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Heather's Story - by Andy Howland


DAY 1 - I never thought that we would fall out of love and I still don’t think we will. Back in May when you first got ill I held your hand not knowing whether or not you were going to make it. I thought ahead to a future without you and I saw an emptiness that still haunts me. Nobody told me how hard the days following this one would be.May 21stWe arranged in the morning to meet Chris and Tracey in the evening. It was a hot day and I had arranged for Chris (Tall) to score some weed for you. Wee Chris was at the house as we had just finished training and Mike was away to his work. Plan was that I was going to go meet an old friend in town for a coffee. when Mike finished work he was going to join me and Chris at The Art Cafe, I would meet Bob and they would go off together and rejoin me later.

So Chris and myself ate jerk chicken in the garden, Louis had gone off to Beckys for the night and you were in the garden gardening. It was sunny and we were looking forward to weed cakes and going out!

All was well as I kissed you, told you I love you and set off to town. Just the same as I always did. I ‘knew’ that when I got back our life would be just as normal as it was when I left. After all bad thigs dont happen to us. Not us the happiest little family around. Two upwardly mobile young people, good careers, a beautiful son and a lovely house. Nothing could happen to us and no-one could touch us. Unstoppable.

We arrived at the cafe at about 1230/ 1300, met Mike on the way. Bob was inside when we arrived and we all had coffee together. Mike and Chris left to go look at records and DJ stuff, I stayed to catch up with Bob. He told me how he stood in the local elections at Ponte as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance. He didnt win, even the BNP beat him!!!! I got my phone out and noticed I had a missed call and a voicemail. I asked Bob to excuse me as I listened to the call…

It was you.BOOM, My heart started to race, I couldn’t hear what you were saying it was confused, you were crying, begging me to come home, something about an ambulance. I felt the blood drain from my face. I told Bob that I had to leave, something was up at home and I had to leave. I felt that I had to get home fast. I ran from the cafe and frantically scanned for Mike and Chris, maybe they could give me a lift home if I was fast. My God I hope you are ok. I ran across the road at the Corn Exchange. Looking for Mike and heading for the bus stop. Hope you are ok, whats happened? Saw a taxi and waved it down. He stopped, I got in. I noticed that my hands were shaking, I put this down to having just run, but I knew that I was scared. You sounded terrified on the phone. I listened to the message again, wishing the taxi would hurry up, so much traffic in town. Time had slowed to that awful creep. After what seemed like an hour, I got out of the taxi, gave him a tenner and told him to keep the change.

I ran into the house shouting “Bear, Bear where are you? Are you ok?” You called me into the room and I saw you, BOOM, I knew something was seriously wrong. You were white and it was a colour that I hadnt seen on anyone before. Your eyes were odd and you seemed quiet and confused.

You told me that you had collapsed twice and rang an ambulance but they would’t come. I asked you to slow down and tell me what happened.

You were in the garden, near the big tree (I moved your gardening stuff about 2 weeks later when I found it, it broke my heart) when you got a massive pain in your head. The pain became mixed with pressure and it creeped from your head down your neck, it was so severe that it paralysed you and made you sink to the floor. You told me that you were fighting to stay concious as you lay in the garden at the foot of the sycamore, you couldnt move and you could see the grass close up. The pain had gone. You didnt know how long you were there for, but the paralysed feeling passed. You started to crawl to the house and you said you couldn’t lift your head up, it was like it was too heavy. You got into the kitchen after an eternity and pulled yourself up onto your feet.

You then got a drink and stood there for a minute. You said you were shaking and felt sick. Then BOOM the pain/pressure came back. This time with a vengance. It overcame you quickly and passed out as you hit the floor. Time passed, you had no idea how much when you woke. You crawled into the room and sat next to the phone and rang and ambulance. They said that you had fainted and it wasnt an ambulance matter. You then rang the emergency Doctors and they said they would send transport as soon as it came available. Then you rang me and left a message.

I asked you how long the transport would be, it didnt matter because I had already decided to take you myself. I got the keys, started the car and half carried, half walked you to the car. You looked ill and I was scared.

I drove carefully down to the health clinic in Meanwood/ Sheepscar. It was packed, always is. I walked you in and we informed reception that you were here and that I thought that you were seriously ill. They asked to sit down and they would speak to a Dr. Seline Derrick was there with her son and I spoke briefly to her. We then went to find a seat. The only chair was one next to Carl Herbert who was there with his daughter. We sat down and told him why we were there.

