“Why do you want to write this story Claire?” Felicity^ asked.
“It’s a great story!” I exclaimed.
“It’s a terrible story!” she countered.
We HAVE to go to this party!
All I wanted to do on the night of my 18th birthday, was to go into town, and go to the cool nightclubs now I was legally allowed. After some adventures, Felicity and I were finally on our way to fulfil the explicit purpose of the evening, when Felicity decided she desperately wanted to go to a friend’s party, and forced my hand by throwing my bag off the bus (it was stationary at the time with the door open) so I had to get off.
I always assumed she wanted to go to this party to chase some boy. She concedes she probably did, but that was likely secondary to being afraid of going out to a night club. She thought we would be ‘safer’ if we went to a party with people our own age.
She neglected to mention this at the time; she only told me now, some 25 years later this was going on in her head. If we had that discussion at the time, I would have laughed at her logic. How is one of these dodgy, teenaged parties, full of elitist, entitled boys who spent their school days only with other boys, safer than a nightclub district with good lighting, security, CCTV footage, and police presence?
BUT, knowing the school culture she was from after my year in the trenches, it made sense.
All in a haze…
Like me, she doesn’t remember too much of the actual party as we were already quite inebriated by the time we got there. She remembers the boy whose party it was being a kid she went to kindergarten with. She remembers there were some adults there. She remembers we got there quite late so the party was already well underway. She remembers she wasn’t invited. I know I certainly wasn’t.
She remembers an A-frame house that was two storeys, but we were not allowed on the second floor. She remembers a bunch of us girls drinking in the bathroom with a checked floor talking about girlie things. She remembers looking for me and not being able to find me.
Then she remembers the whole party crowded around some scene.
“Who is this person?” some people asked.
She walked closer and saw all of this blond hair.
“Oh my God, it’s Claire.”
“Oh my God, it’s Claire,” she said.
She realised some boys had bought me up from falling off something. She had no idea how many hours or even minutes had passed since we got there.
She was absolutely terrified and had no idea what to do. Someone called an ambulance which arrived shortly after. I was alive but unconscious. Was I in a coma? Was I paralysed? Was I going to come out of this? It was all incomprehensible to Felicity.
As she got in the front seat of the ambulance, someone gave her a packet of cigarettes to help calm her nerves because they felt sorry for her.
The Royal Brisbane Hospital (RBH) was not far from the party, but for Felicity it was an eternity. She had no idea how bad things were. When the ambulance arrived, I was rushed out the back and away into the Emergency Room (ER).
No news is… no news…
She waited in the waiting room, still drunk and with no idea what to do. No one would tell her what was going on with me because she wasn’t related. They told her I was alive, but that was it. What was she supposed to do?
She went out to the smoking area with her gifted cigarette packet, hoping to calm her nerves. In the small hours of the morning, those who chose to leave the hospital for that purpose were… interesting people. One wouldn’t necessarily describe them as having all of their faculties about them. But who was this drunken teenager to judge?
Eventually she went back inside and asked for an update. They couldn’t tell her how I was, but did tell her my parents were there. At least someone was with me. Felicity went home to stress there. Clearly I wasn’t alone anymore, and there was nothing more she could do.
The 2.45am call no parent wants to take
Mum and Dad went to bed that night at around 9.00pm and were very much in a deep slumber when the phone rang at around 2.45am.
“Your daughter is in Accident and Emergency at the Royal Brisbane Hospital,” said the voice on the other end of the phone to my shocked mother. “We are not normally obligated to let parents know if a patient is over 18 years old, but we thought as her birthday was within the last 24 hours, we would contact you.”
Mum put down the phone and broke the news to my father. They both quickly got dressed and jumped in the car. Mum drove as Dad thought he might still be over the legal limit to drive a vehicle. Mum was shaking as they drove in silence.
About half way to the hospital, and ironically very close to where that fateful party was in Milton, they were stopped for a random breath test.
“Have you had anything to drink tonight M’am?”
She pulled the car over to the side of the road and buzzed the window down. She was visibly distressed.
She fumbled with the test as Dad got more and more irritated beside her.
“Look we have just had a call from the Royal Brisbane Hospital that our daughter is in Accident and Emergency,” she said to explain her demeanour.
The officer pulled back the test and said, “Right, you had better carry on then,” and waved them out.
Mum was shocked but also very grateful he believed her. She buzzed up the window, accidentally put the car into reverse, jerked the car out of it, and then sped off.
