Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Art Of Not Noticing


Sometimes it a bonus being totally unaware of what is going on around you.
Some people just seem to have this skill.
Nothing seems to affects them !
I ENVY THOSE PEOPLE
I am reminded of an elderly enrolled nurse, I once worked with in psychiatry called Donald O'Hara
( enrolled nurses were affectionately known as greenies btw as they often wore green uniforms ) anyhow.... he was Irish, a bit dim, but rather sweet and  had the unerring talent not to be involved or notice any conflict or violent incident when it occurred on the ward, a ward which catered for 30 odd long term mentally ill men.
One lunchtime, I was supervising " dinners" with two other student nurses when one particularly florid schizophrenic patient kicked off  with a fellow patient. Within seconds the two patients had hit each other with full plates of cottage pie and as we students jumped in to separate the men another patient waded into the scuffle by throwing a full jug of juice into the array.
The fight progressed to the heated dinner trolley, where a metal container of baked beans was launched into the mix and as I ( bravely) hung onto the instigator ( who was then screaming that he was original King of Spain) I was spun  into a bamboo planter full of spider plants and knocked the entire collection onto the floor.
To add to the confusion a particularly degraded patient who had the unfortunate nickname of " The animal" crawled into the mess happily eating all of the trampled pastry and mashed potato which had been flung onto the floor.
Of course we students didn't have the gravitas to stop the whole melee, but stop it did when the charge nurse thundered down from his office and bellowed a sharp and aggressive shout of
" DESIST THIS FOOLERY THIS  INSTANT  !"  from the dining room doorway
He looked at us student nurses and baked bean covered patients with a sneering disgust and walked back to his office shaking his head.
Only then did Donald appear. He had been reading the Racing Post in one of the buxton chairs adjacent to the dining room and as he tucked it into his uniform pocket he gave me,  the other food stained student nurses,  and the cowed patients a brief sympathetic  look.

" what's for pudding?" He asked without cracking a smile.


39 comments:

  1. Sounds like a 'Carry On' film.

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    1. The " desist" was dramatic licence
      The language from the charge nurse would have been much more colourful

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  2. I was thinking Father Dougal's more studious brother

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  3. "How come you are always on the balcony/taking the recycling down/in the shower when the phone rings?" In my defence, it is only a coincidence.

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  4. My mother talked of people who were deaf by act of god, and those who were deaf by malice. I suspect some of the terminally unaware conveniently fall into the second category.

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    1. Medical condition - MSD. Male Selective Deafness. Early warning of the condition is the inability to understand the implication of the word now.

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  5. Hilarious, I can just imagine the scene. Never a dull moment.

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  6. Maybe Donald knew what was going on, and knew when it was safe to appear!

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  7. In the 70's I was a nurse in a busy London hospital and my then husband was a policeman. One day we had a particularly obnoxious patient who had been main lining into her foot, the only vein left. She looked about a hundred but was in fact 28. Very violent, disturbed and noisy. Of course she was admitted onto a ward full of elderly ladies, but hey ho, that was and is the NHS. When I returned home I found that my hubby and his colleagues had also been dealing with the same woman on a tube station. She had started fights everywhere she went and it had been general fighting with others on the station. Apart from one policeman, who decided to do a Donald and watch the trains in/out. After it was all over he rejoined his fellow bobbies and said he was going on annual leave for a fortnight starting next day. Nothing alters. Love Andie xxx

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    1. Theres always a donald around when you dont want one

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  8. What made you remember this???

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    1. P.S. I have been told that to escape a bear charge, it is best to run downhill because they find that difficult. My mountaineer friend did that in Canada, and it worked.

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    2. Hummmmmmm both got it in one

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    3. I bet breakfast was a hoot.

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  9. A lot of good food going to waste there. Did Donald actually get any pudding or was it by that time splattered all over the floor?

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  10. When my prof, gets focused on work, you could hold an MMA match in the room and he wouldn't notice - but one little rattle in the car and he is distracted and has to figure out where it is coming from.

