The weekend is almost here. Trying to get the week’s work wrapped up, looking forward to a weekend of family life…
But social services and the care home are asking for an urgent capacity assessment on a woman they believe is a vulnerable adult needing their protection for her own safety. Over the past two-three years, I’ve seen her go from a vibrant, non-stop, chirping free bird, to a hunched-over, cut and bruised whisper, all at the whim of a dastardly neurological monster. She still tries to stand up, but every flight now ends in a crash landing, her feathers clipped beyond repair.
Everyone around thinks she is lost in the mists of confusion, no longer capable of discerning risk, cause and effect, that other people are now best-placed to decide her fate for her – perhaps she needs to be sedated, chemically caged to save her from the pain and distress of falling. But whose pain and distress are they trying to relieve?
Whose pain and distress are they trying to relieve?
So, after the end of another long week, surgeries all finished, I should be getting that Friday feeling. But instead, I’m heading to the care home. I‘ve prepared myself for the image, to see the barest skeleton of a body, beaten blue by the floor, no longer capable of being, now her voice is silenced by paralysed cords.
But pen in hand and paper on her lap, she regains her voice. The song is not the same… it is somber, despairing, grieving for a life lost, an autobiographical requiem, lonely. And she admits that she keeps rising up in the hope that the next fall will be the one from which she never rises again, finally extinguishing her dying flame, and the torture that now defines her existence. So we talk/write, feeling, sharing, crying, smiling, just being. There is pain, and joy, patience, understanding, connection…
An hour and a half later comes the realisation that I need to flutter back to my own nest. But now I really do have that Friday feeling, because tonight I have seen the power of the strongest medicine of all…friendship.
Dr Cathy Welch is a GP on the Isle of Arran, Scotland
The patient consented to the publication of this piece