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Lilly has a story to tell. It is her story. She sits comfortably in her hospital bed, with a nasal cannula under her nose providing a steady stream of oxygen. She says she really does not need it now but is more comfortable with it. She straightens the hem of her hospital gown. She folds her hands and places them carefully on her lap. This diminutive, carefully groomed elderly woman, a widow for 7 years, likes to be presentable when she has a guest.
“Please sit down,” she says, pointing to the chair. She would be no more inviting if we were in her own living room.
“You’re in the hospital. What happened?”
“Heart problems”, she says. “Heart failure. I’ve been sick for years. I’m old, my heart is old. When it gets bad I have to struggle to breathe.”
“Is that what happened this time?”
“I didn’t know it was happening this time,” she says with some surprise. “I am very active. I go out every day, I do my shopping, cooking. I like to cook. I was walking. It started. The hill is very steep from the avenue to my house so I made nothing of it. Out of breath. I took my time, rested and then walked again. It was also hard for me to walk up the four flights to my apartment. I stopped every few steps. So what? An old lady getting tired and out of breath. Nothing new about that. I missed all the signs. Sonya didn’t. She’s a neighbour and when she saw me she said what she was seeing wasn’t right. I don’t know what she saw. I do know how I felt. I was getting sick …
Competing interests: None.
Informed patient consent was received.
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