Friday, 9 October 2015

haven't a leg to stand on


Everyone has something to say about our beloved NHS, now more than ever. My first job out of Uni was as a medical personnel Officer for our local health authority, I went out with a nurse, I lived in nurses homes, I worked for the NHS,it was management and admin heavy, a cacophony of activity, one hand never knowing what the other was doing. The means of communication is now better, but not much has changed, there's still a lot of people running round like headless chickens.

I love it though, all babies born on the NHS should be stamped with product of NHS on their bottom, like a quality kite mark, it's something we should really be proud of in Britain, something we should fight for.

At the tail end of September I had one of those days planned when you know you've taken on too much, but you do it anyway - a drive cross county to run through an assault course activity with She Who Dares, followed by a trip into London to meet a friend, cocktails at Callooh' Callahay and curry at Dishoon. I had a funny feeling when I woke up that perhaps it would all be too much, but I just went for it. I really should learn to listen to my instinct.
On the third activity at Nuclear Games assault course, I reached out to hang onto a monkey ring and swing across a scaffolding frame aver the forest floor, then the fates intervened. I fell. I fell not far, but badly, as I landed there was an almighty crack and I yelled, 'I've broken my leg'. The instructor yelled, 'She has as well', everybody yelled.

Splayed out on the forest floor in agony my mind started to compensate, the girls held me, held my legs, held my hand, wiped my brow, kept me going, what amazing creatures we are, what capacity for compassion and care, I wasn't being brave, I was reduced to the dependency level of an infant, and these were my mothers, I'd do anything they told me if it would take the pain away. Helpless, I was tended by paramedics, helped into an off road buggy for a slow ride under the tree canopy to the waiting ambulance. Thank god I was outside, and could look at the softly waving foliage and the blue sky as a sign of hope, I'd be OK, I'd be OK. For the next week I've never felt so Human, and the Killers 'are we human, or are we dancer, has been playing on a loop in my head. I've been over emotional, pathetic, brave, insane, drugged out, wasted, hysterical, run the gaumont through a soup of emotion. Through it all I've had fantastic care from the nurses and doctors in the NHS, inspirational advice, help and love from my friends and family. I'm lucky to have them, thank you. And at the back of my mind - the thought that - well - this could all be experience to feed your writing.

While slumped in a hospital bed for five nights with the leg elevated (dislocated and fractured ankle, broken tibia and fibia) a numb immobility descends that's more than physical. The body, in shock, shuts down the creative spark, I couldn't even read, I'd just stare, thought or predication was hard, staring was easy. I could stare and watch, stuck under powdered light, longing to see the outside world. Across the way I could hear Martha's* (name change) soft scouse mumbles, I act as her interpreter, the youngest of six, trained to be a nurse at Alder Hey. I believe her because she told me, but she couldn't remember where she was, she wanted to go home, didn't we all, and thought I was her niece. I was on Martha guard duty at night, understaffed, she was left to sleep, but she would swing her legs over the side of the bed and start to shuffle off with her broken shoulder, pressing my buzzer, shouting, 'Martha's on the move again.' she looked daggers at me, I'd betrayed her. I wonder how far she would have got without me. Nurse came and went, changed shifts, took obs, bloods, changed bed pans, brought food. I dreamed of being able to have a shower, of using a toilet. My neighbour longed for ice cream, the Lithuanian lady by the window, also with Alzheimers, sang folk songs and shouted at us when she was hungry, 'Yum, Yum!' most of the time.

An evening shift change (12 hours with half hour break, three days on the trot, few hours off before nights)and the nurse asks Martha,
'Have they been good to you today.'
Martha - 'I'm thinking about it.'

I've thought about it, they have, the NHS has been good to us, we ought to be good to it back.