In memory of Sue, may you rest in peace.
Acknowledgment – Blogging is an occupation I enjoy engaging in, as an effort to appease and make sense of my thoughts. It’s a personal opinion piece based on my own experiences and observations. Any criticism within this blog is not to be taken personally, it is more a criticism of the systems the individuals sometimes have to work within. This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.
Regular readers of my blog will know I’m keen on a dictionary definition as a starting point to help, focus my thoughts. The idea for this blog came about at the weekend whilst I attended a hendo in the lake district with a group of amazing women, who reminded me, that women are remarkable creatures that truly need to be celebrated, what better day to do that than the 8th March International women’s day.
Finding a definition of ‘woman’ (plural women) however has its difficulties as in recent years, dictionary definitions have been challenged, as out dated and sexist. The current definition in the Cambridge dictionary: an adult female human being. This blog is not a debate on what defines womanhood, for me a woman is anyone who identifies as one.
International Women’s Day IWD (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific. This years campaign theme is #BreakTheBias We are being asked to ‘Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.’
On international women’s day I want to reflect on the strong, supportive, focused, driven, compassionate woman I have met during my long recovery from Covid 19, and the impact they have had on my well-being and journey.
There are so many women to thank, and I hope I have remembered them all.
I guess the place to start is at the beginning, with the two female paramedics that collected me from home and took me to A+E, it was at the very beginning of the pandemic no one really knew what they were doing, they came in wearing face masks, listened, were gentle, I felt I was safe with them, they understood it was scary having to leave my partner behind due to the pandemic rules, and stayed with me, until I was seen by someone in A+E.
The next few months are very hazy, but I have memories of kindness, compassion and sheer brilliantness from woman working across both hospitals I spent over a year of my life in. These are a few that stood out for me. I will use first names when appropriate and where I remember them.
To Rachel and the Physio therapy team at the Freeman – I remember a feeling of dread, at the things you were asking me to do, I was scared, in pain and overwhelmed, but you did it with gentle encouragement, set goals and celebrated the little wins with me. I felt your determination to get me well again.
To Ann and her Occupational Therapy team at the Freeman – I remember lots of laughing, lots of crying, lots of hand holding. Skills of problem solving evident in every intervention, ill-equipped environments and occupations like having a warm shower were made possible with your knowledge, kindness and determination. I felt respected
To the two speech and language therapists who, worked on my swallowing, I remember you coming back week after week to try again, your words of encouragement when I could not swallow, and those facials that were beyond your work remit but very much appreciated. I felt cared about.
To the countless nurses, nursing assistants, ward managers and domestic staff in intensive care, and on ward 6 at the Freeman. I remember you taking the time to plait my hair, and help manage it when it started to fall out. Accompanying me to scans, wiping my tears, holding the phone when I had no strength, so I could speak to family, taking me off the ward in my hospital bed, to see the outside and feel the fresh air on my face, writing in my ITU diary so when was well enough I could read and understand a little of what happened to me. For sharing stories, and news from the outside world, appropriately sharing parts of your lives, for the Netflix recommendations. I felt valued
To the psychologist who visited regularly to help me, managed dark and low thoughts at a time I wanted to give up. I felt heard.
To my consultants secretary Hannah, who always followed up on requests for information from my mum when I was to unwell to remember, for your emails and phone calls since my discharge to arrange appointments and further surgery – I felt a personal touch that is often lost within large organisations.
To Dame Jackie Daniel Chief Executive, and the other women on the broad of Directors for Newcastle hospitals NHS trust, for doing an outstanding job on leading an outstanding NHS Trust as certified by the CQC, and by my 9 month stay in the care of your trust. I agree whole heartedly with the CQC report, some how a culture of true compassion resides throughout your staff groups, this comes from compassionate leadership that values its staff.
My experience of James Cook University Hospital was a little different, and I have to be honest in my experiences, the culture is very different. I remember being moved wards a lot, poor communication with family, and restrictive practices that often felt like you were not seen as an individual, just a bed occupant. However there were many exceptions to this and thank-yous to be made.
To the Dr who ordered me a curry because she could just see I needed a pick me up.
To the ward manager and staff nurse who took the time to listen to my concerns, and tried to resolved them.
To the ward staff that took the time to chat, pushed me down to the chapel and came back for me later so I could get some peace from the busyness of the ward.
To the women who worked in the shop, and help move things, but also let me learn how to manoeuvre in tight spaces as I learnt to use my electric chair, and recognised the improvement over time.
To the trainee Chaplin who visited at a time I was in isolation, and shared her remarkable story, and listen and sat with me.
