Mayday! Mayday!

View of bluebells protected by woodland

SC56 Begins | Dilated Cardio Myopathy.

“There’s no need to panic!” is both the opening line to the SC56 song “Space Cadet 2” and reminds me of when panic gripped me within the confines of my hospital room.  Mum, and a nurse had to hold my arms down to prevent me from pulling the lines out of my neck; this would obviously have been a dangerous thing to do.  I was given something to calm me down.  Later, after leaving the Harefield, I met up with a Psychiatrist and discovered I was suffering Bipolar Affective Disorder. The stress of the heart transplant operation had caused me to lose grip on my mind and experience a manic episode. In a scene from Space Cadet 56 Book One where Patient 56 panics and becomes of control, he shouts “Bob Bowman to Mission Control! Mayday! Mayday!” I began writing and drawing cartoons towards the Space Cadet Saga in 2001, some of the themes included in the stories touch upon an experience of mental illness.

I was recovering reasonably quickly but had to stay in hospital as they checked my heart for rejection, I had many tests and routine physiotherapy.  It was during this time I befriended a pretty cleaner who, for the sake of this blog, I will call Jenny. I bumped into Jenny whilst I was awaiting a biopsy to check for rejection.  Before the biopsy, I decided I would attempt to chat up Jenny and ask if she would go out with me on a date.  She said “yes”, this made me so happy, however short-lived it was; it’s pretty stressful having a local anaesthetic in your neck whilst a surgeon cuts a hole to access a convenient vein.

“Things can only get better” was a D-reem song, it had been used by the Labour party when in May 1997; they swept into power beating the Conservatives.  Tony Blair was our new Prime Minister and the media was full of favourable news for the party coming into government after 17 years of Tory rule.

Comical Illustration of Ward E at Harefiled Hospital

Due to the hype of the general election and my love for Jenny, I had another manic episode. I awoke at 6am and phoned my mate Jim on the hospital telephone. He was not amused having been woken up, but was glad to be available.  Jim would later help with the plot for Space Cadet 56 and features in a song dedicated to him called “The World according To Jim”.  After I put the phone down to a bleary Jim, I dressed and tried to find anyone around the hospital that would share in my excitement of the change at the top.  I found a Polish man working in the kitchen, he was generally unconcerned and just wanted to get on with his job.

I can’t remember exactly what happened for the next couple of hours, it was a hot day and I really started to lose the plot. I walked straight through the Intensive Care Unit and I just kept on walking.  I was looking for Jenny but didn’t know where she was.  I went to the Chapel above the theatre: as there was no one in the chapel I for some reason decided to take the cross off the altar, I still can’t remember where I put it. I walked into the Parkwood Hotel, walked down to the bottom of some stairs, reached a fire escape door and opened it.

I could see fields and a path to some woodland; it had been a long time since I had taken a walk in the country.  I kept thinking, it had been a long cold winter where I had faced death’s cold embrace, only to be born again in spring. The first thing I noticed which wasn’t hard to miss was the woodland protecting a huge carpet of blue bells, which decorated the ground in and around the trees. The wood felt cooling after the hot sun.

I began to call out Jenny’s name loudly as I walked farther into the wood; I honestly thought Jenny would be there.  I was aware of myself, and everything around me but unable to take a hold of the compulsion driving me on.  I came upon a large pond and was magnetically drawn to the water, as I started to walk in deeper my tired old shoes got stuck in the mud. I then decided it would be a good idea to take off the rest of my clothes, keep wading in up to my waist, all the while shouting out for Jenny.

Thankfully a nearby farmer, clearly concerned as to what the hell I was doing in his pond, shouted out at me to draw my attention.  I noticed him straight away and waded and walked through the undergrowth, trees, nettles and branches.  I then delicately, with some welcome assistance, got gingerly over a barbed wire fence.  For some reason I began to feel quite lucid at this point, the farmer phoned the police who happened to have a small station on site and they drove me back in a patrol car.  I returned to the ward where they were a little surprised and promptly gave me a tetanus jab for my troubles.

That evening, after chatting to some other patients on the ward, Jenny visited me.  We had a little cuddle and she gave me a kiss; proving without doubt that news travels fast on E ward and that some clouds can have a silver lining.

Sadly, I never saw Jenny again but I am extremely grateful and lucky that things have got better for me, I am alive, 16 years later and writing this blog.

by James Tottle.

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