Thursday, 23 April 2015

Gays At Work

It was a busy night at work last night. Over a snatched cup of tea at 6 am the nursing night shift got into conversation about homophobia within the profession.
It wasn't THAT long ago that I had to pull up a colleague short who refered to a patient to ME as " being one of  YOUR lot" .
It was an unthinking and stupid remark which got short shrift from me.and I hope that the nurse involved learnt from the following telling off I gave them. At this time in the world there is absolutely no place for such silliness, I remember saying.
When I was a nurse in the early 1990s attitudes generally were not as accepting as I would like to think that they are today and I remember one young patient  in particular who struggled with her own sexuality whilst at the same time dealing with a catastrophic spinal injury.
The patient was called Sue and she was admitted following a motorway accident. She was place on , what was referred to then, as conservative bed rest for a back injury, which meant that she was placed flat on her back for 12 weeks!
Sue came from a large, bickering but loving family, and every day her parents, brothers and sisters crowded around her bed, effectively closing ranks in a protective huddle.
An old boyfriend was brought in by her mother to aid moral but it was clear that after a week from admission, Sue looked dreadfully depressed.
Her nurse, a real psychologically based rehab character called Ruth, came to me to discuss the case.
" I think she's gay" Ruth suggested, noting that one of Sue's visitors was a quiet, intense girl called Debs who seemed to always be pushed out at visiting times by the more needy and ever present family. " but it's only a hunch"
I suggested that Ruth explore the issue which she did in her own direct and very effective way when we went to turn Sue in bed shortly after.
With the family out of earshot Ruth gently asked if Debs was Sue's girlfriend.
It was done in a matter-o-fact way, which was pitched just right.........
And the floodgates opened.
Sue told us that for weeks the two women had been effectively separated and isolated. They had been lovers for over a year, but because both were in the closet  , both had to cope with the accident and a devastating paralysis alone.
They had not had a minute together in private since the accident.
Within an hour , Ruth had sorted the issue. The family were sent home hours later under a pretext of  some extended personal nursing procedure and after a flurry of phone calls, Debs was contacted and brought into the ward for an incredibly emotional and loving reunion with her girlfriend.

Ruth's hunch provided Sue with the support and love she desperately needed at a time of great distress, and although still firmly in the closet, Sue was helped through those dark days until she got up in a wheelchair to start rehab proper.

Now that was holistic care.


85 comments:

  1. That was holistic care, indeed! I've known some closeted gay people, and felt so bad for them. Without saying a word, they knew I knew and loved them the same as I always had. Still, I found it sad that they couldn't express their joy if they had a new flame or lament losing a lover. An added burden to bear.

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  2. Ruth deserves a medal! Hopefully her superiors gave her the recognition she earned for I'm sure this wasn't her only act above and beyond her duty?

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    1. Ruth still remains a talented bedside nurse
      Her warmth and talent for personal psychogical care is phenomenal.

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  3. When I was in nursing school back in the 80's, this was discussed in the context of keeping our prejudices out of the situation when tending patients of different races, religions, cultures, and sexuality. BUT, here's the deal- the teacher who was leading this discussion was referred to by a very senior teacher as a "dyke" in an out-of-school setting. So. Hmmmm...
    I am impressed with how Ruth handled that situation. The patient has to come first and Ruth certainly made sure that she did.

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    1. She did, and dealt with sone negativity from other staff with the same straight to the point way

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  4. Thank goodness for people like Ruth and you. There is no room for homophobic attitudes anywhere, as far as I'm concerned, but especially not in health care. People are dealing with such stress and pain and do not need more. This whole post just made me feel better about the world.

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  5. I consider myself to be the very lucky mum to two splendid grown up girls. One is happily married to a lovely man, the other lives with her super girlfriend. We brought them up to give and accept love from whoever they choose. They delight and annoy me equally, and I am so happy that they have both found "the one". My husband is cool about them all too, but he does as he's told hehe x

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    1. Best of both worlds eh?

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    2. Certainly is John x

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  6. Love is Love and we are lucky to have it in our lives....good old Ruth.

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  7. I have no time for prejudice of any kind, I was raised to live and let live which in rural Norfolk was very rare. On the other hand there are some days when I am convinced that the only people worth loving have 4 legs and either a waggy tail or a swishy one that will stand up straight when its owner is indignant.

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  8. Ruth had the human touch, combined with a bit of common sense. Not enough people around like that.

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    1. No rachel
      The sad aspect of the story was that sue died quite suddenly in the middle of her rehab four months later

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    2. Oh :( that is awful!

      Jo in Auckland, NZ

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    3. Think how much worse it would have been if Sue and Debs had never had any time alone together before then. I nominate Ruth for angel wings!

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  9. What a wonderful nurse Ruth had to have been. This story is a perfect example of why I support gay marriage 100% and hope that one day every state in the USA will accept it. I can't imagine being kept away from a loved one at a time of serious illness by their family.

