Wright's Aerials

The Annexe of Irrelevancies

The Fall

An encounter with Doncaster Royal Infirmary
January 2009


I was in my greenhouse standing up potting little seedlings into larger pots. It’s a boring job but it has to be done. I had started to do this potting up job early this year, to give me more time, because I soon get back ache standing for very long. I thought a lot of short sessions should be better than a few long back-breaking ones. I can’t complain about a bit of back ache at my age.
I’d been working for only a short while when without any warning at all I found myself falling down. I remember leaning against the wall of the greenhouse and saying – or thinking – to myself, “I hope that I don’t break any glass.” Then I was on the floor, in what position I don’t know. With difficulty I managed to get my arms underneath me and then somehow I got onto my knees. This took a very long time I think, because I remember my face was amongst the plants on the floor. I finally got to my feet and started to take stock of things. At that point I didn’t know of any broken glass or anything hitting me on the head, or any bleeding.

It was not unusual for me to stumble or sometimes to fall down. Mostly I would manage to hold onto something and not finish up on the floor, but I had also learnt that if it seemed inevitable I should just let myself go. This time I had no visual memory of the greenhouse at all after I fell, but even so, it was just another fall, so I was prepared to carry on with what I’d been doing.
Two men came into the garden with a wheelchair. Why on earth were they there? They told me they were going to take me to hospital. I told them I didn’t want to go to hospital and I may have told them to go away but they insisted. Finally I said I wasn’t going anywhere until I had got my bus pass out of the house and locked the door. After that I don’t remember the ambulance at all or the trip to hospital.


I’m a nurse and my husband is an anaesthetic technician. Our back garden joins Albert’s back garden. Thursday was my day off and my husband’s day off, so we were at home, which was very lucky as it turned out. My husband was in our yard washing the car. He shouted to me that he’d heard breaking glass. I nipped upstairs to have a look through the bedroom window and I saw Albert laying face-down in his greenhouse, so I went to help him. I shouted to him through the fence but he didn’t respond. I could see that he’d fallen through the glass. I couldn’t get across the fence so I had to go right round the end of the block to get to him. He was disorientated and I felt sure he’d had a stroke. He was bleeding badly from a gash on his head. I dialled 999. Albert was chilly to the touch and probably in shock, and it occurred to me afterwards how lucky it was that it had been our day off, because without help I think the outcome could have been very different. I went into the house and found his phone, and not knowing what number to dial I picked one listed as ‘Kath’ and tried that. Kath’s husband answered and I told him what had happened.

The ambulance arrived. Albert was still very confused. He was having no truck with the idea of going to hospital, but in the end we persuaded him. I put the phone in the kitchen and checked that the gas wasn’t on or anything. Anyway, I’ll have to go now; I’m at work and I need to scrub up.


Quarter past three on a Thursday afternoon. Everything was going smoothly. I’d finished one job, packed it up, stuck the labels on it. I started on the next, nice and relaxed. Radio Four was rather interesting. A piece of kit on test continued to beep quietly, just as it should. I set the pedestal drill up and started to use it, but the lamination on the plate I was drilling started to scorch around the hole, so the bit must have been blunt. I reached for the chuck key. In the distance the phone rang. Hil would get it. I’d probably get this job done in an hour; might finish early and take the dogs somewhere. Pleasant thought.

Hil’s voice in the distance didn’t sound right. I couldn’t tell what she was saying, but I felt a chill on my spine and I put the chuck key down on the bench unused. What now? I closed my eyes momentarily, took a deep breath, then went round the workshop switching everything off, making sure the electric fire was unplugged, locking the outside door. Absurdly I went round picking up empty teacups to take them back into the house.

“That was Brian. Your dad’s fallen over. He was bleeding a lot. They’ve taken him to hospital. Someone on Ballam Avenue dialled 999.” In the absence of fact the mind constructs a fiction. I instantly visualised my dad tripping up on the pavement halfway up Ballam Avenue.

