Monday, 26 October 2015


On Saturday my good friend Geraldine came to visit me.

G. and I go back. Way back. We knew each other as kids. We met at the riding stables and we bonded over Horses and Ponies, brushing the yard, mucking out. And that kind of friendship is the best kind of friendship, the kind of friendship that lasts a lifetime.

These days G. is a Vet. She had always wanted to be a Vet. She is also a Mum to two exceptional boys. To Jamie, the Piano-playing, Guitar-playing, Mathematician, Scientist, Teenager and Genius; and to Johnny the Gorgeous, Funny, Rugby-playing, Drum-playing, all-knowing eight year old trouble-maker (I blame the parents!). G. is also married to the Gorgeous, Engineering, Entertaining, old enough to know better, Giz.

G. finds time in her busy schedule (as well as being a Vet and Mum and Wife, and she is a Tri-Athlete and has raised money, raised c.£1,400  for Canine Partners competing in the Chatsworth House Olympic Distance Triathlon) to come and visit me with her Black Labrador Super Sonic. And so Sonic gets a new ball and we head off on a doggy walk, and as Sonic chases his ball, G. and I catch up on all the latest gossip.  And then we come back and have lunch, or as a real treat we go out and have lunch.

G. and Sonic used to compete in Dog Agility and we used to have great fun going to competitions, taking it in turns to make the picnic, meeting other dogs and owners.  We used to refer to it as going 'Dogging' and would giggle as people were shocked thinking we were referring to the 'sex in public places' type of 'Dogging' rather than 'Dog Agility'.  The picnics got more and more extravagant each trip out and at one memorable show with glorious weather everyone got invited back for Pimms (with all the fruit trimmings) and nibbles.  I am Sonic's Official Photographer.  Happy Happy Days.
G. has collected me and taken me to Rugby Festivals that Johnny has competed in with Hinckley Rugby Football Club and Johnny is rather modest about the fact that I am his official photographer.  

There is something about Old Friends that is enduring and re-assuring. Old Friends know the best of you and know the worst of you.  They've see you through thick and thin.  Through good times and bad times.  They know your secrets, and you know theirs.  You can't really upset them. You can't really shock them. They are just there, and that is exactly where you need them to be.
G. understand how difficult I am finding it to come to terms with my MS and with the implications that this has placed upon me, recognises how upsetting and distressing I find it not being able to do the things that I was once able to do, but G. works with me to find ways that work so that we can still do some of the things that we have always done.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Doctor, Doctor, I've got wind! Can you give me something?
Yes - here's a kite!
Doctor, Doctor, everyone keeps throwing me in the garbage.
Don't talk rubbish!
Doctor, Doctor, I feel like a pack of cards.
I'll deal with you later.

People always assume GP's have it easy, earn £100,000+, earn LOADS of money.

But, do you know what? GP's Work Hard. They work really hard. Sorting out your coughs and colds, and nasty rashes, and bumps and bruises, and vomit and diarrhoea and blimey, I don't want to think about some of the things that they have to see and smell.  They earn it, however much it actually is. It is well-earned!

And do you know what? My GP, Dr. Rachael CLARKE, is worth every penny. I am sick. I am poorly. I am ill. I am really quite ill indeed. I have Primary Progressive MS. And do you know what? The support of my Health Care Professional, my GP, of Dr. CLARKE is so hugely reassuring. So massively reassuring. I honestly don't know what I would do without her.

And do you know what the most important thing is? She believes me, when I say I am in pain, when I say I've got fatigue, when I say I have a strange sensory symptom, all of which are invisible, she listens.  Dr. CLARKE doesn't sugar-coat things. But she is prepared to work with me.  She is honest. She explains that she is not a Neurologist, and she doesn't have all the answers, especially since there are A LOT of questions. She offers to face the uncertainty with me. To think outside of the box. I couldn't ask for anything else. I really am very lucky.

I can be serious with Dr. CLARKE, I can explain my fears. and we can talk through my options.  I can make suggestions and we can talk those through and discuss them. I feel like a person rather than a nameless 'patient'.  Dr. CLARKE offers me 'continuity of care', so I can walk in her surgery and she can say, 'Oh, you look rough' because she knows me. When I go into her surgery and grunt, she know that I am experiencing 'Cognitive Difficulties' and could possibly have a UTI. I hugely value this. She makes time for my consultation, and I really appreciate that too and I do not underestimate the importance of it for a second.

And, I can have a laugh with Dr. Clarke, forget my MS for a second, and just enjoy human interaction with another human, an articulate, amusing, educated woman. Talking about dogs or horses or recipe ideas.

I once went in to Dr. Clarke surgery feeling really terrible, and she asked, 'Do you want me to prescribe an suppository?'. Erm, that would be a 'NO'! Nobody wants to be prescribed that.  She realised what she had just said, and agreed, it probably wasn't the best offer I'd ever had!
The reception staff at Merridale Medical Centre are fabulous too.  Jade and Martin and Abbie and well, all of them really.  They do what they can, even if that is just to pass on a message. They greet you with a smile, and sometimes that is all that they can do, but sometimes that is enough.

