Screenwriter's book tells how husband didn't recognise her

Crouch End Screen writer Abi Morgan (left) and Jacob Krichefski (centre) meet the National Hospital nurses

Crouch End Screen writer Abi Morgan (left) and Jacob Krichefski (centre) meet the National Hospital nurses who cared for him in intensive care. - Credit: Marie Mangan

Crouch End screenwriter Abi Morgan launched her book at a fundraising event for The National Brain Appeal.

The Split writer's This is Not a Pity Memoir (John Murray Press £14.99) describes what happened after her husband Jacob Krichefski's sudden collapse in June 2018.

Following major seizures, he spent six months in an induced coma at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and awoke believing she was an impostor sent by the state to care for their children. Diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, he spent more than 15 months as a patient at the Bloomsbury hospital but is now 80 percent recovered.

The event at The Royal Court Theatre included an emotional reunion with the intensive care nurses who cared for Jacob, and raised £3,000 for the Brain Appeal - the charity which supports The National Hospital. Actor Fiona Button, who played Rose in The Split, read from the book, and charity CEO Theresa Dauncey, who also lives in Crouch End, thanked Morgan for writing such an honest account of living through life-changing neurological catastrophe.

The Split actor Fiona Button, Abi Morgan, National Brain Appeal CEO Theresa Dauncey and Royal Court's Vicky Featherstone

The Split actor Fiona Button, Abi Morgan, National Brain Appeal CEO Theresa Dauncey and Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone - Credit: Marie Mangan

She recognised her own experience after her late husband, Jorge, was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged 36 when their eldest daughter was three.

"Jorge was under the incredible care of The National Hospital for eight years and, although for much of the time he was very well, there were many periods that were extremely challenging," she said. "One of the worst times was finding out the tumour had regrown meaning he needed surgery two weeks before our second daughter was born. I never recorded my experiences but, even ten years on, it came flooding back reading Abi’s book. I don’t mean in a negative way – it just made me think about what I went through and what so many other people go through. Everyone’s story is different and everyone’s way of coping is different but we try our best to keep body and soul together and navigate a new future.”

Morgan, whose screen work includes The Iron Lady and Suffragette was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer while Jacob was in hospital. The book describes how after 20 years and two children together, their experience led them to get married.

She said: “The National Hospital was our home from home for 15 months as Jacob went from the Medical Intensive Therapy Unit to the Neuro Rehabilitation Unit. The doctors and nurses were superheroes and we will be forever indebted to them for saving Jacob’s life.”

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Senior staff nurse Richard Horne said: “It was quite emotional to see Jacob again. It was so great to see that smile again and speaking with him and Abi, it was hard to hold back the tears. Jacob and his family will always have a special place in my heart.”

Senior staff nurse Penny Elmsly said: “It was amazing to see both Jacob and Abi well and to be able to hug them tight. I remember taking Jacob to the Square in his wheelchair to see Sklyar, the family dog, for the first time in months. Skylar jumped onto Jacob’s lap immediately he held him for a full ten minutes, his face buried in his fur, gently sobbing. It still makes me cry.”

Sister Jenny McDonald said: “Although I knew him well from his time in MITU, he had never properly met me as he was unconscious for a great period of that time. It was an absolute pleasure to meet him properly. Abi is truly amazing, as are her children, extended family and husband. She needed to hold a lot together and she did it!”

This is Not A Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan is published by John Murray £14.99

This is Not A Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan is published by John Murray £14.99 - Credit: Supplied

Morgan's book refers to several areas of the hospital supported by The National Brain Appeal including the MITU which was expanded and redeveloped while Jacob was in hospital, and the Neurorehabilitation Unit which has benefitted from a redevelopment programme.

She also mentions the hospital chapel which Dauncey says "provides an essential space for calm and contemplation for those of any or no faith and an area for shared activities".

"I understand Jacob belted out some Abba numbers with the singing group that met there. The National Brain Appeal has just agreed to restore the chapel’s organ and bring this much-loved space back to its former glory.”

Donate at https://www.nationalbrainappeal.org/