Ship to Shore

A recent chat with a friend got me thinking in metaphorical terms about where I am in my life at the moment. There’s a limited amount I can say about my current situation as it doesn’t just involve me so forgive me if I seem particularly vague in details.

I’ve always used images and metaphors to describe emotional and pyschological states, it’s just easier. The image that came to mind currently (probably partly due to the set of Robin Hobb books I’m currently storming my way through) was that of being on board a ship.

So here I am on board this metaphorical ship. Between lands. I’ve put myself aboard this ship, I’ve set it’s course, and I’m partially in charge.

There have been other times of limbo and change where I haven’t felt in charge at all, where the metaphor that came to mind was an extended periods of falling, occasional pauses on juts of rock before having to fall again and just waiting to land and preparing myself to deal with wherever I found myself.

This isn’t like that. It’s more controlled and I can see land ahead of me. New land that I am both excited and terrified to explore.

Yet I’m not completely in control. I may set the destination but there are currents that can sweep me off course or delay me. There are events on the land behind me that affect the course of the planks I sail upon. No one controls the winds or the tides.

So I stand on my metaphorical ship, looking at the metaphorical shore that lies ahead of me, thinking I know what awaits me, what I can build there, while deep down admitting I haven’t a clue, not really.

The metaphor has some roots in reality. I’m moving to another city as I can’t afford to keep living in the one I’m in. Not without living in a shoebox or sharing with strangers, neither of which I’m prepared to do; I’m too old and too antisocial for that. The nearest city that starts to come close to my solo budget is a good hour away from where I currently am. It’s a big change, and all the preparation and organisation in the world can’t really ready me to start a new life alone in a place I barely know. As a perfectly happy introvert, the work of creating a new community and social circle is one of the most terrifying things I can imagine. Yet that lies before me also.

There are things I can do. I guess a metaphorical equivalent of preparing fishing lines best I can and hoping the fish are curious! Then it comes down to standing on deck, hoping for a kind wind and friendly people where I dock.

But for now I stand on board, hand on tiller, waiting and at the mercy of some currents that could yet see me drifting off course.

Advertisements

My weekend with the NHS

I’ve hesitated in writing this because it felt indulgent.

But then I wondered if a positive NHS post was worth me and maybe others considering me being indulgent. So here are a few moments from my story of a weekend being looked after by the NHS.

I went to Worthing Hospital on Friday 21st April 2017 at Midday for a routine but pretty major surgery – a subtotal abdominal hysterectomy for one large and multiple small fibroids that couldn’t be treated any other way.

When my anxiety kicked in while waiting for to be collected for surgery, one of the kind assistants suggested I continue to sit in the small consulting room rather than the main waiting area, my friend was brought to me, and this made it easier for me to both allow and control my feelings.

When lying on the hospital bed clad only in a backless surgical gown with a blanket between me and the world I felt incredibly exposed and vulnerable as the reality of my surgery came closer with every tick of the clock. Here I was separated from my friend and felt incredibly alone. The tears came, couldn’t be stopped, and the anaesthetic room receptionist was immediately there with tissues, she held my hand and chatted to me for as long as she was able to. Throughout my little wait in that room on that bed under that blanket, she kept checking on me. She included me in conversations with the medical staff who came and went. My details were checked a further few times by different people. Each time they apologised about having to go through the same things repeatedly, but better certain than not! One of the ladies checking details told me she was assisting on the surgery and I asked her a favour. I had no idea of the reality, the size and shape, of what was being taken from me that afternoon. I asked if it was possible to get any details. She said she’d try. After surgery, once I was awake and on the way, that kind lady came to find me on the ward to let me know she’d weighed what was taken and gave me it’s mass. She didn’t have to do that. It allowed me to have a sense of what had happened to me, to make it real and then to let it go.

The two ladies administering my anaesthetic were delightfully batshit, without being unprofessional. They were a double act and they made me laugh. Not an easy thing considering how much I hate needles, how utterly vulnerable I was and how much my anxiety was making my heart want to jump through my mouth. They normalised this part of the process by their humour and I wasn’t around them long enough to tell them just how much I appreciated that. They told me how I would feel when the anaesthetic was administered and the cold tingling feeling in my right arm is the last thing I remember until I woke up two and a half hours later.

When I woke from surgery, a woman sat continually by my bed for an hour and a half as I drifted in and out of coherence. She answered the questions I was able to form, gave me water and didn’t leave my side. She told me what the time was, and that my friends were waiting for me in the ward that I would be taken to. She told me they’d been asking after me and passed on my message that I was awake and fine and looking forward to seeing them. At one point I held out my hand, she thought I wanted another sip of water (tiny sips only being permitted and my throat being very dry from the oxygen pipe I wore), but I asked if she’d hold my hand. Every time I came back to consciousness after that she was still holding it and only let go when I was taken to the ward and she had to stay to look after someone else.

During that first night I was constantly checked on, blood pressure taken, medication given, stats recorded, sips of water encouraged. At one point the lack of sleep and the sounds of distress from a very elderly lady (who wasn’t in distress they checked many many times) got too much for me and before I realised what a bad idea it was going to be, a sob escaped me and then my abdomen let me know in no uncertain term that it had just been cut and I gasped in pain. Immediately a nurse was there, checked me over, made sure I was alright, stayed with me until I calmed down. They checked the elderly lady and confirmed she was alright and found the earplugs I’d packed to help me rest.

The next day I was encouraged and helped by a very cheerful and friendly healthcare assistance to get up, wash and dress and sit in a chair. When the room spun too much for me to balance (pain meds were GREAT for bad, but bad for balance!), they were beside me.

A nurse held bags of bodily fluids attached to me by tubes in order to escort me on a short walk around the ward.

When later the various tubes were removed and I was once more in charge of my own bodily functions, I was warned what to expect and reassured when it was shocking anyway.

I was quietly allowed to have one more visitor than was usually permitted and the nurses made a lovely show of clearly ignoring this rule to make me happy and reassure my friends that I was fine.

They moved me to a quieter ward for the second night as they knew I’d struggled the night before. The gratitude I felt for this simple kindness cannot be put into words. They checked where I wanted my things as they were moved.

They ensured I had everything I needed and knew everything I needed to know in order to go home on the Sunday afternoon as I was desperate to start recovering in my own home. When I say “I” in this paragraph, I mean my friend…. I was incapable of organising my own two feet at this point, but they knew I was in good hands and utterly eager to go home. However, the choice to stay a further night on the ward was there and the choice was mine to make.

All of this, the surgery, the general anaesthetic, the rooms I sat and lay in, the people who interacted with me, the care. All of the medication – pre surgery showergel, pre surgery carb drinks, post surgery pain meds, anti nausea meds, stomach protection meds, anti clotting injections, wound dressings – that went home with me. Everything used during my stay. The doctors visit a week later to remove the staples. This was all free. I only had to focus on my healing and my recovery. There was nothing else demanding my attention, nothing else to organise (okay, some of this was because of some truly awesome friends), no future bills, payments or insurance to organise. I was able to have this operation despite it not being life threatening (although it was life affecting). Yes, there was a wait, but … a few months wait for free surgery and excellent care? I think I had a good deal.

When I was called a couple of weeks later in a routine follow up call, after all the questions had been answered I told the nurse how happy I was with my care, how everyone I’d come into contact with had contributed to my feeling supported and looked after.

The only negative thing about my encounter was the surprise and gratitude in her voice when she thanked me for my comment and I wondered how often she and her colleagues heard it.

NHS, you are amazing. We need you. I hope you are given the attention and value you need to survive then thrive.