Count Your Blessings

We all get so wrapped up in our lives, that until something happens to stop us in our tracks, we just carry on in our little bubble

There’s so much suffering, poverty, hardship happening  in  the world today that some days it just seems ‘the norm’ in newspapers and on tv, and perhaps we occasionally become a little blasé. So it’s not until things actually affect us do we stop.

Recently a few things have happened,  within the family and to friends, which have made realise how much I have to be thankful for.

A couple of weeks ago Son2 (Master Chef) was driving home from work around midnight. He works about 26 miles away from home, and is usually returning late at night after long days in the kitchen.  And because he knows he’s tired he’s conscious of keeping his speed down in case his reactions aren’t as quick as others may be. And thank god he was this night. He  was driving around a bend, only about 3 miles from home, only to be met by a car coming at him at about 60 mph….. On the his side of the road.  MC swerved to try and avoid him, but not enough and he was hit head on.The driver of the other car abandoned  his vehicle and “legged it” The car is a complete write off. Luckily, and goodness know how, he escaped with relatively minor injuries. Back, fractured ribs, sprained knee. And thumb. Though they are likely to keep him off work for a month at least. The emergency crews were fantastic. (Right down to the fireman who took charge of his chef’s knives and ensured they were returned to me the following morning.)  As were the staff in A&E the next day… Including the doctors, who despite what Jeremy Hunt would like us to believe, were there in abundance, and working hard.

Shock affects people in different ways. I’m not sure whether MC has been hit by it properly yet. Me? Tears flowed in the privacy of the bathroom. Tears of shock and fear that I could have lost him, tears of relief that I didn’t.  MC had a photo of his car, but wouldn’t let me see as he didn’t want me having nightmares. However they came on the Monday night after I’d taken him to collect the rest of his belongings. There was no front left on his car at all, and how he ever got out in one piece I do not know.  His guardian angel was definitely working overtime that night, and he’s lost another of his 9 lives. He’s got 7 left!  A car can be replaced…even though it was his pride and joy.

More importantly he is (along with his sister and brother) my pride and joy. And alive.

There are 2 other things which have had an effect  on me.

The first concerns a lovely girl I know, have known since she was in her teens. The daughter of a very good friend of mine. A beautiful, talented, funny young lady, heading towards her 30th year, with the world at her feet. We’ve done stuff on stage together, and partied together. I’m always amazed when the  ‘youngsters ‘ want to spend their Saturday nights with us ‘oldies’!!

She’s had some niggles healthwise over the years, which frustrated her, but didn’t stop her. Then last year a number of strange symptoms and ‘happenings’ meant several visits to her GP. He referred her on to a consultant… And after a number of tests, including lumbar punctures and MRI scans she was diagnosed with MS, with a number of active lesions showing in her brain. MS is one of those ‘invisible illnesses’ Sufferers can be well for long periods, then have an acute phase where their mobility is severely affected, and the extreme fatigue means they can struggle to even get out of bed. But since her diagnosis she has been determined not to be ‘defined’ by the MS.  She has to inject herself daily, but hopes she may fit criteria for a newer drug which doesn’t have to be daily. When she is well she carries on and lives and enjoys life to the full. When she is poorly she quietly gets on with it. She carried on with  her college course, completed her assignments and theses, and qualified as a counsellor.  And does fantastic work with young people with mental health issues. But there are so many issues and hurdles she faces… And i’m sure she will do this with grace and dignity, as she does now. Loved and supported by her family, her friends, and her wonderful boyfriend.

And finally, there’s T. A former colleague, and a friend. I first met her when she came to interview for a post in one of the teams I managed. A vivacious redhead, who knocked the socks off all the other candidates with her knowledge and passion.  We appointed her, and all looked forward to her starting with the team. One her first day in post I didn’t recognise her! Her brilliant red hair was now blonde… And she told me that she had dyed her hair red for the interview as it made her feel more confident.. She didn’t want anyone to think she was a dizzy blonde, but whispered “I am really”and I whispered back “so am I”That kind of sealed our relationship.  We didn’t always see eye to eye professionally but were always able to sit and discuss things, and usually come to an amicable agreement. And our friendship was never affected. She was a breath of fresh air in the team, well liked and respected. We were professional but also had great fun. If you could see some of the memos that went between us you wouldn’t believe we were senior members of the service. I still have some of them, and I still cry with laughter when I read them.

Her  mum had early dementia and died young. It was always her  fear she would develop dementia as well. And used to laugh and joke when we were both sat there struggling to find the words we wanted, that we were both destined to be sufferers.

As happens so often, when you leave a post, you do lose touch with people.. No matter how determined you are not to. We kept in touch, but not as much as either would have liked. Then we worked together again for a while, but due to reorganisation of services she left to take up a post in another unit, and lost touch with most of her old team.

We heard she had been unwell and away from work, but no one really knew what was going on. Then last year we heard that her worst fears had come true.

In her late 40’s she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. A particularly cruel type associated with a condition called Pick’s disease.

And now she is unable to work, doesn’t really know who anyone is, and has to have someone to care for her 24/7. she has no family so a friend has taken on this mantle, even though she more often than not doesn’t  recognise her.

And I feel awful that, for a number of reasons on both our parts,  I haven’t seen her for nearly 2 years now. If I do go to see her she won’t know me, and although I am able to cope with that professionally, and deliver training on dementia awareness, I’m not sure I will cope personally. (I’ve not had to yet, have been lucky enough not to have to. No one in the family has been afflicted with dementia) The thought breaks my heart. Does that make me an awful person?

