I worry about the NHS. Not locally, of course; our Worcestershire Hospitals do a great job. But you will have caught up on the news of a national shortage of neonatal specialist nurses across the country which has resulted in the temporary merger of the maternity units at the Alexandra Hospital and the Royal. And irrespective of the politics, there is always a human story.
So I was wondering around the hospital last Saturday when I bumped into my friend Rachel, a Palliative Care Nurse. As we were having a laugh and some banter, her friends Hannah and Martin appeared. I could tell that Hannah was pregnant – nothing gets past me. They were waiting for a neonatal bed to become free because their baby needed to be born early. “Hannah said that there was a neonatal bed free at the moment in Warwick; to which I joked that Martin could at least visit the Castle. “Or failing that,” said Hannah, “we might have to go to Norfolk!” I was shocked and thought I’d misheard, but no she really said Norfolk. Now I think the things you most want when you’re having a baby is to have a safe delivery and your loved ones around; the thought of being miles away from family was worrying.
Now it’s easy to blame people. Blame the doctors; the nurses; the management; the government. But I can tell you that everyone in the hospital was doing their best with the odds stacked against them.
I bumped into Martin a few days later and he told me that Baby Jack had been born weighing 4lbs 8oz without needing a neonatal bed. He is gorgeous, and I know that he will have a great future; I even got a cuddle with him. I also know that Hannah and Martin would have done anything they needed to in order to give Jack the best chance – yes even Norfolk. But on this occasion, I thank God it all worked out well and wish them all the best for the future.
One Thursday 3rd November I celebrated my Silver Wedding Anniversary and consider myself lucky to be someone who has found his soul mate. So my mind went back to the promises we had made on that day which, in my own imperfect and flawed ways, I have kept. But my mind also went back to a few days before my anniversary, when I was called out to Critical Care. Here was another couple who had been together 25 years – first meeting whilst working for the Government under the Official Secrets Act – both with risky jobs. But now his wife was critically ill and about to die. When I met Ron [not his real name] he hugged me and wept profusely on my shoulder. “I love her so much!” he said. “We’ve been through so much together; I don’t know how I will live without her.” He told me about their life together; their love; and his heartbreak now- and then he asked me to do something: “Will you baptise me?” he asked. Ron explained that he had always promised his wife that he would get baptised but had put it off and off. He believed but there had always been something more pressing which prevented him from doing it. “Please will you baptise me in the presence of my wife while she is still alive.” So in a congregation of four, with the nurse from the Unit joining us at Ron’s request because she had been so kind, I baptised this man, on his profession of faith, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And then we prayed that God might welcome his wife as she embarked on the next stage of her journey. “See, I’ve kept my promise to you Darling. I’ve been baptised and you’ve been part of it.” And with that, she slipped away. Heartbroken would be an understatement to describe Ron’s emotions, but he took some comfort that he had fulfilled the vow which he made to his wife in her lifetime and had kept his promise ‘til death did them part.
Posted in Worcester Acute Trust News
Tagged baptism, chaplaincy, compassion, Critical Care Unit, EoL, Health, healthcare, hospital, make a difference, nhs, patient experience, promise, worcestershire acute
The Tree of Life at the Meadow Birth Centre Worcester Royal
As I walk the dogs in Nunnery Wood, I can’t help but notice that I am now trudging through a mass of leaves on the ground; and looking up, through what a couple of months ago was verdant green tree canopy, I can see branches, and even the grey sky.
So you might be interested to know that there is a certain tree that is bucking the trend; and it is rooted in Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Week after week, even at this time of year, it grows leaves; all unique and super-special. It really is a tree of life.
Now if you wanted to find this tree you would have to come into the hospital, and head towards the Meadow Birth Centre. You won’t see any leaves on the ground but you will see a state of the art purpose built midwifery led unit that is like a 4 star hotel: soft lighting; huge birthing pools in the rooms for water births; and staff who are caring.
And at one end of the unit, painted on the wall is a huge white tree against. When I first saw it was just bare branches; white on a blue wall. But since the opening of the unit, leaves have been added. First one or two; then tens; now 100’s and more leaves every week. And each leaf has written upon it the name of the baby who was born in the Centre; name upon name.
And on days that I feel I have seen too much sadness and grief and pain; I head to the unit; say hello to the staff; and look at the tree.
This tree is literally life giving. And it gives me hope knowing that new lives are coming into the world in an atmosphere of love and care.
Not everyone has the privilege of seeing this tree; after all it’s not a visitor attraction! But the next time you look at the falling leaves and bare branches around you, then think of the Tree of Life, and treat yourself to a smile.