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It`s always worse for men

by Shani 

Posted: 16 September 2005
Word Count: 1819

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“I’ve called an ambulance. It’ll be about 10 minutes.”
“I’ve called an ambulance.”
“What time is it?”
“Just after 3.”
“The pain’s really bad. I thought it was getting better, but it’s got worse.”
“Do you want me to come with you?”
“Why don’t you follow in the car?”

Much groaning and mentioning of stomach details followed. It was hard for her to generate any real concern. They’d been at the hospital until midnight waiting in A & E whereupon the patient got fed up of waiting and decided to go home. Now the crippling pains were back accompanied by gasping, groaning and gnashing of teeth. The day before she’d worked from 8 until 6, been to College until 9 and arrived home at 10 to find a note stating: Gone to St Georges, stomach v bad. He’d been well enough to drive himself home at midnight but now it seemed that this was round two of gut rot day.

The ambulance arrived and he managed to stagger to the door to greet them. They were very nice. He was wrapped in a blanket, strapped in a chair and gently manoeuvred into the ambulance. Given his groans a siren wouldn’t be necessary; he’d announce his own arrival.

3.20am was a good time to drive to the hospital. There was nothing else on the road so she only had to open her eyes every 5 – 10 seconds. She followed fat boy and his gut to George’s and tried to think of what she could do in order to pass for a worried wife. Hand wringing? Tearful sniffing? They might do. Hand to brow and partial collapse might be too much though. Now voice control – slightly wobbly with faltering questions? W-what do you th-think doctor? Will he b-be ok? Is it serious?

So how to appear and what to say was covered but the trouble with hospitals, even at 3am, is that there’s a lot of time hanging around, waiting, without any medical staff taking the slightest notice of your best behaviour performance. There might have to be hand patting, brow mopping and there-there type tones. All this to be done wearing only yesterday’s work clothes and war paint. Still, most doctors looked no older than 14 so she had no plans to pester them.

She saw the ambulance veer off towards the A & E entrance and just about remembered to turn to the right and head for the £2 an hour car park. By the time she’d paid for the parking and walked as slowly as possible to A & E fat boy grim was in a wheelchair, head lolling and slightly pasty. Strange, you’d have thought all the gasping and groaning would have brought some colour to his cheeks.

“You need to book me in, they’re taking me to a cubicle”.

Only just delivered and straight to a cubicle; had he slipped someone a fiver or was he really ill?

She gave the receptionist his details pointing out that as he was Jewish if he died they shouldn’t cross his arms on his chest. She went to sit down in the waiting area where they had been only 3½ hours earlier but was told that she too could go to the cubicle, to be with him.

As she approached the cubicle a 14 year old was leaving.

“Did you book me in ok?”
“Yes I gave them your details.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“He didn’t know what it was. He’s gone to get the Registrar.”
Now a Registrar might have been worth fluttering at.
“So they’re taking it seriously then. That’s good.”
“He mentioned something about a kidney infection.”
“Oh well that’s ok, we know what to do about those. Cranberry juice, barley water, paracetamol, hot water bottle, potassium citrate and a bit of rest. You remember I’ve had those a few times.”
And the last time I had to carry 2 litres of cranberry, 2 litres of mineral water and bottle of barley water home because you didn’t want to miss Top Gear.

“I think it’s a lot worse for men than it is for women,” came the pale blue expert’s reply. Yes it usually is, she thought, and tried her best sympathetic nod, head slightly to the left and eyes half closed.

The Registrar appeared looking as bleary eyed as she did. Gut rot Jo was keeping lots of people busy tonight.

“Do you want me to wait outside?”
“Are you his wife?”
“That’s ok you can stay whilst I examine him if you want.”
So this is what they meant by wedded bliss.

The Registrar prodded to a chorus of moans from the sick one. There was talk of stools and movements and a bit more groaning too.
To her surprise she found she’d started hand wringing. She certainly hadn’t expected that. Was she starting to worry about him? Then he groaned again and she realised that her fingers were interlocked for reasons of safety – his safety. She was less likely to throttle him this way, the groaning was really getting on her nerves.

The Registrar decided he should be monitored for a few hours.

“Do you want me to call your parents?”
“Not yet. I don’t want to panic them. If I’m still here at 6 you can call them.”

So for 2 hours he lay and groaned as she sat and wondered. She had the same daydreams as she usually had when asleep. What would she do if it was serious and he died. How long would she have to do the grieving widow bit before she could spend the money? Then there was the living nightmare. What if it was serious and he lived and needed constant care from her? There would be a steady stream of his family through the door with comments and complaints.

‘I done that washin’ for you.’
‘I brought him a bit of fish cos I know you don’t cook it, some spuds and cauli too to help his strength.’

Steamed fish, cauliflower and boiled potatoes – the white dinner – all flavoured with … nothing. Sunglasses would be needed as protection against the white glare but they were no defence against the woman who consistently proved that not all Jewish mothers were great cooks.

As 6am dawned and the medical teams prepared to change shifts it was confirmed that mother could be called as the relief watch so that she could go into work.

