Her ears awoke first. The strange and slightly rhythmic bleeping of a heart monitor. Whirring machinery. Distant sounds of sea gulls. Shoes squeaking on the linoleum. A gentle sniffing from beside her bed every so often. Occasional coughing. The gentle murmur of distant conversation.
Her nose became alert. The sharp stinging of hand sanitiser. Disinfectant invading her nostrils. Coffee? The scent of crying and illness, if it had a scent. The light and airy smell of flowers. Refreshing, coastal air... from an open window?
Her fingers registered the rough texture of the bed sheets. The slightly squashy, but still firm, mattress beneath her body. The warm feeling of a hand on top of hers. She also felt something like a head resting on her leg. Was someone resting on her?
Her tongue captured the disinfectant taste of a plastic tube in her mouth. Her saliva tasted funny, like it had been in her still mouth for too long. Her lips were dry and chapped, longing for moisture.
She opened her eyes. They shied away from the harsh lighting and she blinked a few times to help her eyes adjust. Fluorescent lights flickered above her head, surrounded by gleaming white tiles. Her mother was sat at her bedside, clutching her hand and was the culprit of the sniffing. The head, as it turns out, belonged to her twin sister, Ivory.
"Ebony!" Her mother squealed, suddenly standing up and leaning over Ebony's bed. She planted some kisses on her face, watching her expression carefully.
"Ebby, how do you feel?" Ivory asked, coming round to the other side of her bed. Her sister always concentrated on the feelings and contained the excitement within her. If she felt like Ebony needed external excitement, she would present it to her. Ivory was an excellent judge of situations.
"Um... I don't know." Ebony mumbled round the tube in her mouth. She didn't know. Everything felt incredibly confusing. She didn't understand how she felt and she didn't know what had happened. "Where am I? Why am I here? What's wrong with me?" She fired questions at the female members of her family. "Can you remove the tube from my mouth?"
"Slow down, sweet pea." Sweet pea? Why had she heard that recently? "You're in Bournemouth General. You were in a terrible accident on Monday, and you've been in a coma ever since. And I'll go ask the doctor if he can take your tube out in a minute."
"What day is it now?" She still didn't understand. She didn't remember any accident and when was Monday?
"Friday." Ivory replied sadly.
Ebony didn't reply. She merely lowered her eyes and played with a loose thread on her bed sheets. She barely even noticed her mother leave the room. Ivory didn't say anything either and just sat back down on a chair, watching Ebony with caution.
Her mother returned to the room after a few minute's awkward silence with Ebony. Behind her followed a doctor with blonde hair and carrying a clip board.
"Hello Ebony," the doctor said, stretching out her hand towards Ebony. She took it and shook it gingerly. "My name is doctor Saunter, but you can call me Emily."
"Can you remove this tube from my mouth?" Ebony mumbled, wiping her mouth as saliva dribbled out the side of her mouth, due to the tube down her throat.
"Oh, of course."
Doctor Saunter came over to the side of her bed and inspected one of the machines lined up against the wall. She flipped a couple of switches before gently removing the tube from down Ebony's throat.
"There you are then, sweetie. Is that better?" doctor Saunter tidied away the breathing tube, giving Ebony a bright smile.
"Much." Ebony massaged her throat and ran her tongue round her mouth to re-moisturise it. "Thank you."
"No problem," doctor Saunter looked down at her clip board before looking at Ebony's mother and sister. "May I ask you two to leave? It's just that I wish to speak to Ebony alone. She can tell you later if she wishes and we can have a family meeting. It's just patient confidentiality as she is seventeen."
"Patient confidentiality? But she's still my child!" Ebony's mother cried, looking down at Ebony with an expression of hurt on her face.
"Mum, just go. We can talk later." Ebony said tiredly. She tried to ignore the hurt look that she received from her mother. Ivory simply obeyed and stepped outside, taking their mother with her.
Ebony looked at the doctor with concentration and slight worry.
"Well, Ebony," Emily started, "I hope you're feeling okay now. Do you remember what happened?"
Ebony shook her head, but stopped as it caused a sharp pain to shoot through her skull.
"You were hit by a car on Monday morning as you crossed the road. I have the information from your friend, Claire, that you had just left your house and were about to cross over the road to her. Apparently, neither you or the driver of the car noticed the other and the car collided with you. Do you remember that?"
As the doctor was talking, Ebony began to strain her memory. She vaguely remembered seeing Claire over the other side of the road, she was so excited to see her. She remembered starting to cross the road, but she had forgotten to look, then everything went black and she didn't know anything else.
"Um, a little. I think I passed out after the car hit me. I remember feeling a lot of pain, and I think I must have fallen over, but I don't remember hitting the pavement." Ebony told the doctor. Emily then made a few notes on her clip board.
"That is understandable. It would be a miracle if you were aware immediately following the collision." Emily looked again at her clip board. "You have been in a morphine-induced coma since the accident. The doctors performed major surgery on you as you had some potentially life-threatening injuries. The-"
"Wait. What injuries?" Ebony asked, looking down at herself worriedly.
"You fractured your spinal chord, but that has been rectified as it wasn't too bad. You broke your left leg and dislocated the right arm. A broken rib did puncture your right lung, but that has also been rectified, although breathing may be painful for a while. You also suffered some serious head injury and that is the one that we need to talk about." Emily paused to let the information sink in.
"Okay, that explains some of the areas of pain. Go on." Ebony said slowly, not wanting to hear the next part, but also desperately wanting to know what had happened to her head.
Emily sat down on the chair next to Ebony's bed, looking down at her clip board, before looking straight into Ebony's chocolate brown eyes. "Typically, humans use an average of about ten percent of their brain's capacity. During the accident, your brain's capacity was affected and you are only using about seven percent. This is not such an issue at the moment, but some health professionals have reviewed your case and are concerned about whether this level is stable or not. They predict that it is likely to fluctuate and may decrease, but it also could increase."
"What does it mean?"
"It means that if your capacity drops below five percent, we may have to switch off your life support because you would slip into a coma again and may not survive." Emily tried to clear her face of emotion, but she always hated the part of telling the patients that they could die.
"What if it increases?" Ebony asked, trying not to cry.
"Then you will be safe. You will be more likely to survive, but it is uncertain as to what will happen if you continue to increase past thirty or forty percent. There are guesses as to what will happen at twenty, twenty-five or thirty percent, but after that, it is really unknown."
A period of silence rested on the room.
"Let my mum back in," Ebony said eventually. "I'm not going to tell her all of it, just about the brain damage."
Emily nodded and crossed the room to open the door. Ivory flew over to Ebony's bedside and clutched her hand. Their mother looked sharply between Ebony and Emily the doctor.
"Well? What is it?" mother demanded.
"Ebony's head hit the pavement with great force and she suffered from some severe brain damage, which explains why she was in a coma for so long. However, the doctors here are quite unsure as to what will happen to Ebony's brain now. She may have some permanent or temporary brain damage, but she will need to stay in intensive care so we can keep an eye on her." Emily explained softly.
When her mother was turned towards the window in thought, and Ivory's head was resting on the bed, Ebony nodded at Emily to approve her explanation. Emily smiled before leaving the room.
A pin drop could be heard in the room. Emily's mother and Ivory said nothing and Ebony did not want to initiate a conversation. Ebony closed her eyes and leant her head back instead. She sank into deep thoughts, wondering what would happen to her brain: would it keep her alive by expanding its capacity, or would it kill her by reducing it?