Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Christmas 96

I wrote this post in my head a few days ago.
Reminded by an old photo of a group of smiling nurses grouped around a man in a wheelchair.

When I was a charge nurse, through necessity and like many singletons ,I often worked the late shift on Christmas Day. There was often an unwritten rule that nurses on that shift came in slightly early in order for the morning staff to get home to their families but the interview room was filled with goodies to eat and visitors catered for the patients for much of the day so the shift was as pleasant as it could be,and on Christmas Day 1996 the five nurses working with me were a grand bunch indeed.

Our patients were the spinally injured who were newly paralysed usually through some trauma and most were nursed on flat bedrest in order for fractures of neck or  back to be strong enough to start to allow the patients to mobilise in wheelchairs.
One young patient had proved to be a nursing challenge for several weeks prior to that Christmas Day.
I shall call him Darren.
Now Darren, a man in his early twenties, was paralysed from the waist down after crashing his stolen car during a long police pursuit. A skinny terrier of a man, Darren lived his short life ducking and diving in the extremes of poverty, institutional care and crime and after his injury had become sullen and combative with the Spinal Injury staff overseeing his care.
We all knew that Christmas that year was bringing Darren to some sort of emotional crisis;  the experienced staff had seen this sort of thing time and time again, and so when visitors arrived from all over North Eastern Britain to support the three other patients in Darren's Ward leaving him feeling angry and resentful and foul mouthed, we were almost prepared for how things unfurled .

Nursing care is intensive on an acute spinal Ward, with each patient being specially turned every two hours by a group of three carers and all it took was a gesture of kindness for the floodgates to be opened on Darren's pain. Pain and grief at being disabled and alone at twenty five years old.
I remember Darren being tight lipped with his arms crossed as he was turned and I remember the nurse nearest to him pausing before we left for the next patient.
The nurse was  Edith Marimbirie and I remember her clearly. A heavy set, gentle faced Senior midwife in her native Zimbabwe Edith had come to our Ward late in her career and like most African nurses I have had the pleasure to work with she carried out her work in a graceful unhurried pace all of its own.
With a motherly hand and a gentle word she gently cupped Darren's teeth clenched cheek for a long moment and that's all it took.
The tears flowed.
Without fanfare another nurse pulled the curtains around the bed and all but Edith left the bed space quietly as Darren sobbed and sobbed and sobbed his pain away, and for the next few hours Edith never left his side.
A mother soothing a child of a man.

I remember that Christmas Day well as we were busy.
But with Edith effectively out of duties the remaining nurses on the Ward never complained that they had more to do, not once and finally, hours later , when Edith joined her colleagues in the interview room with its desks heavy with brought in party food , she was hugged and kissed in thanks for what she had done that afternoon.

Darren turned a rehab corner that Christmas Day. And he went on to be successfully discharged , self caring in his wheelchair.
And Edith used her motherly warmth a score more of times in a way the nursing curriculum never teaches you or even really acknowledges .

85 comments:

  1. What a lovely memory, John, and thank you for sharing with us. Before it became a no-no to touch children, many teachers performed a similar role to their pupils. As an oldie who didn’t give a flying f**k for the accusations that could be thrown at me, I continued to do this til my last day of employment. A gentle human touch is beyond price.

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  2. Wonderful story. As a retired nurse who finished her career working in a Hospice I sincerely believe that there are a few nurses who have that "something" that can enable people to release their emotions without a word being spoken. Truly wonderful. Visitors used to point out one nurse who apparently had an "aura of serenity". I saw what they meant and tried to adopt it-but if you ain't got it, you ain't got it!

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  3. Nurses like Edith are worth their weight in gold but I doubt that the Care Quality Commission would notice.

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  4. Thank you for sharing that, what a lovely experience. I believe in inherent goodness, redemption and second chances. I was raised to believe that way.

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  5. I cried reading this John. Thank you for sharing such a moving time in your career. Just what is needed genuine caring sympathetic nursing. Thank you every one who chose this career and every days spreads love and kindness often in difficult circumstances.x

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  6. We could all do with an Edith or a John in our lives.

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    1. This post is all Edith Simone x

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  7. A special person. You can never tell when you will make that difference.

