Friday Flash Fiction – 369 – Trapped

So this was it, what I had always dreaded; this was what it felt like to be paralysed, trapped in a useless body completely at the mercy of others. I wanted to say ‘Well I’ll be off then‘, but I was going nowhere. I could move my head and arms, I could speak, but I was flat on my back and the rest of my body felt like a trussed oven-ready chicken. No amount of concentration could make my leg move or my body lean over. How dreadful for those left totally paralysed or struck down by a stroke; unable to speak, left to listen fully aware while doctors discuss whether you are a vegetable, alive or dead. I tried to cast these dark thoughts from my mind and concentrate on my own predicament. I had such plans for this year, only this morning I had been strolling in the sunshine, but after tonight my life would never be the same.

I breathed slowly, taking it all in; bright lights, murmuring voices, figures in green moving calmly around, equipment with buttons and red numbers. Perhaps I was experiencing the ultimate human nightmare; the figures all wore masks, everything felt unreal – I could be on an alien spaceship. Had I lost minutes, hours, days of my life?

One of the figures was talking to me. ‘Can you feel that?’

 ‘Feel what?’ I replied, relieved that he sounded human.

He turned to speak to another figure. ‘No sensation in lower body, blood pressure okay.’ He turned back to me. ‘This is Doctor Campbell, we’re ready to proceed, how are you feeling?’

My surroundings closed in on me. A screen went up, there was only my head which the masked face was talking to, my arms which he was poking things into and a machine above me with its bleeping and flashing numbers. I tried to make intelligent replies, hoping to be seen as an individual not a lump of meat strapped to the table.

The murmurs beyond the screen were getting louder and more excited. Another masked face spoke to me ‘Nearly there now.’

 There was a general sigh of relief and satisfaction. ‘Here we are, it’s a Boy!’

Read more flash fiction and longer stories of all sorts in SOMEONE SOMEWHERE essential for your coffee break reading, on Kindle or in paperback.

The Game of Death – New Players

Warning: If you want to avoid the topic of death and dark humour read no further.

Covid 19 has made people think and talk about how people should die, with emphasis on not being alone, preferably with family. Covid patients in isolation have been unable to see loved ones.

In reality most of us cannot choose where to die or plan the scenario; victims of murder or major disasters certainly don’t have the luxury of dying in their own beds comforted by family. Awful circumstances such as terrorist attacks find total strangers holding the hand of a dying person, giving their death some dignity. As no one comes back to tell us, we cannot know if the surroundings and company or lack of it make any difference to their own unique internal solo journey. Celebrities often seem to have died ‘peacefully at home with their family present’ but folk lore and family tales seem to indicate that dying people often wait till the very moment loved ones pop out of the room.

Most terminally ill people will probably get the chance to opt for palliative care at home, though it can’t be guaranteed; they may need to go to hospital or a hospice eventually, but Covid has made it even more desirable to stay at home and leave hospital beds free for others. Unless everyone in your family is a medical person, carers will need help along the way or near the end; team work and various bits of equipment are required to make life easy for patient and carers. There is nothing to stop you ordering wheelchairs and all sorts on Amazon and getting next day delivery, but the National Health Service is geared up to lend what you need and the various teams helping you will be busy arranging equipment. The largest item is the hospital bed; you might die in your own home, but probably not in your own bed, however romantic that looks in films. The beds have to be plugged in and do all sorts of things. The bed and other items come with wheels and stiff pedal brakes impossible to put on or off if you are only wearing your slippers!

In the first few months of the lockdown I coped fine by myself with Cyberspouse. District nurses were trying to avoid going in any homes, but they phoned regularly with advice and to arrange some of the medications. They were ready to come out with their protective gear if necessary. Cyberspouse was happy not to have any visits, medical or otherwise, relaxing at home in the exceptionally sunny weather we had.

Later on, family help was more vital than keeping isolated and they took turns to come and stay; it was only in the last ten days that the district nurses came and arranged for Marie Curie nurses to parachute in with four visits a day. A helpful bright yellow book arrived promptly in the post. We were also glad a few times to ring the emergency numbers that had been sitting by the phone for months; night duty district nurses and 111 doctors. Marie Curie were excellent, compassionate and caring ladies and one chap. Visits rapidly increased and they made sure I had a night nurse for what turned out to be the last night, one of the few nights I was going to be by myself. They told me I was going to have wonderful Linda who had been doing the overnighter ‘forever’.

