Category Archives: Uncategorized

A goodbye

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Two nights ago my sisters video called me from Australia asking if I would like to see Dad. Yes. Absolutely. He was so still I feared the worst, but when they put the phone near his ear and I called out to him, he moved his head, opened his eyes and the girls said that he said ‘hi!’. It was clear that he was near the end of life and so we just kept the phone camera on him and we all talked and laughed and they cried. (I have had so few tears I worry, but know this is my way. I seem to be able to keep it all in until one small thing sets them off).

I am awed by my amazing sisters and brother and how well they have looked after dad and mum. They have both taken time off from their own lives, spent hours on the phone negotiating care, appointments, equipment, treatment, wills, finances etc. They have learned to turn dad, keep his mouth clean and moist, fix a dicky syringe pump that was providing morphine while cooking tempting food for him and mum.

Dad always told me he feared an end where he would be sitting drooling in a wheelchair or bed, unaware of what was going on and being totally dependent on others for all his needs. He was dependent at the end, but he had all his marbles and was involved in and made choices about his own care. In addition he was at home with family around him and everything was arranged according to the different stages he went through. To me, it seemed like a good death and one that Dad would have approved of. He had often said in recent months how incredible he found his own family and how his children had rallied and that he felt loved. As mentioned before we are a rather weird mob, not all that close emotionally and far apart geographically. I think we have overcome so much of that because of Dad.

For me, so far away, I loved the video call. It meant it was possible to share some of what the girls and my brother have been going through. It made it so much easier to understand how close his death was and how it was likely to be.

Yesterday morning he died, his breathing simply slowed, then stopped.

Things feel much calmer, slower and sad. I fly home in two days and can’t wait to see them all. I will miss Dad.

 

 

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Hiatus

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At least on the work front. I finished at the hospital on Friday. It was bittersweet. I love the work, love the team and had such a great day. I got to put a naso-gastric feeding tube into a patient and it was a success in two ways. One, the patient coped well and did not suffer and the other was it was situated correctly (confirmed later by X-ray). It is almost two years since I have done it and was very happy with the outcome.

Sister sent me to another ward to help them with their lunch time medication round as they were short of med givers. It was nice to feel so trusted. She had tears in her eyes when we said goodbye. Brilliant young woman and brilliant nurse.

The weekend was quiet. Dinner with friends one night and then dinner with the window cleaner’s new neighbour. She very kindly asked us over knowing that the kitchen is a shell and there are no lights (using workman’s lamps as all the light fittings are being replaced).

The hospice has invited me to interview and it is great news. But I think in my heart of hearts I am an acute medical nurse and worry that palliative nursing would take me too far off the track that I hope to follow. The other hospital did email and apologised for taking so long and asked me to hang in there, so hope is not dead.

However, before any jobs can start, I am flying home on Sunday. I am pretty sure I will miss seeing Dad, but live in hope that he will still be here. News is up and down but again the siblings have rallied and now my two sisters are there. My brother did get back briefly but has had to return to Singapore and work.

Apart from two admin shifts at the old job, I hope to spend time cleaning, relaxing, crocheting and reading this week. I am very lucky to have this time and want to relish it. May even catch a movie. Three Billboards looks very good.

 

 

Reactions

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I have taken to spending longer in my bed since hearing about Dad, not 24 hours a day, but more than the recommended daily allowance. Much of it is due to being alert all night to messages and calls from family in a different time zone. Then comes the dawn and with the first bird calls I drop off. Not a good habit. But the struggle is the complete APATHY and sense of disengagement I have for almost everything. In bed however I do achieve the odd thing, phone calls mainly and some emails and texts so things are not falling behind completely.

This afternoon I forced myself to run some errands while the sun was out. How lovely did that feel? Then I met a very young kitty on the way home who was up for a cuddle and a chat. I crocheted. (Yay). Spend a few frustrating hours on an cashback/airline website trying to sort my ticket home but have abandoned that for later….

The job application has to be done and there is always the tidying and decluttering. A blue Ikea bag is at the front door filling up with items for the Red Cross. They can be dropped off tomorrow when I go to see the orthodontist.