Thats when your head started to hurt again and you said you were going to be sick. I took you to the toilet and you were really shaky and afraid. I was trying to be tough and manly saying everything was going to be ok. you had a drink and I couldnt take my eyes off you. I was so scared, I can’t imagine how you were feeling.

We went back out and they called us in. We went to see the Doctor, I can’t remember his name but we owe him everything. He examined you and you told him everything. When you described what happened to you his attitude changed. It was during your description of the pain/pressure that I saw his face change BOOM. He tried to look calm, but he didnt. He told us “I am sure everything is ok, but I would like you to take Heather to casualty, immediatley. I am not sure what is wrong but I want her to go now”. Its a good job he told us to go.

I had to decide which Hospital to go to and I chose Jimmys. I walked you to the car again and as I did I had some horrible thoughts about what was wrong. All your migraines, all the drugs, all the stress, the smoking and the way you dashed about, it was running through my head at high speed. It was distracting me and making me panicky. I didn’t show you how I was feeling and fortunatley you were feeling too ill to notice. We drove to Jimmys and parked near the crossing and the pub. We walked across to casualty but don’t I really remember that bit.

We registered at the triage desk and handed them the Doctors letter. They asked us to take a seat and somebody would call us soon. BOOM You started to feel sick. I asked for something to be sick in. BOOM You started to feel dizzy and said the pressure was coming back. I was getting agitated and saying that you felt you were going to pass out. Told them you needed to lay down. You started to cry and hold your head. Over and over again you were saying “My head, my head, it hurts, Oh God, MY HEAD, HELP, somebody help me”. Clutching your head and rocking. I was scared, so scared. I was shouting at them to get a Doctor.

They led us to a cubicle, out of the way of the other patients. You were still crying. You said is was going off again. It was easing. We got you lying down and a nurse came in. Started to check your blood pressure. I was talking to you and trying to keep you calm. Telling you that “Everything is going to be ok, its just ……” Just what, who was I trying to kid. I knew something was wrong, something serious. I kept on speaking to you and the nurse left saying ” Your blood pressure is high but you seem ok”. BOOM. It started again. This time it was different. Your eyes rolled back, I was shouting for a Doctor or a Nurse, we were alone in a room and you were screaming. Clutching your skull and screaming. Your body was rigid and your legs and feet were drumming on the bed.BOOM BOOM.

Inside your head, nobody new it yet, an artery had burst and blood was pouring into your brain. You were having a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage. You were fitting and you had wet yourself. I finally knew what terrified meant. Nurses and Doctors flooded the room. They put you on your side and held you still. I stood and watched , I was helpless. They let me hold your hand. I held it and stroked your hair. I told you over and over “I Love You, I Love You, everythings going to be ok, I Love you” My baby, my baby. I love you. The left hand side of your body was funny and the right hand side of your face was slack. Oh God I was so alone at that point. You came back round and sort of woke up. This is hard to write. Its hard to go back and remember what was happening. I am crying as I write this.

One of the Doctors told me they were going to take you for a CT scan to check what was going on. With that they gave you some medication. I held your hand and walked round to the scan place with you. You were still almost conscious and we were talking. I was explaining to you where they were taking you. You understood. I had to wait in a room on my own whilst they scanned your head. The TV was on, it was a rugby game. I rang my Mum and asked her to come. I wanted my Mummy. Mum said she would come straight over. As I sat in that room, our life together went through my head. Where we met, how I fell in love with you, the flat, the house, good times and bad, when you told me you were pregnant, the day Louis was born, when you took me to see the house in Chapel Allerton and how excited you were, when we moved in, how you helped me get my job, everything. Little things like how you dried your hair in the mornings, sitting on the end of the bed, the way you pucker your lips up to light a fag!. I realised how much my life was yours. I was angry, why you, what was wrong? I threw a remote control across the room and it broke. Finally after a 20 minute lifetime they came back out with you still on the trolley. I walked with you and again held your hand. I was very conscious that this may be it. The last time I held your hand.

They took us back into the room we were in. They hooked you up to monitors and machines and we talked. I cant remember what we said but I was reassuring you. You seemed calm and not quite there. BOOM.

