I hardly need look at the numbers; no doubt that ambulance marks the spot.
The front door’s open. Voices in the sitting room.
Hello? It’s Jim. From Rapid Response.
‘In here, mate!’
John and Rae, two of my old paramedic friends, sitting with the patient.
After an enthusiastic round of hand-shaking and hugs, I focus on the patient.
Adnan is lying on the sofa, his right arm crooked under, the right side of his face into his palm; his left hand free to bat the air when I ask him how he is.
‘Not good. Not good at all.’
‘So what happened?’
John tells me the story.
‘Adnan was discharged home yesterday after a twenty-four hour stay with hip pain. No history of trauma or fracture, but I think they’re working up to a replacement at some point. Is that right, Adnan?’
He swipes the air again and groans.
‘It looks like Adnan rolled off the sofa onto the floor and couldn’t get up, so that’s why we were called. I don’t think there’s any damage done. It was a controlled decent, and the rug’s erm… pretty generous.’
It’s a good description. The rug has such deep pink strands I wouldn’t be surprised to see clown fish swimming in and out.
‘Take me back,’ says Adnan. ‘Just take me back, please.’
‘All his obs are fine,’ says Rae. ‘There’s nothing new going on as far as we can tell. But Adnan wants us to take him back to hospital. We’ve been trying to persuade him it’s maybe not the best option, but he’s quite insistent.’
‘Take me back!’
‘As you can see.’
‘So – over to you!’ says John.
It’s funny to be in this position. So many times in the past, when I worked as an EMT on the ambulance, I’ve found myself trying to persuade a patient to stay at home, but then giving in and taking them in on the grounds that they didn’t have the right level of community support. Now, it turns out, I am the community support.
I look at John; he gestures for me to continue, then folds his arms to watch.
‘I’m sorry you’ve had such a rough time of it, Adnan. But look – help’s here now. There are lots of things we can do to make it safe for you to stay at home. I can get some equipment in to help you get about the place; I can organise some care, to help with washing and dressing and mealtimes; I can get a physiotherapist in to see where you are and what you might need to do to improve, and I can ask our pharmacist to review your pain meds. Okay? So really there’s lots of practical things we can do to help. How does that sound?’
He groans, covers his face with his hand.
‘Because, you know – the thing is, being at home has got to be so much nicer than being in hospital, don’t you think? I mean, you’ve got all your things here, your TV, your bed…’
I can’t help looking round. It’s a sad and untidy place, clothes strewn about, scattered letters and appointment cards, a carrier bag of assorted meds. The coral rug is about the nicest thing about it. I wonder about Adnan’s past medical history, and whether there’s a mental health component.
I turn back to him again.
‘So what d’you say? Shall we stay at home? Hmm?’
His hand is still in front of his face and he breathes heavily. In fact, it looks as if he’s gone to sleep.
He opens his eyes with a start, and blinks at me uncomprehendingly.
‘Shall we stay at home?’
He doesn’t answer.
‘Call us back if you need us!’ says John, getting up and stretching. ‘Nice to meet you, Adnan. And don’t worry. Jim’ll fix it.’
It’s a dreadful impression of Jimmy Savile, the waggle of an imaginary cigar.
‘You can’t say that anymore,’ says Rae.
‘Oh? Shame. He was my one good impression.’
‘Yeah – because of course, that’s the real shame of it, isn’t it? Hundreds of terrible abuse cases, but John can’t do his impression…’
I hear them bantering all the way down the path.
I’m alone with Adnan, who seems to have gone back to sleep.
Sometimes, I really miss working on the ambulance.