At First Sight – Part 8

Jon and Vikki fell in love the day before Vikki returned permanently to Australia, leaving Jon in London. He books a flight to visit her. Meanwhile, Vikki’s abusive former partner, Guy, has tracked her down. Vikki disappears. Jon, and her childhood sweetheart, Dan, pursue Guy. There is a showdown, in which Vikki is rescued, Guy is killed, and Jon and Dan both critically injured

At first sight 8 - Manor on High 170715

Jon’s head was aching. He couldn’t remember a worse pain, except for…his mind shied away from an explosion of agony that he couldn’t quite recall. Instead, he opened his eyes. The ceiling was white. The light hurt his eyes.

“Jonathan?”

“Dad?”

“Thank God. You’re back with us. Praise the Lord!”

“Where am I?”

“Hospital. The Royal Melbourne Hospital, to be precise.”

Jonathan closed his eyes again.

“Where’s Vikki? Is she…is she alright?”

“Yes, she’s fine. She just popped out for a bite of breakfast. She’ll be back.”

“Breakfast. I’ve been out overnight, then?”

“A bit longer than that, I’m afraid.”

Jon’s eyes opened abruptly.

“Dad! What the hell are you doing here?”

“I flew out last week when the hospital told us you might not pull through.”

Jon said nothing.

“I’ll be able to help you travel home, too.”

“I have something to do before coming home. In fact, I may not come back to the UK at all.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s your PhD to finish…” James Hall’s voice faded as he looked at his son’s pale face and the turban of dressings round his head. The doctors had warned him of possible brain damage; maybe Jon wouldn’t be capable of completing his studies.

The door opened quietly. Jon looked and smiled.

“Vikki!”

“Oh, Jon, I’m so glad!” Her tears welled up, and poured down her cheeks, even as she beamed with joy. She swabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “Drat this crying. Anybody would think I was sad!”

Jonathan stretched out his arms towards her. As she moved into his embrace, the door opened.

“Now then, Mr Hall. Lie still and don’t get excited. You’re still a very sick man.” But the nurse’s face was cheerful, and her manner light.

“I’ll… er… go and phone your mother, tell her that you’re back in the land of the living.”

“Yeah.”

Little fragments of memory were flashing before Jon. He held onto Vikki’s hands.

“You’re safe!” he said. “I was so afraid of what Guy might do to you.”

Vikki frowned. “Best leave that for the moment. Some other time?”

Jon went to nod, and realised that his head was restrained. Instead, he made a circle with his thumb and forefinger, and smiled. His eyes closed, and he drifted off to sleep. He looked happy, Vikki thought.

The nurse spoke quietly to Vikki. “I know I told him to keep still, but it’s an excellent sign that he was able to move his arms. There didn’t look to be any weakness. We have to wait for the consultant’s say-so, but it looks good. You’re a lucky girl, I think.”

Vikki coloured. She gazed at Jon. What was it about him that made her desire him so much? She stroked his arm with her fingertips. The muscles were relaxed in sleep, but she could feel their tight definition. The hair on his skin was downy and fair, hardly more than a fuzz.

She looked at his face and remembered the last ten days, and the tears came again. At first the doctors had thought he would die; you could tell from their faces, and from the nurses’ refrain, “He’s receiving the best possible care,” which so often becomes, “We did all we could.”

But now he was out of danger.

The door clicked as James Hall came back into the room.

“Ah, good. He’s asleep. That’s what he needs.” He looked at Vikki, who half-nodded. “I wonder if we could talk together for a few minutes?” he asked. He held open the door. Vikki stared at him, set her lips and walked into the corridor.

“Well?”

“I wanted to talk about Jon, and his future.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to talk about the weather.”

“Vikki. Please don’t be hostile. There’s no need. We’ve both got Jon’s best interests at heart.”

“Say what you want to say.”

“Jon’s a very bright young man, you know. He has a great future. He could become a professor.”