To the women on the patient liaison services, who responded to my many emails and tried to resolved my concerns around restrictive practises.
To the Occupational therapist who understood, I didn’t need dressing practise or to attend breakfast club, but a quiet space to focus on writing my blog and the presentation I gave to a conference from my hospital bed.
To the woman from liaison psychiatry who I had weekly phone calls with to make sense of traumatic thoughts and memories of my time in intensive care.
To Jane and Fiona my union reps who worked on my behalf to ensure my rights as a worker in the NHS effected by covid 19 were recognised, and catered for.
Thank you for shining a light and demonstrating that despite a culture that for me is not patient focused, you listened, you were kind, you noticed, you cared.
To the incredible women I shared a six bedded bay with for 3 months of my life, you amaze me with your strength, understanding, and camaraderie. Hearing a persons story is inspiring, witnessing its development is a privilege, thank you for sharing. We had each others back, were able to sense when space was needed. I will always treasure this very odd time in my life and use it as a tool to remember even in a woman’s most darkest, weakest moments she is strong and holds a willingness to push back and find herself again. As I think back to this time I am reminded of a favourite quote of mine.
“Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied.”
Once home requiring full time care, there are many women to thank.
To the carers that visited three times a day, of which at times I had issues with, feeling a burden, not heard and rushed. Again there were exceptions to this. Carers that truly cared, took their time despite the absurd working conditions these women work under, showing compassion and joy in their work.
Most carers that work in peoples homes are managed by care agencies that are privately own. Care-workers and the work they do are not valued by society, it is classed as unskilled, but believe me, there is so much skilled involved, to do it right. Most carers are only paid for the time they are scheduled to be in a persons home, not their entire shift and travel like those that work in a hospital or care home. I can’t help but wonder if caring was a male dominated profession would these work conditions be tolerated?
To Vicky, Rosie and all the staff at Tees Nero physiotherapy, for taking me on, when others had given up, for your belief and determination that I would walk again, for the banter, belly laughs. I would not be here upstairs in my house writing this without you all, I will forever be grateful.
To Sarah her mum and the other ladies I’ve meant during physio and hydro, for your knowing smiles, and words of encouragement.
Finally to the amazing women I am so privileged to have in my life.
The incredible online occupational therapy community who, sent my mum and partner messages of support when I was very ill, and when I was well enough to engage, sent me and those I shared a hospital bay with letters of encouragement and care packages.
To Jennifer, my mother in law Colleen, Auntie Sue, Godmother Pam, Friend Jo Who regularly called my mum when I was in intensive care, giving her the strength to carry on in which must have been the most difficult time, particularly during a world pandemic.
To my sister in law Amy, and step mum Linda, for mucking in, and becoming part-time carers, giving my husband and mother well deserved breaks.
To Kirstie, Kelly, Nichola, Rachael Jo and Janine for always being there for me and Anthony. For your Face-Times at a drop of a hat, just to listen to a rant. For random gifts in the post that put a smile on my face. For the timely visits to ease the chaos , and the free Indian head massages. But most of all for your friendship.
To the OTalk and AbleOTUK team members for your inspirational work and commitment to the profession and for the opportunitites being part of these groups of women has given me. I am beyond privileged to know and work with.
To my amazing niece Lyra, for your energy, you’re pure sassiness, and humour that motivates me to keep on going.
To the women most of which I had never met before at what was the most enjoyable hendo weekend away, and the first time I have been anywhere without my husband or mum over night since being discharged. What you didn’t know was the struggle it took for me to get there. I had heard on the Monday that Sue, a lady I shared a bay with at James Cook had passed away and it shook me to the core. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t think I had the strength to be on my own, without Anthony, I didn’t want to feel a burden, that compromises had to be made for me to be there. What I found which I should have know with it being Beccis hendo, was a group of women, that were accepting that didn’t see me and the wheelchair as an issue or a barrier, that included me in everything. I heard stories of hard working women, holding things together during the last two years, juggling family life and work, some who had made life changing decisions. We laughed a lot, drank a bit too much, and got covered in glitter, Thank-you for reminding me how incredibly resourceful women are, and for your kindness, at a time I really needed it.
To the reader- thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this, please share your thoughts and share this years theme #BreakTheBias, take a picture of yourself with your arms crossed and post it on social media.
And most finally to my Mum the woman that has always been there, always fought for me, always supported my choices, my ambitions, my dreams. You are one incredible lady who chooses in her retirement to continue to offer her knowledge, skills and expertise to anyone who needs it. Thank-you for teaching me how to be a woman with strength, integrity, for showing me that caring, and helping other women to succeeded is the best type of woman to be.