Monday, December 05, 2005

Sick man working

Winston, our security guard is back. Last week, he was mysteriously and suddenly taken ill. He became violently sick but felt no stomach or head pain.
Charles, my Treasury colleague, excelled in the crisis. Normally, moving between Treasury screen, MSN Messenger, the web and keeping an eye out for nudes in the hotel opposite, he was transformed to help Winston.

Charles, is the office’s first aid officer. Cynics comment that he only took this for the 4 days out of the office on a training course that it allows. However Charles does take it seriously and given something to do that he feels has purpose, he is a changed man.

Winston was laid out in the first floor offices of a small oil company that shares our office building. Charles attended and when Winston’s symptoms had exhausted Charles’s limited knowledge, they contracted NHS Direct and then an ambulance.

The ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive. Maybe Winston did not sound the most urgent case, although for him and indeed those around him, it was a nasty time. Every move resulted in Winston being sick again.

Then Winston disappeared in an ambulance. I, along with the rest of the office, watched unheroically from the upper floors.
The incident was rather unsettling, if only because it reminded us of our common vulnerability and mortality. Winston, a big Nigerian man in his thirties deteriorated suddenly and for no obvious reason in the course of a couple of hours. He walked into work but left in an ambulance.

Also, the office hierarchy or order was briefly turned upside down. Charles, a not very career orientated, rather hedonistic treasury analyst became the only person who was genuinely willing and able to help in a crisis.

Winston returned today. He looked weak but his company only pays a maximum of three days sick leave to its employees. Winston wanted to come in. His mystery condition was diagnosed as Vertigo. I only knew this as a fear of height or a Hitchcock film. However I learn from Winston that it can also relate to a medical condition where the sense of balance is lost. This caused the unexplained sickness- for him it was like being at sea in a storm or a fairground ride that never stopped.

Winston is back today. He appears to be recovering. For me, it reminds me of our vulnerability and also that the guy who normally letches out of the window at naked women in the hotel may turn out to be the “Good Samaritan”. The rest of us, including me, would do well to not walk by so quickly in future. Next time it could be us suffering Vertigo or other sudden illness.

No comments: