Source: Pop-Up Prose and Poetry
This piece is important and it resonates with me, but not because of health issues. Behavioural problems also stem from traumatic childhoods, and the fright/flight/freeze response precludes reflective processes. You can’t just ‘park’ your hurt and speed away from your own family problems without collateral damage to those left behind. What is left goes on.
When I was twelve, I was coming home from swimming at my neighbor’s dock when I saw an ambulance’s flashing lights in our driveway. I still remember the asphalt burning my feet as I stood, paralyzed, and watched the paramedics take away my father. It was as if I knew those flashing lights were a harbinger that my childhood was over.
At the hospital, a surgeon performed “minor” elective bowel surgery on my young dad. The surgeon made an error, and instead of my father coming home to the “welcome home” banners we’d painted, he died.
The medical care system failed my father miserably. Then the medical care system began to fail me.
At fourteen, I started fainting. The doctors implied I was trying to garner attention. In college I began having full seizures. I kept them to myself, fearful of seeming a modern Camille. I’d awaken on the floor drenched…
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26th March 2017 and it’s Mothering Sunday.
Just by way of statistics, 1 in 5 women in the UK are not mothers by the time they are 45.
1 in 4 people in their lives will suffer mental illness. There is no gender difference here. It might be the your mother is psychotic, or she might have dementia , or she might have a narcissistic personality disorder.
I don’t know what the percentage is of people whose mothers are absent because they are dead/ rejected their roles at birth/rejected their roles later on.
You might have considerable caring responsibilities for your parent and a sibling who is not pulling their considerable weight.
Overall, it’s quite possible that your Mothering Sunday is not quite perfect. Mine neither.
I’m lucky I have my boys. Blessings counted. 1,2,3.
My friend Pat wrote this. She IS vety special. I love it. Source: Of course I’m special
I was in Casualty at Kingston Hospital last Thursday with one of my sons, who had a condition in his lower limbs which was both painful and mysterious. We thought it might be sinister, maybe a blood clot, and the doctor gave him a letter and told him to go to A&E. It was 6pm on a Thursday night and the waiting room in the front had only about a dozen people in it.
One of the Triage nurses is a friend’s daughter, a dusky rose, and she greeted us, and said that although it looked pretty empty, they had been very short staffed and behind the scenes it was heaving. Prepare for a wait, and Goodnight, her shift was done.
We both had books. He had Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I had the latest Granta. Although we were worried about him, we were at least in the hospital. It was warm. The chairs are pretty comfortable. The reading was good.
And then it started to fill up. A builder arrived at about 6.30 and sat opposite us. He’d been told it would be a long wait. How long had we been waiting?
About half an hour, we said. What had he done?
“It was this morning, I was up a roof and drilled a bit out of my finger.” He held up his left index finger with a none too clean tissue wrapped around it.
He unwrapped it and a bloody bit of meat was exposed, dirty, with a bit of transparent flesh flapping off it.
“It’ll need stitches.”, he said. “I’ve got a scar on my forehead which healed with a ridge because I didn’t get it stitched. Look. Thought I was hard, see! Huh! If this heals with a ridge, it will interfere with how I work. I need my hands.”.
“Why didn’t you go this morning?” I asked.
“I work for myself. I had to finish the job. Get the day done and the money in. It was a cash job. I’m owed so much money on invoiced jobs at the moment that I can’t make ends meet.”.
“So I just wrapped it in tissue and carried on best I could.”.
A woman in a hijab emerged from behind the scenes. She was talking on a mobile and had a folder of notes under her arm, and was headed straight for the exit to the car park. Another woman followed. “Come back! We need those notes. You must come back in. Come!”. I wasn’t sure if the would-be escapee was a patient or a Doctor.
Now nearly all the seats were full and it was getting noisy. Sick babes were moved on in pretty quickly. There were some very ashen faces, people with arms in home made slings, people limping about, all accompanied by one or two friends or relatives. About a fifth of the sick people were recognisably not English and they had even more supporters with them.
