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Walking the Fragile Path Between Life and Death

How author KA Hitchins faced a life threatening condition - just as she was writing a novel about one 

TheKeyofallUnknown500I didn’t expect to be rushed into hospital on 24 March 2016. I should have spent the day on social media posting and tweeting about my debut novel, The Girl at the End of the Road, which was officially released that day in bookshops and through online retailers.

But the previous night I’d gone to bed with some unpleasant blood blisters in my mouth. I must be really run down, I thought, with the pressure of editing my first book, organising a mini book tour for the following months, and beginning my next novel.

When I awoke on the day of the big launch, I noticed a strange rash of red spots on my throat and arms which didn’t blanch when pressed. I was queuing at the receptionist’s desk at my local surgery at nine o’clock sharp and was shown straight in.

As soon as the doctor saw me, he telephoned the hospital and I was fast-tracked through Accident and Emergency. When asked to change into a hospital gown, I was shocked to see that my legs were covered in a livid rash and purple bruises. I must be very ill indeed!

I’ve often wondered what it would be like if I was suddenly faced with a potentially life-threatening condition. I had seen my father die from cancer a few years previously, and watched and prayed with him and my mother and sister as he slowly slipped away. I always wondered whether he’d been able to hear us talking, even though he was unconscious for several days at the end, and whether he was afraid or remained steadfast in his faith in God.

With doctors coming and going from my little cubicle, I felt surprisingly calm. It was as though God held me at the still centre of a turning wheel of activity. When a registrar from the Haematology Department sat next to my bed about three hours later, I knew from his face he had discovered what was wrong. He explained that normal platelet readings were between 150 and 400 per microlitre of blood.

A life-threatening reading was anything below 20.

My platelet levels were 3. My immune system was destroying my platelets and my blood could no longer clot.

I was given medication and taken to the Critical Dependency Unit to be observed overnight in case I was bleeding internally or into my brain.  I was told I probably wouldn’t sleep because of the drugs I’d been given. I lay in the dark listening to the sounds of the hospital, and the cries of the elderly lady opposite who kept asking where she was and if anyone was there.

The irony of my situation didn’t escape me. I was halfway through the first draft of my next novel, a book about a woman in a critical condition in hospital. As she lies in bed, she desperately tries to remember what happened to her and questions the beliefs she’s built her life upon. Now I was lying in a hospital bed thinking about the meaning and purpose of my own life.

By the next morning the ulcers in my mouth had stopped bleeding. My blood pressure was stable and I was sent home with high dosage steroids to switch off my faulty immune system. During the days that followed I spent most of my time in bed. But sleep eluded me. The insomnia was chronic and I was surviving on a couple of hours of sleep a night at most.

Although physically exhausted, my mind was wide-awake. I decided to continue writing, tapping away on my laptop during the night while everyone else was asleep. Having just experienced my own life-threatening moment and spell in hospital, ideas poured out of me. Within a week I’d completed 30,000 words and finished the first draft.

The Key of All Unknown is the story of brilliant scientific researcher, Tilda Moss, who wakes up in hospital unable to speak or move and with no recollection of what happened to her. Determined to find answers and prove to her family and doctors that she’s not in a persistent vegetative state, she searches for clues in the conversations she overhears and in the fractured memories that haunt her. On the edge of death, and questioning the value of her life, Tilda’s only hope is to find the key of all unknown.

The book raises questions about faith and science and the ethics of stem cell research, IVF, abortion and euthanasia, but most importantly I hope it encourages readers to examine their own beliefs about what comes after death, instead of ignoring the greatest unknown we humans face. There’s a Christian message woven into the story, but hopefully in a way that’s not cringing or manipulative. I was delighted when J John endorsed the book, suggesting it could be used as a pre-evangelistic tool. He calls it, ‘A brilliant, thought-provoking, well-crafted tale that deserves the widest possible circulation.’

I’ve made an amazing recovery. There’s a one in three chance that the idiopathic thrombocytopenia could return in future. Like all of us, I walk the fragile path between life and death, but now I’m more aware of the love that casts out all fear and the everlasting arms that are waiting - one day - to enfold me.

It’s not the strength of my faith that matters, but the strength of the One in whom I’ve placed my faith: Jesus Christ.

K A Hitchins is a member of Park Street Baptist Church in St Albans
The Key of All Unknown (ISBN: 978-1-909728-56-1) is published by Instant Apostle and is available on 21 October 2016 from bookstores and online retailers, paperback, price £8.99.


Baptist Times, 24/10/2016
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