The woman sat hunched up on the park seat but I didn’t realise there was anything wrong with her until I was right up close, and then I saw that her head was covered in blood.   ‘Are you all right?’ seemed not quite the thing to ask, so I said ‘do you need any help?’

She looked at me blankly, and I could see the edges of the wound in her head gaping with bone underneath.  ‘What’s your name’ I asked gently

Carol Smith’ she replied, and when I went on to say I thought she needed an ambulance, she started shaking. ‘Oh no,’ she cried, ‘I hate hospitals. I’m all right’.

She patently wasn’t all right, so ‘I really think you need a few stitches in that head’ I replied. ‘Look, I’ll come with you’.

By this time she was shaking and crying, and I had got through to the call centre.   I described what had happened and explained where the ambulance was to come.   Our Park can be a bit tricky if someone is taken ill or has an accident, but we were fairly near the biggest entrance.   I put my coat round her, as she was obviously in shock, which meant there were two of us shivering!

Luckily the ambulance came fairly quickly, and the two paramedics took one look at Carol and gently put her in the wheelie chair, with blankets round her and got her settled inside.   I hopped in with her, and explained I had found her like this.

The paramedics tried to find out what had happened as they cleaned round the wound and put a big dressing on.   But Carol didn’t seem to be able to say, except that she had fallen over.   It looked a very clean cut for the result of a fall outside, but no matter, she was taken quickly and directly to our A&E.

At this point, I said I was her niece, and no-one seemed to query that, though of course I couldn’t explain what had happened.   Carol maintained she had fallen over, but by now she was muttering and didn’t seem with it at all.

It was a long job, stitching up Carol’s wound, and I complimented the Dr. who was making an incredibly neat job of it. He told me he had always been good with his hands, and had done a lot of very fine model-making as a boy. When he had finished, he said they had decided to admit her, as if she had fallen over, there was a strong possibility she was concussed, and concussion could do funny things.   So along we went to the Admissions ward, and I helped her into bed.   I took that opportunity to look in her handbag, found her address, and a couple of prescription drugs, which I gave to the nurse while I tried to give what details I could.   The nurse had asked Carol if she lived alone, to which Carol replied ‘yes’, which was a blessing, as if I had really been a niece, I would have known that!

Having left my name and phone number with them, I departed.   Carol was asleep, or maybe unconscious, and I rather thankfully handed over her care to the Hospital.

As soon as I got indoors I put the kettle on and sat down with an exceedingly welcome cup of tea.   I was really puzzled by Carol – although I had at least confirmed that was her real name.   There was something about her, and her insistence that she had fallen that didn’t add up.

I slept badly that night, finally getting up as dawn was breaking.   A cup of tea and some toast made me feel better, but my head was aching and I felt chilled and shivery   I hoped I hadn’t caught a cold whilst waiting for the ambulance without a coat.

I felt edgy and unfocussed and realised that Carol had somehow got under my skin.   I managed to wait until nine o’clock but by then I had to know how she was.   I picked up the phone and was put through to the Ward.

‘I don’t think we have an Carol Smith here’ the nurse said.   ‘I’ll just go and check.   Are you a relative?’

I explained I was her niece and held on.   She nurse came back, and said no, there was no Carol Smith there; perhaps she was on another ward?   ‘No, I said ‘she was admitted yesterday afternoon, and I came in with her.   It was definitely the Admissions  Ward.’

‘Just one moment’ said the nurse, and then another voice came on.   ‘This is Sister Matthews here.   I was on duty yesterday, and I know we had no Carol Smith admitted all day.   What is your name?’

‘Maggie Cole’, I replied.   ‘And your address?’   I told her.   I was beginning to wonder if I had dreamed the whole thing.

There was a long pause.

‘Mrs Cole’ said the Sister, ‘you yourself were admitted yesterday, with a nasty head wound and concussion, but totally against all medical advice you discharged yourself after tea.   I suggest you contact your GP’   And with that, the call was cut.

I stared blankly at the phone in my hand.   Slowly I put it down, and went to the big old mirror which hangs in the hall.   I looked closely at my face, and pushed my hair aside.

There, just on the hairline was the neatest row of stitches I had ever seen.

© Gillian Peall

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