Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Polly's Got Guts...

Once upon a time there was a little girl whose only wish in life was to grow up and become an active member of the healthcare community...

Many years passed and that little girls dreams were fulfilled, as she graduated from one of the UK's finest and most respected schools of nursing. Over the course of twenty years or so, she graduated from a somewhat wet behind the ears new graduate to an experienced theatre practitioner with several national and locally recognized courses under her belt and a promotion to the grade of clinical nurse manager.

Sadly the years took their toll on this little girl's health. The constant, un-remitting stress caused by incidents in both her personal life and her professional life, combined with mothering two young boys and a gruelling on-call schedule caused our heroine to become a chronic insomniac. In time this too extracted its toll as the insomnia converted into symptoms of chronic pain and fatigue which increased daily...

Finally, upon the advice of a sage and senior colleague, our heroine threw in the towel and called in sick. Day by day, week by week, month by month she prayed and hoped that soon she would return to the productive member of nursing staff that she had once been.

Weeks of counselling provided by her employer's Employee Assist provided much needed reassurance and support for this young woman. It was okay to be unwell, it was alright to call in sick, she should give herself a break and accept that her chronic pain was real and set herself realistic goals within her limits. People would understand, and in time they too would accept that our heroine was truly unwell and needed this time to recover. Thankfully her condition wasn't life threatening, only lifestyle threatening.

Finally the day of acceptance dawned. She asked her family doctor for yet another private medical certificate; only this time it was for three months, considerably longer than any of the previous ones. Eventually three months grew to six months, but still she held out some hope that one day she would return to her rightful place as a useful member of the workforce...

Between visits to her family doctor she she whiled her days away, looking into space. The routine was to drop the children off to school in the mornings, often late, then to visit with her mother for the remainder of the school day. Sitting in the kitchen watching daytime television programmes and drinking tea, feeling miserable in a fog of fatigue was the order of the day until a fairy godmother recommended that this be the way of things for some time to come. The advice was to rest, to rest on the good days and on the bad days.

Previous to this rest had resulted in a temporary suspension of the overwhelming fatigue and brain fog, allowing for a burst of energy and overzealous attempts at restoring order to the madness that had become her home. This was to stop. Such crazed behaviour only resulted in post-exertional malaise and set backs. Through unexpected tears she suddenly realised that her fairy godmother was right and that from that day forth she would pace herself in accordance with her physical and mental needs and abilities...

Four years later, having practised this way of life and being successfully placed on the correct medications our heroine finally dipped her toes back into the waters of life as a busy healthcare practitioner. Returning on a recouperative/rehabilitative basis of fifteen hours each week, with the support of her co-workers and family new challenges were faced. Simply remembering wasn't enough, relearning and revisiting skills long dormant were only a part of the battle.

Geographic and procedural changes complicated all of the above. Since she left her post many changes had taken place and the workplace was quite different from how she remembered it. The new wing had finally been commissioned, with many of the old wards closing and the others relocated, the names had changed not once, but twice. New departments had opened where once there had been none and many improvements in service implemented.

Thankfully many of the staff remained the same. Their titles and responsibilities remained intact, but the business of nursing had changed, if only for the better. Now, nursing is a great place to return to after a period of protracted absence for the business of nursing seldom changes, or at least this is the belief adhered to by nursing management.

In a little over nine weeks our heroine has completed a hundred and five hours which equates to less than three weeks work in the days before her absence. In addition to this are the thirty-two hours driving to and from work. Admittedly none of this sounds particularly startling until you take into considering the first few paragraphs of this post and realise that for our heroine to remain in this situation, be taught by those she once taught takes guts!

It takes guts to return in the first instance. It takes guts to return for the second of those shifts. It takes guts to take two weeks annual leave/vacation, face the disorientation that accompanies such a return under normal circumstances. It also takes guts to suck it up and not react when the most senior member of nursing staff chooses to patronise rather than support such a return and it takes guts to continue doing so on a daily basis.

This has been my life for the past four and a half years. It's been difficult and yet it has given me more than I ever dreamt of having, a relationship with each of my two sons and all those important in my life. From being an active member of the healthcare community, to facing the fact that I may never return and finally to actually returning and feeling useful again hasn't been easy.

I am grateful for all of the above because I am happier and better able to face the challenges that each day brings which in turn has made me a nicer person. I still take my medications, I'm still a mother to my two boys, I'm still a daughter to my mother and a partner to my lover. I will never be perfect and I hope never, ever to revisit the place in which I was before my illness took over and forced me to take stock of my life.

Thank you to all of my friends and supporters who have helped me through this difficult time and forgive me for not having posted much recently, but life's been busy and I've needed time off for good behaviour! Speaking of good behaviour, I believe that it's time for bed so I can face the challenges of the new day with vigour and enthusiasm.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Take some time out for yourself and give thanks for all the good things in your life, I have...

Polly Pierce
Maker of Personalised Greeting Cards & Mother of Two!

1 comment:

Ann said...

I'm so glad life is good for you again Pauline - writing this down must have been hard.