Love happens when you’re sitting in A&E

There’s never a dull moment.

The last few weeks have been hell at work. It’s the ever-increasing cuts and equally fast-growing targets and pressure.

The last few weeks I’ve been trying to see too many patients and been staying late for hours, trying to get letters, referrals and notes written.

Just as I was approaching breaking point, we got told my service might not meet its targets for June, so we all had to go into overdrive and see way more patients than usual for a week.

Even my patients said I looked tired.

By Friday night, I was just about catching up with myself, but was utterly exhausted.

When I was lying on my bed, at 8pm, fannying around on my phone, I was ready to go to sleep.

So it wasn’t ideal that I ended up being up until 4am.

A bit later that evening, Andrew phoned to say he would be at my flat in about 9pm. I was excited to see him.

I’d been too tired to stay up and speak to him in our usual late night video chats, and missed him.

On the plus side, things seem great and back to normal with him. He came round on Tuesday and we had a pretty perfect evening together – talking, sex, cooked a nice dinner, went for a late summer evening walk, then watched Black Mirror in bed.

When he arrived at my flat on Friday, at 9ish, he seemed sweaty and agitated.

He had just come from having a coffee with his Mum and sister. His mum lives in a different part of England, but was visiting an old friend was terminally ill. She was staying with Andrew’s sister, in south London.

“Just before we said Goodbye, my mum started slurring her words,” he said, as we sat on the sofa.

He’d thought it was worrying at the time, but on the train to mine, he’d thought more about first aid training he’d had a work, and got really worried.

Before saying goodbye to his Mum, he had surreptitiously googled stroke symptoms, and looked out for the basics

  • not being able to lift her arms, or numbness or weakness in her arms
  • changes to her vision
  • problems with walking
  • any changes to her face – drooping on one side
  • confusion.

She didn’t have any of these symptoms.

On the train to mine, he had texted his sister, saying she should keep closely monitoring her, but then he worried they should’ve done more.

He had called his friend who is a doctor who specialises in older adults, but there was no answer.

“Try not to worry,” I said, as we sat on the sofa together. “She’d probably had a stressful day, travelling and visiting a dying friend. Maybe it was stress or tiredness.”

“Yeah. It’s just that at work, they say every moment can count, in some situations.”

Then his doctor friend called back. After asking some questions, he said Andrew’s mum should go to hospital straight away.

He thought it sounded like she’d had a TIA or mini-stroke (coincidentally, the same thing my Mum had in April).

Even if the symptoms had gone, she should be seen straight away, as a TIA can be a warning sign for a stroke.

Actions can be taken to reduce the risk of a stroke, such as medication to thin the blood.

Andrew called his sister back, but she didn’t answer. He left an answerphone message saying what his friend had said.

He was quite authoritative and policeman-ish, saying things like, “this should be done without delay.”

Then, we sat and waited. He couldn’t do anything until his sister phoned back.

He tried her again, a few minutes later.

Initially, his sister seemed a bit surprised about the suggestion of going to A&E, especially as their mother’s speech had returned to normal.

She said she would speak to their Mum and see what she wanted to do.

We decided we’d go and meet them at the hospital.

“Do you want me to come?” I asked.

“It’s up to you,” he said.

“I mean, my instinct is to come with you. Unless you or your Mum would prefer it just to be your family?”

“No, I think it would be fine, if you don’t mind.”

“OK, cool! It might be helpful to have a non-family person there, to go and get snacks or whatever. I can always leave to it if you want time alone.”

Even though his sister hadn’t confirmed they were going to hospital, we decided to set off.

I got some snacks and a book together.

Andrew’s phone rang, and it was his doctor friend again, asking for an update.

They were speaking for a while, so I decided to quickly get changed. I was wearing a very light, summery skirt, as it’d been a hot day, but I thought it could get cold if we’re waiting until the small hours of the morning.

I was also conscious I’d been meeting his sister for the first time, and his Mum for the second time, so I tried a few different pairs of shoes while I waited for Andrew to get off the phone. It’s hard to get the right stylish-but-appropriate vibe in these kind of situations.

We left mine and set off to the station.

On the train, his sister texted to say they were on their way to the hospital.

We chatted about mundane things on the way. I told him about how the usual entrance to my health centre had been closed that morning as part of the ceiling had collapsed.

“I like your necklace,” he said, then added, “you didn’t have that on earlier!”

“I changed out of my skirt when you were on the phone, in case I got cold later,” I explained.

“But why did you change your necklace?”

“Because the one I had on didn’t go with my outfit!”

Andrew laughed. “Good, because they’re strict about that Lewisham A&E. They hate it if your necklace doesn’t go with your outfit.”

When we got to Waterloo, I suggested we get cash out, in case we needed it at the hospital.

We were both being determinedly calm, efficient and cheerful.

When we arrived at the hospital, we saw his mother and sister in the waiting area straight away.

“I feel a fraud!” she said. Then she joked that it was a ploy to get me to meet Andrew’s sister.

She was concerned that we didn’t take up seats that ill people needed.

After we’d had a quick chat, she was called in to see a nurse.

She had already been triaged.

We all went to through to a bay with a bed in the Emergency Department.

We all sat down and she sat on the bed.
A nurse took her blood pressure and did a blood test.

Andrew’s sister made conversation with me. It was easy to talk to her from the start.

She had brought snacks too, but no one was really hungry.

After the nurse had gone, we waited for a while.