Little things.

The new year sinks its teeth in

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The festive season came and went with me on the ward. Not a bad place to be, but as always, busy. The window cleaner, Hannah and I celebrated 2 days early and had a really laid back time.

The New Year also came in quietly. In bed before midnight and then a walk with the dog in the morning.

Then things got a bit dodgy. The window cleaner got the flu, not man flu, the real deal and was a very sick man. He was also a trouper but even now is still coughing and sniffing.

Not a peep out of the HR team about the hospital job despite phone calls. All ignored. I thought the NHS was desperate, maybe not so much in my case. The lack of communication is frustrating and frankly rude. Same response from another NHS job….not a peep.

At work we were so short staffed I had to step into the Nurse in Charge role on two night shifts. I have not even been there three months. It was nerve wrecking and exhausting. No one died, but I was out of my depth. Then on my last shift, someone swiped my sweater from my locker…..very angry.

Another job vacancy came up, this time in a hospice. In two minds, I mean how different from the A&E dream could it be?, I phoned them. They responded and invited me to come along for a chat. It was great. I am going to apply.

Then on the way home from that meeting, a sister called with news that Dad has gone downhill dramatically.  Overnight his catheter blocked and he went back into hospital. This time however, he refused all treatment, even investigating what is causing the blockage. He was able to confirm to my sister and mother that this, his choice, was indeed between life and death. He chose to come home.

They are struggling. We do not spend time with dying loved ones. It is a complex and sometimes very slow process. It is frightening for both patient and family. I want to be there but the earliest I can get there is mid month. All night we talked and texted and this morning I let the ward manager know that I could not come in. Her response was amazing. I am to stay away for 2 days. This means I can be available all night when my siblings are about in Australia.

2018 needs to pull its socks up. Hope it is behaving better where you are.

 

 

Bah! Glumbug

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The moaning of life continues. It is hard to throw some of the feelings that have built up during this short few months at my dream job/hospital. Pay is in, but with the backpay and the tax removed on a higher amount means it is slim pickings again. This I can cope with. I am so lucky to have another Trust to work at in the area to top up.

But, it is scary to know that in 3 weeks I will have no job and daily I wonder what is going on about the application. I got an immediate response saying that the application would go to the Urgent Care team and now almost 2 weeks later there has not been a peep. mmmm. In the meantime a consultant friend talked to the head nurse who wants me to come in. Do I go “behind” HR’s back and do this or sit it out. Part of me wants to phone HR and just say this has come up and should I do it…

Patience I do not have.

What I do have is a growly dog who is completely unconvincing in her attempts to look/sound as if she has got my back and is protecting me from the innocents who walk past on the green. She sounds like she has growly hiccups.

I also have a day off – woooohoooo to get the festive food in and clean and tidy a bit more.

The weather outside is glum, but this might cheer you all up...

Enjoy people x

Stranded..

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The window cleaner, Hannah and I drove to Lille on Friday to see Postmodern Jukebox perform. Wow, what voices, music and it was a huge amount of fun. Hannah wore her hair in victory rolls and looked very vintage, but the Lille audience were more jeans and puffer jacket types…given how cold it was I did get that.

After the show we headed to Ath to see the fabulous Franciose. Sadly she has cancer now with bone mets. This is not good, but with her usual determination she told me she will ‘do nothing’ and has opted out of the range of treatment plans offered. The only thing she is doing is managing the pain. I admire her immensely but she nursed her husband through a harrowing range of treatment and has decided that it is not for her. She is comfortable, still driving (oh my days) and independent.

The window cleaner was a star. He replaced the light tube in the kitchen for her and the starter for the light in the bathroom which refused to come on properly. He sat with her and looked at dozens of family photos on her ipad, despite the fact he had forgotten his glasses and probably couldn’t see a thing. He chatted to her all the time and when we left she was quite effusive in her praise.

Hannah was the same. I was very proud of her. Maybe having her own granny of that age meant she did not find it a chore to be engaging.

