Accident and emergency

Ben was admitted to hospital. It wasn’t planned.

He woke up shaking, but determined to get to his regular psychology appointment at our local NHS drug and alcohol service. I stayed home from work to make sure he got there without injury. Today was also going to be the day he would finally be assessed for rehab. I was going to accompany him to that appointment, too.

While Ben was with his psychologist, he took ill; he was in acute withdrawal. They called an ambulance. His psychologist, Jane, came to get me (I was waiting outside). I found him sitting on the floor of one of the consulting rooms, his face grey, his body trembling. We ended up in A&E at a hospital an hour away from us.

There was a lot of waiting. We waited an hour before a nurse showed Ben to his own little curtained cell. About 30 minutes later, they wheeled a bed with a filthy mattress into the cell (Ben was sitting on a plastic chair until then). Another 20 minutes went by before they disinfected the mattress and bed frame (with a disposable wipe), dried it and put a sheet on it. The fitted sheet kept springing off at the top, bunching up behind Ben’s head. The bedding looked grey and dirty, even though it had been cleaned.

About 20 minutes later, an A&E doctor came in to speak to Ben and me. She asked us all the same questions the ambulance staff asked us:

  1. how are you feeling?
  2. what brought you here today?
  3. when was your last drink?
  4. is it normal for you to vomit if you haven’t had a drink?
  5. how long have you been drinking for?
  6. blah,blah,blah.

This doctor ordered several bloods, two x-rays and said she was admitting him to hospital for a couple of days. While she was taking his history, Ben vomited. A nurse, who seemed to have been beamed in from a planet far far away, took several vials of blood and put a line in. She pumped some medicine into a vein in his forearm, then attached two drips. Ben was also given four colourful capsules, with no water. The water took another 10 minutes to arrive.

Once the doctor left, we sat in silence. I read through a 4000-word document on my mini smart phone. I listened to the doctors’ and nurses’ banter. ‘Are you normally constipated?’ asked the doctor in the cell next to us. The patient had severe abdominal pains, which the consultant declared were either:

  • appendicitis, or
  • constipation.

Ben was wheeled away briefly for his x-rays, then wheeled back. He wanted to take out the line so he could go and smoke. I told a nurse he needed the toilet… and that he might need a cigarette. The nurse brought him a pulp-paper cardboard gourd to pee into. And said ‘too bad’ when Ben said he wanted a cigarette. Inside, I was cheering.

A few hours later, a consultant from the medical team, where Ben was destined, came to speak to him. She asked him questions 1-5 several times, and each time, Ben answered slightly differently, before I corrected him. It wasn’t until I was on a bus going home that I realised the consultant was testing his memory.

I stayed with Ben for nearly four hours. He still hadn’t been given a bed when I left to pick up Rosie. I think it was probably around 8pm when they finally sent him upstairs.

Our local NHS drug and alcohol service rang up Ben several times while he was in the ambulance and once in the hospital. It was more times than they have rung him about anything before.



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