“Your Dad is in the right place for him, you need to concentrate on the one who has no support.” She points to the tiny elderly woman tripping down the hospital corridor looking in every room. They all look the same to her. She can’t tell the difference between one fragile old soul and another.
“ Kill me now” shouts the broken individual in the bed next door to Dad, as he scratches his legs to the point of bleeding.
A woman the size of my van shouts at the patient on the other side of Dad. “GRANDAD, GRANDAD, YOUR NOSE IS DRIPPING ON YOUR SHIRT. CAN YOU HEAR ME? GRANDAD, GRANDAD”.
And so it goes on…for one and a half hours every visiting time… “GRANDAD. GRANDAD. HAVE YOU OPENED YOUR BOWELS TODAY?”
Funny the first time and vaguely amusing the second but I quickly want to kill her. Now!
“Do you want to get out of here Dad”?
“I’ll organize it.”
“Of course I didn’t see my parents fade away, they both died suddenly when I wasn’t there”. This, at least, is an acknowledgement of what she may have witnessed in the performance art involved in getting Dad the hell out of hospital, although I don’t think she saw my distress. She can’t always see what’s under her nose and its not because she isn’t wearing her glasses. Who am I to talk, neither can I?
The Enhanced Care woman arrived at 1pm. She is called Tina and she has a rugby-playing son called Sam. So do I. “if you did this to an animal”, she says, “ you’d be prosecuted for cruelty, but apparently its ok to do it to a human”. I agree. Small bonds.
She can’t lift Dad on her own. I wonder why she’s here. I help. As she leaves the room, Dad slides back down the bed and starts to cough. He coughs and coughs. He chokes and spits out blood. I do not retch, although I want to.
“Mum, these jamas you have put on Dad are like a skateboard, he keeps sliding down past the pillow, don’t you have any Velcro?”
Pathetically small jokes make the impossibly awful situation a tiny bit better. Ya think?
“Well he’s soiled all the other ones”
I don’t need to know that. I don’t need to be reminded. I saw it with my own eyes and smelt it with my own nose. This is my father we are talking about. This man who I have loved for nearly 60 years, who was conscripted into the RAF just after the war and still remembers his number, who took part in the Berlin Air Lift and returned to marry his childhood sweetheart despite both families opposition. Don’t tell me that he has “soiled” anything.
He is reduced to one room, one bed, one commode and one prognosis.
The GP comes and goes. He wants to take Dad back into hospital but Mum has been forewarned and stands her ground. She is tiny and fragile. She is exhausted, frightened and tearful. But she has dug in her hooves and she is physically blocking the door. I am overwhelmed with my pride in her. They shall not pass!
“He has lung cancer, there’s very little that we can do”.
I know this although I’m glad you said cancer as I notice that every time this information is written down it reads, “lung CA” as apparently the word “cancer” is too terrible to inscribe. He has one or two other things as well. Bronchiectasis edema, gout, enlarged prostate and pneumonia. Nothing is sufficient in itself apparently.
I get the GP to write a DNR notice. That, they can do. It’s a red bit of paper and it must sit in the front of Dad’s file. “If its not there” says Daniel, (the visiting physic), “we would have to attempt CPR should your father go into cardiac arrest”.
“ Daniel”, I say, “ if you go near my father with any electric cattle prods, you may regret it”. I’m being nice and smiling at him. He doesn’t get it.
Mum calls him David despite constant reminders of his true name. She says, “ he’s lovely”, which he is. Lovely but useless. “Daniel, between us, can we get Dad downstairs into the lounge where there’s a TV and a rugby match that I know Dad would want to watch”
“I don’t think that’s really important right now. “Your Dad’s mobility is severely impaired”.
I want to say, “then throw him down the stairs cos its New Zealand playing and it is really important to him”.
But I don’t, I just smile. My cheeks hurt from my own insincerity.
Dad sleeps through matches he would have given a lung to watch. He is fed tiny bits of gruel, which he coughs and vomits back up. The room is stiflingly hot. Dad is freezing and unbelievably thin. His skin is transparent and purple blotched. His legs are bound in white bandages as he fell trying to get up the stairs to the bedroom in which he now resides. The carpet removed the last of his steroid thinned skin from shin to thigh. Amazing how much blood the man still contains. It’s everywhere. The room smells metallic with a strong overtone of faeces.
The Para Medics arrive. They have a van with flashing lights and electric things that beep and which they attach to my father. They want to take Dad back to hospital. “No way, he’s staying here.”
Mum is clasping her hands together in the corner of the room. “They want to take Dad back into hospital”. “I know I was in the same room”. “Well, that’s not going to happen so stop worrying”. “ You are so bossy.” “ I know”.
Dad tries to open the heavy bag on his bed. He thinks he is on holiday and it’s his flight bag. Dad says “Greece was nice” and I agree with him. Dad asks me when the owners of the house are coming back. I say, “You own this house Dad”.
“But where are the children staying?” “Dad, this is your house, you are at home, I am your child and I do not live here”
“ But there is a child on the stairs”.
“No Dad, what you can see is your dressing gown on the bannisters, it’s not a child”
He is sucking the remote for the television that doesn’t work in the room to which he is confined. “Why are you doing that Dad?” “I needed a drink of water”.
“ Dad, what is the pin number for your visa card, I need to get out cash for the care team.” He tells me. Mum says, “no that’s not it” and tells me a different number. I write them both down. I try her answer, which is wrong. His is correct. I get the cash although I know they will not accept cash but I do what I’m told. “Mum, that number was wrong, Dad’s was right”. “Of course”, says Dad and quotes his conscription number from which he has derived his pin and salutes me. I salute him back. “Present and correct Sir”.
I spend £3 on a paper and another paper I find called “Rugby News”. Dad takes it off me and puts on his reading glasses. I leave as he is reading commentary on Robshaws recent performance. “Dad is so much better; he’s a different person since you came”.
Should have thrown him down the stairs in my honest opinion.