|Jo lay staring at the ceiling, the thoughts spinning around her head like a whirling dervish. No matter how hard she tried to concentrate on one, it quickly span out of reach and another replaced it, only to repeat the same process again. She closed her eyes in a forlorn attempt to try and sleep, but the needed rest wouldn’t come. No matter what she did, she couldn’t block out the thoughts. She attempted to turn onto her side to see if that would help, but she found herself unable to move any part of her body, except her arms. Tears trickled unchecked down her cheeks as she began to panic.|
Jem came into the room and stood where she could see him, concern on his face. He knew that Jo was going to struggle with this treatment; however, it was the only way he could prevent the constant movement in her sleep and ensure that she rested properly.
“Jo?” His voice was quiet, reassuring. Her head turned towards the sound and he saw the tearstains on her cheeks, the terrified look in her black eyes as she looked up at him. He moved closer to where she lay, her body almost encased in plaster and sheets tucked firmly around her, pinning her to the bed to prevent any unnecessary movement.
“Jem?” Tears overflowed once more as she looked up at him, a familiar face in a strange sequence of events. “What’s happened to me? Why can’t I move anything?”
“You’re in a plaster cast, Jo. You have limited movement in your arms, but that’s all.”
“It’s to allow your lungs to rest, thoroughly. You aren’t resting properly because of the amount of nightmares you keep having. This is the best way to prevent you from moving around unnecessarily.”
“I don’t like it, Jem. I feel trapped. How can I do anything like this?”
“You can’t. That’s the whole reason for the cast. Listen to me, Jo.” Jem perched on a high stool by the bed, where Jo could still see him. “I’ve had to immobilise your body so that you don’t damage your lungs any further. The nightmares and flashbacks you’re suffering are causing you to move around too much to allow you to have complete bedrest in the normal way. The few weeks you’ve been here have shown me that you’re still struggling to deal with what happened when you had to flee from Austria.”
“I’m scared, Jem. I can’t do this.” Jem saw she was becoming agitated, though the cast was doing its job and preventing her from making any movement.
“Shhh. You can do this. I promise I’ll look after you, Jack, too, when he comes back. Try to sleep, now, that’s the best thing you can do for me.”
“I daren’t sleep. They come for me when I sleep. Now, I can’t even run from them.” The tears fell once more as Jo revealed a little of what she went through each night in her sleep.
“It’s only dreams, Jo. No one will take you away, I promise. Your imagination is playing tricks on you. I don’t want to continue giving you sleeping tablets each night, nor do I want to have to sedate you again to stop the movement, since neither will help you in the long term. I know it’s going to be difficult, but you’ll be in the cast until the nightmares have subsided.” Jem stood in preparation to leave.
“Please don’t leave me.” Jo attempted to reach out, but found she couldn’t do more than raise her arm a little. She cried out in frustration. Jem turned back to her and gently returned her arm to where it had been resting.
“I’ll stay with you until you’re asleep and will keep looking in on you. You need to try for me, Jo. Only you can banish the nightmares, though I want to help you as well.” Jo obediently closed her eyes and Jem was rewarded by her breathing becoming regular as sleep finally overcame her. He brushed her hair gently away from her face before leaving the room, quietly.
The next few days were exhausting for Jo. She was unable to sleep properly thanks to the nightmares which constantly plagued her. She woke drenched in sweat and screaming on numerous occasions but, she was unable to move or escape her thoughts. The nurses sponged her daily and massaged her limbs, encouraging her to talk about the nightmares but, Jo was reluctant to talk to them. Her dreams were too violent for her to recount to a relative stranger, however well-meaning. Jem looked in on her regularly and he managed to extract some of the detail from her, reassuring her that it would improve.
Jo asked for her sister on more than one occasion, though Jem refused her requests. He knew that Madge was busy enough with the children and dealing with Robin’s nightmares without the added stress of seeing what Jo was enduring. He’d explained what had happened to Jo and promised her regular reports to put her mind at ease. He knew that if Madge saw her sister in this distressed state, she would want to stay with her and he couldn’t allow that for her own health. Jem felt as if he was between a rock and a hard place in trying to juggle what was for the best. He wished that Jack was back from his visit to England and hoped that he had recovered sufficiently from that same trek to be able to come back to work and help with the burden of the job.
Having looked into what happens in this story, I discovered that Craig Y Nos Sanitorium in Wales was a pioneer of this method of complete bedrest for TB patients. If you want more info about life in a TB San during the war & beyond, please have a read of this book published online: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/histmed/outreach/children_of_craigynos/Cyn_book
This may clash slightly with A Moment of Care, however that story is slightly referenced in this one.