Recently I had an unusual request from one of my colleagues, Emma. She and her crew mate had been called to a collapsed man but despite their best efforts at resuscitation he had died. It transpired that he had been unwell for a couple of days and had been found at home by his family when they came to check on him. The crew were now supporting the family, but the dilemma was that the man’s wife, Mary, was currently in the local emergency department. She had felt unwell that day and the GP had referred her to the hospital. Mary had taken the bus there. Now she was sitting happily at the hospital waiting to be seen unaware of the drama unfolding at home.
The family didn’t want Mary to be told the news by anyone else so Emma called and asked if I would be willing to bring Mary home, provided that we could arrange something with the doctors. Our control room were happy with the idea; it was an unusually quiet night and luckily I was between emergency calls. I liaised with the doctor looking after Mary. Although he would have liked to have kept her in for treatment, when he heard what had happened he pulled out all the stops to get her home. I went to introduce myself to Mary. I told her that I was going to take her home.
“Really? I was going to just get the bus” came the reply.
Plainly she was more than a little surprised that a paramedic was offering her a free lift home for no obvious reason. She asked why – I hadn’t really thought this through and bumbled on about being bored and looking for work (as if)!
Soon all her medications were sorted and Mary and I were on the way home. She sat next to me, clutching her handbag. We chatted amiably as I drove. I felt just dreadful; on the one hand there I was making polite conversation as if all was fine with the world, yet fully aware that her husband had died. On the other hand there she was, oblivious to the fact that pretty soon the bottom was going to drop out of her world.
As soon as we arrived at the house her family came out to meet her – they told her the news immediately. She was visibly distressed and clearly heart broken as she rushed inside to see and hold her husband for the last time.
I hovered for a while and made everyone a cup of tea. But pretty soon I began to feel something of a spare part. So I offered my condolences and said goodbye.
As I drove away, I reflected on life and its unexpected twists and turns, not for the first time.