Eye Of The Storm

“What’s happened to your photo there ?”

“Um, I dunno. It must have fallen out ...”

“It can’t just fall out. It’s been laminated. At great taxpayers’ expense”.

“Which is no doubt why there’s no cintingency money to pay someone to fix the nurses’ loos. But I’m still going to have to chance them, as I’m fit to burst ...”

“You’re not coming in til you explain to me what happened to it”.

“Oh for goodness sakes !”

“You know the regulations. You could be anybody -”

What, like a kissogram done up in the uniform you mean ? Would she be small, dumpy, with a protruding bottom; pasty-complexioned and whey-faced; have crows feet around the eyes, worry-lines fissuring her forehead; varicose veins in both legs and chronic back problems, {though fair enough that’s not exactly visible}, which this hospital is incapable of relieving, but all too ready to make more acute ? Course I’m a bloody nurse ! Look in my glassy eyes. Anaemia. A branded employee. What would my voided photo reveal to you anyway ? We’re all the flaming same. This isn’t school anymore, where the tarty girls take liberties with the uniforms, with the regulations, and have their hair dyed and skin pierced. We’ve all long since graduated into the lustrelessness of the virtuous. “One of the inmates lunged at me yesterday. He must have wrenched part of the laminate off in the clinch”

“Inmate, or intern Ms Rubin ?” A voice from inside the booth. Carver’s snide superior, Mr Nicks, doesn’t even look up from perusing his duty roster perched on the desk. A clipped, staccato voice. So chuffed with itself, that the words are impressed from pursed lips attended by a self-appreciative whistle. The voice of a dentist, an excisor of teeth. Perfect choice for the job of gatekeeper. The world and his wife can just nip in through A&E and nobody in Nicks’ stone the crow’s nest would be any the wiser. “We are all internees Mr Nicks. Only some in this insanatorium, are in here of their own volition”.

“It’s most fortunate that indeed we do know who you are Ms Rubin. Now please ensure your ID gets sorted”.

“Fortune has nothing to do with it” I mutter as I step into the three-hinged jaws of the turnstile, pinioning my entire form into its riddling spikes. Nicks dallies an interval more than is necessary. Sitting in judgement. You don’t know me ! You merely employ your retinal prejudice to triangulate from the 3-D features standing in relief outside your domain, to the flat 2-D portrayal on the passes. And you spit out a one-dimensional verdict. A caricature. A silhouette. An effigy. A typecasting. If only you knew. But that would be telling. And for obvious reasons, I am not one to blow my own trumpet. Since we all embody hidden parts, discrete parts. Not on show. Or laminated. Or even passable.

With a pneumatic sough, mirroring that of Nicks’ whistled frisson of thrill at his dominion, the ratchet was released and I was supplied ingress to Dante’s Inferno. Free tachycardia on the NHS.

As I mentioned, it is readily possible to skip all that rigmarole by gaining access through the ambulance bay. Why do I put myself through the mill ? Because I’ve served my time there and have no particular yearning for revisiting perdition. Besides, if a colleague can’t face her shift and throws in the bloodstained towel, they could pounce on any hapless shortcutting staff member they came across and conscript her. Have an agency nurse cover her prescribed ward. Forget the three-pronged grilling at the gate, A&E is the real gauntlet to run through. Danger is, you might skid on the blood slick on the floor and end up being an involuntary donor yourself.

The trouble with A&E is that it’s full of insensible people. Those off their trolleys and straight on to ours. Out of their minds with alcohol or drugs. Or a Carefree in the Community policy. Simultaneously anaesthetized and adrenalised, oblivious to the pain signals radiating from within their bodies. Now I admit there are also those innocents caught in other people’s crossfire. The ones sitting stupefied in their bucket chairs, holding paper towels to their heads, vainly trying to construe the impalpable meaning of what has just befallen them. Being blind sided by a thirteen year old joyrider is always a good one for confounding their preconceptions. Anyway, I prefer dealing with those who confront the cast iron certainty of their body’s internal degeneration. Rather than those who asssail it from without. Or at least I used to, when I first started out in this profession. When you could still tell the difference.

A&E. Accident and Emergency. Actually, I would quibble with both those designations. Self-inflicted injury, even at the hand of another protagonist, can in no way said to be accidental. And though the inculpable bystander-victim is plentifully in evidence down there too, some poor sap or other was fated to get plucked that night. Such was the hellbent resolve of the ill-wisher. Random yes, accidental, I think not. As for emergency, I’ll pass over the slew of trivial complaints presented to triage in the guise of seeking out human contact. I’m disputing how the already established premeditation of surrendering up self-control, of cluster bombing self-restraint into submission, compels the response of an emergency ? Sudden yes, unforseen, incontestably not the case.

Just survey the police constables who descend on A&E every night. Our supposed knights in luminescent yellow armour. Their uniforms coat them with galvanised authority, whereas mine habitually smears me in acquiescence. Clearly, Blue outranks Ladies, of the Lamp. We are forever their ladies in waiting and their wringing handmaidens. Nevertheless, are they not also present in order to protect us ?

Yet you can see the contempt plastered across their faces, like a girl’s drunkenly reapplied lipstick. Escorting those handcuffed victims-cum-witnesses, scenting the parboiled statistics leaking out from crudely applied tourniquets. Or scooping up the prostrate clearance rates from our trolleys and suites. How they condemn us for providing refuge for these punchdrunk pugilists. These would-be bare knuckle combatants, who employ broken glass, iron bars, knives, machetes, and firearms. We are incriminated for patching them up again, so they can go on and have further unlicensed bouts. Patently, the police would prefer us to leave their wounds unstaunched. To have them bleed to death and thereby scrubbed right off the offenders list.

I would readily concur and would add the aggressive smokers and passive drinkers to fall under the same consideration. Yet double standards are in force. Are we both not conductors of souls into Hell? For each visitor in there, is on temporary sabbatical from their appropriate plane of Dante’s Inferno. Those basting in ignorant pain and pained ignorance, the emphysemics, cirrhotics, atherosclerotics, and all other hedonist pay offs, are the ones who stagger like lemures at the lip of Hades. Grabbing on to any intercessionary angel, entreating her to re-cede them some life. Though wraith-like, they claw and chafe and gouge the guiding arms in their perturbation. A true angel of mercy would despatch them into oblivion for eternity and put them out of their misery. Our contracts of employment states that we can’t.

You might also throw into the pot unhealthy eaters, as contributing to their own negligent debilitation. There again, you might point to the stresses of our environment and the detriment that can cause through little fault of the sufferer. I guess that’s why it’s sometimes dubbed ‘Casualty’ rather than A&E. And you’d be correct. At such a rate, there’d be no one fit to be treated at all. Everybody would have been screened out for some moral stain. So society in its wisdom, draws up a sliding scale of pernicious ruin. Whereupon we are charged with administering to its sentences. Or rather its paroles and remissions.

Fine. I opted for the lighter tariff of community service. I’m up on the pre- and post-surgical wards. Where the defective body sluggishly reveals its natural dissolution. It’s slow-burning insurgency. Where it is still possible to feel sympathy for your charges. There but for the grace of god go us all.