Becca Jane St Clair

Personal Blog

The Year From Hell

The past year for our family has been…a bit of a rollercoaster. There have been some amazing things that happened, but underneath it all was a level of darkness. I don’t want to give out a lot of details because it’s not my place to decide what information is made public, and of course, out of privacy for people involved.

On Saturday, May 12, 2018, Tim’s younger brother was in a serious cycling accident. He was doing a charity ride up Great Dun Fell with some of his friends. They reached the summit, and then on the descent his bike skidded in some gravel, and came off his bike.

He was airlifted from Cumbria to Middlesborough to the neurological specialists at James Cook Hospital. He was in a coma when he arrived. I imagine they rushed him straight into surgery, but I didn’t arrive until around 10PM.

I had been in Nottingham for the day, planning on seeing Sunny Ozell perform. I was hanging out around the venue when I received a phone call from Tim’s mother that she needed to speak to Tim right away. I can’t remember why Tim hadn’t answered his phone – he might have been on nights and sleeping. I asked if everyone was ok, and only got told that there had been an accident….now, if you know me and know my history – those are words that strike fear in me. Those are the words spoken to my mom and I the day my father died. So….panic.

I texted Tim, PMed him on Facebook, and was nearly about ready to ask my friend with a key to our house to go over and let themselves in to wake him when he responded to me. He spoke with his mother and called me back to tell me he was driving his mom and sister up to Middlesborough and he asked if I could meet him there. So we looked up trains and I figured out a way there, grabbing whatever food I could from the food trolly on the train – I actually remember having a cup of coffee, a kit kat bar, and a bag of crisps. Highly nutritional, let me tell you! I also remember plugging my earphones into my tablet and watching three episodes of TNG on the train as I couldn’t concentrate on reading.

When I arrived at 10, we still had no information. Tim’s brother’s wife and her dad were there along with Tim, his mum, and sister. We finally were spoken to sometime after midnight by the surgeon, and it wasn’t a very pleasant conversation. We were let in to see him, and I think we all thought this was it. Of course, we would have many more moments like this over the course of the year.

We got to a hotel in Middlesborough around 230 in the morning with nothing but the clothes on our backs. The hotel (The Holiday Inn in Middlesborough) was amazing to us. They gave us free toiletries and water bottles, found us a phone charger to borrow, and even gave us a reduced rate. In the morning, we were told to take whatever we waned from the breakfast area, so we grabbed plenty of food for the rest of the family still over at the hospital. I spent about an hour on a Sunday morning wandering around an unfamiliar town centre looking for a Boots and a Primark – Tim needed shaving supplies, we both needed deodorant, and we needed clean clothes. Tim had thrown on the first clothing he could find at home that day, and it happened to be his gardening jeans. Fortunately, I found some inexpensive Cargo pants at Peacocks, and I picked up a clean shirt for myself.

We found out his brain was swollen. They removed part of his skull to allow for the swelling to calm down (he’d get a titanium plate later). He had fluid in his lungs, which turned into multiple lung infections. At one point, doctors asked us to think about “what he wants”. I can look back in the messages I sent to my best friend and read the despair in them.

And thus began our lives for the next six weeks – twice weekly trips to Middlesborough with the occasional overnight and one emergency overnight when the trains were cancelled stranding us in York. We got to the point that we kept a change of clothes in the car with toiletries for Tim in case he needed to go straight from work, and anytime I left the house, I threw in toiletries and clean underwear into my backpack just in case of an unexpected trip up north.

We hated when the phone rang, even more so if it was during “unsocialable” hours. Our lives came to a total standstill, not knowing from one day to the next what was going on or going to happen.
We were both totally drained. Like, barely functioning at this point. Each day when we came home from the hospital, we collapsed into bed for 8-12 hours and then were zombies the next day….only to do it all again a day or two later. Tim took a few days off from work here and there, but we tried to organize our trips up around his days off – which also meant we no longer had a social life. A small price to pay, I know. But being cut off from your friends isn’t very fun, especially when you need their support.

We shortened our Summer holiday. We originally had been planning a two-week trip to visit the Harz, but we shortened it to just one week with full knowledge that we might get called home if anything happened. We still managed to enjoy ourselves, but we also felt so guilty for going away.
A bed became available a little closer to home – Nottingham – and Tim and I were there the day they transported him down, taking with us some of his personal belongings so they wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.
He stayed there for a few months in different units – at one point he was in his own private room due to the lung infections until he was finally moved to Lincoln.

Now, due to my own illness that seemed to never quit, I haven’t been to see him many times in Lincoln, but Tim tries to go twice per week as long as he’s not at work. Some days are good visits, others aren’t so good.
Parts of it aren’t my story to tell, and I still want to respect his privacy by not putting in too many details, but I did want to write something as we arrive at the one year mark from a life-changing event. Some lives (Tim’s brother, his brother’s wife, and their kids) are changed more than ours, but it’s still very life changing….and we’re only now beginning to come out of the black cloud that seemed to be following us around for months on end.

I’m also extremely grateful we have the NHS. Out of pocket, all the family has had to pay for so far in regards to his hospital stays has been parking at the hospitals, food/transportation/lodging to visit (We personally probably spent around £500 those first weeks), and that’s been it. All of Ben’s care – from the air ambulance to the surgeries to the medications to the hospital stay – have been covered. Seriously. I don’t understand why the US can’t wrap their heads around nationalised health being a good thing.

For those of you who knew about this this past year and have sent positive thoughts, vibes, prayers, smoke signals, etc, I thank you for your continued support.

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1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Any December 13th, 2019 6:46

    Beautiful pictures! Love your blog.

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