It was a dazed journey to St. George’s hospital at 6:30am to be beside my dear Father and to relieve my sister and niece who had been on night duty.
Gridlocked in the morning traffic my mind reflected back to the weeks before when my father was at Croydon University Hospital, a hospital with inept levels of care with uncaring and unmotivated staff, helmed by a rather arrogant, incompetent and certainly unempathetic consultant. Tears filled my eyes as I recalled how such an honourable and dignified man as my father had been reduced to being bedbound and confused with delirium due to the length of his stay. A stay that was unnecessarily prolonged due to inadequacies of the staff in keeping at bay hospital infections such as MRSA and further delays caused by an inability to arrange a hospital bed for my father’s house and a district nurse to administer his daily dose of insulin. Like so many other patients my father was regarded as just another statistic, an elderly man resigned to an NHS hospital bed. A man who had been a high-ranking Lieutenant General in the Army and Agricultural Minister in his home country. A man educated at the London School of Economics with two degrees and from the Haci-Mulla family, an aristocratic family lineage of Landowners, Politicians and leaders of Government. But most importantly a loved and respected man by all accounts. Anyone who knew him respected and held a high opinion of him.
In that dire hospital ward this had no significance, it just didn’t matter!
In the ongoing days any efforts to move my Father to a private hospital would be thwarted, being informed that the medical treatment would be the same, so I succumbed to accept the idea, ‘at least he’s close and with our dedication he would never be left alone’….how mistaken was I!
On no less than three occasions security was alerted to assist me from the building, due to my visiting my Father outside of visiting hours. The threat of calling the police was also suggested. On confronting my anger, the security guards either sympathised or thought they were fighting a losing battle and I was finally left momentarily to care for my Father.
Were my actions justified? My indignation was indeed righteous and justified. More than a few occasions had I arrived to be told my Father had taken his medication…only to find his tablets balancing on his chest.
Yes, we are all well aware of the ridiculous long hours Nurses work, only to be insulted by a minimum wage packet. Yes, under resourced and over-stretched are words synonyms with the NHS. But a basic due care to ensure a patient has taken his medication isn’t too much to ask for! Surely…Is it?
The disrespect continued. To be told my Father had eaten his breakfast, only to see a cold plate of porridge sat on his bedside table beside a half a cup of cold tea. It’s heart-breaking. There were so many other unacceptable misgivings.
The losing of my Father’s hearing aid by nursing staff, the broken bed he lay in which despite our efforts to get maintenance to repair, they never did. I HAD TO.
I didn’t want my father accidentally cutting his leg on the protruding sharp metal edge.
If this wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake was to be told by a lamebrained consultant that my dear Father was in a stable condition and well enough to go home. Her words still resonate ‘this is a window of opportunity for your father to go home as he is stable’. How could this be? When he was admitted to hospital for having fluid on his lungs, which was removed and now due to all the delays and infections the fluid has returned, and you wish to send him home!
I wasn’t taking any prisoners. My considered response was incisive, and I communicated it clearly. Which carried the threat of ‘send my father home at your own peril’.
My solicitors are on a retainer, ready to pounce on the grounds of unprofessional Medical Misconduct and Negligence. The consultant’s self-assured arrogance crumbled into a tentative whisper of ‘I’ll get a second opinion’ followed by a last plea of ‘I can’t take medical advice from a relative’ (when I advised her on what dosage worked for my father in the past). Our eyes locked ‘I AM NOT A RELATIVE – HE IS MY FATHER AND I HIS ONLY SON’.
Words I had repeated only a week before, in more gratifying circumstances.
‘As I stood up to leave an old man with a walking stick and extremely unsteady on his feet slowly wobbled over to me. He placed his shaking hand on my left shoulder and ushered himself close to my ear. In his softly spoken voice he said,
‘I’ve been watching you son for over a month now, and I have been absorbed in admiration at how attentive you have been to your father. I hope one day my son would be awakened to care for me the way you have cared for you father. He must be ever so proud’.
I was sincerely touched by his words and fought back my tears as I replied
‘if there is an option, I’m not aware of one sir, nor do I wish to be.
He is my father, I’m his only son’.
My father was to stay another week in that dreaded poor excuse of a hospital. A hospital that was formerly named “Mayday” and was ridiculed and re-named by a disgruntled public as ‘Maydie’.
Enough was enough, I decided it was time for my Father to come home.
He was only home for four days, when his breathing became very laboured.
On awaiting the arrival of the Ambulance, God had given me the strength to lift him out of the bed and lay him gently on the wooden lounge floor. His deep brown eyes looked into mine, as I desperately pushed down on his chest administering chest compressions as instructed by the voice on the other end of the phone line. My wife and I took it in turns, in a shed of tears as we desperately tried to keep our beloved Father alive.
The ambulance eventually came.
We pleaded for him to be taken to St. George’s Hospital and not to be incarcerated in that godforsaken place up the road.
As I parked up at St.George’s Hospital car park, I thought about how brave my Sister, Niece and Nephew had been throughout this ordeal and how supportive my caring wife had been.
Without fail my Niece’s occasional outbursts of ‘DEDE’ (Grandad) would always be met with a smile and a reassuring reply of ‘DEDEM’ from her Grandad, removing any fear or doubt leaving a sense of relief. However, it had been a couple of days, her dearly loved Grandpa was no longer responding.
Despite the technologically advanced procedures at A & E in St. George’s – it seemed the damage was irreparable. As I knelt beside the stretcher my sister embraced me, tears scorching her face.
My dear Father was moved to a side room. Further questions and answers I desperately sought in the following three days weren’t welcomed and my ears often refused to hear the answers.
As we arrived, my wife and I walked down the corridor to the side room. The door had been left wide open by my sister and niece, so nurses could keep an eye on my Father.
There he lay, like a lion, majestic but wounded.
An image I cannot erase from my mind. His left arm outstretched, with so many war wounds where he had been marked from the bombardment of needles, from all the various blood tests.
His silver hair against the pillow and eyes shut. I hadn’t seen his handsome watery brown eyes for what seemed like an eternity. His breathing slightly laboured. I sat beside him, massaging his tense neck. Oh father, please open your eyes. Please…
I laid my hand on his chest and prayed his heart would never stop. A heart broken and shattered from losing his life soul mate, my lovely mother, only ten months ago.
My wife and I sat on either side of the bed holding his hands ever so tightly. Stroking his brow and kissing the hands that provided us all with everything good life could offer.
On Tuesday we had requested an Imam (Suliman) who was assigned to the hospital to visit my Father and pray for him. But to no avail. He never showed up.
I took out my mobile phone and decided to call an Imam I knew, who I had requested the services of for my late dear Mother only ten months ago. My words of desperation fell on his ears and he accommodated my distress, saying he will be here by 11:30am. It was now 9:10am
As I sat gripping my father’s hand, waiting, I thought about how he had held my hand as a child and would take me to Battersea Park to the fun fair. How he would wave at me each and every time the airplane ride had gone full circle, smiling, that warm gentle smile. How he would take me to the Circus at Clapham Common each and every year and the fun filled times we had.
A sadness then grew in me, an intense pain so severe. An inexorable feeling of sorrow. As I remembered that my father never knew me as a baby. I never felt the tenderness of his touch as a baby. Never felt the protective hold of his hands until I was three years old.
He was caught up in the civil war in Cyprus and couldn’t get to me despite his every effort in trying to do so. Oh Dad..
A thousand thoughts filled my mind… good and bad.
How when he arrived in London he had bought me the most beautiful bike.
How I had witnessed and assassination attempt on his life at the age of eight.
A knock on the door disturbed my thoughts…
A nurse had arrived. She said she was here to wash and reposition my father.
My wife and I exited the room.
I grabbed a coffee and sat shivering.
As my wife and I returned to side room.
We were both shocked. There stood this tall angelic figure dressed in white robes, silhouetted by an ambient light flowing into the room. He’s demeanour slightly apologetic.
‘As-Salaam Alaikum, I’m Suliman Gani, I was supposed to come to pray for your Father yesterday, but unfortunately I was delayed. However, I wish to pray for him now if I may”.
My eyes lowered to my Father who’s positioning had changed and was now facing towards the light behind the Imam. The nurse had repositioned him from inwards to the room to looking outwards. His breathing shallow but not strained.
I looked at my wife (she could see I was considering the other Imam on the way), she nodded her approval, I turned and replied to Suliman, ‘I’d be delighted if you could please pray’.
We sat on one side of the bed with the Imam on the side my father was facing.
He went to put gloves on in order to touch my Fathers forehead, I said please there’s no need for that. He gently placed his hand on my Father’s forehead as he slowly knelt over him preparing.
Standing tall he opened the Koran and began to read the Yaseen Prayer.
Each word, burning into my heart. A warmth encompassing my entire body. My father silently, peacefully, breathing rhythmically in unison with the prayer.
ON REACHING THE VERY LAST VERSE, THE VERY LAST SENTENCE, THE VERY LAST WORD, MY MAGNIFICENT FATHER LET OUT HIS LAST BREATH… just as the Imam closed the Koran.
The Imam was left in a state of shock. He’s words still resonate.
‘This is miraculous, your Father’s soul is so pure for this to happen, his journey will be
accelerated to the heavens. He is truly blessed’.
On leaving, he returned, to pick up his Koran from the bedside table which he had
forgotten, having been shell-shocked by what he had just witnessed,
what we had all witnessed.
My father GOD’S ANGEL
I received calls from relatives and friends from Australia, Canada, US, Turkey and Cyprus
offering their sincere condolences.
A week later on visiting my Father at the East London Mosque. I thanked him for being the most incredible Father anyone could ever wish for. How truly blessed we all are. I took the poem I had written for him ‘THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER’ and attached a strand of my beautiful late sister’s hair to it and a strand of my lovely late Mother’s hair. Folding it, I gently placed it under my Father’s left shoulder. This way he will never be alone. I kissed his forehead and took one last long look at this amazing, incredible and wonderful man.