Thank you so much for your sympathetic and encouraging comments in my outpourings yesterday. I feel very humbled and comforted by your generosity to help and feel I owe you a calmer explanatory post today. A good night's sleep has helped and, although I am still extremely angry, I am more able to cope today.
Yesterday had started reasonably OK. I had planned to go to an Al-anon meeting in the morning and then in the afternoon go on to my daily visit to Greg in hospital. I have been a member of Al-anon for the past year. I started going after Greg's detox in September a year ago. I have reported on it here. I still find it hard to get into the spirit of things. The Twelve Steps don't seem to work for me (or at least I cannot get beyond Step Two) and I am still grappling with the concept of a Higher Power to help me, but I do enjoy being in the others' company for an hour or two. It is an escape from the misery at home, a chance to share my story and a chance to meet like-minded people who do not judge or criticise.
Afterwards I went off to the hospital. The trouble I have found is that the doctors may have a conversation with Greg, ask him what is wrong and tell him what they are going to do but there is a giant problem they overlook. If the patient is an alcoholic, suffering from some degree of mental incapacity (whether it be just plain drunk at one end of the scale or dementia at the other end), how do they know they are getting the full story or even the truth? If, say, Greg decides to omit the fact that we live in a house with lots of stairs, how do they know this when thinking of sending him home? If they advise him they are going to do this or that, how do I get to find out? Greg's mind is in such a state, he cannot remember who has visited him or what they said. He gets days mixed up, he is confused by the time on the clock. Is it ten minutes to two, or ten minutes past ten? How, then, can he tell me whom he has seen and what they are going to do for him? Therefore, communication both ways, between Greg and the doctors, or between the doctors and me, was not entirely satisfactory. I had no idea what sort of doctors were seeing him or what they were planning to do. All I had been told to date was that they were putting Greg on medication to combat withdrawal from alcohol.
The hospital Greg was in is, I suppose, typical for most large inner city hospitals. Large and impersonal. The nursing staff, the domestic staff, the porters and the receptionists , mainly of Caribbean origin, seem to have a much more laid-back and relaxed approach to things. I want information. They want me to go away, so they can carry on laughing and chatting with one another. Some of the nurses go around arm in arm, like giggling schoolgirls at break-time, chatting and gossiping. If I ask a question, I am ignored or they shrug shoulders without passing a word. It is literally like trying to get blood out of a stone. I've even seen some nurses in Accident and Emergency dancing as they attend to patients. All I want to do is talk to a doctor, find out what they think is wrong with Greg's legs, find out whether they think he has some depression or dementia, get a diagnosis, a prognosis. Nobody seems to be able to give me that information.
On Tuesday he had been moved from a holding ward to another more permanent medical ward. In the transfer they had managed to lose two pairs of Greg's reading glasses (one a prescription pair), a pen of no value and a dispensing box full of all his tablets for a whole week which I had brought in at their request as Greg could not remember what he takes.. Nobody seemed too bothered to tell me where I might go looking for these missing items, if they were no longer on Greg's bedside table. Little things like this were beginning to really annoy me. On Thursday I struck gold.... there was a lovely EFFICIENT black nursing sister who seemed to know what she was doing (hurrah) and at my request she managed to spirit a doctor from the ether to come and talk to me. It turned out he was a psychiatrist and, though he could not tell me anything about Greg's legs, he was obviously more concerned about Greg's mental state and had been told by the social worker to assess Greg. I think I got through to that lovely young doctor what my concerns were and, bless him, he did approach Greg's bedside and say he would talk to him the following morning. Greg hates hospital (have I mentioned that a thousand times before?) and was again trying to tell this young doctor that perhaps he could do the assessment from home. The doctor replied that it was better to be done from hospital as things don't happen once you are home again. That reassured me but clearly agitated Greg.
