Palace of Care – A difficult post to write

I started writing this post two years ago, and I tried to complete it this time last year but I wasn’t able to. I have finally completed it today, and it serves as a sneak preview chapter for my upcoming book Bedside Lessons which will be available for purchase on Amazon Kindle on 09 June 2022.

Photo by Sooz . on Unsplash

Death Jumps The Fence – I miss my mum

Every Friday I usually wear a fish neck-tie and chips socks, this is in honour of my parents who ran their fish and chip shop for 35 years. Friday was always the busiest day thanks to ancient papal decree. Mum loved to work in the shop and chatted to generations of families who were regular customers. Mum’s eyesight was destroyed by an autoimmune condition called Uveitis. This stopped her from driving her car that she had owned since it was brand new. A red 1982 Toyota Corona – Popularity has decreased since 2020. Not being able to drive limited Mum’s independence. Her partial blindness in one eye, and near total blindness in the other didn’t stop her working. Somehow she would still cross one of my hometown Napier’s busiest street to walk to the shop. She loved serving her customers and always had a friendly smile for them. Apart from rheumatoid arthritis and a blood disorder, Mum’s health was good until her final illness.

It all started early one morning, when severe back pain woke Mum up. She was rushed to hospital and couldn’t move her left leg. The initial differential diagnosis was of a stroke but the head scan did not reveal any brain issues. Further tests discovered a blood clot which had blocked the spinal artery which supplied the area of spinal cord controlling the left leg. Mum had been troubled by a blood disorder for the previous five years. This led to her blood being thicker than usual, which may have caused the clot formation. Blood thinning medication was started. Other tests discovered a suspicious mass lesion in her chest. A biopsy was requested.

Whilst awaiting the biopsy Mum was reviewed by a lung doctor who bluntly told her that she had cancer, and that she would need to have intensive treatments. These would need to be done at the regional cancer therapy centre, two hours drive away. This sent my Mum, who was always a bit anxious, into a tailspin. She stopped eating, couldn’t sleep, and was inconsolable.
Mum had a good memory throughout her life, but in the months prior to this illness she had started having short term memory loss. Looking back at this her illness had likely taken its toll on her memory. Two days after the bluntly delivered unconfirmed diagnosis Mum had forgotten what had been said, and was able to continue her recuperation. She knew that a biopsy had been arranged but could not remember what for. The prospect of it terrified her.

I flew back to Napier on a Friday morning to help Mum get through her biopsy. She was scared and needed her hand held. The radiology team who were performing the biopsy ushered me in the room, and I gently told Mum to take deep breaths. I explained to her in Mandarin Chinese, “There will be some pain from an injection. Then your skin will go numb. They’re about to put in another needle. It shouldn’t hurt, let me know if it does. There will be some pressure but it shouldn’t hurt.”

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Guest Post – Naomi’s Notes – Petticoat

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

It was my mother’s birthday.  It was a cold, bleak winter’s day.   I had put on a nice warm woolen skirt that my friend had given me which belonged to her mother.  It was a bit big on the waist but was okay.  I wore it to work.  After school I rushed to buy some flowers  to take to the cemetery before it closed.  

When I arrived I was the only person there, and I quickly arranged the flowers on my parents’ grave.  I stood back to admire the flowers and my thoughts turned toward my precious mother. It was starting to get dark, I felt sad as I walked back to my car. I remembered happier times on my mother’s birthday.  

Suddenly I felt very cold, I thought to myself  the temperature had plummeted.  Then I looked down and saw that actually it was my skirt that had fallen down and I was standing in the cemetery in just my stockings with my skirt on the ground.   

I started to laugh and laugh and laugh. Then I suddenly realised if anyone saw me in my stockings  laughing so loud in the cemetery they would think I was having an ‘episode’ so I quickly put my skirt on and walked slowly to my car.  

Then I noticed the security cameras.   I raised my handbag to my face to save myself some embarrassment  and walked faster to the car.   I smiled to myself as I drove home as I remembered what my mother  had said to me when I was young ….”Always wear a petticoat.”

Bedside Lessons – 18a. A troubled young man Part 1

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

A young man had been discharged home to an uncertain fate. His home was a converted garage, he had no family to support him, they were all located an eight hour flight away. He was reported to be in severe pain, due to his end-stage leukaemia. As he was 26 years old they had tried every treatment available but nothing worked. He refused to be admitted into the local hospital as he had been banned from there after previously assaulting a security guard during an admission. The referral said that he was under the ongoing care of a psychologist as he had “many issues” to deal with, including borderline personality traits, anxiety and anger control issues. We admitted him for symptom control, and possible end of life care.

From what we read we expected trouble, what arrived was a sick young man who looked as if he was about to die. Doubled over in pain from a grossly swollen spleen, he could barely speak to us, but was polite when he did so. We increased his pain medications generously and started high dose steroids to try to decrease his spleen swelling.

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I think therefore I am? – Life can literally be too short

Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash

You’d think that we know this all too well working in palliative care/hospice but we are just as human as everyone else. We also get lost in the busyness of life in general. Rushing from one appointment to the other and having to switch roles as seamlessly as possible. I am no different to anyone else. I don’t have all the answers and am still searching for them myself but I want you to have a think about some questions I raise below.

