Friday, 18 February 2011

You Lot

Balancing on the icy pavement, Alfie flags me down and watches the car practically skate down the road towards him. The snow has finally stopped, and what's left on the roads is now compacted into thick sheets of ice. The nights seem brighter, moonlight and streetlamps reflecting off the shimmering surfaces. Abandoning the car in the middle of the road, I step out onto the frozen pavement making doubly sure of each step. Non-slip boots might work on oil, or water, or blood, but they're useless when competing with ice, so I put a bag on each shoulder, hoping for some extra balance.

"She's in here, mate," Alfie yells, already standing back in the front porch. I follow him in, and as I catch up he starts telling me a little about her.

"Mum's got dementia, so you have to take some of what she says with a pinch of salt. Other than that, she's pretty good. Only takes an aspirin every day." He shows me into the bathroom, a favourite haunt for elderly fallers.

"What's her name?"

"Loretta Dent. But just call her Loretta. She's not really one for formalities."

"Hi Loretta," I turn towards the patient, kneeling down beside her, "what are you doing down there?"

"Well, I'm not really sure! I was just on my way back from the loo, about to go to bed I think, and the next thing I know, Alfie's in here with me, a phone plugged to his ear, and he's telling me not to move!" She looks around her, making sure that she really is on the floor, and that she's not going to fall any further.

"Alfie!" She calls. "Alfie dear, be a good boy and pick your school bag off the floor. Your father will be home any minute, and you know how much he hates things in the middle of the lounge!"

Alfie takes me to one side, and explains that his parents divorced when he was twelve years old. He hasn't heard from his dad since, some forty years or more.

"It's alright Mum, everything's clear. Let's get you sorted. This nice gentleman has to come to help you up off the floor." A mock look over my shoulder to locate said nice gentleman fails to do so, and I tell Loretta that I presume he means me.

"Are you a doctor?"

"No. A paramedic. An ambulance man."

"Oh, well you're better than doctors anyway, you lot."

"Must be the dementia!" I say to Alfie, outwardly humble, and inwardly proud. Even a little smug.

"Oh no," he replies, "this time she knows what she's talking about. You lot always have the time for us. When I have to get the doc out for her, they're in and out in five minutes. Hardly bother checking her blood pressure. Sometimes they just guess over the phone, and prescribe something. Think that absolves them of responsibility!"

I don't really know what to answer. I try to defend the doctors, saying that they're on a much tighter schedule than we are and joking that maybe they get paid by the patient, and we get paid by the hour. Alfie just shrugs his shoulders.

The crew turn up a few minutes later, and together we help Loretta off the floor, recheck all the numbers, and prepare to leave her at home so she can get back to sleep. We place her gently back in bed, and Alfie makes sure she's tucked up, the thick duvet covering her up all the way to her chin. I think of how many times I do that for my kids, checking on them several times a night to make sure they're warm enough and all wrapped up, and how many times over the years Loretta must have done the same for him. Years of motherly kindness partially repaid with each gentle gesture. 

"Goodnight, Loretta!"

"Goodnight you lot! Thank you ever so much!"

As we leave, Alfie turns off the light in her room, and walks us to the door.

"Call us again if you need us." I tell him. "If it's before seven in the morning, you might be very unlucky and it'll be us lot again!"

"Careful what you wish for!" Alfie answers. "You never know what she'll get up to in the night. You lot might be back sooner than you think."

Two hours later, we were.

"Oh, am I glad to see you lot again..."


burnedoutmedic said...

a lot of crews don't like lift assists but i see it as an extraordinary opportunity for PR. besides, most such callers are sheepish about calling for a lift and they are much nicer than the usual entitlement crowd.

Anonymous said...

I've done many jobs like this one, and despite not being the most clinically challenging moments of my career, I always enjoy them because the recipients of my care are usually pleasant, polite and grateful.

Mellie said...

It's such a joy to run a call where the patient actually treats you with respect and has kind words for you!

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Ditto to all written above. My sister’s MIL in Oklahoma falls regularly and she’s a good-sized woman living alone. I worry... and hope that she is as lucky as this woman and gets a crew that loves what they do and why they do it.