Where is the love? A report from an NHS hospital ward.

I’m writing in snatches. This blog post is a report from the field. It’s 2019 and my 92 year old mum is currently an in-patient at a major National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the UK.

My sibling and I are taking it in turns (with some overlap) to stay with our mother 24/7. She’s way too precious (and currently too fragile) to bounce around in a system that is stretched almost to breaking point – and I must add here that it has been stretched quite purposely so. It’s impossible to write this post without reference to the Conservative Party’s political strategy to destroy the NHS, our precious universal cradle to grave promise to all.

Democratic, life giving and life saving, the NHS has never been perfect but as long as I’ve been alive it has always been there – and it has been free at point of care. It seems the NHS is currently starved and living off reserves.

I’ve learned a huge amount in the space of a ten days. I now know that a simple urine infection can topple a nonagenarian, and that delirium can rapidly set in and thenceforth remain a major risk. Mum has been brought back from a serious brink but has yet to recover. Recovery will take quite some time and take a great deal of care to sustain it. We’re in new waters.

It’s been tricky to process. Especially so when caring has become a full time job. Finding time to manage all the accompanying emotions is difficult, and I’ve been coping by keeping on top of all things practical and adding some extra elasticity to the overstretched ward. I focus on never failing to thank staff for each act of care (and I am sincere in this devotion). I’m good at thinking about how stressful this job is for staff – and this takes away from focusing on how stressful it is for me.

I’ve gradually absorbed and mediated the shock of being suddenly wrenched from my life in Oxford into this new all encompassing life of wraparound care. I observe myself developing myriad new routines. I have no choice, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, though I can see that we are a rarity my sibling and I. We are very lucky that we can take the time to do this 24/7, and that we are of one mind that this is what we should do. Without us there would be no one to make sure mum is properly hydrated and that she eats the meals set in front of her. We couldn’t be sure that she would stay safely in bed and is at risk of falling. There are simply not enough eyes and hands to keep the level of micro vigilance required to keep her optimally well or to stop her from sliding into further infirmity. This is no reflection on staff – my report is on the system.

There are extreme shortages of staff on some shifts, and today low morale was in evidence among all ranks of ward staff. Despite how scary this is I become more empathic and stretch myself further. I can do bedpans and hospital corners. I’ve learned to roll my mother safely and administer her meds.

I’m friends with many of the women on her ward.

I’m writing in snatches. What is written above is now yesterday. I have slept for a solid 10 hours in a bed. Tonight my bed will be two chairs next to my mother’s bed. One medicine from the cocktail has been removed to improve her delirium, but its primary action was to stop nighttime trips to the loo. I don’t expect to sleep more than an hour or two.

Yesterday as I clocked off at lunchtime I headed for Costa and found myself weeping unexpectedly in the queue. The hospital Costa is different – here they have seen it all. My transaction for a lactose free flat white and a muffin went smoothly despite my near inability to talk.

Emotions do have a way of catching up with us.

I ask where is the love in my title for this blog. I reply that it is everywhere on my mother’s ward, but that love and dedication cannot be sustained endlessly without proper resources.

So I ask again, where is the love, the love and political will to save our NHS?

Published by soniaboue

I am an artist.

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