Last week my son Dee went skiing in Austria. He was fine when he was away, but since he’s been home he has been getting gradually more unwell. It started as a cough at the weekend. As most modern parents would, I popped on to Facebook and asked parents of the other boys he went on the trip with if their sons were ill. – it’s just Dee.
On Sunday he felt a bit rubbish, but was alright. On Monday I forced him to stay off school, whilst he complained he’d be in trouble with his teachers, he reluctantly stayed home. He was mainly sleeping on the sofa. On Tuesday he was worse, high temperature (for him), snotty nose, mega vicious cough, dizziness and lethargic. He insisted on going to school, by lunchtime he’d almost collapsed and was sent home. I was out helping a local support group painting their new premises when he was sent home – I wanted to help them everyday this week but have been home with Dee since this. When I got in he was in pyjamas and in his bed with the curtains closed, only just awake, but hiding from the light.
I phone our doctors, explain how he is and they say they can get him seen by an “urgent care” doctor later that afternoon. Brilliant! I tell him he can carry on his cat-nap but we are leaving in an hour. When it was time to leave he put trainers on, a coat over the pjs and off we go to the car clutching a fleece blanket. There was a bit of a delay, I’ll get back to why shortly. The verdict for Dee was undecided, he was checked for several things including vertigo (I get BPPV myself), meningitis, pneumonia and other less sinister things. The nurse checks everything, I mean even his knee reflexes and reactions. They can’t find what is wrong, but agree he is wrong. I was actually told by the doctors to hop straight to A&E, not the doctors or NHS 111 if I believe anything has changed. We went home, gave him some more paracetamol and made both lads dinner.
The next morning was no better so another day off, another trip to the doctor. I had to grab him as he clambered in to my car as he half missed the seat and I thought he was going to fall in to the road! Really not great – when your teenager stops doing everything they normally do it is worrying. He’s hardly touched his tablet computer, not much TV, no Xbox at all, sarcasm and witty banter is extremely reduced, and most strange of all he’s hardly shouted at his little brother Jen – he can’t be bothered to argue. Again the doctors can’t work it out, and again they do meningitis checks. The doctor consults another doctor in our surgery, they say possibly early tonsillitis AND vertigo together. The doctor we are with is now almost scratching his head and phones paediatrics at our local hospital – meanwhile Dee is almost falling asleep in the chair – the paediatrician says he can’t have vertigo as he’s “too young” and tell our doctors not to prescribe the medication he was about to. We are sent home with the advice to come back to the “urgent care” team if I notice any changes. I’m worried but I can’t do anything really but wait it out. As I type this it’s lunchtime on Friday and he’s not got out of bed yet, not even for a wee.
Fingers crossed he wakes up feeling better, because he does not want to go to the hospital.
Back to Tuesday, the main reason for my blog post today.
Patience and patients.
As I park the car on a road near our doctors and help Dee wobble slowly towards the doctors surgery (holding him up by his arm, swaying like a drunk) I notice an ambulance in their car park. It’s parked blocking in the staff reserved spaces, so it’s in a hurry. As we get to the road and wait to cross I see a scene of silent shock and strangely calm sounding medical folk. There were 2 paramedics, and I think 3 staff from our doctors. A Mum is holding a tiny baby boy, he’s not crying, not moving, he’s doing nothing. The lady I believe was his Mother was silent, and looked very worried and stressed. As they walked towards the ambulance the urgency seemed to have gone, I felt strongly that this little guy hadn’t made it to the ambulance. I take Jen’s hand so he doesn’t get nosey and walk in to the middle of what is unfolding in front of us. Dee stumbles but we keep going slowly, and join the queue at the desk.
We are told “we’ve just handled an emergency, so we are running late”, I ask “can you please guess at the waiting time for me?” and the receptionist does a quick head-count “about an hour?” “thank you” I reply. With what I’ve just seen I’ve no issues waiting, that baby needed extra staff, his mum needed their support, it’s all fine by me. Other patients aren’t so fine about it. The receptionist leaves her desk behind the glass and comes into the waiting room and announces “I’m sorry everyone, we are running extremely late but we had an emergency that took priority.”
I notice other patients tutting and being grumpy. I don’t know if the baby made it or not, but for crying out loud, did these people not see what we saw? Can they not see that the staff are carrying on with stifled tears in their eyes? Can they not feel the heavy-hearted atmosphere? I hope he recovered, that it wasn’t how it appeared. I daren’t ask what happened, plus the lovely staff wouldn’t be allowed to tell me anyway because of confidentiality. I heard someone nearby complain how they are always late in here, I was too annoyed to talk directly to them, facing away I say “they are late because they were trying to save a babies life, and I don’t think the baby made it. Give the staff a break!”
I shouldn’t get mad, but people do p*** me off sometimes. This isn’t like waiting an hour for a cuppa in a cafe, or a bus being delayed. These staff work here and deal with so many things you never think about. It’s not all repeat prescriptions and contraceptive chats, It’s Life and bloody death. When we were finally called in it was the nurse who had treated the baby, Jen was muttering how bored he was and she said in a caring and kind voice “I’m sorry, I was looking after a very sick little boy”, Jen says “I saw an ambulance” and she has to turn away. Poor lass, I want to hug her, but I’m holding Dee up as I escort him to the patients chair by her desk. She’s extremely thorough, and believes me something is rather wrong but struggles to find out what. She put the effort in, she really cares and tries to help, but says she can’t find the cause of his troubles, but did at least rule out some deadly illnesses. Dee says thank you and hobbles out with me.
WHY can some not see what is going on around them? Are they heartless, blind, ignorant? It beats me, but I can’t understand why anyone would be snappy or mean to the staff in a situation like this. How often do they see things like this, children dying on them? How the hell do they just carry on going that day? HOW? I have huge respect for doctors, nurses and all the staff at the surgery – and of course paramedics too.
Next time you go to the doctors and you walk in to a massive queue think before you moan, today something could have happened. Modern medicine doesn’t cure everything, not everyone makes it. Please be patient and kind.