The Real Simon, A Guest Post by Alison Murdoch, Author of Bed 12

Bed 12

With my own husband having had two potentially life threatening illnesses of a mini-stroke and cancer in recent years I am honoured to feature Bed 12 by Alison Murdoch today and to close the blog tour. Alison has written a stunning guest post about her husband and the NHS care he received that I am privileged to share with you today here on Linda’s Book Bag.

Published by Hikari Press, Bed 12 is available for purchase here.

Bed 12

Bed 12

Bed 12 is the book Alison wrote when her husband became critically ill with viral encephalitis and fell into a life-threatening coma.

Described as ‘A love letter to the NHS and the everyday acts of kindness that keep it afloat’ by Dr Phil Hammond, Bed 12 is a survival guide to the world of acute medicine, and a poignant and darkly comic account of what it’s like to fight for someone’s life. It is a true story with cliffhangers that are all too real.

The Real Simon

A Guest Post by Alison Murdoch

A glimpse of the real Simon emerges through the fog of illness

All day long I whisper in his ear “You’re safe, everyone’s safe, there’s nothing to be afraid of, if you’re seeing frightening things it’s only because of the medicines the doctors are giving you, you’re getting better every day, we’ll go home soon, I’m here and I love you so much.” He lies back down, docile and peaceful, until the cycle resumes a minute or so later. I’m proud of the fact that there’s no sign of any anger or aggression in him, just puzzlement and deep confusion.

One of the nurses has such an uncanny ability to get the bed comfortable and in order that I secretly label her ‘the pillow queen’. She has the manner of an old-fashioned nursery nurse and this has a visible effect on Simon’s behaviour. I muse to myself about whether this is an inborn skill or something that can be learned alongside the many other more technology-based tasks that an ICU nurse has to master.

Following on from Nurse Ed’s challenging shift, the ward sister Angela assigns two overnight nurses to Simon’s bedside rather than just one. I’ve never seen that happen before and wonder what impact it has on the budget. But to everyone’s surprise, Nurse Lau and his colleague conjure up such a relaxed and nurturing atmosphere that they even find time to give Simon a massage, raiding my store of scented oils.

With the morning shift, the agitation resumes. Although still unconscious, at one point Simon actually gets his feet onto the floor. Angela is now at the end of her tether. She gets on the phone and negotiates to borrow a bed with cot sides from the paediatric unit. It’s brand new with a brushed-cotton fitted sheet and padded sides, and is also longer than his previous bed. One side is missing its padding but this is quickly improvised using pillows held together by plastic forceps. Crash mats are placed on the floor each side of the bed in case Simon makes another bid for freedom and the bed is lowered to within a few inches of the floor. The entire arrangement is a triumph.

I don’t know why I am so much less anxious than the nurses. Is it because I bear no direct responsibility for Simon’s physical safety? Or is it because I’m unaware of all the risk factors for his long-term health, both from the original illness and from the drugs and other treatments that he’s received over the past weeks? Or perhaps it’s just because I’m closing down emotionally, out of self-preservation. The image that comes to mind is of a mussel that’s only a chink open. However what I do observe, and Philip agrees, is that Simon’s familiar gestures and poses are gradually re-emerging out of the fog. Despite the delirium, it feels as if he’s gradually coming back to us.

(What an inspirational post Alison. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.)

About Alison Murdoch


Alison Murdoch is former Director of the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom, a London-based NGO founded in 2005 with the Dalai Lama as its patron. As Director of several charities and NGOs she turned a Grade II listed London courthouse into the vibrant Jamyang Buddhist Centre, set up the first-ever national network of day centres for homeless people in the UK, created a catering service for refugees, and designed a research project on begging that sparked national debate. She also once smuggled herself into Tibet in the back of a lorry…

You can find out more by following Alison on Twitter @Alison_Murdoch_. You’ll also find Alison on Facebook and there’s more with these other bloggers:


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