I’d been looking forward to it since my birthday in March. I’d just been moved out of my flat in halls for a couple of weeks so they could get rid of a bug infestation that had been present in our flat, and the thought of an upcoming concert was pretty much my saving grace in a messy situation. I woke up early that morning and got on the tube to Warren Street to go to a hospital appointment with the consultant who had genuinely changed my life. Things were far from great. She wanted to admit me; I didn’t want a hospital stay, so I declined and we said we’d talk about it again at my next appointment in a couple of weeks, and that the offer was still open if I decided to change my mind. It was bonfire night, the day on which, as a toddler, I had been diagnosed with diabetes. A concert was necessary. I felt incredibly unwell, but I had an anatomy practical, and I’d already missed one through a short stay in intensive care a few weeks before.
I hurried back to campus and made it to the practical just as the lecturer running it walked out to call the last few people in. People were later than me, they had the nerve to answer back the scariest lecturer I had ever encountered. I found myself in a room full of cadavers, and went around asking people if there was any room left in their group. Eventually I found a group, and one of the lecturer’s tutees let me join her and a couple of others. She was really nice. We moved around the different benches where each cadaver had different things pinned. We had to build a circulatory system at one point out of aquarium supplies and pipe cleaners I think. I gradually felt worse and worse, and kept being told to sit down. Eventually we sat down to start drawing a very nicely preserved midsection, and I realised I couldn’t get up. Someone kept asking me to get off of the stool so she could sit down and draw, but I’d only just sat down and in the end simply told her that if I stood up I would pass out. We were so irritated that we moved anyway. And then the world turned to a blur and I couldn’t see. I felt like I was going to pass out. I then agreed that I probably should actually leave the room.
I saw a blue blur, which meant I was looking at one of the assessors (they wore blue lab coats. We wore white). I heard a Scottish accent. The lecturer running the practical. Cool. I said his name, but he continued walking. Somehow I made it a few more steps and said his name again. I asked to go outside. The blue blur of the lecturer looked at me and sent one of the assessors out with me – uni mum and I were introduced. A couple of minutes later she walked me back into the room and told him I needed to go to the hospital. The practical ended a little early, and everyone was very annoyed. I stayed sat behind in the room while the lecturer grabbed one of my coursemates and asked her to go with me. He told uni mum he would pay for a taxi, and told her to take me to the hospital. We abandoned that plan when we realised I couldn’t actually walk that far, and he instead told her to take me to the reception of the science building. I made it there (after stopping on the way), sat down, lost the ability to lift my own head, and ended up eventually surrounded by four paramedics. Embarrassing. Blue lights. Resus. No concert – instead I spent the next few hours fighting for my life. The nurse in A&E and one of my friends had been to see Imagine Dragons that night before and both said it was awesome. I just laid there with uni mum (who sat by my side until very late at night when I was stable enough to be moved to a ward, and visited me frequently over the next few weeks).
I was really, really gutted to miss the Imagine Dragons concert. I’d listened to their music for years, through hospital admissions and bullying and attempts to run again. I listened to it a lot over the next few weeks in hospital, as uni mum encouraged me to speak to soon-to-be uni dad, and my university parents slowly but surely persuaded me to trust them. Over the coming few weeks, I nearly died quite a few times.
“I’m just the same as I was, now don’t you understand, I’m never changing who I am…
The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell right to the top. Don’t look back.” – Imagine Dragons, It’s Time (I wished people would realise that through all my health issues I was still the person they knew. I played this song to remind myself to just keep going, that all the bad would lead me to the good and allow me to appreciate it all even more)
My uni parents were there through it all. Uni mum was there on the night I broke down after some disasters on the ward. They were both there when things got scary or when things looked a little bleak. They were there to persuade me to return to hospital when I walked out, and sat in the coffee shop with me and discussed mostly university things when I was freaking out about missing uni work and wanted to get off of the ward. The first time I spoke to uni dad, they ended up reverse kidnapping me in a wheelchair after my body had a funny five minutes by the main entrance, with uni dad telling me that someone who used to be in his tutor group had gone through worse, which was oddly reassuring.
Our discussions went round and round in circles “You aren’t a bother, note how I didn’t ask you, I told you. Don’t worry about work. It will be fine. A bad year for you will be an average year for everyone else. The worst you’re going to get is a 2:1. By they way you got a first in that practical you nearly died in. It’s going to be ok, you have our support. We’ll sort out all the uni stuff. You aren’t going to die. I’m very much looking forward to your graduation.” And through it all, alongside their support and belief in me, one thing was also ever present – the music of Imagine Dragons, which had also got me through lengthy admissions in my earlier teenage years.
Late at night, staring out of the window at my perfect view of the London skyline (a uni parent and I had our own private fireworks display of all the fireworks in London that weekend from that window), wishing the glass I was pressed against would give way and let me fall eleven floors, their music was there. As I looked out of that window at all my classmates walking past the bottom of the hospital to do the the medical school less than a hundred metres away, pleading in my head for just one of them to cross the road and come and visit (which I knew would never happen – “out of sight, out of mind”) I listened to Imagine Dragons.
As I lay surrounded by four of the doctors who were on call in the early hours of the morning because they’d let me slip too far into a medical emergency, and my cannula had gone and they couldn’t get another one in to give me the medication to save my life (and I felt so unwell I didn’t think I would see the morning, and was laying there asking them to help me as their calm expressions gave way to panic)… Imagine Dragons played in my ears. When I was scared that the doctors in that hospital didn’t know what they were doing and were going to leave me to die… Imagine Dragons blasted from my headphones.
When the consultant I almost trusted, who had changed my life and had regular contact with me, handed over my care to the other London hospital I was in (which is much bigger and right near my uni), I lost all hope… To the sound of Imagine Dragons (even though at that point they said it was shared care). As I lay buried under a blanket, cocooned in my emotion, tears streaming down my face… Imagine Dragons, again, filtered into my brain. Through flashbacks and uni work (that I couldn’t forget even though I kept being told to just stop it) and a longing to get out of that hospital, that music was there.
Through the entire summer before, as I made my way to a specialist London hospital of neurology and neuroscience, and the specialist London heart hospital, and met more new consultants… I listened to Imagine Dragons, as I walked through central London streets that soon became familiar, and had numerous investigations carried out to see where we were at. That music is tied to and intertwined with my memories. In a weird way, it saw me through.
“Ever since I could remember, every single part of me just wanted to fit in. I was never one for pretenders, everything I tried to be just wouldn’t settle in. If I told you what I was would you turn your back on me, and if I seem dangerous would you be scared? I get the feeling just because everything I touch isn’t dark enough, that this problem lies in me… I’m taking a stand to escape what’s inside me – a monster a monster I’ve turned into a monster, a monster a monster and it keeps getting stronger…
I never said that I want this, this burden came to me and it’s made its home inside.” – Imagine Dragons, Monster
“Don’t throw stones at me, don’t tell anybody, trouble finds me. All the noise of this has made me lose my belief…
Had to lose my way to know which road to take, trouble found me. All I looked for was washed away by a wave
I know it’s gotta go like this, I know. Hell will always come before you grow” – Imagine Dragons, Roots
There are so, so many lyrics I want to quote for so, so many reasons. But this posts already double the length it should be, so this will do.
The music of Imagine Dragons has been a constant through the good and the bad, right through my teenage years. It was like an audible comfort blanket for my soul. It was there when nothing else was, when nothing else was willing to be. I ran to these songs, I cried to these songs, and when the time came… I rebuilt my life to these songs.