A Tale of Life, Death and Healthcare in the Information Age
- Why does it always have to be me who sorts these things out?
Friday morning. In the past twenty four hours, Bonnie Henderson had rehearsed opening arguments in a high court suit against WaitburyCo (Finance) Plc (the case popularly known as the Doughnut Trial), received news of her father's accident, found friends to take care of Giles and Tamarind for a bank holiday weekend and spent three hours in the back of a taxi driven by a woman displaying considerably less intelligence than her dashboard routefinder.
On arriving at the Winchester High Dependency Centre she authorised the ending of life-support to George, completed a hundred forms to do with transplants, access to her father's medical records, indemnifying the hospital against professional negligence, accepting liability for ambulance fees and receipt of her father's clothing and jewelry. Somewhere along the way, George had been pronounced dead.
On top of all that, handling the ebullience of her late father's fellow Hells Angels chapter-members in the mortuary was child's play. She had declined an invitation to the wake and the offer of a lift to the railway station on a Harley Davidson, preferring to walk down alone in the summer dawn.
She was home in Brixton, south London, by 9am, ready to start breaking the news.
Somewhere in her bedroom was a carton of Chinese cigarettes, which her (estranged) husband Dale had smuggled in from Guangdong, one of the few rich countries that still allowed tobacco companies to operate without punitive tariffs. She'd had the box for a month without opening it.
- I won't give the him the satisfaction of killing me.
But, in the circumstances, her resolve was weakening fast. Instead, she made a pot of ganja tea (a present from the neighbours' greenhouse) and picked up the telephone.
Who to tell first? Nan - George's mother, Barbara - was still alive, looked after in her sheltered Telecare flat. But the news would be a terribly blow. Ironically, George had killed himself just as the rift between the two generations, dating from the 1960s, was ending. He had taken to calling at his mother's for tea and reminiscences. She should really be the first to know, but...
No, I couldn't tell her on the phone, I'll have to go and see her, later today or tomorrow.
Trish, Bonnie's mother, separated from George for nearly 30 years, was a more logical choice. She could be reached at work. Then there was Dale, the children, and heaven knows who else. So far as Bonnie knew, George had had no other children, but heaven knew what might crawl out of the woodwork.
There wasn't even a lawyer to unload the details onto. Since qualifying, Bonnie had handled most of her father's legal affairs, mainly consisting of brushes with the forces of law and order.
Instead of family, however, Bonnie clicked on a number in Smolensk, Russia. Her friend Anna, whose daughter shared Tamarind's genetic predisposition for diabetes and was a stalwart of the international Web site for parents in that position, would know what to do.
Although they had never met in person - Anna was due to visit London that October for the first time - Bonnie felt an instinctive bond. Anna would understand. She was a doctor, after all.