July 30, 2020

And Now the Darkness

An unrefined, blow-by-blow account of the day the light went out in my life

On Sunday 12th July 2020, at approximately 22 minutes past midnight, my beautiful wife Kim passed peacefully away.


The morning before had been a very normal affair. We’d rolled out of bed after our standard lazy Saturday morning cuddle and catch-up, I’d put the coffee on (as I always did), and we sat on the sofa downstairs to plan our day. My parents were soon to arrive to help put up my new bike rack (my bike had been a constant thorn-in-our-living-room-space for some time, this was very exciting), so we thought we’d squeeze in a quick kettlebell sesh before they did.

A photo Kim sent me recently as she trained in our space outside, which she’d captioned, "Cute"

A photo Kim sent me recently as she trained in our space outside, which she’d captioned, "Cute"


Kim had just hit a personal best for TGU’s. We’d high-fived in excitement before she returned to her corner of the garden where she was training. A few minutes later, I noticed in my peripheral that she’d sat herself down. I initially assumed she was having a rest between sets, but then she called out to me. Not words, but some muttered attempt at words.

I looked up. She was looking at me. She was unable to speak, but her eyes spoke volumes. I ran to her, squatted down, held her, and called the ambulance service within seconds. I answered their questions, instantly aware of what was going on, but avoiding saying the word “stroke” for fear of scaring my darling girl. But Kim’s a nurse, she knew what was going on. As I squeezed her and kissed her, she looked at me and tears filled her eyes. Only briefly, though, before her famous KSJ resilience kicked in. But long enough for that image to be etched into my memory. That, and the feeling of overwhelming hopelessness that I wasn’t able to take that fear away.

Still, the minutes rolled on. I picked her up and gently placed her in a more comfortable position, so I could run inside and grab coats and blankets to keep her warm. I called my parents, who hurried over. My mum sat with Kim whilst me and dad ran around preparing for the arrival of the ambulance.

The paramedics came. They did their checks. I helped them negotiate Kim out through the house, and into the back of the ambulance. They informed me that I wouldn’t be able to travel with Kim, due to the pandemic. Kim sat up in the back of the ambulance, not taking her eyes away from mine, as they prepped her for the journey. She was calm. I just kept mouthing “I love you”. She was saying the same back to me, in her own silent way.

And then they left. And I stood in silence in the road for a while. And I cried. And then my parents led me back into the house.

About an hour later, I received a call from a doctor in A&E. He asked me some questions about Kim, explained the risks of the situation, and then asked if I agreed to them administering thrombolytic therapy (“clot-busting” drugs). I told him that they knew best and that if it needed to be done, they should do it. I asked if I could come in and see Kim. He said, “yes, right away”.

First post-lockdown pub pint, and the last photo I have of Kim

First post-lockdown pub pint, and the last photo I have of Kim


My dad drove me over. I arrived in A&E and was instantly handed a mask and led through to resus. Kim was sat up in bed, linked up to various tubes, and I was greeted by the same doctor I’d spoken to on the phone. He explained to me that they’d already started the thrombolysis and that now it was really just a matter of waiting. He put his arm around me briefly and looked at me with genuine empathy.

I went to Kim. I kissed her. She reached for my hand and when I held it, she started stroking it. Her way of comforting me. A nurse brought me a chair. I sat down and held Kim’s hand for hours. Talked to her. Told her I loved her. Held her up when she was sick from the treatment. Cleaned her every time she was. The staff checked on me occasionally when I’d snuck around the corner when it got a bit much. They brought me tea and biscuits which I ate and drank under my mask.

Eventually, once the staff were confident that Kim was covid-negative, she and I were led across the hospital to the stroke ward. It was a very different environment. Unsurprisingly, again, the staff were wonderful. As they got Kim comfortable, they led me through to a waiting room, brought me some water, and sat with me to explain what was to happen. The weather was lovely, and the room had incredible views across Brighton and the sea.

I’d had no phone signal for the entirety of my time at A&E, so when the nurse left me, I picked up my phone and rang some close friends. As I ran back through the events of the day, the gravity of the situation began to hit home, and I sobbed. Word started to spread to other friends, who also messaged offering comfort, and a listening ear.

Eventually, I was told that I could go in and see Kim. I was led in. She was calm, lying down — very sleepy. I sat with her again for a few more hours, as she dozed. I filled out questionnaires about her favourite things for the occupational therapists. I picked up a support package from my family who were waiting for me downstairs in the car park. And I sat with her some more. As the evening rolled in, and the shifts changed over, Kim’s mum arrived after her 6-hour drive, and I tagged out in order to allow her to have some time with her daughter. Eventually, she re-emerged, and we drove home in silence, pondering the future, convincing ourselves that Kim would bounce back from this as she did from everything.

Kim was to rest all night and then was to be seen by the stroke consultant in the morning following another CT scan to see how successful the treatment had been. I wondered how significantly this would impact Kim’s life. I wondered if she’d be able to work. If she’d be able to train. If she’d be able to walk or even talk to us. The food, although delicious, didn’t go down too well.

On our mini-moon, the week following our wedding — October 2019

On our mini-moon, the week following our wedding — October 2019


At 10:29 pm, I got a call from a private number. I picked it up — it was a doctor at the hospital. He told me that Kim had deteriorated. She’d suffered a further major stroke. He told us to come in straight away. He said that it wasn’t looking good.

It was as though a bomb had landed in the middle of us. With our ears ringing, and the shock taking hold, everybody piled into the car and we drove the seemingly never-ending 15 minutes back to the hospital. In my head, I was convincing myself that because it was Kim, of course, she’d still bounce back — she was so strong.

We pulled into A&E, I jumped out of the moving car, sprinted to the entrance. They knew who I was the instant I reached reception. They directed me back to resus and made sure that my path was unblocked. As I entered the room, I was met by a number of nurses and doctors. I was led to the corner, where Kim was waiting, the doctor gathered me and the rest of the family around. Other staff rallied around us, giving us chairs, preparing us.

The doctor told us that the part of Kim’s brain that was responsible for breathing was no longer working and that she wasn’t going to make it.

I felt my world collapse.

I heard everyone begin to break down. I remember the way the staff looked at me. I could tell that behind that stoic courage and professionalism, they felt helpless too. I remember looking around at the other staff, tending to other patients, but all occasionally glancing over with that same look of desperation and pity. In a weird way, I feel like I was looking for clues about how I should have been reacting.

I wobbled a little. Someone put me in a chair. I held Kim’s hand, lay my head next to hers on the pillow, the same way I had just 15 hours before. And I told her, again, that I loved her very, very much. Her mum held her hand too. As did the rest of our family.

We eventually got moved to a quieter room. They’d removed the breathing apparatus that had previously been acting as Kim’s lungs. We all held her hand, whispered to her — let her know how very loved she was.

And then we sat, and we watched her fade away.


What we learnt two days later was that Kim had suffered a “carotid dissection”, which is effectively a sudden, freak tear in a blood vessel in her neck, very likely brought on by the kettlebell training we’d been doing together that morning.

There were no underlying conditions. One minute, Kim was a fit, strong, completely healthy 32-year-old, and then 14 hours later, she was gone.

As I spend the coming weeks and months trying to comprehend what has happened, I urge you all to read some of Kim’s own words, simple, but profoundly wise:


5. Don’t delay anything that is important to you. I have known people to put off marriage, a special trip, making up with a relative. None of us know how much time we have. Use it wisely.

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