‘Il ne s’est pas reveillé,’ [he hasn’t woken up] says the junior doctor as Delphine and I arrive at the hospital this evening.
But an encouraging sign awaits us in boite 1, as his small room on the neuro-chirugie ward is called.
Our friend is now breathing without the help of a machine. He has only a feeding tube in his nose, and looking at him lying peacefully in his hospital bed and with barely any scratches on his body, it’s hard to believe he won’t wake up and walk out of that hospital sometime soon.
‘It’s nearly 7.00pm Wednesday evening. It’s sunny outside and it’s Delphine and Ka-renne who have come to see you,’ I say, pronouncing my name as the French do.
‘We are very, very proud of you that you are breathing without the machine. And we know that you will open your eyes when you are ready.’
And oh my word, that’s exactly what happens within minutes of our arrival. He opens both eyes - not fully, but enough to know that he is looking directly at me - and his mouth moves as if he is trying to talk to us.
‘Mon dieu,’ says Delphine, as we both watch, first in shock, then elation as his eyes remain open and his mouth moves. It honestly feels like he is coming round from the coma.
As his arms and hands start to move, Delphine goes to try and find the doctor. When a nurse arrives Delphine explains what has happened, how he kept his eyes open for several minutes, and how he has squeezed my hand half a dozen times but the nurse gives us an immediate reality check.
‘Malheureusement, it doesn’t mean anything,’ she says. ‘These are reflex actions, like a baby gripping someone’s hand. The most important thing is that he should have woken up by now and he hasn’t.’
She goes on to explain that they will do the IRM scan (MRI scan in English) between 12 -2.00pm tomorrow. This, she explains, will reveal ‘why he hasn’t woken up, whether or not he is in a vegetative state’ and 'if he will ever come round from the coma.’
I ask what constitutes the medical definition of coming round from a coma. ‘It is when the patient opens and shuts their eyes when told to do so,’ she says. ‘Or squeezes a hand on command.’
Unfortunately, she tells us, he has not responded to requests to do this so far.
Delphine and I wish him ‘bon courage’ for the scan tomorrow, and leave the hospital feeling deflated.
‘We have to be realistic,’ says Delphine. ‘But he is fighting to live, I can see it. Really fighting.’
As we drive home, the evening sunlight casting a golden glow over the wheat fields, I think about the nurse’s definition of ‘waking up from a coma.’
Opening the eyes when asked to do so? It suddenly occurs to me, that's exactly what our friend did.
I am trying to be realistic and respect the experience of the (excellent) medical staff, while secretly thinking that he may surprise us yet.
As a lapsed catholic it is a long time since I prayed for anything, but I am hoping for the best possible outcome for our friend - whatever that might be.