I was shocked. I tried not to show it, and hope I did so successfully. But I was still horrified. And the scene? Not one of traumatic injuries, not one of neglect, not one of abuse.
Sitting in front of me was Craig, a gentleman in his late 30's. He'd called the ambulance as he was experiencing chest pain. He'd had a heart attack about a year ago (they seem to be getting younger and younger), and now he had the same pain back again. He's supposed to be on a whole list of medications since his heart attack, but for some reason he's not been taking them recently. I asked him what medications he was supposed to be taking, to which he answered that he was on something for blood pressure, something for cholesterol, something for the heart. But he didn't know what any of them were called.
Craig's pain seemed to be easing with the treatment we were giving him. His pulse and blood pressure were sky-high, but his ECG wasn't too scary. This is 21st century Britain, so we have the technology to assess the patient, the drugs with which to treat him, the NHS to provide it all, so with a little luck (and some self-discipline!) Craig should be OK.
But is this really 21st Century Britain? The reason Craig couldn't tell me what medications wasn't due to a memory lapse or an inability to pronounce the names.
Craig is illiterate. That's what shocked me so much. Maybe I'm naive, but I can't see how someone who grew up in this country in the last 30 years can be in a position where he can't read or write. How can we be proud of all we've achieved when there are still people on our own doorstep who seem to live in the 3rd world?
21st Century? I think we still have some way to go to catch up...