Sunday 16 November 2014

Testament of Middle Age

I have been reading Vera Brittain for book group and to help with setting the immediate post-war atmosphere in my own novel 'Coming of Age'. Looking after my mother who had a massive stroke on Easter Day resonates, for me, with Vera Brittain's observations, as a battlefield nurse, in 'Testament of Youth'. On page 394 she compares the post-operative soldiers in her WW1 hospital for the battle-wonded with the medical patients - some of whom are delirious.
She writes
'These acute medical cases were a disturbing contrast to the sane, courageous surgicals. Wounded men kept their personalities even after a serious operation, whereas those of the sick became so quickly impaired...'
I liken this to the fragmentation of my mother's personality after her stroke. Thank goodness we are not dealing with dementia but how different would it be if she were in a hospital bed following an op for cancer, for instance?
As it is my mother, as I knew her, wouldn't recognise herself when she wakes up and calls 'tea' as if shouting above the heads of people queueing up at drinks stall. Mum hasn't kept her personality entirely, but nor has she lost it entirely. She is in pain now and is eating poorly. The pain can be alleviated with paracetamol, thankfully, but her immediate concerns overshadow our conversations.
Last Sunday mum watched the Remembrance Sunday service and had a roast dinner with us. The family were down but since then mum seems less than herself again. She isn't 'talking to dad' meaning her own father anymore. Nor is she asking when the wanderer will return. By this she means my own father- he died in 1993.
Her personality has been diminished by this dreadful stroke. She is comfortable in her medical bed - with a super quality air mattress, but never have we been so concerned with bodily functions and interpreting the needs of someone trapped in a weakened body. We persevere and have good friends but I do wonder whether her care package is good enough. Considering the huge costs heaven help us if the NHS folds. Private care, as I see it, is run for profit and is very poor value for money.