The four of us made conversation, which was really nice. We talked about my job, and their jobs. We talked about London and where I’m from.

His Mum seemed like her usual self, exactly the same as when I’d visited them in April.

After a while, a doctor came in and asked Andrew’s mum what had happened.

If I’d been single, I would’ve noticed that he seemed young, nice and handsome.

He asked some questions, and then did some tests to check things like co-ordination.

Eventually, he said it sounded like she’d had a TIA, or mini-stroke.

He said there were no signs that she’d had a full stroke, but just like Andrew’s friend said, it could be a warning sign to take action to reduce the likelihood of that happening.

He said there were different levels of urgency in this situation, for how quickly the next steps need to be taken. With some TIAs they like to do more tests and scans within 24 hours. With less severe ones, or where there are fewer risk factors, they do further tests within 2 weeks.

The doctor was going to get more information to decide the level of urgency for this.

Once he’d gone, Andrew’s mum was texting Andrew’s dad with an update.

Andrew decided to call his Dad as well, and I went and got more bottles of water for us.

Back in the waiting area, where the vending machine was, it was starting to get a bit more lively, like you’d expect A&E on a Friday night.

For a while, I was trapped outside the Emergency ward, as you had to have a pass to get the door. Eventually someone let me back in.

On the whole, Andrew’s family all seemed very calm. However, after seeing the doctor, his Mum said she felt a bit taken aback to hear she’d had a mini-stroke, as she’d never really had any health problems before.

I told them about how my Mum had the same thing a few weeks earlier and that she was OK now, which they seemed interested in and asked more questions.

“I think with some of these things, the sound of it can be worse than the actual… impact it ends up having,” I said. I was trying to make her feel better, without diminishing how big it must feel.

At one point, Andrew and his sister went and stood on either side of her and tried to comfort her, as she was a bit upset.

Initially, I stood on the other side of the room and read a display about hand-washing, to give them some space.

After a while, I went and gave Andrew a sideways hug, while he stood next to his Mum.

“Aww,” his Mum and sister both said.

They thanked me for being there.

I said, “I hope it’s OK – it’s fine if you want some time together on your own.”

They assured me they didn’t.

It was about 1am, but it didn’t feel that late. It was probably because the lights were so bright, and the adrenaline made us feel awake.

A nurse came with some medicine, and shortly after that, the doctor came back.

He said it was fine for us to go, as the tests they could potentially do aren’t available at weekends. He advised her to see her GP first thing on Monday morning, and then she would be referred to the stroke clinic. He had a prescription for blood thinners for the next two weeks.

We got our things together, and she asked the doctor how to give feedback about how wonderful everyone at the hospital had been.

When we left, it was about 2am.

Andrew’s mum and sister were going to get a taxi home, and we decided to get a bus and then the night tube back to Andrew’s.

Last time Andrew had seen his Mum, a few weeks earlier, she had said to him, “clearly you need to lose some weight.”

We had laughed about it because it seemed so incongruous, that his small, gentle Mum had delivered such a brutal zinger.

He had kept bringing it up over the last few weeks, partly because he thought it was funny, but also because it had prompted him to take things more seriously with trying to lose weight.

This time, when we were saying goodbye outside the hospital, and hugging each other, his Mum said to Andrew, “and it was good to see you looking well, and looking… you know… better.”

I had a massive grin on my face and nearly laughed.

We got various buses and trains, and hugged and talked a lot. We finally ate some of the snacks I’d brought.

The journey was quite tedious, and we ended up getting an Uber for the last part.

It was 4am when we finally got into bed.

“Do you want to have sex?” I whispered, as he was putting the light out.

“I don’t think so, why? Do you?” Andrew asked.

“Not really, but I thought it might be a nice distraction or something?”

Neither of us really wanted to.

We went to sleep.

I woke up about 5 hours later, and found Andrew was already wide awake.

The plans for the next day kept changing, but eventually Andrew’s Dad came down and Andrew went to his sister’s, to be with his family.

I stayed at his, so I could have a shower.

After he’d gone, I looked at the horrible state of his flat and decided the most helpful thing I could do was to clean it from top to bottom. I wanted him to come home and feel happy and loved, and like he had one less thing to worry about.

I had cleaned a bit in the past, and he’d been really touched, so I knew he was unlikely to feel like I was interfering or anything.

I cleaned his flat more thoroughly than I’ve cleaned my own. I used the attachments on the vacuum. I got the limescale off his shower door. I went and bought things he needed, like toothpaste.

As I cleaned, I felt so full of love for him.

It reminded me of a passage from the book Everything I know about Love, by Dolly Alderton.

I saw an extract on Twitter recently, because someone posted it, after it was read out at a wedding, and it made me well up.

“I know that love happens under the splendour of moon and stars and fireworks and sunsets, but it also happens when you’re lying on blow-up airbeds in a childhood bedroom, or sitting in A&E or in the queue for a passport or in a traffic jam.

“Love is a quiet, reassuring, relaxing, pottering, pedantic, harmonious hum of a thing; something you can easily forget is there, even though its palms are outstretched beneath you in case you fall.”

7 thoughts on “Love happens when you’re sitting in A&E

  1. My father had some TIA’s. Then a larger stroke. He’s fine now but is on perpetual blood thinners and it took time for him to learn how to sign his signature, tie shoes and do other simple tasks like that again. Precautionary measures are important in these cases. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Part 1: Congratulations! And I couldn’t see Andrew’s penis at all | Dater Analysis

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