Three blokes came in, builders, young men. The one in the middle was in shock, covered in brick dust, and his head was decorated in pink stuff that had been blobbed out of a sort of syringe, like a mastic gun. His eyelids and eyebrows were blobbed in pink. He had to be helped round, presumably he couldn’t see. It was 8pm by now.
We noticed an elderly bearded man on the other side of the room. He had an old tweed overcoat on, and a pair of track-suit bottoms and boots. There was a thick gold chain around his neck. That was all. His overcoat was open to his bare chest. He looked miserable. He got up and went over to the desk. “I want to know about patient transport. I’ve been waiting hours now. When will it be?”
“I don’t know.”, said the man at the desk. “We will let you know.”. The old man plonked himself down again.
And I didn’t see this, we were at the back of the room, but I heard about it from a woman called Joan, who I met the following day, and who was admitted from Casualty into the Acute Assessment Unit (along with my mother who was delivered by ambulance half an hour after I took my son home – it was a long night for me), because her stomach had swollen up like a nine month pregnancy on account of a kidney dysfunction caused by acute constipation, and who recognised me from the night before. An elderly couple were sitting in front of the reception desk. He looked just awful. Then he fitted and his head lolled to the side. His wife screamed. Joan shouted to the receptionist, who said, “Yes, we know about him.”. Joan said “But I think he’s dead! Look at him!” Nothing happened. No Doctors came out. Joan shook his shoulder and he came back to life.
That happened a couple of times before he was admitted.
The old man with the gold chain and nothing but hairs to keep his chest warm approached the desk again. “But when will it be? You don’t understand. I’ve been here all day. I need to get home.” Every “e” was elongated, pleading.
“How long is a piece of string?”, said the receptionist.
“I don’t know? Please tell me? How long is this piece of string?”
“Look we’ve got one ambulance for patient transport. And a whole list of people who need it.”
“But how long? Please give me some idea.”
“Two hours. At least.”.
“Two hours!”. He walked back to his seat and cried.
My son and I looked at each other. Poor man. This was very hard on him. We decided to pay his fare home. It wouldn’t be much more than a fiver. I looked in my purse. I had twenty quid and some shrapnel.
I went over and sat down next to him. He smelt mildly of booze, like a pub at eleven in the morning.
“Hallo” I said, “I’m sorry you are having trouble. Have you thought about getting a cab?”
He looked at me with big soppy blue eyes, and emptied his pockets. “I haven’t got any money.”.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got some.”, I said. “Would you mind if I paid for it?”
“That’s really kind of you, but I don’t want to be a charity case.”, he said, grabbing my hand. He didn’t smell that bad really.
“Well it sounds like it’s going to be a long wait.” I said. “Are you going to be ok?”
“Not really. I’ve been here all day. It’s been a long day.”
“How are you feeling at the moment. I mean can I get you a drink of water? Would that help?”
“No, no thank you. I’ve been drinking water all day. I could do with something stronger if you know what I mean!”
I knew what he meant.
“Please let me get you a cab. Look, there’s a free phone over there for the cab-service.”
“Are you sure? Well if you’re sure, that would be so very good of you.”
I was on my feet and moving towards the phone. “Where’s home?”, I asked. “XXX Sunbury Road, Walton.” he said.
Walton! What the bloody hell was he doing in Kingston A&E!!
It was absolutely too late to back out now, in the middle of the waiting room, between the old man I’d offered to help and the phone.
I explained the situation to the cab firm. “Well it will be £22.50.”, she said. “Has he wet himself?”.
I don’t know why she asked this. It was as if she could see him more clearly than I could.
“No, he just smells a bit of alcohol. But he’s been in hospital all day. It’s stale, quite mild really. But hang on a sec, let me check I’ve got money.”
I had £23.37 in my purse.
“Ok, so the driver will be there in about ten minutes.”.
I went and sat down next to him again. He was very grateful. And so he should be. “You’re so kind.”, he said. “I’ve been here all day. It’s been so awful.”
“Why did you come here?”, I asked, “Don’t you have a more local hospital?”
Walton is so far away in this tight urban landscape, about a fifteen to twenty minute run, and it’s behind the back of beyond and then some, and I haven’t a clue what the hospital situation is like there.
