‘But why am I so tired if all the tests are normal again? And I’m in agony with my legs.’
I can’t answer that. There is something going on with Davey but I can’t find out what.
‘I need to keep chasing up the Consultant, I have tried to get them to make it urgent, I’ll try and call again after surgery.
The phone’s ringing and that’ll be another visit to do. Christ! I’m running 25 minutes late already.
‘Sorry, Davey, you’re already on the top dose, and you reacted badly to the others’.
I’ve tired every analgesic and I know those gaba drugs only treat the drug company not the patient.
Another message flashed up on the screen: Dr E do you know your running late :-) ?
Fucking flashy messages!
‘Davey, you can’t go back to work like this, I’m sorry. Listen…’
‘No, you listen, I don’t get paid when I’m off, Doc!’ Tears were in his eyes.
‘Give a minute, Davey, I’m just going to the front office to try to phone the Consultant again.’
I get up to open the door and the phone starts ringing again. Looking back I see another flashy, and the lengthening list of Tasks in red at the top of the screen, scrolling like the football teleprinter, David Coleman, Dickie Davis, what are they doing on my PC? The phone is louder, is that the panic alarm?
In the yellow corridor I see it’s daylight, sunny, I have forgotten to open the shutters in my room again, and it’s like coming out of the cinema. Filling my vision is Rena with her huge squint incisor and her blue tunic. She defines “in your face”.
‘You on call? Good. Treatment room, collapse, you’ll need to come now.’
Suddenly I’m in the room, it’s pale pink. The cupboards are open and a steel trolley has bandages with pus. The smell of Hibiscrub and sebum. From behind the yellow nylon curtain:
‘Oh! Doctor! How are you? I’ve waited three weeks to see you! Have you been away in your caravan? Crail’s so nice, when the mist lifts.’
‘Sorry, Mrs Nevis, I thought there was an emergency.’ I turn to go.
‘But, Doctor, I am an emergency!’
Rena behind me:
‘Mr Nevis’s in the car. Fay says he’s collapsed.’ Rena was pasting something on a leg, reaching out through the curtain for unctions from the trolley. Her polythene apron looked like clingfilm. The incisor glinted under the inspection lamp.
‘Oh, yes! I nearly forgot! Tommy’s not good. You’ll have to do something, he really should be in hospital. I can’t cope with him any more.’ Suddenly she was crying, wailing like an Arab widow.
He’s in the car? She can’t drive. He’s driving? Jeezus!
Passing my room, trying to escape, Davey calls out, pleading,
‘Did you get him, Doc? You’ll have to do something. My wife can’t cope with me being off work. No money, three kids.’
As I enter the reception area, I bleat,
’Who’s got the emergency kit? There’s a collapse in the car park.’
‘Collapse? Who?’ Kathleen, at least, didn’t flap.
‘Both the emergency bags are out. Dr Mackay’s left one in her car boot and Elaine has the other one and she’s on a day off.’
I am walking through the crowd in the waiting room, trying to avoid eye contact.
The electric doors allow my escape and I am beside Tommy at his driver’s window.
He is fucking driving!
He’s asleep at the wheel, I hope, and to my relief loud knocking on the window prompts snorting, eyes to open, and a huge toothless grin.
He doesn’t know how to open the window! He’s trying to wind a handle, like in his old Austin.
The door is locked. Tommy is laughing now, and dancing in his seat to the accordion music blaring through the steamy, snotty window.
Collapse, my arse! She’s right, though, he needs care. Or at least the dementia day centre, but the pair of them won’t agree to it. Hospital’s the last thing he needs, it would kill him next week. Still….?
I turn round, and I am soon back in the corridor making for the safety of my room.
‘Can you come and see Mr Sievwright in the Practice Nurse room? I told you he was coming and you said you’d see him with me at 10 o’clock, and listen to his chest. It’s twenty past and I’m running late, it won’t take a minute.’ Dora is a hard worker, knows her stuff.
I’m also running late but no-one seems to bother about that.
‘Aye, Dora, I’ll just pick up my stethy, 20 secs.’
As I open the door to GP-4, looking forward to a couple of deep breaths while I grab the stethoscope, a woman pushes past me into the room.
‘Thank god! Yer no’ half runnin’ late the day, eh?’
She could be 45 or 65, her long, dry red hair pulled back at her nape. I know Iva too well. Before I know it she has climbed agilely on to the couch, quite a task given there is an old ECG machine and a large box of paper bed rolls taking up most of it. Somehow, she contorts herself into a tiny space where the pillow should be.
‘I’m in fuckin’ agony wi’ this hip, I canny hardly walk, you’ll need to tae somethin’, ah’ve got tae look after Billy, an’ Billy’s a wee fat slimy bastard and you know it! Would a wee X-ray no’ help my hip?’
‘Aye, get her an X-ray pronto, or is that using up too much of yer budget?’
I turn round and see Billy on my chair, looking through the assorted stuff on my desk.
‘Hi, Doc! I came in wi’ Iva tae make sure you dae yer job right.’’
How the fuck did he get in here?
‘Hi, Billy. How are you? Still going to Ibrox?’
I hate Billy. Iva has been his punchbag for years, and he’s taught the sons to carry on the work. Their daughter has terminal acopia, and three kids of her own. Another of Iva’s own sons died in an RTA 5 years ago. Billy fell down stairs, (I secretly suspect Iva pushed him) about ten years back and his head injury meant he needs her constant attention — aye, right! I know Iva’s hip is also fine. What Iva needs are sympathy, listening to, and support. But I have no time for that.
All this information I have absorbed about Iva and her family flash to the front of my brain automatically in a millisecond. She doesn’t need medication, but I have to escape.
‘Will we try the weak co-codamol again? That might not upset your bowels this time.’
As I leave the room to go to Dora’s patient Rena catches me again.
‘We need to set up a joint visit to Mrs Angus at Benview Farm to look at her ulcer. I think she needs a referral. Would 10.10pm Friday night be ok?’
‘I only work Monday to Wednesday since I went part time.’
OK, how about Saturday at 11am?’
‘Monday to Friday!’ Did I shout that?
‘It’ll have to be Tuesday at 8.50pm then.’
If I’m not shouting I should be fucking screaming!
I wake with my long-suffering wife shaking me.
‘You’ve been dreaming again.’
She goes straight back to sleep. I lie, thankful it was a dream. I look at the clock. 3.27am.
Thank god, another couple of hours before I have to get up for work.
3.54am. It’s no use. I need a pee now. I’ll wake her up again but I have to go now or there’s no chance of sleep before work.
Part way through emptying my bladder the faulty toilet seat falls down and crashes through my stream on to the pan. The noise rouses the dog to start loud barking.
I creep back to the bedroom.
‘No. Bloody exhausted. And tomorrow’s going to be hellish at work. Fridays always are.’
‘Oh! When is this going to stop? You haven’t worked Fridays for three years, and you retired completely over a year ago.’
It was so real. I knew them all. And they are different patients every time I have the dreams. Just so real. I wonder how they are all doing?
God, I don’t miss all that!