Blog Post, Personal Life, Tribute

A Tribute to a Local Legend. – David Walsh, Thank you for the personal impact your campaigning & hard work has had on my life,  for your services to your community and @UKLabour .

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal tribute and a reflection of my own lived experiences. This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your access needs. 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.

To David

I’m from a family of labour party activists. Growing up I have fond memories of the family home hosting meetings, BBQ’s and being a central hub during elections. 

Going out canvassing as a young child, I remember once really needing a wee, and my dad having to ask a woman we had canvassed if I could use her down stairs toilet.  But one of my strongest memories is of often answering the land line at home, and hearing a man ask to speak to my mum. Over the years my brother and I  would joke with her, whenever he rang, saying that it was the man that doesn’t like his own name.  

This man was David Walsh,  he used to say is name so fast, hence in our young minds created this idea he must not like his own name, but as I grow up I learnt that this was not the case,  Instead David was a formidable mind and great asset to the Labour Party. 

I will leave it to others that knew him better to write about the impact he has had on his community with his endless work for his constituents as a local counsellor,  and the work he did alongside Ashok Kumar MP.  The dynamic duo. 

What I will talk about his is great sense of care for others.  Throughout my life I have needed assistance from my local MP’s, to get access to services and treatments I’ve needed, because to put it simply if you have a disability, you are a second class citizen,  that has to endure red tape, social care and health services that are not designed to meet the needs of those who use it, with ill written criteria, and ableist assumptions about what you can and/or can not do.  

I have had interventions from Ashok, Tom Blenkinslop, and now I have moved to Middlesbrough Andy McDonald.  From ensuring I was given a place in a main stream school, being statemented  at school, help to receive the correct benefits, and to get a blue badge when I was denied it, to lobbying health commissioners to get me a place in a rehabilitation ward following contracting covid 19.  

I know enough about local politics to know that the letters and work your MP puts in to help with such cases, is often done by the staff they employ,  So I know I owe both David and Ashok a lot for those opportunities they made possible for me to gain a good education.  

David had his fair share of ill health, something we have shared in recent years.  But this never stop his determination to fight for the rights of others,  his own experiences of an under funded and illogical social care system only fuelled his determination more to advocate for better services for others.  Sadly and embarrassingly he was let down many times by services that either could not manage or did care enough to manage his unique and complex needs nearing the end of his life.  

David would often send me messages of best wishes and support, when in my 13 month hospital admission during the pandemic.  David also spent some of this time in the same hospital but a different ward.  We used Facebook Messenger to keep each other going. For most of this time visiting was not allowed and having someone that knew the torture of these strict but necessary pandemic rules on hospital visitings and the impacted it had on your wellbeing was comforting.  

David spend the last few weeks of his life back in hospital.  In his last week when we were given the news he was on end of life, I visited three times.  On the first occasion he was sleeping,  I sat and read the Guardian to him, I hope he could forgive my stumbling reading aloud,  a skill I don’t do well, but one I’m able to do, because of access to a main stream education, and specialist dyslexic teaching.  

Visiting on Saturday 16th July with mum we were pleasantly surprised to find an alert David who wanted help to contact a few people, and to get his laptop working again.  

We had a little discussion about the current tory leadership race,  and a chat about our shared experiences of life living in hospital.  David was aware he was very ill but his determination to keep living was very apparent.  I left him happily listening to radio 4.  

My last visit on Tuesday 19th July arriving early as I knew the day was going to be hot,  David was asleep,  but made noises in response to hearing my voice.  I again read some of that days Guardian stories, and was present when a Doctor visited,  was given an update.   During this time I made a point of informing this Doctor who he was treating.  I both work in health care and have extensive experiences of being on the receiving end of it.  Working in health care can become routine, sometimes it’s important to humanise  people receiving care.

On hearing David was a labour councillor and also worked alongside Ashok, the Doctor respond ‘Oh I remember Ashok’,  my dad was a labour man,  he then turned and spoke to David rather than speaking over and about him,  telling a story of his dad working for ICI. 

David looked peaceful.  It was a great privilege to sit with him and quietly reflect on the differences he will have made to many.  

Rest In Peace David,  Thank you for the personal impact your campaigning and hard work has had on my life,  for your services to your community and the Labour Party.  

Photo of Obituary of David in The Times 1st Aug 2022

Read more about David

The Northern Echo Teesside Gazette

The Times

Rachel Booth-Gardiner

Blog Post, Feminist Themed, Politics

On International Women’s Day 8th March 2022. A Thank You to the women who shown their support during my two year battle with Covid 19 – #BreakTheBias

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.”

Millicent Fawcett

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.



Brexit – despite the chaos we should still have compassion for others.

I voted remain in the referendum in 2017 and still feel the same.  I believe that immigration is both important and crucial,  to ensuring we grow as a country.

I understand that the European Parliament is not perfect,  but I believe it is better to be part of something,  that will  always effect us as a country and to influence it from the inside rather than powerlessly watch from the sidelines.   

I’m also passionate,  about human and women’s rights,  most of which are European laws,  and fear that the progress we have made will be lost,  in the transference of laws from the EU to the UK. 

