At the end of my previous post, I had the dilemma of my university summer ball looming right around the corner. I had spent practically my whole week in hospital planning with my mom (and the nurses) what to wear with my dress, how to do my hair and makeup, what shoes to wear… Oh the monotonies of being a girl! The theme of the ball was “The Prohibition” and the roaring 1920s; clearly the influences of Baz Luhrmann’s version of “The Great Gatsby” was more than a passing fad! The weekend previously I had been dress shopping and found the perfect beaded, flapper
style dress. Which unfortunately set me back by quite a bit of money. The ticket for the ball itself was quite pricey too – £70 – as I had chosen to go for both the meal and the entertainment option, whereas the entertainment only option would have been half the price. Whilst I did want to go to the ball, not only to make the most of all the money that I had spent, but also to see my friends in a setting that WASN’T a hospital… I was worried that my new, post-stroke brain wouldn’t be able to handle having to socialise for longer than a hospital visit, the stimulus overload and the fact that if I felt unwell, or had a recurrence of symptoms… I would be in the middle of East London amongst a bunch of drunken students. Medical students, at least, but still drunken ones. I was very tempted to stay for just the meal and go back before the entertainment began, but that would essentially mean that I had paid £70 + the cost of my dress for essentially a three course meal. Which, as a cash-strapped student, just seemed outrageous! So of course I had to at least try.
I was discharged around 4pm on Friday and plans were excitedly made. Thankfully the location of the ball was a short drive from where my student house was so my mother and boyfriend offered to drop me off, hang out in my house and either pick me up at 1am when the ball ended or be on standby in case I wanted to come back earlier. Which was absolutely amazing of them to offer. Hair done, makeup done, dress on and clutch packed full of PRN (whenever I need it) medication we set off.
A short 20 minute drive later, we were at the venue. It was incredible! The committee had really picked a venue appropriate to the theme and decorated it accordingly. There were large, vaulted, high ceilinged spaces and separated glass walled rooms for each area. Everybody was so beautifully dressed too; some had really gone all out with the theme! I met up with our group and we were greeted with a lavish champagne reception, all of which I sadly couldn’t have. A lot of conversations were mostly explaining countless times what had happened, how I was feeling, what was going to happen. But soon it was dinner, and soon after dinner it was the entertainment portion of the evening.
Towards the end of dinner, I was starting to lag (or rather, go “Ralphy” or “cloudy” as my boyfriend and I refer it as). Socialising became much harder, recognising people, even people I had known years, became difficult and I had to start using generic phrases in sentences to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to say their name. Eventually even the simple act of talking became difficult. It is a testament to the power of the brain – you really don’t realise how much mental effort is actually involved in talking until you suddenly have to actually think about talking. It wasn’t helped by the fact that we were being serenaded by a live jazz band and our table were right next to them…. Who were amazing, but just very, very…. loud. Loud music and flashing lights were a complete sensory overload for my poor brain and it just got a bit too much.
Dinner ended at about 9, after which we all went downstairs to boogie. I managed to meet up with a lot of old friends from different stages of medicine and really did try to catch up with people but Ralph was shutting my brain down. I texted my boyfriend to ask him to pick me up around 10:30 and went to sit down in one of the quieter rooms. 10:30 came… and went. As did 11, and eventually midnight. Despite several missed calls and texts to both my boyfriend and my mom, I heard no word from them. Eventually they turned up at 1am and it turned out they had both kept their phones on silent and had no idea I wanted to come back earlier. The last few hours of the ball were so… overwhelming for me emotionally and cognitively, especially when I realised that nobody was answering their phones. Thankfully some friends were a) drunk enough and b) had been dancing in their heels enough to want to sit down with me whilst I waited for my lift to turn up.
The moral of this blog post? Ralph was an awful date to take to a ball. I could see how the ball would have been amazing, but maybe I was pushing it to go the day after being discharged. Even if I did have the novelty of saying to people “Oh yeah I’m feeling better thanks, I was discharged from hospital yesterday!” Despite the unwelcome end to the night, it was nice to have some vague sense of normalcy. Normal, healthy people go to university balls and have fun, and going to one myself made me feel that little step closer to normal too.