The route to the Infirmary is all too familiar for us, because of Hil’s illnesses. We used to experiment with different routes, but we’ve settled on Ledger Way right round to Armthorpe Lane now. Seems a bit further but it’s quicker. I sometimes think the only place I ever go in the car is the Infirmary. It must have been on rails for the first few miles because I was busy thinking. The range of scenarios awaiting me was wide. The story could have been exaggerated in the telling. He could be sitting there with a small cut, having a cuppa and telling the tale to all and sundry. On the other hand he could have a broken arm or hip. Or he could be unconscious. He could . . .

This journey is so familiar. . . I see those flats are still to let . . . I hope he’s alright. . . . must get in the right lane a bit early here . . . blimey, how did I get here, I don’t remember anything about Edlington or Balby, I might have sped through the cameras. . . oh, there’s a circus on the racecourse; I’d love to take little Katie, pity they live so far away . . . I hope he’s alright. . . his birthday party was so good . . . everyone came . . . ninety years old! . . . ninety! . . . why do people change lanes so much along here? It’s pointless . . . I do hope he’s alright. But, whatever happens, whatever happens, we’ll get through it. We’ve learnt to just hang on in there, waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, that’s what we’ll do if it’s bad.

 I left Hil to park and I went straight in. I hadn’t driven wildly, but I hadn’t wasted any time. Now, a crashing change of gears. A queue. A queue! How can there be a queue in my way! But the queue evaporated. They were all together. The woman behind the counter looked up. Our eyes met.
“Albert Wright. Just brought in I believe.”

Wordlessly she dialled, waited, then, “Albert Wright?” . . . a pause of about a week . . . “Can someone come through?” Scarcely looking towards me, so routine was this to her yet so abnormal to me, she nodded and gestured to her right. “Cubicle Ten.” I looked at her blankly I suppose. “Along the corridor, double doors.” I looked towards her right, my left. All I could see was a wall made from glass bricks or something. There was some paint or something on some of the bricks. It needed to be cleaned off. I set off towards the wall, then looked back to the woman helplessly, but words were obviously at a premium. She made a sort of over-the-head circular pointing motion. Ahh! Go round the end of the wall. I thanked her, feeling stupid. Walking around the wall I found some double doors. She’d said ‘along the corridor, double doors’. Did she mean ‘Go through the double doors and then along the corridor’? Through them anyway, along a corridor with a temporary wall on the left and the ceiling down. Interesting wiring on display. Now where do I go? I wish there was a sign or something. Maybe there will be when the building work is finished. A single door on the right with a notice: ‘Visitors and relatives use the main double doors’. But where were these fabled double doors? In fact they were a little way further down the corridor, but I didn’t know that. I ignored the notice and went through the door, found a large room, and there was ‘10’ written above a cubicle.

Propped up on a trolley was Albert Wright, looking pale, diminished, frail. I felt some relief. A male nurse was attending to him. I stood behind the nurse, not wanting to interrupt. I was in full view of my dad but his eyes didn’t move towards me. The nurse sensed my presence and turned. Nice young man, spiky hair, calm, reassuring. I made some introductory remark, I can’t remember what.
“He’s had a fall. Got a nasty cut. You a relative?”


He told me all he could, ending, “The head wound might have glass in it, that’s why we haven’t closed it. Maybe some stroke symptoms. . . I’ve given him quite a high priority rating, so you shouldn’t have to. . .err . . .”


“Err well . . .” He disappeared. He’d seemed very caring. I turned to Dad. Dad turned to me. For a second or two he gave no flicker of recognition. His eyes were dull. My heart sank.
Then, “Hello . . . what you doing here?”  I was momentarily nonplussed.
“I heard you were here, so I thought I’d come and say hello.”

“Well that’s very nice.”  We chuckled a bit.

“What happened?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly. They brought me here. Two men. I was in the greenhouse. They were very insistent. I tripped up. It’s all a big fuss about nothing. I made them wait until I’d found my bus pass though. I didn’t want to be stuck here.”

