At 4:09am on Tuesday morning I was, like any normal person with Sixth Form College the next morning, asleep. At 4:10am I was woken by my Grandma stumbling into my room saying “Char, I’ve fallen in the bathroom,” (I’m already up and out of bed by this point) “and I’ve hit my head on the shower”. There’ve only been a handful of incidents where I’ve moved that fast in my life, one of which was where my Grandma had had a similar accident but involving her leg on the corner of the dishwasher (the others were falls involving my Dad, but that’s another story), but I’ve never gone from being fast asleep to standing upright next to her (four metres away) in less than a couple of seconds. In fact, I stood up so fast my blood pressure must have made a sudden dive because I realised I was going to faint if I continued standing and had to sit on the landing floor for a minute before I could see properly again.
I’m sure that falling in the bathroom is rare but relatively harmless for most people, but I had a feeling this was bad because my Grandma never tells anyone anything that could “compromise her ability to be independent”. And I knew it was bad once I went into the bathroom and saw a spattering of blood all over the shower tray as she’d fallen backwards and caught her head right on the edge of it. Now, I’m not squeamish but there was a significant amount of blood and it soaked through the towel I wrapped round her head and told her to hold firmly in a matter of seconds. Luckily my area usually has an extremely good out-of-hours GP so I called them, and they directed me over to 111 (similar to 999 or 911 but less of an emergency), who decided it was best to send an ambulance as neither of the two of us are able to drive.
I’ve ridden in an ambulance a few times before. It’s not as scary as films make it out to be as the paramedics are always really nice, but it’s still such a surreal feeling. In a way it feels like you’re being taken down one of two paths: one where your loved one will be fine, and one where your life won’t ever be the same; but you don’t know which one you’ve gone down until you get there. I was lucky and my Grandma is now back at home with stitches in the back of her head, a small fracture in her elbow and an appointment with some Future Care planners to discuss how she can continue to feel independent whilst also receiving the help she needs to keep her safe.
But it made me think that another outcome, one without her ever coming home, could have been just as possible. I felt guilty for a while yesterday before realising that guilt now won’t help me when the inevitable time does come (she’s 85 and frail, and no one can live forever). So now I’ve resolved to try and be grateful for the time I have with her, even if she does still drive me up the wall. Instead of instantly being annoyed by her endless stories about a robin she saw jumping across the garden earlier or when she discusses items in the news which she read in the Daily Mail (tells you everything you need to know, right?), I hope to catch myself and realise that every moment of slight annoyance is still better than moments of silence when I come back in through the door.
Perhaps this story will mean nothing to you- why would it? It didn’t happen to you. But I hope to be able to encourage some of you to take a breath the next time you’re about to shout at a family member, and seriously imagine life without them. There are always momentary flashes of anger that make us wish our loved ones were never there at all, but I hope we can learn to see that their length is nothing compared to the amount of time we’ve spent happy because we’re surrounded by the people we love.