Different Strokes


The older you get the longer you spend in hospital not for yourself but for your aging parents.  Since January this is the second time I have had to call an ambulance and go to A & E.  The first time my mum complained of chest pains yes very frightening but when the paramedics came they thought it was more abdominal – the chest pains could have been heartburn.  The day was long and extremely stressful but it could have been a lot worse.

One month later I discovered just how terrible it could be when I was waiting in a hospital corridor trying to take in the devastating news (‘it looks like you father has had a stroke, unfortunately we didn’t catch it in a four-hour window so there’s very little we can do’).

The phone call came at 9.00am after I’d eaten my porridge and drank my coffee, settling down to plan some lessons for the rest of the day. ‘Your dad’s ill:  he can’t stand up; he’s vomiting and he’s incoherent.  You need to leave work now!’  No time to set cover, just enough time to tell my line manager and exit the building.

My movements that morning were like a dream, I drove to the house on autopilot  fearful of what I was going to discover.  I turned the key in the lock; I stepped tentatively into the hallway and walked into the living room.  At first I thought what’s the fuss dad was sitting in his usual chair fully dressed he even had on his shoes, however on closer inspection there was a huge bowl on the floor.  A frantic Agnes (the carer) attempted to tell me what happened.  I listened but it was like I was watching someone else.  I called the ambulance reluctantly because I knew this one was serious.  I can’t believe how much contact I’ve had with Paramedics all lovely people excellent at delivering bad news.

Days like these make me question what’s going to happen in the future? Dad’s 88 years old now a Stroke victim and mum’s 74 with PSP, to echo mum, ‘when it rains it pours.

Eventually we are moved from the corridor to a bay.  I sit and wait, staring at the white and grey wall; the yellow ‘caution cleaning in progress’ sign on the floor listening to constant beep of machines.  Nurses and doctors come and go speaking in that calm, (meant to be) reassuring voices.  They shine torches in his eyes, order him to touch his nose then touch their finger, check his blood pressure, check his blood and questions, questions, and more questions.

Nothing happens quickly with the NHS so I continue to sit and stare at this tiny, frightened old man fighting to maintain his dignity as he struggles to move himself up the bed.  Every time a nurse or doctor speaks to him he makes a joke to hide his fear.  He can’t swallow a drop of water without coughing violently.

After a 7 hour wait he was moved to a ward.  Surprisingly within a week he has regained his speech and his ability to swallow.  He said, ‘not yet my friend, not yet.’


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