“Your point being?”

“He needs to come back to the UK to finish his PhD. His academic network is centred in the UK. It will set back his career unless he returns and stays in England.”

“Do you suppose he doesn’t know that?”

“I’m sure he does. But I want to be confident that you understand. I’m sure you want to act in his best interests.”

“Of course I do. But I think that Jon can perfectly well decide his best interests for himself. Don’t you?”

“I’m concerned that he may not see them clearly while he’s infatuated.”

“I’d prefer to say that he’s in love. Look, Mr Hall, Jon’s big enough to make his own decisions. If he asks me to marry him, I shall say yes like a shot. And – I’ll be blunt – that is none of your business. It’s about time you recognised that he’s a man, now, not a little boy.”

“I see. Thank you for making your feelings so clear. Perhaps you’d like to rejoin him? I shall go and find something to eat. Good day to you.”

Cheeks flaming, Vikki went back into Jon. She moved quietly across to the bed, and slipped her hand into his. He didn’t wake, but his fingers closed gently around hers. She sighed, and the hostility she’d felt for Jon’s father melted away. Sitting here, with Jon safe, was all she wanted. It was a moment of perfect calm and happiness.

*       *       *       *

It had been the first day Jon had tried walking since his injury. He’d been okay; the doctors were pleased, but he was exhausted. The door clicked. He looked up, hoping the nurse had come to adjust the bed so that he could sleep, but it was Dan. Jon sat up a little straighter and greeted him cheerfully.

Dan dropped into the chair by the bed.

“Glad we did it, eh?”

Jon nodded.

“Your doing mostly, Dan. I didn’t stop him; you did.”

“Team effort, mate”

“You’re too generous.”

Dan gave him a sideways look. “Only a Pom would say that!”

Jon grinned.

“Look, I’ve got something serious to say,” went on Dan. “It’s about Vikki. I’ve seen how she’s been with you the last couple weeks.”

He paused and thought a little.

“If you ask her to marry you, she’ll say ‘Yes’, you know. I just wanted to say there’ll be no hard feelings on my part. I love her, yeah, I have done as long as I can remember, but, well, she loves you and I want her to be happy. That’s what matters. I’m a big boy. I guess I’ll get over it.”

Jon was briefly silent, then he held out his hand. Dan grasped it.

“Thank you,” said Jon.

They sat like that for several minutes, then Jon said, “I shall ask Vikki this evening. If she says yes, would you be my best man at the wedding?”

“I’d be honoured. Provided I’m not in gaol on the day.”

“Gaol?”

“Yeah. They’ve charged me with manslaughter for killing Guy. My brief reckons with the extenuating circumstances I’ll probably get a couple years.”

“But – you saved my life!”

“Yeah. That’s the extenuating bit.”

“Dan, I’m so sorry.”

“The law’s the law, I guess. I tell you what, though. I’d do it again tomorrow. We got Vikki out. You’re still alive. And Guy’s dead. Good riddance. Vikki’s told me some of what he did. He was a piece of shit. I’m bloody glad I shot the bastard.”

He looked at Jon.

“Here, you’re looking a bit peaky, mate. Do you want me to call the nurse?”

“I’m OK. First day out of bed today, that’s all.”

The door clicked open.

“Out you go now!” The nurse was brisk. Dan winked at Jon, and loped out. Jon fell asleep even before the nurse had finished reclining the head of the bed.

*       *       *       *

Jonathan Hall, newly minted PhD, sat next to Dan in the Regency Room of the Manor on High in Melbourne. In his room in Vikki’s mum’s house was the letter offering him a post at Melbourne University, together with confirmation from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that he qualified for permanent residency.

Dan was quiet, self-controlled; calmly cheerful; on parole.

Carolyn Hall sat behind her son, but her husband, James, was absent, unable to reconcile himself to Jon wedding an atheist.

The string quartet drew their music to a close at the registrar’s signal, and then struck up Pachelbel’s Canon.

