toy­boy In a coma...

the th d day af­ter he pro­posed

Chat - - Front Page - By Doreen Abel, 68, from south Lon­don

Ever since Ian and I be­came a cou­ple in Jan­uary 1996, I’d joked about the age dif­fer­ence. I was in my late 40s, Ian in his mid-30s.

‘You don’t want to end up car­ing for an old girl like me,’ I’d laugh.

I man­aged a pub in Lon­don and Ian worked be­hind the bar.

I was di­vorced, with four teenage kids. But Ian was my rock. He made me laugh when I was ex­hausted.

When my youngest, Archie, now 41, flew the nest in the late 90s, we moved from Lon­don to Suf­folk.

We both loved paint­ing, so in Novem­ber 2007 we opened an art gallery.

Life was bliss. We never mar­ried – we felt happy just the way we were.

In April 2014, when I was 65, I re­tired. We closed the gallery and Ian, then 52, got a job at a golf club. On New Year’s Eve 2016 we cooked din­ner and popped open some cham­pagne. Then sud­denly… ‘Will you marry me?’ Ian blurted out. I was stunned. ‘Af­ter a quar­ter of a cen­tury, you sur­prise me with this?’ I laughed. But he meant it. ‘The cham­pagne must have gone to your head,’ I blushed. ‘Let’s sleep on it.’ The next morn­ing, we peered at each other in bed and grinned. But be­fore I could give Ian my an­swer, he had to head to work. Only by 2pm, he came home ill. He stag­gered up­stairs, his face white. Dis­ori­en­tated, he col­lapsed on the bath­room floor. ‘Ian!’ I cried. Fran­tic, I called for an am­bu­lance. He was rushed to St Thomas’ Hos­pi­tal in Lon­don, where doc­tors di­ag­nosed him with se­vere sep­sis. On life sup­port, Ian went into or­gan fail­ure. See­ing him cov­ered in tubes, fight­ing for his life, it was hard to be­lieve this was my Ian. For two days I sat by his bed­side in shock. Then the con­sul­tant took me aside. ‘I’m afraid it’s un­likely he’ll make it,’ he warned. I re­fused to be­lieve it. As the days rolled on, Ian kept go­ing. One by one, his or­gans be­gan to work again.

That March, Ian’s friend Mike vis­ited and chat­ted to him about their ad­ven­tures. We both no­ticed a flicker of recog­ni­tion in his eyes.

‘It looks like Ian might sur­vive,’ the con­sul­tant told me. Hope! But then… ‘Un­for­tu­nately, he’s de­vel­oped blood clots while he’s been im­mo­bile. It’s per­ma­nently dam­aged his brain,’ he went on.

He said Ian would never have con­trol of his body or talk again. Again, I re­fused to be­lieve it. ‘I’m not giv­ing up on you,’ I told Ian, as he lay mo­tion­less.

Soon af­ter, while I was talk­ing to one of the nurses, I

They said that it was un­likely he’d make it...

saw Ian’s eyes move to­wards me. ‘It’s a good sign,’ she said. Af­ter that, ev­ery day I no­ticed an im­prove­ment. A slight move­ment in his jaw, or twinge in his mouth when I told him his beloved West Ham had lost.

When Mike vis­ited that April, Ian man­aged a smile. ‘You asked me a ques­tion last year,’ I told Ian. ‘Well, the an­swer’s yes.’ Tears rolled down his cheeks. He un­der­stood. In May 2017, he was moved to the Royal Hos­pi­tal For Neuro-dis­abil­ity in Put­ney. There, ad­vanced ‘eye gaze’ tech­nol­ogy en­abled him to ac­cess the In­ter­net and to spell out words on a key­board.

‘Show Doreen what you can do,’ said his ther­a­pist.

Mov­ing his eyes, he went on­line to play our song, Billy Joel’s This Night. I love you, he spelt out. And then… I want to marry you in hos­pi­tal. We were both sob­bing. ‘Of course,’ I cried. Af­ter that, Ian’s daily ther­apy be­came about wed­ding prep, prac­tis­ing mov­ing his hands so he could put the ring on my fin­ger. Work­ing on his speech so he could say, ‘I do.’

Us­ing the eye-gaze sys­tem, he asked to wear a blue suit, and I agreed to wear a long, white dress.

Last Oc­to­ber, staff, fam­ily and friends gath­ered in one of the con­fer­ence rooms.

Ian man­aged to wheel him­self down the aisle in a mo­torised wheel­chair – I was over­joyed.

Later that day, us­ing the eye-gaze sys­tem, he told me it was the hap­pi­est day of his life. ‘Mine, too,’ I said. We’d waited 25 years, but our wed­ding day was just the start. Ian’s now in a care home, but we’re hope­ful he’ll come home one day.

His speech is still hard to un­der­stand, but he tells me that he’s happy.

He says he’d love to paint again. I’m sure one day he will.

In the mean­time, we en­joy our time to­gether and I know I haven’t lost Ian. He’s just locked in­side his body.

I hope, bit by bit, I can coax him out again.

I haven’t lost Ian. He’s just locked in­side his body

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