Katie’s world changed forever at the age of nine when a car accident claimed her mother’s life and left her unable to walk or speak. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t think and feel like any other girl her age. And her dad Adam has taken care of her every need.
Now Katie is nineteen, and Adam realizes that there are some needs that a dad can’t help with. But when Katie meets university student Peter, Adam wonders if Katie may actually get to live the life that he always envisioned for his little girl.
Age Rating: 18+ (Ableism)
Katie: A Love Story by Mr Writer is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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Adam Taylor used to be an engineer.
His life changed forever one winter’s night, ten years ago, when the car which he was driving, with his wife and their nine-year-old daughter inside, was hit by an articulated lorry that had spun on black ice.
After smashing into their car, the impact caused them to leave the motorway and tumble into a nearby field, coming to rest on its roof after somersaulting three times.
Rachel, his wife, never regained consciousness and died at the scene. He and his young daughter were airlifted to the hospital.
They had both suffered serious impact injuries and were both rushed into operating rooms for life-saving surgery.
He had broken bones in his legs and arm and had suffered a collapsed lung and some internal bleeding. He was heavily sedated and drifted in and out of consciousness for days.
He was not sufficiently conscious to be told of his daughter’s injuries and his wife’s death.
It was four days before it was judged that he could be told. It was left to his parents to deliver the news about his wife and daughter, who was herself still in a coma.
He was, as expected, devastated, but immediately his thought turned to his daughter.
Her doctor came to talk to him and he explained how seriously ill she was and that she was in an induced coma. He listed all of her physical injuries and explained that those would heal, in time.
But it was the not so visible injuries that were giving them the most concern.
He listened in horror as the doctor explained that she had suffered a catastrophic head injury, and their major concern was her brain.
Until she came out of the coma, they had no idea just how extensive her injuries were.
He was in a trance as the doctor spoke to him; he stared straight ahead as he tried to tell him of the possibilities, and their most critical concerns.
“We had to operate, Mr. Taylor. Her heart stopped three times in the ambulance and here at the hospital.
She’s had a severe bleed on the brain, we’ve done what we can and she is critical but stable. We don’t know what the long-term effects will be, but you must prepare yourself.
There is a high probability that she will have suffered some long-lasting brain damage, just now, we don’t know how much.”
He paused as tears fell from Adam’s eyes, yet Adam still stared straight ahead.
“There is a possibility too that she may have had a stroke, again, we won’t know until we wake her up.”
Adam slowly turned his head to look at the doctor.
“A stroke? She’s only nine?”
The doctor explained that anyone can stroke, and the trauma that she has received could have caused a stroke at any time. All they could do was wait.
He asked if he could see her and arrangements were made for him to be taken to her in the intensive care unit. He was shocked when he saw her.
Nurses seemed to be around her constantly. The machines that she was linked up to beeped and blinked. Meanwhile, she lay on her back.
Her eyes taped shut, a tube in her mouth to aid her breathing. He was devastated. His beautiful daughter lay helpless and he couldn’t do anything to help her.
A young nurse told him that he should hold her hand and talk to her. It is thought that patients are aware of loved ones talking to them.
Not sure that it was true or not, he didn’t argue. If it allowed him to be with her then that’s what he’d do. So he was wheeled beside her and he took her hand and talked to her.
Over the next week, he visited her as often as he could and he just talked and talked.
He didn’t tell her about her mother, he felt that a conversation like that should be face to face, and not with other people around.
Fortunately, there were no other crises and she lay there, peacefully, as the medical staff waited for the swelling on her brain to go down.
He had to leave her for one day. The day of his wife’s funeral. He was taken from the hospital with two nurses who pushed his wheelchair with a drip attached.
They made sure that he had his pain medication and was able to handle the emotion of the day. His wife’s parents had organized it and it was a lovely service.
When he got back to the hospital he insisted on seeing Katie before he went to his room.
She was still unconscious, but holding her hand, just for a short while was enough to calm him down and he left her for the night.
They did tests on her every day, sometimes multiple times a day. When eventually the time came to wake her she had been in a coma for eight days.
He was there when they started to wake her up. He held her hand and called to her.
It seemed that she would never wake up, and it took what seemed like a lifetime when suddenly her eyes flickered. He called to her.
“Katie! Katie! Wake up, darling. Daddy’s here. I’ve got you.”
When she first opened her eyes she looked at him. He stared, she hadn’t lost that sparkle, it may have been dimmed a little, but it was still there. He smiled.
