So there she was in Critical Care, a few hours after the biggest operation of her life. They made three incisions: two astonishingly small, and one bigger one, to get the tumour out.
The nursing is one-to-one in the Critical Care unit; they take people there after the Recovery Room, when they're not well enough to go back to the Ward. Some people never do go back, I guess.
Esme's blood pressure is up and her right eye won't open after both her eyes were taped down for the op. (God knows why they tape them down - it's an awfully long way from the bowel, to my way of thinking - but hey, it was keyhole surgery and I'm in awe here, not complaining).
A woman visiting the patient in the next bay calls over Dava, Esme's feisty, energetic Australian nurse. There's some urgent whispering. Dava returns to Esme; the woman knows she has seen Esme a thousand times on television, but can't remember Esme's name. Could Dava please find out and tell her? Dava politely declines on grounds of hospital confidentiality, but Esme decides Dava can tell the woman her stage name, as it is different from the name on her hospital records.
Moments later, the woman appears at the end of Esme's bed. She just wants to say how very much she has enjoyed Esme's performances - and what was it she last saw her in again?
Esme squints at the woman through her one good eye. Having had nothing to eat or drink for more than twenty-four hours her voice is little more than a whisper, but she manages to name her latest show. The woman goes back to the very sick person she's supposed to be visiting in the adjoining bay.
Dava is called away to do something, and next thing Esme knows the woman is back, holding a notebook and pen. There are tubes protruding from both of Esme's hands. She has two drips, a drainage line for the blood seeping from her wounds, a catheter and an oxygen tube in both nostrils. Her gummy eye is weeping. The good eye glares in disbelief.
The woman obviously doesn't quite catch it.
Can you write? the woman asks.
Yes, croaks Esme. A pause. The woman opens the book for an autograph.
But I'm not going to, Esme says.
A day later, back in the Ward, she tells the story again, to each of her increasing number of visitors. I am perched on the bed, listening silently, joyfully, for the second or third time. It's going to become one of those legendary family stories, I can tell, better with each telling. My mother at death's door, stalked by an autograph hunter in intensive care.
I don't mind. I'm aware only of an intense sense of relief. Regular rushes of gratitude sweep through me. She's alive. She's recovering. She's not going to die. Not this weekend.