Friday, 12 August 2011

Important Phone Call

The glucose slowly feeds its way out of the liver and up through the blood stream, finally reaching the brain and bringing Alan back to his senses. Glucagon is one of our miracle drugs, and it's always incredible to watch how a patient transforms from totally unconscious to completely alert within a very short space of time. Once Alan comes round he looks almost embarrassed, the reality dawning on him that it's happened again.

"How low this time?" Alan asks.

"Oh, 0.9. Quite impressive really." It's my third or fourth visit in the past few months, and there had been others too.

"I'm so sorry. I hate to bring you out like this, I know you've got better things to be getting on with."

Alan's daughter stood by the door watching what had become an all-too-common scene in the house, but despite the familiarity she looked nervous and on edge. She held a cordless phone and kept looking at it as if it was burning a hole in her hand.

"You OK?" I asked.

"Yes, thanks. Well, no, not really. I mean, yes, I'm OK. Sorry. A bit stressed. Waiting for a phone call. I'll go make dad a sandwich."

"Great, just what he needs and desperately doesn't want."

Alan gives me an amused look. "You know me well."

"Well, what do you expect if we keep meeting like this?" 

As his daughter heads for the kitchen, the phone rings.

"I'm sorry. I really have to get this. Can I leave you making a sandwich? Help yourself to a tea too if you want." Without waiting for a reply, she answers the phone and disappears upstairs. Finding my way round a strange kitchen, I make Alan the sugary tea that he despises and a jam sandwich that he doesn't mind so much. It's the staple diet of a post-hypoglycaemic diabetic. The emergency sugar stores that we steal from the body need replenishing, and it's the one time where diabetes and sugar are a relatively good combination.

I write as he eats, completing the never-ending paperwork that will end up in the growing pile of similar scrunched up and fading sheets. With a mouthful of food he tells me to write his daughter's name and number as the next-of-kin contact.

"Don't worry," he says, "she's not always on that thing. It's an important call, this one is."

"I don't doubt it." But he saw the look on my face and straight through my doubts. It seemed strange that whilst your dad is being treated, even if it's something you're used to, you'd find it more important to be on the phone.

"Ask her to tell you who it is on the phone when she comes back downstairs."

Alan finishes his food and drink, we chat for a few minutes longer, and I recheck his sugar levels, now a healthy 5.8. Just in time to see me opening the door, his daughter comes downstairs, tears streaming down her face, and I instantly feel guilty without knowing the reason why.

"That really was an important phone call, wasn't it?"

"It was. It really was. It was my husband, it's been almost a month since we've spoken. If I missed that call today, it could have been another two weeks."

"What does he do? Work on an off-shore rig or something?"

"Nearly. He's in Afghanistan."


Anonymous said...

oh b*gger I didn't see that coming
I hope both will be ok
best wishes

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

pre-judging, so very common, leads to misplaced emotions and holes torn in relationships.

burned-out medic said...

the ubiquity of phones and calls and text messages has cheapened the truly important phone calls.

Steven P. Velasquez, NREMTP, MICP said...

Very relatable story. Hits you squarely between the eyes and reminds us that there is often a story behind the story and that is not exclusive to "our lives."


Tom said...

I've managed to go down to 0.6 and still been standing. Quite how I don't know. Diabetes has the ability to play the "fuck you" card quite often. Better not do that on placement as a student nurse in September then!

Anonymous said...

I'm an Army Wife myself, and my own beloved hubby is also in Afghanistan.

There are no words to describe how it feels to hear your spouse's voice...because hearing it means your loved one is alive.