Jinnie’s Story – Book Seven, Chapter One

Intensive Care

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Jinnie was drifting between being conscious and unconscious. She knew she was in pain, and it seemed to be coming from the left shoulder. She tried to move her left arm, but it only brought another wave of nausea, and she drifted off again to dream odd painkilling drug-induced dreams about gunmen and shooting. The next time she woke, her shoulder was still painful, but she remembered the pain of moving her left arm and tried instead to move her right arm, only to realise someone was holding her hand. She tried opening an eye to see who it was, but the light was very bright. Through her semiconsciousness, she heard a voice she would swear was Paolo say, “Hold tight darling, I’ve buzzed for a nurse.” She squeezed the hand before she drifted off again.

She had no idea how much later it was when she heard the voice saying, “I think she is coming round, first she moved her left hand and then I buzzed because a few minutes later she squeezed my hand.” A female voice with a West Indian accent replied, “Give me a moment while I check her,” and Jinnie felt a hand taking her hand and the voice said, “I am just going to listen to your chest,” and she felt a stethoscope on her. This time she thought, ‘I am damn well going to stay awake,’ and she squeezed the hand again hoping it was Paolo and forced an eye open despite the brightness. The voice came again and this time she was certain it was Paolo as it said, “She just squeezed my hand again and look she has opened an eye.”

By the time she had managed to open both eyes and they had begun to focus on Paolo, she realised she was surrounded by doctors and nurses and the bright light was the sun streaming through a window. Then she realised Paolo was talking to her, saying, “Lie still darling, you are in hospital, recovering from being shot. The doctors have operated, and you are going to be okay. Don’t move about too much there is a drip in your arm. Can you speak?”

Jinnie tried to say ‘yes’ but her mouth was dry, and her lips felt cracked. Instead, she just grunted. A black male face with a medical mask on said, “Nurse, get a damp sponge for her lips,” and moments later a damp sponge passed over her lips and a few drops of water entered her mouth. It felt wonderful, and she smiled. She turned her head slightly so she could see Paolo and he seemed to be crying.

Now she was slowing becoming more aware of her surroundings. It looked like she really was in hospital and all around her were machines bleeping and buzzing. Paolo must have read her mind because he whispered in her ear, “You are in intensive care. You lost an awful lot of blood; I have lost count of how many transfusions you have had. It has been a damn close thing, at one time I thought we were losing you. I doubt you remember what happened, but you were shot in the shoulder at close range, the bullet went straight through, breaking a bone on the way, and you lost consciousness due to blood loss.” Jinnie tried to nod that she understood but that hurt as well.

The doctor was busy checking all the machines but saw her wince and said, “I think it’s time for a little more painkiller,” and turned up the drip that led to the back of her hand. The doctor continued, “The dry mouth is a side effect of the drugs we have been giving you while you were unconscious. Now you are back with us we are reducing them slowly and everything should soon be back to normal. Your trouble speaking is the nasal feeding tube, and we can withdraw that now. One of my juniors will be along to do that shortly then we can let you have a sip or two of water.”

Jinnie felt a little easier as the additional painkiller kicked in and she began to take in more of her surroundings. Everyone, including Paolo, was wearing scrubs and were masked up, then she remembered Paolo had said she was in intensive care, but where? Until they took this damn feeding tube out and she could ask, she could only guess. From all the black doctors and nurses, she could be in England or Africa, she could see a cloudless sky out of the window. How long had she been unconscious, was it summer? She lay there trying to remember being shot, where had she been, what had happened? She had a vague memory of a black car but wasn’t sure if it had been a dream. As soon as she could speak, she would ask Paolo.

Jinnie thought she was going to retch as the feeding tube was withdrawn, but the feeling quickly passed once the tube was out and the sip of cold water from straw in a plastic beaker was wonderful. The nurse said, “If you keep it down you can have a bit more in a few minutes.” After a second double sip, she tried to ask Paolo, “Where am I?” but even to her it sounded very odd. Somehow Paolo understood and said, “Barbados, this is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.”

Jinnie lay back and tried to remember what she was doing in Barbados, but it was still a blank. She could remember things that had happened years ago, even a few weeks ago, but not what had happened to her recently. Was her mind deliberately shutting out unpleasant memories? She remembered Paolo, the twins, the Trattoria Trevi, the Dark Kitchens, there just seemed to be a wall around recent events that she couldn’t penetrate, no matter how hard she tried. Thinking about it had exhausted her and she decided to shut her eyes for a while.