    We have a large, wonderful hospital here in Florence, SC and some of the very best nurses I know are gay men. In fact, one longtime friend of mine is now the head of an entire nursing division there, and he's been with his (male) partner for at least 15 years. Although we don't have gay marriage here in SC (yet) the hospital does provide full domestic partner benefits for their employees. Another wonderful nurse I know was telling me about it. He is about to move to the northeast with his partner, and is transferring to a hospital up there. The state where they're moving DOES allow gay marriage, and they're planning to marry as soon as they arrive. I gave him a huge hug, congratulated him, and told him about you and Chris marrying recently. Then I told him how much I hope that soon this whole country will legalize it. He actually got teary-eyed and thanked me for saying those things. I told him he didn't have to thank me for being a decent human being.....how sad that he got choked up over someone acknowledging his right to have the same rights as the rest of us.

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    1. A change in the law is the only way forward.....good for you xx

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  10. Of the many wonderful stories I find here, I think that was one of my very favorites.

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    1. Marty ...thats sweet of you x

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  11. Fair play john, I was hooked on that story so much that I ignored someone knocking at the door so I could finish it ......you do tell a fine tale young man !

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    1. Unfortunately jason, the story eventually took a sad turn....sue died of another heath problem quite suddenly whilst she was on the rehab ward.
      Ruth and I travelled fifty miles with four inpatients to attend her funeral
      But that is another story

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    2. Bloody hell john, break it to me gently ....

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    3. Here's another funny story about ruth jason

      http://www.stonewallcymru.org.uk/what_we_do/research_and_policy/health_and_healthcare/3478.asp

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  12. The world needs more people like Ruth, and you Johne.

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    1. Yael, more like Ruth please!

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  13. Good for Ruth and good for you. The times are changing but we still have a long way to go.
    Sending a cheery Hello from this old dyke!
    Xoxox

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    1. And i send you a cheery hello from this old poof
      Xx

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  14. I'm glad there are people like you and Ruth in the world.

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  15. Good for all of you regular people.

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  16. God bless Ruth. God bless Sue and her girlfriend. I hope they lived happily ever after.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie.....look at my reply to jason above....unfortunately that was not the case
      X

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    2. Yes. I read the post about going to the funeral. So sad.

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  17. That's what true nursing is all about. Bravo to all concerned.

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  18. The closet is an incredibly lonely place. Ruth sounds like a true angel John. x

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    1. Em, Ruth is a one off...i have blogged about her before
      Funnystories and ruth go together llike salt and pepper

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  19. I hate labels. They make people so miserable. Here's to Ruth.

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  20. I loath and despite prejudice in any way shape or form. I was working in our HR department when a colleague married his male partner. As we were a new organization with a new (and still learning) pension fund, it was a big thing for us. When I jokingly said "L, trust you to make my job more difficult", he said "well it had to come and why not now". Absolutely agree with him and thankfully our pension fund rules were amended to reflect his marriage. Why the hell should people who have lived together for so many years not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as heterosexual couples? And in any case, whose business is it? It makes me so mad. One of my nephews is gay and I feel sorry for him ONLY because life is hard anyway and having to deal with additional prejudices is tough. And for "gay" please read "black", "foreign", or whatever religious persuasion you please when it comes to prejudice. Sorry for the rant. Maybe it is because I am a Libran that I spend so much time weighing things up. Anna

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    1. Thankfully Anna...you are saying just what mist of us feel

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  21. While normally you might be forward and quite out there, in a situation like hers, you must feel so powerless and dependent, especially on family but even on where you are being cared for if you don't know how honest you cab be.

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    1. In this case all sue wanted and needed for someone else to just say " what do you want"

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  22. Yes, we need more 'Ruths' in the world.

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  23. A thought provoking post John.I was a midwife in the late 1980's.we had a male midwife working in the hospital who was gay.a lot of the older staff had a huge problem with him.not just him being a male but also gay.He was the loveliest bloke.kind,hardworking,professional.A very good colleague.also.the patients thought the world of him.Surely its the kind of person you are that matters and not the labels people put on you.I have no time for homophobia.

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    1. I pray for that final day when gay people ( nice and bastards) have totally the same acceptance as nice and bastard straight people

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    2. Bigots are a curse on society ....

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  24. What a wonderful story.

    I don't know why it matters to anyone, color, or choice of lifestyle. A person is a person no matter and it's not our place to judge any part of it.

    And on that note, I know lots of blonde jokes!

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  25. What a beautiful, compassionate thing to do! Thanks for being you.

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  26. Here's to Ruth clear sight, and her courage in doing something about what she sees. Give her a hug John, living so close to the edge of your skin can be incredibly painful and stressful.
    The end of the story is sad; but at least she had that time with her love thanks to Ruth... and you.

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  27. In the midst of a particularly trying time for me, this story restores my faith in man kind.......I so love your stories, they always touch me in some way. Laughter, joy, empathy, sadness and pride in my fellow man are just a few of the emotions that come to mind. Your ability to share so much with us warms my heart. Bravo Ruth!!! It would be lovely to put a face with her stories.

