I woke up early, at about 7:30. “Don’t check on Mum” a small voice inside me said. “She might be dead and you don’t want to find her”.

Unfortunately, there was a strange beeping coming from Mum’s room, so I had to go in to make sure she was OK. Her eyes were open, and she said the beeping had been going on for about an hour. It was the syringe driver, that little box with the tube coming out of it that was a shield between Mum and the pain.

I woke my sister up. Not only had she been there for the past week so she was familiar with Mum’s meds, she had just qualified as a doctor so she has generally more of a clue about this stuff than I do. (Prancing about “teaching English” for the past 4 years hasn’t really prepared me that well for my mum becoming a palliative care patient)

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The screen said “occlusion”, which apparently meant that the tube was blocked (by a twist or something) and the morphine and anti-sickness wasn’t being pumped in to Mum’s arm.

>Are you in pain?

>Yes.

My sister gently checked the tube, then pressed “yes” on the box. The beeping stopped.

Now it was time for me to watch my sister call various people, and listen to them all try to pass the buck to someone else. Typically, 8am is when people change shift in the hospitals, so no one wanted to drive out to help us.

>I finish in 20 minutes. Call the GP.

>I am a GP. GPs can only prescribe, they can’t do anything with a syringe driver.

>Do you have the key?

(the box is in a lockable case, to stop people fiddling with the dose. Kind of reminds me of expensive items at the supermarket that are in the anti-theft cases, like Venus razor blades and Jack Daniels)

>No. Do you?

>I don’t know where the house is. Can you come and pick me up?

>…..?!

>Ok. Someone can bring me to you now.

Surreal conversations. In general, the health care professionals have been really good, but it’s quite obvious (to my sister, who has worked in different regions of the UK) that the palliative care resources in our area are stretched thin, hence why getting anyone to do anything is quite difficult, and also why there is no bed free at the hospice for Mum and she is being looked after at home.

It turned out that my sister had done the right thing, but that my mum’s dose needed to be increased. The district nurse came and he made it all happen. He was competent and he was kind.

Mum settled down again and seemed much more comfortable.

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