Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It, too, is partly set in the rural Tanzania I remember from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter Two, scene two: Aftermath.
That was a dreadful day. I must have been slipping in and out of consciousness, because the next thing I knew I was being wheeled through the hospital on a trolley, and pushed into a scanner. Over a speaker inside the machine, an Indian-sounding woman’s voice told me to lay still. I must have done that and drifted off again. I came around on a bed in a single ward, where the doctor, presumably the one I’d heard in the scanner, was prodding and poking me. By then, I was almost clear-headed again, and I heard her ask Max to leave, whilst she discussed my condition with me. The last thing I wanted at that time was to face alone whatever she had to say to me. “I’d like her to stay, please,” I said, “Max is the closest to family I have in Tanzania.”
“Very well,” the doctor said. “You will need someone to support you for a while.”
“How long is a while?” I asked.
“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” she replied. “Mr Knight; my name is Ayesha Subramanium. I am a consultant in the spinal trauma unit of this hospital. The scan we did earlier shows that you have damage to your spinal cord in the 11th intercostal space. That’s going to leave you effectively immobilised from the waist down until it repairs itself.”
“How long is that likely to take?” Max asked, beating me to the question.
“I wish I could put a figure to that,” the doctor said. “If it repairs itself, it’ll take as long as it takes. It would be wrong for me even to guess at a time frame.”
“But is it possible that it won’t ever repair itself?” I asked.
“Yes, that is possible,” the doctor replied. “Obviously, we hope it will, but we can’t be sure. If it doesn’t, I can’t offer any real hope, except to say that stem cell and other research that’s going on in various countries now might show some promise.”
“So what do I do now?” I asked.
“First, we’re going to work on the assumption that your spinal cord will repair itself. I’m going to give your friend here details of some manipulations that will need to be done regularly, preferably at least once a day. These are to prevent muscle atrophy and osteoporosis. That means that if and when the cord does repair, you’ll be able to become mobile again that much sooner.” She looked into my face. “Okay. That’s probably enough for now. Let’s leave it there for the time being,” she said. “You’ll be here with us for some days, and we’ll have plenty of time to answer any questions you may have, and to help ease you into the lifestyle changes you’ll have to make — at least temporarily.”
That wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to hear, but I didn’t want the doctor or Max to see how devastating I found all this. I tried to put a brave face on it, but found myself asking, “What am I going to do, Max?”
“You’re going to get better,” she replied, “and until you do, I’ll be here to help you. I can do most of what I need to do from your house, and the things I can’t; well, you may have reduced mobility, but you’re not ill as such, I’ll be able to trail you around with me. Do you have any idea how many places I can get to free if I am a helper for a wheelchair user?”
“So I’m to be reduced to your free ticket to the zoo?”
“I’m glad I’m of some use!”
I was feeling a mixture of frustration and worry, even fear for the future. I know Max was only trying to lighten the mood, but if anything, that had made things worse.
“If you’re going to be here for a few days, Hannice,” Max said, “would you like me to bring your laptop in? It’s only your legs that are temporarily not working; your brain is still good, and I’d really appreciate your input on this TanzCap project.”
“Check with the doctor,” I replied, “if she okays it, I’m in. While you’re with her, can you ask if I can have some help to sleep, Max? I feel exhausted.”
“Of course. Then I’ll leave you to rest, if you wish, and be back tomorrow.”
Max went off towards Dr Subramanium’s office. Some minutes later the doctor came into my room.
“Do you have a sleeping pill for me, Doctor?” I asked.
“Not yet,” she replied. “Let’s chat about things first. First off, you can drop the ‘Doctor’. I can’t manage your condition alone, and neither can you. We are going to be working together, you and I. Where I come from, that makes us colleagues, and colleagues use a less formal address. From this point, I want you to call me by my given name, Ayesha.”
“Thank you, Doc… Ayesha. I am Hannice.”
“I know, but thank you. I’d like you to tell me about you; about your life and your routines; about your activities, your hopes and your plans.”
“How will that help you to fix my spine?”
“It won’t, but it will help us to explore what we need to do to make sure that, walking or not, your life can carry on as close to normal as possible. We’re going to start by kitting out this room so you and your friend can work together. I’ll have phone and internet lines brought in, and a desk big enough to accommodate the two of you.”
“How will I get from bed to desk, Ayesha?”
“Wrong thinking! I don’t mind if you ask questions like that, but I do mind if you ask them with a defeatist attitude. Don’t ask me; ask yourself, then use your famous business intellect to come to an answer.”
“So what you are saying is…”
“What I am saying is this. It’s only your legs that aren’t working. You can sit normally, you should be capable of propelling yourself in a wheelchair, and you can haul yourself out of bed and into a chair.”
“But what can I use to haul myself out of bed and into a chair?”
“Nope. Wrong question!”
“Okay. How about ‘Can you have something fitted, so I can haul myself out of bed and into a chair, please?’”
“Already organised. Do you see what I mean about asking yourself, with a can-do attitude?”
“Yes, I think I do. Thank you, Ayesha.”
“Here’s a sleeping pill. Have a good night’s sleep. Your friend will be here at ten o’clock tomorrow morning, by which time your room will be fully kitted out. You will need to be out of bed for a while for the frame to be fitted. We’ll lift you out for that, but don’t get used to it. I want it to be the last time.”