First steps, part 2,

Weekends were the best time to be in the home. We all worked doubly hard to get the morning jobs done and the residents all up so that everyone could sit together and enjoy a cooked breakfast. The manager of the home came in every Saturday and Sunday in place of the chefs and helped us cook. I’d never seen so many rashers of bacon and sausages, but it all got eaten.

The therapy rooms were a wonderful place to spend times in. They were set up like snoozelums, with lights, smells, tactile objects and noises to stimulate the senses. Lying on the floor with the residents just enjoying their experience of the room was such a great experience. Even now I have fibre optic lights and disco bulbs in various places around the house…hmm could we bring this into RBCH???

Quite a few of the residents had epilepsy. We had to be really careful not to overstimulate them, too much laughter and hijinks often ended up with one of the boys or girls having a seizure – this is where someone displays signs or symptoms of abnormally excessive neuronal activity in the brain and can often be seen as uncontrolled jerking or a subtle momentary loss of consciousness. In this group of patients it came with little or no warning so we had to be on the look out to help avoid falls and head injuries. A seizure was often a very distressing experience, not only for the victim but also for fellow residents and staff.

The house itself was located right on the New Brighton sea front. There was one young man who I regularly took out to explore the sand dunes and board walks. His muscles were so tight and rigid that he had a specially made wheel chair to help confirm to his shape. You could see the physical distress this posture brought to him despite medication and regular physiotherapy. Once we were out and moving along together you could see him start to relax and smile. It was at those times I was reminded what a unique position I was in. Young men and women with his handicap were not a regular sight on the streets of New Brighton and we got many stares. But walking tall and communicating with him as though it was just another day I tried as hard as I could to normalise it. We always returned to the home via the seafront walk with the ever changing views across the mouths of the River Dee and Mersey there was always something to point out and talk about.

I learnt how to deliver and document good care through this job. I worked with some amazing nurses who really inspired me. I can remember the day the head nurse called me into his office to have a quick chat. I honestly thought that it was a “P45” conversation. Instead he told me that I should apply for a student nurse placement. My partner at the time was already a student nurse but I had not thought of doing anything at a higher level until he suggested it.

I came home later that night and announced to my parents…..”I’m off to become a student nurse”….Dad stopped reading and studied me…”I’ve sent the paper work off. I just need to pass an exam and that’s the beginning of my career”. I think they both took a minute to absorb this. But true to form Dad was very supportive and Mum very pleased. I was not an easy young man to live with. I think they had visions of me filling the garage with motorbikes and following my Uncles path of hobbyist mechanic, but I don’t think they thought I would emulate his caring side.