Five

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Three

Mike rolled over and felt Evie’s warm body beside him. He sleepily opened one eye and saw that it was nearly 8am. They were both having a lay in that morning. Evie stirred and snuggled closer to him. He put a hand on her prominent belly and tried to feel any movement. The baby had been kicking like crazy when they got in bed last night and Evie had blamed the spicy curry. He or she was quiet now.

Mike lay there, dozing and making plans for the nursery. It was decorated in neutral colours as they had both agreed that they wanted the sex of the baby to be a surprise until the birth. He had to finish putting the cot together and add some last little touches. He wanted it ready in good time.

Mike felt Evie nudge his arm suddenly and his eyes flickered open. She was gazing at him expectantly. He raised his eyebrows in a questioning look. Her mouth moved but no sound came out.

‘What?’ He asked.

Or thought he did. He didn’t hear the word out loud. Was he still asleep?

Evie’s lips moved soundlessly again and he recognised the words they formed.

‘Are you ok?’ She was asking.

He sat up quickly, feeling a wave of panic. He was definitely awake and he couldn’t hear a thing. He listened hard. Usually there were background noises; cars on the road, water in the pipes, but everything was silent. He turned back to Evie with bulging eyes.

‘I can’t hear!’ He cried out.

He felt the words leave his throat, his lips and tongue curling round them, but he had no idea if he actually said them out loud. Evie gripped his arm tightly, her face a mask of worry. He could see her mouth working again but she was speaking too fast for him to lip read anything.

He looked around wildly then snatched his mobile from the bedside table. He went to his inbox and typed out a brief message on the screen. He thrust the phone into Evie’s hand.

‘Something’s wrong with my ears.’ It read. ‘You have to type me a message.’

Her eyes scanned the words then she tapped in a quick reply.

‘Is there any sound at all?’

‘Nothing. They must be completely blocked.’ He spoke out loud.

‘We need to get you to a doctor!’ She typed.

Mike shook his head and saw the realisation dawn on her that it was Saturday.

‘Hospital.’ She mouthed.

He nodded reluctantly in agreement. First his taste and smell, now his hearing, the illness he’d been hoping he didn’t have was coming out. Maybe it was something viral that affected his sinuses, or an inner ear infection.

Evie sprang out of bed and began to quickly get ready. There was a hospital twenty minutes away with an A & E department. Hopefully the wait wouldn’t be too long and they could help him. Mike slowly got out of bed and threw on some blue jeans and a dark jumper. He felt numb inside. It was strange not to be able to hear anything at all. There wasn’t even a light ringing sound or the rush of blood in his head. He gingerly touched his ears but there was no pain.

Evie was dressed in record time and gestured that she should drive them there. He shrugged meekly, he didn’t have much choice, he felt too confused to control a car. Just before they left the house, she ran back past him and got a pad and paper from the kitchen then she hurried him out of the door.

The drive to the hospital seemed to take ages. Evie kept shooting worried glances at him and squeezing his arm. He stared out of the window and wondered if maybe his eardrums had burst in the night for some unknown reason.

Evie explained to the receptionist in A & E why they were there while Mike stood bewildered next to her. He saw both their lips moving but was completely in the dark about what they were saying. The receptionist’s eyes darted to him twice but her face remained expressionless. Evie tapped his arm and pointed to some empty seats at the back of the waiting area.

She went and got them cups of tea from the machine while he sat in his own soundless world. Looking at the people in the hospital was like watching an old silent film. People were hurrying in and out and gesturing to each other. Some had faces contorted with pain and various visible injuries but he couldn’t hear their moans. He stared at the action and willed himself to hear again. The smell and taste were less of an issue but being temporarily deaf was alien to him.

Evie came back and handed him a steaming plastic cup. He drank his tea quickly, barely feeling the liquid scald his tongue. They waited for nearly an hour before Evie stood up suddenly. She’d forgotten that he couldn’t hear his name being announced by a nurse at the desk. She beckoned for him to get up and he followed her and the nurse along a bland corridor.

They were shown into a small examination room and sat down on some grey plastic chairs next to a bed. The nurse’s jaw moved as she asked questions. Evie took out the pad and paper she had brought with her and scribbled furiously. She turned the page towards Mike.

‘Nurse wants to know if you’re dizzy or nauseous?’ It read.

He shook his head and jotted a reply then turned the pad to face the nurse. He could speak the words but part of him couldn’t comprehend not hearing what came out of his mouth. Like if he couldn’t hear it then neither could they.

‘No I feel ok. Just can’t hear or smell.’

