“I was climbing, now I’m falling, I’ve been pushed off by a man who has made it to the top and now defends it ’cause he can and I have found the breach in his front line
I was open now I’m hidden from the danger of his words, I have found a good position and I’ll play for what he’s worth and he will find nowhere left to hide
I was losing now we’re drawing, I’m not afraid to spill my blood, I’m not backing down so I’d surrender ’cause you should and fact the truth
You raise the flag I’ll tear it down
You may have won the battle but I’ll take the fight to you…Your fear has now come true” – Hudson Taylor, Battles
This song has reminded me of many doctors over the years. And teachers. People who could have helped me and wouldn’t. Most recently, university, and the physical incarnation of my distress there (a person, just to clarify). I’m not sure how I stumbled across the music of Hudson Taylor, but I know it was at a time where I focussed more on the words of a song than the sound of it, and that allowed me to appreciate the magic and connect in ways I may otherwise never have been fortunate enough to do so.
This music came to mean an awful lot to me through periods of isolation and bullying and rumblings in the family jungle. Also through all the hospital admissions and health hiccups I faced through the three years of sixth form (had to redo a year because I missed the entirety of it basically). In… 2014? Or maybe nope, nope… Last year? They had a gig in London. I left school early that day because my heart was being a poop. I wouldn’t let them call my parents or any doctors, I simply went home with my good friend because he had the afternoon off and lived really close (ok not really close but much closer than I did) to the train station. I slept. I got on the train and met up with a friend that I’d met once before at a medicine taster course thing during the summer (we had on that single occasion spent hours and hours sat in a coffee shop and she’d just melted down at me and a bond of steel was forged. Plus we look almost identical, it’s scary).
My heart was doing a bunch of stuff, so we delayed leaving. We walked the entire length of the international train station place to get to the underground station joined to it. My heart was FREAKING OUT. So we turned around and went back. I’m not sure how, but we ended up stood outside a sushi place inside the station. Apparently, I said my heart felt funny, and then “no, REALLY funny…” And then I hit the floor. I’m told I was greyish white, drained of all colour. Two policemen ran over apparently. They grabbed the defibrillator thing and they were awesome and an off-duty doctor guy ran over too. Nobody else stopped. I remember waking up and seeing this bald guy laying on the floor next to me, talking to me in a really soothing voice and trying to reassure me. There was a policeman kneeling next to me on the other side, holding my hand. I still remember his face, actually.
And then I’m told that I held my chest and lost consciousness again, with my eyes open, and they couldn’t find my pulse. My pulse eventually was all irregular and weak (but importantly, PRESENT). Because it still wasn’t getting enough blood, my brain was all let’s have a seizure. And I did. I’m told the policemen kneeling beside me rolled me on my side and pulled me half onto his lap, curled his arms around me, and put his gloves under my head while his colleague cupped his hands under my head to stop it hitting the floor. Other police people had apparently appeared. They laid on me to stop me hurting myself or them while I fitted. They gave me oxygen (I used up an entire bottle because I’m all greedy like that). I came round. Apparently I apologised profusely, removed everything, tried to tell them I was fine, apologised again, said I had to go to a concert, got as far as sitting up… And then my heart rate went really fast but my pulse was at the same time really slow… And it happened all over again. Five times actually, before the chest pain was so bad I gave up.
Every time I woke up, there was this bald guy (who was meant to be on his way home) laying on the floor, just talking to me soothingly like I was a frightened child (much appreciated, he was such a legend). The policeman who had me sort of on his lap kept telling me it was no bother every time I got all panicky and apologised, and kept also talking to me like I was his kid, and moving his thumb round and round in circles my hand (which he was holding).
The paramedics that arrived scooped me off the floor without pausing to do a lot other than hook me up to their ECG. The machine got all stressed out because my heart was all stressed out and was beating extremely fast to try and make up for its inadequacy. I didn’t know who I was, or why I was in London. Just that my chest really hurt and I’d bitten the inside of my lip pretty hard. They said I was their first genuine patient of the night. One of the paramedics lived near my parent’s house in Kent. His daughter had been in hospital a lot, so he understood how scared I was. I kept asking him when the last train home was; he knew I wouldn’t be getting on it but played along to calm me down. When I freaked out in the resus area of A&E, he stood next to the bed to stop me getting off, and just stroked my shoulder a little to chill me out. I couldn’t remember the code for my phone, so I couldn’t unlock it to call my parents (there was shouting down the phone when they eventually called after I didn’t show up on the last train home, their worry went off like an explosion).
This was why I got referred to a specialist at a different London hospital for my heart, so I guess every cloud has a silver lining. But I was so upset about missing the concert. A month and a half later, Hudson Taylor did a small gig on Oxford Street in the store which sold their newly released album. Tickets were free, you had to apply for a pair, and I won some. None of my friends could be bothered to go to London with me to see a band they’d never heard of, so in the end I took my mum (who decided she loves their music). I heard the music I’d walked out of school to before lessons had even started (when you’ve terrified enough teachers with your health, people don’t care when you just walk out, you become invisible, it becomes acceptable because you are unwell and it feels like nobody cares), or locked myself in the bathroom of our house with, or been reassured by. I met the two brothers responsible for that music afterwards, they took a selfie with me. I left with a signed album which had a whole new bunch of their songs, and a weird connection with those songs that I hadn’t expected to make.
“Get me out of this room now, get me out of this world…
And I’d kill to get away, I’d die to make my own way. I’ll lose to celebrate, I’d win to see the good days. I’ll never stop the fighting, so bring to me your worst. I’ll never stop believing that I could rule the world some day.” – Hudson Taylor, Drop Of Smoke
(This is pretty much what my brain thinks when I start to freak out at being in hospital after I’m well enough to relive the trauma of previous stuff).
(I emailed the police at the station to thank them for saving my life, but I never ever found the bald man who laid on the floor and told everyone what to do. I can’t ever thank any of those people enough, and they are my heroes).
There is one particular song that I found especially comforting (ok there are several, but not enough room to quote them all and they were a comfort in situations I can’t disclose here). It said the words I longed to hear from anybody; but until someone was willing to support me, this song just had to do, and I kept hoping that one day someone would be there.
“When you face 28 thousand doorways, or you’re left hoping for an escape… When your day is 24 hours of heartache, well show me the way you break and know that it’s not your fate, not today.
When the wildfires leave you no way out I’ll scream up to the sky with you. When the wildfires leave you no way out my door is always open to you.
Another day with millions of different people starting to lose their heads, forgetting to be themselves, what else. Do you know you’re someone I want to be with, you’re someone who’s just themselves. You know you can cry for help, I’ll be waiting…” – Hudson Taylor, Wildfires