With Covid I seem to get my post in a bunch...once a week on average t would seem.
This week I received a tax rebate, some junk mail, a small gift of an oil pourer from the delightful Veronique, a couple of rainbow T shirts and a franked letter from my local hospital.
The hospital letter concealed another letter, hand written and clumsily addressed to Nurse John Gray, Intensive Care Unit, Glan Clwyd Hospital, North Wales.
Someone on the unit had kindly remembered me and had taken the time to redirect the letter.
Even so the letter was dated May 30th.
I read the letter.
Then I read it again and I remembered the man who was it’s subject matter
It was written by the man’s sister.
A woman I have absolutely no memory of .
The man was an attractive Suffolk farmer in his thirties. Dark haired and sunburnt
He was paralysed from the waist down following a tractor accident on his father’s farm.
The farm was mostly arable but also specialised in heavy black faced Suffolk sheep and James, was their Shepherd with a nervous black and white sheepdog called Cutter , a dog who visited several times during James’ confinement.
I remember thinking that Cutter was an odd name for a dog.
On reflection Cutter is a name that can be shouted easily
James bore his injury quietly. He remained isolated from hoards of young farmer friends during weekdays and didn’t interact well with his nurses who endeavoured to teach him how to manage his bladder whilst on bed rest.
I remember taking my Welsh Terrier , Finlay in to see him like I seemed to do so often with sadder patients at that time and when the gentle dog laid with him with his head resting on James’s chest. James cried silent tears
The grief of his lost life shared with a dog.
I fancied James rotten.
It is a fact that is common with spinal injury nurses when most of the patients you nurse are robust young men.
Men who are paralysed but are generally fit and well seconds before the accident that crippled them.
James was a ham armed masculine farmer who smiled easily even though that smile was somewhat hollow
I fancied him rotten......but I was also incredibly aware just how professional I needed to be
So I was very professional, precise and careful.....
Having said this I found myself sitting with him and talking probably more than I did with the other patients
Anyhow back to the sister’s letter which was almost apologetic in its content.
Apparently James had returned to the Spinal unit for a urology review at outpatients and had sought me out on the ward where the staff had informed him I had moved to Wales.
He had wanted to talk to me
He returned to farming with the ingenuity and support of The Young farmers who fundraised for specialised quad bikes and the like and according to his sister never complained about his paralysis and just how hard his life was under the suffocating umbrella of a large family who loved him dearly.
James came out gay to his sister a year or so after his accident
He never dated a man as far as she knew and she shared the family home with him after the death of their father in 2007.
James died of complications of billary sepsis in late May of this year . He had also contracted Covid in his local hospital so he is now one of the 46,706 victims of the fucking disease
I read the letter at the kitchen table, cluttered with the flotsam of the morning and sipped at my bucket of coffee.
And I remembered the quiet, attractive sunburnt man who hugged my dog so strongly in the odd confines of a hospital bed
And I cried at the waste of it all.