Last Days in Devon

by Kirsty Hall

An extract from the blog written by Kirsty Hall, Buzz's Assistant Editor for a much too brief period, shortly before her untimely death in the spring of 2015. 

April 11   Escape from Hospital and The Virtue of Teaching People to Think
Some 10 days after leaving hospital my memories of the food, if not the hospital are beginning to fade but the last day is still vivid. On returning home I have a team of three carers, my husband and two sons, Duncan and Martin. When my sons were little and came up with some particularly mad childish wish or fantasy, I used to say to them, “Well just go away and think and when you’ve had time to think properly, tell me why on earth Dad and I should agree with you. In the meantime I don’t want to know. Etc. etc. ad nauseam.” In many situations this was abbreviated to “Just think!!” At the same time those of you who know Chris well will understand that as well as a heart of gold he is blessed with quite eye-watering tactlessness on occasion. This plus a very thick skin is invaluable in a hospital.

If you want to get out of a hospital, I can recommend team Hall. They swung smoothly into action with various members of the team saying things like, “Well, that’s the third lie you’ve told me today – I suppose now you are going to tell me another?” And, “The ambulance to take Kirsty home cannot both be coming sometime and not be coming, can it?”

Eventually, Duncan commandeered a wheelchair, found a friendly nurse to guide him to the entrance and we left. Even as I tried to get into the wheelchair, a nurse was trying to take my blood pressure, which was no doubt rising at the time … (and no – you couldn’t invent this stuff for the purposes of exaggeration – it really does happen)!

April 14   A trip down memory lane - via radiotherapy
I am now safely ensconced back at home, with fresh food, over-flowing flower vases and a vast array of friends visiting. However, the hospital has not quite finished with me … I have been back four rounds of radiotherapy. To begin with, all was well. I don’t mind lying flat on a table in semi-darkness whilst occasionally the machine clicks and whirrs impersonally. From time to time a figure darts through the gloom, makes a minor adjustment and disappears again. Quite soothing and relaxing …
At the end of the session, however, there was a surprise. The final part of the treatment is to irradiate the back of the femur. To achieve this the machine swung round underneath me and the table I was lying on shot towards the ceiling. Aaargh! When I was six years old, we visited some kids who had a Wendy House at the bottom of their garden. I hate heights and flatly refused to climb up the ladder (all of 3 steps). So 6 inches from a ceiling – unthinkable!

When it was it was all over, they asked me how I was. “Jelly”, I said. They looked puzzled. I had to be helped to stand up and then sit in a wheelchair, shaking. The following sessions were nearly as bad. A radiographer said, “You’re not going to fall off”. “I know that’s true”, I lied.

April 20   A slightly scary experience
Today I’m feeling much better but for a couple of days last week I just felt manky; i.e. slightly sick and permanently tired. I was in a strange half-state where you are asleep and distantly hear yourself gently snoring. At the same time you hear people moving round your bed. During this period of “sleeping”, you alternately drift in and out of a dream and a semi-conscious state and you “converse” with yourself in your head, between the two states of mind. Occasionally you break out into spoken conversation. You are not aware which state is in your head and which has some connection to the outside world.

I am reminded of Freud’s early theories of the unconscious and Darian Leader’s analogy for these theories of a multi-layered coffee cake – except that currently this theory seems far too simple! Maybe I could use a later theory – god knows there are plenty of them – but the broad-brush approach to beginning to die seems to suit a broad-brush theory!

This sounds harmless enough – except that the dreams can be disturbing and distracting and there is a horrible feeling that “reality” is – well where? Intellectual ideas prove both a comfort and a provocation in these circumstances.