When she woke, it took a moment for Jinnie to remember she was in hospital in Barbados. She looked around her, and Paolo was asleep in a chair, and it was dark outside the window. A nurse saw her moving and came over to her and asked if she was OK. Much to her surprise, she heard herself say, “Yes, thanks,” in a very gravelly voice. Jinnie realised that her mouth wasn’t so dry and when the nurse asked if she was in pain, she was able to say, “Not a lot.” The nurse fussed about for a bit, recording her vital signs, and as she did so, Jinnie tried clenching her left hand. That had hurt her to do before her sleep and it wasn’t as painful. She wondered if it was the painkillers or was she healing?

After writing her last recording, the nurse smiled and asked, “Are you hungry this morning?” Which made Jinnie realise she did feel rather empty and asked, “What time is it? Is it breakfast?” The nurse smiled, consulted the wall clock and said, “It’s 5:23 and you have slept about eight hours. The consultant says as you kept the water down yesterday, we can try you on liquid food at breakfast, and you can have water anytime you want it. If you are feeling ok, we are to try you in an armchair after breakfast, that’s the first step to moving to a ward, but I think in your case it will be a private room. The security won’t want you on a ward.”

Jinnie asked, “Security?” and the nurse replied, “Yes, the armed BPS man out in the corridor. Now I have to go and do some paperwork ready to hand over to the next shift, but the buzzer is by your right hand, don’t hesitate in pressing it if you need anything. I will be back shortly for your next set of readings.” Jinnie closed her eyes again but didn’t sleep. There was a memory nagging at her that she nearly remembered but not quite, it was about her being in Barbados, but she still couldn’t quite remember it.

At 5:30 the nurse was back to record things again and said, “I’m sorry it’s every fifteen minutes until I’m told otherwise”. A few minutes later she was back with a bowl of warm water, liquid soap, a flannel and a towel and proceeded to give Jinnie a wash. After the wash it was another set of readings. This didn’t bother Jinnie greatly as it was just recording what the screens that were connected to her by wires were showing; blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, heart rhythm. The nurse muttered “good” and disappeared again.

Jinnie watched it getting lighter all of a sudden and she thought how quickly it went from darkness to full daylight this much nearer the equator, no prolonged half-light like back home. Then she thought of the twins and, if Paolo was in Barbados, where were they and who was looking after them. Then she remembered Izzy and relaxed. If Izzy was looking after them, they would be OK. From the corner of her eye, she saw Paolo stir and stretch like Larry. ‘Gosh’, she thought, ‘I remembered my lovely cat, is my memory coming back?’

Paolo saw she was awake and came over to her asking, “How do you feel, are you still in a lot of pain?” Jinnie replied in her raspy voice. “A bit better, not too much pain.” Paolo said, “Your voice is better; I can understand you. It’s nearly seven o’clock and breakfast time. They said you could have some Fortisip.” Jinnie had no idea what Fortisip was and asked “What?” Paolo smiled and said, “It’s liquid food, like a milkshake, and comes in different flavours.” “Oh,” replied Jinnie and only hoped it wasn’t banana, she remembered she didn’t like bananas.

The nurse arrived with a little bottle with a straw in it and said, “I didn’t know what flavours you like, so I brought vanilla, I hope that is OK.” Jinnie managed to say “Yes” and she heard Paolo say, “She often has a vanilla milkshake so that’s good. Anything but banana, she hates banana.” The nurse held the bottle so Jinnie could suck the straw. “Take little sips,” said the nurse. “Take it slowly, there is no rush, in fact I think your husband could help you while I get on with getting ready for the doctors to come round.”

Paolo took the bottle and the nurse slipped away. “Is it OK?” asked Paolo, and between sips Jinnie managed, “Yes, good.” When she had drained the little bottle, she felt quite full, and Paolo wiped her mouth for her. She asked, “Twins?” And Paolo answered, “They are at home with Izzy. I talk to them every day and they have been very worried about you. We didn’t tell them you had been shot, only that you were ill in hospital and were asleep. Last night I told them you had woken up and they wanted to know when they could talk to you. I just said soon.”

This time it was two nurses that arrived at Jinnie’s bedside and announced they were going to help her into the chair beside her bed. It wasn’t an easy manoeuvre with the various leads and tubes attached to her body, but they slowly got her first sitting on the edge of her bed and then, with a lot of support as her legs were extremely wobbly, into the chair with a blanket over her knees. Jinnie wasn’t sure how long it was before her breathing got back to normal after the exhaustion caused by just moving, but it seemed to be ages. All the time, Paolo stood back and watched the professionals realising that if he offered to help he would probably actually be a hindrance.

