“I don’t want to go down there,” the old lady is wailing, clutching a handbag to her narrow chest, “please don’t make me.”
Sarah’s eyes fill with tears.
She’s been attending Out-Patients regularly for years. Nothing painful, no invasive procedures, just regular monitoring and adjustment of her medication, so it’s not a ritual she gets stressed about.
Consequently, when she sees people who are nervous, or as in this case, apparently traumatised by hospital visits, she experiences pangs of guilt, and a realisation of how fortunate she is, irritating though this perpetual drain on her time can be.
She’s seen the old lady here on several occasions when their appointments have coincided, and although she’s always been a little nervous, Sarah has never seen her quite this agitated.
Even the receptionist looks anxious, both hands raised to her mouth in concern.
The carer who came in with the old lady looks exasperated, bends down and murmurs gently into her ear, stroking her arm to soothe her.
“It’s going to be fine, Emily,” she says, “you’ve had it all explained to you. There’s nothing to it, you’ll see.”
Emily is unconvinced and sobs noisily, trying to get up from her seat, her eyes fixed on the door to the car park.
The receptionist lifts the phone and looks enquiringly at the carer, who nods quickly. Within seconds a porter arrives with a wheelchair, and gently lifts Emily into it, securing the straps across her lap.
The carer accompanies her down the corridor to the treatment rooms, still comforting her, but the old lady covers her face, sobbing heartbreakingly. Long after the doors have swung shut, the waiting room echoes to the sounds of her distress.
Sarah swallows hard, and catches the eye of the receptionist, who is rummaging for a tissue to wipe her eyes.
“It’s such a shame, isn’t it?” the receptionist says, “the older you get, the more frightened you seem to become.”
By the time Sarah is called for her appointment, Emily still hasn’t re-appeared. She hopes she’s all right.
Sarah’s carer bends down, stroking her arm; the receptionist looks on with compassion. They’ve become friends over the years.
“You all right dear?”
Sarah nods. She’s not, but she won’t say anything.
Over the years she’s watched what goes on, and she realised, when they allocated her a carer, that finally it was her turn. The carer was there to make sure Sarah kept this appointment.
They explained everything to her at her last appointment, and she thinks she understands.
As they’ve pointed out, she’s had more than her fair share of the resources here over the years.
“They’re not infinite you know,” they said, shrugging apologetically. “We have to draw a line somewhere.”
Sarah can’t complain really.
She just feels she wants to.