I was the big let down. I was ill…so ill that I COULD NOT EAT FRANCOISE’S AWESOME FOOD. I thought I was tired. I had a pain in my back, legs and head and felt nauseous. By Saturday night I was so green I had to dodge the hor d’oeuvres and get into bed.

We had snow in the morning, quite a lot of it and after deciding that we should go out and play in it for a moment, we should then leave a little early for Calais. The pain had receded a little but I was (still am) unable to eat with my normal gusto. F packed up some sandwiches and off we went on a very slow and sludgy trip. At Calais we praised ourselves on good planning as we arrived in good time….and then we sat at the port for 6 HOURS…. a ferry had run aground on a sandbar in the stormy weather. It had to be re-floated, tugged to a dock, safety checked and then other ferries were able to dock. In all it was a 12 hour trip home. We did get 21 Euros in food vouchers though and the offer of a full refund or a like for like ticket. I opted for the money.

Little Hannah headed home yesterday. We had a bite to eat before dropping her at the station. I continued to battle feelings of nausea and tiredness and pain and slept for a while. Even now at almost three in the morning things feel strange. I have called in sick (a first) and while I know how tough the ward is and how short staffed, this is not normal for me. Fingers crossed I can see a GP in the next two days. If not it will be the walk-in centre.

Finally, the job application went in. It seems as though such a lot hinges on it. We will see.

Keep warm and safe in this weather all you UK people.

 

It’s done

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I have handed in my notice. At approximately 3:30 this morning after a call to younger sister for some reassurance and some home truths (she is good at that!), I wrote saying that it was no longer tenable for me to commute the distances etc. Sis advised against saying some of the real reasons why, the chance to chat about those will arise but there is no point in stirring up bad blood.

I have commenced the job application for my target hospital, have been in contact with my personal tutor at uni for a reference and found a couple of wonderful colleagues also prepared to give me one.

The training day was good and there was a chance to catch up with some classmates. Oh how I am not alone. I heard that two have quit their jobs and are not nursing. One is leaving the country next month and another is struggling with what sounds like appalling treatment. So very, very sad.

The plan for this evening was to continue with the application but the site is down for maintenance grrrrr.

Other than that, today is my birthday and it feels quite significant that the decision was made today. A cousin sent a message saying that this was going to be the beginning of a good year…..what a happy thought.

 

 

What’s important, really?

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We say health, a roof, food, clothing and someone to love (many variations of this but you get the drift). We talk about work/life balance, quality of life, living well and a myriad of other qualities that define a good life. Then many of us ignore it all.

I am back from Australia. Much was achieved, many things are still to be done, but in some ways, much of it has lost its significance as during my flight home, Dad was rehospitalised, unable to stand, a roaring temperature and dehydration. A doctor had been in the house tending to mum and dad had said nothing. When he all but collapsed my poor sister (who returned early from her travels) ran after the Dr’s car as he drove away but was not seen. She managed to phone him though a few minutes later and he said to call an ambulance.

A few days before this, Dad, his GP and I had an extremely difficult talk about the end of his life and how he wanted it managed. His GP pointed out gently that Dad had put up a long hard fight, but he would not win this battle. It was heart wrenching. It did plant seeds though and by the time I left, Dad was talking about ending his days under the care of the local palliative team, in their facility. He is exhausted and no longer has the strength to manage himself.

Now that he is back in hospital, there are plans to move more quickly on this wish of Dad’s. For Mum, she will require a great deal of support as her dementia worsens.

My siblings have been incredible. We are far from a well-gelled happy family unit and historically there have been divides. We have all managed to work together, be together, drink, cry, laugh together and realise that we are more similar than different. It has been a wonderful time during a sad time.

In the background I was fretting about more demands being put on me by my manager who emailed me to tell me I was now going to the next level of medication giving on my first day back. I then received a salary WAY below my level with no back pay as promised. After a long phone call to England it turned out that they had NOT upgraded me, claiming that my manager had not authorised it. Emails flew and finally it was confirmed that I would be upgraded and all the back pay would arrive in the December salary. To be sure I rang HR. But no, they did not have my correct start date and no they could not tell me what my new salary is – that would take a number of weeks….and so I might not get the money owed.

