Tag Archives: Health

A Promise is a Promise

wedding rings

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.

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

AVON 4: “Patients so well cared for!” An unannounced Visit

Robin Walker on an vist to AVON 4

Robin Walker on an vist to AVON 4

I haven’t blogged for a while because my last post was so emotional that I had to take some time.

And now here we are. In case you haven’t kept up, Avon 4 is in the Aconbury block. In previous posts I have praised Wendy Bull for the way in which she leads this ward. She is fair, firm, enthusiastic and a motivator of staff. She leads by example and is as likely to be found with patients as she is anywhere else.

And it so happened that I bumped into her in the main entrance of Worcestershire Royal the other day. “Make sure on your blog that you give my staff a mention. They are wonderful and hard working even under the pressures they face. They always have time for patients and show real care and compassion.”

Now when Wendy asks (or tells) me to do something I do it (not like I’m scared of her or anything) but just becasue she is a complete star! But you might think “she would say that wouldn’t she”.

But it just so happens that I can back this up. Not by my own words but by the words of Robin Walker MP who visited the Hospital today. He spent some time shadowing me and this time, with no one but us two, we could go where we liked. I suggested that we went to AVON 4– partly because it is in the older part of the hospital and can be forgotten.

We were welcomed by Sister Rachael who, without stage managing or hiding anything, introduced us to some patients. They were pleased to see Robin and, to a patient, all of them said how well cared for they were and how kind the staff were.

Not a set up- they could have said anything.

And later in the day Robin Walker MP Tweeted this, with a picture of him and Rachael.

“Tks to @revdavesouthall for taking me round and being photographer! Great to meet patients so well cared for pic.twitter.com/4cXxfkLg0c “

Now it’s tempting to think that the Nurses had chance to scurry round and do things properly. But they had only 5 minutes notice that we were coming. And what Robin saw, I am proud to say, was a normal ward on a normal day.

It strikes me that this is important. We all know the travesty of the OFSTED reports where schools are given so much notice and put huge preparations into making everything just right. Well that shows what can happen when organisations are on their best behaviour.

Chatting to my Chaplain Colleague Rev Guy Hewlett afterwards, he saw the power in this. As an ex-Custody Suite Seargant for the Police he told me of the Lay Visitors who could visit at any time, day or night, with no notice at all. And that is the spirit in which I took the MP around.

After all, we have nothing to hide. And everything to show. And the openness and transparency of Robin’s visit proved this. Hard working and caring staff doing the work they do day in day out. Outstanding.

And I can tell you this. I would be proud and happy to take Robin or any other visitor to any of our wards at WRH to see the tremendous work that goes on. I have confidence in this place, in my colleagues and their care.

Who knows, perhaps we should think of a team of Lay Visitors who could come in whenever they liked to our Hospitals. Openness and Transparency are our watchwords in the NHS at the moment. Anyone can perform to a test or pre-planned visit. But it won’t tell you as much. And in fact we do have such a team- the relatives of family members who always see what is going on.

So well done AVON 4, Sister Wendy Bull and Rachael on the Team on duty this morning. And thank you Robin Walker for helping me make the point and keeping it real.

“Treat Everyday as a Privilege” TRUE NURSING #6C’s

I think that even after 25 years of nursing if I stop feeling touched by experiences then perhaps I should think of a different career.

I think that even after 25 years of nursing if I stop feeling touched by experiences then perhaps I should think of a different career.

Every now and then a post comes in that makes me STOP!

None more so than this post, from a nurse who spoke to me a few weeks ago and said “I have something for your blog.” And what a “something”. True nursing I call it. Compassion, Care, Competence, Communication, Commitment and Courage!

I know who wrote this, but she wants to remain anonymous. But this is nursing pure and simple.

I count it a huge privilege to work in a Trust alongside members of staff like this. So read on- I hope it rings bells with you.

