Monday, 14 September 2015

Excuse me Mr Cameron

So, I was struggling to think of something to focus my next blog entry on, and then I heard about David Cameron’s remarks about Yorkshire people. For those of you who don’t know, David Cameron was caught making a not-so-funny joke that went a little bit like this: “We just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hated each other so much.”

Now, I do have a few issues with this. The first of all being that I don’t get it at all. If he had said something true, I might have got it. For example, if he had made fun of the word “the” not being in our dictionary, that would have been obvious, but earnt him a few funny points. If he had said we’re all cheap mo-fos who don’t like to spend money, that’s true! So it’s kind of funny. Even if he’d have gone as far to say that we should have tea that flows out of our taps, instead of water, because LORD KNOWS we drink all the tea, that would have been a bit funny. But to say we hate people? I spent majority of my life in Yorkshire, and then moved to another extremely nice place (Norfolk), but Yorkshire is still full of the nicest people I’ve ever met. This isn’t a rant post. But the topic did make me think of a group of people I encountered when I was young.

We moved to Rotherham, South Yorkshire, when I was 9. I went to a really good school called Wath Comprehensive school, which was a 45 minute walk from my house. Every day my sister and I would walk to school together. Whether it was heavy rain, bright sunny skies, or a blizzard outside, you’d find us walking to school.

One route we took was through a racecourse. It was a bunch of fields that hadn’t been used as a racecourse in donkeys, now it was and still is used primarily for walking dogs. Anyway, we used to walk passed a group of dog walkers every morning. And every morning they would say hello and have a nice day. We were strangers. I don’t know who these people were, but they were nice enough, and we were nice enough, to say good morning despite not having any kind of relationship. Now what part of that screams that we hate each other?

I remember when we were walking to get our results, they shouted to us “Good luck”. And if they hadn’t seen us in a few days, they’d ask if we were okay. I remember one day, there was one less walker than usual. I always assumed it was the wife of one of them men, as she was always with him, and I think they shared the dog. The days of her absence stretched on, and I don’t remember ever seeing her again. Back then, I kind of just thought “Oh I hope she’s alright”, but I didn’t really understand what might have been going on.

When I see patients’ husbands, wives, children and friends in hospital, the first thing that goes through your mind isn’t “I wonder how they pass their day without the other”. But it is still something really important. I like to think that he went to visit his wife every day she wasn’t there. If she was in hospital, her face would light up the way we see so many patients’ faces light up when they see their loved ones. Her anxiety would have disappeared as if it wasn’t there in the first place. She would have felt comfortable and happy.

All too often in health care you see people who have no one. No one to bring them fresh clothes and toiletries. No one to visit them or keep them company when they’re lonely. No one. I just know that the friendly old lady who walked her dog would not have had no one.

Every time I walk over the racecourse when I visit home, I think of the friendly YORKSHIRE people I once kind of knew and I hope that they still walk their dogs in the morning. So David Cameron, I think you were confused. People in Yorkshire don’t hate everyone, they don’t hate each other, they just hate you. And with good reason if you keep making stupid insulting jokes that aren’t funny!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Lesson From Ann

Today I had chance to think. I’m not very happy with my last blog post, which is why this one follows so shortly. My blog wasn’t created for me to rant. It was made so that I had the opportunity to reflect on past experiences, and appreciate the people and events that have led me to where I am now. (And also a great opportunity to learn to write like a human being again).

So this blog will be focused on a woman from my childhood, who influenced my life without probably ever knowing.

I was about 6 years old and I remember being sat in a room with my sisters. I don’t remember my brothers being there, but they must have been. A woman came in and explained that my mum was going away for a while, and that we would be staying somewhere safe. I can’t remember what exactly happened, but I remember different places, none I knew well enough to be able to form a description. I remember my mum’s friend. I remember the drive to my Uncle Georges house with honey sandwiches. The smell of honey still makes me feel sick.

My Uncle George’s girlfriend would say “Call me your Aunty Julie” to which my twin sister and I would reply with the uttmost loyalty, “We already have an Aunty Julie”. I have the feeling she never did like us much. I don’t know the setup, but my twin, Charlotte, my little sister, Melissa, (then about 3 years old) and I would go to stay with a foster parent for various weekends and holidays. Her name was Ann Jackson. She was one of the kindest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Ann took us to carboot sales, a cowboy fair, the first holiday I remember at Cayton Bay. She bought all three of us rabbit teddies. Mine was called Brownie. Because he was brown. Inventive isn't it? They were all different colours, and I think all three of us have them still. She was determined to make us have the most of our childhood, so I remember her making us go to the foster care group to watch the total eclipse. I didn’t even understand what it was at the time. I just knew from the way all the grown ups went on that it was probably something important and cool.

One of the most memorable things I remember from Ann was how supportive she always was. When the letter sent from my mum came through the door, she would sit with us and read it. I remember her being a kind and patient woman. She never lost her temper when we came bundling down the stairs at earlier hours, or when she’d catch us jumping on the bed, and arguing way past our bed time. But the thing I remember about her the most was her wisdom. She had an certain air about her. More so than other adults. It was as if everything she said was the truth and she was always right. But not in a “I’m always right, you should always listen to me” kind of way. But in a “You can trust me. Believe me if you wish, but I’ll be here if you don’t anyway”.

