Sunday, May 24, 2009

safe little dogs

On the driveway of the block of flats there is an elderly woman standing half in and half out of a car, one hand on the open door and the other fiddling with a bunch of keys.
‘Is it for Richardson? Flat forty?’ she says. ‘Have you come for my daughter, Jane?’
‘Who are you?’
‘I’m her mum.’
‘Yep, we’ve come for your daughter.’
There is a little boy in the passenger seat. He studies me through the dirty windscreen.
‘I’ll just go straight up the hospital and see you there,’ the woman says, getting back into the car.
We hurry on inside.

The lift descends and opens. Two woman like hyper inflated character balloons bustle and jostle each other as they struggle out of the lift with a couple of bichon frises.
‘Morning,’ I say to them.
They all look horrified.

We let them pass, then carry on up to the fifteenth floor.
The lift door opens onto a man so consumptively thin he could hide behind a cane.
‘Hurry up, guys. She’s really done it this time.’
He leads us through a stark and dirty flat into a galley kitchen where his ex-wife Jane is lying on her back, blue lipped and unmoving.
‘I think she took some heroin,’ he says. ‘I just nipped out to the shops to get some things in. I was only gone a minute. Do you think she’ll make it?’
I set to work clearing and securing her airway, using a BVM to breathe for her, whilst Rae draws up some narcan to counteract the effect of the heroin.
‘I was here about four days ago, same thing,’ says Rae. ‘She’s pushing her luck.’
‘There’s some dodgy gear about,’ the partner says. ‘I told her not to take it on her own.’
‘Can you fetch us her list of medications please?’ Rae asks him. As soon as he’s gone she says: ‘Exactly the same last time. Only then the little boy was in the sitting room on the couch, watching the whole thing. I reported it to social services, but I haven’t heard back yet. Did you see him in the car just now?’
‘Was that him?’
‘Yeah – with the grandma. I’m not happy about this. I wouldn’t mind betting they called the grandma over to make it look as if she had the kid the whole time.’

The partner comes in again with a scrip.
‘How’s she doing?’
‘She’s making some effort to breathe for herself now. It shouldn’t be long before she’s up and talking to us.’
‘Thanks for coming, guys.’
‘No worries.’

Jane sits on the edge of the sofa, smoking a roll-up. Mike, her ex, paces about anxiously.
‘Please don’t tell the social,’ she says. ‘I’ll lose my boy for sure.’
‘We’re worried about the way things are at the moment, Jane. Not just for you, but for Josh, too. What happens if you take an OD like today and he gets left on his own? What would he do? How would that be for him?’
‘But he doesn’t stay with me. He stays with his Grandma.’
‘He was here when this happened to you just the other week, Jane. It was me who brought you back from the dead then, too.’
‘I am grateful, and I’m sorry. But please don’t tell the social. They’ll get the wrong end of the stick and I’ll lose little Joshie. I don’t know what I’d do if they took Joshie away.’
She starts crying, dragging fixedly on the cigarette between sobs.
‘The boy’s okay,’ says Mike. ‘His grandma takes good care of him.’
‘You can see our worries, though, can’t you? You can see how it looks to us?’
‘Yeah – of course. But please – don’t tell the social.’

Jane refuses to come to hospital, even though we explain that narcan has a short half-life, and the effects will wear off soon.
‘I’ll be with Mike,’ she says. ‘I’ll be fine.’
She signs our release papers, and we leave. As soon as we’re back in the cab, we request some off-road time to fill in a Vulnerable Child form back on base.

The two women we passed in the lobby are exercising their dogs on the slopes in front of the tower block. They play out spools of line to let the dogs wander on the grass, chatting watchfully as the white woolly heads bob up and down, like miniature sheep, grazing.
‘They must shampoo those dogs every day,’ Rae says.
‘And blow dry them.’
I imagine the dogs standing patiently in an aluminium sink, suffering jug after jug of warm, cleansing water to wash the suds and the dirt away.
Good, clean, safe little dogs.

I wonder which floor they live on.


petrolhead said...

I really hope Jane's OK, and the family get the help they need from social services - they don't like taking kids away from their parents, it's a last resort!

And those dogs sound gross, I wonder if their owners would accidentally sit on them...? ;)

uphilldowndale said...

I can't pretend to understand how a mum could expose her child to such danger, it seems to go against all nature.....

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey PH!
Social services are in an unenviable position, and it's not often clear what's best to be done. But in this case I would've thought it was pretty clear cut. I hope they take steps to make sure that Josh is well out of harms way.

As far as the dogs went (and I don't think that was ever very far), I think they were more in danger from being hand fed marshmallow treats than being sat on. ;0/

I know what you mean. An incredible duality. I don't doubt that she cared for Josh, but it's just that scoring heroin seemed to be her overriding concern.

In the light of Baby P, I didn't hesitate to make our concerns official, despite her protestations. I just hope they're acted on promptly.


loveinvienna said...

I feel sorry for the poor woman and I also get the impression she loves her little boy... but if she really cared about him so very much, why did she shoot up in front of him? I know that makes it out to be much more simplistic than it really is and there is more to it than that, but she obviously doesn't want to lose the child, so why doesn't she at least wait until he IS with his grandma before doing junk? Can't she see what you see when you come to save her from herself yet again?

A right mess but the way forwards is clear to all onlookers I suspect. Social services have to get involved.

Liv xxx

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Liv
It is so hard to understand the power that heroin has over people, to the extent that someone would jeopardize the welfare of their own child for the sake of the next fix. It's an indication of the potency of the drug, I suppose (and perhaps a measure of the pain that they need to distance themselves from so completely).

Very difficult and sad - but I agree - an urgent case for intervention.

Charles said...

Incredible blog! I just stumbled across it tonight from an entry on another blog, but I read through all your 2009 posts tonight and enjoyed them immensely. I'll certainly be coming back to read more later. I just started an EMT course in the US, and stories like these inspire me. Beautiful writing, and you certainly seem to have a gift for noticing the poignant sides of what could be completely dreary scenes.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey Charles!

Thanks v much!

Good luck with the course. I think it's a great thing to do.

You're right. On the face of it these scenes are often completely dreary and depressing. Looking back over them all it's difficult to figure out how you keep sane, sometimes. But in each case there are redeeming aspects, surprising sometimes. Looking for them is always an interesting diversion!

Thanks for your comment. :0)