I was pleased that the Scottish referendum voted to remain part of the UK,  and understand their frustrations and fears for Scotland’s future as they are being drag along in something,  their people did not vote for.

I’m also highly aware that the North (the place I live and love) voted overwhelmingly to leave,  I heard others say,  ‘they were sick of not being heard,  being ignored’ by what is seen to be a power centric London,  This may well be true,  but everyday,  I see compassion, kindness a willingness to develop, learn and a want to not to be forgotten or left behind, within this Northern population.  

I grew up in the 80s and 90s and remember daily news reports of Ireland’s troubles,  even being in a bomb scare myself once when visiting the national Science museum in London.  I fear that the good Friday agreement might be jeopardised, by a border, a backstop or a even just a pure lack of memory and understanding of Ireland’s history.  

Since my teens I have had an interest in politics.   I have never claimed to be an expert, but fundamentally I’m lead by a sense of human compassion, and ensuring that everyone regardless of faith, creed, race, gender, sexual orientation,  ability and class gets a fair chance in this world.   

Whether that’s through education, health, work, pay, or a safe place to live. But after 2 years of this brexit mess,  and after watching and being both fustrated and confused  by the amendments parliament have voted on this week. 

I’m beginning to think that parliament as a whole is old fashioned and out of step with modern times,  and the whole syteme needs revisiting to truly reflect and respect its Constituents.  I have no idea and little faith that this will happen.   But as MP’s across all party’s continue to play power and mind games with each other,  the people have lost  interest and patience.  History shows us,  when people feel  betrayed and not listen to,  their only option left is disruption!!!  

Which is something we really don’t need.   

I urge anyone that reads this post,  to only treat every person they come across, no matter how they voted in the last referendum with respect and compassion.   Let’s show parliament we can act like grownups and demonstrate that tolerance, kindness and a push towards equality is truly a representation of what it is to be British, and in turn European.  


Reflection on #Otalk about OT and Politics

I grew up with a family heavily involved in politics, Childhood memories are of Labour Party meetings and barbecues happening at the house.  Both my parents have been local councilors in their time.

My brother was equally as passionate about politics doing his degree in politics. However I only joined the party after the last election, feeling dishearten and passions reignited.

I think I learned quite early on had a different understanding from my friends about politics.  As children we were encouraged to watch the news and engaging debates.  I’m dyslexic and remember struggling greatly in English, apart from the days that we got to debate. I gained a much higher mark in my oral English than I did for written.  I think this is why I really enjoyed RE and drama as well.  I remember painting the scene of Tony Blair and Cherie outside number 10 when they won the election in 1997 for a GCSE art piece, (It was not very good.)

Daniel my brother has a much greater understand of the ins and outs of politics, a lot more than me and I enjoy learning from him often he has to explain complex films plots to do with historical politics!

Have I found in the eight years of being a qualified OT that my political persuasion has impacted on me as an occupational therapist?  I guess that’s a hard question, thinking back to being a student and having a placement in a prison, I found I was open-minded to the people I was working with, trying to separate, the person and the index offence.  I remember having conversation at the time about this with friends and fellow students that felt they could not to that, is that political persuasion? a sign of being left-wing?, or how I’m taught to think as a OT?

I do understand though that your political persuasion needs to be put to one side when you’re working with service users.  And have wondered whether it is correct for me to be open about my political persuasion with colleagues and service users.

Saying that’s I found it quite enjoyable being involved in the strikes over pensions.  At first being the only one in the team prepared to strike, however once I had spent some time explaining my reasoning and show the team some evidence about the effects, some did join me. I look back on that day with a smile on my face. I felt that we were embraced by the public, people stopped in the street and one person stopped with sandwiches and coffee and another some cakes.

I’ve also found in my career that services users power works quite well sometimes trying to get something changed it if you was a member of staff highlight issues it doesn’t always get seen to if you encourage service users to write letters of complaint about the things that are upsetting them that often gets noticed.  For example I remember having network issues for service users computer access. I had been trying to get it sorted will little luck, however once we help service users write letters of complaint about the fact that they couldn’t access this service, this appeared to help and things moved along they made the difference.

Tonight #OTalk reinforced my feeling that political understanding within the general public is lacking.  I really feel that politics should be taught at school even in its simplest form  – just understanding the difference between a councilor and MP understanding what the different parties stand for.

But tonight help me really understand and think about how much politics impacts what I do and influences the experience that services has

An Example I thought of during the chat was around the current bedroom tax and the impact that might have on a mental health service.  I can think of one lady that I’ve worked with who has lived in the house she was born all her life, now living there alone she has a serious mental health problems and the impact of having to move out of that house, Has resulted in a hospital admission surely the cost of what’s going to be a long hospital admission offsets what ever the government would have saved from moving her to a smaller home, in to an environment she was unfamiliar with, which in turn impacts on her occupational wellbeing. Also the recent cuts that councils are having to making has resulted in some of them closures of supporting living for people with mental health problems, resulting in the NHS hospitals struggling to find places to move people on to of our inpatient units again adding to costs!

I guess tonight talks has reaffirmed how important the political agenda is, as occupational therapist have a role in helping politicians and policy makers have a real understanding of people as occupational beings and how the changes that are made impact on people who are in need.

PS don’t even get me started on disability Benefit