Friday, 14 August 2020

Room 9, Bed 2


With Covid I seem to get my post in a bunch...once a week on average t would seem.
This week I received a tax rebate, some junk mail, a small gift of an oil pourer from the delightful Veronique, a couple of rainbow T shirts and a franked letter from my local hospital.
The hospital letter concealed another letter, hand written and clumsily addressed to Nurse John Gray, Intensive Care Unit, Glan Clwyd Hospital, North Wales.
Someone on the unit had kindly remembered me and had taken the time to redirect the letter.
Even so the letter was dated May 30th.

I read the letter.
Then I read it again and I remembered the man who was it’s subject matter
It was written by the man’s sister.
A woman I have absolutely no memory of .

The man was an attractive Suffolk farmer in his thirties. Dark haired and sunburnt
He was paralysed from the waist down following a tractor accident on his father’s farm.
The farm was mostly arable but also specialised in heavy black faced Suffolk sheep and James, was their Shepherd with a nervous black and white sheepdog called Cutter , a dog who visited several times during James’ confinement.
I remember thinking that Cutter was an odd name for a dog.
On reflection Cutter is a name that can be shouted easily

James bore his injury quietly. He remained isolated from hoards of young farmer friends during weekdays and didn’t interact well with his nurses who endeavoured to teach him how to manage his bladder whilst on bed rest.
I remember taking my Welsh Terrier , Finlay in to see him like I seemed to do so often with sadder patients at that time and when the gentle dog laid with him with his head resting on James’s chest. James cried silent tears
The grief of his lost life shared with a dog.

I fancied James rotten.
It is a fact that is common with spinal injury nurses when most of the patients you nurse are robust young men.
Men who are paralysed but are generally fit and well seconds before the accident that crippled them.
James was a ham armed masculine farmer who smiled easily even though that smile was somewhat hollow
I fancied him rotten......but I was also incredibly aware just how professional I needed to be
So I was very professional, precise and careful.....
Having said this I found myself sitting with him and talking probably more than I did with the other patients

Anyhow back to the sister’s letter which was almost apologetic in its content.
Apparently James had returned to the Spinal unit for a urology review at outpatients and had sought me out on the ward where the staff had informed him I had moved to Wales.
He had wanted to talk to me
He returned to farming with the ingenuity and support  of  The Young farmers who fundraised for specialised quad bikes and the like and according to his sister never complained about his paralysis and just how hard his life was under the suffocating umbrella of a large family who loved him dearly.
James came out gay to his sister a year or so after his accident
He never dated a man as far as she knew and she shared the family home with him after the death of their father in 2007.
James died of complications of billary sepsis in late May of this year . He had also contracted Covid in his local hospital so he is now one of the 46,706 victims of the fucking disease

I read the letter at the kitchen table, cluttered with the flotsam of the morning and sipped at my bucket of coffee.
And I remembered the quiet, attractive sunburnt man who hugged my dog so strongly in the odd confines of a hospital bed

And I cried at the waste of it all.

85 comments:

  1. My dear John - how much harder it must be for all you nursing staff and doctors at the chalk face. What a waste indeed - life can be so unfair.

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  2. An eloquent eulogy--thank you.

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  3. Oh, John, I cried at this, too. So sorry you didn't get to see him when he reached out. He seemed to have success finding his way back to the world. I'm sure he had much to share with you. That was so kind of his sister to think of you. Sending cyber hugs.

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    1. What a waste in so many ways
      Disability, sexuality, to die in your early fifties when you shouldn't have to

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  4. It is nice to know that your kindness was remembered.

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  5. Such a lovely, sad but eloquent post. As you say such a waste, but know that you are much respected and loved as your post shows. Never underestimate the subtle or not so subtle changes you bring to someone's life. Be safe and happy.... love Ro xxx

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  6. Aww John, see how much of an impact you make on people, and how fondly you're remembered.

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  7. A story to touch one deeply, anyone with a heart and a soul.

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  8. How heart-struck you must have been, reading that letter, and yet you go back to work time and again. We all want to make a difference in the world, and you certainly do.

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  9. If it is any consolation, you have made me cry. What a waste of a life. So sad that he never had any 'fun'. Clearly you and he could have but of course as his carer, you can't. A 20 year old died from COVID here today. Again, what a waste.