“Yes, I’ve been to St. Peter’s several times, but they were no good. I thought Kingston might be better. But they were no good either!”
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m just so worried. I’m worried all the time. My Landlord wants to sell the bungalow and evict me. It’s so stressful. I feel very unwell.”.
“Oh! That’s awful.”
“Yes but the doctors and nurses just won’t listen. The problem is that none of the staff are English. They are all Johnny Foreigners. England’s not like it used to be. I can’t understand them and they can’t understand me.”
In the background I can hear someone say. “If it wasn’t for foreigners, there wouldn’t be an NHS.”, which were my thoughts, projected.
“Not one, not one of them was English. They just don’t understand. They come over here, taking our jobs. England should be for English people. Like you and me!”
I didn’t tell him I was half immigrant Irish, and married to an immigrant who was a hard working leading scientist, and I wasn’t clever or hard working enough to be a Doctor, and what’s more I suspected that neither was he.
“Are you a Doctor then?”
“No, I was an engineer. Why don’t they just go home to where they came from?”
“Well a lot of them were born here.”
Like my boys. They are a quarter English, and a quarter Irish, a quarter Italian, a quarter Kosovan. Where should they “Go home to?”. I didn’t voice this. They’ve got this foreign name. It was something my son and I had just been talking about. Was that going to be a problem for them in this new Brexit world.
“They can go where they like but they should leave this country to the English! Make it great again!”.
Oh dear god. What to say here? I learnt a little from Brexit. Picking arguments with selfish stupid old Xenophobes like you, self obsessed distant relation, who wanted an end to immigration and thought that leaving Europe would put a stop to, not the Europeans, because you had nothing against the Europeans, it was those Pakistanis you wanted out, or you graceless local politicker, who wanted more control of our legislation, which was fair point though, but we could stay in and change it, and you, my mum’s gardener, who voted to leave just for a laugh, to see what Boris could do, because, you know, he’s so ridiculous, and that’s one in the eye for Cameron, does not make me happy and did not change their viewpoint. I mean, nobody liked Cameron. But don’t give us Nuttall and the UKIPS and a right tight little England in his place. Don’t give us stupidity and lies. Don’t, for Christ’s sake, give us America.
At that moment the cab driver arrived. He was Asian.
“See? They are taking all our jobs.”
“Oh, do you know, cab-driving is definitely not for me. Or you.”
“No, I suppose not.”
As we said good-bye, he said, “You will come and see me, won’t you! You’ve been so kind to me. Will you phone me! I will pay you back.”
I said “Of course.”
“But how can you, you haven’t got my phone number!”
“It doesn’t matter. Just be kind to someone else. That will be good! Good-bye, and good luck!”
And I kissed him on his fluffy bearded cheek, because he was a poor old sod.
I went back to my son. “This is like a zoo, Mum. I wish we could go home.”, he said.
Yes, but where to?
Anyway, that passed the time.
My son gets called into Minors at about 9.15pm. Minors consists of a series of half a dozen cubicles big enough for a chair, a small waiting area, and a desk area. The nurse, a skinny lad, possibly Vietnamese, with an interesting top-knot held together by a kirby grip and an elastic band, shows us into cubicle 3, and points out our doctor, a West African woman whose hair is styled with what looks like lard, but can’t possibly be. She immediately comes over and tells us to vacate that cubicle and disappears into cubicle 4, emerges, and then disappears completely. After a few minutes, nobody else comes to cubicle 3, and we discuss occupying it again. The Doctor comes by again, brandishing notes and calling my son’s name.
Where have we been? She asks.
Here, we say.
But I’ve been calling you, she says, why didn’t you answer?
But we’ve been here. The nurse put us into cubicle 3, and you told us to get out of it.
But I went into the main waiting room to get you. ……
But the nurse called us, we saw you, and you told us to get out of the cubicle…….
Our faith in the Doctor was wasting away.
But as it happens, she was very good. Tests were done, and although she could not say what was wrong, she could say, with confidence, that there was no blood clot, no kidney problems. Go home and if it persists, go back to the GP, was the advice. And he’s now better. It was a thing, but not a persistent thing, and hopefully it won’t come back.
