Grey’s Anatomy is not a show I have ever seen before, despite my previous albeit fleeting reference to it. All the same here we were in a hospital in America, living the medical dream. The Lion was still sedated no longer in pain and unaware of the drama unfolding. The hospital room we were allocated was small, a range of wires attached to the lion were tied near his shoulder to monitor his vitals. There was a large wing-backed chair that doubled as my bed, for despite being offered to stay in the Sheraton Suites, I couldn’t leave the Lion alone, without support in a strange country. Our cases, come wardrobes, sat side by side at the end of his bed, a stark reminder of how devastating this episode had been, leaving just enough room for the nurses to edge past and take his blood pressure.
He lay motionless on the bed, breathing of course, but still and for a time, peaceful. They brought him in a tray laden with food three times a day, but his current comatose state prohibited any enjoyment. When no one was looking I devoured it, starving I was not the recipient of any meals during our stay. Although this was in 2003, the mobile phone was not widely used or owned equipment by me or the Lion. I had travelled to America with no phone, only cash and the iPad had not yet been invented. I was keen to speak to someone at home to let them know what we were facing. During one of the monitoring visits I asked the nurse how I might be able to use the phone in the room and learned I had to purchase a credit from the store and use that to make international calls. Never take the convenience of the mobile for granted, its a godsend in these situations.
Realising that I wasn’t exactly overflowing with visitors, the nurse also contacted the hospital chaplain to attend and comfort me. He was a welcome intervention but really there was nothing anyone could do while the Lion was incapacitated. I had been thinking however, and wondered if perhaps we could rent a house here in Atlanta for the two weeks, that might allow the Lion time to recuperate and prevent any flight re-arrangements. BA had been so good they’d think I was at it surely, if I called back and said the same passenger needed to go home now two days after we had arrived.
I made calls to the kids, who, although young, were supportive and helpful. I spoke with my sister-in-law who’s brother, rather conveniently, lives in Nashville. Perhaps there was something they might be able to do she suggested and made some contact. Meanwhile I tried to see whether RCI, which we had points for, could provide us something in Nashville. (Anyone with RCI will have fallen off their seats laughing by now since they never have anything anywhere, still worth a shot). Nothing seemed to be working in our favour, and an alternative to the trip we should have been on just wasn’t forthcoming.
In the darkness of the room at night, I tried to find a comfortable place to rest. The night nurses were at their station nearby and I overheard them talking about the Scottish Man who was in with back pain, ‘he’s so handsome’ one declared. I glanced across to the bed and had to agree he was handsome and peaceful but he was my Lion. In that moment I was overwhelmed, we had so looked forward to this trip and now this you could not have predicted this was how it might end. At 0400hrs that morning, the staff nurse came into the room suggesting they were going to wake him up and, pending a confident circuit of the ward, might discharge him. I did feel slightly elated, but our experience of this kind of episode usually meant there was a slow progress toward improvement and I was nervous that he might not manage it. Nevertheless at the stated witching hour, she woke him up and by 6am, he was sitting up eating his breakfast.
Nothing for me to eat that day, then. He was feeling much better, seemingly relaxed and reasonably pain free, given the drugs they had given him but it was evident that he was struggling to stand up straight. Much of his gait was tentative, protecting his back, twisting and contorting the muscles to conceal his discomfort as he tried to manage the circuit, determined to be released. They appeared pleased and confirmed we could re-join our tour two days after they had departed. It was the easiest solution to be honest, and so the wheels (pardon the pun) were set in motion for us to join the tour as it was about to depart Chattanooga. I collected his prescription and retuned to the ward where it was clear the Lion had shrivelled in size and was nothing more than a hyena in stature now. He looked to have lost weight, his pallor was grey and clammy, all the hallmarks of a junkie. So it was that we opted to re-join the tour by taking the greyhound bus. It was something I had wanted to try and the $350 taxi journey did not appeal to me so we headed off to the bus station, me trying to manage hand luggage, two wardrobes/cases and my Lion, little did we know what would take place next……………………………………..