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    1. I wish that she reads my blog..... I think she'd be touched by your responses

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    2. Thank you for the photo, she looks perfectly wonderful!

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  28. I really relate to this post . As a social worker working with young people I have worked with several young gay people who have experienced some really horrible discrimination . I have been heartened recently to see one young person coming out with the loving support of family and friends. Xxx

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    1. Thankfully and surprisingly things are so different now......i adore the fact that most young people couldnt give two hoots whether anyother is gay straight or whatever

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  29. i'm so pleased Ruth did that, not least because of the very short time the couple had left to them.

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  30. Fine work on the medical staff for that one, good going.
    I think I've mentioned my oldest grandchild is LGBT, and while she does experience some peer attempts at bullying, her parents and family are very supportive (as we should be). I hope to hell that someday this will be a non-issue, and people will wonder what our problem was......

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    1. Michael,
      I have to remind you that it was good practice by the nursing staff that changed things ... The medical staff, headed by one consultant was less accepting..... I respected the senior consultant greatly but he once during ward round made a dreadful homophobic comment.
      I left the room and after another consultant had " a few words" the doctor approached me at a crowded nurses station to apologise.
      I made him feel very uncomfortable but accepted his apology
      And I think that he learnt from the whole experience

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  31. John, I'm 73 years old... but was taught (not so much words but just the way my parents were) that we're all equal... race, sex, sexual orientation... whatever.... I was raised as a toddler to feel this way. Your post makes me happy, but makes me sad. Why should we even have to send someone out of the room so that real life can go on?

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    1. As it turned out Sue's mother knew she was gay.... She was just waiting for sue to say something

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  32. Friends of mine did a survey 4-5 years ago of older LGBT adults in the US about health care and long term care, the results were depressing, the majority were worried about being discriminated against in long term care settings and said they would go back in the closet if they needed inpatient or home health care

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    1. We clearly have a long way to go, do we not?

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  33. A moving story; so sad it did not have a happy ending later on.

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  34. That's a great story. It's amazing how quickly a serious problem being addressed can make a difference.

    I work in a law office that works primarily with the gay community here in Houston, and we have had to do a lot of hospital room wills and powers of attorney. When the family doesn't want the partner near the sick family member, nurses have been incredible in distracting family so we can get in and execute the documents giving the partner power.

    I'm not kidding: Nurses have been fantastic - better than anyone else - about helping us out with stuff like this. There are a LOT of people out there grateful for that!

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    1. That confirms to me the power and importance of nursing staff.
      I get a little tired about how often we are bashed by the general public ....these kind of actions are never really seen or quantified by people

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  35. The story is all the more poignant that she lost her life a few months later. :-(

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  37. Thank God that there are people like Ruth who not only see with their eyes, but also with their heart.

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    1. There are several stories about Ruth that I could tell you...... I think I shall share one tomorrow

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  38. I hope that Sue and Debs are still together but coping with a lover's wheelchair-bound new life and all that that entails would not be easy for anybody and sometimes love is not enough no matter what they say.

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    1. YP..... I SHOULD HAVE PUT THIS comment at the end of the entry,
      Sue died suddenly on the rehab ward around four months later

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  39. Bless Ruth (and, always, bless you)!

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  40. I am very new to your lovely blog.

    Having once been denied access to my lover who lay alone in a hospital bed, this story made me smile from ear to ear.

    Love wins.

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  41. Seriously? On of your lot? Sheesh!
    One of my friends recently came out in his forties, showing again that being gay in a small town is not as easy as one might think it would be 'these days'. Luckily, he was relieved to get almost exclusively positive reactions. I'm just sad he felt he had to deny himself for so many years.

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  42. Having watched a program about how LGBT people are still fighting for equality in Russia, (and of course many other countries) I fear equality is still just a dream for many. Things have come a long way here, though when my son was in hospital one nurse kept insisting on calling his partner his brother despite being corrected on a number of occasions.

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    1. I get that with chris sometimes..........at least they didnt think im his dad

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  43. Sad. I read all of the comments.

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    1. I mean the sad ones.

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  44. You made me cry, you big girls blouse you!

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  45. Brilliant nursing. To recognise and deal with a patients every need without them even having to ask is wonderful. So sad she had to stay 'in the closet' with her family though :-(

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  46. A Happy Ending for Sue & Debs thanks to Ruth's intuition. What a wonderful nurse, and a wonderful person. God bless you all!! Hey ho :)

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  47. You've made Ruth something of a celebrity all over the world!!
    Damn, I think I just broke a nail.....hey ho! (silly grin)

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    1. Look her up in the archive.....i did a post about her nervous breakdown on the ward v v funny

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  48. Thank you for this important post.


    ALOHA from Honolulu,
    ComfortSpiral
    =^..^=

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    1. Welcome!
      You are my first honolulu lulu

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  49. I have been absent from my favorite blogs since March and have today started catching up. This is a perfect one to read after my absence and I am flowing with tears of happiness. Thank you.

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