Tears streamed down his cheeks as he squeezed her left hand. She licked her lips and tried to talk but her throat was too dry. A nurse gave her a sip of water.
She rested her head back and looked at him again and opened her mouth to talk. He stopped. What came out wasn’t words, it was a noise, a garbled noise.
He turned to the doctor. He could see his shoulders sink, this was not good.
He put his hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s not panic, Mr. Taylor.”
He moved beside her bed and she turned to look at him as he explained where she was, and that she had been hurt in the car accident.
Then he turned to the nurse and gave some instructions, which meant a lot more tests for his daughter. He held her hand and squeezed it.
“You’re going to be fine, honey. The main thing is that you are alive. I thought that I’d lost you.”
He brushed his fingers across her face and wiped her tears from her cheek.
They took her away for more tests and returned him to his room where he sat in his bed and sobbed. She was gone for tests, but he knew that it wasn’t going to be good news.
She couldn’t talk. And when he squeezed her hand he felt nothing back, she couldn’t move her hand. What did it mean for her? For him?
A nurse came in and sat with him as he poured his heart out to her. She listened and told him that until they knew the full extent of her injuries then it wasn’t good for his health to guess.
She said that it was far too early to speculate, they had no idea if any damage that they might find would be permanent or temporary.
“So. Let’s wait until we know, Adam. Then we can deal with it. But the most important thing for you to do is to let her see that you are there for her.”
He nodded. She was right. And he would be. For as long as it took.
They tested her for two days. Finally, two of her doctors and a nurse entered his room and closed the door behind them and began to give their assessment of her.
He listened in shock as he was told that she did have some brain damage. It was isolated to specific areas of her brain, and the most important problem areas were her speech and her movement.
“She has suffered a trauma to the area of the brain that controls speech.”
When he asked if it was permanent, the doctors glanced at each other and nodded.
“We think so.”
He lowered his head.
“But Mr. Taylor. You need to understand that her cognitive behavior is normal. She understands what is going on around her, she can think, reason.
Inside that brave little girl is a bright, alert little girl. She just can’t tell us how she’s feeling, yet. As for her movement.
There is no break in her spinal cord, her back wasn’t broken. But there is damage in her brain. Put simply, the signals aren’t getting to where they should.”
Adam listened as they explained the limits of her movement, particularly in her legs, and left arm.
They told him that she had some movement in her right arm, mostly from the elbow to her hand. Her fingers were weak, but they felt that with physiotherapy, that could be improved.
He asked if she could walk. The consultant shook his head.
“I’m afraid not, Mr. Taylor. And I would be surprised if that changed. She has very limited movement in her lower body, and certainly no strength. But she does feel pain. She’s not paralyzed.”
They talked to him at length, about her problems, her care, and their expectations for her future. They said that she should live a near-normal lifespan, but she would need constant care.
They began to talk about the range of services and service providers that could give her the care that she needed, and he stopped them.
“She’s my responsibility. She only has me now. You can take care of her medical needs, but I will take care of everything else. She’s my daughter.”
They tried to explain to him what was involved in providing constant care for someone, but whilst he listened, it didn’t change his mind.
He was resolved to taking care of his little angel, for the rest of his life if need be.
Before they left him he asked if she was well enough to know about her mother. They looked solemn as they nodded.
“We can tell her if you want us to?”
He thanked them and shook his head.
“No. This is something that I have to do.”
He was wheeled into her room and they left the two of them alone. He sat on her right, and as he took her hand he felt her gently squeeze it and wrap her fingers around his.
He fought back tears as he began to tell her about the accident and how they both ended up here. He stared at her eyes as he did, he felt that she already knew what he was leading up to.
“Honey. I’m afraid that mummy didn’t make it. She died in the accident.”
He watched as his little girl closed her eyes and sobbed. She sobbed her heart out.
He couldn’t get out of his chair to cuddle her so pressed the nurse call button and a nurse came in and went straight to her and hugged her.
She held her, stroked her face as she cried.
She held onto his hand throughout as the nurse comforted her and he told her that he was never going to leave her alone again, and he would take care of her when they got home.
So began her daily routine, and he was involved right from the start.
They showed him everything that had to be done daily. And even though he wasn’t fully recovered himself, he was determined that he would be the one to take care of her.
He soon realized the magnitude of his task and the limitations of his daughter.
There were tears. They both cried a lot. But together they began to form a special bond that was even stronger than before the accident.
Although she couldn’t raise her arms, she could move them from the elbow.
