It was a fairly typical Sunday afternoon in 2011. The emergency department was experiencing its usual surge of ambulance arrivals: every cubicle in ‘majors’ was occupied and a queue of patients on trolleys was slowing growing in the corridor. The nurse in charge seemed as calm as ever: I asked what I could best do to help. ‘Have a look at the queue – see if there are any you can get home’, she suggested – more in hope than expectation.
‘My husband is dying…’
John was second in the queue and didn’t look like he was going home, but judging by his reduced conscious level, he appeared to need urgent attention. I asked a passing nurse if there was any space in resus – ‘all full’, she replied as she sped to the assistance of another patient. John’s wife was reading to him – she put down the prayer…
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