Vignettes from my mother’s bedside


The elderly lady behind the screen, telling the young-voiced female doctor about her drinking, about her “lovely, caring” assistant Pearl who found her and called the ambulance. “How much whisky do you drink?”.

“Well I’ve only drunk three times today, once at breakfast, just a tot”,

“You know my mother came round my house, she came round my house when I was out and COMMITTED SUICIDE”.

When the screens were removed you could see the dark, dark bags under her eyes. Too old and unlovely to be softly described anymore as “circles”.

The next day, the elderly lady in the next bed along, with one of those lovely old precise, English, accents. BBC English and women in WAAF uniforms making wartime radio broadcasts. A stroke? Aphasia? She spoke so clearly, but of tumblers and weasels and other nonsensical things fitted neatly into what were clearly normal sentence lines, whilst the male doctor gently questioned her. Her daughter (?) tried to reassure, “you’ll be back to normal soon, they say”.

Leaving the Acute Assessment Unit at 8pm, 9pm (?) to look for a sandwich for my father in a darkened and mostly-asleep hospital. All the vending machines are full of processed sugar in colourful packets. He is tired and diabetic and missed his roast chicken dinner whilst a chirpy, long-haired paramedic lady tried to assess my mother. A genuine immediate trauma case (no)? Instead then someone who nevertheless needs to be admitted somehow whilst avoiding the long wait and germs of evening A&E (chemo suppresses the immune system, you know). She somehow sneaked her in to a bed via the AAU instead. Maybe she saved her life. Maybe she dragged out the inevitable. I don’t know. My sister plans to send her a thank-you card anyway.

Whatever happens now I will still happily sign that card.


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