So he would sit with her and hold her hand, and he’d constantly work her fingers, challenging her to grip his fingers, and if she got him to yelp, he’d reward her with a piece of her favorite chocolate.
She had very little strength in her grip, but he yelped anyway, and she’d smile and giggle, and that would make it worthwhile.
There were other physical limitations. Her neck muscle was weak, and sometimes she had difficulty keeping her head still, and upright.
But the staff encouraged him that it would improve with physiotherapy.
But the most devastating thing for him was that she’d lost her speech. The sounds that she made were incoherent and garbled. But he was assured that she wasn’t retarded in any way.
Inside, she was still his bright little girl, she just couldn’t express what she wanted to say. When he asked about improvements in that area they were less hopeful.
“I promise you, Adam. You will learn to understand her over time. But the chances of her speech returning are low,” the consultant told him when he asked about her regaining her speech.
They were right, she grunted and made unintelligible sounds, which at first he thought that he’d never understand.
But they were right, and very quickly he learned what her various grunts and sounds meant, and she also learned that she had to talk in a different way to make herself understood.
He took great comfort from knowing that despite appearances, she was still very aware of everything around her, and was still his clever little girl inside.
They also learned to manage the basic “blinking” responses. They decided on “one blink for no” and “two blinks for yes.” And it worked very well, as long as he asked yes or no questions.
He resolved to read to her every day and to teach her everything that he could. He would do everything for her to give her the best, fullest, most interesting and fun life that he could.
Eventually, it came time for her to leave the hospital. He had prepared the house for her. He’d had the doors widened so that her wheelchair would fit in all of the rooms.
He’d installed ramps where needed at the front and rear of the house. And, he’d organized a chair lift, which would be arriving soon after they got home.
When they left the hospital, he wasn’t so sure what the future faced for her.
He knew only one thing, that he would dedicate his life to making his daughter’s life as good, and as normal and fulfilling as he possibly could.
Initially, he had a lot of help from his parents, and his wife’s parents who have lost their only daughter poured their love onto their granddaughter.
The house was constantly full of people. Both sets of grandparents would alternate weeks to help him.
But eventually, he had to learn to do it on his own, and the visits gradually decreased as he took on more and more of the tasks by himself.
The consultant had been right, they did learn to communicate with each other.
They even developed a basic technique for having quick conversations, which involved her blinking her eyes in response to direct questions.
It had begun with basic eye blinks, one for no, and two for yes. They’d introduced a third, three for “What the hell are you talking about, Dad?”
She had regular physiotherapy sessions at the local hospital every week.
And he continued them at home, and after a few months, he began to notice small improvements, especially in her grip and mobility of her hands and fingers.
Life did return to a kind of normality, just not the normality that he had imagined for her, or him.
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He looked down on his daughter asleep in her bed, she looked so peaceful, and still.
When she slept was when all of her tension, and spasms, left her, and you wouldn’t know that she had any problems if you looked at her as she slept.
Katie was nineteen now, and he had watched her grow into this beautiful young woman, yet his heart was heavy, knowing that she had missed out on so much, and would continue to do so.
He couldn’t bear to wake her, he sat gently on the edge of her bed and listened to her rhythmical breathing.
His mind went back over the years, how their relationship had strengthened to what it was today. He gently took her hand and held it. He closed his eyes.
He smiled as he remembered all the good times that they’d experienced together over the last ten years. Starting from a very dark place. Slowly, they rebuilt their lives, together.
There were many small milestones and victories on the way, as well as the disappointments. But as he looked down on her he knew one thing for sure, she was happy.
She had worked incredibly hard over the years and continued to do so.
Years of frustrating and painful physiotherapy had resulted in what most people would consider a tiny improvement in her physical movements.
But to her, and him, the fact that she could now move all of her fingers to a greater or lesser degree was a massive achievement.
And it enabled her to be able to use the technology that had been provided to her to communicate with the world.
Unfortunately, she never recovered the full use of her legs. She had a little movement.
She could move them from side to side a little and lift her knees a few inches, but there was so little strength in them that there was no possibility of her being able to support herself.
They continued to work on all four of her limbs through her physiotherapy regime.
Her arms had got stronger, as the physiotherapist had said that they would.
She could lift them a little way, however, as the years passed they had worked together and devised a way that she could, at times, feed herself. It took a little effort and organization from her dad.
But using a specially designed pad for her elbow to rest on, and a fork that she held but was also strapped onto her hand.
She was able to lift some foods to her mouth by pivoting on her elbow.
Of course, the food still had to be cut for her, and soups and foods such as baked beans, peas, and purées needed to be fed to her.