“You’ve cut your head.” There was blood over several square inches of his scalp.
“Yes, so they say. I think a piece of glass might have fallen on top of me. It’s a bit of a mystery at the moment.” He abruptly lay back and started to snore. For the next two hours we were to sit next to dad, watching the young man come in and out of view, in and out of cubicles, never resting, like a bee amongst other bees, collecting honey. But other things happened as well.


I have little or no memory of what happened between meeting the ambulance men and arriving in Ward 27. Bill tells me things and they arouse vague memories, but that’s about it.


We settled down to wait. There was one chair. Hil’s legs aren’t good, and standing about makes my legs and back ache, so I looked around for another chair, but I couldn’t see one, and everybody seemed so busy. In the end we shared the chair, and I sat on the floor for quite a while. I was near the entrance to the cubicle and I thought that maybe one of the scurrying figures would tell me where there was a chair, but they didn’t. I realised that they were being careful not to catch the eye of anyone who was waiting, presumably because they were fed up of being asked the obvious question. I couldn’t see an available chair in the immediate area, and I realise now I should have been a bit more pro-active and gone around the hospital until I found a chair. I hadn’t realised at that stage that A & E has a bit of an ‘every man for himself’ culture, compared to a normal ward. Actually I found sitting on the floor with my back against the wall strangely comfortable for a while, and it put me in a good position to look across at Dad.

Dad, Hil, and I talked intermittently for a while. I noticed a slight droop on the left side of his face, and at times his speech was slurred. He was concerned about his left hand. For a while he was making perfect sense, although his account of what had happened had a gap between the fall and the conversation he was having with us, with only the appearance of the ‘two men’ as a sort of intermission between the two.

From time to time people with stethoscopes would cross the room, heading tantalisingly in our general direction before swerving into an adjacent cubicle. Hil and I started to realise that this could be a long job, but it didn’t matter as long as Dad was sitting up looking reasonably alright. But in fact he seemed to be deteriorating. His speech became more slurred, what he said stopped making sense, and he would lapse into sleep suddenly. I remembered the current TV campaign that tells us how important it is for stroke patients to get treatment quickly. But the young man had assessed Dad. And maybe the damage had already been done. Should I make a fuss? This was about ninety minutes after the fall. I still don’t know whether my decision to sit tight was the right one. In the event I suppose it was, as things turned out.

I’m sure of one thing though. I should have insisted that we got him undressed and into clean dry nightwear. It would have made it much easier for him to use a bottle. Like many ninety year olds he needs to go little and often. He was half-conscious for a lot of the time, and all he seemed to know was that he was desperate for the loo. But he was wearing long johns as well as normal pants. His left hand was useless and his right didn’t seem much better. This became a major problem that we were totally unaccustomed to, and we weren’t able to deal with it in a remotely satisfactory manner. When asked, the staff directed me to a sink to wash my hands, and there were plenty of rubber gloves about, but we got no other help. The problem wasn’t sorted out until Dad finally went to a ward, about eight hours after he was admitted. I’m very annoyed now that I didn’t insist on getting some help about this. Frankly it was degrading for my Dad and it wasn’t brilliant for us either. I don’t like to think about what would have happened if we had been at the other end of the country and Dad had been on his own.

I took Dad’s watch off him for safekeeping, and asked him where his phone was. He started trying to rummage in his pockets for it but of course it wasn’t there. Hil and I guessed that Sharon would have put it somewhere safe, but Dad didn’t seem to be able to take this in and kept struggling to find it in his pockets. He was getting agitated and in the end I had to say quite firmly, “Now stop worrying about your phone. It doesn’t matter. Forget it.” Quite honestly I didn’t give a damn about his phone.

