A few weeks ago, my colleague and I went to see to Madame I.* for our weekly visit. She had been hosting Mr T.*, a friend she knew when she lived on the streets, for about a month. Mr T. had lost the key to his apartment and hadn’t been able to take the necessary steps to get a new key made.

When we arrived at Madame I.'s apartment, we found Mr. T. asleep on his doorstep. We woke him up slowly, and he told us that he’d spent the night there.

Mr. T. was trembling with cold. We suggested that we go for a coffee together to warm up, but he explained that he couldn’t get up, that he didn’t have the strength. We started to seriously worry about Mr. T.’s health, so we checked his vital signs (blood pressure, etc.). Though his vitals were not perfect, there wasn’t any cause for particular concern

However, by asking him a few questions, we realised that Mr. T. was experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, because he had run out of money to buy alcohol. He needed medical care as soon as possible, but he refused to let us call an ambulance, and explained to us that he had bad experiences during previous hospital stays.

My colleague then tried to contact Mr. T’s landlord to secure a new key, but without success.

We kept trying to convince him to let us call an ambulance. While we talked, he told us that his mother had recently died, and that was how his drinking problems had started.

Finally, Mr. T agreed that we could call an ambulance. And thank goodness he did, because when we arrived at the hospital, the doctors told us that they suspected he had a pulmonary embolism (a lung clot)!

For the moment, Mr. T. has been hospitalized and is awaiting surgery, after which he should be transferred to the psychiatric ward for his withdrawal, if he agrees.

(*) We make every effort to respect the privacy of our patients and our professional secrecy. Nevertheless, we want to bear witness to how they have to survive and how we work together to reintegrate them. Therefore, the names of places and people are deliberately omitted or changed and real-life situations are placed in another context. There is no direct link between the photos and the stories above.

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