeting on my lap as she woke. It was light by then and patently obvious that the nurses had been tippy-toeing around us while they administered Ottilie her morning ablu-tions and breakfast.
Actually Ottilie was fed a milky looking substance by a machine connected directly into her stomach; through her abdomen somewhere, I think. Breakfast, lunch a dinner, it was always the same milky white substance. Ottilie's bodily waste products drained into regularly emptied receptacle tucked away under her bed. I only tell you this in case you were wondering why she didn't have all kinds of tubes and things coming out of her nose and mouth, like folks tend to have in films and on TV.
At first glance, all anyone would ever notice were a few wires connected to a machine that kept an eye on Ottilie's heart rate and breathing. It had a little oscilloscope screen, on which you could watch her heartbeats and it could go beep, beep, beep! But for the majority of the time, the sound -- in her room -- was switched off. Only making a noise -- automatically -- should her heart rate vary beyond the norm (for Ottilie's condition that is). I was told that the sound coming back on, set off an alarm at the nurses' station as well. But I never witnessed the equipment work in anger, although some of the others did.
Anyway we'd no sooner awoke, than the Staff Nurse looked at me and tapped her watch. This was my re-minder that Frank Thorn was due to arrive (or he had arrived and was in-hiding somewhere). I have no idea how much the nurses knew of the situation; probably all of it, if they'd overheard Ottilie's visitors talking to her. Yeah, nothing was taboo, we'd been told by Ottilie's specialists.
But I believe that some of the doctors didn't know the full story, because more than one of them referred to him as my father-in-law when they mentioned Frank Thorn to me. But even they were aware that Frank and I... avoided each other like the plague. Probably complicating life for the hospital staff some. Well they were (at his request) forever having to repeat things to me, that they'd already explained to Frank Thorn.
Not being sure that my short conversation with Ottilie hadn't been a dream, I didn't mention it to Tara as we went to a nearby cafe to find some breakfast ourselves.
My daughter was due to be taken Christmas shopping by Sylvia and Joan (and their children) that morning, so I then drove her to Frank's place where she washed and changed; I waited in my car, before dropping her at Sylvia's house.
Sylvia and her husband, had become my mentors where Tara was concerned. It was Sylvia who advised me on Christmas presents for my daughter, and Ottilie. Frank I'd try to ignore but Sylvia's husband had pur-chased a bottle of Scotch for the old sod, without my knowledge. Or financial input I might add.
Christmas Eve was a complete mad-house at the hospital, well in Ottilie's room at least. It appeared that everyone on her visitor rota had bought her presents. Now ask yourself what do you buy a comatose woman who you haven't spoken to when she had been unconscious for getting on for sixteen years? Well it seems that between them they'd worked that one out... clothes! They were all convinced that very soon Ottilie was going to be needing a new wardrobe. Anyway I kind-a figured that Tara was going to have a busy Christmas morning opening all of her mother's presents or at least... Oh shit I can't recall now what I thought was going to happen that day; I wasn't intending to be there anyway!
We had this very diplomatically worked out plan in place. While some of the rota girls sat with Ottilie Christ-mas Eve, I was eating that night with Joan and her family. Tara went to out to dinner with Frank, who then took her back at the hospital to sit by her mother until 10 PM, when I was due to takeover. Tara would see me when she came down in the lift...
Oh yeah well, Frank and I worked to an unwritten rule, lift up, stairs down! Tara or one of the other girls rid-ing down in the lift would indicate that the other one of us could go up in it, because the other had started down the stairs; simple, if difficult to explain! I'm not quite sure who worked the system out, but it worked.
Anyway that night it was planned that Tara would ride back up with me so she could say hello, then she would take the same lift back down again and go home with Frank. I was to be alone with Ottilie all night; but things didn't work out that way.
Any hospital on Christmas Eve is a strange place. All the patients who could be, were allowed home to be with their families, even for just a day or so, are. So a good half of the beds are empty. Most of the nurses, doctors and ancillary staff on duty are volunteers. Although the Accident and Emergency had to be kept fully functioning; just about every other department runs on a skeleton staff.
Consequently any loose bodies around, can find themselves roped in if things get a little hectic. I'd had plenty of time to kill -- while Frank had been in Ottilie's room -- over the previous few months so in a way, I'd become a sort of occasional volunteer porter. Providing that those portering tasks did not require me to enter Ottilie's ward.
I'll add that my reputation from my younger days, had led to me being asked to assist hospital security on occasions. And members of the local constabulary when circumstance had required their presence; usually evicting drunks from the A and E department. My job had basically been to (unofficially) persuade the bug-gers not to return; but no-one ever (officially) knew who I was. Security and the police are required to handle brainless idiots with kid-gloves, if you get my drift?
