Saturday, 25 July 2015
In my struggle to find a punchy line to make my personal statement stand out I consulted with a FY1 doctor I was shadowing at the time. This very intelligent woman stared the problem square in the eyes and replied simply with "You work in a hospital right? There must have been a time when you felt really moved or discovered something that has stayed with you".
I don't think she had finished her sentence before a memory had popped into my head. I thought of a patient, who for the purpose of this blog we shall call B.
When I walked onto the ward for the first time, I was greeted eagerly by a patient with more energy than a jack Russel puppy. She grabbed my arm tightly and gave me a huge smile.
“Hello” she said.
“Hi” I replied. I wasn’t really sure what to say.
That’s when one of the nursing assistants raced behind me.
“Sorry” she said to me. “B, please let this nice young girl go. It’s her first day, we don’t want to be scaring her off”
And with that, she let go and continued to race up and down the corridor with her rollator frame. Later on I found out that she had come into hospital a week or so prior with no over activity, but one day woke up and didn’t seem to stop.
One day I was asked to special B for a while. For those of you who don’t know what specialing is, it is when you provide 1 to 1 care with a patient, usually a patient who is at high risk of harming themselves. B fitted this bill as she didn’t stop wandering and could easily fall. Now, I must confess at this point in the story. I wasn’t happy. I was very annoyed actually. I resented the fact that I was made to special when I could have been learning something valuable about the ward. However, when I look back at it, I’m so pleased I had the opportunity to get to know such a lovely lady.
I quickly got used to her, and her to me. She told me things about her family, and also told me about the crush she had developed on our Ward Manager. In the end, I really enjoyed the hours I got to spend chasing her up and down the ward.
However, soon after, B started to decline. There is one morning that I can remember so clearly. I started at 6am. B was in bed. She was trying to race around but her body couldn't take it, she just slumped backwards and forwards. I noticed that she had been incontinent too.
“Shall we go into the bathroom and get tidied up?” I asked. She nodded and off we went. Or so we tried. For the first time, this lady who I could have swore had the strength of 10 men, didn’t have the strength to stand, never mind walk. Assistance came and we managed to get her onto a commode and into the bathroom. She sat on the toilet for a while but nothing came of it so we began the wash. Little did I know B’s body felt differently. As soon as we’d started, she relieved herself. It trickled over the seat and onto the floor.
“I’m sorry” She slurred. It was as if she was falling asleep just sitting there. I continued to wash her, put her some fresh PJs on and got her back into bed. She was still trying to get up, so I sat with her a while. I stroked her hair until she fell asleep. Then I left and got on with the rest of the shift. A couple of hours I returned, she was awake now, eating breakfast. I was sure she had probably forgotten the whole ordeal.
“You look well B.” I said.
“I feel better. Thank you. You were really good with me earlier.”
I swear to this day, I tear up a bit thinking about that moment. It’s the little things in nursing that go a long way.
B continued to decline. Her family came in to visit her, and they managed to get her home just a few days before she passed away. The attention and dedication of the ward team made sure that B passed away at home, surrounded by people who loved her. She felt safe. That’s what moved me the most.
When I told this to the doctor she paused and replied with “That’s really nice. Don’t take this the wrong way, but that would be a really good answer for a nursing interview. Could you say you were interested in what was going on medically?”
I could say that. I do sometimes reflect on that experience and wonder what exactly had caused the over activity and then such a rapid decline. But that is always secondary to my thoughts on how she was cared for and how successful her discharge was. I have so much respect and admiration for the team who made that happen and to deny that would take away some of the importance and sincerity of the experience for me.
That might be a bit nursey for a prospective medical student. Maybe I’ll be a bit of a nursey doctor. But, I don’t think I mind. In fact I kind of like it. I think it’s a compliment.
Friday, 17 July 2015
Dear Amy Usher,
I remember one of our last conversations like it was just a few minutes ago.
My phone vibrated as I received another late night/early morning text from you. Most of our friendship seemed to conducted in the dead of the night when the rest of the world seemed to be asleep, and we were the only people awake.
"You can't give up"
"I know. I don't think I could if I tried" I tapped away on my blackberry.
We were talking about me applying for Medicine. You knew how devastated I was when I didn't get in last time I applied but you weren't going to let me give up so easily.
"Good. I know you'll get in. I'd love to have you as my doctor"
"Awh, that's sweet of you to say. If only it was that simple. I'm sure I have to say I've resuscitated a baby that was heir to the throne to get in haha"
"Oh dear! Better go find a dying baby then! Oh that text sounds terrible lol"
"God I know. On a serious note though, I won't give up just yet, I promise. Just as long as you don't give up either"
"I wont. I just don't think people realise how lucky they are to be able to do the things they want to do. I'll probably never get to do all the things I planned"
I felt my chest tighten as I thought about your text last week when you told me the doctors had told you there was nothing else they could do. The time between that text and the phone call I got telling me you had passed away feels like a blur now. It all happened so fast, and if I'd known it was going to be so short I'd have gone home quicker. You passed away the day before I was due to see you and I'll always regret not telling you all those things I had to say even though I think you knew all of them anyway.
You were and still are an inspiration to me. Long before you were ill I wanted to become a doctor, but knowing someone like you made me realise just how much I want to play a part in helping those people who really need it. When I look at your pictures I'm reminded that life is short, and I should grasp it. Do everything in my power to make it what I want it to be. Be happy and grateful for all I have and the people around me. I think about you every day. I miss you every minute. And I'm thankful that I met you every second.
I can't break my promise to you, so I'm going to apply again. Chaz is trying to help me. She set up a CrowdFunding page for me and everything. But you probably know all that from your cloud anyway. I know you're watching over me and I love you for it.
I love and miss your face.