Our ongoing crisis reached a bit of a peak yesterday when I found myself dialling 999.
I don’t really want to get into the weeds about the day but we think my Mum has a UTI, which is apparently common in the elderly. She had one a few years ago that left her rambling (another common symptom) and in hospital. Similar happened yesterday but once the brilliant ambulance man gave her a once over, he concluded that it’s likely the same. Waiting today to see if I can get antibiotics from the doctor, which should be easy but probably won’t be. I took a sample over, but it didn’t react with the dipstick (which are only 30% accurate, anyway). Now waiting for the result of a culture from the labs but I have little hope. Tests are only accurate 50% of the time. Last time, they’d always come back negative and I had nurses saying the doctors were “puzzled”. However, eventually, one of them took the “logic of ducks” approach. If it walks, acts, and quacks like a duck, you’ve got a duck. A duck with a UTI. She improved the moment they gave her nitrofurantoin, which is apparently the go to drug.
So, okay, I did get into the weeds a little but only as a way into talking about the ambulance service.
The 999 service was as brilliant as ever. People talk about great British institutions but rarely do they talk about the people who despatch the services. I spoke to a woman – a Scouser, which is always a good sign – who sorted me out. I have to admit, at one point, I utterly broke down. Don’t know where it came from – stress of the last week, I guess – but I just wanted to ask about going into hospital at this moment. Is it sensible? What’s it like? Next minute I’m blubbering my apologies. I’m glad I did. First, I’m not ashamed to admit that these things get to me. I don’t subscribe to that macho stoicism. I’m a rationalist who believes in the science of crying, which unlocks chemicals that help us. Men not being able to cry seems like men forced to be something other than human, which can’t be healthy. Second, she admitted that there are lots of people feeling the same way. It gave me an insight into something you don’t pick up on the news and the Twitter culture war. We’re in this together and a good portion of us are going to stick together to see our way out on the other side.
It took about an hour for the ambulance to arrive, which, admittedly, is about 59 minutes longer than I’d have wanted. But when it arrived, just one guy came into the house dressed in full PPE. I’d seen him before. In fact, I remember chatting to him the last time my Mum had a UTI. That time, we talked football all the way to Warrington. Wonderful bloke with that disarming manner the best of them have. Once he’d calmed us and told us that he thought it something we could treat at home, he got telling me about COVID. Definitely seeing it on the front lines, he said. Also, despite the service doing everything possible to get people to take the COVID route rather than the emergency services, too many people are still using 999 to deal with the coronavirus. Also, still too much abuse directed at ambulance crew.
What I thought was most shocking was the stories of government neglect, especially in the early days of the crisis when there wasn’t enough PPE. Then there was the always-thorny question about money. Ambulance crew missed out on any government largesse in the wake of the call to arms. I’d heard this from the women who run the local blood clinic. Too many people on the front line have got nothing. I know I have a natural sympathy for the people on the front line but I’m not ashamed about it. We talk about clapping for the NHS but it means bugger all if we don’t care for the phlebotomists and the ambulance crews.
I wrote this eating my breakfast and I now have to go back to real life, which I don’t mind admitting is hard. Sometimes I think it’s too hard for somebody like me, who spends too much time living in my brain…