And part of me just wants to remember the dizzy blonde laughing down the phone  to me “you know you can’t tell me anything important after 4pm cos my brain turns off”

So I sit here and think about my life… It isn’t  all a bed of roses….But.  I thank my blessings

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They’re Killing Sister George.. And others too

District nurses will disappear by 2025, says Royal College of Nursing

This was a headline in the press this week, and a friend of mine had been contacted by The Guardian to write an article on it. She had been a District Nurse in the past, with some amazing stories to tell… and a real passion for her job.

Now, I’ve never been a District (or Community, as they’re known now) Nurse. But did have responsibility for them at one point when I was  Matron (of the Modern variety) at a Community Hospital.  And what a pleasure it was to work with them.

Not for them the comforts and safety of  a nice neat and fully equipped hospital ward.. With treatment rooms and trolleys. All dressings and other necessities at hand .

No, in the community (District) they had no idea what they would face when they made their visits.  I only did a few, but had enough trouble actually finding them let alone maintaining a sterile and clean environment when carrying out treatments!

Those of you who know me, know I trained in the dark ages, and have worked for NHS for a hundred years ! And during those years I have seen many changes.. Some good. Some not so. I blogged about my experiences of coming to a Community Hospital a couple of years ago. May dig it out again!!

Anyway,when you’ve been there long enough you even get to see them revert to the things and ways that had been discarded in the past as being outdated and inefficient…..bit like clothes really. Keep them for 7 years and they come back into fashion!!

 

As well changes to patient care, organisations, training etc etc  I have also seen whole hospitals disappear

 

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This  fabulous building was the main hospital in the city. It was where I had my first terrifying interview, and where I spent a very happy 2 years until they closed the doors and moved us all to the concrete monster that was all the rage in the 70’s

It was purchased by developers and is now “luxury apartments”  with the old board room now a trendy restaurant and cocktail bar 

 

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This beautiful hospital building was the my first training hospital. So  many happy memories.

Now, it’s this…….

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yep, that’s right. A housing estate and office facilities

 

And this one….once a bustling ophthalmic hospital ( which admittedly , we all prayed we wouldn’t be sent to!)

 

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You guessed!  another chic hotel, with a bridal suite that used to be the operating theatre. Complete with the  original  wooden door.

 

You seeing a theme here?  And that’s just one city.

But along with buildings disappearing there have been so many other things including

Individual hospital uniforms, which we all wore with such pride

Enrolled Nurses, a whole tier of wonderful nurses. Now, I’m not saying that nursing shouldn’t be recognised as a ‘proper’ profession, but perhaps making it  ‘degree  only’ has closed to the door to some who would not want to undertake the academic programme, but would make brilliant nurses

Numerous beds in Community Hospitals, putting extreme pressure on Acute units… and leaving staff sad and demoralised

The reduction of Nurse Training places, based on a 5 year prediction, which now sees us with a shortfall of trained nurses, both in hosptials and communities

The list goes on and on, infact I’ve forgotten many of them

Of course, some changes have been great, and beneficial to patients and staff alike

The  massive swing from task orientated working to a holistic, patient centred approach, although I’m not sure we’ve got it quite right in all cases.

The acknowledgement of the skills and knowledge of unqualified staff, and a pathway to enable them to progress further than they ever would have been able to before

Life long learning, and ensuring that all staff maintain their competencies…though hands up who loves E-learning???

Patient choice as to where to access the best apartment, when it works!

I am proud of my contribution to the NHS over the years. Hopefully I have made a difference to the experience of the patients, and their families. And to the people I have worked with ( I know that sounds a like a cliche, it’s not meant to)

I no longer work full-time in healthcare, but hope I can continue to make people’s contact with hospitals and other care environments a positive and pleasant (well, as pleasant as is possible when faced with illness or surgery) both as a clinician and educator

 

And please, lets not lose any more essential and amazing nursing groups

 

 

If I Could Turn Back Time – or is it all fate?

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“If I could turn back time”

How many times have you found yourself saying that?

But what if  you could?

What would you do differently?

Anything? Everything?

And would it be possible?  Or are all our lives already mapped out for us,  before we even enter the world with our first screaming breath, by some mysterious hand of fate?

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How and why do we make the choices we do?

Personal, professional, social

Is it fate?

Influences?……parental, school, peers

How many of us find ourselves following the same or similar career paths as our parents or older siblings?

I have some friends who are both GP’s. They have 5 children…..3 are doctors and 2 are dentists

Both my  parents were healthcare professionals , so is that why I chose to go into nursing?

Or was it because I wasn’t allowed to see the careers adviser at school as I’d put down that I wanted to go to Drama School? Not a worthy choice for a grammar School student!

And, funnily enough, my daughter also followed me into the NHS…despite refusing point-blank to speak to anyone when she was little, who dared to say ” and I expect you’ll be a nurse when you grow up like your mummy”!

Why did I choose to stay in Devon when my younger self found life going a bit pear-shaped?

What made me rent from the person  who would become my OH?

Why put that post on that particular website when looking for my birth mother, when I had scoured so many others?

And then as we go through life and we make  more of those life changing decisions…..marriage, mortgages, children

Sometimes, when I look back, I can’t actually remember how I ever came to making them….well apart from the children one

And what keeps us where we end up?

Even if it’s not right

Security?

Fear?

Misplaced loyalties?

Cowardliness

But if I could turn back time?

Well there  are things,people, moments that I would never have any differently

But  yes….there are others

Things I have done

People I’ve lost touch with

Places I’ve never been to

Decisions I’ve made

Advice I’ve ignored

But would I really?

Or is it the fabric of me?

And if I can’t?

Then maybe it’s time for another leap of faith

And see what fate has in store……….

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