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    1. I never had an inkling he was gay..I was also in a committed relationship at the time.
      I have a friend who met her husband on my ward she was a nurse he a patient. They are still together almost 20 years later

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  10. Thank you for sharing that, take care

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  11. How wonderful that James's sister took the trouble to write to you - or you would have never known. As you say - what a waste!

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  12. Good that you were well remembered.
    Dogs can get through to people when we can't sometimes.
    Such a tragedy that he was getting his life back then this happens. xxx

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  13. That is a heart wrenching story. You make a difference to the people you interact with, even if you don't realize it. That is what being here is all about in my opinion.

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  14. you touch so many lives, john. thank you.

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  15. Oh John, how sad this all is.
    The bright spot here is that you gave James the opportunity to accept it his true self.
    An incredibly special memory......

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    1. I never discussed sexuality with him jumbo never

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  16. Oh my John . . .
    The sister reaching out . . .
    I am in tears.
    You. Finlay . young farmer . . .

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  17. He had obviously talked about you to his sister in a way that she felt you would want to know what happened. What a waste, indeed.

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  18. Anonymous1:21 pm

    When a person cannot trust humans to accept you as you are and feel, an animal is a safe creature to share sorrow with.James was fortunate to have Finlay with him. Thanks,John,for a moving and well written story.-Mary

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  19. So very sad. It was nice of his sister to update you.

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    1. I’m in the process of writing to her back. She sounded rather lost

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  20. Your posts have made me cry before today’s is also one of those. Sending a big hug. Hesther

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    1. I’ll be upbeat tomorrow morning I’m on a set of nights

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  21. He would be glad to know, I'm sure, that he is forever tenderly settled into your heart.

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    1. I remember him well, but haven’t thought about him for a long time

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  22. Please let there be an end to this waste soon. There is only so much pain that we can stand.

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  23. Thank you for sharing this tragic story with us, John dear. Also sending you {{{hugs}}}.

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  24. And my morning begins with tears shed.
    Life...it kills you.
    Hugs,
    ~Jo
    xx

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    1. I’ve written to the sister today .i hope it helps

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    2. No doubt it will dear John.
      x

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  25. You couldn't sum up this post better than in your final sentence.

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    1. Yes, my perception ...Covid took him far too early ..I’m only guessing re his coming out

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  26. I had to look up the saying, "fancied him rotten". I suspected what you meant but I really like to get it right. I cried at the waste too. At the many people who lived without love because someone else would be offended by who they chose to love, or who that had no choice whatsoever to love. In this awful awful time of COVID and war and hunger and fucking Donald Trump, there are things to rejoice. More and more people get to be really brave and state who they love without risk of rejection. Hopefully, one day, it will be a non issue. Thank you for the memory John.

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    1. No I fancied him rotten

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    2. Is that the same as saying you spoiled someone rotten ... such as a favorite person or pet?

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    3. Is that the same as saying you spoiled someone rotten ... such as a favorite person or pet?

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    4. Yes it’s a northern English saying
      It means greatly

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  27. So much sadness there, on so many levels. xx

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  28. Anonymous4:05 pm

    I love this story John Gray. I love your blog. I love your dogs and and I love you. You are a good person.
    Colleen

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  29. John, this post was so incredibly touching. It brought tears to my eyes. And you are so right, "the waste of it all." Thank you.

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    1. I’m presuming mick, for all I know James could have been ok with his life more than I’m projecting on it.
      A waste definitely re covid

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  30. Once again John, your words here show 'you have a book in you'. Tears came, thoughts were deep, I could visualize it all so well.
    When you do at last retire - which will be a great loss to the medical field - you must sit in the cottage near the window, or in the garden on summer days, and write. . . . . .please!

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  31. So sad. You clearly meant a lot to James for his sister to write to you like that.

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    1. Spinal injuries fostered such relationships me thinks

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  32. Oh my gosh. What a sad story. Perhaps you were more significant to him than you know! You really do have some amazing encounters as a nurse.

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  33. Very sad. A life shortened due to circumstance. No answers. A letter in response will be appreciated.

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  34. Barbara Anne5:18 pm

    What a poignant and wonderful tribute to a memorable patient. His fellow farmers should be commended for helping make it possible for him to continue farming.

