Next Of Kin

Entry by: Corone

17th September 2015
Next of Kin

Laura had been a nurse long enough to find the gentle sound of the ventilator quite soothing. Apart from the steady beep from the heart monitor it was the only sound. Old people were rarely noisy. Most of her patients slept for a good proportion of the day. Rounds could be quite peaceful at times, except when you lost one. Those times were like trying to hold back a river with your fingers. Saving a life, if only for another day was also a brutal process.

“You don’t need to tuck me in so hard dear,” said Mrs Cauldwell. “I’m not going to run off on you.”

“Sorry, Mrs Cauldwell,” replied Laura, moving to check the charts next to the bed. “I didn’t mean to wake you. How are you feeling today?”

“Call me Enid girl, and I feel fine for someone without long to go.”

“Oh, you’ve got a while yet Mrs, erm, Enid,” lied Laura, hearing the slight trickle of the liquid in Enid's lungs under her voice.

“You’re a sweet girl,” said Enid as she patted Laura’s hand. They both knew it wouldn’t be much longer.

“I’m 34,” smiled Laura. “Not a girl anymore.”

“Deary, at my age, everyone is a girl.”

Enid giggled a little but something caught in her throat. Her breathing sharpened and a panic slipped across her face as the monitors began beeping insistently. Laura reached up and grabbed the oxygen mask, gently holding it to Enid’s face. They looked into each others eyes as Laura gently talked Enid into taking slower breaths. The moment began to pass, Enid’s breath calmed and Laura took away the mask.

“Maybe you’d better take a little rest,” said Laura as she checked Enid’s pulse once more.

“Maybe so,” replied Enid. “Just for a little while.”

Laura knew she shouldn’t have favourites, but Enid was one nevertheless. But she was very glad Enid had decided to sign a DNR, a ‘do not resuscitate’ form for when she finally passed. While it would have been nice to have more time with her, Laura hated the idea of fighting with Enid’s worn out body and punching at her with machines to delay the inevitable.

“Anything else you need?” asked Laura.

“Well, I’ve not seen Derek for a while.”


“He’s on the form. But he can’t get here on his own. It’d be nice to have a visit.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”


It had been a long day for Jason, even though it had barely started. You would think that when you are trying to get a girl suffering from an overdose into an ambulance, that her boyfriend wouldn’t try to start a fight with you. But he was glad to see Laura at the nurses’ station when he passed by. He was going to just give her a wave, but she beckoned him over insistently.

“Can I ask you for a favour Jason? Are you going anywhere near Fullbraid Street today?”

“Possibly,” he said warily.

“I need you to pick someone up if you could. It’s a guy called Derek Cauldwell, he’s on the form as Enid’s next of kin. I think he must be her husband, it’s the same address. He’s probably as old as she is.”

“I suppose that’s why we’ve never seen him. Shouldn’t social services have sorted this out?”

“I know that, and you know that. But you know how overbooked they are and I’d rather not fill in all those request forms just for this.”

“Gottcha. I’ll see what I can do.”


Jason pulled the ambulance up outside 47 Fullbraid Street, his partner Maggie sighing a little as he did.

“Just ask her out Jason,” she said. “Then we’d not be picking up old guys quite so often.”

Letting himself in with the keys from Enid’s personal effects, Jason called out so as not to surprise anyone.

“Mr Cauldwell, Hello. Ambulance service. I’ve come to collect you so you can see your wife.”

There was no reply. But as he came into the living room there was an old tabby cat sitting in the centre of the room. It was staring at him as if waiting. When it did not get the response it was waiting for it lifted its chin to reveal a collar with a tag on it. The cat remained motionless until Jason approached and took a look at the tag. It said ‘Derek’ in clear engraved letters.

“You have got to be kidding me.”


Laura echoed those exact words as Jason arrived with the cat in a cardboard box that once held medical supplies. Much to his surprise, Derek had been happy to remain quietly inside, almost as if he knew he was not allowed to be in a hospital under any circumstances.

With a sigh, Laura took the box. They had both broken too many hospital rules already not to break one more. They barely needed to exchange a word, but Jason decided he’d pick another moment to ask Laura out for a drink.

Luckily, Laura was on the long shift, so she could keep things quiet for today at least. Taking the box to Enid’s room she did her best to put on her sternest look. As she stepped into the room Derek popped his head out through the top of the box and Enid’s face lit up.

“It’s only for today,” Laura admonished. “I’m sorry Enid, but he has to go back once my shift’s over.”

Derek slipped out of the box and jumped onto the bed. After checking it was soft enough he settled down near Enid’s hand and licked it encouragingly. She reached out and stroked his head, a look of perfect contentment of her face.

“Just for today,” said Laura, not sure how strict she was going to be able to be.

“Thankyou deary,” said Enid, never taking her eyes off Derek as a small tear slipping down her cheek.


At nine o’clock, it was coming to the end of Laura’s shift. The floor was quiet though as several cuts left only one member of staff on night duty for each floor. Usually this was a nightmare, but tonight it was a blessing when she glanced up from her paperwork to see Derek sitting patiently on the floor in front of the desk.

“I thought I’d locked you both in,” Laura told him, annoyed she was talking to a cat.

Derek just seemed to shrug and cocked his head as if asking her to follow. He led her back to Enid’s room and slipped back onto the bed once Laura opened the door. Enid was fast asleep, but Derek slid his head under her hand and nuzzled her.

All at once the machines began to bleep. Laura glanced at the displays and grabbed the oxygen mask. Holding it over Enid’s face she muttered insistently that she should breathe. Enid managed three small gasps, her eyes remaining closed all the while.

“Come on,” pleaded Laura, trying to will Enid to keep breathing. But then she shuddered, exhaling in one long breath. Derek skipped forward and rubbed his head against Enid’s cheek. She smiled for a moment, but then the monitors went quiet. Laura reflexively glanced at the time. She would need to get a doctor to pronounce her, but all she wanted to do was sit and cry for a while.

Derek jumped down from the bed and crawled onto her lap. He looked at her for a moment as if to say her performance had been acceptable. Then he curled up so she could stroke him. Laura gave herself a moment to surrender to the tears before picking up Derek.

“You are going back to the box while I get a doctor.”

Derek seemed to shrug, and then reached up to lick her face. Laura begun to suspect that, like to or not, she had just become a cat owner. She hoped Enid would have liked that.