Working on the car recently, I was called to a large gated residence situated on a private road. A retired professional couple lived there; Mr Middleton, (not his real name) called because he was concerned that his wife, who’d been having antibiotics for a chest infection for a couple of weeks, seemed to be deteriorating rapidly.
I approached the huge wooden front door via the ‘scenic route’ crunching up the gravel drive that snaked around the flower beds (even though skipping through the flower beds would have considerably shortened the distance).
Mr Middleton greeted me and welcomed me in to a grand wood-panelled hallway with parquet flooring and antique furniture. He took me up the sweeping staircase, to a huge bedroom complete with en suite bathroom and a pristine white shagpile carpet.
As we climbed the stairs Mr Middleton explained that he was worried about his wife because although she could walk to the en-suite bathroom not two hours before, despite expressing an urgent desire to use the toilet, she now seemed unable to even get herself out of bed and was becoming very poorly.
As I entered the room I could immediately tell that she wasn’t well. She was breathing quite fast; she looked very flushed and was sweating profusely. I quickly took her observations and they were significantly abnormal, enough for me to decide that she needed prompt admission to hospital (CRB-65 Score = 4). Her pulse was racing and her blood pressure was rather on the low side; she also seemed quite confused. This, along with the fact that she had gone from being fully mobile to immobile in the space of 2 hours, concerned me a lot. I explained this to the couple, telling them that I wanted an ambulance to take her in to the nearest hospital with an A&E department because she would probably need further tests, x-rays and intravenous antibiotics. The husband appeared to take on board what I was saying, but Mrs. Middleton seemed more concerned that I shouldn’t soil the carpet with my boots than about her deteriorating medical condition. I took a sneaky peek down and was glad to see that all though there were some small pieces of gravel wedged in the tread, my boots were clean and I hadn’t made any marks on the immaculate carpet – I reassured her about this but she continued to question me on it constantly. She then said,
“Anyway, I’m not going to the local hospital – I want to go private”
“Private hospitals don’t accept emergency patients” I tried to explain, “There is no A&E department and so no provision for this type of situation”
“Well you can go away then, my husband can take me there in the car. I’m not going in a NHS ambulance, I want a private one” she unsuccessfully attempted to get herself up out of bed as she spat the words out at me.
“And I don’t want to go in to a bloody NHS hospital”
“Let’s be sensible here, you can’t get to the car because you can’t walk – that’s why I am worried about you, if you try to stand you will fall because you are unwell and very weak, you may injure yourself” I reasoned.
She wasn’t having any of it and continued to try to get out of bed. I asked the husband to help me persuade her to travel in an ambulance to A&E but he seemed reluctant to go against his wife’s wishes. In fact he even started to try to help her get out of bed! I pleaded with them both not to continue with this but it was all to no avail. Predictably, perhaps, she then fell and was incontinent of urine as she lay on the floor. At this point I insisted on calling an ambulance to back me up; things were getting out of hand. I told them both that I could understand that they may not be happy about my action, but I believed it was the safest, if not only viable option and finally they reluctantly agreed.
The ambulance arrived promptly and as the husband brought the crew in to the bedroom, I cringed as I noticed that one of my colleagues was treading in some squashed garden matter on the underside of his boots, unwittingly leaving a trail of evidence wherever he walked (he’d obviously unwisely decided against taking the ‘scenic route’) I’m sure Mr Middleton noticed too – but neither of us were brave enough to say anything – things were bad enough as they were and this could have pushed poor Mrs Middleton over the edge! As it was, Mrs Middleton was taken to hospital muttering and complaining all the way, none the wiser about the fate of her carpet. Perhaps Mr Middleton had it cleaned before she returned from hospital, because to my knowledge, no letter of complaint has arrived – as yet…