Monday, 14 November 2016

When The Chips Are Down

Over the weekend I watched a normal family unit cope with a devastating series of events. Whilst some members "crumbled" under the weight of the situation, others remained stoic, each person dealing with the news in their own way.
You see this a lot on ICU

I have learnt that you can never ever second guess just how people will react in these situations, because often enough, non have ever been through something similar before.

The other morning I received an email from the wife of an old patient of mine.
I had been instrumental in helping the woman becoming  pregnant, ( something I am sure that you would never have believed ) but you have to remember that the patient involved had a severe traumatic paralysis and that I was the nurse working with the couple  in the fertility clinic at that time.
The patient, who I will call James, was only in his twenties at the time. He had dived into the sea on his first holiday in Spain and had struck his head on the sand at a shallow spot.
This had resulted in a fracture of his fifth vertebrae,and an immediate and devastating paralysis  from his chest down.
He never recovered.
I remembered James well. I remember him being nursed flat for twelve weeks with his neck in traction. I remembered his wife, a pragmatic Nolfolk countrywoman who could only visit on weekends and I remember him never complaining about his lot, even when faced with the overwhelming sadness of loosing every physical thing you ever held dear.
James just dealt with the brickbats.
His mantra was "let's get on with it!" 

The generic email from James' wife remained typically simple.

It said " we are sorry to report that following a short illness James died peacefully at home surrounded by his friends and family and  with his loyal dog Judy at his side.
He was a much loved son, brother, cousin, uncle, husband and father and was an inspiration to everyone who met him" 

I last saw James at that fertility clinic appointment twenty years ago. He remained resolutely upbeat about his life with disability, that is  until I was involved with the intimate and very private moment that fertility patients have to endure, only then did he break down and cried silent tears in the worried hope that all would be well.
I remember wiping away those tears for him, for he was not even able to do that for himself, and he cried long and hard for much of the consultation as the fooodgates opened after years and years of coping without complaint.

James' son was born healthy and happy the following spring. I believe he is now a student at The  University of Suffolk.


49 comments:

  1. What an uplifting and positive post john - and a sure sign that we should not complain about the petty irritants we experience in life. Thank you for making this a day to pull me up short and get on with life. Love to you.

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  2. It is interesting how some people supposedly cope, but then at some point crack. When seemingly strong people crack, you are in a privileged position to see people at their most vulnerable.

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  3. What a story. It must be fulfilling for you to know that you are present with people at such crucial, vulnerable moments in their lives.

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  4. Sheesh and I thought I had health problems. Thanks John.

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  5. You are an angel, John !

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    1. Jo this post wasnt about me...it was about someone so much stronger

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  6. This has lifted my mood on a damp grey Monday morning. Thank you for sharing x

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  7. We seldom reveal out inner fears, our breaking point to others. But it is always there.

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  8. Inspired . . .
    and with tears . . .
    Empathy I feel can't even begin to touch what James endured . . .
    Kind of James' wife to send a message of his death . . .

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  9. I'm teary eyed at this lovely post...aren't some people wonderful?

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  10. well, that started my morning off with a good cry.
    I worked in a Rehabilitation Hospital, years and years ago. I remember how amazed I was at the room with 4 men sharing it, each with terrible and devastating injuries that meant they would never do anything a man can do .. but lie there , at least they could speak and think and see.
    sometimes I would go home or sit in the car and just cry for them.
    many times I would go home , inspired by them.
    Life sucks in so many ways for people who don't deserve it.

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  11. How wonderful that James and his wife were able to have a son. x

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    1. The ability to have kids is not really deminished to those with spinal injuries, the " how" is just a little different

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  12. This year I joined 150,000 runners and wheelchair athletes in 35 cities around the world in the Wings for Life Race to raise money for spinal cord research. One reason I did so was because my favourite uncle was paralyzed, but like the man you helped he was able to have a son. Some great things at the Wings for Life website. Wales's famous hurdler Colin Jackson is part of the Wings for Life team.

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  13. I can't think of anything to say about this one, I'm just sat here absolutely welled up with emotion.

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  14. This story really touched my heart. Thank you for sharing it.

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  15. Being brave is seldom about a moment, but about the life one lives and the people who are part of the bravery.

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  16. A man from our community recently became paralyzed with a little arm movement, but no leg movement at all. Everyone says he is so positive and in good spirits. I always thought that people who go through something like that suffer from depression. It is amazing how brave and stoic people can be. This was a beautiful post. -Jenn

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  17. Yes, with a little help from your helper, John. Never thought about the practicalities of what you describe in veiled terms. What a man - both of you.

    U

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  18. Puts things into perspective and makes me very grateful.

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  19. Thanks for sharing this, John.

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  20. And I whine about a bit of arthritis pain....shame on me.

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  21. You tell a good story, too, John. Just get on with it or be left behind.

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  22. I've seen the ICU once when my uncle died, that is a very "different" area of the hospital

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    1. It is indeed..... Most of my career was on the much more " relaxed" spinal injury unit

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  23. A lovely story. Its lovely that the wife remembers you. Have you ever met her son?

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  24. With everything in the world going on the way it is today, you have touched us all with such a beautiful and life-affirming post. Love you, John ... xo

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  25. You should be the young man's godfather. Or something similar. If not for you, he might not be here. What a touching story.

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  26. We all cope differently. I would think no less of someone not as stoic, for paralysis is a rough situation, period.

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  27. Totally crying. I don't know where or how he found this incredible strength.

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    1. Iris they do, I couldn't count the number of spinally injured I have nursed that have coped with the whole thing with strength and remarkable humour

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  28. It is good that you know the end of the story you helped write.

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    1. A great number of professionals helped that particular story, consultants, urologists, specialist nurses, physios, OTs , psychology, etc etc

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    2. And God bless them every one.

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  29. This is a truly lovely story. Thank you. I suspect that some people cope without complaint because crying/complaining changes nothing. Which doesn't diminish the sorrow they feel. Which will sometimes erupt.

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    1. Get on with it mentality happens so much more than ypu would expect

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  30. The human spirit never fails to amaze me.

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    1. Animals have the same but in a different way kev..they soldier on

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  31. What an inspirational, if sad, story and how wonderful that despite everything they were able to have a child.

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  32. It's more common than you think betty

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  33. Your posts are soothing to me. I work in a mortuary making final plans for the deceased. Every family is a different story; you can't tell how they will act.

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  34. And I'm sure James thanked God for you everyday of the rest of his life.

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  35. You've seen a lot of 'life' that we others will never see, I thank you on behalf of all those you've helped.

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  36. Some people handle themselves poorly at the important times, but I think most of us surprise even ourselves in these devastating situations.

    So kind of you to help James fertilize his wife. I know how difficult that must have been for you, too.

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    1. Fertilize !
      That made me gaffaw

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  37. Mhm, nice to be back in Trelawnyd !!! Gurgle has allowed me to comment again and so I will!! When you write posts like this one, I really have no fear for humanity. So many layers hidden in one single human soul, what wonderful creatures we are!! One of these days you might even sit yourself down with George at your feet and Albert in your lap, and the rest of your household gathered around you like in Snow white, writing a great story about people you have met and loved. I think there would be more chapters than Lord of the Rings. Tell me when it's there so I can buy it!!! And then I don't have to worry about Trump for a while....

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  38. Oh my, you are a gift to us all. John Gray, I may only know you from your words. The depth you care for all that is living; shows us how humanity is shown in true and selfless form.

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