A doctor came in with the images of your brain. He asked me to come over and he put them on a screen. He started to talk and he pointed to some “white spots” that shouldn’t be there. I didnt really know what I was looking at, but I nodded. BOOM He said “I am really sorry Mr Howland. Your wife has had a very serious bleed on her brain. The bleed is very serious and these white spots are blood that has leaked onto her brain” I asked him “How serious?” he said “There is a very good chance that she will die”……………………. I felt everything slip. My grasp on my life, the whole world slipped. My heart exploded in my chest, I couldn’t breath and I felt sick. I looked at you across the room. I felt sick. I couldnt lose you. It wasn’t supposed to happen. I asked him if I should tell you. He said “Thats up to you”. In the time that it took me to walk across the room. I decided to tell you that you had a bleed on your brain, but nothing more. IF you were going to die I didnt want to scare you.

I sat down. My soul was screaming and my heart was bleeding. I tryed to stay calm and I think I managed to do it. I held your hand and kissed you. You asked what he had said. I looked you in the eye and I lied to you. I said “You have had a bleed on your brain, but its going to be ok”. We sat together and held hands. It hurt to look at you. You looked ill. I had your clothes in a plastic bag. I thought that you were dying. BOOM BOOM BOOM

It was time for the second bleed.

The pain came back. I thought this is it and I started to cry I was holding your hand. I love you, I love round and round my head, like a mantra that could stop this from happening. It didnt work, no matter how much I loved you, it was still happening. You started to fit again. It was worse this time. I was holding your hand. Doctors everywhere. Your body went completely rigid, you were making horrible noises “nnnnnnngh nnnnnnngh nnnnnngh”. I saw you going and I held you. I was a coward. I wanted say I love you and always will, what came out was ” Oh God Heath, I am so scared”. You lost consciousness then. You didnt wake up again for four days.The last thing you heard me say was “I am scared”. I should have been comforting you. More Doctors came. They were putting tubes down your throat. Needles in your arm. I was still holding you and crying. I couldn’t stand it. IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING. It was a normal day. It was sunny. I didnt want the last words to be ” I am scared”, turn back the clock, I have so much more to say. GOD PLEASE. It was all happening fast again. “We are taking Heather for another scan, “Her condition is critical”, “Notify ICU at LGI”. I asked what I should do. BOOM They said “Notify her family and get them down here ASAP”. My Mum arrived as they took you for the second scan.

We went to the same room where I broke the remote. I told my Mum all that had happened. She said she was so sorry. I cried. I was losing you, how could I stop it? I promised to always be there for you but I was useless to you when you needed me most. I am sorry. They came out from the scan with you and I held you again. I couldnt stop kissing you. We went back to the room. The Doctor came in and told me you had had a second bleed. I already knew. He told me it was one of the most serious bleeds he had personally ever seen. He told me that you probably wouldnt make it. Those words destroyed me. Didnt he understand that it was not possible. It wasnt time for you to die, me and you were supposed to be going out tonight. We were going to grow old together. I couldnt think at this point and I was just functioning. I felt numb and empty.

Your Mum and Dad arrived. I told them everything. It must have been hard for them. You are their daughter and here I was telling them that you probably not going to be coming home from this.

The Doctor came out and said they had a bed for you at the Neuro Intensive Care Unit (Ward 6) at the LGI. They said it would be the best place for you as it is one of the best Neuro Units in the country. They said we were very fortunate to have it on our doorstep. I asked if I could go in the ambulance but they said no. I asked your Mum if she would drive our car back to the house and she said she would. They got you ready for the ambulance. I kissed you and held you then I left with my Mum.

We walked out of the hospital and it was raining. The sky was grey and it was raining. I was crying. Nobody could see that because of the rain. We got in the car. Everything was a blur after that.

I had to ring my Mum to find out the next bits as I have no memory of the rest of the day at all. None.

We drove up to the house so that Mum could drive the car. We then got a taxi to LGI. As we got in the lift the Nurse, who had accompanied you from Jimmys to the LGI, was just leaving. She said that you were just being settled in. We then went to the ward.Day 2May 22nd 2005LOUIS

It was early in the morning and I am not sure if I slept or not. I remember, last night, my Mum asking if I had any sleeping tablets. I had some and gave one to Mum. I didn’t have one myself, if I had had one then, last night, I think I would still be taking them now. I realised I was in bed, it was early. I never noticed how big our bed was. I was in it alone and all too aware of where you were. The bed swallowed me up, it was huge and empty without you. I thought of Louis, what was I going to say to him? He was at Becky’s, went yesterday morning before all this. I lay there and tried to imagine what you would want me to say. My heart ached, I was tired, and I felt old. I asked Becky not to tell him. I rang Ward 6 and asked how you were and they told me there was no change. I was functioning but not awake. I got up and got in the shower. All my actions were automatic. It was like I wasn’t really there; I was a fly on the wall watching a stranger taking a shower. No connection with myself. Torn up, hurting and numb all at the same time.

