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  • JL Nash

Nanna and the Spilt Water

Barely a week after I arrive, we get a phone call from my uncle (#1) who is literally going through security at the airport on his way to The Maldives, a holiday he has been waiting for . He is my Nanna’s contact and support as he checks on her every day, and sees her three times a week to help her with things. He does her weekly shopping etc. My nanna lives independently in her own apartment in a complex with many other apartments for retirees. She has a buzzer which she wears in case of emergencies and which will alert a small team of ‘carers’ who are basically on duty to call ambulance if needed, do small jobs etc. They cannot though, put so much as a band-aid onto the retirees if they have cut themselves.


Let’s get back to the story. Uncle #1 was leaving for The Maldives when he had a call from the complex manager stating that Nanna had sustained a fall in the night and an ambulance had been called and she was on her way to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. He rang us to see if we could help. In a flash my mother and I packed the car, got the dogs into kennels (on the way out) and began our 9 hour drive down south to Soham to see if we could help.


Yes, you read that right. 9 hours. As someone said to me - she didn’t know there was anything which was 9 hours away from each other in UK! Well the drive down was tricky and even though we stopped roughly halfway to grab a bite to eat, we didn’t arrive until 11pm that night!


What had happened to Nanna? She had rolled off the bed on the unfamiliar left side. Then hit her arm on the bedside cabinet, gouging out two deep wounds into her upper arm and taking every layer of skin off 3” x 4” almost square section of her upper arm. She normally uses a walker to push herself along. Unable to stand or get up, she shuffled round the bed using her left, badly arthritic hand to pull at the sheets until she managed to pull her body around to the right side of the bed where her buzzer had been placed on her going to sleep.


When the carer responded to the buzzer’s alarm, she made Nanna as comfortable as possible on the floor and rang for the ambulance to take Nanna to hospital. - I think I’ve spilt water over me - Nanna said, not knowing that the fluid flowing down her arm was her own blood. My Nanna cannot see. She lost the use of one of her eyes in an accident and the other is very very cloudy due to endothelial dystrophy (Fuch’s disease) and glaucoma. She can barely make out light from dark. Without having her lens put in (as happens every day) she was unable to move,, unable to see and until her hearing aids were put in by her morning carers coming in at 7, profoundly deaf. I can only imagine the fear she must have felt while she pulled herself around the bed on the carpet, blood staining her sheets and rug by the bed.


At nearly 93, she has a great attitude of determination and is fiercely independent. She does rely on carers coming to help her wash and dress in the morning and a friend to come and help her put her lens her working eye and take it out in the evening. She is part of a happy gang of 80+ and 90+ year olds from her complex and being a social butterfly she attends nearly all the events on offer. Knit and natter, morning tea, quiz, and so on.


As we travel down, i worry that this will knock her confidence. No one likes to have their own frailty pointed out to them. We arrive at 11pm. To our surprise Nanna is standing in the foyer of her apartment complex to let us in. The shock of the day’s events hadn’t really hit her, she was so busy surviving. She shuffles with her walker up to her apartment with us and we can see that although very painful, she is able to use her right hand and put a little bit of pressure on the arm. She has spent nearly 12 hours at the hospital before they transported her back to the complex. She is glad that we have come and glad to be in her own home. We are still on high alert and we can see that she is bandaged both at the upper arm and from the elbow down. she has also sustained bad grazing to her elbow and has a cut on her neck. From sitting on the floor for 6 hours waiting for the ambulance, the blood has pooled and her arms are black from bruising and I mean literally black, not purple or yellow or brown. It’s like there is a massive blood blister running from her left hand to her shoulder. We can see black bruising poking out from the edges of her bandages.


I‘ve been in UK less than 10 days and exhausted but wired, my mother and I set about getting her to bed, helping her undress and dress for bed.


There is one inflatable camp bed at my grandmother’s. It is a double bed. Without any other options and only a small two seater sofa I hang over the edges of, I end up having to share the bed with my mother - now that is another tale and needs to be kept for another entry!


We spend the next few days redressing her wound as the bandages fall off after the district nurse ‘s bandage falls off. We help Nanna tick of her achievements with everything she is able to do whilst taking hcare of her injured arm. We discover how quickly arnica can dissipate bruising from her arm and her knee which are badly bruised. Two days in, we manage to rent a guest apartment at the complex so I am able to sleep in a bed on my own!


When uncle #2 and aunty come over from Exeter, we travel another 9 hour journey back to Scotland. The only benefit of such a drive is that we stop at Mainsgill Farm half way back and I find a present to buy for my darling.


By the time uncle#2 and aunty go home to Exeter two days later, (uncle#1 is still in the Maldives), a care support team has been contracted to come in and help her undress and dress for bed until she is able to do that herself. We all encourage Nanna’s independence but also have to stop her from trying to use her damaged arm. It is essential that she takes care not to agitate her upper arm as she needs the flesh to scab over and new skin to grow.


High Drama and Nanna - I am due to go and visit her for a week in July to help her celebrate her 93rd Birthday - let’s hope she has improved by and a slower pace is enjoyed by all.


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