While Mitch lay unconscious in the secure St Augustine ward at St Vincent’s Public Hospital, he was unaware of what happened to him. He was unaware how close he came to dying. He was unaware of the lifesaving work the paramedics did in treating him at the Prison.
He would’ve had no idea they rushed him to hospital by ambulance in a critical condition and he certainly had no idea they placed him into a medically induced coma due the amount of swelling on his brain.
For almost five days Mitch lay motionless in his hospital bed. Both his eyes were blackened. His head was wrapped tightly in a bandage. Tape covered his broken nose. He had an air tube in his nose and various monitor leads stuck to his chest.
In his induced coma, Mitch’s mind was in a constant dream-like state. It took him to a happy place lying on a beach in Fiji. Both his parents were there. His Dad looked so happy. It was warm and sunny. The sun was a bright fiery ball of light. The light briefly blinded him. First one eye, then the next.
Suddenly, everything went dull. Dark clouds blanketed the sky. Then, just as quickly, it was night. Mitch was lost. He stumbled along unrecognisable streets. The landscape was reminiscent of an old Sherlock Holmes style English street; empty cobblestone roads and street lights barely visible through the thick fog.
He turned into an alley that continued on for as far as the eye could see. Doors that continued forever lined the right side of alley. He frantically moved from door to door trying the handles, checking over his shoulders, as he tried to escape. Every door was locked.
When he reached the end of the alley he turned. A bright spot light shone on him, blinding him. He didn’t know who was there. He shielded his eyes from the light. There were voices speaking. They were using medical terms. But who were they?
Mitch opened his eyes. He slammed them shut when bright light flooded in. He shielded his eyes and tried again. Squinting through narrow slits, Mitch surveyed the room. His was the only bed in the room. But it wasn’t his room. It wasn’t his home. Where was Alison? He tried to call out for her. His throat was too dry. Words could not pass.
Where am I? This was all completely unfamiliar. He tried to cup his forehead but a shooting pain jabbed him in the side. The top of the white surgical tape stretching across his nose caught his attention. He touched his nose to see what it was. He flinched.
His eyes fell to the IV drip attached to his left hand, then to the plastic hospital bracelet on his right wrist. Somewhere off to his left, a machine made a rhythmic blip…blip…blip sound. He could hear the squeaking of rubber soles on vinyl floors.
And that smell. That antiseptic smell you find in hospitals, filled his nostrils.
Mitch shut his eyes. He realised where he was, but why? Why am I in hospital? And where is Alison? He tried to sit up. A sharp pain in his left side took his breath and sent him collapsing back onto the bed. He grimaced and let out a muffled grunt.
He touched his ribs. A tight bandage encircled his torso. His head started to throb. His face ached. Was I in a car accident…?
‘Can you hear me, Mr Dunne?’ A voice to his left said.
Mitch rolled his head towards the voice. A nurse had entered his room.
‘I can hear you.’
‘How are you feeling?’
‘Like I’ve been hit by a truck.’
‘Do you know where you are?’ The nurse said while adjusting some dials on the IV regulator. She checked the various monitors attached to him.
‘Obviously, I’m in hospital…’
She unhooked a cuff from a wire stand and placed it around his bicep. ‘You’re in St Vincent’s Hospital,’ she said.
Mitch closed his eyes hoping something would come back to him. There was nothing.
’Do you know why you are here?’ she said, while taking his blood pressure.
She released the pressure, undid the cuff and returned it to its stand. Next she took his temperature using a digital ear thermometer.
Lastly, the nurse shone a torch light into his right eye, then left eye. She slipped the torch into her pocket and updated his patient record.
‘How long have I been here?’
The Nurse’s eye dropped to the patient chart. She flipped an overturned page back to the front. ‘Ah…this is your fifth day.’
‘Five days…? What the hell happened?’
