toyboy In a coma...
the th d day after he proposed
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