In Sickness and in Health: How’s Nick? A short question with so many answers

It's impossible to describe my husband's recovery in a nutshell — where do I start?

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The Independent Online

Earlier this year, Rebecca’s husband, Nick, was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident.

Hi. How’s Nick? is a question that I get asked a lot. Last week, someone contacted me to say that while a recent column was mildly interesting (I paraphrase), what they really wanted to know was how my husband’s recovery is coming along. At work, colleagues and acquaintances want to know what the latest is, and at home, family, friends and the lovely man who runs the launderette ask what’s occurring. The answer that I give changes from moment to moment.

How’s Nick? Eating and drinking well, talking and laughing with gusto. He’s incredibly loving, he tells me I’m beautiful, brilliant, amazing, and that he can’t live without me. He is wonderful. He is funny, he remembers his pet name for me and our private jokes. He is the man that I love.

How’s Nick? His right arm doesn’t work. He can’t sit up. He can’t walk. He needs 24-hour care. To be washed, dressed and even repositioned in his bed requires two people. Getting him into his wheelchair means two carers hoisting him into the air using a special piece of equipment. He’s very shouty when he’s scared (usually when he’s being hoisted into the air) and his hearing has become super-sensitive, so he becomes furious when there’s even the smallest amount of noise. He raises two fingers on his good hand when he’s feeling particularly thwarted, to flick Vs at the world.

How’s Nick? He can be exhausting, and heartbreaking. He asks me the same questions tens of times a day. “Why can’t I remember anything?”  “Am I mad?” “Are we married? “What day is it?” “What time is it?” “Are we in Australia?” “When is my medication coming?” “When did we get together?” “Why can’t I remember anything?”. He weeps, understandably, in frustration and dismay. He asks me to promise never to leave him on his own, and doesn’t understand when I tell him that I have to go to work some days to earn money, so I need to go back to London, and that there’s always a carer outside his door.

How’s Nick? He’s amazingly empathetic. He asks me how I’m doing and whether I’m OK, and apologises constantly. He wants to know how his daughter is, and how her mother is getting on. He checks that things are OK with my mum, dad and what’s-her-face (my stepmother Helen, who visits him once a week, despite him calling her that). How are my little brother and sister? He wants to know where his mum and dad are, how their health is, and when his brother is coming to see him. He is moved to tears easily – watching a nature program the other night, he started sobbing as two sea lions started scrapping. “What’s wrong?” “Why are they being so awful to each other? Why can’t animals be nice? I can’t watch, it’s too upsetting.”

How’s Nick? When his carers ask him, he sometimes smiles winningly and says “not bad”. When he’s in pain, or confused, he’s “awful”. When I’m feeding him strawberry mousse for pudding, he’s “amazing”. Sometimes he’s “desperate”.

How’s Nick? Alive. Loved. And better than he was, even if we don’t know how much better he will get.