Don’t look in the carrier bag
In the 1980’s, people in their late 70’s had been through the Second World War. The women in particular had endured special hardships. They had been left to cope without support from husbands, fathers, or brothers; often managing a life torn between work, and having to cope with young children, or trying to bring up large families. They did this during bombing raids, with rationing in force, and often having to work in hard, manual jobs, previously done by the absent men. It made them resilient, it hardened them to pain, and they also learned not to complain about things, as it made little difference. By the time they had reached old age, they were a force to be reckoned with.
One morning, we were called to an elderly lady, to take her into hospital for an arranged admission. Her age was given as 78, and the diagnosis was; ‘gynaecology-expected’. This could mean almost anything in the area of ‘women’s problems’, though due to her advanced years, it was unlikely to involve reproductive issues.
On arrival at the house, not far from the hospital that was expecting this lady, I was surprised to see her waiting at the door for us. When she saw the ambulance pull up outside, she waved to us, and began to lock her door. I got out to see if it was actually the patient, as it may well have been a visitor, or relative. She confirmed her name, and said that she was ready to go, handing over the letter from her doctor, as he had instructed her to do. I asked her if she had any bags, and she offered me a small, vinyl case, that was as light as a feather. I noticed that she was also holding a supermarket carrier bag, clutching it close to her leg, in an awkward manner. I offered to help her with that too. She smiled at me and said, “Better not, love. Me fanny’s inside it.”
This remarkable old lady had suffered a complete prolapse of the vagina. It had dropped down between her legs like a grotesquely swollen sausage skin, and though uncomfortable, was not unduly painful. Her simple remedy for this inconvenience had been to pop it into a handy carrier bag, and walk around with it, awaiting our arrival.
They don’t make them like her anymore, that’s for sure.