Thursday, 5 December 2013

One Day at a Time

I just flipped. I can't really remember what I said, but I know it wasn't pretty.

Kate is in her late fifties. She's a cleaner and has been for the past twenty-odd years. She looks worn out, stressed and a pretty wired. Like she hasn't been sleeping or eating very much.

She talks about her job for a little while; how she's been signed off work with stress since she blew up at her line manager; how she's struggling on the £86.70 per week she receives in statutory sick pay but how the thought of going back to work makes her feel like she's going to vomit.

She talks about the problems she's had with her hips; how the new, harsher schedules at work are making it really difficult for her to do her job because of her joint pain.

And then she starts talking about her son.

He's 30. Engaged. Into football and snooker. A good lad. And dying.

He'd had this cough. He'd had it for ages. A couple of years. I kept telling him to go to the doctor. Eventually he did and he was given antibiotics but it didn't go away so he went back to get more. But his cough just got worse. He'd be coughing day and night. He'd have these terrible coughing fits that would last a good three or four minutes. Really violent. So he went back to the doctor again and insisted on a referral to a specialist. And then he got a diagnosis of this fibrosis thing, or ... I can't remember the name exactly... and he didn't tell me about it for ages.

It turns out that Kate's son is a very poorly man.

It turns out that, without a lung transplant, Kate's son won't live much longer.

It turns out that, even if he has a successful transplant, Kate's son probably won't live for more than seven years.

Kate reminisces about her son's engagement party a few months ago.

He came up to me while I was dancing and asked for a Mum hug. And he held on a bit too long, you know? And, I know it sounds silly but I knew that something was wrong straight away. You just know when it's your own kids. And he wouldn't let go of me and he wasn't even that drunk. And he just said, 'Mum, Mum, I'm really scared'. And I just held onto him. My boy.

Kate battles her way through the tears taking little gulps of air. She says that this is the first time she's really talked to anyone about all this.

She talks about her son's partner; how supportive she and her family have been. She talks about getting the coach up to the hospital in Newcastle with her son to see specialists and how lovely the doctors are there.

She talks about trying to be a strong mum for him at the appointments at the hospital. But she says she feels like she's letting him down; that she had to leave the consulting room early last time because she couldn't bear the look of concentration on her son's face when he was trying to take in what the consultant was saying to him. 

She talks about how she hasn't seen her partner since he walked out of the house last night after Kate head-butted the bathroom wall and made a hole in it after an almighty row. She says she doesn't blame him. That they love each other. That she's finding it difficult to control her anger. That she needs to be better at taking things one day at a time. 

So, who knows what will happen with this disciplinary at work. To be honest, I don't really think that's what I came here to talk about.

Kate exhales slowly. She does this a few times. She says it helps her to stop shaking.

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