I hate my MS. And I am scared by it.  Because of the uncertainty I face.  The fear of the unknown. Dr. CLARKE understands this, understands that this fear that is born out of uncertainty, and the guilt that is born out of disability and lack of mobility. Dr. CLARKE doesn't promise to solve all of my problems, or to predict the future. She does something better than that she ensures that I do not have to face it alone. That is tremendous. To have that understanding is immensely reassuring. Thank You Dr. CLARKE.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

UHL-tr4: Ward24

I was transported to Ward16 via A&E and from Ward16 to Ward24.

I was immediately made to feel welcome.  It just immediately upon arrival, just all seemed re-assuring.  Upon arrival on Ward24 I was delighted to feel well enough to want to take a shower, a shower that was lovely and clean and I was confident that I would leave feeler cleaner than when I entered. And there were seats provided to use in the shower, and the water was warm and wet and I was given a clean towel. Simple pleasures are so reassuring.

I really cannot praise highly enough the care, commitment and compassion of the nursing staff (Nurses and Health Care Assistants – I use the terms wrongly and interchangeably) on Ward24 of the LRI. And I have to give Cynthia MHLANGA a special mention for being particularly SPLENDID.  But, in fact all of the Nurses and HCA really nailed all 6 of the 6 C’s of Nursing (Care, Compassion, Commitment, Communication, Competence and Courage).  I can add that they also added a healthy dose of Humour, which I suppose comes under Communication, but which  was both most welcome and appreciated. They wholly encapsulated the UHL-tr vision of ‘Caring at its best’.  Ward24 treated me with dignity and respect and have developed a positive and supportive culture of Care that recognises Cultural and Religious beliefs and differences, but everyone is afforded the same high level of care.

Jane CUMMINGS the Chief Nursing Officer for England (CNO) at the NHS Commissioning Board and Viv BENNETT, Director of Nursing at the Department of Health (DoH) delivered their ‘Vision for Nursing’ and the idea of ‘Compassion in Practice: Nursing, Midwifery and Care Staff’ in 2012.  I believe that Ward24 meet these targets and ambitions and exceed them.  They took a holistic approach to my care. I felt that my health and general well-being and emotional well-being actually mattered to them. 

One of the patients on the Ward in the bed opposite to me had dementia and was confused. The Nurse/HCA responsible for her care, reassured the patient and took the time to quietly and calmly and repeatedly alleviate the patient’s worries and dispel their fears, even though their fears were unfounded.  The Nurse/HCA appreciated that to the patient their fears felt very real. The Nurse/HCA encouraged and supported, which are two of the nicest things that you can do for a person.  The way that the Nurses/HCA talked to the patients highlighted the importance of Communication; to engage and to listen as well as to talk.

The staff of Ward24 appreciated that to a greater or lesser extent we were all frightened.  We were in hospital, we were facing uncertainty and we were scared, we were frightened.  Providing reassurance at this time really is the greatest kindness.  The staff of Ward24 seemed to instinctively know what was needed or required, and didn’t mind taking the time to ensure that tasks were completed is a timely manner. Calmly and Professionally, with Kindness. Kindness is a quality that is so under-rated.  Kindness is a quality that was apparent in abundance on Ward24, and long may it continue.

Being on Ward 24 being a Neurological Ward I met with Neurologists; Dr. Mark LAWDEN was very calm and thoughtful and considered, and was accompanied by Dr. Faiqa FARAZ; Sharon FELTON a representative from the Occupational Therapy Team, and Cheryl from the Physiotherapy Team and Kerry SANDERSON the Speech a Language Team with essential Neurological Knowledge so I was able to be referred to the relevant person for an outpatient appointment.  Kerry, the speech and language therapist visited with Water and a Banana and a carton of Ambrosia Creamed Rice.  YUM!

Thank-You Ward24 you do a great job, but it isn’t a job, it is more than a job it is a vocation.  You do make a difference, the world of a difference.  More than you know. Tell Carol that I missed her; she was always good for an extra cup of tea. Tell Liz that I missed her too, but I am NOT planning on making a trip to the surgical ward just to see her.  All of the staff on Ward24 went above and beyond to ensure that my stay and I think everyone elses was absolutely as comfortable as possible.  Ward24 epitomizes all that is amazing and valued and celebrated about the NHS.  Ward24 is ‘Caring at its best’.

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You to:  Holly, Debbie, Cynthia, Alex, Liz, Dawn, Nelson, Sophia, Sheeela, to Denise the clearer who keeps everything spick and span, and Clare the Ward Clerk who keeps everyone under control.  The kindness that I witnessed was humbling and it was very much appreciated.  Ward24 you have very much restored my faith in the LRI in the UHL-tr and in the NHS. You are indeed a credit to the UK Healthcare system.