On 5 September 2008, Greg was due to have the angiogram and angioplasty. We were told to report to the hospital at 7.30 am, so that they could prepare him and wean him off the alcohol for a few hours before the actual procedure was done in the afternoon. I had briefed Greg the night before that he should make an attempt to wash himself, perhaps have a shower and do his hair and body all in one go. Very drunk, as usual, he had shouted at me to leave him alone, so I was not hopeful that he would do anything at all. I also asked him to be awake by 6am so that we could eat, dress and be ready to leave the house at 6.50 am for the drive to the hospital. He had nodded his assent to that.
6 am When I came down for breakfast that morning, he was lying asleep on the kitchen floor with the dining chair lying on top of him, as if he and the chair had fallen over in one combined piece. I removed the chair, shook him gently to wake him and told him it was time to get up. He mumbled at me to leave him alone as he wanted to carry on sleeping. His feet were black, the toes still bleeding through the bandages, his clothes were stained and he smelled. It was evident he had not had a wash the night before and we were far too short of time to do anything major now. Still talking to him to make him wake up, I hastily filled a bowl with water and grabbed a cloth and tried to wash his top half down, as I knew that would be where the angioplasty entry-point would be.... I was keen to sanitise that area at the very least. He was still in a drowsy state and kept fighting me off. I tried to take off one set of clothes to replace them with clean ones, but again he fought me off saying he was cold.
6.40am. The clock was ticking away and I could see we were only about 10 minutes off our scheduled departure time, but he was still not dressed, nor had he had anything to eat. (The procedure notes had strictly advised a light breakfast beforehand. Not that Greg ever eats breakfast. He hardly has anything for lunch or supper either.) I managed to persuade him to consider a boiled egg and toasted soldiers before we left and to my surprise he agreed, but when I set it on the table, he still lay on the floor dozing in his old clothes. By now my blood pressure was rising.
6.50 am The time we should be leaving the house. The egg lay uneaten on the table and he still lay unclothed and asleep on the floor. By some superhuman effort, I managed to pull him up, dress him like some lanky overgrown baby and with the help of Kay, who had now appeared in the kitchen, we managed to get him up onto a dining chair. I was still rushing back and forth making sure we had the hospital appointment letter and all the other things he would need for the procedure to go ahead. I felt like a character in a zany cartoon film.
7.10 am. The minute-hand of the clock edged towards 7.10am and we were late. I knew the drive to the hospital and the almost manic hunt for one of the £2-per-hour hospital parking places would make it impossible for us to make the 7.30am deadline. There are only about 30 parking spaces for the entire hospital in a tiny courtyard and they are always full. After that there is meter-parking around the busy side streets, but they would be too far away for Greg to stagger to the hospital. I was getting frantic. Kay helped me to stand Greg up from the dining chair and slowly walk him to the stairs for the climb to the front door (our kitchen is in the basement). His balance was not good and he seemed unable to support himself. He was confused and had to be reminded where we were going. He seemed to have completely forgotten that he was even having the angioplasty. At the foot of the stairs he went to raise his foot onto the first step and could not find the strength to pull his weight up. I tried to push, Kay tried to pull, but he could not put his weight on his foot. He collapsed on the step and could move no further.
7.15 am. I tried to phone the hospital to say we might be a bit late (understatement of the year), but the appointment letter only had a general number for the office which of course would not be open till 9am. Hurriedly opening the telephone directory, I could not see the small print for the hospital switchboard number without my glasses, which of course were nowhere to be seen.
At this point I was tearing my hair out. I decided to ring the Emergency Services and ask for an ambulance as there was no way we could move Greg in any direction now....like a rag doll, there was no strength in his legs and we could still not manoeuvre him up or down the stairs. I checked with the 999 service to see whether I was wasting their time, but they seemed genuine about the fact that we deserved an emergency call-out. Kay meanwhile headed for school on the bus, as I knew she would be better off at school. She looked relieved that she did not have to stay with me.The ambulance crew arrived pretty quickly soon after that and agreed to take Greg to A & E at the hospital we needed to be at. They wrapped him up in a blanket, carried him up the stairs in a chair-trolley and out into the ambulance. They did all the necessary emergency checks in the ambulance and then we set off for the hospital, with me leaving about 5 minutes ahead of them to get a parking space.
7.55am. Greg arrived at the hospital in the ambulance, just after I had parked the car and had found the entrance to A&E. The casualty staff looked generally perplexed, when they examined him. The sight of his toenails seemed to put even the strongest of them off. It amused me how these people can deal with all the blood and guts of A&E, yet still get their stomach wrenched at the sight of a torn toenail. As for his legs and general state, they did all sorts of tests. He did not seem to respond to any of the usual reflex tests and could often not feel anything at all as they asked him whether he could feel them twiddling his toes up and down. He did not jerk when they banged his knees. In short, he seemed dead from the waist down. Shortly after arrival, I had sprinted up to the ward where he was going to have his procedure done to tell them why we were delayed and that he was in A&E. The lady doctor who was about to perform the angiogram/angioplasty visited him shortly thereafter in A&E to say she would in the circumstances delay the procedure for another week to give him time to recuperate from whatever was wrong with him. Blood tests were done. More waiting for the results. A&E were on the verge of sending him home, but I pointed out that our house has lots of stairs and that, if he could not walk, there might be a slight problem with that. Fortunately a team of physiotherapists and social workers called by and eventually decided to admit him to a ward and keep him there while they did tests on his legs to see if he had something called peripheral neuropathy - nerve damage to the extremities caused by diabetes and alcohol consumption.
12.30pm. I saw him settled into a ward. He was insisting that he wanted to go home, but I was firm and told him there was no way I could cope with him at home if he was unable to stand or walk. His reply was that "we would manage".
"Yes", I thought, "and by we you mean me!"
1.00 pm Having spent 5 hours altogether at the hospital, I left in a frazzled state for home. In all that time I had not even had a chance to have a coffee. My head felt as if it had been whizzing around in a spin-drier. I was also concerned about Snoopy, who hates being left for even an hour let alone five, so I imagined I would be going to home to chewed matchwood instead of furniture. Fortunately Snoopy decided to support me by being good that day.
6.00pm. I then visited again with Kay. I felt as if I had been at the hospital all day. The parking ticket meter once again greedily devoured more money - that day I spent over £15 in all on hospital parking. Greg was even more desperate to get home, as, you may remember, he hates hospitals with a passion. He was agitated but at the same time, barely acknowledged we were there. Kay and I didn't hang around that evening. We were so thankful to get rid of him for a while and get a bit of peace and quiet. We walked out into the fresh air and sighed a deep sigh. What a day, that had been !!