But depending on how tired she was, he had seen her eat small pizza slices on her own, and slices of toasted bread.
She was still unable to grip hard enough to be able to hold a knife and to cut food but bearing in mind where they had started, they were both delighted.
Whilst her arms had got stronger, she was still a long way from being able to do everything for herself.
Which meant that her dad still had to deal with bathing her, and her toilet and sanitary needs. But they’d been doing this for so long that it was second nature to them both.
Bath time had become a little easier. Her back was strong enough that she could sit up, once placed in that position.
She was now able to grip sufficiently well for her to hold the rails on the bath to support herself against the backrest as he bathed her, but that was about the limit.
But, they both considered these small improvements as massive and celebrated each successfully, and she continued to work hard during her sessions.
She still had speech problems. But that didn’t mean that she couldn’t be understood.
She had a specialized wheelchair fitted with her communication hub that had been developed by the local university’s engineering team, specifically for Katie, and was part of a pair of Master’s students’ courses.
It was similar to the one Stephen Hawkins used, but with a natural young female voice, and an interface designed for her to use with her hands, which were now strong enough to operate it well.
Initially, it only operated using her stronger right hand, but as she improved, she now used both hands, making communication a lot quicker.
The software was excellent and was constantly being updated, and she had become very adept at working it.
It was so good that, allowing for the delays in her selecting the text, real-time conversations could be had.
She and her best friend Laura constantly updated the database of pre-prepared phrases, such as, “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty,” “I’m bored,” and “I need the loo,” amongst dozens of others.
It made such a difference and allowed her to feel more included amongst people.
And people soon got used to the delay and accepted her as part of the group and adjusted their conversation and questions accordingly.
The students were working on introducing emotion into the voice, and she always enjoyed their visits to try out new software upgrades.
Their relationship had grown stronger and stronger over the years. They were closer than most fathers and daughters and he’d loved how their relationship had developed.
Albeit out of necessity, he was glad that they had the kind of relationship that they now had. And they needed it to be strong.
For all of the good times, and good things that they’ve done together, there had been rough times, but they’d always faced those times together, and head-on.
Her care had taken over his life. He was fully committed to her. He bathed her, helped her with her toilet needs, dressed her, fed her, everything.
But as she grew, and her body developed, he had to do things that no dad should ever have to do for his daughter.
And the worst thing of all, for him, was when she hit puberty, and he had to begin to deal with her periods.
Initially, he felt that it was something that he shouldn’t be doing. He felt so uncomfortable that he brought in a carer to take care of her sanitary needs.
It was not his smartest move. His big mistake was that he didn’t consult her.
He may have felt more comfortable with not having to deal with her sanitary needs but what he hadn’t considered was what she wanted.
It turned out that she was less than happy that he’d brought in outside help without consulting with her.
Her carer sat down with him and told her that his daughter wanted to talk to him and what it was all about.
He sat with her, having been told by the carer what she wanted to talk about. He began with a series of questions and statements that she could answer yes or no to.
It took some time but he learned that she felt more comfortable with him taking care of all of her needs. She understood that it was embarrassing for him, and her.
But she’d rather put up with a little embarrassment than have someone else take care of her. He listened with tears in his eyes as her computer responded to him.
“Dad. We have been through so much. I don’t want some stranger doing it for me. I know that it’s embarrassing but if you can do it I’d prefer it.”
He knew that if she could put up with it then the least he could do was to at least try to do what she asked. So he had to learn all about sanitary pads.
Then, as she grew and her periods became heavier, he had to learn about tampons. And no father should have to insert and remove his daughter’s tampons. But he did it.
He knew that it must have been so degrading for her, and embarrassing, but she never complained, and always thanked him afterwards.
Fortunately, as she got older, solutions had been found.
And whilst he still had to undress her and get her in position, she had just enough strength to insert her tampon herself, with a little guidance from him.
But at least he didn’t have to do it all, and she felt just a little more independent.
When she was sixteen he experienced what was one of the biggest moments in their lives.
One morning, after he’d bathed and dressed her, he was brushing her hair and could see that she was straining her face.
He watched her carefully, he was worried that it might be the onset of a fit, as she suffered from mild epilepsy. But no, she locked her eyes on his and forced out, “Dad.”
It was not spoken well, but she said it.
He cried there and then and hugged her, and that is still the only word that she can say regularly, sometimes he gets an “eh” for yes, or an “uh” for no, but it’s still “Dad” that he loves to hear.
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