I was on van night tonight…the phone rang just after midnight about a guy lying in a doorway just off the West End. He had no friends with him and needed to get to safety, and so I headed into the West End to meet Marlies and Bernard. When I got there he had been sick, and seemed quite unresponsive, but agreed to get into the wheelchair and with a bit of help, we got him in.
We wheel-chaired him to a quieter place, and then the questioning began! We prodded his shoulders and shook him at regular intervals, and took it in turns to ask him questions – his name, where he was staying, how many friends he is out with, his age, his job, his home town…you name it, we asked it! I found him on facebook, we got his home phone number….but he just couldn’t remember his hotel name at all.
This guy had a lovely smile, and was really calm and helpful. Gradually over time he began to communicate more, and became more able to stay ‘with us’ for slightly longer. And he had a brilliant sense of humour! In these moments I find that you try a whole host of different attempts at trying to jog the memory or get someone to communicate. At one point I was reading hotel names out to him, in the hope that he would recognise one. I would say the name, and he would either repeat it, or nod/ shake his head…as I read out ‘Mar a Mantis’ he repeated a slightly altered version – ‘a romantic kiss?’…at one point I stopped and looked at him as he was repeating all sorts of variations of what I was saying, and said ‘You’re joking with me aren’t you?’ – a wry smile crossed his face, and he nodded and laughed…as we all did! Bernard asked him to ‘whisper in his ear what his hotel was called’ and our friend turned to face him and began to repeat Bernard’s exact words as requested – ‘what his hotel was called’…and it just continued.
Eventually he asked some girls for a lighter, and one of them recognised him from the pool that day and confirmed his hotel name to us – which was a real gift! 20 minutes later and he was back in his hotel room, and much more sober.
All in all, we were with this one guy for 3 and a half hours, but I can honestly say I loved it, and despite being fairly well inebriated, our friend provided a lot of banter and I’m still chuckling to myself now at some of the comments…such a great van night!