Friday 5 August 2016


Nigel in his carrier, ready to go to the vet

I've got a stye coming on my left eyelid. I know this because my eye feels bruised and tender to touch. I've suffered with styes for as long as I can remember but I only get them when I'm run down, stressed out or worried, really really tired, or a combination of all of those things.

This one I've got now is probably a combination-of-all-those-things stye.

The last few weeks have been stressful. I came home from teaching in Barnstaple to find that Nigel had an abscess on his face, caused by a fighty cat bite, and he ended up having to have an operation to sort it out. After more medication and pampering Nigel decided to develop some kind of skin allergy. The vet thinks it's probably caused by some plant that he's brushing past when he's out and about. A steroid injection last week kind of helped him but the effects of the injection only lasted for five days and now he's all irritated and a bit scabby again so I'm going to have to take him back to the vet. On Monday Nigel decided to eat pretty much a whole baby dove (the crime scene showed that he didn't fancy eating a couple of internal dove organs and one wing) and he's made himself quite ill as a result of it. He's done this a couple of times before and I just have to keep a close eye on him and wait for him to get it out of his system. Literally.

In between all that cat unwellness, I happened upon a lady having a heart attack in the street. I'd popped to the shop to get some milk and on my way there I saw a lady lying on the pavement and another very distressed lady on the phone to the emergency services. A few other people were sort of stood there, just looking. I immediately went full Charlie Fairhead and checked for a pulse and all that and told the lady on the phone to tell the operator what I was finding. And not finding. I put her into the recovery position.

I won't lie, the situation was horrible.

I'm not first aid trained.

It's something I told myself that I'd do, after my mum died of a heart attack. I kept telling myself that I'd do a course. Watching Holby City and being a lifelong Casualty fan can only get you so far in an emergency situation. I've been told by two doctors and three paramedics that there was nothing anyone could have done to save my mum, even if she'd been in a hospital hooked up to all the right machines at the time of her heart attack. But not a day goes by where I don't think about it and go through all the "What if I'd...?" and "Why didn't I...?" questions in my head. I can't allow myself to dwell on those questions for too long or I end up having a panic attack.

So here I was again, in a similar situation. The lady was a local character. She has a very odd way of walking; she does tiny tiny footsteps and teeters from side to side with a shopping bag in each hand as she does so. I'd always said hello to her, even though I didn't know her name. And here she was, on the floor unconscious, with a faint pulse that was becoming fainter. She was making noises that a human being shouldn't make. I knew immediately that it was a heart attack. Nobody else was doing anything. Time seemed to be going so very slowly. Then all of a sudden the paramedics arrived and I stepped away and they swung into action. I looked through the lady's handbag and found her bus pass with her name on, a packet of cigarettes, a lighter, a debit card and about thirteen pence in coins. That was all that was in her bag.

The paramedics were doing what amazing paramedic people do. It began to rain and a lovely lady appeared with a huge umbrella and she stood over them all with it as they worked, while I redirected rubber-necking passers-by.

The heart monitor with its constant flat tone suddenly beeped itself into a rhythm. The lady was alive.

An ambulance and a couple of police officers arrived. I had to give them my details and a brief statement. They eventually put the lady into the ambulance and the police officer confirmed to me that the lady was unconscious but alive.

People gradually left the scene. All that was left was a cardigan draped over a fence post. I'd asked one of the onlookers if they had anything we could use as a blanket because the lady was cold. One of them had handed me their cardigan.

I walked over to the shop in a bit of a daze. I got my milk and a packet of Caramel Logs and then I walked home. And then I went to pieces. I drank tea and ate Caramel Log after Caramel Log. I'm OK in an emergency situation while it's happening (adrenalin is a wonderful thing) but I always end up in a state afterwards.

Maybe I should have done CPR on the lady, but she was sort of breathing, and I was sure I'd read somewhere that you only do CPR if the person isn't breathing. Maybe I should have done chest compressions at the very least. I DON'T KNOW. Because I never did that sodding course. Of course, looking back I could have Googled. I had my phone on me. I mean, I spend a large proportion of every single day with it glued to my hand but no, I seemed to temporarily forget that the internet existed.

What I do know for sure is that she arrested after the paramedics arrived.

I called the police to see if they knew what happened to the lady. They don't know as the the case was deemed not suspicious and was subsequently closed and the situation handed over the hospital. I called the hospital but, understandably, they wouldn't tell me anything as I'm not related to the lady. It's been three weeks since this happened and I've not seen the lady. Nobody has. I keep checking the local papers and every time I go into the shop I ask one of the assistants if they've seen her or heard anything about her, but nope, nothing. The not knowing what happened to her is really quite distressing.

As you can imagine, the whole heart attack thing has been playing on my mind. I'm not sleeping very well. It's given me a short attention span and an even shorter temper. It's brought a whole load of bad Mum thoughts bubbling back to the surface of my brain, which in turn have brought panic attacks, anxiety and tears with them. I feel sad for the lady, and angry, guilty and annoyed at myself for not knowing stuff. But I'm not a doctor or a nurse, and at least I didn't just stand there staring at the situation like a gormless person.

I apologise for such a miserable, unhappy and morose blog post but I needed to get all of this out of my head. Maybe now I've done so this bloody eye stye can do one because it flipping hurts.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Oh, Laura, I'm so sorry to hear your tale. Poor you. All the worry of Nigel (great name, by the way) and then the really distressing event. You know, of course, deep down, that you have nothing to reproach yourself for. That you did far more than anyone else on the scene, and that is despite not having done a course. You didn't just stand by and wring your hands. It's a shame you don't know the outcome. Do you know about It's a local social networking site that is free to join and you could ask on there if anyone knows the lady and where she lives. It's quite useful for other things too!

    You might also want to check in with your GP because if you are having panic attacks and anxiety it might be worth taking something to help you over this patch. I suffer from depression and anxiety and have had cbt (cognitive behavioural therapy, 'the talking cure') in the past, which was really helpful. I now take a low dose of one of the newer antidepressants (I take citalopram) and find it keeps me on a nice even keel so I don't burst into tears over trifles, as I used to do!

    Anyway I do hope that writing about it did help you to put it into perspective. Don't beat yourself up, you did nothing wrong and everything right. And by the way, you make fabulous beads and I love seeing your new colour combinations. Helen xxx

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Helen.

      I have clinical depression (I do a good job of hiding it, mostly) and anxiety so I'm groovy as far as GP stuff goes, thanks. :-)

      Again, cheers for taking the time to write. Means a lot. X

  2. This was quite an event in your life, very upsetting and stressful, and bringing back sad memories as well, so no wonder your brain is having trouble letting it lie. Plus you haven't had 'closure' (hate that phrase but it is appropriate here) by finding out what happened to the lady. I'm not sure you will find out unless it is through word of mouth - or the fact she just doesn't show up shopping any more. You can console yourself with the fact you did not just stand and gawp, you did what you could - and having done several first aid courses, I can tell you there is honestly not much else you could have done in this situation. CPR would have been redundant if she was still breathing. You are a sensitive soul and this is going to bother you for a while, but you did something rather than nothing. Hope you find some peace soon. x

    1. Thanks, Caroline.

      Yeah, you're totally right about the closure thing. I think what's making me extra sad is the fact she lived alone and people round here seem to think she had nobody – no friends or family.

      Yep, she was breathing, albeit irregular breaths, but she was breathing. I have no idea what happened to the 999 operator. I could have done with talking to them but the distressed lady hung up on them. Such a chaotic mess of a situation.

      I'm sure I'll get past it. You know what a twat my brain is, but I'll get there.

      Thank you. X


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