“You called me to come. I could see in your eyes that you knew he had already gone. You wanted to stay but I took you away whilst the doctors did what they could. We sat quietly. You held my hand and told me you didn’t feel much like talking.

As we sat in the still silence you did start to talk and your eyes lit up as you told me how you’d met, how initially you had played hard to get and turned away his offers for a dance. ‘He’s too tall for me.’ You told your Father, yet without fail every week at the same time on the same evening he would turn up in his uniform and you continued to pretend to be uninterested. Eventually you caved into his requests for a dance and from then on never left his side….until now.

This illness had divided you both for the first time.

You promised you would visit every day, and so you did, setting off early, catching 3 buses and waiting with apprehension to see what each new day would bring.

He had been so very ill and had started to improve, there was talk of rehab, talk of home- oh to be able to get him home. This thought had meant that you could both face the next day together. It meant there was hope.

But he had gone. You showed no emotion when I took you to see him. How do you say goodbye to your life’s companion of 50 years? You didn’t want to leave him. You cupped his face in your hands, held his head next to yours and kissed his lips as you always had. Your tears ran down his face as you whispered to him ‘you promised you would never leave me’.

I left you alone finding it awkward staying for such a personal time and finding it difficult to imagine how you could possibly be feeling saying goodbye to someone you had shared most of your life with. Every day we work is a privilege and today I shared in a very precious time with you. I felt quite affected by the experience and I think that even after 25 years of nursing if I stop feeling touched by experiences then perhaps I should think of a different career. We often get so wrapped up in ‘pressure’ and tasks that we lose sight of the wider picture. We all have the opportunity to make a difference and to feel that each day is a privilege.”

Innundated with Praise: Friday CatchUp

Talented cartoonist captures life on one of the wards at the Royal

Talented cartoonist captures life on one of the wards at the Royal (click to enlarge)

Well the good news keeps rolling in…and I am behind myself again. So if you have sent me something and it has not appeared yet- apologies! But here is a brief selection, as they say on Celebrity Big Brother, in no particular order…it might be you!


“Dear Head of Department,
I attended your department to be examined and eventually fitted with a hearing aid. I would like to place on record the fact that I received a very professional and most friendly and courteous service from both of your members of staff. The each explained everything in detail and took the trouble to confirm that I did in fact understand everything they had told me. I left the department feeling that I had full confidence in the NHS and in the Alex and this feeling was entirely due to the service I received from your staff.
Yours sincerely,
[Name and Address Supplied]”


Hi David,
I have heard from a couple of the volunteers who though sadly leaving us as volunteers are doing so because they are both about to take up university placements, one on a Medical Degree Course and the other on a Midwifery Course. Both the volunteers have expressed their thanks to the departments they have been working with Chestnut and Postnatal as they feel that the experience of volunteering has helped with not only their course choices but with their applications to university.

“As I start university this time next week, today was unfortunately my last shift on the Post Natal ward.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for allowing me to volunteer for you at Worcestershire Royal for the past 11months. This experience has been of great benefit to me for my future venture as a Student Midwife.”

“On the 21st of September I will be going to university therefore this Saturday will be my last volunteering session on Chestnut ward. Thank you very much for all of your help. It has proved invaluable to my university application and has taught me loads about working on wards.”


Bolton Dragons raise money for Cardiac Catheter Lab at Royal

Bolton Dragons raise money for Cardiac Catheter Lab at Royal

Go Bolton Dragons

Go Bolton Dragons

We won our first trophy a year on from forming Worcester Bolton Dragons – a team of mainly midwives, an obstetrician and a HCA.
Driven by the fond memories of our beloved friend Lorraine Bolton we the Worcester Bolton Dragons were among the winners by coming first in our final heat this weekend at Pershore Phoenix 2013 Charity event.
Thanks for all your support which is helping us raise money for cardiac catheterisation lab at WRH.Regards, Rabia.