My thoughts were with you, every second, every long lonely second. You were lying in a Ward with 5 or 6 other people. You had tubes everywhere. I was thinking of you and saying your name. I was loosing you and it hurt.

Mum got up and asked what I wanted to do. She looked like she hadn’t slept that well, despite the lorazapam that I had given her last night. I said we should go down and see you. I came down stairs and washed up. Strange thing to do, it filled some time whilst I waited for mum. I had told a few people by now. Friends like Jimi, Dave, Vince, Mike, told family, Christian, my Dad; it was weird hearing their reactions, because I couldn’t connect with them. They were ghosts to me. All that was real was you.

I rang work and spoke to Andy Magner. He thought I was joking. I had to tell him it was true. I asked him not to tell everyone and asked him to say I didn’t want contact with people. It was hard talking to people that I loved and cared for, never mind the people I worked with. I didn’t want a lot of fuss. I needed some time. I didn’t want sympathy or chin up messages, I wanted to feel everything that was happening, and I needed to feel all of it. Even the despair and the loneliness. I wanted to hurt.

I heard your phone bleeping in the night and I got up and found it. The battery was low, I panicked. I knew that if your phone went off you would die. My pulse was racing, I quickly found your charger and plugged in your phone. Ahhhh panic over, but better keep my eye on your phone. Perfectly rational in the early hours, perfectly rational when I woke up. Keep the phone on and you would live. How simple is that. I clung to that idea for weeks. Maybe I should have looked for a God to speak to; instead I looked to Motorola for your salvation.

We got in the car and set off to town. On the way down I called in at Tony’s house. He wasn’t there so I left a message with his mate Dave. You gave Dave that Kadinsky print that we had, he was dead happy with it. Dave was really good he gave me a hug and told me if I needed anything then I should ask.

We drove down to the LGI. It was to become your home and my chosen place to be for a long, long time. I got to know the hospital quite well. All the routines etc. There is a special car park for ICU visitors. We parked there and made our way in. In through the Jubilee wing, in to the lifts, up to floor C and along to Neuro Intensive Care. My heart was heavy as I made that journey and I dreaded going in. What if…..What if? I was desperate to see you. We got there and pressed the intercom. “Hello how can I help you?” “We are here to see Heather Howland” “Ok come in and wait in one of the waiting rooms”. We went in and Mum got a coffee from the machine. After a while a Nurse came in, I think she was called Hazel, she said she had been looking after you overnight and that you had not got any worse. You hadn’t got any worse, I tried to make those words into ‘Heather is so much better today’ but I couldn’t. It was just that ‘You hadn’t got any worse’.

I went in to see and burst into tears, first of the day. I held you and spoke to. Didn’t know if you could hear or not but I spoke to you. I kissed you. I told you I loved you. I told you that if the worse came to the worse I would bring Louis up how you would have wanted. Oh god Louis, what was I going to say to him? I kept saying “Come on Bear, wake up, it’s going to be fine”. You didn’t even move. I spoke to you non-stop for an eternity. I told you about all the good times we had had. I cried whilst I did this, I thought the good times were over.

A nurse came and said they had to do their observations. I had to move but asked if I could watch they said it was ok. This was horrible to watch and it never got easier to. First of all she called your name. “Heather, Heather can you hear me Heather” “Do you know where you are Heather?” “Ok love I am just going to have to cause you a little pain Heather” and with that they would get a pen/pencil and put the hard edge on the inside of one of your fingers. Then they would squeeze it really hard, hard enough to leave bruises and indentations on your fingers. It looked extremely painful. You just laid there, no movements, no sound, nothing. For me it hurt to see them hurting you. Hadn’t you been through enough? When they got no response they used to press the bone at the top of your eye socket and push your head hard, down onto your pillow. When I had a moment I tried both of these. I may have been feeling numb, but not that numb. Excruciating. It showed me the depth of your illness.

