Abi started screaming. I jumped up: “What’s the matter, darling?” I asked, trying to comfort her. I didn’t manage. “How about cuddling dolly?” I asked. I thought her favourite toy would help. She just screamed louder. A nurse came: “Shhhhh, sweet angel,” she said, stroking Abi’s forehead gently, trying to calm her. But she just screamed even louder. Then the senior nurse on the ward came: “Right. Dad. Out!” she told me. “Mum too!” she said, turning to Sarah. “Nurse, get all these toys off of Abi’s bed and put them in that cupboard. Then leave too, please. Oh, and draw the curtains when you go.”

On the other side of the curtain, I sat in a chair listening. Abi’s tantrum had subsided. Soon, she was making no noise at all. Nothing; no screaming or sobbing. Just silence. I wondered what on earth had happened.

A few minutes later, the nurse reappeared from behind the curtain. She noticed my quizzical look: “Mr. Langston, your daughter is on morphine. It’s a strong painkiller. She was hallucinating. All I did was remove all the things that could cause her hallucinations. And then I sat by the bed and was a calm presence. Nothing more,” she told me. Before leaving, she turned back to me: “You can go back in. But quietly, and don’t crowd her. Oh, and keep the toys out of sight for now,” she said. And with that, she left.

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