Vikki entered, on her mother Margaret’s arm. She was heartbreakingly beautiful. Her honey-coloured hair was put up in a French Pleat, emphasizing her classic features. Her amber eyes seemed to glow.

Jon and Vikki exchanged vows, and rings; the registrar pronounced them man and wife.

The reception afterwards was joyful and lively, but Margaret made a moment of seclusion to speak quietly to Jon. “Do you remember what I said at the yard gate? ‘Find my girl, Jon. Bring her back to me.’ You did that, Jon, and I am eternally grateful to you and Dan”. She hugged him close for several minutes, and then added, “She’s told me things, Jon, things she’ll probably never tell you. Be gentle with her, won’t you?”

And that is where this serial stops. It would be nice to say that ‘they all lived happily ever after’, but that never happens to real people, and it doesn’t in my tale either. But whether you ever hear of what happened later will depend entirely upon the caprice of the author!

 

 

At first sight – Part 8

Jon and Vikki fell in love the day before Vikki returned permanently to Australia, leaving Jon in London. He books a flight to visit her. Meanwhile, Vikki’s abusive former partner, Guy, has tracked her down. Vikki disappears. Jon, and her childhood sweetheart, Dan, pursue Guy. There is a showdown, in which Vikki is rescued, Guy is killed, and Jon and Dan both critically injured.

At first sight 8 - Manor on High 170715

Jon’s head was aching. He couldn’t remember a worse pain, except for…his mind shied away from an explosion of agony that he couldn’t quite recall. Instead, he opened his eyes. The ceiling was white. The light hurt his eyes.

“Jonathan?”

“Dad?”

“Thank God. You’re back with us. Praise the Lord!”

“Where am I?”

“Hospital. The Royal Melbourne Hospital, to be precise.”

Jonathan closed his eyes again.

“Where’s Vikki? Is she…is she alright?”

“Yes, she’s fine. She just popped out for a bite of breakfast. She’ll be back.”

“Breakfast. I’ve been out overnight, then?”

“A bit longer than that, I’m afraid.”

Jon’s eyes opened abruptly.

“Dad! What the hell are you doing here?”

“I flew out last week when the hospital told us you might not pull through.”

Jon said nothing.

“I’ll be able to help you travel home, too.”

“I have something to do before coming home. In fact, I may not come back to the UK at all.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s your PhD to finish…” James Hall’s voice faded as he looked at his son’s pale face and the turban of dressings round his head. The doctors had warned him of possible brain damage; maybe Jon wouldn’t be capable of completing his studies.

The door opened quietly. Jon looked and smiled.

“Vikki!”

“Oh, Jon, I’m so glad!” Her tears welled up, and poured down her cheeks, even as she beamed with joy. She swabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “Drat this crying. Anybody would think I was sad!”

Jonathan stretched out his arms towards her. As she moved into his embrace, the door opened.

“Now then, Mr Hall. Lie still and don’t get excited. You’re still a very sick man.” But the nurse’s face was cheerful, and her manner light.

“I’ll… er… go and phone your mother, tell her that you’re back in the land of the living.”

“Yeah.”

Little fragments of memory were flashing before Jon. He held onto Vikki’s hands.

“You’re safe!” he said. “I was so afraid of what Guy might do to you.”

Vikki frowned. “Best leave that for the moment. Some other time?”

Jon went to nod, and realised that his head was restrained. Instead, he made a circle with his thumb and forefinger, and smiled. His eyes closed, and he drifted off to sleep. He looked happy, Vikki thought.

The nurse spoke quietly to Vikki. “I know I told him to keep still, but it’s an excellent sign that he was able to move his arms. There didn’t look to be any weakness. We have to wait for the consultant’s say-so, but it looks good. You’re a lucky girl, I think.”

Vikki coloured. She gazed at Jon. What was it about him that made her desire him so much? She stroked his arm with her fingertips. The muscles were relaxed in sleep, but she could feel their tight definition. The hair on his skin was downy and fair, hardly more than a fuzz.