The Nurse read from the patient record. ‘I’m not completely sure. It says here you were brought in by Ambulance from Port Philip Prison with extensive head injuries. You were up in intensive care for the past three days. You were placed into an induced coma until the swelling in your brain subsided. You were returned to the ward yesterday. We have been bringing you out of it today.’
‘Five days…’ Mitch repeated. ‘Does my wife know I am here?’
The Nurse hooked the file on the foot of his bed. ‘I have no idea. Sorry,’ she said with a tone of indifference, before exiting his room.
Mitch closed his eyes. The Nurse’s words, ‘Port Philip Prison’ resonated with him. Why did that prison ring a bell? For that matter, why was I at that Prison? Mitch had nothing.
His next visitor after the Nurse came several hours later. It was a Doctor. He wore a suit, rather than the cliché white coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck. He carried a Manila file when he entered Mitch’s room.
‘Good afternoon Mr Dunne. My name is Doug Carson. I’m a Neurosurgeon here at the hospital. How are you feeling?’ His question appeared banal rather than genuine.
‘That is quite normal, I assure you.’
‘Normal…? Normal for what?’
‘You presented here with extensive head injuries. The most serious of which was the swelling to your brain. You were placed into an induced coma until the swelling subsided.’
’It is. High pressure caused by brain swelling can starve some areas of your brain of oxygen, constrict blood supply and destroy brain cells. By placing you into a medically induced coma it allowed your brain to rest, during which the swelling was given the opportunity to decrease. When swelling is relieved, pressure on your brain also reduced, hopefully preventing any brain damage from occurring.’
‘Are you saying I may have some brain damage?’
‘No. That’s not what I’m saying. In your case, I think the swelling responded fairly quickly. We will run some tests…but I am confident there will be no long term effects. You may experience a loss of short-term memory, however I’m confident it will self-correct with time.’
‘What about all this?’ Mitch gestured to his face. ‘Everything aches. What injuries do I have?’
The Doctor placed the file on Mitch’s blanket covered legs and opened it up.
‘You’re injuries were quite extensive. You suffered a fractured cheek bone, fractured eye socket, broken nose, broken teeth...’
Mitch placed his tongue through the voids in his mouth that were previously filled by teeth, as the doctor continued.
‘…You suffered five broken ribs. You have bruised kidneys and liver, several body contusions, extensive swelling to your face and jaw and of course…the swelling to your brain.’
The Doctor closed the file and slipped it under his arm. He continued. ‘As you will appreciate, we have you on quite strong pain killers to manage your pain levels. Now. If you have any concerns, or discomfort, contact the Nurse. OK? I shall leave you to it.’
Mitch didn’t see the Doctor exit his room. His medicated eyes were too heavy to hold open.
By day seven, Mitch’s strength started to return. He was still in a lot of pain. His entire body ached, but his mind was clearing.
The hovering fog-like feeling in his brain, the lack of clarity in his cognitive awareness, was almost gone. His thoughts seemed much clearer.
As he lay back relaxing as best as possible, Mitch’s eyes sprung open. His wide eyes darted. Port Philip Prison. He remembered the Nurse mentioning that prison. I was in Port Philip Prison.
He concentrated hard. Why was I there? Why was I in that prison? After several beats of forceful recollection Mitch’s jaw dropped. His eyebrows arched under his bandage. Dad… He rolled his eyes in realisation that none of this was a dream. Sadly, it was a reality and it was slowly coming back to him.
Thoughts of his mate Fitzy caused a smile to emerge. His smile wiped when he remembered seeing the African inmate walk into the toilets. He remembered the man firmly shove him in the chest.
His eyes darted. He frowned. However try as he may, he couldn’t remember anything after that.
And he never would. What happened after that would forever remain a blur that started with a cowardly king hit punch from behind and nearly cost him his life, if not for Fitzy’s quick actions.
His clearing mind moved to Alison. She would be terribly worried once she heard he had been taken to hospital. Hopefully he could call her, to reassure her he was fine; at least that was what he would tell her.