Health Magazine

It’s a Long Way to Tipperary

By Ambogirl @ambogirl1

A reasonably large detached house looms before me, paintwork peeling and flaking to reveal layer upon layer of varying colours from years gone by.  It’s obvious it’s been a considerable while since the last time a fresh coat has been applied.  Not the most welcoming sight, and the damp, gloomy weather is not helping.

“Round the back love”, calls out a voice from the small crowd that has gathered on the pavement awaiting our arrival.  I reply with a wave and a smile and retrace my crewmate’s steps along the side of the house.  The back door is open and I step…..back in time apparently. The dilapidated lean-to otherwise known as the kitchen (or scullery as my grandmother would have called it) is made up of loose bricks and broken windows, a concrete floor, some rickety cupboards and a grimy Belfast sink with one tap. My jaw involuntarily drops open and I clamp it shut as I hear my crewmate say “We’re in here”.

I follow the voices into the dining room and as I struggle to control my jaw, my wide eyes reveal my obvious amazement and then wander firstly to our patient.  A little old dear in a bright turquoise cardigan sitting in a hard backed dining chair, she smiles brightly at me.  I flash a smile back while my crewmate updates me.  ’Jean’ has had a little fall in the back garden whilst pegging out her smalls.  She was rescued by neighbours, but they don’t know how long she was out there for…..and neither does Jean.  I shiver.  Not because of the story, it’s painfully similar to ones I’ve heard countless times before.  I shiver because it’s icy cold in that dining room.  In fact it’s decidedly colder than outside.  I try and focus all my attention on our patient but I’m drawn to looking around the room whilst my crewmate and a couple of friendly neighbours fuss over Jean.

High ceilings, picture rails, and a grand open fireplace, this property was once no doubt home to the affluent.  Now, however, it boasts ageing, yellowing wallpaper, stone floors covered in threadbare rugs, a dining table covered in ancient newspaper, a battered leather sofa minus it’s seat cushions, again covered in newspaper, a large mahogany dresser and sideboard.  A solitary painting on the wall above the fireplace and a hook fixed to the ceiling, from which dangles a dodgy-looking light fitting, the cable hanging down into the room.  I glance into the front room, as dark and dingy as the dining room, sparsely furnished with stacks upon stacks of more old newspaper.

After a little chat with Jean and her neighbours, my crewmate concludes that Jean clearly isn’t coping, especially since the recent death of her partner, and has become more and more confused of late.  Although she has no obvious injuries, when an elderly person (especially female) takes a tumble onto a hard surface it’s best practice for them to get checked over and x-rayed in hospital.  However, it’s probably true that our main concerns in this case are her confusion and social welfare.  Especially after I probe a little further and discover that not only is there no form of heating at the property (the fireplace hasn’t been used for years) there is no hot water and no fridge.  Appalled and dismayed I ask Jean where she sleeps, because it is obvious from her mobility she couldn’t manage the stairs alone and without a stair lift.  She points to the hard chair she’s sitting in.

After much collecting of various possessions and convincing Jean she doesn’t need any more layers (we have a nice cosy blanket to wrap her in),  we manage to finally steer her onto our carry chair and out to the ambulance.  As she settles onto the stretcher she tells us that she was on the floor outside ‘for hours’ and kept calling and calling until the neighbours heard her.  She tried to get up but the ‘angels’ kept pushing her back down.  My colleague and I exchange a look.  As I jump into the driver’s seat, I automatically reach for the radio and remember we’re in the truck with the non-existent aerial.  The 20 minute journey will be a quiet one for me in the front on my own .  I shout through to the back “The radio’s broken, I’m going to have to sing”.  To which my crewmate replies “Oh no, save us Jean, you sing instead!” She is thrilled to oblige.  I flip the intercom button to be greeted by Jean’s dulcet tones “It’s a long way…to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go!”

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog