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Showing posts from August, 2010

The Bitter Taste of Defeat

When Jane, Stephen’s support worker rang me to say that Stephen was dying, I thought she meant he might be dead in two months. I said I would visit him the following week. I had last seen him six months earlier. He was slightly drunk at the time and his skin a bit blotchy, yet he was cheerful, with ambitious plans for improving his flat. I was shocked by the news and talked on for a bit, but at the other end of the phone there was one of those jarring silences when you suddenly realise that you have missed the point. ‘No, no, he’s dying now. You need to see him today’.

So I cancelled my morning appointment and took the train to West Norwood. As I came off the train I could see the ambulance outside Stephen’s block. Inside the ambulance they were busy making him comfortable on the stretcher bed. A mask was clamped to Stephen’s face and his breathing was accompanied by a sickening rasp. He was a stomach-churning yellow-brown colour, the colour of someone whose liver is damaged beyond …