Edith’s Letter

This is a narrative note written by a wife and mother about a hospital appointment for her husband who is a stroke victim with memory loss, and both have difficulty moving – he is in a wheelchair and she is his carer, walking with difficulty with a stick.

Dear Richard

I must drop you a wee note to let you know how the latest visit to hospital with Julian went. First, of course, there was the usual nonsense with the ambulance – we had to be ready twenty-four hours before our appointment time – Julian, with his coat hat and gloves ready – and they didn’t  arrive until fifteen minutes before our due time, just saying ‘don’t worry – they expect ambulances to be late’.

When we arrived and were taken into the reception area, we were moved into a tiny little corner area with nobody about, and although somebody kindly wheeled Julian, they didn’t take any account of the fact that I can’t walk much and they whizzed off leaving me to struggle to find where they had gone.

Eventually the time came for our appointment and the consultant arrived and asked Julian his name. Then he took Julian’s wheelchair and whizzed off at top speed down the corridor, never looking back for me, and I hobbled along hoping I could find which cubicle they had disappeared into! Eventually, mission accomplished, I arrived to find the consultant addressing all his questions to Julian – oblivious of me – and oblivious of the fact that Dad’s stroke damage means, of course, that he can’t remember anything, but he can find something to say in answer to all the questions – just not necessarily the right answer, and the doc diligently wrote it down and I felt, of course, in an awkward situation – if I said anything he would assume I was bossy and interfering – but I knew, as he clearly didn’t – that Julian had memory problems – but as a retired teacher he tended to talk with great authority on any given subject – regardless of the fact that he would not remember much about what had happened to him. (Basically then, the whole consultation was a waste of time!)

Eventually we were re-directed to the waiting area and after about three hours, during which time the staff had vacated the building, an apologetic ambulance driver came and said would we like to come for a ‘scenic drive’ or wait for him in the main reception area, so we duly hobbled to the ambulance and took the ‘scenic drive’ around the area, dropping off patients and, eventually got home at 7.30pm from our 2pm appointment. Our kind ambulance man, seeing our exhaustion, took us to buy fish and chips.

Just as wasteful medically are all the times various doctors take medical histories from Julian when he is in hospital, and because of the antiquated visiting hours, I can’t be there to help with the questions! I am left with a jaded view of the value of medical attention! Hey ho!

Yours sincerely,


PS. Not withstanding the fact that the whole afternoon was an exhausting waste of time – I was shocked to find that in a big hospital there was only one ambulance driver on to take the people home from clinics, and he was working late and was the only one on, and this apparently happened every evening – we were lucky he was so cheery and kind in spite of his long shift.