She looked at his face and remembered the last ten days, and the tears came again. At first the doctors had thought he would die; you could tell from their faces, and from the nurses’ refrain, “He’s receiving the best possible care,” which so often becomes, “We did all we could.”

But now he was out of danger.

The door clicked as James Hall came back into the room.

“Ah, good. He’s asleep. That’s what he needs.” He looked at Vikki, who half-nodded. “I wonder if we could talk together for a few minutes?” he asked. He held open the door. Vikki stared at him, set her lips and walked into the corridor.

“Well?”

“I wanted to talk about Jon, and his future.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to talk about the weather.”

“Vikki. Please don’t be hostile. There’s no need. We’ve both got Jon’s best interests at heart.”

“Say what you want to say.”

“Jon’s a very bright young man, you know. He has a great future. He could become a professor.”

“Your point being?”

“He needs to come back to the UK to finish his PhD. His academic network is centred in the UK. It will set back his career unless he returns and stays in England.”

“Do you suppose he doesn’t know that?”

“I’m sure he does. But I want to be confident that you understand. I’m sure you want to act in his best interests.”

“Of course I do. But I think that Jon can perfectly well decide his best interests for himself. Don’t you?”

“I’m concerned that he may not see them clearly while he’s infatuated.”

“I’d prefer to say that he’s in love. Look, Mr Hall, Jon’s big enough to make his own decisions. If he asks me to marry him, I shall say yes like a shot. And – I’ll be blunt – that is none of your business. It’s about time you recognised that he’s a man, now, not a little boy.”

“I see. Thank you for making your feelings so clear. Perhaps you’d like to rejoin him? I shall go and find something to eat. Good day to you.”

Cheeks flaming, Vikki went back into Jon. She moved quietly across to the bed, and slipped her hand into his. He didn’t wake, but his fingers closed gently around hers. She sighed, and the hostility she’d felt for Jon’s father melted away. Sitting here, with Jon safe, was all she wanted. It was a moment of perfect calm and happiness.

*       *       *       *

It had been the first day Jon had tried walking since his injury. He’d been okay; the doctors were pleased, but he was exhausted. The door clicked. He looked up, hoping the nurse had come to adjust the bed so that he could sleep, but it was Dan. Jon sat up a little straighter and greeted him cheerfully.

Dan dropped into the chair by the bed.

“Glad we did it, eh?”

Jon nodded.

“Your doing mostly, Dan. I didn’t stop him; you did.”

“Team effort, mate”

“You’re too generous.”

Dan gave him a sideways look. “Only a Pom would say that!”

Jon grinned.

“Look, I’ve got something serious to say,” went on Dan. “It’s about Vikki. I’ve seen how she’s been with you the last couple weeks.”

He paused and thought a little.

“If you ask her to marry you, she’ll say ‘Yes’, you know. I just wanted to say there’ll be no hard feelings on my part. I love her, yeah, I have done as long as I can remember, but, well, she loves you and I want her to be happy. That’s what matters. I’m a big boy. I guess I’ll get over it.”

Jon was briefly silent, then he held out his hand. Dan grasped it.

“Thank you,” said Jon.

They sat like that for several minutes, then Jon said, “I shall ask Vikki this evening. If she says yes, would you be my best man at the wedding?”

“I’d be honoured. Provided I’m not in gaol on the day.”

“Gaol?”

“Yeah. They’ve charged me with manslaughter for killing Guy. My brief reckons with the extenuating circumstances I’ll probably get a couple years.”

“But – you saved my life!”

“Yeah. That’s the extenuating bit.”

“Dan, I’m so sorry.”

“The law’s the law, I guess. I tell you what, though. I’d do it again tomorrow. We got Vikki out. You’re still alive. And Guy’s dead. Good riddance. Vikki’s told me some of what he did. He was a piece of shit. I’m bloody glad I shot the bastard.”

