Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Nero's Virus

Clouds are building, the forecast downpour seems just minutes away. Set against the dark background is an unassuming row of terraced housing, the exact same kind that's seen in every part of town. One house, however, stands out from the rest. The brickwork is painted a glorious yellow, the window frames green, the colours complementing each other and brightening up a boring row of houses. The front door, its paintwork matching the windows, is opened by a character just as colourful.

"Oh good, you're here!" Burgundy trousers, black shirt and multicoloured waistcoat with matching bow-tie on a man who can only be described as a pantomime giant. "She's just upstairs. Think she's got that horrible winter bug. What do they call it? Nero's Virus? Not that I know what a Roman emperor's got to do with viruses."

"That'll be norovirus."

"I prefer my version. Got more class to it."

"To be honest, I do too. I think we'll use that from now on."

As is always the case when patients are sick, she's in the bedroom on the top floor of the townhouse, two flights of stairs up. Vera is John's total opposite. Dressed in dark pyjamas and wrapped in a plain dressing gown, her dress sense and tiny body are completely out of character with her house and incongruous with her theatrical husband.

"It's been three days now," John tells us. "She can't keep anything down. It just comes out almost instantly, one way or the other. Even water."

"I'm sorry we had to call you gentlemen." Vera talks in between attempts to empty any remaining contents of her stomach. "We just didn't know what else to do. We've tried all the over-the-counter stuff. Nothing works. Every time I try to stand up, I feel like I'm going to keel over."

We check her vital signs and find that her blood pressure is low, which explains why she feels faint whenever she stands up.

"Lets get some fluids into you before we move, then we'll get you on a chair and up to the hospital."

"Do I really need to go?"

"I think it's probably for the best. You can't keep going with the blood pressure of a five-year-old."

She sighs. "I've never had to go to hospital in my life. And when you're as old as I am, that's a long time!"

"Well, if that's the case, it's about time you saw what all the fuss is about. I'm sure they'll look after you."

"Alright then. Do what you need to do."

We give Vera some medication to help stop the nausea and she gets some fluids too, enough to make sure her blood pressure is a little more settled before we start moving her down two flights of stairs. Once we're ready, she takes a seat on the folding chair, we wrap her in a blanket and secure her with the bright yellow strap. Half way down the first flight of stairs, the lights go out, and the house is left in complete darkness. I manage to fish the pen-torch out of my top pocket whilst balancing the chair with one hand and with the aid of my belt, bite the torch between my teeth, and we manage to get down the last few stairs. There was another flight to go and dim light wasn't quite enough, so we stopped on the landing. 

"Hang on a minute," says John, "I think I remember seeing a candle in the draw upstairs. Lend me that torch and I'll go find it." A minute of darkness later, he comes back with the candle. "Only one problem," he says. "The matches are downstairs in the kitchen." 

"Don't worry," laughs my crew mate, "I've got a lighter." 

"Well, how about that then! Haven't had a powercut in these parts for years! It's a miracle I still had that one candle. Left over from her birthday cake, the one the kids brought over last month." 

A combination of candlelight and torchlight saw us the rest of the way, until we reached the street that was lit up by the flashing blue lights. As we were about to step out of the house, Vera remembered the one thing she wanted. 

"Will you bring my walking stick with you? I can't go anywhere without it."

"Are you sure you want it? We've strapped you in to the chair, it's on wheels, and you're going on a trolley bed. You're not exactly walking anywhere."

"Still, I'd really rather have it." 

"OK, where is it?" 

She hesitates, almost scared to answer the question. "It's in the bedroom." 

Vera smiles as I tut theatrically and roll my eyes. "Let's get you comfortable in the ambulance, then I'll go and get it. But you're sure you want it? Walking sticks have a habit of going for walks without their owners in hospitals." 

"And the way I feel, it could probably walk a darn sight quicker!" As we helped her across to the bed, she vomited once more, and we got a bowl to her just in time. 

"Wouldn't want to get your pyjamas in a mess, would we?" We covered Vera in the blanket that had kept her safe as we carried her downstairs and tightened the strap around her legs, telling her it was just to make sure she didn't run off. "By the way, you don't own a fiddle by any chance, do you?" 

"A fiddle? Why do I need a fiddle?" 

"Oh, you know, it'll give Nero and his virus something to do..." 


sav said...

Aww that was really sweet to read. Don't you just love old folk

Robin said...

That fiddle joke was awful.

Tom said...

Those are the patients that really make it worthwhile for me. The ones with a very sharp sense of humour or somehow manage to see the bright side of things no matter what. Just one challenge to you IM. Try nursing an entire ward closed due to a Norovirus outbreak. That is quite a feat. I never knew I could run to a patient with a bed pan so quick...

TAZ THE AMBO said...

I'm going to use that Nero virus and the fiddle, they're jokes just right for my humour.

Anonymous said...

Love it!! My daughter is a retired
EMTP. This is one career that you cannot succeed in without that humor!!!!!

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MSgt B said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Getting any time off?