First steps, part 1.

I didn’t set out in life wanting to be a nurse but looking back I can see who influenced me into accepting healthcare as a possiblity. My Aunt was a nurse as was my older cousin, two of my grandads brothers were involved in emergency healthcare either though their military careers or within St Johns Ambulance. But it was my Uncle who I think had the biggest impact upon me; I looked up to him as a young teenager and even now I try to emulate his way of thinking. Although we only met up once or twice a year as I was growing up his outlook and philosophy had a huge influence on me.

My Uncle Phil had travelled the world in his youth working as a VSO in Singapore. He returned to the UK in the early 70’s having driven back across Asia and Europe in an old Fiat 500. That’s a story in its own right! My oldest memory of him is in his garage full of Morgan parts, metal bending and shaping machines and shelves full of various tools. He assured me that someday the car would be made; he was just taking his time to put it all back together. He was a care leader for a special school based somewhere in the Cambridgeshire fenlands that was dedicated to looking after “wayward boys and girls”….well that’s how my Uncle described them. I’m not sure how old I was but I do remember seeing a Lotus Esprit parked in his road, having just watched “The spy who loved me” I thought this was pretty cool!

I left school at 16 with “could do better” and “don’t return here, you’re not clever enough” on my report card. I joined Carlett Park College and tried several A- level courses. I tried for over 2 years but failed to be inspired by education in the classroom.

I needed a job and a friend from college recommended I contact the place he worked at to see if they had a position. St Barnabus House was a residential setting for young men and women with various care needs based in New Brighton. I applied and got an interview for a job looking after people with behavioural difficulties.

My friend thought I would be good at looking after the men and women at the house who had behavioural difficulties. “You’d be a calming influence, Paul” he said “not likely to take the hump from someone trying to hit or strangle you”. The young me, still thinking I’m immortal, didn’t think twice about the potential threat to my health.

I had no idea what to expect but if I’m honest my drivers were the motorbike I had lined up to buy, a job to be able to afford to run it and the independence the two of them would bring me!

An aside but I loved that bike…it was a pig to run and needed decoking every few months and had a faulty alternator. Every ride in the dark had to be done quick before the lights went out! But it was an ex wheelied in third gear without me trying and was awesome to ride!

I don’t think I gave a second thought to what I was going to be doing when I said yes to the job but after day one I remember questing my decision making skills. Looking after young adults with learning and physical difficulties was suddenly a daunting prospect. What did I know about epilepsy, pressure area care, dealing with incontinence or even how to fold and unfold a wheelchair? Zip. Nada. Zero. The grand sum of nothing!

But I went back the next day and the day after for three months. What was once daunting, slowly became skills I was proud to have learnt.

All of the house members I helped to look after needed assistance with the majority of daily living activities. I can remember early shifts being exhausting. The physical demands to help wake, wash and dress other the residents was immense to begin with. I’d never had to wash someone else before, let alone clear up bodily fluids…many of these were young men…need I say more….

The hard graft of the morning was rewarded after breakfast was done and cleared away and the night’s laundry was out on the line. Then the days fun could began.

Music was always playing in the house. One young man would shout “again” at the top of his voice every time his favourite album ended. Whatever you were doing had to stop until PLAY was hit again……and again…..and again.

I think I heard “Zooropa” a thousand times that summer