As time went on the pace of life in A & E seemed to speed up. Not for us of course; we sat there watching with fascination as an astonishing series of mini-dramas played out before us. What a sheltered life we must lead! The entrance to the cubicle began to seem like a proscenium arch. A large man with a bandage on his head strode into and out of the room several times. He walked very quickly, like someone in a walking race, and often he had several porters running behind him. Finally they caught him, spun him round, and set off behind him again in what I guess must have been the right direction. A young lass was brought in, screaming for ‘Wayne’ over and over again and generally ranting and raving and thrashing around on the trolley. We guessed from the staff’s unsympathetic attitude — which descended briefly to loud mockery by one person — that she had overdosed on something. Someone was brought in and promptly vomited copiously and over a wide area. The smell was appalling. The staff seemed totally unmoved and just cleaned up with only a little muttering. I was gagging. Quite a few middle-aged and elderly people were brought in, in various states of physical and emotional distress. Some were very quiet and some were very noisy, and I suppose some were in between. There were a few ‘obvious’ cases, and I started to expect that the boy in the ‘Beano’ with a saucepan on his head would be along soon.

Dad was drifting in and out of consciousness, though whether the unconscious periods were sleep or something else we didn’t know. One thing was become very clear however. During his conscious periods he was getting fed up. “All this just because I lost my footing! If them men hadn’t come I would have sorted myself out, got myself in the house, cleaned up this little cut, and none of you would have been any the wiser.” This had a certain resonance, because Dad is not one for taking his troubles to anyone else. He hides all his little accidents and mishaps in case anyone might think he’s getting old. So, unless we spot an obvious lump, wound, or missing extremity, we remain in ignorance of each trauma. The same applies to his car incidentally. Anyway, he was getting pretty impatient.

He’d try to be philosophical. “I’m sure it’s best if we stay her until they have done all they need to do. They’re the experts.” But then almost immediately, “I wish we could get out of here! I’ve got my bus pass, so no problem there.”

The whole thing was becoming bizarre. I was concerned about Dad, fascinated, and bored stiff, all at once. I went out a few times to phone the family and to get the blood moving in my legs. Sitting on the floor had become painful. Time went on. I noticed that the staff kept referring to a screen which showed a chart with names on it. ‘Albert Wright’ kept moving towards the top and then slipping down again. I remembered how Dad used to let me cheat at Snakes and Ladders when I was five. He used to wink at mum, and I used to pretend not to notice.

After two and a quarter hours I finally acted. I asked the person at the screen when ‘we could see some action’. I instantly regretted the form of words because it sounded aggressive and that was definitely not how I felt. Having seen what the staff had put up with, and having seen how they had simply not stopped for hours, I felt no antipathy towards them. Anyway, what I said was effective because the screen operator said that the doctor would see Dad next. Unfortunately Dad was fighting with the ‘loo bottle’ at the moment that the doctor appeared, but before too long doctor and patient finally met.

Dad was having a lucid period. The doctor had a strong south Asian accent and Dad, being very deaf, couldn’t understand everything he said, but with a bit of prompting from us communication was good enough. Dad obligingly lifted all limbs and held them there as long as instructed, gripped crushingly with his right hand and fairly hard with his left, managed to display two pupils of roughly the same size, did not have any droop on the left side of his face, chatted convincingly, and generally passed every test. The doctor was cheerful and very friendly, and said that there didn’t seem to be any symptoms of stroke, but I could tell he wasn’t convinced. I asked about the head wound and he said it looked clean. Someone came and took a blood sample.

Again we waited. I went out to report the diagnosis to the family. I was desperate for a cuppa and some food but I wasn’t at my best and it didn’t occur to me to go to the foyer of the main hospital block. I walked to the café up towards the woman’s hospital but it was closed, so I went to the slot machines at the end and bought a bag of crisps and a bottle of what turned out to be clear pop with an acidic taste (not water as I had assumed). Hil and I shared this feast in our home, Cubicle 10. Should we give Dad anything? We didn’t know.