Linda arrived with a huge bag, rather like a mature Mary Poppins. I explained yet again that none of the family lived nearby, but they had all been to visit and my daughter was coming back the next day. It was a busy week in real life with two grandchildren just back in the UK and starting a new school and my daughter’s son starting school! Younger son had just got engaged. Linda was there to make sure Cyberspouse was comfortable, to organise the practicalities and make sure I didn’t miss the moment…

I later got a nice card from Marie Curie and they have rung me a few times to see how I am getting on. They are a charity well worth supporting.

Handy Home Hints

You might think your loved one is past the point of seeing the GP, but it is the GP who has to prescribe the drugs and you will have to go and sign for the ‘just in case’ controlled drugs as well as collecting various ongoing prescriptions.

It is helpful if someone in the family works for the NHS or has a friend in palliative care nursing … my daughter is a physiotherapist and had that very friend to ask for advice. She always made lists of questions and sounded professional on the phone, so we were well prepared.

After the death a doctor has to come and certify the death, either the GP or the on call ( 111 ) doctor at night. After that you must call the funeral director, but you can decide if you want them to come as soon as possible or wait a while.

Afterwards you will have to return all the drugs to a pharmacy, especially the controlled drugs, but unused needles have to be returned to the doctors’ surgery.

Darkly Funny Moments.  

The next day, Thursday, the funeral directors phoned to say they had not had the notification from our GP of the death. The on call night duty doctor had sat at the kitchen table typing into his lap top, saying ‘everything is going straight through to your doctor’s surgery’ but my writer’s mind thought ‘I have no proof he’s even been here, no piece of paper, was he actually a doctor?’ I was slightly reassured that nurse Linda knew him. When my daughter tried phoning our surgery she couldn’t get through and in the end resorted to using her internal NHS email. Luckily the information did end up in the right place.

One thing the district nurses requested unsuccessfully was a hospital bed extension, we had been expecting it for weeks. When a chap with a truck arrived at the door on Thursday morning I thought he was very quick to collect the hospital bed until he said cheerfully ‘I’ve brought the bed extension’. Poor bloke was embarrassed when I apologised that it was too late.

We had not seen much of the palliative care team from the local hospital who originally got us organised. One of the nurses had phoned the previous week saying ‘I’ll touch base with you on Friday.’ Sure enough on Friday the phone rang and she said brightly ‘Just calling to touch base’… so I had to tell her the news.  

Because of  Covid we were saved a trip to the registry office; instead I had a nice phone chat to Polly the registrar including Cyberspouse’s no funeral request. After taking most of the details she asked me my occupation. Oh oh, was I going to fail this part? I replied that I had done all sorts of things and she said ‘How would you like to be known in a hundred years?’ Well who in a hundred years would know I didn’t earn a living at it, so of course I replied  ‘A writer!’

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/help/support/terminal-illness/preparing/what-to-expect

The NHS

I was going to write about The NHS weeks ago, but events kept overtaking me and the subject.

‘The National Health Service is the publicly funded healthcare system of the United Kingdom. It is made up of four separate systems that serve each part of the UK: The National Health Service in England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. They were established together in 1948 as one of the major social reforms following the Second World War. The founding principles were that services should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. Each service provides a comprehensive range of health services, free at the point of use for people ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, apart from dental treatment and optical care. The English NHS also requires patients to pay prescription charges with a range of exemptions from these charges.’

https://www.nhs.uk/

Often the NHS is only in our thoughts when we are having our own personal dramas. Sometimes it is in the news for the wrong reasons, when things go drastically wrong. At present it is in the news all the time, it IS The News. The system that has cared for most of us from before we were born until we take our last breath is now responsible for steering the UK through the world wide pandemic. Whilst many people have been told not to go to work and stay at home, NHS staff are hardly seeing their homes. Government quickly forgets all the cut backs, poor pay for some, meddling, outsourcing and attempts to sell bits off that put the NHS at risk and expect all the staff to rise to the challenge… and they have. Perhaps when or if this is over those in power will do the right thing, instead of the public having to continually sign petitions pleading for our national treasure to be protected.
I recently finished reading Adam Kay’s Book This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor and reviewed it on Goodreads.

‘When my planned caesarean for our first baby ( breech ) turned into a 1am Sunday morning dash to Queen Charlotte’s Hospital a week early, one of the staff said ‘You’re in luck, the registrar’s on tonight’ I wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t been on. They may also have said I was lucky it was a quiet night. Anyway, everything proceeded quickly. When the same early imminent arrival happened with my third caesarean the same hospital was busy with a worrying lack of progress; the surgeon told me he had another emergency caesarean to perform and he had rung the consultant – for advice, not actually to come in; consultants don’t come in during the night as you will find out when you read this book! The anaesthetist said he had been on for 24 hours, I was shocked, but this was no doubt the norm, then and now. Adam Kay’s book is very funny, but there are dark moments and to an outsider it seems a realistic portrayal of a medical career, the dedication of those who work for the NHS and the cavalier attitude of management and government to our most important and treasured institution. Many readers will find anecdotes that relate to their family’s experiences and people who enjoy medical things are bound to relish this book.’