Once recovered sufficiently from the move, Jinnie asked Paolo what had happened to her as she had no memory of being shot. He told her the story he had patched together from the police, the doctors and nurses and Lenny at the embassy. He explained she had been in Barbados for the launch of DKLs Bridgetown Kitchen and the evening before the actual opening ceremony she had been out to dinner at the TT Continental with Patricia, Brooke, Brian, Belinda and Lenny. Jinnie nodded, now she was hearing the story it was triggering memories. She seemed to remember a convivial evening with good friends and excellent food. Paolo explained she had shown her dinner guests an article in the Financial Times about Sir Nigel Farage joining the Trattoria Trevi board, just how well the company was doing, the plan to expand quickly in the Caribbean and how she was going to be in Barbados for the DKL kitchens opening.

Paolo continued, saying that Lenny had told him Belinda and Brian had driven back to their house in Sandy Lane, Brooke had driven Patricia home and she had driven Lenny back to the embassy where he had a flat, before she was to head to Belinda’s home where she was staying. On the journey Lenny had explained he was worried about her security, there were rumours circulating that several parties were not happy with the Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) rapid expansion in the Caribbean, as it was costing them money. Namely Chefette and some of the KFC franchisees, but his bigger worry was associates of Dwight Holding, the German agent she had been instrumental in arresting, and the subsequent successful SAS raid on their Martinique training camp which she had been seconded to.

Jinnie let this information sink in and slowly realised it fitted in with some of the things she thought were bad dreams before asking Paolo to continue. Paolo told her that she had dropped Lenny at the embassy and joined him on the pavement by the police officer at the pedestrian entrance where Lenny had suggested he should accompany her to the DKL opening the next day as her protection. As she had gone to get back in her hire car she had stepped on the road in front of it, as a black car passed by. A hand gripping a pistol had come out of the front passenger window and fired several shots at her. Most had missed and splattered into the embassy wall but one had gone through her shoulder and she had collapsed.

Paolo explained that the armed officer had fired two bursts of three rounds at the fast-disappearing car, puncturing two tyres, holing its fuel tank and setting it alight. Jinnie grunted and asked, “Dead?”. Paolo continued saying the car crashed into a wall trapping the driver who burned to death, while the gunman climbed out and walked into the BPS who had rushed from the embassy to the crash. He was in a prison hospital with burns and would survive.

Paolo went on explaining how Lenny had rammed his handkerchief into the entry wound and rolled her over, exposing the worse exit wound and trying to hold it shut with his hands. Moments later the Marine Guard from the embassy’s main entrance arrived with a first aid kit and applied a trauma dressing which slowed the gushing blood to a trickle. The first ambulance, which had arrived a minute later, was from the emergency ambulance service and was equipped for trauma. The paramedics soon had a dressing in place of Lenny’s handkerchief and a fluid drip in Jinnie’s arm before they scooped her up and raced to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Lenny travelled with her in the back of the ambulance and was able to explain to hospital that she was an important British visitor, and the embassy would guarantee any costs. While Jinnie was rushed into the operating theatre, Lenny was on the phone to the embassy who messaged SIS in London as they knew she was an agent and rang Belinda and Brian who Lenny knew she was staying with. Brian had found her travel insurance certificate and rushed to the hospital with it, proving that she was insured for an unlimited amount. Lenny had phoned the insurance company’s emergency number and explained that they needed to authorise the hospital to operate immediately. When they started prevaricating, he had told them, ‘No, she couldn’t come to the phone,’ she was unconscious and, as the Barbados Embassy 2nd Secretary, if they did not authorise things immediately they would answer to the Prime Minister who was her personal friend.

Paolo said Lenny knew you weren’t close to the new PM, but he could hardly tell the insurance company that you were an agent and a friend of the head of the SIS. Jinnie chuckled but stopped quickly as it hurt. But, continued Paolo, the authorisation to spend whatever was necessary was faxed moments later. Paolo explained he was phoned at about five in the morning by someone who said they were Alan from British Security and he had been told his wife had been seriously injured and was currently in the operating theatre. They had organised for him to be on the morning BA flight to Bridgetown and a government car would collect him at 07:30, he only needed his passport and clothes, his ticket was for collection at Heathrow, and he would be met at Bridgetown airport.

Paolo said he had quickly packed a few things and explained to Izzy she was going to have to look after the twins for a while and had told them that mummy was ill in hospital and he had to go to her. When the car had arrived, he kissed them goodbye and promised to FaceTime them as soon as he could. He explained he had been rushed through the VIP channel at Heathrow and was led to a first-class seat before anyone else boarded. He told Jinnie he was sure the crew had been told to give him special attention, the service had been so attentive and when he arrived at Bridgetown an embassy car had met him at the bottom of the plane’s steps and brought him straight to the hospital avoiding the terminal building. Lenny had met him in ICU where he had not left her since she had been admitted. Lenny had told him what had happened and then went home to rest.

