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Wednesday 18 April 2012

Stress Reaction

So here;'s the scenario:

The phone goes at 7.30 am to say that a close relative is in hospital with a serious but non-life threatening problem.  How do you react?

Me: Say "Oh my God" alot, rush round kitchen throwing things into handbag, grab car keys and set off for hospital at furious pace.  Put on full headlights and emergency flashers.  Hunch up over steering wheel with furious frown, shout at other drivers to "Get out of the way, coffin dodger" (because, of course, they should telepathically be able to tell that I am on a LIFESAVING, EMERGENCY MISSION).

Slide into hospital car park on two wheels, park badly in first available space, run up steps into hospital, bowling sick people out of the way because MY RELATIVE IS IN HOSPITAL  DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT I NEED TO SEE HER?  Pant my way to reception to ask directions - takes a long time to get them due to unavailability of breath to make myself understood and queue of people in front of me who don't seem to understand that THIS IS A CRISIS.

Another attempt at sprinting to the relevant ward.  Which is closed due to ward rounds.  No amount of "DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THIS IS MY MOTHER" is going to get me past the Ward Sister and "borrowing" scrubs and passing myself off as a Ukrainian surgeon is also a no-goer.  Sit for two hours on uncomfortable orange (Why orange?  Why always orange?  It is NOT a cheerful colour!) plastic seat, twiddling thumbs, humming to myself and generally driving everyone else completely bonkers.

Get into ward.  Five minutes later, leave again with long list of things sick relative needs - toothbrush, cosy slippers, dressing gown, nail file, "something to read", reading glasses, chocolate hobnobs.

Go back to car, pay £7 million parking ticket, return home, gather list, return to hospital.  Relative now "resting comfortably" (ie asleep).  Leave 16 plastic bags full of "stuff" for relative and say to Ward Sister that I will return this evening for visiting hours.  Ward Sister rolls eyes and mutters something that distinctly sounds like "Must you?" under her breath.

Return home.  Pace.  A lot.  Phone family and friends.  Get bored telling the same old story and having no actual news.  Make tea.  Pace more.  Get phone call from hospital.  She'll be being discharged this evening.

Points for calm, rational response: 0


  1. Oh Charlotte, you rookie! There are ways and means of avoiding those orange chairs if close relative has been brought in by ambulance. Wish you had asked for advice. Like: always pack a bag for relative (and clean relative's house before you leave it if a) it looks like a crime scene (not nice to come home to later) and b) ambulance already in charge of patient - they take ages outside house before actually leaving; always take knitting/really good book/at very least a newspaper with crossword for endless hours of tedium - also helps with general sanity. Do hope all is well with your mother.

  2. Mum's fine - I was trying to explain to a friend what a "normal" reaction looks like a la Charlotte and why I envied her ability to do much as you suggest with the whole knitting, books, pack a bag stuff, rather than the full on headless chicken with road rage alternative......

  3. Your description so vivid, I thought this had been your day - so glad it hasn't (particularly with travel so imminent) - enviable ability to think these things through the result of unenviable experience of repeated crisis management of aged close relatives - I would trade!

  4. Charlotte, being an Er nurse for more years than I'd like to count , I would think that this response is not One I'm familiar with On a personal level. Two things come to mind here my sweetest sweet . First, both my mum and I know that she is in the latter part of her life and that she could leave this earth at any time. She is somewhat at peace with this thought but while cognitively I am, it's a thought that's too hard to fathom. Sooooi, every time SHE has a medical emergency, it strikes quite a different chord. Life flashes before my eyes, panic obviously , that this may be the last.
    2nd is our fear/panic response is kinda heightened by our experience with Ed , I think although I have learned a great ability to take the initial fear/ stress response and do something much more effective with it, when a loved one is in unknown danger of life and limb, it can be too abstract to apply. So my dear friend , I get it'