We all have weaknesses in this job – something that might effect us more than something else. For some it’s RTC’s for others it could be paediatrics. Everyone is different.
For me, the thing which pulls the strings the most are old folk. Especially old couples that, for example, have been married for donkey’s years and then one of them becomes seriously ill or dies. It’s utterly gut wrenching to stand by and watch someone’s heart be torn in two as their ultimate best friend falls from their side . . .
We’d been called to a “Purple” (dead for a while) and was informed that the GP was already on scene. This was odd – as it was usually us that called for the GP, not the other way round. However, on arrival we found that the GP had called us as he was a little out of practice dealing with the proceedings of what to do next. That was fair enough for us.
What had happened?
Basically, an old couple married for 65 years had been sitting watching afternoon TV when the husband had decided to get up and move over to his “favourite” chair for a nap. To which he never woke up. Sadly, several hours had passed before the wife had become suspicious and upon not being able to rouse him had called for her son to come over. He cottoned on quickly to what had happened and called for their GP to visit . . . which he did!!!! He immediately recognised the fact that the patient was in early stages of rigor mortis and then called for us to help with the next stage.
On arrival our patient was sat in his favourite chair still. Cold, lifeless, stiff to move and clearly dead. Yet at the same time just appeared to be sleeping. It’s odd but sometimes you find yourself staring at “purples” and almost convincing yourself that you’ve seen them move or breath.
The son was frantic and upset. This was clearly a shock to him and he was desperately trying to hold it together – and failing in most parts. The wife however, just sat on the sofa opposite her husband, calmly sipping a glass of water. Every now and then she would look up at her husband and sigh deeply.
We set about arranging the next stage. This simply consisted of agreeing with the GP over a time of death and organising the police to come and take over. Anyone who dies unexpectedly at home will have the police in attendance. Nothing to do with suspicious circumstances – just so they can be present for the Coroner. They also arrange removal of the deceased person.
After all this was done I sat down and started my paperwork. My crew mate had returned to the truck, the son had popped out and the GP left. We were still waiting for the police so in the interim I was left alone with the wife and deceased husband. I looked around . . . their flat was typical of a couple married for so long. Photos of themselves adorned shelves and niches everywhere you looked. And they were both a handsome couple in their younger years – both, it seemed, were in the army at some point.
There was silence.
“Would you like a cup of tea Dorris*?” I asked softly. These are always delicate moments and trying to empathise is just pointless.
“It’s ok dear,” she replied with a tired air in her voice, “I’ll make it”.
Standing up slowly, Dorris awkwardly walked over to her husband. She stood beside him for a few moments stroking his hair. Then, leaned down and kissed him on his forehead tutting as she did so. Her voice was almost a whisper when she spoke.
“Oh Steven* . . . what am I to do now eh?” she kissed his forehead once more, “. . . I love you. Don’t worry my love, I’ll be joining you soon”
And with one final kiss, she tottered off into the kitchen to make some tea.
A lump had grown in my throat. But luckily the police had arrived and I soon handed over to them and left.
Getting back into the truck down below I barely managed one word to my crew mate before heading off.
*not their real names of course