Monday, 11 December 2017

The Christmas Elf



A small  face appeared at the lane window this morning. ,
I knew who it was immediately as the figure was wearing a pointed woolly hat with a large Pom Pom on the top of it.
Mrs Trellis was peeping through the window, she looked like a Christmas Elf and made it clear that she wanted to see the new kitchen.
I motioned for her to come in.
She made all of the right noises about the cabinets then pointed to a small square framed piece of embroidery which I had hung in the space between the window and the glass cupboard.
" That's sweet" she said reading the signature " GH 1988!" 

I had  almost forgotten the story behind the embroidery, it was so long ago now, but I think it's an interesting one and is one worth repeating some twenty nine years after it was made.
When I worked as a new staff nurse on an acute psychiatric ward in York it was usual for each trained nurse to be allocated as a named nurse for a small number of patients. Named nurses were responsible for planning , implementing and evaluating the care of up to three patients and was the go-to person for the patient to go to when a whole lot of crisis surfaced during their admissions.

One of my patients was a young man called Graham.
Graham heard voices and thought people in authority were stealing his thoughts. He became ill as he started University life, a stressful transitory stage in life which sometimes precipitates sudden mental illness.
He was also suicidal at times.and was placed on close observation by staff, which meant you had to be in the same room with him at all times.
These times of observation could be rather stressful and boring, for both patient and nurse so in an effort to forge some sort of relationship and to pass the time , I persuaded the occupational therapy department to give me two embroidery kits for Graham and I to practice with during the quieter times on the ward.
Now back in the eighties ,  the butch members of the nursing staff found it rather strange that a member of male staff and a young male patient were often found sitting in the window seat of the day room embroidering like characters from Pride and Prejudice but the  activity focused Graham's mind on a reality away from delusions and hallucinations and allowed him to trust me even though my needlepoint turned out to be a terrible mess.

When I think back now, I cannot remember what happened to Graham. I remember he improved enough to be discharged home. And I remember him coming back to see me as an outpatient for a few weeks before he went back to university.
He presented me with his embroidery as a gift on one of those return visits.
I wondered  if he did alright .....I never heard from him after that .

53 comments:

  1. I might be sort of weepy today but this is such a tender and sweet memory/post .. I wish you had heard from him, maybe because you thought of him, you will hear from him .. that happens to me sometimes :)

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    1. This was autumn as I remember , I left York for general nurse training in early 1989 ,

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  2. Very touching story!

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    1. I'd almost forgotten it

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  3. That's a lovely story. I hope Graham had a good life after that.

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  4. I believe you happened onto just the right thing to do with Graham. I love the fact that you embroidered with him. That's what makes the story complete.
    And can I say that needlework of one sort or another has probably been the saving grace of many a woman?

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    1. My embroidery looked very amateur as I recall.. he, was, I suspect autistic so he made a wonderfully neat job of his effort

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  5. Mrs Trellis as a Christmas elf? This is the stuff of fantasy!

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  6. I hope he did well and is still enjoying life.

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  7. The Christmas shelf...

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  8. Oh My Goodness, this post was the first thing I read this morning. What a lovely story and I hope did well in his life.
    What a darling Christmas Elf visited you this morning.

    cheers, parsnip

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  9. You have wonderful stories, but this one is the best.

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  10. Really nice story. I love that you have hung the needlepoint and that he had it framed. I hope Graham went on to well and he would be pleased to know you found a place for his gift. You must be an incredible nurse.

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    1. I've had it a long time...it's common to not to see things around the house after a while. It was good to look at it through someone else's eyes

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  11. I do not have mental illness but I have, in the past, had a very worried mind. I do math puzzles to alleviate the anxiety. I get involved and stop thinking about anything else. I've always said "I use it to turn my brain off".

    How I wish we knew the rest of his story but sometimes we are just a resting point on to somewhere else. Good juju going out to Graham this morning. And good juju to you...you wonderful man.

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    1. I wish the embroidery was my original idea but it wasn't , as I recall it was the idea of a fellow staff nurse called Tracey

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  12. That's so interesting what you say about Graham getting mentally ill when he went to university. That happened to my Dad (by all accounts I have heard) and the mental illness then tripped on happily for the rest of his life. I hadn't realised (although it seems obvious now you say it) that this can be a triggering time...