In the middle of all this my mobile rings. It’s Dinka, Mum’s Bulgarian carer. Mum’s not well. What should she do?
It was going to be a long night.
Mum likes her electric blanket on to preheat her bed. I had to write this to the care agency today. I had just got a reply to my week old email asking if the carers are trained to recognise stroke symptoms, which they missed in Mum a few weeks ago precipitating an emergency. I was assured that the carers had basic training in this, and it would be revised in the case of these particular carers.
I will just take the electric blanket off the bed. She’s not been feeling very well lately and I wonder if that’s a contributory factor. She probably dehydrates more than she should at night with thethe extra heat.
Thanks for the reassurance about the extra training regarding stroke. It should be sufficient.
Another matter, and maybe it should have been written into your care plan, but I don’t think that this is in the new folder at the moment; I wrote a note to the carers on Saturday asking that mum’s electric blanket be turned off by them on the evening call, after it had been left on all night.
The next night the same thing happened and I highlighted that line on my note. The note is placed, by the way, on top of the page in the care book that they write in. They have to move it in order to get to the page.
Last night, mum fell. I was called around in the wee small early hours of the morning. She fell because her non-slip Mat which she has by the side of her bed was not in place. I had removed it in the day and washed it. It was in full view, drying in the shower which is in the same room. If they had looked for it they would have found it within seconds. Anyway, I got mum up and she was ok
The electric blanket was on full.
I’ve asked xxxxxxxx not to turn it on anymore, so it won’t be an issue, BUT are your carers aware that people with diabetes are potentially less sensitive to feeling heat than the rest of the population?
They do a really important job, helping people to stay in their own homes, these women, and it is appreciated, very much, when they do a good job. But it is a very responsible job. Mum feels they are always in a hurry. The time they are supposed to be there for is half an hour, to put her to bed, I think? Actually they were in and out in twenty minutes last night. Which would have been fine if they had left mum safe for the night. But they didn’t.
3pm Friday September 30th 2016.
RING RING RING RING
Vapid young female South London voice. Hello?
Me: Is that Social Services?
VYFSLV……..All calls are being diverted to us.
Me: And you aren’t Social Services switchboard then?
Me: Who are you?
VYFSLV: We are in another building. All calls are being diverted to us. Really sorry.
Me: Well could you put me through to Katie Xxxxx. She’s my mum’s social worker and it’s really important.
VYFSLV: I can try.
Me: Well yes please, try.
RING RING RING RING
Me: Is that you again? You were putting me through to social services!
VYFSLV: All calls are being diverted to us. Really sorry. We are in a different building.
Me: A different building? And you can’t connect me to social services? What are you? Some sort of dead end?
VYFSLV: I’m really sorry but all calls are being diverted to us.
Me: Could you try someone else? Try Rxxx.
VYFSLV: Well I’ll try.
RING RING RING RING
Me: You again.
VYFSLV: I’m so sorry. Really frustrating isn’t it. It’s been like this all day. All calls are being diverted to us and we are in a different building. Really sorry.
I was calling from the acute care ward at St George’s Hospital London SW17: Mum had been blue-lighted there after a suspected stroke. (We are finding out that she may have had a mini-stroke, but her acute collapse is as a result of an infection, probably urinary, which had penetrated her blood cells.) I particularly want to talk to Social Services, as this emergency is partly the result of the inactions of the carers employed by their agency. I don’t know what to do about Mum’s care.
But all calls to Social Services in my now Kafka-esque world are being diverted to a tired young woman in a different building, including the calls she makes herself.
I can see now, on the CCTV recordings of the two calls that the carers made to Mum, that she had been very unwell that morning. She was too ill to get out of bed at 6-7, and she refused her breakfast, both very unusual. They washed her and left her and turned the lights out. She had actually asked to go to hospital. On their return at 10.00 am she was still very unwell, could not get up, and they fed her her porridge in bed. I was unaware of all this but I phoned at 10.30 to ask if she was alright before I went out with a friend for the day. I was told no, she couldn’t move her left arm and could not get out of bed.
