Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Playing Dead

Saturday night. 

In fact, it's worse. 

It's a post pay-day Saturday night. 

The calls are coming in faster than the customers can spend their hard-earned cash. Call after call is alcohol related, leading either to faints or fights, pass-outs or punch-ups. Suddenly, in the middle of it all, a genuine call. 

In fact, it's worse. 

It's a genuine call made by a child. 

The call comes in as a mother who isn't breathing. The child is barely able to contain their emotion as they  follow instructions from the call-taker. Luckily, I'm less than a mile away. Under a minute later, as I step across the threshold, a bag on my back and another two balanced on my arms, a young child grabs me by the hand and practically drags me off my feet. 

I walk into the room to see a sight that worries me even more; it's not just one child who's distraught, but four. The oldest is ten years old. All are crying, worried, scared. One begs me to help their mother. 

"She's not breathing! Do something!" 

Another asks me the awful question. "Is she dead?"

All it takes is one look at the mother. Her eyelids flicker like no dead person's can. As I call her name loudly, she jumps a little, but tries to stifle it to keep up the pretence. As a crew arrives, I usher the children out of the room, asking them to let me treat their mother whilst reassuring them that she'll be absolutely fine in a few minutes. 

"Right," I say, "the kids have gone, and it's just us. Now do you want to tell me what this is all about?" It's  rare for me to lose my temper with patients, but I'm close. She opens one eye, then the other and after a moment or two, decides to pretend that she remembers nothing and that she doesn't know where she is.

Leaving the crew to treat the so-called patient, I go to speak to the children. One of them tells me that the two oldest siblings were fighting, their mum shouted at them to stop and when they didn't, she collapsed and stopped breathing.

"She just dropped to the floor?"

"No. She sat on the couch with a bit of a bump, shouted again, and then fell back with her head on the cushions."

"I understand. Just so you know, your mum's going to be absolutely fine. We'll let you in soon so you can see her and talk to her."

"You mean she isn't dead?"

"No, she's not. She's just a little upset."

Back in the room with our now alert patient, I could bite my tongue no more.

"You realise what you've done to your children, don't you?"

"It's their fault. They know how to behave. I just wanted to show them what it would be like if their mother wasn't here. When they fight, they pretend like I'm not here anyway, so I thought I'd show them what it would be really like."

Speechless and angry, we invite the children back into the room. As the youngest runs into her mother's arms, I leave the house, wondering what would force a parent to be so cruel to their own child. 


TomVee said...

Terrible. this one reeks of mental illness.

Hayley James said...

this is terrible. How could a mother do this to her children? I have seen first hand the devastation it causes young children when their mother dies suddenly. why? why? why??

hilinda said...

I can imagine, maybe, if I stretch it a little, someone pretending for a MOMENT. But to lie there, and let them call for help, and until emergency personnel actually get there?
That's bizarre.
Someone needs to have a serious talk with the woman.

Chris said...

That woman should be short-listed for worst parent EVER. Scaring her children into thinking she's dead? My God, that's frigging sick. I'm a mom, and my daughter pisses me off quite a bit, but wow. Just wow.