happy days

Ralph reminds me of that woman in Happy Days – not the Fonzie sitcom, the Beckett two-hander. She’s buried up to her waist in a mound of crap, but seems oblivious, wittering on to a taciturn husband who sits at the bottom of the heap passing her stuff every now and again. Ralph isn’t quite buried, but it wouldn’t take much. A sneeze would do it. He’s lying precariously on his side on the very edge of a large double bed that’s piled high with rubbish. And it’s not just the bed. The whole flat is submerged, with only a trackway through the rubbish to get you from the front door to the bedroom and – at a push – to the bathroom. At least the budgie in the front room has a cage to protect its space from the rising tide of crap, although quite how Ralph ever manages to make it over there to feed and clean it is a mystery. The bird sits on its perch flicking its head in spasms of attention as I pick my way through to Ralph, who calls to me from the bedroom.
‘The bag needs changing,’ he says.
He’s right. His catheter bag is as tight as an overfilled water bottle, straining at the seams, filled with a sloughy, orange-tinged mess.
It’s hard to know where to begin. There’s nothing in the flat to clean him up, scarcely room to put my bag down let alone install equipment. We often talk about setting up a micro-environment for anyone with significantly reduced mobility. That means having all the essentials to hand – a commode, urinal, frame to help with transfers, maybe an over-bed table for food and water, a phone nearby and so on. I can’t help noticing that Ralph has already set up his own version of the micro-environment: a pile of porno mags, a remote control and a combat knife.
I’m half-way through sorting out his catheter when I hear a knock on the front door.
‘Who’s that?’ I say. He shrugs.
When no-one comes through, I go to check.
The front door is slightly ajar. Just in front of it on the floor, about an arm’s length from the threshold, a big bag of bird seed.

2 thoughts on “happy days

    1. That’s what I thought! (Hasn’t made me think any more favourably of the whole business of keeping birds, btw…)

      It’s amazing how common these situations are. I’ve lost count of the number of similar set-ups I’ve been to over the years, in the ambulance and in community health. I always get the same urge – to hire a skip, roll up my sleeves and get busy. Maybe I’m in the wrong business. Maybe I should be a clearance contractor…! 🙂 x


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