Okay, so I'd took a couple of hits over the months, but nothing serious!
Where was I? Oh yeah!
Anyway I hadn't been beside Ottilie's bed for long when my presence was requested down in A and E. The lone security guard had an inebriated patient's two even more inebriated friends to cope with. They weren't being violent; they were just trying to spread a little Christmas cheer. However they couldn't understand that they were in the wrong place to give a very loud -- and out of tune -- rendition of "God rest you merry gen-tlemen!"
The police were somewhat busy that evening, so their arrival on the scene was delayed some. Eventually our entertainers were bundled into a police van and transported to, I don't know where. Either their home or a police cell for the night; I suppose that depended on how full of the Christmas spirit those two officers felt.
It was gone midnight when the security guy and I sat down for a well-earned mug of tea made by one of the A and E nurses. However mine didn't get drunk because another nurse dashed in and told me I should get back to Ottilie's room, a bit lively.
As I dashed up the stairs -- quicker than waiting for the lift -- The Staff Nurse -- obviously waiting for me at the top -- told me "Not to run!"
"You'll be no good to anyone with a broken ankle Taylor!" She scolded.
"What's happened?" I panted back at her.
"She woke up and asked for you about an hour ago. She scared the life out Nurse Watson, she went in Ot-tilie's room to change her waste container and Ottilie suddenly asked her where you had gone. Nurse Wat-son hadn't even noticed that Ottilie's eyes were open."
"Are they open now; is she properly awake?"
"I'm sorry, but she drifted back into coma again before I got there. But she did wake and ask for you again about fifteen minutes ago; but then she went again. But Taylor, the doctor's here and he's been looking at the records of her brain activity this evening. He believes that she's coming out of it! He thinks that she is in the process of waking up properly."
At first sight I could see no sign that anything had had changed in Ottilie's room. Of course there was doctor and nurse Watson in there, The doctor was examining Ottilie, -- repeatedly shining a little torch into her eyes and then moving it away again -- when I entered the room.
"Hmm" and "That's good." He kept mumbling as he did so.
Then after gazing at a long strip of paper -- I believe a printout form that monitoring machine -- he turned and addressed me.
"Well I can't be sure Mr er..."
"Carson!" the nurse prompted him
"Mr Carson; it's not really my field. But I do believe that Ottilie is in the process of joining us again. I've spo-ken to her consultant and he'll be here first thing in the morning. He'll be able to assess the situation far bet-ter than I can. I'm sorry but I have to go now, I'm needed elsewhere according to my little friend here." He said, waving what looked like a pager at me.
"Thank you, doctor." I found myself saying as he swiftly left the room.
"Taylor's here now Ottilie, are you going to say hello to him?" Nurse Watson said confidently. Actually as if she was expecting Ottilie to reply.
"Okay, he's a patient one. I'm sure he'll be here sitting by your bed when you want him. But just in case he has to leave for a minute or two, I'll give you this."
Nurse Watson took the patient call button of its hook on the wall and pressed it into Ottilie's right hand.
"Now all you need to do Ottilie, is press this button and I'll be here and so will Taylor! Just press it, like this!" She repeated pushing Ottilie's thumb onto the call button."
"Can she hear you?" I asked.
"I have no idea Taylor, but we have to hope that she can. There's no mistake about it though Ottilie has woken and spoken to me twice this evening; she even moved her head."
"She did the other night as well, but I thought I'd dreamed it." I informed her and that got me chastised for not reporting the incident.
Nurse Watson left us then and I took one of the uncom... less comfortable chairs and placed it as close to Ottilie's bed as I could. Sitting on the chair, I lent forward and took hold of her left hand, then I talked my heart out for god knows how long. Telling her that I was there and... Oh bugger. I really can't recall what gibberish I told her.
Eventually though, the excitement of the evenings events having worn off I must have fallen asleep.
For I was suddenly aware that the ward lights were up and that I could hear Nurse Watson explaining to her relief about Ottilie speaking to her during the night.
I kind a gathered that they figured... well, nurses are usually pretty quiet as they go about their duties, but lets say they had developed a method of informing me that it was time to get out of the way and let them get with Ottilie's morning ablutions.
I said "Good morning!" to the angels of mercy and wished them "Happy Christmas!"