    Watch your email - your mention of taking Finley to visit this man reminded me of it.

    Hugs!

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  35. Your friendship must of been significant to James-and who knows what could have been xx

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  36. Joan (Devon)6:14 pm

    So sad and once again, wet eyes. At least, due to the Young Farmers, he had a scaled down active life back and not just an existence of immobility. You describe him so well that I can visualise him with a big smile on his face, back doing what he knew so well. Well done to them and well done to you for being thought so much of that his sister wanted you to know.

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  37. Life is a lottery, and often shockingly unfair. I think of cases of critical injuries like the one you described, and of children who die of horrible diseases, and folks with chronic pain, and on and on. So many of us don't stop to realize how incredibly lucky we are.

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  38. Anonymous7:49 pm

    Dear John, instead of just fading away, your memories and stories of these people you have cared for, make them live on. Isn't that what we all wish for? You have brought tears to my eyes yet again, and as I come from tough old Yankee stock, that is not an often occurrence. I second the motion for writing all these stories down!

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    1. Anonymous10:45 pm

      Without wishing to seem rude, I am a bit puzzled by people who keep telling John to write his stories down, because that is exactly what he does here on his blog. I know they mean write them down as a book, but a book is a very different venture than a blog.

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  39. Goddamn...

    I have nothing else to add. XO

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  40. So sorry for the chances missed and what might have been. You obviously made him feel safe and secure.

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  41. Oh the fucking waste indeed.
    And tears here too. Useless but heartfelt tears.

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  42. A very beautiful and sad story. Thanks for sharing it John. You are a wonderful nurse and it was a win for your patients when you returned to it. I read you regularly and rarely comment but this was such a moving post.

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  43. Heartbreaking and at the same time an inspiring story of how with the help of friends he was able to carry on. You have left an imprint of your heart on so many patients under your care and on ours daily, reminding us that kindness is it's own reward.

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  44. Your emoji is cute but I am seeing way too many grey haired ''old folks'' emojis lately. Maybe not the best first impression?

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  45. Jean Shaw10:57 pm

    Tears upon tears.

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  46. It's a world wide waste, John, whether Covid is being handled well or not at all. How kind of the hospital to find you. That said, stay well and safe, please, for your patients.

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  47. What a beautiful, sad story. I had to wipe away a few tears before anyone in my family see me.

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  48. A sad tale but beautifully remembered and told, John. You're an artist as well as a good man.

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  49. Oh my, this is without doubt, the best worst.

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  50. A very good awful ending story.
    Needs to be told.

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  51. Another reply through blurry, tearful eyes John. You must have been a significant person for them to want to let you know how his life ended - by just being you - not needing to wear a sexuality defining badge, you helped them both. I hope your letter to his sister helps her.

    I suspect there's going to be a BC and an AC - before Covid and After Covid for the whole world. We need to do what we can to make it a fairer, juster, more accepting place.

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  52. Oh dear, what a very sad tale. This effing COVID is really beginning to make such a bloody mess of the world.

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  53. You are right such a bloody waste on so many levels for so many reasons...tissues please.

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  54. Did he die of billary sepsis because that is a pretty nasty sepsis?

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    1. Spinal patients often have complications of the billary system
      Sepsis can happen and originate anywhere

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  55. That was an utterly destroying read John. I feel so sad for that poor man and his sister. The fact your Finlay brought him some relief was a blessing. Tears of regret and sorrow can be cathartic. Thanks for sharing this; very poignant.

    Jo in Auckland

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  56. You write so poignantly John. Thank you for this post. xxx

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  57. Oh John, I feel for you. I have just read your posts and it shows me just how good a nurse and a man that someone would think to write to you in this way personally. Clearly that young man’s sister felt that James would want you to know that he thought of you. Covid is an awful disease that is not only virulent as many viruses can be but what scares us most is even with all of our technological knowledge now to be able to map its DNA a vaccine is hard to find and that makes all of us feel so vulnerable. It makes me so angry to see people being so careless with their lives not wearing masks etc and that may be even worse for you as a nurse. Take time to care for yourself dear John During your month of night shifts and remember there are people living who need the comfort that you give them for however much time as they are around. All the best. Sally from Ramsgate.

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  58. Damn,Damn,Damn
    Love ya John

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