DEATHS AND NEAR DEATHS part one
CURTIS: It can’t have all been bad?
MORGAN: No. Irritating fact. There are sufficient irritating facts like that to make one pause for breath between the heaps of shit. Praise where praise is due. They did save my middle daughter’s life- or was that by accident. And they are generally great, terrific value, in the event of accidents and emergencies. That word ‘triage’ irks me. It has the stench of system about it. My nephew is a top paramedic- his job is priceless and deserving of our respect. They’re also generally good at mends, patching you up and chucking you back out. The rest- you might as well play pin the tail on the donkey.
CURTIS: They saved your daughter’s life?
MORGAN: She was there. I was there. They were there. Eight I believe she was, dying from an attack of asthma. They could give her no more medicine. The consultant said- “Either she will die in the next hour or she will pull through. Prepare yourselves. There is nothing more we can do for her.”
CURTIS: But she survived?
MORGAN: Yes. Had I not gotten her there so quickly she would have died. And they could only do so much- in that sense we were all helpless. A child should never have been put in that position- all the medics had been crap at giving her the appropriate preventative care. If this had been California we would have sued and with just cause.
CURTIS: It was good that she survived.
MORGAN: Well. I wasn’t about to have two kids die on me.
I have seen frail ladies abed in cots, shrivelled husks of human beings, swathed in smoke-white, looking for all the world like dried moths pinned to mattresses that trapped their sparse urine. Staying alive eyes sunk into their sockets following the shadows on the smoke-white ceiling as the sun-shifted. On their bed-heads the legend ‘Nil By Mouth’. Invisible to many but not me. Near-dead relatives never visited. No cards, fruit or flowers wasting on their bedside cabinets. The ward far more sanitary than can be guaranteed today.
I visited my mother’s dying father in such a proper spartan place, behind each bedhead there a tall window onto clipped grass and a cherry tree in winter dress. I was eleven, a small boy at the foot of his bed witnessing his dead end.
Fascinating that silence, the crisp and creaseless sheets, the gestures filling long gaps in the language of those who would remain, almost certainly never to see him or his like again.
My ma’s face tearless.
Nursing fish swimming through the gloom on soft soled shoes, their heads decorated with starched fins. Women breathing underwater, in the swim of caring where caring never was confused with making do.
The very mention of matron a galvanising utterance. It was all clockwork and glue and we believed it could never become unstuck or not keep time with the pulse of the nation’s desperation.
Pain-relief no longer gathered from the hedgerows but sorted from a locked cabinet. Behind the tin doors with a blood red cross emblazoned on them there would be medicine bottles filled with the tincture of marijuana, large phials of liquid heroin and cocaine, magic tablets, most of which were stocked by village doctors, some sold over the counter in the village stores.
Then, untipped cigarettes were advertised as promoting good health and well being- such claims all given immense credence by the medical profession. You are immediately ostracised if you light up now. Plain packaging is in the pipeline. Doctors habitually practice an intense bigotry towards the smoker and the drinker of alcohol- western society’s permitted recreational drug of choice, they vilify the overweight, the type two diabetic. It is because of more than just an increase in understanding, the weight of the current empirical evidence, it is very clearly a matter of fashion.
Quite hypocritically the NHS workforce is full of overweight, smoking near alcoholics- I can’t say that I blame them. It is very stressful interfacing with the NHS as a client. How stressful it must be working for them- knowing what only workers know and are forbidden to whistleblow?
The rate of suicides amongst medical professionals is tellingly high, alarmingly so. What is it that they know that they can no longer live with? A necessary question that should be driving all of us to distraction.
How easy it is, in spite of all the supposed checks and restrictions, for them to become addicted to some substance or other. About this, few will ever speak out. You really do need to ask yourself- how sick is your doctor, your nurse, your carer?
You should also remind yourself that, in spite of the charity and investment expended on it, there will never be a cure for cancer- it is not in the interests of the drug cartels for there ever to be a cure for cancer. Advances in cancer treatment are always applauded. The drug cartels applaud them. Advances mean the creation of new pharmaceuticals for the profit of these drug giants and all those who remain in thrall to them.
Africa is the prime continent where cheap cigarettes are cynically sold now- some with that old mantra of them being beneficial to health. It suits us to turn a blind eye to such malpractice. Africa remains a dark continent full of people who hold little significance for us. It is a bleak, black condemnation of supposedly civilised and caring ethics.
It will not wash off regardless of how properly you scrub up. Our hypocrisy has become cancerous and inoperable.
My grandfather visibly gritted his false teeth in preparation for death- a diminutive man, made smaller by the green-painted iron bed. His visitor’s outer clothing damp and smelling of damp- Black Mill, in the Glamorgan valleys of south Wales. The rain recent. Adults at his eyes and mouth, me stuck to his bed-end having visions.
I saw the lonely cherry tree break into blossom and I gasped.
Irascible people turned towards me and I covered my eyes- that vivid picture hovering in my inner dark, etching itself on my mind for all time. Is that what human brains can do- see the progress of time with certainty? Why all this confusion then? Ah- only some can summon up the future like Blake.
I was eleven and I felt like Blake- haunted by his remaining echoes and the ache of singular difference. You could be no more narcissistic about this than any other gift or disability. I told no-one.
Strangeness would be ostracised by those who still believed in God and they all knee-jerked into prayer when they were confronted by anything odd.
You could not miss it.
Yet my ma heard voices, saw things, was as intuitive as any witch. She buried it.
For good or ill, I inherited it.