I was fighting for my life in hospital but where was my hubby?
By Jennifer Allen, 30, from Bromley, London
As I clutched my chest, I coughed and spluttered, wincing in pain. ‘You really ought to get that checked out,’ my husband Dale, said, rubbing my back.
I nodded, as I was choked with another cough. I’d had a nasty cold for a few weeks now and hadn’t been able to shift it.
With two young children, Charlotte, now nine and George, now six, I’d just got on with the school run and the shopping. But Dale was right, I needed to get this sorted out.
I’d known Dale since I was just 14. He was best friends with my big brother, Peter, and I’d always fancied him.
But at seven years younger, I didn’t get a look in. That was until 2006 when, both adults, we started dating.
People say you just know when you find The One – and with Dale, I did. I fell pregnant very quickly but I’d already known Dale my whole life, it didn’t matter that it was quick.
Charlotte was born in 2007 and we married two years later. When George arrive the year after that, my perfect family was complete. I had everything I’d ever dreamed of.
But now, in late August 2013, I was feeling really under the weather. ‘I’m referring you to the hospital for tests,’ my doctor said.
I was admitted onto the ward – and didn’t leave. What had started as a common cold, became a chest infection and then developed into pneumonia and eventually life-threatening septicemia.
‘Will you look after the kids for me, Mum?’ I phoned her from hospital. ‘Dale needs to go to work, he won’t be able to do all the school runs.’
Mum was amazing. ‘Of course, Charlotte and George can stay here with us, they’re no trouble. You just concentrate on getting better.’
With Mum and Dad babysitting the kids, I thought it would free Dale up to go to work – and visit me. But he never came.
As the days turned into weeks, Dale kept coming up with excuse after excuse. ‘Sorry babe, I’m stuck at work I’m not going to make it tonight,’ he told me one night when I rang from the hospital phone.
It didn’t stack up. He never usually worked that late in his job as a print finisher. Dale’s boss was best mates with my uncle, so I gave my uncle a call to see if he could shed any light on it.
‘That’s strange,’ he said. ‘It’s been really quiet at work. In fact, Dale’s had a week off. He said he was visiting you…’
Alarm bells rang then. Apart from a couple of odd visits, Dale was nowhere to be seen. So where was he?
In mid-December my condition deteriorated rapidly. I was fighting for my life and didn’t have the strength to worry about Dale.
‘Oh love, the doctors told us to bring everyone to the hospital, to say their goodbyes,’ my mum told me, pain etched on her face. ‘They didn’t think you were going to make it.’
Thankfully, I’d pulled through. But Dale hadn’t shown up. Three months after I’d arrived in hospital, on Christmas Eve, I was discharged.
‘I want to come home to spend Christmas with the kids,’ I rang my mum. ‘The doctors would rather I stay here but I have to see them.’
I’d hoped Dale had prepared the house for my arrival. Now I was feeling better, it would be a Christmas to remember.
‘Umm, probably best you come straight to ours,’ my mum said. ‘Dale’s here too. He hasn’t had a chance to do any Christmas shopping or decorate. You can spend Christmas with us, put your feet up.’
I knew then there was a problem. Dale had become so distant. In three months, he’d visited me three times in hospital.
He’d had loads of time on his hands but he hadn’t bothered to get the house ready for Christmas. What was he playing at?
‘Welcome home, love,’ my mum said as I arrived back. ‘Here, let me take that,’ she soothed, taking my bag from me.
The kids were in bed, excitedly waiting for Santa to arrive the next morning, but Dale wasn’t there to greet me.
‘Where is he?’ I turned to Mum. ‘There,’ she whispered, pointing to the living room where Dale was lying asleep on the sofa.
I padded into the room and found him crashed out, his phone hanging out of his hand. I took it from him to stop it smashing on the floor but then curiosity got the better of me.
Clicking it on, the screen flashed into life. I could see he was trying to delete a call from his log, to a number I didn’t recognise. He’d listed the contact as simply, ‘B’.
It was all very suspicious and quietly, so as not to wake Dale, I dialled the number. When a woman answered, I hung up, in shock.
My heart pounding, I checked Dale was still asleep. I needed to know more – who was she? So I dialled again and this time, came up with a story to explain who I was, pretending to be Dale’s sister-in-law.
‘I don’t know if you can help me, but I’m looking for my sister and her partner, Dale West,’ I lied.
‘I know Dale, but I haven’t seen him since the weekend when he stayed the night at mine,’ she replied.
I tried to stay calm while a sickening knot tightened in my stomach. ‘Thanks anyway for your help,’ I managed to say, before hanging up.
My mind raced. Dale had cheated while I was in hospital. I was fighting for my life, while he was having a one-night stand. Rat.
‘Hey, what’s going on?’ Dale whimpered when I hurled the phone at him and demanded answers. He tried to deny it but when I called the woman back a third time and she explained the panther tattoo Dale had on his back, he’d been caught red-handed.
‘Can we talk about it after Christmas?’ he said sheepishly. I was fuming but determined to give the kids the Christmas they deserved.
So the next morning, even though I could barely look at Dale, I put on a brave face and played happily families for their sake.
It was agony and for the next few days, I stayed at Mum’s while Dale went home. ‘Mummy needs to get properly better and Nana’s going to look after me,’ I explained to George and Charlotte.
A few days later, on New Year’s Eve, I returned home. It was as if nothing had happened. Dale was caring and attentive and although I was angry, I agreed our marriage was worth fighting for.
Over the next few months, I tried to rebuild the trust between us but when I found emails on Dale’s phone at Easter 2014, declaring his love for another woman, it was the final straw.
The only thing keeping me alive is knowing you’re there, he’d typed to his mystery floozy. This time it was over, for good.
In May 2014, on our sixth wedding anniversary, Dale walked out. ‘I’m sorry, I just don’t love you any more,’ he said, barely giving me a backward glance.
Now, I’m seeing someone new. It’s early days but I’m moving on with my life without Dale. But I’ll never forget the day I discovered my hubby stuffing another bird at Christmas.
Dale says: “Yeah it was Christmas Eve, sure, but she had been out of hospital for a couple of days. I do feel bad that she found out at Christmas but in all honesty I wanted to wait until after Christmas to tell her.”