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Hanif Kureishi captivates Twitter with Rome hospital diary

Writer left paralysed after collapsing in Rome.

Hanif Kureishi, the acclaimed British novelist and playwright, has been captivating Twitter users with a remarkable account of his experiences since being hospitalised in Rome over Christmas.

The 68-year-old author of Buddha of Suburbia and My Beautiful Launderette was left paralysed after he collapsed in the Italian capital on 26 December.

His unexpected Twitter diary from Rome's Gemelli hospital began on 6 January when he announced to his followers that he had "a fall" on returning to his apartment after going for a walk in Villa Borghese.

"I woke up a few minutes later in a pool of blood, my neck in a grotesquely twisted position, my wife on her knees beside me," he stated in a series of tweets.

Kureishi said he believed he was dying and that he "had three breaths left", paying tribute to his partner Isabella D'Amico who "saved my life and kept me calm".

For the next few days Kureishi said he was left "profoundly traumatised, altered and unrecognisable to myself."

Dictating his Twitter threads to his "devoted son" Carlo, Kureishi said: "I cannot move move my arms and legs. I cannot scratch my nose, make a phone call or feed myself."

He described his situation as "humiliating, degrading and a burden for others" but noted that there had been some "minor improvements" following an operation on his spine.

However he said it was "unclear whether I will ever be able to walk again, or whether I'll ever be able to hold a pen".

This series of tweets, seen by close to two million people, was the start of a compelling account that is raw and gut-wrenching but also beautiful. Amid the desolation is hope and humour too.

"I wish what had happened to me had never happened, but there isn't a family on the planet that will evade catastrophe or disaster" - he wrote on 8 January - "But out of these unexpected breaks, there will be new opportunities for creativity."

Kureishi manages to see the positive, believing that "lying completely inert and silent in a drab room, without much distraction, is certainly good for creativity. Deprived of newspapers and music, you will find yourself becoming very imaginative."

He has received a wave of support from his followers and friends, including author Salman Rushdie, "one of the bravest men I know", who writes to him "every single day, encouraging patience. He should know. He gives me courage."

His diary is full of humanity and he shows a keen interest in those caring for him. "Not understanding Italian is frustrating, but I try to ask very simple questions like, "When did you know you wanted to be a nurse or a doctor?" or "When was the moment you realised you fell in love?"

He talks of the extreme difficulty of being placed in a vertical position for physiotherapy: "The world seems completely at the wrong angle, everything is in the wrong place and the colours seem to fly around everywhere, unattached to any specific objects, like hallucinations."

Kureishi's day begins at 06.30, "to the sound of crashing buckets and loud voices", when the nurses "lift you up in a blanket, roll you around and scrub you. They wash your genitals and your arse, often whilst singing jolly Italian songs."

"One of the male nurses is particularly fond of Bruce Springsteen, and during the procedure he likes to sing along to dancing in the dark. I don't mind so much, I enjoy the company."

"Since I became a vegetable I have never been so busy", Kureishi wrote on Wednesday, describing how "three very beautiful Italian physiotherapists" "hoisted me up and thrust me into a wheelchair" allowing him to see "the Italian sky through the window".

"For the first time I believed that things might begin to improve" - he wrote - "My heart is like a singing bird."

Photo La Repubblica

Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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