They arrived at the RBH, found a park near the ER, and went in to find out what had happened to their daughter. The nurse told them Felicity was there, but they were more keen to see what was wrong with me.
Accident and Emergency (A&E)
They were ushered into an intensive care room with a handful of beds with curtains around them. Mum felt the dread rising as the nurse lead them towards the curtain I was meant to be behind.
They pulled the curtain back and there I was in a metal, cot-like bed with fence-like metal bars around the sides. Countless wires and tubes were attached to almost every part of my body monitoring all kinds of things. I was completely unconscious.
The doctor was also there and motioned towards some x-rays of my pelvis in light boxes on the wall. Dad glanced at Mum who immediately started hyperventilating then collapsed, luckily into a nurse’s arms. The nurse lay her down on the floor next to my bed, carefully protecting her head.
“God, I’ve got two of them now.”
“God, I’ve got two of them now,” my Dad said as he watched on.
After a few moments, Mum came around, got up, composed herself, and the doctor showed them the three fractures in the right ring of my pelvis. I was going to be in hospital for a while. Probably around six weeks he told them.
They sat in the waiting room for a while and then left when they were satisfied my life was no longer in imminent danger.
Time to reflect… the next day…
The next day at around 4.00 pm, Mum came to the RBH to see me. She was furious with me. How DARE I be so irresponsible to do this to myself? How DARE I inconvenience them like this? They had a holiday booked to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast and my selfishness was NOT going to get in the way of that!
I was now in an intensive care ward and out of A&E in an area specialising in pelvis and bone injuries. I was still in that same type of bed with the metal bars around the sides. Aside from all of the wires and tubes coming out of me, I was also in a traction device designed to keep my pelvis from moving which was hitched to the top of the bed.
There was an Intensive Care nurse sitting with me as I hadn’t regained consciousness yet. Mum sat across from her, seething at what a selfish, irresponsible daughter she had.
The nurse noticed my eyes open.
“Do you know where you are? You’re in hospital.”
“Claire? Do you know where you are? You’re in hospital,” she said gently.
Mum sprang to attention. It was time to let this irresponsible so and so know EXACTLY what she thought of me.
She saw me shaking but that didn’t matter.
“Claire! How could you do this to yourself? The doctors and nurses said…” she stood there wagging her finger at me as all of the monitors went off.
Doctors and nurses came running. One put a paper bag over my face, another injected something into my drip feed. I was shaking all over until I finally passed out and the machines calmed down again.
Mum sat back down and wondered what she was going to do with me.
But what ACTUALLY happened?
I was lucky to be alive. Well in saying that, it is a ‘Catch 22’ situation. If I hadn’t been so drunk, I probably wouldn’t have fallen off the wall. But if I had have fallen off the wall and HADN’T been that drunk, well, you wouldn’t be reading this or any of my other stories.
When I first woke up, they told me I fell off a balcony. I had this etched in my brain. I thought it was weird, but I didn’t remember anything so it was possible. I thought it must be difficult to fall off a balcony with proper railing… But what did I know? I continued to tell this story instinctively before correcting myself for some weeks after when I knew it wasn’t true.
Next I heard it wasn’t a balcony, but a six metre, unfenced retaining wall on the property. I heard there were three boys involved. I heard they freaked out when I fell down and instead of calling the ambulance right away, they picked me up and carried me up to the house, then came up with the balcony story to avoid liability for the retaining wall.
If that is true, I would like to think they were just drunk and stupid. I know they did first aid training at school, and knew if I fell like that, I might have had spine or neck injuries, and moving me could have done serious damage, if not killed me.
It was my understanding the boy’s parents hired the house specifically for that party, and his mother and other adults were there. None of them attempted to contact me after, but I wasn’t invited and they didn’t know me. Ambulance chasing lawyers at the hospital informed me I could sue, and my intoxication levels wouldn’t matter because the retaining wall I fell from wasn’t fenced which was illegal. They were likely protecting themselves.
I had bigger things on my plate than assigning blame elsewhere or seeking revenge, and nothing was going to unbreak my pelvis. I didn’t know it yet, but the next two months in hospital would be lifechanging…
To be continued…
Stay tuned for next week for Part 3, to discover just how deliciously humiliating and horrifying over a month in hospital, not able to get up even to go to the bathroom, can be.
^ Name changed on request to protect her privacy
Until next time!