Friday, 11 April 2014


Laura has been in a coma for several months now and Geoff has stayed faithfully by her side. He reads to her, plays their favourite song on a loop and brings in recordings of their friends and family, television shows and sometimes just the noises he has collected on his smart phone of everyday sounds - traffic, people in shops, birdsong… even the rain beating on the kitchen windows - all to no avail. But he has never given up hope.

All her vital signs are fine; she is breathing on her own and scans reveal little in the way of quantifiable brain damage, so the doctors are maintaining an optimistic outlook and Geoff has become a regular face around the hospital. Everybody, from the doctors to the receptionists - even some of the cleaners and maintenance staff - greet him by name as he arrives for his nightly vigil. Her room always has fresh flowers and unlike many, exudes a cheerful calm.

One night, Geoff rushes out and gabbles excitedly to the nurse on duty. “She just gripped my hand!” The nurse alerts the other duty staff who quickly assemble to witness the miracle. But after an hour there is no more reaction. The scenario is repeated several more times over the course of the next few days and although Geoff is clearly convinced, nobody other than he has seen any more sign of life than they’ve observed for months. The monitors also show nothing conclusive and after a while it is quietly assumed that Geoff is suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and his imagination is taking control.

After a while the staff no longer responded so enthusiastically to Geoff’s insistent pleas for attention, but they still treated him kindly while shaking their heads sadly as he returned to her room after each alert. Then one evening the pattern changed. Geoff tracked down the duty doctor and said “Doctor, I just accidentally touched Laura’s left breast while I was arranging her pillows and she sighed!” The doctor examined Geoff’s face, seeking to ascertain if he was delusional. Geoff was clearly convinced but he’d cried wolf so many time before so he just said, “Try touching her right breast and see how she reacts.”

A few minutes later Geoff reappeared and informed the doctor that yes, he'd got a response, “Doc, she sighed again, harder this time!” The doctor quickly followed Geoff back to Laura’s room but despite all Geoff’s efforts to elicit a response, there was nothing to see except the merest blip on the monitor readings that could have just as easily been caused by Geoff’s attentions as by Laura’s independent exertions. The doctor eventually left Geoff to it and as he left, in a moment of frustration and wickedness, he suggested Geoff try a bit of fondling.

A few minutes later Geoff appeared at the doctor’s office door. His eyes were wide and he was breathing heavily. “Doctor” he said, “I did as you said and fondled her breasts. She moaned. And when I sucked her nipples she arched her back!” The hour was late and the doc was tired and in need of some sleep himself and he was in no mood to accommodate this fantasist. "That's very encouraging," he said. "She’s responding to intimate contact. You know Geoff, what might really do the trick is oral sex. She's bound to react to that.” 

Geoff dashed back to Laura’s room and the doctor began to make preparations for turning in himself, but ten minutes later an ashen-faced Geoff appeared once more and this time he was in a state of some distress. “Doc” Geoff faltered as he struggled to get the words out, “she’s dead!” He was clearly not joking. ”No!” said the doctor, “What happened?” 

Geoff looked up, his lower lip trembling as he fought back the sobs, tears streaming down his face, "I did what you suggested, Doctor, and tried oral sex..." He looked the doctor straight in the eye and added, "I think she choked."

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