Then nurse Watson suggest that I should take an extra half hour over my morning coffee because the physiotherapy girls were coming early to pull and push Ottilie around. They usually spent some time every-day keeping her limbs exercised and massaging Ottilie's face muscles. All visitors were encouraged to leave the room while they did so; although Tara was in the habit of helping them. I suppose that -- had I actually been Ottilie's husband, I'd have been roped in as well.
Whatever at that moment a third nurse wished us all happy Christmas and apologised for being late as she entered the room. That was obviously nurse Watson's signal that she could finally consider herself off-duty. A quick glance from her invited me to join her for a little breakfast down in the hospital staff cafeteria.
Yeah well, I'd had breakfasted in there with some of the nurses numerous times before. Well I told you, I was sort-of considered an unofficial member of the volunteer staff by then.
As was my routine, I lent down to kiss Ottilie on the forehead and say goodbye. But one of the nurses said.
"On her lips, Taylor; it is Christmas, after all!"
Since I'd started visiting Ottilie, only once that I could recall, had I kissed her on the lips. I'd been tempted to many a time, but had to keep reminding myself that I was -- in effect -- kissing a sixteen year old memory. Who Ottilie was going to be when... if she did awake, was anyone's guess, so I'd stuck to respectful kisses on her forehead... and sometimes her cheek.
But as Nurse Clarke had said it was Christmas so I took the liberty of staring at Ottilie's closed eyes was I gently placed my lips upon hers.
I suppose you've guessed it, but the instant my lips touched Ottilie's her eyes flicked wide open and stared back at me.
I have no recollection of how I reacted to Ottilie's eyes suddenly opening as they did, besides probably jump-ing a couple of feet into the air. But in the next instant all three nurses were around the bed all gabbling at Ottilie at the same time. While I stood there in shock, Ottilie was moving her head and... well talking to the girls; admittedly in that croaky voice of hers. And then the staff nurse, followed by the duty Ward Sister came into the room. Eventually the doctor (from the evening before) all seemingly magically appeared. I have to assume that one of the nurses had to have pushed Ottilie's call button.
Organised chaos appeared to reign for a while, but I soon realised that everyone knew exactly what they were about. In fact I was ushered out of the room while the doctor gave Ottilie a full examination. Although I was allowed to say goodbye to her and tell Ottilie that I'd be back shortly.
I was a little confused by Ottilie's reaction when I did so though. She kind-a gave a half smile. More suc-cinctly a rather embarrassed looking smile, as if she had no idea she how she was supposed to react. One has to remember that I'd been warned in advance that all of Ottilie's muscles (including her facial ones) would have atrophied a little, despite the valiant efforts of the physios'. So I really had little idea what to make of Ottilie's smile. Less so the, "Thanks Taylor." She managed to mumble out.
Nurse Watson and I went down to the Staff cafeteria and she had breakfast. I couldn't bring myself to even contemplate eating, and sat there drinking coffee.
As she ate Nurse Watson spelt out what was going to happen with Ottilie during the next few days and pos-sibly weeks. Operations to remove Ottilie's feeding tube and reconnect her... colon. Then lots of physio-therapy and psychological assessments. The doctors still had little idea if Ottilie's brain function had been impaired by her ordeal. It turned out that Nurse Watson had been involved with long term Coma patents previously and knew the ropes well, if you get my drift.
Then our conversation sort of drifted back to Nurse Watson's love life -- a regular topic of ours -- for while. Before Tara came bouncing into the cafeteria complaining that they wouldn't let her it to see her mother yet because Ottilie's consultant was with her.
Nurse Watson assured Tara that he wouldn't stay long (on Christmas day) and that she'd be able to be with her mother for the rest of the day.
He had to be in the hospital somewhere because he'd driven Tara there and I suppose Frank must have been up to the ward, seen Ottilie and her Consultant (before he'd left); but there was no sign of him when Tara and I arrived back at Ottilie's room.
My daughter rushed across the room and virtually launched herself at her mother's bed. How she didn't do Ottilie some kind of bodily injury I really don't know. But after smothering her mother with kisses and excited chatter for god knows how long a she eventually ran out of steam and allowed Ottilie to... well, whisper a few words back to her.
I didn't hear what Ottilie said, but it caused Tara to slip off the bed, sit in one of the chairs beside it and then turn to glance at me, before looking back at her mother.
I'd kind-a progressed very slowly across the room, most likely I'd stopped to watch the tableau of mother and daughter together. I'm not really sure that I knew what I was doing; I fear that I'd lost my nerve and found that I was doubting myself... or maybe I was doubting Ottilie. Whatever I was totally confused about what I should do.
However Tara's glance in my direction had prompted her mother to look at me as well... and confused about how to handle things or not, that was my cue to approach Ottilie's bed.