Wednesday, January 09, 2013

treasure island

Meg lies sprawled on the floor against the chair where she fell, the trolley overturned in front of her, the contents of its plastic tray scattered around her across the carpet: pills, inhalers, a TV guide, remote control, an empty glass tumbler, coins, toffees and a couple of sparkling ear rings.
‘Help me up,’ she says, waggling her hand in the air. ‘I’ve been here half an hour.’
We give her the quick once over, then get her back on her feet. She grabs at us when we encourage her to find her balance, pinching the backs of our arms.
‘I’m falling!’
‘We’ve got you, Meg. You’re perfectly safe. Just take a moment to get your balance. Come on. Where do you want to sit?’
But I hardly need ask, judging by the well-worn cushions in the armchair by the fire, everything arranged to hand.
‘Just a minute..’
She moves her swollen legs stiffly, from the hip, strangely up on her toes, like an astronaut in a spacesuit.
‘Just a minute, now.’
She lets out a sigh as we lower her into the chair, and puts her hands out right and left to stroke the armrests.
‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ she says, tearfully. ‘I thought I was down for good. I thought I was going to die.’
‘Do you want a cup of tea or something?’
‘No thank you. But make one for yourself, if you like. Go on. I don’t mind. I’m sorry I had to call you out.’
‘Let’s do all your bits and pieces, Meg. Your blood pressure and the rest. Do you think you might want to go to hospital?’
‘Hospital? I’m allergic to hospitals.’
‘Me too. God knows why I’m in this job.’
Rae goes into the kitchen to find the care folder; I kneel down next to Meg’s chair and get the obs kit out.
Hello? Meg? Are you all right?
The door opens and a gigantic man clumps in. With his stump teeth, spade hands and big bass voice, he could play the ogre in a pantomime with very little need for make-up.
‘Hello!’ I say, weakly.
I saw the ambulance he booms. I thought to myself – now I bet that’s Meg. Are you okay, poppet?
He reaches down to pat her on the shoulder; it’s like watching the boom of some massive crane swing into action. Meg drapes a hand over his, and presses her cheek to it.
‘Donald,’ she says. ‘I just want to die.’
Nonsense. Don’t talk like that, Meg. You’ll go when the good Lord’s ready and not a moment sooner.
‘But I am ready, Donald. I’m ninety-four. I’ve had my time. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up.’
Come on, Meg. That’s not like you.
He swivels his bucket head to look at me.
Is she okay? Has she broken anything?
‘Nope. I think she got away with it this time.’
Rae comes in from the kitchen and almost drops the folder.
‘Oh. Hello,’ she says.
I think you guys – and girl, h’ur! – I think you do a wonderful job.
‘Thank you.’
Donald bends down and starts clearing up the mess.
‘He’s so good to me,’ says Meg, holding out her arm so I can unwrap the blood pressure cuff. ‘If it wasn’t for Donald and Flora I wouldn’t be here now.’
‘Who’s Flora?’
Flora’s great, says Donald, scooping the entire contents of the trolley into one massive palm and transferring it carefully to the table. Flora’s her niece. Comes round once a week, even though she’s quite a way away. Not like the others. You never see them from one day to the next. But no doubt they’ll come out of the woodwork in due course. Shout if you need anything.
He sits himself down on a low chair by the sitting room cabinet, and begins flicking through an old copy of Treasure Island.
The phone rings. I pass it to Meg. She starts crying when she tells the person on the other end what happened. Donald catches my eye. Flora he mouths, then raises his eyebrows and goes back to his book.
Meg is too upset to say much more; she hands me the phone.
‘Is that the paramedic?’ says Flora.
‘Yep. Don’t worry about Meg. She’s had a bit of a tumble but everything’s okay. It’s a bit of a shock to the system, that’s all.’
‘Is that damned caretaker with her?’
I glance across at Donald. He looks up and gives me a cavernous, stump-toothed smile. Flora is speaking quite loudly on the phone and I wonder if he can hear me. I press the phone more tightly to my ear.
‘I’m not surprised,’ she says. ‘He’s always round. Does she smell of drink?’
‘Because that’s what he does. He goes round there and encourages her to drink. That’s why she’s fallen over in the past. Look – I’m coming up the day after tomorrow. I’ve got a meeting with social services because I’m not happy with the way things are going. But you think she’ll be okay tonight?’
‘I think so, yes.’
‘Okay. Thank you.’
I hand the phone back to Meg, who presses it to her face like it’s a gadget for soaking up tears.
Donald stands up, ducking his head at the last minute so it doesn’t extend through the ceiling.
What did she say? Is she coming?
‘Yep. The day after tomorrow.’
That’s grand. I knew she would. Now there’s a woman who knows her mind.
He winks at me, closes the book, caresses it absent-mindedly, then places it back on the sideboard where he found it.


Alan said...

When you do "Siren Voices: The Movie", this one *must* go in there. :)

jacksofbuxton said...

Interesting the caretaker reads Treasure Island when he's alleged to encourage Meg to get legless.

And why are pirates called pirates?

They just aaarrgghhhh.

Spence Kennedy said...

Alan - Hmm. Siren Voices: The Movie. I'd like to say it'd be Bradley Cooper who'd play me, but no doubt it'd end up Meryl Streep.

Jacks - Why did the pirate go on vacation?
For arrrrrgh and arrrrrgh!

Elizabeth McClung said...

I appreciated the delicate touch in writing this. You walk into complicated situations with snapshots of people, often with different views and motives. That must be difficult. It also must be difficult to know who to believe when told various viewpoints.

It sounds like Meg is soul sad: it is too bad that it is only the physical that everyone (Donald, Flora, medical) focus on. Do you as EMT responders have any ability to call in local non profit agencies?

I am just struck by the fact that Donald is ignoring what Meg is saying (as is Flora).

How did she call you? That isn't mentioned.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Elizabeth.

It was difficult to know who to believe in that situation. The caretaker was physically unprepossessing, but he did seem genuinely to care for Meg, and she was comforted to have him there. I was surprised that Flora was quite so damning about him, and I must admit that after I'd spoken to her I thought Donald might not be all he seemed. But then - who knows what Flora was like? Maybe she was the one with the agenda. Impossible to know.

We do take care of the emotional as well as the physical in that we'll alert care agencies & the social services if we think someone is vulnerable for whatever reason. I didn't in this case because Flora said she had an appointment with social services in a day or so.

We were called via her Carelink button (something she wears on her wrist and presses when she's in trouble). There was a key in a keysafe outside the flat.

Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth.

VM Sehy Photography said...

Hard to say what happened. Hopefully she's not drinking. That can't help. Old people fall all the time without any liquid help. I'm glad she was OK. My dad just fell and broke his hip and he's in a nursing home now which sucks. He also wishes his fall had killed him. I think you reach a certain age and you are ready to go. Your body, not so much. Your loved ones - they're not ready either. That's why Flora and Donald don't acknowledge what Meg says. They can't face it. And it's very difficult to know what to say even if you do understand the thought process behind it all.

Spence Kennedy said...


Yep - difficult to say, although I don't think it was alcohol in this case.

Very sorry to hear about your dad. How's the nursing home working out? Is it close enough to visit regularly? I've been to some lovely homes over the past few years, so hopefully your dad has found one he likes.

I sympathise with that 'ready to go' thing. I've heard it a lot, and you're right, it's difficult to know how to respond other than a general chivvying along. It's certainly a tough predicament - for the family as well as the individual.

Hope your dad makes a good recovery, VMSP.

Thanks v much for the comment.