Friday, 23 August 2019

Sue


1991 ish
Lodge Moor Hospital Spinal Unit
Sheffield

Patients were referred to our unit from as far as Suffolk and Norfolk in the East, Nottingham and Derbyshire in the South and parts of Manchester in the West. 
Seldom did we have a native Sheffielder admitted.

The tiny hospital, perched precariously at the end of a main road on the edge of the Derbyshire moors would become " home" for dozens of young men and women for sometimes well over a year. 
Men and women paralysed after some unexpected trauma. 
Their lives changed forever in what was often described as a blinking Of an eye.

Each patient would be admitted to the acute injury ward initially and would be allocated two trained nurses who would coordinate their care
Sue was admitted following a car accident in Manchester and my friend Ruth and I were asked to be her primary nurses
From the get go, Sue was a challenge. 
Born into a tough working class family who were tight lipped and insular in adversity she spent much of her early days at the unit with her back to the world. 
She had a potty mouth and a sharp tongue, and was quick enough to pick up any inconsistencies that she came across in her care. She was placed on bed rest for  12 weeks, so that her thoracic vertebrae would strengthen enough for her to be mobilised into a wheelchair. Then her rehabilitation would start in earnest .
Our job, as nurses , was to prepare her for massive change in her life and her circumstances.

Ruth and I worked well together . We used humour and warmth and banter to our advantage and we spent a great deal of time getting the patients to trust us, a challenge with patients like Sue who cocooned  herself with a tough veneer of foul mouthed protection .
It was Ruth that finally broke through that shell, for after an insightful epiphany one day, she sat down at Sue's bedside and quietly asked if she was gay.
The floodgates opened and Sue cried and cried and cried, for a whole afternoon.
With Ruth protectively at her side.

Coming out as gay, can for many people be a liberating and often cathartic experience, and in Sue's  case this relief of releasing years of shame and pain was compounded by the grief of her paralysis. 
And the emotion was huge and all encompassing.
Ruth soaked it up as we had been trained to do.

And eventually Sue moved slowly forward.

Not only did she come out to her family. ( A family that took the news without batting so much as an eyelid) she allowed us to prepare her for her journey of rehabilitation. 
Ruth and I taught her how to manage her uncoordinated bladder and bowels.
We taught her to balance and we got her up to her wheelchair amid tears and much swearing
And we watched and supported her as she started to pick up the reins of her life again.

I often compared spinal Injury nursing with primary school. The patients start as many children do. Unconfident, clingy, uninformed and ripe for education and through the process of school graduate to bigger and better things. 
Sue , followed that path and was transferred to the rehabilitation ward where new nurses took over her care. 
But Ruth and I never really let go of her. We took her to the Ledmill with the other male patients and got her sloshed on cheap lager. We celebrated her birthday when's her massive family turned up from across the Pennines and we met her girlfriend when she felt comfortable enough to introduce her.

I can't really remember the details of what happened next, but I do remember the nurse from the rehab ward ringing me at home to tell me that something dreadful  had happened and that Sue had collapsed on the ward after feeling unwell for a few days .
She had been taken to Sheffield's main hospital into Intensive Care. 

I picked Ruth up from home and without thinking drove to The Northern General Hospital across the city
" Are you family ? " The intensive care Nurse asked us with a quizzical face
" No we are her nurses ?" Ruth said breathlessly
And we were shown into the room where Sue had just died.

I like to think that our presence helped Sue's family just a little more .
They were moved to see us there.
The intensive care nurses even asked us if we wanted to perform the last offices which was kind.
We didn't. 

And I remember Ruth and I walking out of the hospital in the wee small hours feeling exhausted and unreal
And I remember too that we were holding hands.

49 comments:

  1. Powerful writing John. Gave me chills.

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    1. I remembered the story last night when I drove back into Wales along the a55 the lights from the Wirral and Liverpool reminded me of the journey to the northern general hospital

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  2. Oh shit. That was not what I wanted to read.
    Thank you and Ruth for the support you have given to many Sues over the years.

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  3. Oh gawd, what a story. You have absorbed SO much in your life and career .. no wonder you are the wonderful man you are. I'm proud to know you ♥️

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    1. I just remembered the story. Ruth was the one that should take the plaudits , she taught me how to go with your gut

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  4. Thank you for relating that story; We all have a story of the wonderful gay folks we have met in our lives . I have not met you like Sue ; however I love you for being you Joan XXXX

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  5. That has made me cry.

    You are a wonderful, kind and compassionate man.
    Your blog is the only one I read daily and through it I feel I know you and your furry family....you really do brighten my day....mostly apart from the times you make me cry!

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    1. Made me cry, too!
      I echo your sentiments, as well! Being new to John's blog,I don't know him all that well, however, his writing and his humor draw you in and you love him for the unselfish human he is!

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  6. John, I really hope that I get a couple of nurses like you and Ruth if ever something catastrophic happens to me.

    When are you going to get the book published? You have so many human interest stories to tell and write so well. xx

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  7. You and Ruth are very special people. The world needs more folks like you two.

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  8. You teach us about empathy with every post you write. It is a beautiful thing.

