Best served cold - Part Three
“The usual expressions of sympathy were expressed to Sally by the coroner who concluded by giving ‘sudden death syndrome’ for the cause of death--we had to agree later over a coffee that his decision was pretty accurate, sudden death it most certainly was. David had left home on Saturday morning to play for his local rugby team. It was about two hours later that Sally got the call. David had collapsed during a run with the ball; there was a paramedic in the team who had a defibrillator in his car, but all attempts to resuscitate David failed. I was eighty miles away on that Saturday morning with some medical colleagues. When I got the call from Sally, I shared the news with my friends. They were of course sympathetic, but all agreed that ‘sudden death syndrome’ among young sportsmen is more common than people might think.
“Sally seemed to get over her loss pretty quickly--when you have been betrayed, have dealt with it, then found out that you are suddenly much wealthier than you were, things can somehow become much easier to deal with. Sally had found herself in a similar fiscal position to me, mortgage settled, large cash payment and decent pension from David’s company, plus a large insurance death settlement. Two months later, Sally had extended her property to include riding stables. This soon turned into a thriving little business which she thoroughly enjoyed running, and we often went out riding the moors together. Sally was beginning to enjoy a social life again but was understandably very careful about getting too involved with any men; she would need a long time to rebuild trust.
“I had been approached and asked if I could do a couple of hours a week after my morning surgery at a local hospice which was only about two miles away. A consultant visited from the local general hospital for the major stuff, but a general practitioner was still frequently needed. I had no problem with this and readily agreed. It was there that I first met my new friend. Walter was ninety two and was suffering from cancer which had spread over most of his body. He was in constant pain. Walter would only take enough pain relief to take the edge off his suffering; he would not have anything that degraded his mental awareness. He was an ex-airman and had been in bomber command during the war, flying Lancaster bombers. Walter could remember in detail things that happened to him during the war, but had great difficulty remembering what day it was yesterday. He told me many details of his flying days, and I found his tales to be fascinating. He didn’t have any surviving relatives, and I seemed to be the only person who would listen to his stories.
“Walter was getting worse. His pain was getting intolerable but he would not take any more medication. He asked me to help him go--he'd had enough. I gently explained to Walter that doctors could not assist people to die. I helped him eat a little soup, made him comfortable, kissed him and told him I would see him later in the day. Two hours later I got the call: dear Walter had thankfully died. I kept my promise. I went back to the hospice to see Walter before they took him away. I met up with the consultant some time later since the death certificate had to be signed. I told him that Walter did not want the cause of death to be entered as cancer. I suggested that maybe we could put his cause of death as ‘heart failure’. The consultant had no problem with this, so Walter got his wish, and what was on the certificate was accurate.
“I have been looking back over what has happened to me since Melvin’s escapade came to my attention. Have I been drastic in my actions? Have I put myself at risk? I think in Walter’s case, not many folks would think I had acted wrongly, and because of his illness and age, he didn’t have any post mortem investigation. In Melvin’s case, he was fine when he arrived at work on that fateful morning--in fact, it was an hour later, when having his morning coffee, that his problem started. There could be no connection to me. Similarly there was no link between me and David at all. Although it was known that I was a personal friend of the family, I had no professional connection--I was not their Doctor and had never treated any of the family.
“Both Sally and I know that our insurance claims were investigated. This apparently is standard procedure when a large claim is involved, where the deceased are reasonably young, and where the cause of death is uncertain, or, as the insurance people stated, speculative. As you know, both Sally and I were paid out in full. Insurance companies do not pay out large amounts if they are not fully satisfied that the claims are genuine, do they? I have decided I will not have any more ventures like the above--enough is enough, and anyway I have used up all the cocktail that I had produced!
“That brings me up to date; I have two things to do now. The first is to attend Walter’s funeral. I contacted the local RAF camp and spoke to ‘Group Captain Johnson’, the station commander (I know him quite well from visiting to do locum work). I explained about Walter. He thanked me for informing him and told me he would arrange an honour guard with fixed bayonets. He said that he would be privileged to attend the funeral himself. There will be a contingent from the local British legion branch and staff from the hospice who are not on duty. Walter will indeed get a decent send-off. I have been asked to give the eulogy at the service and am delighted to have been asked: I will now be able to share some of the anecdotes and details about Walter’s wartime experiences.
“I have a delivery to take care of too. When I departed my last home, I had to leave my beautiful eucalyptus tree behind. I really do miss it terribly! Do you know that eucalyptus trees are evergreen and one of a very few trees that shed their bark, and that the berries, leaves and bark of the eucalyptus tree all have medicinal qualities? I have arranged with a tree supplier to bring and plant for me a mature tree. They assure me it will thrive perfectly well where I live now. I cannot wait for the delivery--after all, every decent garden should have a Eucalyptus tree.”
Read part one of this story
Read part two of this story
Read the addendum to this story