Out cold

Just had a very, very strange evening. After we’d both got in from work, Steve suggested we visit Rosemary in hospital. Rosemary has just had three operations for appendicitis and complications. We got to Bathurst Base and discovered she was actually in the intensive care unit. She looked frankly terrible, with a plastic tube running into her nose and a maze of other wires and tubes everywhere, and even her legs from the knee down were in support-hose. After a while she started to throw up into a light green plastic bowl. I half hid behind the curtain, thinking she might want to vomit in private. Steve stayed close by, trying to be helpful, passing her a tissue. Then he began to say he was feeling light-headed. He was sitting in the chair beside Rosemary’s bed, holding his head down to get blood into it. I said, if you’re really feeling faint, put your head right down between your knees. But then he suddenly went into free-fall, a dead weight, dropping to the floor. I was trying to stop him from falling but I was in the wrong position and his dead-weight was too much for me, and his head clonked the floor as he went down. I was not particularly perturbed at this point. Steve had fainted before. I motioned to the nurse to come but not frantically. But then Steve was stretched out cold face down on the floor, not coming round at all. He was going blue. Did I see with my own eyes that he was going blue, or is this something I’m picturing in hindsight, after the word had gone round that Steve had gone blue? I got really scared. I remember dashing over to a nurse and saying, “My boyfriend’s completely collapsed!” But everyone was already doing all they could. None of this seemed quite real. Then Steve made a snorting noise and suddenly he was entirely back with us, lying on the floor, looking up at us all, talking perfectly lucidly. He’d completely gone and now he was completely back. Now that he seemed himself again, I stopped feeling scared. Steve had obviously just fainted, triggered by Rosemary’s vomiting, the way he’d fainted last year when he got his bandage removed at Orange Base hospital and he suddenly saw blood. And he’d fainted as an altar boy on a sweltering day during Stations of the Cross. And he sometimes feels light-headed when he smells the disinfectant in vet hospitals. He’s obviously a bit of a fainter. I thought we’d just be going home now. I imagined myself driving, not Steve, in honour of his recent faint. But this was only the beginning of the evening. Having set alarms ringing and medical machines in motion, it was impossible to back out. First there was the puffing young Asian doctor who literally came running, thinking there was a cardiac arrest on his hands. He checked Steve out, touched him over different parts of his face, “Tell me when you can feel this.” The story of Steve’s momentary disappearance from earth-plane was now hardening into its final form. He’d stopped breathing, there had been no pulse, he had gone blue. I even heard the words navy blue. For me these things were no longer true the moment Steve snorted and opened his eyes and went pink again. But for the nurses who had taken vital signs during those out-cold seconds – how long, exactly? impossible to say – this was now what Steve was: a man who had stopped breathing, stopped pumping blood, and had gone blue. A wheelchair came for Steve. Suddenly, he was an invalid. He’d been visiting someone in hospital and now he was caught in the tentacles of hospital himself. Downstairs, an ECG (normal), more testing of reflexes (all normal). Everything in pink good health. But he’d gone blue, so he was to be monitored overnight. He wasn’t to be let out. I drove the National Parks fire truck home to get his toiletry bag, photography magazine, spy book and a few other things and some Coca Cola, lolly snakes, Caramelo Bear and other treaties from the BP service station. I was aware that the attendant might think I was going to have a private late-night binge, but I brazened it out. I drove the VW back to the hospital. I ate the cashews from the bag of treats. Steve had one of the nasty “meusli bars” – it was made of rice bubbles and sugar and artificial strawberry flavour, I could smell it from where I sat. Eventually, after a long wait, the sort of listless wait you do in hospitals (we had waits like this last year at Orange Base when Steve put an axe through his foot), he was wheeled back upstairs INTO THE BED NEXT TO ROSEMARY’S! “Now you can visit Rosemary all night,” I said.

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