As an old friend of mine reminded me recently, 'we have all lost people', and yes I expect most of us have. The way people leave us shouldn't make any difference I guess, but somehow dying in your sleep at 100 doesn't seem as bad as having life snatched away in a senseless and needless accident.
I spent this morning at the coroner's court in Manchester. Not a good day for it as the court is in the Town Hall, and today is the day that our Olympic champions are welcomed home. The aim of the hearing was to determine if Joan, my mother in law, was killed as a result of being knocked over by a woman on a mobility scooter - as she claimed when the incident happened - or as a result of her falling and then lying about the collision as the hospital (Altrincham General) have claimed for months now.
Gaynor and I have had quite a time of it recently. Firstly there was the incident itself and the police investigation, followed by the news that as there is no legislation at all concerning mobility scooters and that there was nothing they could do. Then, just a few days after Joan's operation to fix the hip that was broken when she was knocked down, there was the massive stroke that followed, a long ten week semi-comatic demise, a month delay with the funeral whilst awaiting reports, the funeral itself, meetings with the hospital to discuss the 'investigation' they reluctantly undertook, and today - some eight and a half months since it happened - the inquest.
There was certainly a mobility scooter at the scene, although with no CCTV or witnesses who saw Joan being struck, it was Joan's word against theirs and of course Joan is no longer here to defend herself. Joan however had repeated her story to various members of hospital staff and to me by phone from the floor where she lay just minutes after she was knocked down. The police also indicated in their report that they believed the incident to have happened and this, along with the statements of several hospital and ambulance staff concerning what Joan told them at the scene of the incident should have been enough.
But it wasn't for the management of Altrincham General who claimed that the incident never happened and Joan just fell over and then imagined or lied about being hit by the mobility scooter.
Joan was only at the hospital for a routine hearing aid check. We'd seen her the day before and she was her usual self - a bit grumpy but able to do more than most eighty-six year olds could. That is the thing you see, the thing that won't leave me: there was nothing about to bring Joan down in the immediate future and then...
There have been times over the last few months when I have been so despondent I just wanted to give up. There have been other times when I have been so angry - not least of all by my inability to make a difference - that I have lost it completely and there have been more than a few times when I simply found myself crying
Even the fact that the hospital have eventually agreed to have CCTV on that area, have doors automatically open so that there would be no need for anyone to hold it open as Joan was doing when she was hit, to have patients on mobility scooters transferred to wheelchairs on admittance to the hospital, have their staff retrained in order to be able to deal with accidents (yes, in a hospital) and to make it clear that patients should not be allowed to bring dogs into the building because this woman had a dog on her scooter. Even after all of that it could not make up for the clear statement from the hospital that it never happened and the mobility scooter was incidental to the 'fall'. Either my mother in law was lying or deluded it would appear.
As you can probably tell I could go on for page after page with this. Well, I've been living it for months. But I won't. What I will say is the coroner looked at all the evidence, questioned all of those involved or at least had statements from them to hand, looked at photographs of the area the incident happened in and decided that on balance Joan WAS knocked down by the woman on a mobility scooter. The force of the collision pushed Joan forward causing her to fall to the ground and break her hip. This obviously led to her needing a hip operation despite the risk of coming off the blood thinning drugs she was taking, and it was this sequence of events that caused her to have the stroke that led to her death.
I never doubted Joan for a moment and despite someone getting away with almost murder without so much as a caution and the hospital trying extremely hard to cover it up, the coroner has recognised that my mother in law was telling the truth all along.
And that may have to do.