Stretcher Case

When I wrote last week about upping my marathon training, in my head I was actually thinking about slowing down. Over the last seven days there have certainly been plenty of opportunities to note that Life sometimes just puts a big road block in your path to ensure she has your full attention and that your foot is off the gas.

The advice to slow down had originally come from my 93 year old mother (yes, she of the purple tracksuit and bionic stairlift status).  Mum is a prolific reader and had apparently just finished a book on burn out and living in the fast lane.  She felt her youngest daughter (moi)  would benefit if she offered a quick precis (irony is never wasted on me) of her findings.

‘”You’re overdoing it and simply just doing too much,’ she opined over the phone.  ‘If only you would stop rushing off, slow down and just stay in the moment occasionally.  I worry about you.  They call it ‘presentism’ apparently, and I think you need some.’  I am just about to remind her that my yoga mat is a nod in this direction when she interrupts, ‘Sorry, we’ll talk about this when I have more time, I need to dash off and speak to my pilates teacher about upgrading to her intermediary class’.

Sadly mum didn’t get to upgrade her class straight away and last weekend we experienced a weird cocktail of weaving across slow and fast lanes simultaneously.   After complaining that she felt a little lack lustre, long story short (I am in a hurry after all) mum ended up being blue lighted to hospital with suspected sepsis.

After that little adrenalin rush, we ended up slowing right down again as we hit the contraflow of stretchers that were waiting to be admitted from the corridors of the Emergency Assessment Unit.  Over the next few hours, mum may have rued her former wish to spend more time with me.  We were going to be present here for some time.

I have always been a fan of this hospital (The John Radcliffe) for they have seen us through some challenging family times (and they have an M&S cafe).  Last weekend again I marvelled at the slow, slow, quick, quick, slow professionalism, politeness and humour of staff who would clearly like the NHS to fund a fast-track route through A&E and then a leisurely staycation on the appropriate ward for those patients who need it.

Sadly the bottleneck of arriving stretchers just got longer and wider in the corridors of EAU and unflustered paramedics patiently kept their ‘clients’ entertained until the moment they could discharge their care to the hospital medical team.  Whether they had taken a telephone call from my mother earlier in the week I don’t know, but these paramedics were certainly present and there was certainly no display of frustration in this reverse version of ‘click and collect’.

To say that the corridors were busy would be an understatement and there were certainly no chairs to encourage family members to clog arteries up further by waiting besides ‘their’  patient.   I ended up perched on my mother’s own stretcher trolley – at one point holding up her drip while the paramedic went off to find a proper stand.  We both had a sneaky nap.

If I felt  – naively – that mum’s blue light status would entitle her to ‘just pass go’  onto a ward, I was sadly mistaken for the snake of stretchers displayed that in this medical game of ‘Top Trumps’ we were somewhere in the middle in terms of emergency.  Sobering.

To pass the time I try to explain the game of Top Trumps to mum but soon realise that in our present situation it may be difficult to suggest appropriate categories.  Somehow I sense that although game playing may while the time away, using contagion and fatality ratings may seem tasteless to eavesdroppers – and there are plenty of those in this confined arena .  Mum nods off again and I use the time to see if anyone else has cornered the games market on the medical front.  Google tells me that they have –  Pharmacy Trumps

Pharmacy Trumps allegedly brings together 32 of the most commonly prescribed medicines in the NHS and provides insight into their indications, origins, appearance, chemical and pharmacokinetic properties.  Thank goodness that there is a health warning on the packet though : Do not use when making clinical treatment decisions…and there was me thinking I had found a way to speed up the waiting time in A&E.

Mum wakes up and we are back in the present.

I need to fast track this tale and bring us right up to date.  Despite 24 hours on a stretcher trolley in IAU, sadly no isolated bed could be found for mum and the staff were forced to make the decision that she of the purple tracksuit  would be less at risk from further infection if she returned home. By this time – in the slowest relay of all time – I have passed the baton to my brother and he waits patiently for hours with mum for the hospital to track down a discharge nurse and for mum get to come to terms with the fact that her journey back home will be less dramatic for there is no blue light on my brother’s car.

As we know from a few years back, mum is The Come Back Kid, but it is clear she has returned home slower, a little less confident and a lot less feisty.  No one is to blame, Life has just slowed us all down a little and reminded us that pacemaking isn’t always of our own making.

Visiting mum in the week I see a few encouraging glimmers of maternal bounce back.  First she accuses me of trying to steal the gold necklace that I ‘took care’ of while she was having her chest x-ray last week. (‘I’m innocent Guv’) and secondly I catch her riding her stairlift wearing nothing but her smile and a pair of undies.  When reminded that her front door has a visibility panel and that she may be revealing a little more than she intended to her neighbours, she replies, ‘they can look if they like, I have nothing to be ashamed of.’  Too right.

So, slower, and no rushing off at the moment for sure,  but the only stretcher case I can see here is me, and I am making a rapid mental note to clear more room in my diary to spend more time with my mum. As she says, I need to be present.

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