Last night, as the fire crackled in the wood burner, the conversation on line fell to ghostly stories.
In 1985 I experienced such a story.
Back then I was completing my first EMI placement in one of the back wards of the old Deva Asylum in Chester.
EMI used to stand for elderly mentally Infirm
For the most part the patients were all suffering from dementia. They were the bad cases, the difficult to control and the aggressive, and at night there was only myself and an enrolled nurse to care for 24 patients.
23 of the patients were ambulant and only one was bedbound and physically very unwell. He lay in a bed nearest to the dormitory door with a small office light illuminating his locker, the night nurses pulled our chairs into the corridor nearby so we could watch the goings on carefully throughout the night.
The sick patient wasn't expected to last the night, so we kept a close eye on him in between bedding down the other patients. It was around 1 am before we were able to sit in our chairs and drink our first cup of tea.
Now dealing with senile patients at night can be a tiring, thankless and never ending job. Its a constant round of toileting, bed changing, reassurance giving , and reality orientation, work set against the dark tall walls of a regency mad house
Around 4 am my co-worker donned a large woollen cape and swished off the ward for a cigarette leaving me alone in the darkened corridor and from the far corner of the dormitory I saw a figure sit up in bed suddenly. The patient, sat there for a minute or so and I could hear him muttering about something before he pulled back his blanket and started to get out of bed.
I hurried over.
"Tell that man to go away" the patient whispered pointing to the patient in the corner who was dying.
"He keeps asking me to take him home"
I was confused as the dying man had not moved a fraction since we last turned him an hour before but the other patient was convinced he was right and seemed rather indignant at having been bothered.
I settled the man back into bed after a short trip to the loo and moments later he sat up again and called out a clear "Bye Bye"
I returned to the bedside this time with the staff nurse who had just returned smelling of cigarette smoke "Who are you saying bye bye to?" she asked
" The man" the patient said clearly referring to the other patient " he's gone through there" he added pointing to the fire door.
We bedded the patient down again and tucked warm blankets around him.
our next check of the poorly patient revealed that he had passed away peacefully only minutes before