‘Will Jack be okay on his own?’
‘I – hope - so.’
It was the last thing she said.
* * *
I’d never have guessed Jack had Alzheimer’s. He’d met us at the door, a well-dressed man, snugly buttoned in cardigan and corduroys, neatly made tie, nicely combed hair, perfect as a father figure in a doll’s house. In the little room he’d said. Right then right again. And then followed us in to see Vera, leaning forwards in a high-backed chair, breathing fast and shallow, hypervigilant, a pallor to her face like she was approaching some terrifying thing.
Shall I come with you? Jack had said. Or shall I rest here and ring in the morning?
I almost said: Your wife is dangerously ill. You must come with us.
But in the press of the moment what I actually said was: Stay warm. Ring in the morning.
Despite the bitter cold of the night, he watched from the shore of their driveway as we loaded Vera into the back.
He went inside.
* * *
Whatever was happening with Vera – no doubt a massive PE but asymptomatic in some respects – there was nothing we could do to correct it. Despite our therapies she remained cyanotic, struggling. As Rae cannulated, Vera’s arm hung down over the side of the trolley like she was trailing her fingers over the side of a boat and the water was turning them blue.
We did what we could as quickly as we could, then hurried on through the night.
Just in sight of the hospital her breathing changed, her pulse disappeared, and I dropped the trolley back.
‘Arrested’ I called through to Rae.
She pulled over.
Five minutes of CPR and there was a return of circulation.
We stabilised as best we could, then ran on the last little way into A&E.
Vera arrested again moments after transferring in resus. The team closed in.
I completed the paperwork, helped clear up the ambulance, made ready to go. I went back into the department to make sure they understood Jack was home alone.
In the half an hour it had taken to do all this, Vera had died, and the team was round another bed.