Saturday, 25 August 2012

No return hospital . . .

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
I am trying to assemble my thoughts dear.  I called round to visit Pom-Pom round at the Perfect Retirement Housing Complex last night, only to find him splayed out on the floor of his flat and surrounded by a pair of paramedics, resuscitation-style equipment, and Our Leader.  I came in through his open front door, just as they were fitting an oxygen mask and taking a trace of his heartbeat on a portable cardiac monitor.  The poor old thing was just about conscious and did recognize me but, of course, not being a blood relative, I didn't have much of a say in the proceedings - nor in any decision regarding whether or not to ship him off to No Return District General Hospital.  Pom-Pom has always been adamant that, under no circumstances whatsoever, was he to be despatched to this fortress-like establishment, some 20 miles distant, but I knew that the dread day, with its huge black inevitability, had to come upon us sometime.  The paramedics shook their head of course, and announced to Our Leader that Pom-Pom had to be taken away.  And the dear old thing assented meekly, for what else was there to do?  The only thing I succeeded in doing was to scoop his elderly tabby cat, Meribel, into a carrier and slink off down the back stairs with her, while the rest of them were pre-occupied with packing a bag and loading Pom-Pom on to a stretcher. (I should wish Pom-Pom to be at ease on this matter as his blood relative, the carnivorous Xanthe, suffers from some kind of cat fur allergy and seems unlikely to invite the unfortunate Meribel into her own household!)  Pom-Pom and I are close you understand; he trusts me and I wish to honour that trust.
I have not in any way used the phrase 'No Return District Hospital' as a misnomer you understand dear.  I had a terrible experience in connection with that place, just a year or so ago, while engaged in visiting my chum Sarah, a lady in her nineties, also ensconced at Perfect.  Again, I was not a blood relative and so had to look on as a most horrifying sequence of events unfolded.  Firstly, it is very difficult to get to this place - and must be even more difficult for any elderly spouse - and, once one does arrive, there is a mile-long walk along featureless concrete corridors, and ascents in large bleak lifts, before one arrives at these 'Care of the Elderly' wards.  I don't know how many times I visited Sarah (five perhaps) but she was always in bed and, as anyone knows, staying in bed, and not ever getting out of it, leads to the progressive weakening of anyone - even of someone with as indomitable a spirit as Sarah.  One is disempowered, both as patient and visitor in these places, surrounded by noise and busyness, and unable to do anything much, except for sit at the bed-side and try to communicate the fact that you do care.  Sarah herself whispered, on one occasion, that it was best not to press the buzzer at night, in order to call for help, because someone was likely to turn up and take the buzzer away!  And I know this type of thing does happen pet because I have done a certain amount of undercover work for The Service in institutions of this type. 
On another occasion, I arrived to find that she had fallen out of bed during the night and her entire arm - from hand to shoulder - was coloured a dark purple-blue as a result her impact on to the floor.  What happens here dear, is that the unfortunate patient calls and calls to go to the toilet and no-one comes.  Desperate, they then endeavour to climb over the cot sides and walk to the toilet themselves.  It is quite a drop from the top of cot sides on to the floor and this is how one sustains massive bruising.  And do you know the most terrifying aspect of all?   This can happen to any of us in old age - and probably will.  I am not quite myself in these reflections pet, I'm sorry.  I hoped never to remember any of it and I hoped that I would never need to describe it.
Eventually, the consultant came along and said (I was there) that, as Sarah was not recovering from her heart failure, he thought the time had come to prescribe her Morphine!  He did ask me what I thought - mistaking me for her daughter - but I corrected him and told him that he should telephone Margaret.  I should have spoken up dear and strongly expressed the view that - as Sarah did not appear to be in pain - that I was strongly opposed to any such idea.  After all, I know more about this subject than most.  
The next time I visited, several days later, Sarah was attached to a  Morphine pump but still able to speak.  Flat out in the bed, with one arm remaining in a heavily-bruised condition, she whispered to me that it was hard to get enough food and drink because she was unable to access her plate or hold a cup.  
I last visited Sarah about a week later.  She was unconscious in the bed, grey, cold, and drenched with sweat.  There was no 'drip' up, only the Morphine pump relentlessly infusing its killer dose.  And who, after all, can survive its sedative effects in the total absence of food and water?  I bent over her and whispered that I loved her and, somewhere in those numbed depths, I felt that she heard me.  At home, that night, I felt as physically close to climbing the walls as I have done in my life.  I phoned the ward in the middle of the night and spoke to the nurse in charge.  I said that I would have preferred my friend to die of her actual condition and not of what surely was dehydration and starvation.  The following morning I learned that she was dead.
I'm sorry pet if I have related to you a story almost beyond the bearing.  I have told it so that you may know the reason why Pom-Pom's disappearance to this self-same place causes me distress to the point of actual anguish.
Aunt Agatha       

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