John’s stroke has left him with a profound left-sided weakness. That, along with increasing heart failure means that the little mobility he used to have has all but gone. For now and the foreseeable future, he’ll need to be cared for in situ. He’s already on a hospital bed, but his deteriorating condition means he needs to go onto a dynamic mattress to cope with the increased risk of pressure damage. To do that we’ll need to slide him back over onto the old bed that – fortunately – hasn’t been dismantled yet. He’s a large patient, so three of us have been assigned to do the work: me, Margot and Sonya. The delivery driver has rung to say he’ll be there within the hour, so we all meet up outside John’s house to get him over in readiness.
John’s wife Ann lets us in.
‘It’s been absolutely crazy today!’ she says. ‘Non-stop. You don’t mind if I carry on writing out my Christmas cards, do you? I’m so behind with everything…’
She goes off into the kitchen.
John is as cheerful as ever, nodding and smiling and raising his good hand in an affable, vaguely regal kind of way. We involve him as much as we can, checking he’s okay, asking him questions, cracking jokes and so on, but the logistical demands of the move – the limited space, the strategic repositioning of furniture, the climbing on and off the old bed, the best way to use the pat slide and glide sheets – well, it’s easy to forget we’re moving an actual person and not just another piece of furniture. John is stoical about the whole thing, though, surrendering himself to the indignities of the whole thing with good grace.
Once he’s across and comfortable, we take off the redundant mattress and make space for the delivery of the new one.
The delivery driver arrives. A tall, red-faced man, his prominent eyes seem more to do with the stress of the job than anything else. He’s immediately cross no-one told him he’d be expected to take away the redundant mattress.
‘Typical!’ he says. ‘I’m in the little van. Never mind. I’ll see if I can squeeze it in.’
I struggle to imagine a guy of his size in a little van. And with an old mattress stuffed in there, too, his eyes must surely be in danger of popping out completely. But so long as he’s happy to give it a go, I don’t feel inspired to come up with anything else.
We help him set things up. He unwraps the pump and hooks it over the end of the bed, then brings in the new mattress, unzipping it from its enormous holdall and rolling it out on the frame.
‘I expect you’re busy,’ I say, plugging in the pump.
‘Always,’ he says, miserably. ‘Christmas is the worst.’
‘Why’s that, then?’
‘The hospitals want ‘em all out, don’t they? They just want to clear the books.’
He crouches down, straps the mattress into place with a series of aggressive tugs, jiggles it all to make sure, then straightens up again.
‘Right – it’ll take about twenty minutes to inflate. Okay?’
Then tucking the old mattress under his arm, he crashes out through the hall.
Ann appears in his wake.
‘My goodness! Who was that?’ she says. ‘Santa Claus?’
‘No,’ says Sonya, snapping on some fresh gloves. ‘His little helper.’
‘Not so little,’ says Ann.
‘But very helpful.’
‘That’s the main thing.’
‘Ready to move over onto the new mattress, John?’
He smiles lopsidedly, makes an encouraging sound or two, then tentatively raises his hand.
‘I’ll just be in the kitchen,’ says Ann. And leaves us to it.

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