I’ve been missing.
I spent a few days in the company of many others, in an A&E department.
In my case, it was in St James’s Hospital in Dublin.
It was my 18thvisit in eight or nine years.
(BACKGROUND: I was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma 21 years ago. After what you might call normal treatment began to fail, I had a Bone Marrow Transplant 11 years ago. I developed COPD eight years ago. I have a compromised immune system and so I’m open to infection. These infections have landed me in James’s with unwanted regularity. This is my 18thadmission.)
But let’s talk A&E.
Yes. It’s an unpleasant experience. And I went on my GP’s instructions with, yet again, a chest infection and breathing difficulties.,
A&E is reality unlike Love Island or Gogglebox or I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
This is I’m Sick and I Don’t Want to Be Here In The First Place.
And you will find nowhere more real.
I can’t tell you all the stories that I witnessed in A&E in the 24 hours or so before I got a bed. Some would, even with minimal detail, identify those involved.
That 24 hours was spent first on a black plastic seat, then on a purple plastic seat and then on a trolley in a corridor, a brightly lit corridor.
Someone died on that corridor during the night. People die in A&E. A college friend died beside me on one of my visits a few years ago. For me and others, it’s shocking. For those who work there, it’s hard, it’s difficult. But it’s routine.
We had one patient insist, loudly, that they themselves were medically qualified and thought we should join in a sing song.
We had a couple of drug addicts.
We had a couple of young people who had taken something they shouldn’t have taken.
We had anxious partners, mothers, fathers and children.
We had joy of people being allowed home and we had mourning for those who would never do so.
We had the miracle of a staff actually managing to cope, if only just, with facilities that just can’t take what they are expected to deal with.
Yes, there are people there who shouldn’t be there at all, like those who, it seems got fed up after an hour in the waiting room and left.
What were they doing there in the first place if they weren’t sick enough to stay? I’ll tell you what they were doing. Abusing a system because it’s free, at least free to them.
There were people with small cuts, sprained ankles, cuts on their foreheads and people who had had heart attacks, strokes and who had fallen and were barely conscious. And they were all, for reasons of history, bureaucracy and politics, all in the same place, in the same queue.
And you can’t help wondering if, instead of spending a few million doing up Leinster House, it might not have been better to extend and renovate A&E in James’s and in other hospital.
You can’t help wondering if, instead of devoting all his energies to supporting campaigns he thinks popular and might help get him re-elected, Simon Harris might not be better of quietly spending a night or two in A&E – watching without being watched, not turning it into an photo opportunity.
The staff is incredible. The patients, for the most part, patient.
I know it’s not either or.
But I wonder if we really should be spending anything, even a euro, on looking for a seat on the United States Security Council when we can’t find beds for the sick.
I wonder if the government should be employing quite so many PR people when we don’t have enough doctors or nurses.
I wonder how they do something none of us could do on that noisy corridor the other night as we were moved so the patient who died could be wheeled away.
And that is sleep.
But it seems they can.