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    1. Psychotic breakdowns in young people often start around the ages of 18 .

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  13. I hope he reads your blog,

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  14. Ruth Ellershaw3:50 pm

    It's always more poignant when younger people suffer delusional thoughts and hear voices. Thank heavens for modern meds now. A lot can now manage their illness better and go on to as normal a life as possible. Am sure he remembers your kindness and help to this day and wonders what you did with his picture. Lovely story

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    1. Yes Ruth, you work in the mental health field don't you? I left it in 1989

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  15. Fascinating story, no less so because of the ambiguous ending (not knowing what happened to Graham.)

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    1. I remember that the ward sister had to " encourage " me to let him go after several out patient appointments ..

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  16. You are a good man, John Gray, and a damned fine nurse (retired).

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  17. He was clearly very grateful for your care John, and how good that you've kept the piece all these years.

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    1. I remember him as very shy and serious and on reflection I suspect he was autistic although we didn't know of such things now, his autism is reflected in the neatness of his work

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  18. A lovely story for a cold December day. I hope Graham is doing well these days, it's heartwarming that you still treasure his embroidery.

    Will Mrs Trellis pop up at a different window tomorrow ... a bit like a cross between Elf on a Shelf and an advent calendar 😉

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    1. The new kitchen intrigued her

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  19. What a moving story. Like others, I hope Graham has a good life now and maybe didn't get in touch again because he was doing well.

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    1. I remember having a problem " letting him go" so to speak. I left york the following year, perhaps only a few months after knowing him

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  20. Let's hope his life was all the better for having sat with that embroidery and with you.

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  21. Love the idea of Mrs T peering through your kitchen window.

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    1. I did invite her the last time I saw her

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  22. Maybe it wasn't your idea , but joining him was genius! I too used needle work when I was younger with 2 kids and my husband was traveling all over the world for work...evenings were long and lonely. I also crocheted a bunch of afghans when I quit smoking. Busy hands help!!

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    1. I've never done it since btw!

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  23. Lovely story, and it fits into your new kitchen wall perfectly. Will you take us on a tour too? Thanks.

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    1. You will have to wait until the 20th then the floor goes down and the new table goes up

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    2. Thank you very much.
      Our friend Duck did six foot tall stitcheries....sometimes taking two years to finish them. He said it was to keep himself busy while he tried to stop smoking. :)

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  24. Very helpful in mental hospitals, this type of detail. Lovely to recall it and have the embroidery he did. I remember when P was a patient for three months, this story brought it back to me, he benefited greatly from cooking scones with one of the OT nurses. Everyday I visited he had more scones for me that he had baked, and I kept taking them home, and they were perfect. I said one day why don't you do the art sometimes but he didn't want to, only the baking with one particular nurse. It helped him and he got better. He never baked scones at home though. xxx

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  25. We had a great OT called Ally who taught us junior nurses a great deal of the benefits of hand based skills in diverting difficult thoughts.

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  26. You're such a kind soul...I hope Graham is OK and living his life as well as he's able :)

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  27. Graham's Autistic spectrum would lead to precision, your Dyspraxia ... not so! I's not surprised you didn't find it a lasting passion! Im a very keen embroiderer, but I'm on high Prednisone at present and everything shakes, threading a needle is hard work and stitching is hit and miss so i can imagine how difficult it would have been.

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  28. Lovely story John and a perfect demonstration of your caring nature.

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  29. I love this story. And I have seen the value in handwork, knitting in this case, with our daughter who has anxiety and depression issues. Her work is complicated and absorbing and she does it well.

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  30. A truly lovely story. Thank you. A different focus can make all the difference.

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  31. If the embroidery has been up for that long it means that this young fellow made an imprint on your heart. I hope he met other folks in his life that were as kind and caring to him as you were.

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  32. A wonderful story John treasured moments in time.

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  33. Anonymous3:01 am

    What a wonderful story! You are a treasure, John!
    Debbie

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  34. That's a lovely story. I do hope he did OK.

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  35. What a lovely story about Graham. My 18yo daughter has done a little cross stitch and finds it relaxing. Might have to get back into it again as she is going through a rough time at the moment.
    Carolx

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  36. I'am glad to read the whole content of this blog and am very excited.Thank you.

    แตกใน xxx

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  37. So special to have. What happened to YOUR embroidery?

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