He looked at Jon.

“Here, you’re looking a bit peaky, mate. Do you want me to call the nurse?”

“I’m OK. First day out of bed today, that’s all.”

The door clicked open.

“Out you go now!” The nurse was brisk. Dan winked at Jon, and loped out. Jon fell asleep even before the nurse had finished reclining the head of the bed.

*       *       *       *

Jonathan Hall, newly minted PhD, sat next to Dan in the Regency Room of the Manor on High in Melbourne. In his room in Vikki’s mum’s house was the letter offering him a post at Melbourne University, together with confirmation from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that he qualified for permanent residency.

Dan was quiet, self-controlled; calmly cheerful; on parole.

Carolyn Hall sat behind her son, but her husband, James, was absent, unable to reconcile himself to Jon wedding an atheist.

The string quartet drew their music to a close at the registrar’s signal, and then struck up Pachelbel’s Canon.

Vikki entered, on her mother Margaret’s arm. She was heartbreakingly beautiful. Her honey-coloured hair was put up in a French Pleat, emphasizing her classic features. Her amber eyes seemed to glow.

Jon and Vikki exchanged vows, and rings; the registrar pronounced them man and wife.

The reception afterwards was joyful and lively, but Margaret made a moment of seclusion to speak quietly to Jon. “Do you remember what I said at the yard gate? ‘Find my girl, Jon. Bring her back to me.’ You did that, Jon, and I am eternally grateful to you and Dan”. She hugged him close for several minutes, and then added, “She’s told me things, Jon, things she’ll probably never tell you. Be gentle with her, won’t you?”

And that is where this serial stops. It would be nice to say that ‘they all lived happily ever after’, but that never happens to real people, and it doesn’t in my tale either. But whether you ever hear of what happened later will depend entirely upon the caprice of the author!

 

 

Emergency

This story is set in an A&E department. It’s based on stories reported in various newspapers in January 2017, although it is, of course, fictional. I am not an NHS worker. I am, however, someone with cause to be grateful for the excellent work of doctors, nurses and paramedics 24/7. I apologise in advance for any inaccuracies in the detail of this story.

hospital-emergency 170520

I was just starting my shift when the paramedics wheeled in my gran; it took me a few seconds to remember that in fact she had died four years earlier. As we transferred the patient to one of our trolleys in Accident and Emergency, she wheezed, “Can I have a fag, love?” and then chuckled hoarsely before wincing.

“You are my gran!” I exclaimed. “You look just like her, and that’s exactly what she would have said!”

We wheeled her into an assessment bay. Doctor Springer, the consultant on our rapid assessment team, glanced at the paramedic’s notes, asked a few questions, quietly told me the tests he wanted doing, initialled my record form and left swiftly.

“He’s a looker, isn’t he?”

I smiled. He certainly was.

“What was your gran’s name, love?”

“Ivy. Sharp scratch now.” The patient jumped.

“Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to hurt you!”

“No, you didn’t, love. It’s just odd. I’m Ivy, too!”

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to wheel you out of this area into the corridor, Ivy. We’re terribly busy tonight.” On the way, I dropped the blood samples into the pathology lab box on the desk.

“That’s alright, love. You do what you need to. I suppose you couldn’t give me something for the pain in my side?”

I checked my record form. Doctor Springer hadn’t prescribed analgesia; but he hadn’t stated ‘nil by mouth’ either. Would a couple of paracetamol hurt? But there was no record of a pain in the side; Ivy had been admitted with shortness of breath and chest pain. I recorded the pain in her side on the record form.

“I’m afraid we’d better wait until Doctor Springer’s seen your test results. He may want to have another look at you. Sorry, Ivy.”

Just then, Doctor Springer walked quickly past, his face serious, heading towards Resus. He nodded at me to follow him. I gave a little wave to Ivy and chased after the consultant. A middle-aged man had suffered a cardiac arrest. He’d been a ‘walk-in’ patient, and usually they’re less seriously ill; not this time.