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  9. What everyone else has said (above). You have a calling, John, for nursing and for reaching out to all your readers around the world as a teacher and a wise soul. Thank you for your stories, thank you for your -- in the best sense of the word ( a rarity these days) -- humanity.

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  10. How awful it would have been if Sue had died without being fully recognized and loved for who she was. You and Ruth made a big difference in her life.

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  11. RIP sue..
    My husband has been in hospital for quite a while and there are many unsung heroes in the NHS, right from the top level to the cleaners and porters. Last Sunday, the nurses on ITU allowed me to take our dog in to see him and I think it was then that he turned a corner.

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  12. As I sit here letting the tears run down my face, John, your's and Ruth's experience took me back just two weeks ago to my father's bedside. He was dying. One of his favourite nurses had just gotten back from vacation and heard the news. She came into his room and walked toward his bed. She opened her arms and bent over to hold him close. I and my family were moved to tears at this loving display. She slowly let him go and left the room. Dad was happy to see his favourite nurse who he shamelessly teased because he liked her so much. Some nurses go above and beyond their call of duty. I salute them and you and Ruth as well. Thank you.

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    1. Jimbo
      Things are very raw for you...
      hugs xxxxx

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  13. It's always painful when you lose a special patient. It happens too often and it always breaks my heart.

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  14. Lord John.....a good cry first thing in the morning is not all that desirable but, oh well, one must do what one must do.

    You touch my heart from across the keyboard and through the screen. I am so glad that you were one of the first bloggers I found when I went seeking (as I sought out of loneliness and pain), and that I have "met" someone really special.

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  15. Write the book. Pay off your mortgage. How many times do we have to say it?

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    1. Yes John. We love your stories and others would also. Write that book.

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  16. You really should gather your stories into a book, and you are about to embark on a mission that will create even more. During my adventure back in 2015, I tried to thank the kind ones, the unsung heros.

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  17. What a wonderful story. Hospice is so very lucky to get you!

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  18. You really were both the very best kind of nurses.

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  19. Barbara Anne3:59 pm

    There is nothing better for those with medical needs than for them to be fortunate to have caring and competent nurses like you and Ruth. Of course, there are millions of wonderful nurses worldwide, but not 100% as it should be.

    Thanks for sharing this heartwarming and heartbreaking story.

    Yes, collect the stories you've written here and those still in your head, and write that book. As Andi said, you might be able to soon pay off the mortgage. It could happen! :)

    Hugs!

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  20. Wow. That's all I can say.

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  21. What Kirk said.

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  22. You are truly kind and generous. x

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  23. I have a lump in my throat reading this. I have generally only had positive experiences at the hands of nurses and think they do one of the toughest jobs there is. You and Ruth exemplify the qualities of nursing.

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  24. If it hadn't been for Ruth and yourself,Sue would have passed on,keeping it all to herself.She must have felt so happy to have spoken out at last x

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  25. That's a masterfully told tragedy, John.

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  26. Perhaps you were allowed to remember that now to prepare you for something you will need to do while at your new job. Often something sad or painful to relive is suppressed for self-preservation, at least in my experience, until just the right time, when it's helpful, not very hard on me, and just a memory/lesson to be grateful for. In any case, it should add to your confidence as you enter a new arena soon. Be proud, good man, you have much to offer. - Mary

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  27. Holding hands was the best thing you could do. I'm so sorry this happened.

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  28. Anonymous11:31 pm

    what a moving and beautifully written memory...... to have even touched just one life in such a profound way is a true gift. Yes, perhaps you will draw from this well many times in your new position
    Susan M, Calif.

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  29. I wish, that if anything ever traumatic happens to me that I have nurses that have the same empathy and compassion as you and Ruth. Bravo!

    Jo in Auckland

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  30. (0)
    Everyone has said it; I'll just drop a gentle pebble.

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  31. Beautiful and poignant...

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  32. Beautiful heartwarming story you truly are a gentle soul and good at putting pen to paper I remember another story much like this one where you let a gay couple say goodbye in private because the family did not know that they were a couple, thank goodness times are changing hey.

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  33. One of the many reasons I read your blog is your ability to relate things with feeling - you bring us there. I felt this one in my chest. It made me feel - and in a way to live. Thank you.

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  34. What a very sad tale; but I imagine in your job you must have many similar ones.

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  35. Anonymous4:52 am

    Echoing thoughts already shared. You have a gift with words. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. Write a book!
    xxCali G

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  36. John, I worked as a physio the spinal unit, Conradie Hospital, CapeTown 1977..straight after qualifying at King's College Hospital in London. I l o ved the work, the patients & my colleagues.

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  37. You DO have a habit of making me cry, John! Such a tragic story but still a positive message about patience, kindness, and self-respect (and respect for others).

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  38. moments like those are the ones that will pop up suddenly when at the crossroad of decision, helping propel you to do the thing you most fear but must do - you cannot get back time, only make good use of the time left.

    Thank you again for your excellent prose!! Can I buy your book NOW??? ;) Hugs to you my friend ((((John))) xoxo

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  39. You have really had some special interactions with people due to the nature of your work and who you are. How luck you and Ruth were to be there to meet Sue and be a part of her life and her to make such an impression on yours. THank you for sharing these stories. XO

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