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Being on the Other side

Waking up is always the worst part. In my dreams, and the moments just before I'm fully awake I feel my legs move. My knee moves up into a more comfortable position, my toes flex and wiggle, as they get ready for a new day. A normal day, where walking was just a given; before my car hit a tree, before my vertebrae exploded.

Of course when I start to come to I feel the lead weight of my thighs. There's no other way to describe it; they feel dead. Dead legs. Think back to when you use to play fight, whether sibling, cousin, the boy that liked you and obviously had to be mean (who will ever understand boy logic), and how you ended up with a dead arm or leg... that's the feeling I have. But it doesn't wear off, and some days it's like the fist hit one time too many and even though it's numb it hurts too, it's too sensitive and yet there's no ‘sensation’ at all. My brain is the biggest tease. If I didn't know any better, when my legs are covered my toes can wiggle like the best new born babe. But every time I check, staring at my disconnected body part, willing the toes to fan, wiggle or just move, I'm met with the most minimal twinge, and sometimes I even doubt that's anything more than my hope of recovery.

I understand how negative the first bit of this post feels, but I want to be honest in this blog, and that is how the mornings feel. They feel sad and slow and sometimes the anger simmers under my eyelids and I go quiet for an hour or two. In these times I lay running my fingers through my shorn head, staring at the ceiling and giving my self time to actually just feel as numb as my legs. I allow myself to grieve. I allow myself to think about the enormity of everything I've been through. Those who know me intimately, especially in the past 8 years know that life has been less than calm for me and my family.

But you see there it is, right there in all the adversity of the last 8 years, through tears, heartache, denial, anger, self destruction, shame, tragedy and grief - I'm still here. I have made it through everything. I've always come out fighting, and that's when I remember I can do it again. There's a thousand cliches I could throw around; ones about storms and dancing, surviving and becoming stronger, but essentially I realise that my success rate at getting through the shitty parts of my life is 100%, and that's pretty damn good. It's also when I remember you all. I know that allowing myself time to be a little sad is normal; and yes that ‘little’ is a profound understatement, but I know I could never give up. 1. I don't have giving up in my nature. 2. I can't give up and let down the beautiful, wonderful collective that I have cheering me on.

I remember the plan. To get well. To go back to work. To advocate for other disabled doctors. To not just get better but to use this new experience to make me a better person, a better doctor.

By the time the nurses help me wash and dress I feel more human and less car crash victim. This is actually the best part of my day. You'd think it would suck. An independent 26 year old reduced to needing 2 nurses to help me do one of the most basic things. I genuinely never thought I'd need someone to wash my butt. I actually intended to kick the bucket before someone had to wipe for me. Yet the nurses here are so kind, we talk and we laugh and it distracts me from the fact I can't do my own basic care myself.

I mean in all honesty why should I feel ashamed? What's so bad about needing help? Even with such intimate dealings. We are human. We have natural bodily functions. Even the wealthiest people in the world anatomically (genitals depending) are the same as you and I. We all piss, we all shit, we all bleed - even Piers Morgan would bleed if cut; as surprising as I find that, it's true. And at the moment because of the hand I've been dealt I need help with that. So what? In my auxiliary nurse days I wiped hundreds of asses, and while it's not exactly enjoyable it was humbling to do. It was rewarding to show compassion to those who needed it. And now I'm on the other side and need that same compassion; and the nurses here are experts in giving it. This entire unit is fantastic and once again I find ‘thank you’ is not enough.

People often talk about how nurses are under-appreciated. Of course I've known this since childhood.

I've seen my mum (an amazing nurse, even if I'm bias) have a career that's been rewarding, frustrating, humbling and many other things in between. I've seen her care for patients and I've seen the pressures build in the NHS, making it harder and harder for nurses to concentrate on the patient and not the paperwork. What I will forever admire about my mum is that she still makes her patients number 1. That woman has her priorities straight and the basics of care to a fine art. I've worked in a nursing team for 9 years on the bank. Various hospitals. Various departments. Various team dynamics. Encountering the good and the bad. And without getting political I've seen many of the good ones leave because of the pressures, shit pay and inability to care for their patients due to all the red-tape, tick charts and paperwork. Then I've worked alongside some fantastic nursing teams as a doctor. Teams I am massively proud to have been a part of. If you want to learn about compassion and kindness, you'll learn a lot from a nurse. I may be a doctor but I learn from nurses just as often as I learn from consultants. I've said it again and again but it takes a village. Nursing staff truly are the beating heart of the NHS.

However, I digress: never have I appreciated so much the work of nurses until this accident. They don't just advocate for my needs. They don't just give me the medications to make me feel better. They don't just help me wash with dignity, or get my legs comfortable - no, they do much more. They keep my spirits up. They make me laugh. Nothing is too much trouble. They listen when I'm sad or pissed off. They reassure me I'm not a burden. They sometimes just sit with me, when it all gets too much and my eyes feel heavy and wet again. They think about me as a person. They are another source of hope in my recovery. They are a part of the tribe. And I thank them. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

That's enough for today I think.

Remember guys share these words, and just stay with me. With you guys by my side there is nothing I can't do.




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