‘Having a shower.’
‘I know – but he couldn’t be persuaded.’
‘How did he get in the shower?’
‘Stepped in, good as gold.’
‘But he’s just spent twelve hours on the floor and had to have the police kick the door in to get him up?’
‘Yep. I know.’
It’s good news, though. Mr Bartelman is twenty-four stone and lives in a basement flat. None of us feels the need to comment on the wretchedness of that simple phrase.
The flat itself has the feel of a recent move, with cardboard boxes stacked up in alcoves and under windowsills, carrier bags of stuff lined up under tables neatly stacked with books and CDs. The strange thing – or another strange thing – is that Mr Bartelman has been living here for years.
‘Not that I can see or smell.’
‘Any medical history?’
‘Lymphodema – quite marked in his legs and arms, but other than that, nothing really. Back ache – but then I’d have back ache if I was that heavy.’
‘Nothing written up. Man of mystery, really. Off the radar. Although he says he went to the lymph clinic a few weeks back and they dressed his legs. You should see them. He’s got these thick support stockings up to the knee right and left. It’s like he’s being sucked down into two pipes, all that flesh just squeezing down into nothing. I haven’t had a chance to cut the dressings off, but they’re way too tight. It’s a wonder his toes aren’t black.’
There’s movement in the bathroom. The sound of water being turned off, curtain rings along a pole.
‘Sorry to keep you,’ he says, steam billowing round the door.
‘Are you okay, Mr Bartelman?’
‘Yes. Fine thank you. Shan’t be a moment.’
Exactly one moment later, the bathroom door swings open and Mr Bartelman stands there, a beach towel tied round his middle. He is a vast, pink melon of a man, his arms rising up and out to the side as if they’ve been forced there by internal pressure, his head reduced to a squared detail of grizzled grey hair and beard.
‘Just need my trousers,’ he says, and lurches off into the bedroom.
‘I see what you mean about the legs. But he seems pretty mobile. And then he says he couldn’t get up off the floor? For twelve hours?’
Rae shakes her head.
‘His neighbours heard him shouting and called the police. I don’t know what to make of it. His obs are fine, nothing obvious going on. Those legs definitely need attention. I said I could get that sorted for him at home but he insisted on going to hospital because he says he doesn’t feel right in himself.’ She shrugs. ‘Sorry guys.’
Mr Bartelman has managed to put on his shirt and trousers – a stripy business combo - in no time at all. Whilst he buttons the shirt I put his Velcro-shoes in front of him.
‘Thank you,’ he says. ‘I can manage.’
‘So - twelve hours on the floor?’
‘Yes. I slipped out of bed at about four this morning and just couldn’t get up. I tried everything but it was no use. Luckily my neighbours heard me when they came back from work this afternoon otherwise I’d probably still be there.’
‘But you haven’t hurt yourself?’
‘No. Thank goodness.’
‘No new pain?’
‘And I understand you feel unwell?’
‘Yes. But I can’t put my finger on it. Just not the full ticket.’
‘Dizziness? Nausea? Shortness of breath? Anything like that?’
‘Going to the toilet okay?’
‘Fine. But something’s not right. Generally. Now. I’ll just get my keys and we can go.’
I seriously doubt they’ll work, given the police recently put the door in. But you never know.