It’s the first time I’ve ever been to ITU for a transfer and found the patient eating dinner.
Murat is sitting up in bed, cautiously spooning crumble. He has two black eyes, a cast on his right arm, a fat lip, and a bloody wound above his left eye.
‘He jumped from a lorry,’ says one of the border guards.
‘A stationary lorry’ says the other.
‘Landed on his face. One of us has to travel with him in the ambulance. Okay?’
I tell them fine. Whilst they get their things together, I introduce myself to Murat. He has very little English, and studies me warily as I mime.
The first guard yawns noisily, the skin of his bald head puckering in a V, the hefts of his great hands stretched out right and left.
One of the ITU nurses hurries over with his notes in an envelope.
‘I’m due off in half an hour and there’s another patient coming in,’ she says, pushing her hair back with the back of her wrist. ‘I’ll be lucky if I get off by nine at this rate.’
‘You’ll score the overtime though.’
‘Nope. Not even time in lieu.’
‘That’s outrageous! What does your union have to say about that?’
‘Union?’ she snorts. ‘What union?’ She hands me the notes.
‘You must get the union on it,’ I say. ‘That’s terrible. I can’t believe you don’t get paid for the hours you work.’
‘It’s a job,’ she sighs, smiling. ‘So I’m told. Now – what else?’
Murat interrupts. He says he needs the toilet before we set off. The nurse hands him a bottle. He shakes his head and drops his eyes.
‘I’ll get the commode,’ she says.
‘No,’ says Murat. ‘I go bathroom.’
One of the guards steps forwards. ‘What’s the matter?’ he says. ‘What’s happening?’
‘He says he needs the loo.’
‘Ones or twos?’
‘Ones. Or is it twos? I get confused.’
‘You’re the medic.’
‘The sit down sort.’
‘Uh oh,’ he says. ‘Flight risk. I think we’ll be using the commode right here.’
Murat divides his attention evenly between us all. I notice he has a serpent tattoo on his right shoulder.‘Don’t worry. We’ll draw the curtains,’ says the guard. Then: ‘Those windows, nurse. How far do they open?’