The bleary-eyed Registrar advised that more observation was needed. She’d observed that the amount of energy put into groaning increased significantly when someone in scrubs walked by.

“ ‘Allo”
“Hi, it’s me”
“Whats a matter? Why you callin’ at this time?”
“We’re at St George’s”
“Oh my god what’s happened?”
“He’s had bad stomach pains”
“How long you been there?”
“Since 3.30”
“Why didn’t you call before?”
“He didn’t want to panic you. He’s being observed.”
“We’re coming down now. Which ward?”
“It’s just A & E, cubicle 3.”

Actually it was cubicle 8 but she thought whoever was in cubicle 3 might like some visitors!

“Your parents will be here soon.”
“What did they say?”
“Why didn’t I call them before?”
“Yes I thought maybe you should have but I didn’t want to panic them what with dad’s angina.”
“So when they get here I’ll go so that I can go to work. OK? There’s a meeting I have to be in at 10 but I’ll leave after that.”
“I might be on a ward by that time.”
“I’ll phone first to find out.”

The one with angina and his poisoning partner announced their arrivals in cubicles 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. They always know everything so there had been no reason to bother themselves with details from the receptionist.

“Where’s the doctor?”
“He’s just finished his shift.”
“How is he?”
He’s a nice guy but he looked like he needed some sleep would have been the best answer but she was on best behaviour so she simply reported that the patient might actually be looking a bit better and that he hadn’t groaned for a while so maybe the pain was easing. Right on cue there was the most feeble groan that only a mother could love.

“OK. I’m off now. I’ll be out of work by 12.30.”
“What, you’re leaving him when he’s like this?”
“I’ve really got to go to work. I’ll tell them I have to leave straight after the meeting.”
She got the look.
“Remember I might be up on the ward when you come back.”
“OK. Feel better.”

Fortunately the mother had gone into full fussing mode and having brought her own damp flannel for her own wet blanket she was performing the brow mopping hand patting waltz; mop 2 3, pat 2 3, mop 2 3 …. She was no more Florence Nightingale than she was Florence Greenberg.
The one with angina had been dispatched to the end of the bed to look at a chart so the duty-bound wife made a break for it before he began to get technical. She went home to make herself vaguely presentable for work.

When she got home from work she phoned the hospital for a progress report. She was told that he was due to be discharged very soon.
“We don’t think it’s a kidney infection,” said the doctor, “but we’ll write up a prescription for him.”

She did as much of a makeover on the worst areas of the house as she could manage before the parental transport arrived with the world’s bravest soldier.

Pillows were produced and footstools found in order to maximise comfort.

Having neither culinary nor nursing skills she was sent to the shops with the prescription and a shopping list including grapes for the patient.

The instruction from the pharmacist was that the prescribed laxatives were quite strong and should take effect within 6 hours. Armed with that information it was one of the few times she had felt the urge to rush home.

“I’ve got your prescription.”
“Oh good.”
“Well it’s good news that it wasn’t a kidney infection, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. When do I have to take the tablets?”
“The chemist said if you take them now they should start to work in six hours. Oh yes, the grapes didn’t look very nice so I got you some prunes instead. So how long have you been bunged up then?”
“Well I felt a bit iffy yesterday. I thought I might be getting diarrhoea so I took some Kaolin and Morphine to prevent it.”
“Did that make you feel any better?”
“After I took the second dose I did.”
“But then you started to feel worse, right?”

She had to leave the room in case her smirk turned into something more evil. Self-induced constipation, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer hypochondriac.

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Comments by other Members

Sascha at 02:54 on 17 September 2005  Report this post
Hey Shani,

Boy, you could just feel the loathing in the air. Clever little quips by the wife about the despised one. Couldn't help but feel sorry for her with the family coming on the scene too, ugh.

"As she approached the cubicle a 14 year old was leaving."

I didn't make the connection right away to the doctors, maybe a white-coated 14 year old, or one of the aforementioned 14 year olds, or something for clarity?


"The Registrar prodded. He groaned."

First thought that the doc prodded and groaned at something he felt.

fat boy grim, teehee,
ditto for eyes opened every 5-10 seconds and men always have it worse thoughts

Is this a short story, or part of something bigger?


Anj at 14:07 on 18 September 2005  Report this post

Oh yeah, this strikes a chord ;)

There are some laugh out loud lines in here, real venom and very snappy writing. Maybe you could make the final few lines a touch more climactic, somehow?

Wonderful stuff


Becca at 11:50 on 21 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Shani,
very droll! Nice acidy feel to it. I think if you were to read it out loud to yourself, you could spot the places where commas are needed:
'..was covered, but..'
'strange, ..'
'What, you're leaving him..'

The first para. confused me. Although I liked the intro. dialogue with no tag-lines, I think the para. following confused me because of 'it was hard to generate any concern'- I thought this could have meant the narrator was the one with the pains and the other character wasn't being sympathetic. 'She found it hard to generate any concern?'

Loved the white food!

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