The nurse waggled a stethoscope and pointed at him. He understood that she wanted to examine him and he nodded. She was older than him and looked about forty. She had dark brown hair, which was tied into a neat bun, and large, brown eyes. She was carrying a little extra weight, which gave her a cuddly appearance. She had warm hands through the surgical gloves.

She listened to his breathing and checked his mouth and throat. She looked at his eyes, pulling his bottom eyelids down and shining a light in to them. Then she inspected his ears with a weird pointy instrument that reminded him of playing doctors with a plastic kit when he was a child.

She took his hands and pulled him up off the chair. She scrawled another message; she wanted him to close his eyes to test his balance. He did as he was told. He seemed to be quite steady on his feet so she motioned for him to sit back down. The nurse frowned and directed some more questions at Evie. Mike waited patiently, he had no doubt that they would find a reasonable explanation for this and cure him – maybe in time for the football tomorrow afternoon.

Surprisingly the nurse got up and left the room suddenly. He glanced at Evie and raised his eyebrows. She gave him a tight-lipped smile in return; one that was no doubt meant to reassure him in some way but instead it sent a shiver of dread along his spine.

The nurse came back a couple of minutes later with a male doctor in tow. He performed the same check up routine as the nurse and Mike found his legs a lot shakier this time when he stood up for the balance test. He could feel a rising sense of panic inside. Something was wrong. Something more serious than he’d anticipated.

The doctor and nurse conferred for a moment and then spoke to Evie at length. Finally she shrugged and began to write a long message on the pad for him. He snatched at it as soon as she lifted the pen from the page. His eyes skimmed rapidly over the words and the panic bubbled up a little more.

They wanted to keep him in for observation and run some tests. They wanted to check his blood and send him for an MRI scan. They wanted him to wait to see an ENT specialist on Monday morning. His body went cold as he read. An ear, nose and throat specialist? A brain scan? That was extremely serious. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him and he tried not to react too much. This stress would not be good for Evie and the baby.

‘No.’ He said, with what he hoped was a strong voice but he couldn’t hear otherwise. ‘I want to go home tonight.’

Evie grabbed his arm tightly then wrote another note.

‘But Mike they need to do tests! You have to stay here for a couple of days!’

He looked at the doctor and nurse. ‘Will anything happen tomorrow?’

The nurse took the pad to reply. ‘Probably not but we really would like to monitor you.’

He thought for a moment. He hated hospitals, always had. As a three year old he had fallen and cut his head open on a concrete block and been taken to hospital. They had given him seven stitches and made him stay overnight in case he had concussion. One of his earliest memories was lying in bed on the children’s ward in the dead of night, terrified. His mum was asleep on a camp bed next to him but he had lain awake thinking he could see shapes of monsters in the curtains around his bed. He could still imagine the awful, medical smell of the ward and the feeling of fear. He would rather sleep at home with Evie tonight if nothing else was going to happen until Monday.

‘I’ll have the tests today then come back on Monday morning for the specialist.’ He finally said.

The nurse didn’t look pleased but there wasn’t much she could do if he wanted to leave after the tests. He hadn’t even been admitted yet and could always discharge himself after. The doctor left the room and the nurse got most of his details from Evie. They used the pad when they needed to know anything from him. The nurse took two blood samples from him and bagged them to send to the lab.

He was then sent down for his scan. He’d never had an MRI scan before and an explanation on paper from the doctor didn’t do it justice. Not being able to hear made it worse somehow – it felt like he was lying in a silent tomb for an eternity.

Eventually he felt himself being moved slowly out of the machine and he saw Evie waiting for him. Her face was pale and the strain of trying to hold her emotions in check was showing. She kept rubbing subconsciously at her bump.

They went to the canteen for a while to wait for the results but neither of them could manage any food. They sat drinking weak tea and holding tightly onto each other’s hands.

The blood tests came back normal and there was nothing of concern from the MRI. The nurse still wanted to keep him in for observation but he insisted on going home. He would feel more comfortable spending the night in his own bed and getting some decent sleep. They arranged for him to return to the hospital at 9am on Monday morning to see the ENT specialist as a priority case.

Evie drove them home, her fingers gripping the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles turned white. It was late afternoon when they got back and she made him go straight up to bed. Mike lay there reading and trying to do some research on his symptoms on the internet but there weren’t any answers. Evie brought him some pasta for dinner, which he ate unenthusiastically with his lack of taste. She got into bed with him and lay snuggled against his body until they both fell asleep. As he drifted off, he decided he had made the right decision by coming home.

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