Through the eyes of a child
I’m cozy and warm in my bed, dreaming that I’m sailing on the ocean with my Dad on his twenty-foot yacht, the “Blue Lagoon.” The sun is twinkling like tiny diamonds on the water, and the fierce wind is billowing the sails. We are well in front and look a dead cert to win the Race. Lifting my face to the sun, I drink in Its velvety warmth.
In reality, I’m not on a yacht, I’m in a hospital bed with rails at each side, and I’m in a vegetative state. I think that’s what they call it. Or medically known as “Locked-inside-syndrome.”
Hey, what do I know? I’m 15 years old.
Unexpectedly the brilliant lights snap on overhead, blinding me. Without so much as a word of warning, I’m suddenly aware of slings sliding beneath my tiny, emaciated body, and I’m being winched out of bed by a rather noisy, archaic lifting machine. The modesty sheet slips, and I am naked as the day I was born. No one rushes to cover me up. I’m off for a shower, after all.
Dumped unceremoniously onto a shower trolley, I’m positioned so that the safety straps prevent me from falling off. Ha! Chance would be a fine thing. I haven’t moved an inch independently since I arrived here two years ago.
Before that, I was at Grace McCallum Children’s Hospital for six months, where the doctors announced that I was in a vegetative state. I think that means that my brain doesn’t work. God… I wish it didn’t! If my brain didn’t work, I wouldn’t be trapped inside my mind, unable to communicate the pain, humiliation and degradation I feel every single minute of every single day.
I wish I could speak or write, but I can do neither. I can do nothing but breathe and blink.
Angela is in the room, and I heave a sigh of relief. But then I see him saunter in behind her. Oh God, not him again! I call him Creepy Creptor. He terrifies me, and for a good reason. Without further ado, I’m wheeled quickly into the bathroom, where, naked as a jaybird, Creptor grabs my right leg as it begins to spasm. He holds it down in a vice-like grip, but the spasms are too intense, and it ends with my knee in his face. Blood trickles down through his beard and into his ugly mouth. He gives me that sneer. The one that means “ just you wait!.”
Angela walks out of the room, and we are totally and terrifyingly alone Creepy Creptor and me. He grins down at me wickedly and commences flicking my tiny nose with his chunky thumb. Before too long, my delicate nose starts to trickle blood too. I'm not too fond of the coppery taste of it. It reminds me horribly of The Accident.
Before the accident, I was an everyday twelve-year-old girl, enjoying life. On a day that started like any other, Mom and I were on our way to the mall. We were going to choose my dress for the end of year dance. Mark Holland had asked me to be his partner, and I was giddy with excitement. After harbouring a secret crush on him since fourth grade, I couldn’t believe he had asked me out, and I wanted to look fantastic.
Swerving to avoid a broken-down truck hit by a muddy landslide, Moms car slid down a twenty-foot embankment. Most of the accident was a blur. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a tragic set of circumstances that resulted in a devastating crash. Mom was unconscious and taken to hospital by ambulance. A mild concussion saw her released a few days later. For me, it was much worse, and I’ve pieced together the events that followed from my parents and doctors conversations. After being air-lifted to Grace McCallum Children’s Hospital, intubated and comatose, x-rays confirmed a crush fracture of the cervical spine, and scans revealed a closed head injury with a subarachnoid haemorrhage. My brain had bounced around inside my skull resulting in permanent damage.
After six months, I had opened my eyes, but according to my doctors, I had otherwise made no progress. However, unbeknownst to them, I was trapped inside my body. My mind was working, but I had no way to tell anyone. I was screaming with panic inside. Mom initially tried the words and letter game, but honestly, it exhausted me, and I couldn’t make myself understand. The exercise required me to blink once for yes, and twice for no, but I’d get confused, and in the end, I gave up trying.
The medical team, in consultation with my parents, decided to move me to a group home filled with older adults who were primarily senile and required lots of attention. It was the only option available in our small country town. It was here that I met the devil-incarnate, Creepy Creptor, who made it his business to ensure that he washed, fed and abused me each day.
Back to the shower. Creepy Creptor washed my hair, somehow getting water and shampoo up my nose. I thought I’d drown before sneezing and emptying the contents of my nasal passages all over his stinky, ginger beard. He wasn’t impressed and increased his efforts to maximise my discomfort by turning up the shower flow and temporarily blinding me in the process. God, I hated this perverted guy!
Next came the bit he seemed to enjoy most. He got to rub foamy soap all over my inert body and then wash it down with a face washer. I was verging on womanhood… hah, what a joke!
Feeling my tiny emerging buds, Creptor massaged the soap into them. I could tell that he was getting some perverted pleasure out of this. Then he washed my tummy and dived down between my legs with his soapy face-washer. “Stop”, I wanted to say. “You’re using far too much soap down there, and it stings.” A single, lonely tear rolled down my cheek before dissolving into the shower water.