David, I would like to thank Miss Duckett (Consultant Obstetrician) for her care, support and safe delivery of my gorgeous son. Thanks to her unwavering support both emotional and physical. Baby Oscar safely made it into the world on his due date. I will be eternally grateful. Caroline Artis


“Hi David
Just wanted to let you know about more praise for one specific member of staff

I had a relative of a recent patient come to the ward asking to speak to Michelle Newman our HCA, I explained that she wasn’t on till this afternoon and I could pass on a message.
The gentleman explained that he wanted to give is personal thanks to Michelle for all the care and attention she had given to his father while he was on Laurel 2.
He said that his father had expressed that he truly respected and was genuinlly impressed by Michelle .

I found out that michelle off her own back had gone up to ITU to see the patient today on her way work and discovered that the patient had sadly passed on, she was truly moved by the message left by the family
I have also informed the sisters on the ward so they are awaire of the praise she has received.

Michelle is a very bubbly person and will have a chat to anyone about anything if it helps to cheer them up .
I just wanted this praise to be truly noticed



“To Debbie,
Thanks you.
Just a little something to thank you for all the care you gave me and my family. IT WAS MUCH APPRECIATED. Love from Nicola.”


Should Read: "Superb Treatment at Worcestershire Royal Hospital!!" But rarely does!

Should Read: “Superb Treatment at Worcestershire Royal Hospital!!” But rarely does!

All Doom and Gloom in the NHS?
Concerned about all the headlines in the paper and worried about the way in which you would be treated if you ever had an emergency?


And then one of his friends told him to post it to the Chaplain’s Blog. So here it is! And I am totally confident that it is not a one off!

“Last Thursday evening I went to bed early because I had an early start the next day. I started earlier than I intended.

I woke up at a little before midnight with a pain in my upper left chest. It felt like a bruise or a muscle strain. It wasn’t indigestion and I couldn’t rub it to ease it. I’ve been taking meds for high blood pressure for years and so have thought about the way to react to a heart attack. I reckoned it was time to act, took an aspirin and dialled 999.

I was answered immediately and started answering questions. Is the patient breathing? Yes, I hoped I was. Then the pain went away. I tried to stop the process but the call handler insisted that we had started so we should finish. Better to have a false alarm than to miss a real one. Thank you call-handler. Absolutely right.

I went downstairs, unlocked the door and turned on the outside lights and within two or three minutes a paramedic appeared. He went straight into his routine of aspirin, ecg, nitroglycerine, blood pressure and lots of questions. Ecg was normal so was blood pressure but answers to the questions left him pretty sure that I had managed a small heart attack. He recommended that I went into hospital to have a blood test to complete the diagnosis. No Monday wouldn’t do. It should be now. Ok let’s do it.

He called for an ambulance and started completing the papers. Then he dived for the ecg. He had heard something change. He knew what was happening before I felt it. I went straight into another full blown heart attack. He handled things brilliantly. Try not to have a heart attack. But if you must have one, make sure you have a paramedic on the spot to manage it for you. Meds, pain killers, ambulance priorities, ecg. He juggled the lot confidently and professionally. And his confidence helped mine. Thank you paramedic. A really great job.
Jenny was far more worried than I but she got an overnight bag and some washing kit ready for me so that when the ambulance crew arrived (pretty soon), I was ready for a few days hols at the Royal Worcester. Good thing the ambulance crew were big lads. They carried me (14 stone -ish) down the steps from the front door to the road. The journey to the hospital wasn’t comfortable but it was quick. Once again, calm professionalism was their trademark. Thank you ambulance crew. I really benefitted not just from what you did but the way you did it.

