A while back in my second year we got called to a 60 year old gentleman whom his family said was convinced he was going to die. Now, we really didn’t know what to expect on this one but on arrival we could hear quite a commotion from within the house and were able to tell a lot of folk were very upset.
Walking to the front door we were quickly ushered through to the excitement where the sight that greeted us made both our jaws drop . . .
There were between twenty and thirty people in this one room, the men all crowded round the edges, each one looking on agitated and concerned. The “inner circle” consisted of women, most of which were in the throws of wailing and sobbing. Their cries were all aimed at one man – who sat magnificently defiant on a sofa in the middle of the room. This was our patient.
He sat, arms fiercely folded and head held high as if sulking, in a fashion that suggested he was ignoring every approach to his well-being. The women, still wailing and clearly upset, took it in turns to tentatively place their hands on him and express their concerns. However, every time they did so, he would violently swipe their attempts away and resume his defiant sulk-like disposition.
Every now and then he would burst into a truculent display of gesticulation and shouting, his obstreperous proclamations aimed at anyone and everyone. And in a rapid firing mix of Bangali and English his self adjudicating decree was simple;
He was going to die.
And there was nothing anyone could do.
There didn’t seem to be any plausible reason why this was going to happen . . . it just was. My crew mate and I exchanged glances and fractionally shrugged our shoulders, both not knowing how the bloody hell to approach this one.
One of the many daughters approached us and gingerly explained the situation.
“He had, I think, an argument with his wife earlier . . . I think she proved him wrong in something – and then he started being like this. And it’s just got worse. He won’t change his mind or anything. He just keeps telling us all he’s going to die. He just keeps saying it’s what Allah wants of him . . .”
“Ri-i-ight . . . um, what would you like us to do” I was genuinely perplexed by the whole ordeal.
“I’m not sure . . . can you speak to him?” Her eyes pleaded with us to try something.
Right. OK then. We took a deep breath and shuffled our way through the emotional throng to hover by the side of the patient, who took one look at us and erupted into another turbulent outburst – this time aimed at us.
“YOU’RE NOT NEEDED HERE. GO AWAY! THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO. NOTHING YOU CAN DO FOR ME! I WILL BE GONE! I AM GOING – NOW! I AM DYING AND WILL SOON BE TAKEN! I AM TO DIE!! AS ALLAH WISHES!!”
I suddenly felt very small and insignificant. And with a hopelessly pathetic expression on my face I said the only thing I could think of . . .
“. . . any chest pain?”
“NO!!! OF COURSE NOT! YOUR POWERS ARE USELESS TO HELP ME. NOW LEAVE. GO! I AM TO DIE!!! THERE IS NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO! IT IS OVER!!”
He then resumed his obstinate position on the sofa and allowed the next onslaught of over emotional pawing to begin again.
With a little further persuasion however, we were able to obtain a temperature and a BM. But that was it, he wouldn’t entertain our presence any further and so, we retreated to the doorway where the daughter who’d asked us to help was standing.
We politely explained there wasn’t really anything we could do at this stage and that she should call us back if they she has any concerns – especially if he did . . . “die”. She had already resigned to the futility of calling us out in the first place and apologised for wasting our time.
“Don’t be daft,” I smiled, “you’re only doing what you think is best. I’m only sorry we can’t be of more help to you” I touched her arm gently to show I meant it and then, bidding our farewells, we left.
We never heard of any ambulances returning to their address that night and I often wonder how long his family would have given it before realising his facade was possibly going nowhere.
But then again, I often wonder, what if . . . what if we were called back to his house to address his sudden, unexplained demise. I’m sure I’d act appropriately at the time but for now, in my head, if it did happen, I’d like to think I’d have the balls to start my approach with this,
“Well, bugger me, I din’t see that one coming . . .”