By Janine Norris
What do you do when your girlfriend’s miles away and falls ill with a life-threatening condition?
I made a mad dash with a friend on Thursday morning to Lichfield in Staffordshire. My girlfriend, Mel, had been working up there since Monday. From the Tuesday she had struggled with a dreadful headache and violent vomiting. This was nothing new. She has suffered with migraines for a few years now (since she met me actually!) and in the last 3 months has had cyclical pattern of headaches and vomiting at least twice a week. She had finally agreed to book an appointment with the doctor and was due to attend soon.
On Wednesday evening she phoned me and was crying. Mel is not a person who cries easily. She’s my strong, brave, sensible girlfriend who gives me the power and permission to be the emotional cry-baby; it works well.
By now I know it’s serious. I ring her the next morning and she says she just wants to ‘go to sleep and not wake up’. That’s how bad the pain was. I messaged her best friend, Bex, who is our anchor. She’s bright, logical and a great problem solver. She immediately tells me to contact work and get to hers as soon as possible. We need to launch ‘Operation: Rescue Melly!’
“As I went in, the room was in complete darkness and it was obvious to me that Mel was very poorly. Her head, she described, felt like it was squeezed in a vice and she wanted to ‘dig it out’. She wasn’t totally lucid either. I got her dressed as best I could and got her in the van to begin the journey home.”
I jumped on my ‘pocket rocket’ Ninja 650 and whizzed to Baylham to meet Bex. We then began our 3-hour long journey to Lichfield. I messaged Mel to let her know we were on our way.
When we arrived, Bex drove straight off back to Ipswich; she had an important ‘Zoom’ call to attend that she might just get back to work for if she was lucky.
I went to the hotel Mel was staying in and found she’d left her key card just peeping out from under the door. As I went in, the room was in complete darkness and it was obvious to me that Mel was very poorly. Her head, she described, felt like it was squeezed in a vice and she wanted to ‘dig it out’. She wasn’t totally lucid either. I got her dressed as best I could and got her in the van to begin the journey home.
Now, everyone who knows us well, knows that Mel hates my driving! Not just mine, to be fair, she’s a nervous passenger. However, I’m her true love so she’s allowed to criticise my driving whenever she likes (that’s the law of girlfriends apparently). During this drive from Lichfield to home, I knew I was going to have to get her to hospital as soon as I could. Not just because she didn’t know where she was, what day it was and what she had been doing that morning, but mainly because she didn’t comment once about my driving!
I am awaiting the speeding tickets through my door at any point. I drove super aggressively because I sensed the urgency. I was overtaking, undertaking, flashing my lights, beeping my horn, swearing – I mean, I do suffer road rage normally but this was different. (I apologise to anybody I may have upset on the A14 that day.)
When we arrived at A&E I checked her in and obviously couldn’t be with her. I found a car parking space and couldn’t even put the coins in to get my ticket. A very kind gentleman helped me out with this, and now I’m a pro.
Mel was admitted to the assessment unit and diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
This was a shock to us all. The doctors said that 12 hours later and it would be a completely different story. I’m hoping this will give me special dispensation for my crazy driving that day.
It is Sunday evening and Mel is still in hospital. She has horrifically high blood pressure and is still vomiting and on pain medication for her headaches. She is due an MRI on Monday or Tuesday and if nothing shows in that, then she has to have a Lumbar Puncture. Oh, and her bloods have gone to Addenbrookes in a taxi for specialised testing.
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However, this isn’t really the blog I want to write. The best part of this situation is the ‘group chats’. We have various group chats but the two that kept us both going over this hideous time are ‘Everything BUT wood’ and ‘Whore Needles’.
‘Everything BUT wood’ includes Mel, me, an old colleague of hers (Milly) and her Paramedic husband, Shane. Shane and Mel are obsessed with everything chainsaw and how much seasoned wood they can collect to burn on their respective wood burners. When I informed ‘Everything BUT wood’ of Mel’s bacterial meningitis diagnosis, Milly immediately ‘googled’ to make sure she was thinking of the right meningitis.
Milly: …. It came up with bacterial vaginosis … get those antibiotics pumping!
WhatsApp messages have been an absolute god send throughout this situation so far. The best part for me is that, during my 40-minute journey to hospital and back, I stay informed. The new van we have has the ability to read out messages as you go along. I can honestly say that I have been crying with laughter at some of the threads and some of the single comments.
My ‘siri’ is set to a female with an Irish accent. When she reads the messages to me it makes it even funnier.
We have another Group Chat entitled ‘Whore Needles’. This is taken from a character from an adult comic or something and was named because of the appalling behaviour of our friend Bex’s horse at the time. She (the horse, not Bex) was often referred to as a ‘Whore Needle’ or sometimes shortened to ‘The Needle’ when she was being particularly mare-ish. We spend a lot of time going to horse shows with Bex and her new horse, Harn.
Harn is a huge, ginger Arabian cross thing who knows how handsome he is and therefore shows it off at every opportunity. He has 2 favourite moves whilst out in public. His first is waving his front ‘paws’ in the air at his ever-increasing fanbase. His second is raising his back ‘paws’ in a game of ‘eject the rider.’ Due to this, Bex can become fairly nervous and can behave a little like a Diva at times.
The following conversation occurred following Mel’s diagnosis:
Bex: Morning! I would just like to say that I know I can be a vile thing at competitions. However you didn’t have to go quite so far to get out of grooming on Sunday.
Mel: I was going to say the same – anything to avoid you at a show.
Conversations have continued pretty much in the same vein.
Mel: (prior to the show on Sunday) Good luck and enjoy and I look forward to reviewing all the photos of your shiny boobs.
Mel is usually in charge of cleaning Bex’s show BOOTS to the highest standard – without her there, she was concerned about the level of shine. ‘Shiny boobs’ was NOT what Mel wanted to write.
Following a hospital meal, Mel (who has a very healthy appetite, it’s fair to say) sent a message.
Mel: Gosh, I’m absolutely stuffed after that hospital cottage pie, said no Melly ever.
Following a visit from the on-call doctor about her increasingly painful head, Mel reported:
I’ve just seen the duty doctor but unfortunately she was about 12 and was clearly on work experience so she’s probably going to prescribe me a lollipop.
It’s been a difficult few days for everyone concerned, and Mel can be a very serious character at times. However, her humour has stepped up and this is helping her to refocus her mind so that she is not dwelling on the ‘what might happen’ thoughts. Her observations of people, situations and the environment have been her saving grace, most definitely.
She’s not out of the woods yet, but she’s in the best place she can be. We are both so incredibly grateful and thankful for the work the NHS do, all day, every day. She honestly could not have had better treatment. Yes, the food portions are not as big as she is used to (which is no bad thing), but they are nutritious, hot and very welcome. Yes, the on-call doctor appeared not even to have reached her early teenage years yet, but that’s a reflection on how old we are now, not a reflection on the doctor. (I mean, who hasn’t recently looked at a police officer and thought ‘blimey, shouldn’t you still be in school?’) What we have realised is what is important in life. It’s not money, cars, houses, holidays, etc., etc. It’s people who love you/care about you/make you laugh and your health. Thank you for reading. Hopefully I will be able to update you on her progress soon.
Janine was born in Leeds in 1970 to working-class parents, the middle of 3 children. She graduated from Teacher Training College in Lincoln in 1993 and has taught in Norfolk and Suffolk ever since. firstname.lastname@example.org
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