We used the defibrillator once. Twice. The third time I held my breath; it was probably his last chance.

“Shocking”

The patient heaved up with the current. His heart monitor began to beep. Back from the brink…I passed Doctor Springer the man’s record form and he initialled it.

We’d only been in Resus for five minutes, but there were already two ambulance trolleys waiting for us. We processed the patients quickly. Both of them were basically okay – a bad asthma attack, and an elderly man who’d fallen in the street.

“Rosie?”

I looked up from the form I was checking.

“Can you chase Majors for bed-space, please? I’d like to move a couple of these trolleys, and when I asked Mark he told me to piss off. You’ve got more clout than I have.” Jonathan was our health care assistant; very useful, but a little lacking in assertiveness.

“I’ve already asked, Jon. That’s probably why Mark was rude. They have two patients due to go to the wards by four o’clock, but that depends on the wards’ patients being discharged.”

“So, fifty-fifty then?”

“Depends on whether they’ve got somewhere to go, Jon. You know that. Go and see if any of the patients would like a cuppa. And remember to check whether they’re ‘nil-by-mouth!'”

Two ambulances arrived together. There’d been a road accident. A rapid assessment team is supposed to eliminate triage. However, when you have simultaneous arrivals, you must have some way of prioritising who the consultant sees first. I grabbed the notes from the ambulance crews, glanced in at the patients. One of them was making a fuss; not surprising with a broken leg. The other was quiet, but had a head injury that could be serious. The head injury goes first.

Doctor Springer examined the patient quickly but thoroughly. “This patient needs a CT scan immediately”. I buzzed for a porter. No response. I stuck my head out of the cubicle; from the corner of my eye, I saw Ivy wave at me but I had to ignore her.

Good! There was a porter.

“Derek! Just in time! This patient must go immediately for a CT scan.”

“I’m supposed to be on reception.”

“I know that. This is urgent. Just do it, please.”

He looked daggers at me, and I can’t say I blamed him. It’s a very physical job, portering, and he was rushed off his feet. Still, the patient’s safety comes above everything else.

“Notes?” he reminded me. I was still clasping them. I slipped them into the wallet on the trolley.

“Ta, Derek.” I smiled at him as nicely as I could.

The patient with a broken leg was soon off to X-ray, and I had a moment or two to catch up. Ivy was waving at me again.

“Hello, Ivy. Did Jon get you a cuppa?”

“It’s this pain in my side, nurse. It’s worse.”

Ivy wasn’t looking too well, but her pulse was steady, and her blood oxygen was okay – adequate, but not great.

“I’ll tell the consultant at your review, when we receive the test results.”

The pace picked up. I literally didn’t have a moment free. Another two trolleys went into the corridor. Ivy had dozed off. Good. That would probably ease her discomfort.

The clock showed five to six as Neil, our manager, approached.

“Rosie. I’m stuck for cover tomorrow; Katy’s rung in sick.”

“But she’s on at six in the morning, isn’t she? I’m on at ten. If I do both, that’s a double stint on the rapid assessment team.”

“I know. I’m afraid there’s no-one else, and we’ve finished our department’s monthly budget for agency staff.”

“But it’s only the nineteenth!”

Neil nodded. “Even so, there’s no budget left, and that means no agency staff unless we have a black alert.”

“I’m not happy about it. It’s bad for patient safety.”

“If you can’t do it, Rosie, then we work without a Band 5 Nurse. I think that would compromise patient safety even more, don’t you?”

Why do I do this job? The bloody government exploits my goodwill.

“I haven’t said I won’t do it. I don’t let my patients down. But it’s your job to get us an adequate budget.”

“Rosie, we have a bigger slice of the hospital’s spend than most departments; it’s just not as big a budget as we’d all like. At least as a member of a rapid assessment team you’re not facing the possibility of seeing your department close.”