A Doctor came on to the ward. His name was Mr Jake Timothy. A specialist in his field and one of the best Neurosurgeons in the country. He was Asian, I thought by the looks of him and he told me he was the consultant that was going to be working on your case. He took me to a light screen and began to show me more scan pictures that had been done. He showed me the first, second and third ones in order. He pointed out the blood spots on your brain and the first ones were bad but the second are third ones were worse. He was very honest with me and I told him not to dress it up. I wanted to know if you would live or die. He was true to his word and told me it didn’t look good and this was one of the worse bleeds he had ever seen. You had had 2 Grade 5 haemorrhages. One of them usually kills the person stone dead. He said he didn’t think you would make it and if you survive the damage would probably be that bad that I wouldn’t be able to look after you. He said it all depended on you and the next few days. He said that I shouldn’t look further ahead than the next ten minutes and to keep doing it in ten minute stints. You try it break up the day into minute intervals, how long does it become? He said there was a danger of a rebleed and that they wanted you stable enough to operate to stop the rebleed. All the information was going round and round my head. She’s going to die, she’s, going to die, rebleed, operation, ten minute stints, Louis, Louis, she’s going to die. What about renewing our vows or Louis starting High School?

It started to sink in. You were in a coma. A COMA. You were in a coma and you could die at anytime. I realised then the reality of it. You were in a coma and people in coma’s die. I felt myself again and I was sinking, deeper. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to feel the rest so I pushed it down. I had to stay strong; I had to look after our son. Would I make a good mother as well as a father? I was like a child having a tantrum inside, I DONT WANT TO BE HIS MUM! I DIDNT ASK FOR THIS! I DONT WANT IT ANYMORE!!!!!. I wish some one could have taken away my responsibilities. I wanted to sink into oblivion. I knew I could, it wasn’t far away, I could have just let go and sank. Nobody could have touched me down there. I could have hidden in my grief. I needed you so badly.

But what about Louis?

People came and went all day. Not sure who, or when. I sat with you all day. Swapping seats with your Mum and Dad. Your Dad was very sad. I didn’t think he would be, he was though. The seat next to your bed never got cold, my love. I was never far from your side.

Mum asked me again what to do with Louis. I had to decide. You were very close to dying. I made a decision. I asked if Becky would bring him over. I asked them to tell him you were in hospital but not to tell him how serious it was. Again it was a blur until Becky came into the ward and said Louis was in the waiting room.

I didn’t want to do this. More than anything, I did not want this job. I was walking out of the ward knowing that what I had to say was going to break our son’s heart. I did not want to be there. It was hard coping with my own emotions. I was trying to get the words right in my head, rehearsing it.

He looked bewildered, all his family was there. Where was his mum? Nobody had really told him anything. Your Mum and Dad was there, my mum, Becky and James. I walked and asked Louis to come and sit with me in a quieter room. I don’t want to do this. We go into a room, alone. I sat on a brown leather chair and Louis sat on my knee. I held him for a bit, just sat and held him. I didn’t cry yet. I asked him what he knew and he told me “just that mum was in hospital”.

I took a deep breath and tried to stay calm. With everybody else it was easy to control my emotions, this was different, this was our boy.

I told him that you had had a bleed on your brain. I told him it was very serious. He started to cry and I held him. He asked me if you were going to die. In my head I was rolling a dice, when it stopped it landed on TELL THE TRUTH. I told him that she might die. Tears were rolling down his face and mixing with mine. I told him that when he went in he had to say all things he wanted to say to her. Tell her because we may not get another chance. I carried him in. I hadn’t carried our boy properly like this for a long time. He didn’t seem like a big boy now. He seemed very young and vulnerable. I realised the importance of what we were about to do and it made my chest and throat ache. We got to your bed and Louis asked if he could kiss you, he couldn’t reach so I lifted him up and over all the wires and tubes and bleeping machinery. I held him over you while he cried and kissed you his tears landed on your face but you didn’t notice. I did and it crushed me. He sat on my knee then and held your hand. He said he loved you and he wanted you to come home. He wanted his Mummy to wake up and hug him back. I would have given anything for that, my life, anything. I love you.

It started to get late and it was time for Louis to go. I got an idea. I asked a nurse for some scissors and she got me some. Louis and I then went to the head of your bed. We each cut a lock of your hair and one of the nurses got us some ribbon and we tied them up. I told Louis to carry it with him. He was sobbing as he cut your hair.

I have a lot of work to do writing the rest of this!!

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