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  8. Anonymous11:32 am

    There were actually a few really, and l do mean really, wonderful nurses working at Barts Christmas 1973.
    One huge challenge for them was 2 young girls who had taken illegal drugs and ended up with serious injuries. I remember these 2 were a real test to nursing! l even remember nurses coming in to work to help out on their days off over the Christmas.
    The junior doctors put on a fantastic Christmas show that year as well.
    It all made being in hospital over Christmas not so noticeable, and really quite okay!
    Tess x

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  9. To watch the love and care that his fellow patients were receiving must have been so hard for Darren - it doesn't sound like he'd been on the receiving end much himself.
    We never know, do we, what other people have been through, unless we take the time to find out. There's usually an explanation. Let's hope his life is set for the better by now. And that nursing continues to attract people like you and Edith.

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  10. That was like a Dickens Christmas story.

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  11. You've brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat John. x

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  12. Oh god, another morning where you've made me cry. Thank you, however. I can't even imagine what happens to someone emotionally when they suddenly become paralysed. -Jenn

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  13. Just Wow! You brought the tears once again, John. Lovely.

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  14. Angels, you are all angels, and boy do we need you.

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  15. Tears here, too. A wonderful story, thank you once again John.

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  16. Anonymous1:25 pm

    This is such a beautiful, loving memory - such a wonderful, caring woman. Thanks so much for sharing - it is really moving. And you are such a caring and wonderful man! xxx Eileen in Dover.

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  17. Replies
    1. Many of the younger nurses referred ti her as mother

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  18. Caring deeply and giving your whole heart to others can’t be learned, it is who you are. You are one of those people also, John. It is a beautiful gift but also painful at times.

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  19. That was a beautiful post, and Edith had a beautiful soul...I wonder whatever happened to Darren? xx

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    1. In my experience many of the " bad boys" often did better for themselves after their injuries. I cant remember what happened to darren post discharge

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  20. This brought me to tears for so many obvious reasons. Thank you for sharing it, John.

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  21. Edith had a lasting effect on 'Darren'. How fortunate he was to be near her. And how fortunate you all were to witness this compassionate human being doing what she does so easily.

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    1. I can give you a list of nurses that did the same..meggie, christina, Ruth, david, .....the list is endless

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  22. A beautiful Christmas memory. I am a retired RN and have seen many patients who are alone on the Holidays...Edith was an angel.

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  23. That was an emotional read. What a good reminder to reach out and sometimes just a touch can help. Thanks.

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  24. There are angels among us. What a beautiful memory. I will also add my condolences on the passing of your dear doggy. Take care. Barb from Canada

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  25. I'm so thankful there are nurses like this, but you made me cry this morning:)

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  26. One of the best things for me in reading blogs is getting to see through a window into other people's lives and specifically seeing examples of good. Knowing just how many people will do a caring thing for other living creatures sustains me.

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  27. I needed to read this story. It just pulled me up and made me remember that there are a lot of wonderful people about who make a real difference like Edith. Thank you for sharing the story.

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  28. Now THAT'S a wonderfully heartwarming Christmas story of love and redemption. Thanks, John.

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  29. Lovely piece of writing about that wonderful woman. I wonder if it might be appreciated more broadly if you sent it to be published somewhere.

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  30. No training can teach the love and care of a mother. That is a beautiful memory you have shared.

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    1. I miss working with her. Every time she talked to me she would hold my hand

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  31. Powerful, beautiful. A true Christmas story! Thank you!

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  32. Nurses like Edith are true angels (I'm not religious, but can't think of a better analogy). What a wonderful woman, doing something she would probably regard an unremarkable.Thanks for sharing this heart warming story...you know what's coming next...write that book!

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    1. I remember interviewing Edith for a junior nurse post. She had left a senior post in Zimbabwe and was over qualified for the job, but I instantly liked her warmth and sweetness

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  33. Nursing is a special calling. The cosmos called and Edith stepped up. we need more Ediths in the world. (you made me cry) Big hug for you John xxx

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  34. Barbara Anne5:16 pm

    What a wonderful recollection of a miracle happening to someone in need thanks to one caring nurse and her kind and sensitive co-workers. May all those in need cross paths with someone like Edith.

    Yes, please, a book, sir!

    Hugs!

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  35. Worn out and frustrated as we can become, old nurses do get to have these wonderful memories. It is always nice to be on a ward where there is a "Mum", how they do it I do not know. The other thing needed on a ward is a strong leader with high standards, supportive of staff in return and a role model for young nurses, willing to impart wisdom not found in textbooks. You did that admirably.