I grabbed a pizza on my way home. I’d been meaning to cook something nice, but that would take too long; I needed an early night ready for the six o’clock start.

It was dark when I rolled out of bed at five o’clock. Although I’d set the alarm, I hadn’t needed it and I’d turned it off when I was sure my concerns about the day had woken me beyond hope of another half hour’s sleep. My partner grunted, but didn’t stir.

When I arrived in the department, it was bedlam. Carolyn, the nurse I was relieving, just said, “It’s been hell”, thrust the notes into my hands and ran. Her mascara was streaked right down her cheeks. It must have been a really bad night.

The notes were a mess. Well, not a mess exactly, but obviously written by someone in a tearing hurry. I blessed the person who had designed the forms so that they were mostly tick boxes or numerical results, with a minimum of free text.

There were more trolleys in the corridor. Ivy was still there, asleep. I checked the stats of all the patients on trolleys; some of them had been there even longer than Ivy. Thank goodness there were no ambulances right now, which gave me time to review the notes. I noted that my record of Ivy’s pain in her side now had a question mark beside it in Doctor Springer’s handwriting. Gosh! He’d done two until six this morning after yesterday’s afternoon shift! That must have been tough.

By ten past six, everything was in full flow once again. It had been a cold night after rain, and people seemed to be slipping and sliding all over the place. We had three fractured wrists, a dislocated thumb and two broken ankles in the first hour, not to mention a postman who’d collapsed with chest pains on his round. At least we were able to send the fracture patients to X-ray so they didn’t add to the numbers on trolleys.

As I passed Ivy on her trolley, she looked up at me. “Nurse,” she begged, “can you please let me have something for the pain?” I stopped and looked at her. She seemed much worse. Her pulse rate was very high, and her blood oxygen low. I looked around for the consultant. Where the hell was he? I grabbed Chloe, the junior nurse. “We need the consultant. Fetch him now, whatever he’s doing!”

Ivy sat up, hand pressed to her left side, wailing, and then slumped back. Her pulse had gone. I glanced to make sure the sensor hadn’t detached, then hit the crash button. “Help me get her into Resus!”

Doctor Springer came up at a run. What on earth was he doing still here?

“Get the defibrillator. It’ll be too slow trying to extricate her trolley from this traffic jam.”

We had the defibrillator there within seconds, but it was no good. We’d lost her. Right there in the corridor. No privacy, no dignity, no peace. Poor Ivy. I couldn’t believe it. What had we missed? What had gone wrong?

Doctor Springer looked haunted. “Aneurysm. Damn. I thought it was a possibility. I was going to go back and check but I never had time. Damn, damn, damn. That’s one we shouldn’t have lost.”

Poor Ivy. I don’t usually cry when I’m on duty, but I wept for her.

Doctor Springer laid his hand on my shoulder, but said nothing. We both knew that she might have survived; we both knew that it wasn’t our fault that she’d died; there simply hadn’t been enough staff. And that didn’t make a blind bit of difference to how we felt

Some facts about the NHS

The King’s Fund reports quarterly on the performance of the NHS. This data is from their latest report:

  • The target time for Ambulance Trusts to respond to Red 1 emergency calls is 8′. When this was introduced in June 2012, it was missed 24% of the time. This has now risen to 33% of the time.
  • A&E Departments have a target that no-one should wait more than 4 hours from arrival to admission, or transfer, or discharge (as appropriate). During 2009 – 10 this was missed less than 2% of the time. It’s now being missed 10% of the time.
  • The target for waiting time after diagnosis is that fewer than 8% of patients should wait longer than 18 weeks before the start of treatment. In 2012, this target was being met comfortably; fewer than 6% of patients waited longer than the target time. The latest report notes that the target has now been missed for ten consecutive months, and exceeds 10%.