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35235302-this-is-going-to-hurt

Adam Kay is now a writer and comedian, no longer a doctor. Is the NHS perfect? Of course not, it’s staffed by human beings, some not as caring as they should be, some arrogant and others too scared to be whistle blowers. Tales of what went wrong and what went right are for another time.
One of the sad aspects of the virus tragedy is that the seriously ill are in isolation, they are not able to see any loved ones. Nor do they have the comfort of seeing the compassionate faces of the medical staff, who in all their protective gear must look like aliens or spacemen to their patients. Those of us who have had treatment in normal times know staff come from all over the world, international cooperation at its best.

Game of Life – An Extra Go

sunshine-blogger

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

Last week was the appointment to see the oncologist about the scan results. In the main waiting room the television was still on BBC1, ‘Doctors’ on mute with subtitles. The bad news was we got called in quickly and missed the end of Doctors, the good news was everything had stabilised so Cyberspouse could carry on with the current chemotherapy. As he is still feeling fine, life carries on as normal, we can plan a few trips between the three weekly hospital visits. Have another throw of the dice.

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Tales of Life and Death

 An elderly lady told me a story last week about her last surviving son-in-law. She was awake early expecting a sad phone call, her grandson had flown over from the USA to say goodbye. When he rushed into the hospital he found his father sitting up in bed eating  a bacon sandwich.

‘What had been wrong with him?’

Every now and then his lungs collapse and have to be re-inflated. This time they couldn’t blow them up again and there was no hope.

 Someone once told me his mother rang up and said Quick, come to the hospital, your gran’s better. After lying in a coma with everyone waiting for her to die, Granny had suddenly sat up in bed, started chatting and had a cup of tea. By the time her grandson arrived she had lapsed back and died soon after. At least she got to enjoy a last cup of tea.

In a previous incarnation, in a town far away, my friend was practice manager at our doctor’s surgery, a mutual friend’s husband was a self employed builder with heart trouble. She helped run the playgroup at a chilly scout hut near the doctors. I was also one of the helpers. Her husband was always popping in to help ( annoy ) us.

This particular morning he was doing work at the surgery. Our jolly morning with the children was interrupted by one of the receptionists from the doctors rushing in to say Bob’s having a heart attack.

In the meantime my poor friend the practice manager watched as the paramedics were trying to resuscitate Bob on her office floor. She maintained afterwards he was definitely dead.

The next morning the rest of us arrived at playgroup wondering if the news was the worst, but there was Bob sitting at one of the little tables, he hadn’t even stayed home for a bit of a lie in. Apparently at the hospital the paramedics were astonished to see him walking out of the hospital when they were on the way back to their ambulance…

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction 400 – The Yellow Door

‘So Mrs Green, take this prescription with you and leave by the second door on the left.’

Mrs. Green trudged wearily along the dreary corridor of the surgery then hesitated at the yellow door. She had never noticed it before, there was no number or name. Warily she pushed it open and was blinded by a bright light, sunlight. Shielding her eyes, she realised she was in a beautiful walled garden. The old lady had often wondered what lay at the back of the doctors’ surgery.

A child’s laughter floated towards her and a little figure appeared running along the gravel path. The child stopped then ran back to a young woman sitting on a garden seat, head back, eyes closed. The older woman approached, but seeing the blissful expression on the mother’s face she perched herself on the other end of the bench, not wishing to disturb her. The child shot off again and Mrs. Green looked around for a father or granny, concerned he might run away, but the garden was safely enclosed. She noticed other seats, other people sitting or strolling and up in an old apple tree several children were perched.

The old lady unfolded the prescription.

NHS Therapy 3,000 hours of sunshine,  to be taken daily. If you miss a dose take double the next day.

There must have been a mistake, now she would have to go back and ask about her tablets, but in the meantime she needed a rest. The scent of the flowers brought back childhood memories. A stroll along the path to admire the herbaceous borders would be very pleasant, but first she would close her eyes and feel the sun on her face. The happy chatter of the children was soothing and she was so glad she had come to the doctors’ this morning, although she could not recall which of her conditions she had come to see him about.

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Doctor Brown gazed out of the upstairs window of the staff room and turned to his colleague.

