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December 6, 2015


(a true story)

Paul Beech


Five in the morning, the Acute Medical Unit.  Electrodes still taped to my skin, a catheter in my right arm.  She must go now, until tomorrow.

Fragments of nightmare – siren, needles, drip.  I close my eyes, the lingering feel of her hand in mine a comfort.


Dawn.  I’m woken by the old boy opposite.  “A-B-I-D,” he calls from his bed.  “D-B-2, I-D-I, I-D-I, fuck off.”


Breakfast.  I make my own bed.  Dress.  Count the ceiling tiles: one hundred and fifty-six.

Through the window, a grassy bank, trees, a patch of sky.  I count the fallen leaves in view: three thousand eight hundred and twenty-two.  Not one bird.  Not one squirrel.

They wheel me off to Radiology.


“I-yiz.  Yitty-yiz.  I-yiz, I-yiz, gerroff.”  Feebly, the old boy tries to punch the carer at his side but she fields his fist with an open palm and whispers, “Behave.”

Sarky comments from the two other men on his side, though they may not realise he has a brain injury.


Such joy as, balletically, she crosses the ward with arms wide and a big smile.

A book – Simon Armitage’s Selected Poems.  The nurses make no fuss as we skip away, hand in hand, for a drink in the café.  The catheter snags my sleeve, ouch, but it’s good to be outdoors, if shivery.


Black night beyond the curtains.  Two hours now since her blown-kiss from the door.  Green/beige décor sickly in the half-light of alternate fluorescents.  The insistent Beep-peep, Beep-peep, Beep-peep of alarms.  The old boy noisy, fear and frustration in his eyes.

Down the passage I call her.  My X-ray was not quite clear…


Six in the morning, dressed already, I read Simon Armitage in my chair.  I’m on a cardiology ward now.  Much quieter.  Another window view – ornamental pond below, a tree shedding purple/orange leaves.

Seven, a wren flies up the tree and my heart leaps.


More Armitage, enjoying it hugely when a porter arrives to take me for a scan.  I refuse to be wheeled as I bet I can outpace him.  And down the myriad passages I do.  Poor lad.


Early evening, chatting with my love.  A consultant comes over and draws the curtain.  That smudge below my left lung is just fat.  I do have a condition, but it will be controllable with medication.

Packing, I remember the poor old boy and the young West Indian – a doctor, I presume – who calmed him in the middle of the night.  I fill out an exit form praising all staff for their kindness and care.

Now here in a taxi we are, homeward-bound, tickety-boo.



Copyright © Paul Beech 2015

  1. Dear Paul, thank goodness it was nothing serious and you can control it with medications. Sounds like you had a jolly old time, not, but a happy ending. You can now enjoy Christmas with your love and celebrate the joy. Love the story. :o)

    Stay Healthy

    • Hi Pat, so glad you like the story. The experience was frightening to say the least – my personal Halloween horror story! The condition diagnosed was actually quite a serious, progressive one, but I’m on medication plus a strict diet and determined to get on with life regardless. Oh yes, Christmas! Such a magical time. With my love at my side, I’ll enjoy it for sure, as I hope you enjoy your Christmas too.

      With very best festive wishes,


  2. Been there. Done that. You’ve captured it well. And I’m so glad all is ticket-boo now. Take care, Paul!

    • Thanks, Cynthia. It was my first time in hospital since early childhood – quite a shock to find I was aprey to some unsuspected malady. But tame the beast I will – I must!

      Very best festive wishes,


  3. This brought back memories of my hospitalization. It’s a good thing, because I do not want to forget that week. It was defining moment in my life.
    I’m glad that the person who had gone through this had made it through. Best wishes to you, Paul.

    • Dear Lita, your AVM journey is a truly heartwarming story, praiseworthy indeed being your fundraising and awareness-raising activities in the cause of this rare disease, which so nearly claimed you. I hope all is well your end and your poetry coming along apace.

      Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year,


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