Once we finished celebrating Kara’s birthday, I took Abi and Sarah back to the hospital to spend the night on one of the wards. I returned home afterwards and spent the rest of the evening on the Internet reading all about raised intra-cranial pressure. I wish I hadn’t, because it didn’t make for particularly easy reading. The result was a restless night worrying. So I was a very-tired-nervous-wreck when I arrived back at the hospital in the morning. However, I still had no real inkling just how serious things were going to get, so I managed to put aside my concerns, and instead focused on having fun with Abi. She was struggling to stand by then. One of my memories of that day is of Abi valiantly pulling herself up to a table to play with some building blocks. I now know how, at the time, she must have been suffering. That memory both upsets me and fills me full of awe at my daughter’s determination.
A doctor checked up on Abi just before she went down for her MRI. “Hello, Mr Langston. I’m the doctor on the ward today. How’s Abi doing?” “She seems stubbornly determined to play with those blocks”, I told him, evading the question because both he and I knew that she wasn’t very well. The doctor smiled: “She’s doing very well at it too”, he said, kindly. “I wanted to tell you about what is going to happen today. We are going to take Abi down to the MRI unit for a scan. She will need to have a general anaesthetic beforehand because she must lie still during the procedure. The whole thing will take a couple of hours.” He spoke gently, but I sensed his concern. A lone tear betrayed my fear. “Sorry”, I told the doctor, when he noticed me crying. He smiled kindly: “There’s no need”, he said to me. He was right; why do us British folk feel as though we must apologise all the bloody time? “And don’t worry”, he continued: “your daughter is in good hands.”
Shortly afterwards, two nurses arrived, along with a porter. They took us to where Abi was to have her MRI. One of the nurses held Abi’s hand, and another kept her entertained as the trolley was whisked through the corridors: “Weeeeee!” she said, smiling down at Abi, who managed a weak smile back. The nurses were good fun, which came as a welcome relief from all the worry.
Once we made the unit, Abi was taken away to have a general anaesthetic. Outside, Sarah and I waited nervously in the waiting room. Waiting there too was an elderly woman in a beautiful dress. She was busily haranguing a porter: “I fell over at my daughter’s wedding reception. Can you imagine! Sally reckons it was because I had one or two many drinks, but I swear it was these bloody heels”, she laughed, looking down at a pair of shoes that looked like they had been bought for the occasion. “The problem is that I banged my head on the hard dance floor,” she continued. “It wasn’t much of a bang, really. I don’t reckon it would be such a big deal, but I have a shunt,” she said. I wondered what a shunt was? I would find out soon enough. “So they insisted I get a scan just to make sure everything is still in place”, the lady told the porter. I soon drew my attention away from her and began instead to focus on the minute hand of the waiting room’s clock. It was probably not the best way to calm my nerves. Why is it that time goes by so quickly when we’re having fun, but when we’re not, it drags interminably? By the time two hours had passed, my nerves were frayed.
Eventually, the nurses returned to take us back to the ward. Without Abi. They would not look at me and their mood was in complete contrast with their earlier behaviour. So I knew we were going to get bad news. Nevertheless, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I was about to hear.