Olympic Games Opening Ceremony 2012
This morning an emergency. Behind our house, off the road, is another house that used to be the shambles or slaughterhouse when our house was a butcher's shop. After it was a butcher's shop it became a successful restaurant, but after that restaurant moved and another took its place, the shambles and the barn, together with the land between, was divided from the restaurant and sold separately, which is when our elderly neighbour, let's call her X, bought it and started constructing a beautiful garden. We arrived some years after that. Once that restaurant had also moved on, a third took over and failed and, when that was gone, the house became a gift shop. We bought the house as a failing gift shop.
We got to know X quite well. She is a little reserved and shy but has led a pretty full life and has lived on her own for many years and, even at ninety, is an independent, intelligent woman.
But being ninety she is not altogether well and has had some emergency runs to hospital in the past, so Clarissa has made it her business to look in regularly, to take her shopping when X wanted to go, or to bring her some items when she didn't. It has been a very good relationship: she is fond of us and very much wants us to stay, and we are fond of her. She gave us a flowerbed in her garden, next to our house and since having got rid of her last car has allowed us to park ours in the gated drive.
This morning Clarissa noticed her curtains were still drawn, so she rang. The phone kept ringing. So she went to knock. She then tried the key we have been given but the door was bolted inside. She could hear X making her way very slowly down the stairs and slide the bolts. X had a great bruise on her head, had clearly had a fall, and was in shock, quite incoherent, unable to speak or answer questions. Clarissa sat her down in a chair and X did not move or recover, so she rang me and I came in. Doctor or ambulance? Clarissa tried the doctor first. The reception was not keen to disturb the surgery and said best wait till the surgery was over in a couple of hours or so. In the meantime X would go on the priority list.
But X was getting no better. There was no external bleeding so it was hard to tell the extent of her injuries. Clarissa suggested I wait in the house in case the doctor called and she stayed with X. It was better for X to be with a woman now, especially one she saw regularly. She was still deeply disorientated, incapable of speech, merely groaning. I wondered about ringing the ambulance instead. I wondered - we both wondered - if this was a stroke. but Clarissa had described the symptoms to the doctor on the phone so the surgery knew as much as we did. Then we waited.
And waited. One hour. Two hours. Three hours.
Three hours after the call, at 1pm, the doctor arrived. By this time we were deeply worried about X. And as soon as she had had a look at her, the doctor - a very nice woman - called an ambulance.
The ambulance took 22 minutes to get here. It was about another ten minutes before they took X away.
Tonight, early evening, the hospital called to say that X was seriously ill and that we should call her daughter in Australia.
I had marked out tonight to attend a reading by two poets I know in Norwich. Should we still go? We discussed it briefly and decided to go ahead. There was nothing we could do here except think about it.
It does indeed make you think.
Three and a half hours from the time Clarissa found X to the time she was taken where she ought have been taken much earlier! Of course we are not doctors and can only guess at the problem, but this was clearly much more than a fall. Maybe it was TIA. Clarissa's father used to suffer from such attacks. Whatever the case I would have thought X's condition constituted an emergency.
Three hours and then a half! I repeat it again. That is time for a great many things to go wrong, possibly for ever, even perhaps for a person to die.
Is this what health care is like in this county? In this country? God help the old in twenty years time - that means us, of course.