I’ve got a tattoo that I had done last year – I had it done because it encapsulates two things that the last 3 or 4 years have taught me ; that everything happens for a reason (Omnia causa fiunt) and that we have, and continue to need, a guardian angel.
As far as my mum is concerned, any tattoo puts me in the same group of people that have self done prison tattoo’s of MUM and ACAB on their knuckles but bear with me, this particular one had strong reasons as far as I’m concerned and if its either the tattoo, or the leg shot that makes you want to not read on please have some forbearance because what I’m about to explain is a perfect example of what some people would call fate.
On Tuesday at NHS Expo I was ready to roll to do my talk on Camp Expo about NICU and Communication and having a chat with Carmen (@gourmetpenguin on twitter!) and swigging coffee. Anyhow, I was about to start and the gathering heaving crowd (….go with me….it’s my ego….well….the group) were sitting with excitement, or the need for the toilet – I couldn’t quite tell, anyway I was picking up the microphone. In walked 2 midwives from St Mary’s in uniform. Instantly I recognised one of them, I couldn’t quite remember her name, but I knew that she had been brilliant back in 2010 when Lynsey was under the care of St Mary’s Foetal Medicine Unit. I said ‘I recognise you…’ (see, great conversationalist or what?) and she said the same, remembering me as a parent. I quickly explained that I remembered her from the Foetal Medicine Unit and then it was time for me to start talking..
It was VERY strange doing ‘the talk’ stood in front of someone who already knew some of it. We first met Elaine in early June 2010 when we were referred to the Foetal Medicine Unit as St Mary’s as ‘twin one’ (Isaac) wasn’t swallowing amniotic fluid and there was too much fluid around him. It’s pretty hard to cast our minds back to that first appointment and the upset of it, and being told that there was a problem with ‘twin one’ and that we’d need to return for weekly scans. What I do remember though is that Elaine was in the consultation room along with the consultant and us and showed real empathy for us both. Over the coming weeks we saw Elaine and the consultant lots of times, and what always struck me was that she helped put us at ease as much as could be. Hard to say how but perhaps it was the benefit of consistency – it was someone who had been in there throughout.
Anyway, on 3rd September 2010 at 4.43pm Twin one, followed seconds later by twin two were born by C section , 7 and half weeks early and, in Isaac’s case, fighting for life. The boys went out of the delivery room with us having had the briefest of glances of them and that was that. I remember going back to the post natal ward with Lynsey and feeling like it was all wrong me going down to NICU on my own to see them, about 90 minutes after they were born. I took photo’s and came back to Lynsey but as she was still anaesthetised I couldn’t take her down to see them.
I recall, unfortunately, a midwife (a sister on the ward) saying to me at about 8.00pm that visiting was over and the ladies needed to get some rest – like I was causing a disturbance? – and that was it, off home. 28 miles in a daze back up to Chorley.
Lyns was unable to go to see the boys on NICU of her own accord ; she needed wheeling down.
After meeting Elaine on Tuesday I texted Lynsey a picture of her (I’d quickly asked her for a pic so lynsey could know who I’d been speaking to) and lynsey’s text back to me says it all:
“I could NEVER forget her as she was the sole reason I was able to see the twins on the day they were born as the other midwives said they were too busy to wheel me down in a wheelchair and it was late at night…but they were happy to ring NICU and check how they were!! I wanted to see them and got really upset and Elaine took me down herself!”.
So was Elaine just doing her job? (that’s what she says….) Maybe she was, but where in her Job Description does it say to go the extra mile? Was she already busy? Undoubtedly she was. Did she show compassion and empathy? More so than anyone else. One thing she would have had no idea about is the impact that her actions made, or the impact that inaction would have had. Without a doubt she would have had no idea that she was creating a memory that would last a lifetime.
I can’t think of a better ‘story’ that galvanises to me the necessity to get that same approach available to every mum of ill babies, to every child like Isaac in every hospital. Elaine shouldn’t be the exception. We’ve met other nurses since who each have also given everything to meet Isaac’s needs but I think Elaine was the first to show us the impact that one person could have.
The weird thing is, it’s taken nearly 4 years for this to go full circle and get back to Elaine, and even then it was only after the coincidence of Tuesday. Our feelings are no different now than they were before Tuesday….and we’re just one family with those experiences, one family living the legacy of a piece of brilliant care and compassion. There’s loads of others who have been touched by an ‘Elaine’ or other midwives or nurses but never say it….it’s not right. We should shout about great care, should highlight the people that provide it and see them as leaders, nomatter where in the structures they sit.
I know Elaine can’t wait to meet ‘twin one’ next time we’re at RMCH for an appointment and whilst ‘thanks’ cant really capture the gratitude we feel it’s amazing how through a weird path from blogging – twitter – Expo has brought this particular story full circle.
I know Elaine is mega-embarrassed to be highlighted, and that’s an attribute of most people who genuinely make a difference, but it’s not going to stop me telling others how I (actually we ; lynsey, and the two little boys who got to see their mum on the day they were born) need more people like her.