switzerland

Colin’s blood pressure is so high I almost have to nip his arm in two before the systolic reading ebbs away.
‘For chrissakes can’t you stop? You’re killing me!’
‘Sorry, Colin. There – all done. I’m afraid it’s pretty high.’
‘I told you it would be. It always is when they do it.’
‘When was the last time?’
‘The last time what?’
‘The last time they did your blood pressure.’
‘Well – the last time they was here, of course. Sylvie – you tell him what he wants to know. I can’t make head nor tail of it.’
He looks over at his daughter, Sylvie, who is sitting over by the window, rubbing her hands anxiously, smiling the kind of smile you might hold in front of your mouth on a stick.
‘Dad doesn’t like having his blood pressure done,’ she says. ‘It always goes high.’
‘Two hundred and twenty over a hundred and five is pretty high. If it went untreated you’d be at risk of stroke.’
‘I don’t want that,’ says Colin. ‘Just give me a ticket to Switzerland, that’s all I want. I don’t want to be no bother to no-one. You got to know when your time’s up.’
‘I’m sorry you’re feeling like that. Have you been taking your blood pressure medication?’
‘Me? No!’
‘Why not?’
‘It’s not doing me any good, that’s why not. They put you on all these tablets. Half the time they don’t know what they do. And then they just expect you to keep taking ‘em without another word for the rest of your life. Well I’d had enough of it. So I decided not to bother no more.’
‘How long ago was that?’
‘About a month.’
‘I think that’s probably why your blood pressure’s crept up, then. I think you should go back on the meds and then speak to your doctor about your prescription. There are lots of different types. If you don’t think this one’s right, there are plenty more.’
‘But you can’t tell me?’
‘I could tell you roughly, but your doctor’s the expert. They’re the ones in charge of your medication.’
‘But not you?’
‘I’m not a doctor.’
‘No. You’re not, are you?’
He shifts in his chair, flinching and muttering. When the pain of that position change eases, he starts on again, jabbing his finger in the space between us like he’s trying to shake something off.
‘Well maybe you could explain this to me, then,’ he says. ‘Years ago, we never had all this. You never used to get all these people sitting about the place taking handfuls of pills. It was all fresh air and decent food, and a job of work to do. Not all this…’
He gestures to the room, the zimmer frame and commode, the bed strewn with tissues and wipes, remote controls and magazines.
‘… all this fuss’ he says at last, helplessly. ‘I mean, what happened to all them people?’
‘They died,’ says Sylvie. She looks utterly forlorn for a second or two, but then finds the smile and holds it up again. ‘You’ve got to take your meds, Dad,’ she says. ‘You never told me.’
‘What are you writing?’ says Colin, ignoring her.
‘I’m just putting down a few things in your notes. Your blood pressure, pulse and what have you. The fact you stopped taking your blood pressure pills.’
‘Fact? Wha’d’ya mean, fact? I never said I stopped taking them. I just said they weren’t agreeing with me, that’s all. Don’t you go getting the wrong end of the stick, writing a load of lies and getting me into trouble.’
‘It’s not a question of getting you into trouble, Colin. We’ve just got to figure out the best way to help you. If you don’t want to take your meds, you don’t have to. It’s a free country.’
‘I tell you another free country,’ he says, folding his arms.
‘Where’s that?’
‘Switzerland.’

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