I helped my neighbour Johnny this afternoon.
Johnny was one of the first neighbours on my street that I knew by name. We got to know him thanks to our young son, who was perhaps 3 years old at the time. Like most 3 or 4 year old boys (and many girls too), our Jack loved diggers, cranes, any oversized vehicles – Tonka Toys For Boys and all that – and Johnny drove a crane, which he sometimes parked outside our house. One Sunday, Johnny had to move a crane from Ossett to Leeds: “Would you and your son like to have a ride in a crane?”. It was a fantastic and memorable treat. Johnny was very thoughtful that way.
Recently I had most often seen him returning home about tea time, slowly walking up the street and calling out to his cats. A lovable local character, but also a private man and by all accounts a miserable old sod at times. I never asked him, but I guess Johnny was Beeston born and bred.
This afternoon I was heading for the park with my dog, turning the corner I saw Johnny clinging onto the fence with another neighbour helping him stand up. I went to help and found out that he’d come over all dizzy and he didn’t feel well. We rang an ambulance and made him as comfortable as possible with a hastily found picnic chair. Although he was only 150 yards from home that was an impossible journey right now.
Collette, Johnny’s friend had joined us by now and between us we persuaded Johnny to wait for the ambulance. He just wanted to go home and he certainly didn’t want any fuss. The ambulance arrived and they started checking him over, then took him into the ambulance. After a while they came and spoke to Collette telling her that she could accompany Johnny in the ambulance but that he was very ill and they were would be using the blue lights, but not to worry, they just wanted to get to hospital quickly.
Collette agreed to keep me informed of progress and I took the picnic chair home.
Collette called in this evening to let me know that Johnny had died shortly after arriving at hospital. A suspected blood clot had been the problem. It’s very sad, but maybe it was the right way for Johnny? He hated a fuss, he hated people intruding on his world. Hospital would have been bad, but then after discharge home he would have had to let carers into his home to help him – he would have hated that.
I’ve thought a lot about how people die in our our society over the last year since my mother died – after a long period of declining health. I’m glad I was with my mother when she died, at home, with her family. And I’m glad I walked round the corner when I did this afternoon and that Collette and I could be with Johnny so he didn’t die with strangers.
[Names have been changed to protect my neighbours’ privacy]