I was tired, sick and so fed up. In fact I am fed up with the whole thing. It has been one long hard slog to travel 2 hours (or more some days) each way. The huge pressure on the ward due to staff shortages. The barrage of emails to all of us threatening disciplinary action for unsigned paper work and NOT ONE word of thanks or encouragement for working under these conditions. It was my dream to work in this place at the cutting edge of nursing, to learn and become the best nurse possible. I worry that I am rushing, things are done too quickly, I worry about hygiene standards and more. I worry that I am sad and dread going to work. Once there I love it with a passion but I have come to the realisation that it does not have to be THIS hospital.

So, I have made a huge, life changing decision.  I am going to start the process of changing hospitals and in fact changing towns completely. I can be nurse, a well-trained, supported nurse in any decent facility. I think I have found one and will start with some phone calls later today.

What is important to me, really? Being able to to what I love without feeling as though I am fighting to be acknowledged as a Band 5 registered nurse, without having exhausting travel to do, having energy on my days off to go to the gym, to relax, crochet and not to spend the days cooking and planning all my meals for the next three shifts. Being at home taught me that each day is important. Slow days are good. Being with loved ones is wonderful. Those things are important, really.

Elevated loo seats and walking sticks

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So I got here, 23 hours of it, plus a sleepless night in a hotel and flight to the coast which was very delayed. Collected from airport by youngest sister and her man (very sweet) and to delay the inevitable, we headed to Noosa. However, sis is sick, big time, on antibiotics with a hacking cough and general exhaustion. With my sneezing and sniffling we abandoned the idea of a toss in the waves and headed back here.

8 weeks has seen a huge change. Mum came to the door on a walking stick, a shadow of herself. Dad is thin and pale, almost as though he is wearing the makeup from a B horror movie. There is an elevated toilet seat, crutches and a walking stick around as evidence of events. Meals are delivered daily to cries of ‘we don’t need this’, ‘it’s too much’, ‘it’s not nice’ and then are scoffed with no left overs. Washes take place three times a week. There are two baskets of medication on the dining room table, his and hers.

Mums physio suggested she use a stick ( Dad has one). We said we could take her to the stick shop to choose one. Dad’s comment was… ‘Is everyone getting a stick now?…’ We have been laughing non stop since getting here. Laugh or you collapse.

There is anger, resentment, fear and a lot of suspicion. There is the unwillingness to disclose pain levels, let alone fears. I have hopes of achieving a lot, the situation warns me that it will be tough.

It is interesting to note the complete self focus of an ailing individual. By surviving it seems they must rule out the thoughts and fears of others.

On a lighter note, LOL, I came away without knickers, what does that say about a woman of my years?? I also only brought with me half a lap top cable so I will be out of the picture very soon.

Hang in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home again, home again…jiggedy jig

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This year is lurching to an end. Coming back to chaos on the job front, (got my uniform yesterday after ordering it in June and 3 more times since then….). I have managed to pass Level 1 medicines and now give oral medication without supervision. There is thankfully an amazing team who provide lots of help if needed. I have been abused, shouted at, sworn at, wiped away tears and laughed a great deal. Sometimes the trains don’t work and the record so far is a whopping three hours to get home. I do however love being on the ward… I am rostered on for Christmas Day and Boxing Day and there are NO trains running on my line then….so it looks a like a drive and an early Christmas dinner for us, just like when we lived in Japan.

On top of all this Dad has been diagnosed with bone cancer, secondary to his prostate cancer. He is currently in hospital having had two procedures for renal failure. One of the sisters came to help out with Mum, getting her to and from the hospital to see Dad, as mum no longer drives and is increasingly more confused. Fortunately sis was there when Mum fell and broke her hip. She is now, a week later, at home and various care measures are in place. Brother flew down from Singapore to take over from sis for a week, who is now back there again, and I go on Tuesday to take over from her for 2 weeks.

I feel as though I am going backwards, but then if this is what it takes to help my parents then so be it. Not looking forward to the journey there and back but will be very happy to see them both.