At the hospital, the crew by-passed normal A&E and wheeled me straight into the cardiac cath lab. Two nurses were there to meet me and started the preparation for the next stage. The team assembled, I gave my informed consent for the procedure to take place and we were away. I’m not sure how big the team around me actually was. There was the consultant, the technician operating the real-time X ray camera, a physiologist and at least two nurses. I was given a local anaesthic and a catheter went up my arm. After a short while the consultant announced that he had located the blocked artery that was causing the problem. Shortly after that, he guided a tiny balloon up through the catheter and inflated it to clear the blockage. The pain and discomfort in my chest cleared instantly, miraculously. Of course I had chosen to have my blockage on an awkward, sharp bend and the next step of positioning a stent, a tiny metallic scaffolding, on the inside of the artery, took some time to achieve. But it was done and some time after 4 am, Jenny was invited to come and see that I was still in one piece. Thank you cath lab team. The technology that you had at your disposal and the skill, knowledge and compassion with which you deployed were all of the highest order.

And so I was wheeled up to the ward, wired into a monitor and recovery began. Jenny headed home, I hoped she was going to get some rest after a long, boring and, for her, worrying, night. For the rest of Friday I stayed in bed, dozed and made pretty patterns on the monitoring screen, I still had a little discomfort in my chest but only just enough to remind me of why I was there. By Saturday even that was gone. On Sunday morning I was disconnected from the monitor and was able to go and shower, shampoo, shave, etc. Luxury. On Monday I came home. The ward where I was cared for was a model of how things should be done. It was clean, uncluttered and calm. The staff, from the charge nurses to the cleaners made their patients feel comfortable and cared for. Needs were anticipated and met quickly, questions answered carefully and thoughtfully. It was proper nursing. Thank you, all of you.

There has been so much bad press about the NHS recently that I thought I would try to write about my very good and very positive experiences in a situation which, not that many years ago could have had a very different outcome. From beginning to end I met and benefitted from a succession of very good, very well trained, compassionate, highly motivated, well equipped people. And they have given me back my life.Meanwhile my friends have been great. I have had enough cards and phone calls to make it feel as if Christmas and several birthdays had all happened at once. Visits from the hospital chaplaincy were, simultaneously, an offering of and an answer to prayer. I have never been so concious of having been surrounded by loving support. Thank you all.”



There is a particular dynamic to being in Hospital when the patient is your child. The worry, anxiety and concern (take it from someone who knows) is at times overwhelming. In situations like this you want excellent care, support and understanding.

Riverbank is the Children’s ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. I don’t have that much occasion to visit it but when I do the staff are always so kind. And that is matched by some tales by children and parents. So here are some “Tales from the Riverbank.”

“From the time we arrived on Bank Holiday Monday, we have received the best care and attention. Special mention to Vicky and Lyndsey our nurses (thanks for the balloon monkey), for Stacey our main nurse on 3 nights. She gave [N] lots of care and support when he felt so ill. You kept us informed all the time, to Mr. Pandi and the great surgeon who did the op (sorry forgot name) and all the staff, nurses support staff, cleaners whom all worked so hard.”

“Fabulous service. very calm and clean. Always smiling and cheerful. No faults at all.”

“Pleasant, helpful staff. Relaxed feel which was reassuring. Good clear explanations about medical issues. Thank you! ”

“My son and I were treated with kindness and thoughtfulness and respect. All staff most helpful and cheerful. The room was most comfortable and clean. Thank you for making a long weekend very bearable.”
“Nursing staff on Riverbank are outstanding. Always ready to listen, comfort, care and make you feel safe. Although we didn’t want to be here, the stay was made easier by their caring natures. Always ready to answer questions. WHAT A FANTASTIC TEAM!”

And my favourites, from a young person and a child:

“I found the service to be top quality and brilliant. All the nurses and doctors have been supportive and helpful with trying to get me back to normal. I thank them for all their support and wish the same for all hospital patients who are ill and wish other hospitals were like this one!”

And finally, from a 5 year old, in her own hand:“I like it has bit elli put in on miy banth on” (with two pictures of smiley faces).
Someone (?Mum) gives the translation or her own views: “All the staff were amazing especially Sarah who looked after [N]; always friendly and smiling