On Saturday my mother fell over in the bathroom and she was not able to get up. Being 94, she has an alarm button on a necklace, that she can press for instant help. Being bloody minded, she doesn’t wear it. So she spent the next hour or so crawling the 20ft to her bedroom to get the necklace.
Bedroom reached and panic button pressed, the rest of the world swung into action. A passing paramedic came by, followed by two others in an ambulance, I was called by the council’s panic people (I’m sure they have a proper name, but it probably doesn’t mean so much), and soon she and I were off to A&E.
I wasn’t very optimistic about what was going to happen to us. We’ve all seen the national news about how hospital A&E departments in England are at breaking point at the moment. Two in the Midlands this week could not accept any more patients and one, in Stoke, according to a paramedic interviewed on TV, got to the point where it locked its doors.
At University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire there were people lining the A&E corridors on trolleys, (perfectly conscious, and not looking in a huge amount of pain, it has to be said, although we weren’t in the George Clooney part of the department) and the staff had that kind of controlled calm that you get in a place that is really, really busy. One of the doctors was gripping her hair, and pulling it up, up, up, as if it would make her think better.
I had expected that mum too would be on a trolley in a corridor, and was astonished when we were met by a nurse who knew all about her, and who had been told to take her to Room 18. (It was the nurse’s third day on the job and she had no idea where Room 18 was, but she was cheerful and bright and kind, and she found the correct little side-room in two ticks). Mum was X-rayed (broken hip); put into a hospital gown by two other nurses, one of them African (I point out his nationality because all nurses should have African accents, it is the kindest and jolliest voice in the world); given pain relief; and seen by an anaesthetist and an orthopaedic surgeon. Okay, so we had to wait around for several hours while this all happened, but it wasn’t much of stretch, especially not for mum, who once the morphine kicked in, started playing Candy Crush with the ceiling tiles. When she was taken up to the orthopaedic ward, I left for home, knowing that she was in kind and good hands.
In the last three days my mum has had her hip fixed, she’s been given a special vibrating bed to stop the build-up of any blood clots, she’s had physio-therapy, nice meals, and a handsome doctor blowing in her ear at 3 am (apparently it’s the standard way to wake someone up) to check her over. And nothing has she had to pay, except the National Insurance payments that she has contributed through her taxes, all through her working life.
The only quibble I have with all this is that she has a phone by her bed. And the company that installed had the bright idea of making all outgoing UK calls free (while charging a fortune to call in, mind). This is not a good idea, NHS people. Not with my mother. She has rung every single person she is related to.
Yesterday, when everybody else was probably unavailable due to ear exhaustion, she rang me and asked me to bring in a pencil. As she was not wearing her hearing aids, you can imagine that the conversation that followed was rather difficult. Something on the lines of,
Her: ‘I’d like a pencil. You’ll find one in a jar on my table.’
Me: ‘But I can bring you a pencil from here.’
Her: ‘Cardboard? I don’t want cardboard. What are you talking about? ’
Her: ‘Pencils, of course I want a pencil. I told you that. You’ll find one in the jar. I want to do the crossword.’
Me: ‘But I’ve got pencils here.’
Her: ‘That’s no good to me, is it, though? I need one here.’
She’s definitely on the mend. Thank you, NHS, you are a marvellous thing, and long may you continue. But, please, hide my mum’s telephone.
Picture via Creative Commons from http://www.geograph.org.uk