Looking back on the whole episode I keep thinking now that I should have done or said this or that, but I think the unfamiliarity of the situation and the obvious emotional feelings reduced my decision-making ability. During the long hours in Cubicle 10 it occurred to me that a staff member should be given the job of approaching all the patients and their carers occasionally — maybe once an hour — and asking if they needed any help. You feel very helpless, even as a carer, and you don’t like to pester busy people.

About an hour after we had met the doctor Dad was taken for an X-ray, with us in tow. As we waited in the X-ray Department Dad suddenly insisted that he was going to the toilet. There was no stopping him; with a superhuman effort he was off the end of the trolley and staggering slowly across the waiting area, with me right behind with my arms out ready to catch him. Just as we, surely a sorry sight, reached the toilet door, a young man came from nowhere, ran in front of us, dived in and bolted the door quickly. I hammered on the door in rage but immediately realised that there was a disabled toilet just a few yards away, so I steered dad into that. When we were in there I was contemplating extreme physical retribution, but luckily by the time we came out the queue jumper had fled, never to be seen again. Possibly his need was even greater than ours; I will never know.

The chest X-ray went without a hitch. We got Dad upright and his braces didn’t obscure any important details of his insides. The young man was really nice and considerate. I’d gained the impression that there was to be an X-ray to check for glass fragments in his scalp, but apparently I’d got that wrong.

We went out into the waiting area again, and after a while a porter came and took us back to A & E. This time though we did not resume occupancy of our beloved Cubicle 10, but went into a sort of holding area nearby, where there were beds. Eventually the staff arrived to transfer Dad onto a bed, but at the time he was semi-conscious if that. The first attempts to move him failed, so the screens were drawn round and reinforcements sent for. I tried to enter the screened area thinking I might be able to explain to Dad what was happening, but I was shooed away on both my first and second attempts. I stood nearby, and caught the eye of a teenage girl, one of a party who seemed to be the support team for another patient. She gave me a sympathetic look and I shrugged as if to say, “This is all beyond me!”

So, five hours after admission dad was in a bed. He continued to move from lucidity to unconsciousness, with periods of confusion in between. In the next bed, unseen thanks to the screens, was a person who was grumbling and swearing loudly almost without pause. Across the way a poor woman sat with her mother, who was applying every possible form of emotional blackmail to make her daughter stay the night. “I can’t spend a whole night sat in a chair!” pleaded the daughter. In the end she just walked out, the mother’s shrill stream of threats ringing in her (and our) ears.
Because Dad had been deeply unconscious the doctor was sent for, but he was more-or-less with us by the time the doctor arrived. However he didn’t look or sound too good. Having gone through the ‘lift your leg, etc’ routine the doctor said to me, “Stroke now looks very likely. He’s so much worse now.”
Shortly afterwards Dad woke up and looked at the bag hanging nearby. “That’s a saline drip! What’s that for?” I tried to explain. “I know what it’s for, I mean why have I got one?” I was much cheered by this mild belligerence. When someone turned up and asked him to do some minor thing — I can’t remember what — he obligingly went into the ‘lift the leg and hold it there’ routine, saying “Course I can lift my leg! Look at this! And I can lift the other one, see! And my arms! No problem! No problem at all!” He’d been asked to do it so many times! I couldn’t work out if he was confused or having a laugh, but somehow it seemed like a good omen. Dad had a good grumble at this point about being stuck in hospital and said, “The worst of it is, you’ve got better things to do than be here all evening!”

I said, “No, we’d only be sitting there watching ‘Casualty’, and this is much better!” and he laughed.

I asked someone what was likely to happen next.

“He’ll go to the Assessment Ward.”

“When will that be?”

“As soon as there’s an empty bed. It could be soon, or it could be tomorrow.”
“OK. Thanks.”

  1. At 9.15pm my sister Kath and her husband Brian came. Hil and I needed to get home, so I asked Kath to somehow get the message across to the Assessment Ward staff that Dad was extremely deaf and needed the toilet at frequent intervals. As it turned out the move was made after only about an hour, so Kath and Brian were able to go onto the ward with Dad and talk to the staff.
    It was hard to relax when we got home, and when we got to bed we couldn’t sleep.