Jinnie realised that what she had dismissed as nightmares was, in fact, memories of the incident. But her memories ended when she had blacked out and resumed only hours ago when she had woken up and Paolo was there. But she had questions and asked, “How long was I unconscious?” “Eleven days,” answered Paolo. “What happened to the opening ceremony?” asked Jinnie. “It went ahead, I hear Brooke gave an off-the-cuff speech that was very well received. I have promised to let her know as soon as you were conscious but haven’t done so as I only stepped out of ICU for a short time last night to speak to the twins before they went to bed.”

“When can I talk to the twins?” asked Jinnie. “Just as soon as they let you out of ICU,” replied Paolo. “They will not allow mobiles or tablets in here because they might interfere with all the equipment, I have to leave my phone outside and my tablet is at the hotel, in the safe.” “Pity,” said Jinnie, “the poor mites must be missing mummy and daddy.” “Not so much as your cat, Izzy says Larry is not himself and has been off his food, even chicken.”

They were interrupted by a nurse who explained that the consultant was about to come round and would Mr De Luca mind sitting on the other side of the bed until he had finished. The ICU consultant was in scrubs and a mask, the same as everyone else in ICU, but was rather older with greying hair and a twinkle in his eye. He introduced himself as Mr Nurse and made a joke that Jinnie was sure he had cracked many time before, saying, “At least now I am Mr Nurse, it was a lot more complicated when I was Dr Nurse.” Jinnie immediately felt at ease as he busied himself reading her notes, examining the entry and exit wounds and questioning the ICU doctor.

Eventually he said to her. “Things are looking much better. You had a slight infection in the wound, but the latest tests show the antibiotics have worked and it has cleared up. Although I think we better keep up the antibiotics in capsule form for a bit of a precaution. I would like to slowly reduce the painkillers and move you to oral ones, I don’t want you becoming dependent. I see you have started taking food by mouth, I think that we can start you on a very light solid diet but supplement it with the Fortisip for a while as now we have stopped intravenous feeding, we must ensure you are getting a proper input.”

Mr Nurse continued, “I think that we can withdraw that catheter, it is rather restrictive, once you have pee’d naturally, I think we can free up the ICU bed and move you to a ward. Sister will make the arrangements. Then you will be able to have visitors other than your husband, I’m sure that will be a relief. I understand there have been numerous enquiries about you from all sorts including the president, the British ambassador and your ex-prime minister. I hope you can tell them of the excellent treatment you are receiving here.” And with that he winked and moved on to the patient in the next bed that was so far away Jinnie had only just realised that she wasn’t alone in ICU.

It was mid-morning when two nurses arrived with a treatment trolly and told Jinnie they had come to remove her catheter. Jinnie had persuaded Paolo that she was OK and he could head back to his hotel for a shower, shave, a proper meal and maybe even a short rest, to which he had reluctantly agreed. Jinnie asked if withdrawing the catheter would hurt and was assured it wouldn’t, it might be a bit uncomfortable for a moment, but it was a very quick process and over in seconds. The two nurses fussed around for a bit before one asked, “Are you ready?” and before she had a chance to answer she felt a peculiar sensation and the nurse said, “That wasn’t too bad was it. I’ll leave you a bed pan as sometimes getting the urge to pee naturally can come as a bit of a rush at first as the bladder has got used to being constantly drained.”

For lunch Jinnie was offered boiled fish or scrambled egg. Never having being a lover of boiled fish, she chose the egg and it was served with two slices of buttered white bread with the crust removed. Which she was surprised to find she quite enjoyed. She then had vanilla ice cream and a bottle of chocolate Fortisip. She was feeling quite pleased with herself as she felt quite full, the only problem was that she still hadn’t needed to pee, which she wanted to so she would be moved off ICU. It was nearly two o’clock when she buzzed for the nurse to collect the bedpan and shortly after, a refreshed-looking Paolo arrived. He explained he had showered, shaved, had a couple of hours sleep, FaceTimed the twins before they went to bed and told them mummy was getting better, sent them her love and might be able to speak to them tomorrow if she was moved to a ward. They sent their love and said Larry had been happier today and for the first time in ages had eaten all his Felix.

Paolo said he had popped into the hotel snack bar for lunch and had a half-pound cheeseburger and chips and had not realised just how hungry he was until he had finished it, so he had apple pie and ice cream as well. He rang Brooke and told her the news and she sent her love. She was working out of the TT (Caribbean) offices and asked him to tell Jinnie everything at work was under control, and there were no problems with Trattoria Trevi, in fact, quite the opposite and she would visit her as soon as it was allowed. She had promised to ring Alberto, Ro, and Brian. She understood that in her absence Brian had stepped up at DKL.

It was then that the ICU sister arrived to explain that she was expecting a porter with a wheelchair at any moment, and she was going to a side room on the women’s surgical ward with wonderful views over Bridgetown she was assured you could even see the sea.

In Chapter 2 – Jinnie’s recovery

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