I entered A & E at Hammersmith Hospital at about 5.30pm as an emergency re-admission. I was put on a bed in a side room and felt very glad to be there. A young woman doctor who might have been Greek, or from the Middle East perhaps, took blood from me and I didn’t see her again. An elderly man with short cropped grey hair then came in. By his swaggering, ebullient manner I thought he might be another doctor but he never introduced himself or told me who or what he was. When his ID card turned over I saw that he was called Omar or Omer X. I suppose I better not write his name. The photo didn’t look anything like him, showing a round faced youth with bushy black hair.
He told me a doctor had ordered him to give me “a prescription for medication,” this worried me as the doctor hadn’t mentioned it. He set up a transfusion stand and I think gave me fluid to re-hydrate me. As he did this he said, “Did the doctor flash or flush, flash or flush?” I couldn’t understand his English and he seemed to get angry. His loose flapping lips, like wet grey mushrooms went into a thin line and he said mockingly, “You don’t remember what the doctor told you?” I didn’t know what he was talking about.
He said he had to examine me and looked between my legs. He said he could see “vaginal bleeding” and would need to take my knickers off. There was a very large bleeding operation scar clearly leading down from my navel, nothing to do with the vagina and I told him he could not remove my clothes. He said he had to or they would be angry with him on the ward when we went up. I still didn’t know who he was and didn’t feel I could trust him at all.
He flung out of the room, then came back suddenly and began talking about giving me a prescription again, as if he was a chemist. I showed him the drugs I’d stuffed into my bag before I got in the ambulance. He examined the label then tossed them over his shoulder back into my bag. He asked me if I had “moved my bowels?” made a crude gesture of defaecation and left again.
I could hear voices nearby from a room on my left, so I got up and went to see if I could find someone to help me. My mobile had no signal so I made a call from the hospital phone to Fr. Bill at St Martin’s in Ealing to tell someone where I was. He was about to leave for Scotland but contacted the hospital chaplains to ask them to find me. I also asked to see a woman nurse. While I was doing this Omar appeared again, sitting at a computer on the nearby desk. A white Englishman was clearly irritated with him, asked him what he was doing and kept calling him “Squire.”
Back in the side room a woman nurse who might have been Japanese, wearing a dark blue uniform appeared. I told her that I was scared of this strange man who kept coming in. She laughed and appeared to dismiss my fears but she kept coming back into the room to check on me.
I asked him several times how long I would have to wait to get up to the Victor Bonney ward. He was always vague and I didn’t think he was doing anything about it. I felt trapped and had no confidence in him at all. He was the most laughable person in a medical coat I have ever met.
At about 9pm a large black man like a Nubian warrior arrived with a wheel chair to take me up to Victor Bonney. As we went out my blouse fell off the bed and I asked him if he would pick it up. He said he was not allowed to. I asked Omar if he would get it for me. He was reluctant and said he would “bring it up later.” He also suggested that I should leave my bag with him.
There is the old tradition of Triage in A & E dating from the time on the battle field when quick decisions had to be made about who could be saved and who should be left to die. There was also a tradition in those times of the battle field scavengers, the Thenardier character who plunders corpses. I wasn’t dead yet or born yesterday, so I said a firm no and took my bag with me.
On our long, gloomy way up to the ward Omar spoke what sounded like Arabic to the man pushing the chair and they ignored me entirely. At one point we met a young man anxiously looking for the maternity ward. Omar told him to come with us as we were going there, which we weren’t, it was on another floor. Every word that came out of his flapping mouth was rubbish. I told him to find his way back to the entrance and ask again but the two men sent him out of a side door into an alley way.
In the cavernous empty lift they carried on their conversation and I felt as if I wasn’t there, which was lucky as I was uneasy with them and didn’t want their attention to fall on me.
Back in VB I was so relieved to escape from Omar. If I had been more ill or more naïve what might have happened to me by now? I think my pants and my purse would have been raided.
It was Saturday so most of the ward had been closed down, according to modern practice. I was happy to be in a side ward which looked quiet, with only two other beds occupied. As I lay on my bed I heard a familiar sound; a massive belch, followed by a long loud fart but without the half apologetic “Oof oof ” sound to follow.