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  11. What a great story to read, first thing in the morning , before I / one goes out to deal with the world ... My husband was brilliant at befriending insane but intelligent people ... some of them wrote novels that sold millions .. I think part of his charm and appeal, for me and everyone else, was his calm and his acceptance of everything .. he was the least judgemental person in the world .. how he even could stand me is a mystery.
    But he was always calm .. he did study with a "holy " man in India and taught people in NY how to do things to keep relatively sane .. maybe that was why we were such a happy couple.

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  12. Perhaps the cottage pie had not been seasoned properly.

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  13. Please tell me it was spotted dick! xx

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  14. Met many Donalds in my training. Worked on psyche ward in East London and a schizo woman there use to hit nurses cos the queen told her too. Another guy would stand up in the meetings between pts and staff and you would see a pooh slide down under his trousers. His way of saying "tea time" that and delousing, attempted rapes - oh happy days.

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  15. This might not work on the mental ward but in the scheme of things in life my favorite mantra is "I used to get angry...now I am merely amused".

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  16. I work with his daughter, she never sees, hears or knows what's going on.

    First sign of a blow up (and they are rare on my ward) and she's off to the loo.

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  17. I am so in awe of you John, and others who look after the " mentally deranged".

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  18. Many years ago John I used to work with what were then called SSN patients - adults. One in particular - a very large and very strong man in his forties - could suddenly throw a tantrum and none of us could control it (and he knew). But the Head, who was pint sized, would come out of her office and just look at him and he would subside in a heap. How I used to admire her.

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  19. Am I missing something by working in community mental health or have things changed over time. Not a judgement or anything. Just asking. x

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  20. Sounds like a cheery moment indeed!
    (tongue in cheek)
    I would like just a bit of that skill of NOT being aware of what is going on around me.
    I'd like the passive skill for a few days too . . .

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  21. There are days when I could have fit in as a greenie and others when I might be one of the patients. I couldn't help but notice something was going on, though.

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  22. Well that made me LOL John. When I was a student nurse in my 1st year, we went to a Geriatric hospital. "Wilf" was a dear old man who had awful dementia. He used to say" Now my dear, you look like a nice young lady, please tell me where the Number 21 bus goes from because I have to get home. Now I don't want to hit you with my walking stick, but I will if you don't tell me" . Luckily the Charge Nurse was not unaware and saved us students many times. Wilf was one of those patient that I cried about because he was so unhappy.

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    1. My second stepdad (the good one) had dementia and at times got very restless and eventually violent too. He was heading out the gate one time and I was trying to talk him back, and said, "We just want you to be happy." He replied, "The time for happiness is past," and those words will always stick with me, because for him it was true, and for my poor mum too. They had ten years together, the best time of their lives they both agreed. It was terrible for her to lose him in such a way and for him to lose himself like that. It's a cruel thing.

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  23. Beverly, my mother in law had dementia/Alzheimers and while she was already quite old when she was diagnosed, it was not only terribly sad for her and all of us to see all the memories of all those amazing places and things and people she had known, disappear .. but to have to treat her like a willful child was terrible for me to see. Bless his heart, Wilf warning you he didn't want to use his stick ..

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  24. What a brilliant post. You managed to recreate working life in 1970s "Mental Hospitals" perfectly. I have been taken back in time! Jane xx

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  25. Wonderful post my good man.

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  26. I'm terrible - a 'rubbernecker'. My kids tell me not to look, but I do anyway.

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  27. I have the ability to shrink into the paintwork when trouble brews and given my size, it's quite a good trick.

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  28. I am one of those fortunate people who do seem to sail through life not noticing. You know the killer atmosphere at work where everyone is treading on egg shells and I just seem to wander on oblivious. I had to ask my friend to give me a head's up on occasion as it can be embarrassing but all in all I'm glad I'm like that. I certainly don't lose any sleep over things. Anna

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  29. What an interesting life you've led. They way you wrote this, the scene played like a movie in my head.

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