You can find the data here.

http://qmr.kingsfund.org.uk/2017/22/data

 

The Two Brothers

John was twenty-eight when he was promoted to department manager, and Linda, his wife, suggested that they should start their family. John had been hoping to have a little spare cash so as not to need to budget quite so stringently. However, he knew Linda longed for a baby and he wanted her to be happy, and so Michael was born, and, two years later, Robert. They hadn’t planned for a third, but three years after Robert’s birth, little Amy came along. They coped.

Michael was always a quiet boy, but Robert was noisy right from the start. He woke frequently in the night. He was active. When he was only nine months old, he managed to climb out of his cot. Linda found him and scooped him up just before he could tumble down the stairs.

At school, Michael was the bright one, but Robert was the one that the teachers liked. “He’ll go far, that lad,” said the headteacher at his primary school.

And he did. He took a gap year before university, which became two gap years, which became wandering the world doing casual work, acquiring skills and languages. He visited the South Pacific and Patagonia, the rain forest in Brazil and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was bitten by a venomous snake in Australia, and by a tarantula in South America. His complexion was mahogany, and his countenance cheerful and untroubled.

Michael studied at Nottingham University, and, after graduating, became an accountant. He was an excellent accountant. He prospered. By the time he was forty, he was married to the beautiful Caitlin, and had one son, Tarquin, and two daughters, Anastasia and Persephone. They lived in a large house in Winchester, and Michael had a pied-a-terre in London where he lived during the working week.

Occasionally Robert would phone Michael; to give him news, to find out how their parents were, and to make sure that Michael knew where to contact him. Michael seldom tried to phone Robert; he knew from experience that Robert’s phone number changed frequently. Several times a year Michael would despatch some luxury that he knew Robert particularly enjoyed – Cuban cigars were a special favourite – to the most recent address he had. And Michael would pass on a circumspect account of Robert’s latest exploits to their parents when he telephoned them once a fortnight.

The day came, of course, when Michael needed to contact Robert urgently. Their father, John, was ill; a major heart attack. Michael sent a letter to all the most recent addresses he had for Robert, and then sat down with his phone and a list of all the phone numbers that Robert had used for the last five years. It wasn’t until he tried the last number on his list that he made contact.

Jungles aren’t as impenetrable they used to be, especially when you’re as resourceful as Robert. He was in London with Michael, beside his father’s hospital bed, within seventy-two hours. John looked at him, and grinned weakly.

“You’re both here? I really must be on my last legs,” he joked, and, closing his eyes, drifted off into that halfway house to death that is unconsciousness.

“You know, I think I’d better stop tramping the world,” said Robert to Michael, across the bed.

Michael raised his eyebrows.

“Well, I’m not getting any younger, and what have I achieved? Nothing. I’ve no children to carry on the line. I’ve not created anything that will survive me. I look at you, with your beautiful wife and your talented children, and I think it’s about time I married and settled down.”

“Ah,” said Michael. “I’m going to tell you something that I’ve not told anybody else yet. Before Dad had his heart attack, I was planning to talk to you about whether you could help me find a more adventurous occupation. I’ve plenty of money; I don’t need to work; but it’s slightly less boring than not working. Which isn’t saying very much. I’m trapped Robert. I love my kids, but I’m raising them to be prudent citizens, just like me, and I don’t think that will fulfil them. It doesn’t fulfil me, anyway.”

The two brothers looked at each other over the unconscious form of their father.

At the foot of the bed, their sister Amy was focussed on him.

“He’s looking a bit better now,” she said. She smiled with love and relief as she gazed at him. “The consultant told me he’s out of danger. Can you two stay here with him until I get back? I need to cook the children some tea. Jack’s on nights this week. Mum’s staying with me, of course, while Dad’s poorly, and she’ll need feeding too.”

She stood up, bleary-eyed after her vigil.

“Oh, what beautiful flowers!” she exclaimed. “Did you bring them, Robert? They’re gorgeous! I hope you’ll come round and see us now you’re in England for a few days.” She hugged her brothers, beamed at them, and went home.