Yesterday morning Greg phoned me to say he had not seen the psychiatrist after all as he had been taken down for a liver scan. He did not know when the psychiatrist would reappear. I went off to my weekly Al-anon meeting and got calming vibes and reassurance to send me on my way to the hospital. When I arrived on the ward, I was met by one of the staff whose first words to me were that Greg's pills had come up from the pharmacy and he was now ready. On Greg's bed was a huge plastic bag full of his belongings. Greg was sitting on the bed next to said plastic bag trying to phone me on his mobile phone, even though I had already reminded him that morning that I was going to my Al-anon meeting. I was somewhat stunned. "Sorry, ready for what?" I stuttered. "Do I deduce he is going home?" The woman looked a bit embarrassed and said she was sorry I did not know. Greg was muttering that he had not had a chance to tell me. I felt a surreal moment coming on. So that is how I first found out. When I regained composure, I went out of the room to speak to the woman who had broken this news. "But what about the psychiatrist, the back-up at home?" The woman replied that the psychiatrist had visited Greg but did not think Greg was showing any sign of depression or dementia, but merely the alcoholism was effecting his mental state and that would only subside if he stopped drinking. They were providing contacts for Greg to get in touch with to stop drinking (ones Greg already knows about and has not wanted to approach in the past, I might add). Furthermore Greg had refused any back-up help at home, because he said we could manage. He was very keen to get home and, as the hospital cannot force him to stay, he was free to go.
I WAS FURIOUS. How dare he say we can manage? We? Me, more like. HE will just sit on his bony backside and expect everything to be done for him. I felt like bursting into tears, dashing along the corridor, out into my car and driving off leaving him stranded there. THAT'LL SHOW HIM. AND THEM. My head was in a spin. Instead I politely completed discharge forms, wearily packed any remaining items into a bag and quietly made arrangements to meet a porter with Greg in a wheelchair at the main entrance. And I drove home with Greg asking every few minutes whether I had enough cigarettes at home, or whether we should stop on the way to get some more. I don't know how I saw the traffic lights change through my tears. By the time we got home, Greg had thoroughly managed to wind me up until I was even more furious. I felt like Mrs Incredible Hulk. I felt as I was going to burst with anger. All that kept going through my head was "we can manage" and the words the psychiatrist had uttered that once the patient goes home, the help cannot be found in retrospect... it has to be done or can be done much quicker when still in the hospital. Effectively I was on my own. I was so furious, I parked the car, got out, unpacked the things from it, disappearing through our front door and leaving him to it. He called out to me. I brought the zimmer frame round to the passenger door. "You said you can manage, then bloody well manage", I screamed at him and went back inside. I hardly recognised my cruelty, but something in me just snapped. I made no attempt to help him up or down the stairs. I was almost willing him to fall down so I could call another ambulance. Another chance to get him back to that hospital. Once settled he made himself a coffee (he could see I was not going to make it for him) and again asked about the cigarettes. I just could not bring myself to answer. After a few minutes had passed, he said in that case he would just have to get some himself. I called his bluff. I was banking on the fact that his car had not been used for over three months and that the battery would be as dead as a dodo. The next thing I knew, he was slamming the front door and feeling his way along the wall for support to the car. I rushed up to the bedroom window to watch. I waited for the choking of the engine before it spluttered and died. Instead I heard a pleasant hum and watched as the car glided backwards off the driveway. Sitting rather dwarfed and frail in the driver's seat was Greg. I rushed downstairs again and out through the front door. By that time, Greg had manoeuvred the car across the cul-de-sac but could no longer move it forward. It had died on him. I tried to push it forward but Greg said he thought the gears had gone. Now, because Greg has been driving for over 40 years and is more experienced in these things than I, I believed him. It did not occur to me to doubt his thoughts on this. So we called out the Automobile Association (ironically another AA in our life!) and frantically waited for them to turn up , all the while blocking access and egress for all our neighbours in our cul-de-sac. When the AA turned up, the car moved first time - Greg had simply not had the strength in his legs to push down the pedals hard enough. The AA man even drove it round the block before waving us a cheery goodbye. It occurred to me that if Greg had managed to drive to the local shops, he would never have been able to walk without the zimmer frame from the car to the shop to get the cigarettes and he had forgotten to take the zimmer frame with him! It is this lack of thinking that worries me. What will he do next?
It was while we were waiting for the AA that I wrote my post yesterday, so I think you might now have a better understanding about why I was so distressed!!! Again I apologise for having blown my gasket sufficiently for some of you to be very worried. I promise you I am back in fine fettle today and turning my thoughts to plans for the future!