I went round, the carers were gone and all signs were positive for a stroke – tongue tracking to the right, lop sided smile, not able to lift left arm, confused and dozy. So I called 999, the paramedics arrived and wanted to know when this happened……..well it was before 6, which meant that the crucial 4 hour window for stroke treatment had overrun.
Social Services came in in April this year when I stepped down from my role as Mum’s carer, exhausted and overwhelmed. I found myself overseeing the motley crew of carers from a private care agency and their various disastrous interventions some of which I’ve blogged about before. The low point was when mum was thrown on the bed, her arm in plaster, by a carer who was frustrated at the lack of equipment supplied to help her. This went to the police, as my son had seen it on CCTV and Mum had complained to her support worker the next day. The matter was eventually dropped after weeks of police intervention. Other carers have just been rude or stupid and I have complained endlessly, changes are made, hope is created, and then one way or another, shit happens again.
For instance, on September 6th. Mum has just returned home after staying in a respite home, organised by Social Services – in some ways they are really very good to us, and credit where its due – so I could get a break.
The night call.
Two carers. Mum in the front room in her arm chair.
Carer 2 does not say hallo but stays in the hall.
Carer 1 sashays across to turn the telly off
Carer 1 How you like your stay in the home?
Mum, animated and friendly It was quite nice actually. They were very good to me there.
Carer 1 now on her way back towards Mum.
Carer 1 How you going to like living there?
Mum shocked. I don’t want to live there. I want to stay here in my home.
Mum is hovering above her seat, but can’t get up. The two carers stand looking at her.
Mum Well help me won’t you? You can see I need some help.
Carer 2 Oh, you want us to help you.
Carer 1 If you want us to help you, you must tell us.
This is sound only. Mum’s arm is broken and in plaster. I think Carer 2 is helping her out of her clothes.
Mum You are hurting my arm. Please be careful.
Carer 1 and Carer 2 stand watching as mum tries to get into bed
Mum Give me a hand will you? You know I need some help getting into bed.
Carer 2 gives her a shove and Mum falls on the bed. She’s not hurt but she’s really cross.
Mum Oh! You’re just fucking horrible you are. What’s the matter with you!
Carer 1 and Carer 2 leave and put the light out
Carer 1 I don’t know what was wrong with her tonight.
And they leave without saying good-bye.
After I complained and sent the videos up to the agency, these two women have become model carers, polite, and helpful. I think they were particularly rude to Mum at that time because the police were pursuing their colleague on her behalf, but who knows. It’s a tough job, underpaid, and fairly easy to get. They don’t get paid for their travel time. Generally they do as little as possible in as short a time as possible. I’m sure that’s not true for everybody. But it is for most of the people mum has had “caring” for her.
And now, after this particular crisis last Friday, I can’t even phone Social Service’s switchboard. So I try Rxxx’s email address which I had taken down by hand at a meeting a few days before. After about half an hour, and no reply, I think I have noted down the wrong address – it’s quite a complicated one, and so, battling with intermittent 4G, only accessible at the end bay of the Acute Ward, which is fortunately empty, I google her and send an email to the address listed on the official Trust web-site which differed by one letter from the one I had noted, and got this in return:
Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:
Rxxx Social Services (her email address with one letter wrong).
4G has now disappeared and I have to leave Mum to go outside. It’s now 4.55 and I try the number I have for Occupational Therapy: Mum’s OT is nice, sensible, and surely, I think, will be able to put me through to a Social Worker. But she doesn’t answer the phone, and I speak to a very cross woman who clearly thinks I am stupid.
I try email again, adjusting that one letter from the official entry on the web-site to the one I had scribbled down, and get through to Rxxx after the end of the working day, only because she happens to be working late. She replies and phones immediately.
As of now Mum is still in St Georges, her acute care was phenomenally good, but she has suffered from some very indifferent care on the ward there too. Some amazing nurses and some who really couldn’t give a shit. But at least I can complain to the right people.
Mum might be going home today……………………I have to talk to Social Services this morning.