My days in hospital all seem to have merged into one, so these happenings will not be written in the order in which they occurred. I don’t really like writing about some of this but here it is anyway. I was in bed on the day before I went into Ward 27, I called the nurse and asked for a bottle, and when she brought it I expressed my doubts about my ability to use it because of my left hand. My hand, I’d discovered, didn’t seem to want to co-operate with me. The nurse said, “Do your best”, so I did. But my hand didn’t hold the bottle as it should have, so the result was that some went in the bottle and some didn’t. So I had wet pyjamas, and worse, most of it had gone on the bed. The nurse came and took away the bottle. I didn’t mention the wet bed. I told her about my needs for the night so she brought me three more bottles and said, “These should see you through”, and off she went. I thought, “next time I’ll stand up against the side of the bed, press the back of my legs against the bed for support, and that should be OK.” It was. But when the bottle was full — or at least when I’d used it — I was just about to put it on the floor when my fingers let go and it fell to the floor, spilling the contents. What happened for the rest of the night I don’t know, perhaps the nurse took me to the toilet, I don’t know.


I had a dilemma. I was committed to travel to the midlands for a meeting at 10am on the Friday. Should I go or not? It had taken ages to set the meeting up and it would be really bad to cancel it at short notice. I decided to risk going. I could always turn back if needs be. As I drove down the A38 near Derby the time came to ring my sister.

“How is he?”

 “Oh, he seems a lot better!” said Kath in her usual breezy manner. Kath doesn’t let things get out of proportion. “He’s sitting up and talking and he’s quite lucid. His speech is a lot better and his mouth isn’t drooping as much. He’s grumbling like mad about his hand though.”

“Well, never mind his hand, that’s terrific news! I’m glad he’s grumbling; that’s a real sign that he’s getting a bit better!” Kath giggled.

As I drove along I could hardly believe the news after the way Dad had been the night before. But I went into the meeting smiling.


I have a rather sketchy memory of going in a wheelchair; that was when I was moved to Ward 27. Anyway, I found myself in Ward 27 and back to normal thinking. I became very worried about my left hand when I found all the things I couldn’t do with it – tie my shoes, fasten my shirt buttons, or even eat my porridge with a spoon.

The nurse came over, asked how I was, told me I could get out of bed and sit in the chair if I wished, but I was not to try and walk. If I needed to loo I was to press the buzzer and I would be escorted there. This instruction remained in force until the next day when I used the buzzer and there was no response, so eventually, using bed or wall or anything else that would offer support, I snook off by myself. After that when I needed to go I just went, always being very careful since I was frightened that I might fall. I still am, in fact.

I think the doctor came and gave me the once-over on the first day, lifting legs, gripping fingers, and all that sort of thing. He must have been satisfied with what he found because I didn’t see him again until the day before I came out.

The lady physio came to see me. We’d just got talking about my hand when a porter came and said he was taking me for a head scan. He sat me in a wheelchair, pushed me out into the corridor, and left me there. The physio came back and we had quite a talk, much of it about me being dizzy sometimes. She promised to get me a walking stick. She said that she’d come back in the afternoon if she could, but she didn’t return.

I was taken to a room with something which looked like a large washing machine with a hole in the front, with a structure that looked very much like a conveyor belt leading to the hole. “Sit on there.” the young man said. “Now lay down on your back with your head that way” said he, pointing to the hole. This I did, the conveyor moved, and I found my head getting nearer and nearer to the hole until my head was right inside. I closed my eyes tightly and remained perfectly still until at last the conveyor moved again and I was outside. I was taken back to the ward glad that that was over.

On a day that was Friday, I think, I realised early that morning that I needed a bath. Because of what happened with the bottles the previous night I was rather smelly in the nether regions. I said to the nurse “I need a bath. Is there any chance?”