‘Who would have guessed it would work so well, of course this weather helps, but rain hasn’t put off the diabetes type 2 group. They were glad of it after all the planting they’d done.’

‘Yes, the pharmacist says she’s issuing half the prescriptions, especially for anti-depressants and blood pressure medication.’

‘…and the attention deficit disorder group are doing much better at school.’

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Tuesday Tiny Tale 500 – The Unkindest Cut

‘Have you self harmed before Mr. Andrews?’

‘What? … ow!’

‘Local anaesthetic, please keep still while I do the sutures. Would you like to talk to someone?’

‘Talk to who? I just need to be sewn up and get home’ I pleaded.

Shock was beginning to set in and I couldn’t take in what the young woman doctor was saying. I looked at the clock on the wall.

‘I think I left the gas on.’

She frowned. ‘Gas as well and yet at the last moment you didn’t go through with it, that’s good, but you need to speak with one of our counsellors.’

‘Look, embarrassing as it is, I’m a doctor too…’

‘No need to be ashamed, statistically doctors are more likely to attempt suicide and more likely to succeed.’

I sat up straight, knocking the tray of equipment.

‘No, no, this was an accident. I’ve done that course, Thinking About Mental Health… I work in this department, you must be new?’

‘Four weeks.’

‘In four months time the only mental health you’ll be thinking about is your own, thanks you for your concern but…’

‘I am concerned there could be nerve damage Doctor Andrews, we need to refer you for further treatment.’

‘The only damage to my nerves will be my wife’s reaction when I get home, how can I explain this was all the pumpkin’s fault?’

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It all started last week when the children were pestering us. They ‘needed’ Halloween costumes and rubber spiders etc. The advantage of being older parents? We have enough sense not to be sucked into blatant commercialism. No trick or treat, no ghost masks. My wife suggested the All Hallows’ Eve Festival of Light at the local church, being held to counter commercial exploitation of children, or was it to pray for deliverance from evil? Either way I did not want to spend my precious day off going to church, so I promised a surprise and tasty supper on their return.

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Late this afternoon pumpkins were being sold off cheap at the greengrocers and I had it all planned. A circle of happy pumpkin faces dangling from the trees in the front garden, pumpkin soup recipe off the internet.

The first two orange heads were impressive, the third a bit tough, but the soup smelt nice. The fourth pumpkin was impenetrable, sharper knife and more force needed.

Purlicue… thena web… that piece of loose skin betwixt thumb and forefinger. I didn’t feel any pain as the knife sliced straight through… my energetic attack on the pumpkin meant the force carried the blade straight on down my palm and left wrist before my right hand thought to drop the knife. Blood spurted everywhere as I tried to tie a makeshift bandage with one hand and my teeth.

Now I looked again at the clock in the cubicle. My family were about to arrive home to a burnt out saucepan, a vivid trail of blood and no sign of me.

Friday Flash Fiction 369

Trapped

So this was it, what I had always dreaded; this was what it felt like to be paralysed, trapped in a useless body completely at the mercy of others. I wanted to say Well I’ll be off then, but I was going nowhere. I could move my head and arms, I could speak, but I was flat on my back and the rest of my body felt like a trussed oven-ready chicken. No amount of concentration could make my leg move or my body lean over. How dreadful for those left totally paralysed or struck down by a stroke; unable to speak, left to listen fully aware while doctors discuss whether you are a vegetable, alive or dead. I tried to cast these dark thoughts from my mind and concentrate on my own predicament. I had such plans for this year, only this morning I had been strolling in the sunshine, but after tonight my life would never be the same.

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I breathed slowly, taking it all in; bright lights, murmuring voices, figures in green moving calmly around, equipment with buttons and red numbers. Perhaps I was experiencing the ultimate human nightmare; the figures all wore masks, everything felt unreal – I could be on an alien spaceship. Had I lost minutes, hours, days of my life?

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One of the figures was talking to me. ‘Can you feel that?’

‘Feel what?’ I replied, relieved that he sounded human.

He turned to speak to another figure. ‘No sensation in lower body, blood pressure okay.’ He turned back to me. ‘This is Doctor Campbell, we’re ready to proceed, how are you feeling?’

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My surroundings closed in on me. A screen went up, there was only my head which the masked face was talking to, my arms which he was poking things into and a machine above me with its bleeping and flashing numbers. I tried to make intelligent replies, hoping to be seen as an individual not a lump of meat strapped to the table.

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The murmurs beyond the screen were getting louder and more excited. Another masked face spoke to me ‘Nearly there now.’

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There was a general sigh of relief and satisfaction. ‘Here we are, it’s a Boy!’