The Waiting Room…..


I step into the gloom of the darkened hallway. My eyes struggle to focus on the shadowy shapes and outlines before me after coming in from the bright sunshine outside. Its been a warm day for a change, one of those days when you just want to chill and relax in a park with your loved ones and forget all of life’s woes.

Before my eyes have chance to adjust to the ambient light filtering through the chink in the curtains, my nose picks up the distinctive smell that permeates everything in this place. Its an all too familiar smell for me, the first time was almost twenty years ago, and it does,nt change. I carefully tread ever more slowly to find the source.

Through the kitchen I can see the outline of another door, and I notice the smell is getting stronger. Through the gloom I notice that everything seems tidy, in order with things where you would expect them to be. I pause at the door…knowing that on the other side I will find the reason for my being there, the reason for the smell, the reason neighbours have called for help after noticing a strange aroma emanating from next-door.

The door moves slowly open with the hinges protesting loudly against the silence all around. I step inside the room and again I struggle to make out anything solid within the darkness. All I can see are black, dark grey sillouettes beneath a beam of sunlight sneaking through the top of the curtains lighting up a million dust particles disturbed by my opening the door. Outlines begin to take on a familiar shape…a chair, the fireplace, a bookcase in the far corner and to my left…a settee.

It takes a few seconds for the image to make sense in the gloom….sat on the settee, upright, head held high, hands on his lap looking straight ahead. And very still. Very dead. I have found the source, his skin is mottled black and dark blue, his features swollen with the build up of gas from within his decaying body. He is at peace. He looks as if he will wake up if the curtains are suddenly thrown open or the light switched on. But I know he wont.

I call up on the radio for control to stand the crew down and to inform the police that we have a sudden death. Soon after, I hear the footsteps in the hallway and the crackle of a radio as a police officer joins me. Quickly I explain what I have found whilst waiting. Nothing suspicious so far, mail, letters, newspapers are piled up behind the front door…going back two weeks! No medications lying around to indicate any previous medical history. But why should there be…he is only 24.

The police officer reels back at the sight of his body and the smell which sticks to your clothes and nestles inside your nostrils. She goes outside and is sick in the garden. It is her first sudden death in these circumstances. It is not my first, and not my last unfortunately. Soon more police officers arrive and one by one I show them through to the young man and one by one they leave to find fresh air outside. I find myself having a one way conversation with the occupant. Apologising for the intrusion and asking about relatives, friends? Someone must have missed him?

He was last seen more than two weeks previously which would tie in with the post piled up behind his front door. A friend was located via a telephone number scribbled on a post it note stuck to the fridge door. He confirms that no-one has seen the young man for sometime, that he was fit and well and to his knowledge did not use drugs recreational or otherwise. He knows where the family live and will contact them. More footsteps in the hallway and a police inspector comes into the room as it needs to be certain that foul play can be ruled out.

Sometime, about two weeks ago, this young man had come home from work and sat down on his settee. He then died. And since then he had been waiting, on his own, in the dark with only the occasional phone ringing or the door bell disturbing the silence now and then. Sat there waiting…and waiting………and waiting………….for someone……me… find him. I step outside into the bright sunlight and breath clean air which seems better than it did an hour ago. I make a mental note to go to the park tomorrow.


13 Responses to The Waiting Room…..

  1. traineeparamedic says:

    What a sad story. Do you ever think that you will find what happened to him? We never think it will happen to us, but then I suppose, neither did they.

  2. Lucy says:

    The park sounds like a good place to exorcise the ghost of what many of us fear most… the fear that there will be no one there for us when we need them.

    Sounds like a massive cerebral or cardiac event, if drugs etc ruled out, and apart from the tragic fact he was so young it sounds like it was a very peaceful and atraumatic way to go if he was just sitting in his chair. The way I’d probably like to go but not until this century is a whole lot older.

    Thinking of you,


  3. Kingmagic says:

    It was put down as SADs…sudden adult death syndrome. Natural causes.

  4. Nick says:

    Crikey, what a moving story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    And yes, the park does sound like a good option given the circumstances.


  5. Hmmm. Sudden deaths. I’d like to think I’ve seen enough to not throw up but you are quite right about that smell. It never changes, and you can recognise it a mile away, and you have to wash all your clothes. I didn’t do that once and literally reeled back when I opened the door of my locker the next day and was just hit by the stench of death again.

  6. uphilldowndale@work says:

    I held my breath whilst I read your post; I would not have made it as far as the garden before I threw up. Powerful writing.

  7. Its odd, really. We’re so much more shocked when someone dies mid-stride, aren’t we? A friend of mine who was about 53, went home after work, and put his dinner on the hob. Once he’d seen to the pots and pans, he went and sat down in his armchair to watch a bit of TV while his meal was cooking…….

    ….. and that’s where he was found 24 hours later. Sitting, watching the TV, his remote control in his hand, but dead.
    No drama, no trauma.
    Everyone was utterly stunned.

    If he’d been hit by a car, we’d have been shocked too, but, somehow, not in the same way.

  8. bebe says:

    I’m very new to this job, 2 weeks to be exact, and I went to my first dead body. A 62 yoF died of heart problems. She’d woken up but couldn’t get up.

    I didn’t know it would affect me so much, but I had to go outside to cry. I wrote about it on my blog. I had to write to get it out of my head.

    Thinking of you. I hope you had a peaceful day at the park.

  9. Petrolhead says:

    Wow, powerful stuff. Sounds like a peaceful way to go though. Better than jumping off Beachy Head. When I die I want to go when I’m washing my car or something. I love my car, so it would be a very apt way to die.

  10. bebe says:

    I couldn’t find how to email you back. I got your comment. Thank you. Yes, when I cried everyone was ok with it. I was working with two guys so they were better emotionally than I was. It was hard for them, too, but it being my first and I personalized it alot.

    Barry held me and let me cry on him. It wasn’t more than a couple of minutes. Then we went out to the truck to take our equipment out and wait on the coroner.

    The rest of the day was kept busy with seizures, transports and the like.

  11. ecparamedic says:

    It’s been happening all too often round here recently.


  12. Dr No No says:

    Ahh….it really is a thought provoking story and sadly one that happens too often. Guess we don’t see stuff like this in hospital…you’re a lot stronger than us in so many ways, truly the front line….thanks for the reminder about lving life too…I was getting dangerously close to forgetting about it all…

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