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  36. Sobbing. You bastard!

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  37. It really does take a special person to be a nurse -- to perceive that need in a patient and to act on it. Good for Edith, and for the rest of the staff for giving her the space she and Darren required.

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    1. I disagree. It takes hard work and empathy to be a good nurse
      Anyone can make an average one

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  38. John, you are such a good writer, you should author a book. It’s hard to write through my tears. I must admit I stepped away away from your blog and other social media for about a year and recently returned and now realize how much I missed your blog. I wish Peace to you.

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  39. The world needs a LOT more Ediths. And the other staff who recognise and support the importance of what the Ediths do.
    A big thank you to her, and them.

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  40. Lorna6:37 pm

    Edith is possessed of a grace and warmth I so envy. Thanks for telling us about her. I wish she was my neighbor, too.

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    1. There was no urgency about her, which didn't mean she never got things done. She was a calm woman calm as a flat sea

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  41. We need more Edith's in this world.
    What a lovely story to share.
    Thank you so much.

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  42. Your post has made me feel so humble John. What a caring woman. That you - and probably everyone else involved, especially Darren, remember it to this day. A seemingly small thing but making a lasting difference.

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    1. I saw many such moments on Spinal injuries pat

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  43. Some people in helping professions just have that ability. Lucky are the patients on the receiving end.

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  44. I clearly remember working at a well known cancer hospital. We were trying to keep a young woman in her 30's going as she wanted a last Christmas with her little girl. The woman had a fungating great cancer and secondaries. It was a race against time but with treatment and good care we made it. She died in the new year. This was 1986. Her daughter would be in her 30's now. I remember her mum's first name but not her second or her little girls name.

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    1. I would be nice for you to meet the daughter somehow

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  45. Breast cancer sorry can't edit

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  46. That was a lovely memory to share. Having been in hospital on several occasions I have met a few Ediths but unfortunately I've also met a few who wouldn't know an Edith if they tripped over her. A lovely story, thank you. x

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  47. My heart is full...thank you

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  48. I think I have a little something in my eye, John. Lovely remembrance.

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  49. What a lovely story Edith's kindness worth it's weight in gold no medicine could replace the human touch.

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  50. Edith Simone, her name and your memory of her and “Darren” are now tucked in my heart.

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  51. Lovely story John, I remember a few like that, and Ediths were few and far between.

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  52. Beautiful story, John. You've had some wonderful experiences. You're a darn good writer! I was teary-eyed when done.

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  53. It seems that Edith had the healing touch. Wonderful story of the earth bound angels known as nurses. When my 12 year old son was in the intensive care unit, it was the nurses that helped hold me together. I will never forget them even though 25 years have passed.

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  54. Thank you John for this great Christmas story.
    Ruth in Oxnard CA USA

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  55. That story makes me believe in the spirit of Christmas, for a moment. Thanks, John, and a special thank you to Edith.

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  56. So very sad and so very lovely . . .
    Pathos . . .
    A gift . . . your writing . . .

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  57. A lovely story. I wish this happened throughout the NHS these days. However a relative works on an NHS geriatric ward and sadly due to being short staffed they're not able to give all the time and attention to patients as they'd like. That's to the elderly and vulnerable. She says it's soul destroying.
    She often works past her finishing time but it's not enough. All to often these days we hear of patients who aren't being nourished well in hospital because they can't manage their meals alone, in some cases the meals are removed untouched and a note made on the patients record that they didn't eat. Yet it continues. Not all patients have someone in the family to go in and help. Sadly it's both nutritional and emotional needs that aren't being met.
    I'm not saying all hospital trusts are the same, I only know what I hear and read, but having a relative in the thick of it shows it happens and it's so sad. There's much to be said for "the good old days" when care and compassion were a given.

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  58. I've been thinking about this post all day. There are those in life who are never given much of a chance and go wrong, and clearly he was one. So great that Edith gave him the mother love comfort he never had. Don't we all want to cry to our mummies at times.

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  59. Sweet story. I hope Darren and Edith are both doing well.

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  60. I grew up in Zimbabwe. I’m a nurse and I and some loving Zimbabwean nurses looked after my Mum when she was dying. There is a gentle form of caring in Zim. I am privileged to work with some Zimbabwean nurses in New Zealand.

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  61. That was wonderful to read,and no doubt to be a witness to.

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