The response was “We are very short staffed. You will need a male escort. I will see what I can do”.

After a while, sitting there with no sign of an escort, another nurse appeared. It may have been the one I had spoken to before. I said “I need to have a bath. If that is not possible I can manage with a strip wash in the toilets.”

Her reply was non-committal: I took it to mean “If that’s what you want to do I don’t want to know about it”. I got my towel, soap, and wash bag and made my way to the toilets in which I knew there was a good-sized wash bowl. I went inside and locked the door and then I thought the better of it. I thought, “I had better not lock the door in case I fall or need help.” I filled the bowl with hot water and stripped off. I washed everything from the neck down. The feet were a bit difficult as I was standing up. There was no chair in the room. After I had replaced my trousers and vest I emptied the bowl, filled it again, and had a wash and shave. Now I felt ready for the doctor or anyone else. As soon as I arrived back at my bed the trolley came with lunch so I had timed it just right.

On one occasion — I can’t remember when —  two young people came along to see me. They were hospital staff but I don’t know exactly what their jobs were. I’d been talking earlier to someone about my medical experiences in the war and that person must have mentioned it. These two were very interested and we chatted for quite a while. They seemed to be fascinated by my reminiscences.

Each day we had a menu card showing the food available that day. I tried to choose a balanced diet, plenty of veg. for lunch and stewed fruit for afters with always soup and roll for starters. I had no complaint at all with the food. There was always a glass of fruit juice with every meal and tea more or less when you wanted it.

Kath came to visit me that afternoon, and as we sat talking a young man who was carrying or towing some very interesting-looking equipment came up to the bed where I was sitting. He said “Mr Wright, I have come to do an ultra sound” — I think that’s what he said — “on your heart”. I must have looked very concerned because he said “It won’t hurt and will only take a few minutes”. I lay on my back on the bed, undid my shirt buttons and he had a thing which he passed back and forwards over my chest above my heart. After a while he said “That’s it, done, you can sit up now.”

I sat up and said to him, “I’d like to ask one or two questions about what you’ve just done, but I don’t suppose that would be the right thing for me to do.”

He said “No problem. Just give me a minute”. He then turned the monitor screen towards Kath and ran the tape (I assume that it was a tape) right through from the beginning. He explained every blip and picture, the blood moving round the heart, the heart beating, the thickness of the heart walls. Really wonderful to watch your heart beating from the inside!

His parting words were “I will write my report this afternoon and the doctor will have it by tomorrow.” I thought that the doctors would not read the reports of the tests I had had before Monday. They would no doubt be off golfing or fishing or wasting their time as people are wont to do at weekends! This would mean that I was not going to get out of hospital before Tuesday at the earliest. I wanted to get home. I had lots of things to do. I had only had a fall and got a cut head, or so I thought at the time. A similar thing had happened to me many years ago. I had a fall, got a bang on the head and was taken to hospital. They put a bandage round my head, said I had a bit of concussion, sent me home, told me to take it easy and gave me a sick note to have time off work. The next day I went to Wakefield and joined the army.

The next two days very little happened. I had lots of visitors which was something I appreciated very much. Meal times broke up the day. From Bill I had maps and aerial photographs of all round the hospital. From the top floor where I was I could see for miles and pick out things, but I would rather have been at home. Some of the staff were interested in the maps and photographs and we spent some time discussing what we could see.

I didn’t get much sleep at nights while I was in hospital, largely due to the noise created by my fellow patients. There was poor man opposite in Ward 27 and he had dementia I think. He bellowed and roared, sometimes as if he was in great pain, many times during the course of the night. It kept waking me up and I wished he could have been put in a room somewhere so everyone else could get some rest. During the day he was uncovered sometimes and it wasn’t dignified. Anyway, I lay awake for long hours just thinking and I don’t believe a lot of deep thinking is good for you. The mind can and does play tricks on you as it did me on that early morning. Why I started to think about something that happened nearly seventy years ago I don’t know, but the more I thought about it the more distressed I became until I was almost on the verge of tears. Dawn was just breaking when a nurse came and sat on my bed and said “What’s the matter Albert?” I told her the whole story. She stayed with me until I had gained some sort of composure, then brought me a cup of tea. That’s all I can say about it. Sorry.


