Jam Sandwich

One of our 'frequent flyers' died a little while ago. I realise that I haven't really written much about the people who keep calling us, our 'regular customers'.

Some are a real annoyance, others have a little smile hitting your lips when you realise that you are going to see them again. Some have medical problems, some have mental health problems. Some have, what our psychologically trained colleagues, untreatable borderline personality disorders. Many are alcoholics, or drug users.

Some become the stuff of legend, a tale to scare the new recruits with.

Freda was one of the nice ones. An elderly couple, she lived with her husband, both of them had long-standing medical problems. They looked after each other. When one of them was poorly, the other would do their best to help them before calling us out.

Freda was a diabetic, and a poorly controlled one at that. Her husband would call us out when her blood sugar dropped too low. We'd arrive to find her on the sofa, or in bed, snoring away and deeply unconscious.

“Normally I give her jam and bread”, her husband would say, “but she's too far gone this time”.

It's a simple job, jab her with an injection of Glucagon, wait a couple of minutes while making sure that her airway was clear, and she'd wake up and be surprised to see us standing over her.

“Did I go low again?”, she'd ask, “I'm so sorry to be a nuisance”.

But she wasn't a nuisance, sure we'd grumble if it was 4 a.m. in the morning, but once you arrived the thanks you'd get from the pair of them more than made up for any disturbed nap.

But now she's dead, killed in a way that could cause any of us, young or old, fit or unhealthy, to die.

I'm not sure if her husband will still live in the same house, I don't know if we'll get called back there, maybe he'll move to a warden controlled flat.

It's hard to think of him without his beloved Freda, it's hard for me to think that we'll never go there again – and leave her sitting up in bed, smiling and tucking into a jam sandwich.

20 thoughts on “Jam Sandwich”

  1. It is these regulars who make up for the crappy ones.I wish more people would look after each other as this couple did.

    And, as you say, the genuine thanks from these older ones is worth its weight in gold.

    RIP Freda.

  2. Thats one of those things that affects me more than sombody who dies in blood and guts. It's when they pass away in the night (or suchlike) and thats what makes me cry

  3. I'm not sure it was intended as a cliff hanger – Patient Confidentiality aside, it's not our business to know. And besides, it's not a dramatisation.

  4. You know, I feel kind of glad that she lost track of her blood sugars from time to time… it implies she was still living rather than it being all about a medical regime. And then to go and die of something else entirely strikes me as a wonderful two-fingered salute to the inevitable worrywarts who would have doubtless been telling her that she must pay 24/7 attention to her health issues in order to add a couple of months to her predicted life expectancy.I do hope her husband will be okay.

  5. We got a call to one of our regulars last week. the carers had arrived at 0900 as they do every day to Flossie, 100 years old. She'd often call us at 0200 and say she'd fallen but be up and ready to go, bags packed etc and we'd run her to the MIU for a few days “holiday” on the ward.This time it was a tad more worrying though. the carers couldn't get in, the chain was on and Flossie wasn't answering. They'd peered through the gap in the curtains and seen her on the bed. Not moving. We feared the worst, the town's oldest resident and I have to do ROLE on her, I'd done one for the last fella too, 102 years old.

    We arrived at the same time as the Police and tried to get her attention, no joy.

    So we put our weight into breaking the chain. After a few good shoves and kicks it gave way and my mate goes in and there she is, pale and lifeless on the bed.

    Then she opened her eyes with the immortal words..”you've got wrong house”!!!!

  6. It's not our business to know” is a tad harsh me-feels … we are readers of Tom's blog which in itself is being curious about other people's business, be it Tom's working day, his patients' aches & pains & moans & groans, or reading other reader's comments in response to his blogs.Tom has, above all, always respected Patient Confidentiality and I wouldn't expect anything less for this lady.

    I realise such a subject wouldn't be treated light-heartedly. Sorry it came across as such.

  7. I always get touched when I read your blog and today is no different. Your 'customer' will be in my prayers. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I always worry about the elderly men who get left behind when their wives pass away. If it is the wife who is left, despite the grief, they can just about cope. If it's the husband, he might well be overidden with grief and may have little (if any) idea about how to care for himself.I hope he moves to some kind of sheltered housing where he might get some help. I'm sure he'll miss his wife terribly though

  9. Were your ears burning last night by any chance? Last night we went to a patient who was reading your book (well it was on the coffee table) and we had a nice little discussion about you, your book and the job! I just wanted to say thank you for letting us have a conversation about something other than 'Eastenders'!

  10. Because it makes the patient feel better!! Sometimes so much that they forget all about the pain! I talk about whatever they want to talk about, (when we are just taxi-ing them to hospital, if they are ill then we are generally treating them) I don't even watch Eastenders! So it's quite hard to join in the conversation sometimes! Don't you ever make small talk about random crap? It's just like that really!

  11. Sorry, but Borderline Personality Disorder is treatable. Its hard though, and too too many professionals are too damned lazy to bother, and thus tell the whole world its untreatable. Oliver James is one of those that likes to call people with BPD the nastiest things he can manage, and announce to the world its untreatable and thus everyone with BPD should be a social pariah.

  12. That is soooo true. On the wards sometimes it's all the patient needs is for someone to just sit down and talk to them. It's a shame that we dont have more time as nurses to do that but it is very important.

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