Life is too short could be a stimulus to reflect on how you spend your time. Are you in a job that you actually enjoy? Do you feel like you are making a difference. We spend a lot of our time at work, 8 or more hours a day, maybe for 40+ hours a week, month after month, year after year. A big chunk of our lives is spent at work, and you may be spending more time with your workmates than you spend with your own loved ones, friends, and family. Are you happy at work or is there something else you’d rather do, somewhere else you want to be? Does it still satisfy you professionally? Are you finding yourself enjoying what you do or do you find yourself putting up with things? What would be your outlook on your job if you only had 10 years left to live? These are questions that we don’t ask ourselves, but are situations that my patients have found themselves in.

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I think therefore I am? – International Journal of Whole Person Care – COVID-19 special issue

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

To read real stories of courageous healthcare professionals from 6 countries risking their own lives to save ours during the COVID-19 pandemic click here.

University of Melbourne survey for frontline health professionals on the impact of COVID

STUDY PURPOSE

This survey explores the important social, occupational and mental health effects experienced by frontline health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. As the pandemic has changed our social and work environments in many different ways, we want to hear the experiences of both frontline health workers who have and have not worked directly with people with COVID-19.

We will examine factors that promote good mental health and wellbeing, as well as risk factors for poorer mental health. Your input will inform recommendations to healthcare organisations and other professional bodies.

https://covid-19-frontline.com.au/

WE WANT YOU

This study focuses on the experiences of medical, nursing, allied health, clinical scientists/physiologists/technicians, healthcare students and clerical staff who are working in the following frontline areas:

  • Anaesthetics/Peri-operative Care
  • Emergency Medicine
  • General Medicine
  • Hospital Aged Care
  • Infectious Disease
  • Intensive Care
  • Infectious Disease
  • Palliative Care
  • Paramedicine
  • Primary Care
  • Respiratory Medicine

People working in other frontline health areas (such as medical or surgical areas) are also welcome to take part.

You do not need to have worked directly with people with COVID-19 to participate, as we would like to hear from all frontline health workers.

Guest Post by Liese Groot-Alberts

Liese is an experienced Palliative Care Educator, Mentor and Clinical Supervisor who has helped and inspired many people in New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands and many other countries. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Liese present live in person at various conferences and workshops, which has always been a real treat. Liese has kindly shared some of her personal thoughts in the hope that they will help others during the trying times that we all find ourselves in. Thanks Liese!

 

The art of communicating compassion in PPE: Pantomime of Purposeful Expression.

behind glass

“ behind glass” by Marta Bevacqua, Paris

 

“Make your choices based on love, not fear” – Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

In my work as a mentor and clinical supervisor of healthcare staff, I am currently hearing expressions of grief, frustration, anxiety, concerns and sometimes a sense of powerlessness in this Covid-19 pandemic. Staff are talking about feeling clumsy and inadequate in their communication of compassionate care to patients through layers of PPE. This combined with a high-powered, stressful, anxious working environment makes it paramount for staff to commit to time for self-care and self-reflection, increasing their awareness of how they are in body, mind, heart and soul, in order to be able to practice compassionate care.

I repeatedly hear: “I don’t have time for self-care or reflection, I am too busy juggling work and home, I feel like I am running all the time.”

I totally agree, life before covid-19 was busy enough and now is for most – in essential services especially- even more pressured. However, I also would like to challenge your statement of “no time” with a simple exercise to do at work, that takes about 15 seconds, can reduce some stress and anxiety and be helpful in re-connecting you with your compassion.

Unless you are on your way to an emergency of course, then just take one deep breath and run!!! Continue reading

I think therefore I am? – Online wellbeing resources from the NZ Mental Health Foundation

5ways

Wellbeing resources for frontline healthcare workers are available from the NZ Mental Health Foundation’s website – this easy to navigate website includes lots of useful tips for this difficult time we all find ourselves in. As well as links to websites, Frequently Asked Questions, and downloadable resources.

allright

On a similar theme is their well-designed All Right? website which also includes links to their getting through together campaign designed with COVID-19 in mind. Plenty of good wellbeing ideas for all age groups are contained in this vibrant, colourful and energetic looking website. Well done NZ Mental Health Foundation!

Both of these websites are well worth a deeper exploration and may be helpful to yourself and others in your bubbles.

Stay safe and take care.

I think therefore I am? – If only there was an App to help us through COVID-19…

Mentemia

My 10 year old son and I watched a story about the Mentemia App on TV last night. Mentemia means ‘my mind’ in Italian.

Mentemia is a wellbeing App that has been co-developed by NZ’s Sir John Kirwan, famous former All Black and long-time Mental Health Advocate. Mentemia is currently free to download for all New Zealanders thanks to a funding deal between Mentemia and the NZ Ministry of Health. It is available on the Google Play and Apple App Stores.

We downloaded it last night and we both started using it.

It has a nice user interface and is easy to navigate, with good use of Simple English throughout. We found the interactive exercises fun to do, and things like spinning the wheel to choose a daily act of kindness to perform are also cool additions.

The ability to record how your mood is at anytime will be useful.

Lots of links to useful videos and articles to read, including lots of staying calm through COVID-19 articles.

At first glance Mentemia looks like an useful wellbeing app that we will both be returning to on a daily basis.

Some parts of the app are still a bit buggy, so far we’d give it a 7/10.

#CrazySocks4Docs on June 1st

 

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Crazy Socks for Docs – by Dr Eric Levi @DrEricLevi

June 1st. #CrazySocks4Docs. But not just for Docs only. This day is for nurses, dentists, pharmacists, social workers, physiotherapists, psychologists, dietitians, speech pathologists, audiologists, respiratory therapists, anaesthesia techs, paramedics, medical students, veterinarians and all other specialties that work in the health care industry for patients. Continue reading