honestly, there is just no title to describe this; or maybe the tale of how evolution let us down.

Hyde Park, London, England, 1937Henri Cartier-Bresson Magnum

We had just enjoyed a glass from a bottle of Lindemann’s Bin 65; the cheese and wurst plates were about to be released from the fridge, when the phone rang. My sister.

No, not with more suggestions for elephant placement. Our mother was being transferred by ambulance to the public hospital in a nearby regional centre. It seemed amazing as we had both been with her only hours before and she appeared as well as could be expected.

As Mr FD and I live only a couple of streets from Mum’s care facility we elected to find out the details. The Lindemann’s returned to the fridge. By the time we arrived, Mum was already in the back of the ambulance. I climbed in the back to speak with the medical assistant.

Earlier this year Mum had undergone surgery to have an orange sized gall stone from her bowel. It was thought that she was experiencing similar symptoms and so they had called am ambulance.

We followed the ambulance to the hospital, only to find Mum was “ramped” for the almost an hour. “Ramping” is when the patient is kept in the ambulance outside the hospital until a bed opens up in emergency. Not deemed an emergency Mum was ramped. They ramped my mother!

Mr FD and I had the thrill of sitting in the emergency waiting room watching the great unwashed pass by and fearing for our lives. Mr FD, who takes most things in his stride, turned to me and whispered “Don’t breathe in too deeply!” I wasn’t sure if he meant not to breathe in deeply, thus giving our noses are chance to filter the germs, or don’t breathe in too deeply so as to avoid the body odour. He had no solution to the damage done to our eyes by some of the sights we were forced to witness. Saturday night in emergency, a whole lot of family fun!

Every ten minutes I crawled my way to the reception window to ask if Mum had made it into the building. Eventually, they pulled some strings, and Mum was moved to a hall way and I, but not Mr FD, was allowed to stand beside her trolley. I left Mr FD sitting in the waiting room with the expression of an abandoned puppy.

Mum and I were in the hallway for another hour. The ambulance officer sat near by, like one of those scenes in a police show where the guard sits outside the door but challenges no one going into the room to murder the witness. They could not return to their station until Mum had been officially handed over in emergency.

I explained to Mum that she was in a hospital and for a moment I thought she was going to cry, but it was fleeting, and she returned to her confusion.

Finally in a cubicle, a nurse abetted me in getting Mr FD through the doors, and we settled in for a long wait. It was eight thirty when Mum arrived and she didn’t actually see a doctor until 12.30am!

Nurses had checked her, taken bloods and an ECG, but she was allowed no water, except for a little water from a medicine cup and plastic syringe. I felt sorry for the staff, because diagnosing a dementia patient is like diagnosing  a baby – a game of guesses. Mum could offer no assistance and whenever asked how she was, replied “Fine, never anything wrong with me!”

We went though many versions of me explaining to Mum that she was in a hospital.

Now to add to the situation, as though it wasn’t fraught enough, my mother is a racist. I am sorry, but she is, as is most of her generation who lived through the Japanese attacks on Australia during World War 2. We pretended Australia was terra nullus, nobody’s land,  until recent years. Australia also had a “white Australia policy” until the mid 1970s; so the world my mother grew up in denied the existence of any skin colour other than white. Even if you were white and spoke with an accent, you were considered “less”. Despite our best efforts over the years, we were able to move her world view only a minuscule amount. She once asked one of my daughter’s friends what “breed” she was – Lebanese/Irish Australian!

So, confronted with am emergency department primarily staffed by Asian, Indian and African staff, I just waited for the disaster. Thankfully, it was in a quiet voice that she declared her male nurse was “very Chinesesy looking”. A slightly louder voice declared that “they are all very short”. In my nervousness I answered, “Oh they only look short because of the angle from which you are seeing them Mum.” I was tired, and overwrought, not at my most original or creative…

Her funniest comments of the evening was her declaration from time to time that “I am still not dead!”

After four hours of memorable moments such as watching the young drunk/drugged man opposite urinate on himself, the nurse and the floor, it was probably not the best moment to ask that nurse if my mother was “ever going to see a doctor?” In his opinion, she was… Mr FD and I begged to differ.

Another half hour and a young resident did appear. He said he needed to talk to his boss. Another half hour passed by during which we discussed the lamp above Mum’s head for the 95th time that evening, “It’s a light Mum”, before resident and boss arrived. Both appeared younger than our children, but to be honest they treated Mum with utter respect and dignity, and appeared to give her the treatment she needed.

So, at 1.30 am Mum was taken to x-ray and to stay in the short term ward until morning. Mr FD, without painkillers for hours, and I, were beyond exhaustion so we drove the 45 minutes home.

My sister was taking the morning shift, but by 9.30 am Mum was declared as having nothing wrong with her and shunted back to the care facility. She was very dehydrated and had been given none of her medication while in the hospital. She has slept most of the day since, as have we!

None the wiser, the guessing game is now that maybe it is an injury connected to her fall. So, tomorrow, we hope to have that investigated further, but Mum appears fairly comfortable, so I don’t think it is anything dramatic.

God, getting old sucks. Evolution really missed on that one.

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8 thoughts on “honestly, there is just no title to describe this; or maybe the tale of how evolution let us down.

  1. Sounds like our emergency rooms here. It’s not a place you want to go to, especially when you’re sick and not at your best. It used to be that you needed to clutch your chest and yell, “I’m having a heart attack” to get any kind of quick service but that has been overused and they ignore it. Now you wait and hope the grim reaper doesn’t find you first. Glad that your Mom is better.

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  2. I clicked the “like” button, but that was mainly because your story was so well told rather than my liking the situation. I loathe ERs and would rather wait to see my regular family practitioner, unless I’m bleeding to death or am in the throes of a heart attack. That your mother had to wait in the ambulance seems cruel, especially since they found no reason to keep her at the hospital. (And leaving Mr. FD in the waiting room—poor man.) I hope things get better for her and you!

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  3. I often wonder what the staff do at EM departments. Are they waiting for a certain number of people to turn up? The reality is they’re up to their navels with paperwork, mostly. I arrived at one in the early hours after a nasty gall bladder attack. They left me to writhe in agony in a back room for an hour and a half. A nurse I knew came on duty and asked me if I’d seen a doctor. Nope. She went away and returned with one. he said he looks okay, so I vomited bile all over his coat. Two minutes later he returned with with the most beautiful painkiller I’ve ever had. Nursey told me that they thought I was a drug addict overdoing the whole pain thing in an attempt to get drugs. Go figure. Hope Mum gets a better deal next time.

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  4. I’m so sorry about your mother! My step-mother had dementia and it was incredibly difficult when she had medical issues. It’s at once irritating, agonizing and heartbreaking. Sounds as if you and Mr. FD are doing wonderfully in a very challenging situation. Kudos to you! Praying that she recovers from whatever it was and doesn’t have to head back to the ER anytime soon! Did you ever get back to the Bin65, cheese and wurst?

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  5. so sorry your family had to go through all of that.
    with my first diverticulitus ER attack, neighbors drove me to the local hospital where a random person told us “the ER wait is over 9 hours”… I was pretty sure I’d die before then. Should have gone with the wait as I, instead, ended up at the “death hospital”, being misdiagnosed with flu and sent home. being seriously ill SUCKS!

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