She taught me a lot of things. A lot of things that I didn’t appreciate until I was a lot older. This is the worst thing about it because I didn’t thank her when I was there. I can’t remember knowing that it would be the last time I got to see her. It had been a while since our last visit. We were in a petrol station and she was there. My Uncle George said hello and we followed. Soon after that we had gone to live in Bradford, and Ann was just a memory. Had we been naughty kids? Once in an argument my mum said that’s why Ann didn’t want to foster us anymore. I don’t know if it was true, but I hope it isn’t. We never saw Ann again, but I think about her all the time. Is she still in the same house? Would she know who we are if we did find her? Would I recognise her?

I don’t know the answer to any of those, but I know this. I know that she instilled something in me that didn’t truly come to life until much later in my life.

Charlotte and I had been fighting for some reason or another.
“I don’t like her” I said to Ann.
“Yes you do. She’s your twin. You love her” Ann replied.
“No I don’t. She’s always horrible to me”
“Laura, you both love each other. She’s not horrible. You should always try and see the best in people even when they’re not being nice to you. Now go say sorry” And with that, the fight was history and we were back to being best friends.

That lesson is something I have tried to remember, especially in trying circumstances. I no longer remember her face, or her voice,  but I remember those words. I remembered them when I received horrible emails when I first came out as gay, I remembered them when an old man at work made fun of my accent, and I’ll remember them whenever the world turns into a dark and miserable place.

I hope that one day she will get a chance to read this, or her family will. And everyone will know what an amazing woman she was and how much of a difference she made to three very scared children who felt alone and abandoned.

Thank you Ann. Wherever you are. I hope I get the chance to meet you again, and thank you for everything you did for me, and the person you helped me become. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Rant-Post

I'm writing this while being slightly annoyed. I'm slightly annoyed at the realisation that one test can change my life for the better. One test can give me the chance to reach my goal. One test? One test is enough? Does one test make sense? I'm not sure one test can take me into from the "Ohh let's have a look" pile to the bin. 

Recapping on the last couple of months, I can say that I’m so pleased with my progression. In fact, I could probably go further, and say that the last couple of years have been pretty good for me. At University, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of a group called Marrow. For those of you who have never heard of Marrow, Marrow is the student branch of Anthony Nolan, an organisation that actively recruits people onto the bone marrow register, in order to give hope to those in desperate need of a transplant. I didn’t just get to be a part of the group, I took great pleasure in leading it, and when I left it behind at the end of my three years at UEA, I did find it hard to adjust to all the extra time I now had. I didn’t just leave behind Marrow, I left behind Student Minds, an charity set up to help students suffering from eating disorders as well as a number of other mental illnesses. You’d think with 3 years of experience working with people and health related organisations, obtaining a 2:1 degree in Biomedicine as well as volunteering over 400 hours to both campus and the local community would mean I’d atleast get an offer to medicine wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. When I applied at the end of my degree, I got nothing. Nada. Zilch. And to add insult to injury, I actually did well on the test! But anyway, that’s okay. Probably good even, because it has led to me doing much more with this year.

The first couple of months following my graduation were awful. I went from job to job, part time, full time, walking the streets for hours trying to sell insulation and numerous other poorly paid, awful jobs. Cold calling for Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign was my low point and I actually remember feeling myself break a little bit. I later worked as a Food and Beverages assistant which I enjoyed. I like people. That’s the bottom line. Sometimes people are mean and ignorant, chefs can be stressy, and managers and supervisors can be egotistic but I must admit, it worked for me. Working at the Maids Head was great, but something was still lacking. A zero hour contact is never good when you’re struggling to pay rent already. It meant sometimes I was doing less than 15 hours a week and with no parents to support me, my saving were swallowed up pretty quickly. This included the money I had saved for my first year of Medical School. I got another zero hour contact, this time termed “bank” from Spire hospital in their Sterile Services Department. Cleaning surgical equipment wasn’t quite what I had in mind as a hospital career, but nonetheless, I won’t complain. It’s good to see the interaction in hospitals, learn equipment names and the people aren’t bad either!

Finally, I got an interview for a job as a health care assistant in a nearby hospital. I got the job and the rest is history. Working in a relevant field to my application to medicine is good. I went on to organise work experience shadowing various jobs within the medical community, ranging from practice nurse to consultant Ophthalmologist. I’ve aquired a voluntary position as a community first responder and have got absolutely no time for anything else. Now, you would think I have enough to get atleast an interview wouldn’t you? Well, we'll see about that.

One test may have sealed my fate. Now, I’m fairly upset. Scoring above average may not have been good enough, and despite all my hard work for the last year, and the years before that, I might be ruled out before they’ve even read my personal statement, or reviewed my work experience.

I'm not going to lie. This is a much more ranty blog post than my previous but I'm feeling pretty defeated. Luckily, I have another chance. I sit the GAMSAT (another admissions test) later in the year. It cost £295 (ouch! I know! -don't even get me started on this inequality!) but hopefully I'll feel some sort of redemption. 

Wish me luck guys and gals, I've got a feeling I'm going to need it!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Bit Nursey For A Doctor

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

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.

Lots of love,