We went to visit Dad on the Friday evening, and it was great to see him looking so much better. We went each day until he was discharged. He was determinedly upbeat at all times, not wanting us to worry about him. He exercised his hand as vigorously as he could in the hope of improving his control of it. He took an interest in everything happening around him, and said that he was quite contented. The food was good and everyone was being kind to him.


About lunch time the next day I started to have a bit of an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I went to the loo and then started to feel better, but not for long. A more urgent call soon had me off again down the corridor. The next time, all I passed was liquid, and then the same thing happened again. I went to a nurse and told her what had happened thinking that she might be able to give me something to ease the problem, but her reply was, “I can’t give you anything until we know what caused it, so next time you have to go come and find me first and I’ll give you something to put a sample in for us to test.” In fact that seemed to be the end of it because I didn’t go again that night or all the next day.

I am writing this a week after the events, and by now the days have merged one into each other. I do remember that the morning after the digestive upset I decided to give my system a rest and not have any food at all. But when the lady came round with breakfast and I told her I wasn’t having any and why, she said “You ought to have a cuppa and a slice of toast,” so I did.


When I went along to collect Dad from Ward 27 there was some sort of a delay so I just went down to the café and had a cuppa for about three quarters of an hour. I’d been rushing round all day and I faced more rushing around later so the delay was actually quite welcome. I just relaxed.
Back in the ward the Staff Nurse went through all Dad’s medication details with us. She mentioned that Dad had atrial fibrillation, which was news to both of us. This was also the only time the word ‘stroke’ was used, apart from the early speculation in A & E. Actually the Staff Nurse gave us a lot of information. She was very thorough and professional. On the way out of the ward Dad expressed his gratitude for his stay and she gave him a little squeeze, which moved me.

Some of the events portrayed in this account must have been a bit of an ordeal for Dad, but not once was there the slightest bit of self-pity or whingeing, and in fact throughout the whole affair he conducted himself with great dignity. I would have been moaning and groaning like billy-o!
We’ve had a lot of experience of the NHS in the last few years. This time, as is almost always the case, we’ve been left with mixed feelings. Mixed because so much is so very good, but so many details are so very bad. We saw front line staff exhibit professionalism, dedication, humour, and humanity. But on a few occasions they showed what appeared to be indifference — but was this result of the organisational environment in which they work? Sometimes it seemed as if the system simply wouldn’t allow them to give of their best. Talking about the whole thing afterwards we thought that maybe the NHS has forgotten many small but important aspects of patient care.

At the weekend members of the family came considerable distances to see Dad, and we had a small celebration. A week after he was discharged from hospital he went into the workshop and got a bit of productive work done. He said, “It’s just a case of getting used to the fact that my left hand doesn’t always want to do as it’s told.”


On the day when I had been told I was going out I spent the morning packing up my belongings and getting ready to leave. I didn’t fill in the menu card as I had decided not to have any food but someone must have filled it in for me because I found myself confronted with a full lunch on my table. Soup and a roll for starters, the roast pork, baked potatoes, sprouts, and gravy. I put the lid back over the plate and looked to see what was for sweet. It was rice pudding. I thought, “Surely that can’t do me any harm!” so I had it, and then a cuppa.

I went round my fellow patients saying goodbye, then I sat on my bed waiting for Bill to come and take me home. As I sat there I mused about my stay. The nurses had, in general, gone out of their way to make my stay as comfortable and pleasant as possible.

Bill came and took my bags, and I, with my splendid new walking stick, went out to the sunshine and the waiting car.

Albert and Bill Wright, and Sharon. March 2009

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