Creptor turned the hose up full blast, and the needle-like jets of water battered my body, rinsing off the soap before starting on my back. One of them had to hold me on my side whilst they washed and dried my back and buttocks, another of Creptor favourite parts to explore with his creepy fingers, before starting on my legs and noting any pressure sores. My skin was intact, but my bony hips and shoulders were becoming a concern.
After I was dried and dressed, the lovely Angela bought in my breakfast. I thought for a hopeful moment that she was going to feed me, but it wasn’t to be, and Creptor took over the job. Any mulched up food that didn’t make it to my mouth wound up in my nose and at times even in my ear. I was totally relieved when breakfast was over.
And that, my friends, was my morning. The rest of the day is routine—lunch at midday, dinner at five and in bed by seven-thirty. I’m fifteen years old, and if I don’t get pneumonia or Covid, I can look forward to another thirty or forty years of torture whilst I exist in this dreadful place. Creepy Creptor has told me in minute detail what he will do to my poor abused body when I’m old enough.
It’s enough to make me wish fervently that I had died in the accident. My parents treat it as some miraculous sign that I’m alive. They see my involuntary twitches as evidence of movement. Like most doting parents, they will never give up, and one or both of them used to visit me every two to three days. Since Covid began to strike down nursing-home residents and staff, these visits have become few and far between. Restrictions to visitors have meant that I am fearfully alone for much of the time, isolated with my thoughts and with no means of communicating the awful treatment that I endure.
This, without exception, is my life—no time off for good behaviour, just monotony, fear and abuse. Unless Creptor or I become a Covid fatality (a girl can dream), I can expect the situation to get worse and not better. In my mind, I try to die a little each day. It isn’t difficult. There’s a lot to be said for mindfulness, but my method focuses on shutting down the brain, not opening it to new horizons. It’s my only way out of this nightmare.
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Marie, again you caught my attention and tugged at my heart strings. What a dreadful story, but so well described. You are masterful in your writing and keep a reader both wanting to stop reading and I can't put it down type of reading. I can't wait to read more. Keep up the writing and I will forever be a fan.
Thank you so much Cal for your great review. Marie
You describe this girl's horrifying condition so well. Maybe her medical terms are too advanced, but she's had time to learn them and uses them with morbid glee. You're right, locked-inside syndrome is a fate worse than death. Well done! I look forward to reading more of your stories!
Thanks so much for the review. Creepy Creptor was a real character. He was a medical orderly when I was training to be a nurse. The patient wasn’t a little girl but a middle aged man who had serious head injuries, following a car accident. The creep really abused that guy and I couldn’t stand it so I reported him and he got the sack. Other nurses backed me up and im glad I did it. Some people are so cruel they shouldn’t be trusted with vulnerable patients. I’ve never met a patient with locked-inside -syndrome but the idea of it is horrific....
Wow that was more of a horror story than any big budget stephen king movie out there in Hollywood. Super sad story but its beautiful you gave a voice and story to a character totally misinterpreted and some may not even fathom the turmoil they could go through. There's a sad reality out there nobody knows about and scary predicament to be in without a means to call for help. Reminds me bits of my favorite story I have no mouth and I must scream. You did a great job writing it, kept it short and sweet, even if it wasnt short and sweet it was ...
Thank you very much for reading the whole story and for your words of encouragement. I remember in my Nursing training, Creepy Creptor was a medical orderly and the patient was a middle aged man with severe brain injury. I was appalled at his abusive behaviour of a vulnerable patient and reported him. He was sacked for the abuse and I was glad that I had made the decision to inform. Other Nurses backed me up. I haven’t Nursed anyone with LIS but could easily empathise with such a situation. Very sad and often unknown to treating doctors LIS ...
That's so scary I was afraid but not surprised it was based on a true story. Makes my skin crawl how horrible some people could be to those who csnt defend themselves. Its amazing what you did for speaking out. As much as monsters live amongst us also unsung heroes to counter them. Thanks for sharing the story with us.
Thank you for your comments. Marie
Again, Marie, you have written a sad but enthralling story. I was so engrossed in the story and felt so sad for the young heroine. I so wanted to punch out Creepy Creptor. Keep up the writing because you are so good. Amazing!!!
Thank you so much for your review Calvin.sadly, Creepy Creptor was based on a medical orderly from my nursing training. I was so appalled that I reported him and he was sacked. I never regretted that decision and other nurses supported me. It wasn't a child with Locked-inside-syndrome but a middle aged man who was shockingly brain damaged that he abused that day... It was the straw that broke the camels back. I've never met a patient with LIS but my imagination takes me to obscure themes and places and I could just imagine how that child wou...
Truly terrible, yet monsters freely slither amongst us undetected, preying upon the vulnerable; a reality most don't want to admit exists.
Yes, sadly, some people are not diagnosed with “Locked-inside-syndrome”, which in itself is horrendous. There also, unfortunately, will always be monsters who will exploit the vulnerable.
Having been catatonic before, I could totally relate with the trapped feelings. Sometimes we have the ability to move and can't.
That must have been an awful experience.
Lets just say thank science for ECT's and second generation atypical antipsychotics.