Tales from 'Portrait and Tales from a Hospital Bed' series

Please read below

 

'The bond of work friends'

This artwork records a special moment between two amazing NHS staff, work friends, from my recent hospital stay.

The war wages on against the virus, as the pandemic continues, and the crisis reaches new highs. I couldn't feel more thankful for the wonderful NHS team, and my hope and prayer is that they will get through, and gather the strength to continue to do so. I hope that they can hold on to moments like these, with each other, and look forward to brighter, less traumatic days.

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'She's simply a hero'

It seems appropriate to post the finished colour portrait today, after another week of her working so hard behind the scenes with my care, as well as her added personal touches, which cheer along the way.

This portrait portrays my amazing consultant, Dorin, and it's hard to know how to put into words all she's done for me, since my cancer diagnosis last year. Amongst many, many things, she ensured I had a surgery slot, when mine almost fell through due to Covid pressure, has given me countless pearls of wisdom, kind advice, encouragement, consultations and her time in all hours of the week. There are many things that set her apart, one being her dedication and care for her patients, ensuring she is always thorough and travels the whole road looking into symptoms and problem solving best treatments. During the week I was under her care in hospital in December, amongst many little touches where she went the extra mile to make me feel better, I observed how she has an incredible warmth, gentleness and kindness, as she circles the wards, sprinkling her 'fairy godmother' healing dust! She makes you feel reassured, comforted and smiling during anxious times. My hospital stay made me reflect how Dorin and countless consultants are putting in such long hours, leaving their personal lives at the door of the hospitals, entering the wards day after day, with little respite. The pressure of decisions regarding essential surgeries and patient safety in the light of Covid is intense and so important; yet they soldier on, bravely, carrying the weights of these decisions on their shoulders, and sacrificing their own time well above and beyond their core hours.

In the most unexpected year of my life since my diagnosis, I feel so blessed to have her and my wonderful oncologist, and oncology nurse, walking the journey with me, and my care in their hands. I know that my family and I are so deeply grateful, and immensely privileged to have her in our lives.

She's simply a hero
 

'She brings her own lavender spray'

This portrait was the first of the individual portraits, inspired by Margaret, who does a marvellous job cleaning the wards, and even brings in her own lavender spray with her, to add a lovely scent to each room. She was so kind to me, making sure my room was sparkling each day, and even brought me in one of her special lavender sprays, that she brings in herself, as a gift. I have always been so into 'scents' and fresh smelling laundry, so I was really touched at how Margaret makes each patient's room smell so lovely with her spray. I wanted to portray her just as I saw her, in the doorway of my room, with the medical team deep in discussion in the background, to emphasise her vital role in this grand team. I hoped the light shining through the doorway would spotlight her, in the way she deserves.

She brings her own lavender spray
 

'She wears a love heart lanyard, spreading cheer wherever she goes'

This piece portrays a wonderful nurse, Kara, from my hospital stay, who characteristically wore a bright, colourful love heart lanyard round her neck. I decided this had to be part of her portrait, as it sums up her bright, cheerful personality. In a very anxious, stressful week, not only with me but with all the patients around, nurse Kara somehow managed to console, cheer, support and keep bright. I reflected on the fact that in hospital, with her skills (and those of millions of nurses), we, the patients, are distracted from the pandemic, as they make us feel safe and somehow manage to cheer us along, in a unified way. What a team! Forever thankful for her kindness. She was always smiling, and constantly brought cheer to my room, when I was waiting for tests, or scan results, which are always inevitably anxious times. She even brought me some fluffy white slippers from the donated gifts given for patients that come into hospital fast without all their belongings. With no hospital visitors allowed, in the first run up to Christmas with Covid, Kara really made me feel safe, cheered and so cared for in hospital.

She wears a love heart lanyard, spreadin
 

'And how are you still smiling?'

This portrait portrays nurse ****** , a charge nurse; one of the first I met when in the ward in December. Her bright colourful lanyard accurately echoes her bright, humorous and cheerful personality. When she's around, you hear her humour and cheerful tones throughout the ward. However, it was her compassion when I first met that moved me, and made me feel less alone when I first arrived in the ward that week. A synopsis of why I was here was given, and she listened, kindly and intently to the journey that had led to diagnosis. She was quietly compassionate and feeling, and in that moment not afraid to show the 'human' side all medics of course have, drawing along side me. She was honest and real about the struggles and even societal pressures we can all feel at times. When I left the ward that week, I said to her: 'Well, thank you for having me!'...I know it's not really what you say leaving hospital, but it kind of feels like you've given the best 'hospital/ hotel' experience... and we laughed, as she joked about putting my reviews of the stay on trip advisor, and the ward filling up more than usual thereafter.

I met ****** again this past week in hospital, and besides her jolly nature and infectious humour cheering, she even saved and marked a lemon mousse, (the best thing I ate from the hospital menu) in the fridge for me. It's the little things that add up. I can tell she throws her life into her job, caring so well and sacrificially for us all, and I think it's about time she was celebrated.

And how are you still smiling_
 

'A hand to hold'

This portrait portrays an incredible junior doctor, Faid, who works in the Covid Assessment ward. A few days before Christmas this year, I had to return to hospital for a shorter stay than earlier in December. This time I was placed in the Covid assessment ward, before having other scans and procedures, as some symptoms I had overlapped with those of the virus. It was 22nd December, only 3 days before Christmas, and due to the circumstances, this time I was in a side room alone. I thankfully tested negative for covid, but it gave me a tiny glimpse of the isolating circumstances those with Covid face in hospitals. Again, however, the NHS staff who came into my room were beacons of light in my lonely side room. I reflected on their incredible, cheerful and comforting dispositions, as with a smile and bright cheerful tones they entered my room. This portrait portrays a junior doctor, who, three days before Christmas, sacrificed his own and his family's health for mine. He didn't know if I had Covid or not. He stepped by my side to do the Covid test and held my hand, calmly guiding me through the tests, saying 'you can shout at me or squeeze my hand, whatever helps.' We laughed after when he remarked it was him squeezing my hand. And in that moment, I didn't feel alone; I even managed to laugh in an otherwise worrying and high pressured time. The sacrifice of this doctor echoes so many over the country, and world right now, and I feel blessed to have had such a kind and caring one sent to my room that day.

'A hand to hold'
 

'Carrying a smile to carry you'

This portrait portrays a cheerful, smiling nurse, ******** in the Covid Assessment ward. A few days before Christmas, I had to return to hospital for a shorter stay than earlier in December. This time I was placed in the Covid assessment ward, before having other scans and procedures, as some symptoms I had overlapped with those of the virus. It was 22nd December, only 3 days before Christmas, and due to the circumstances, this time I was in a side room alone. I thankfully tested negative for Covid, but it gave me a tiny glimpse of the isolating circumstances those with Covid face in hospitals.

The nurse portrayed was the first nurse who entered my room, breezy and bright. She made friendly conversation; we chatted about the beautiful plait she does in her hair, to keep her hair out of her face at work. It somehow brought home the very 'human,' every day reality of the NHS team. They too face the restrictions and suffering the pandemic brings, in their every day life, then, on top of this face the long and intense shifts, caring for us their patients. It's been a long haul, and no let up yet, but nurses like this one bring light and life to lonely hospital bays. Her bright personality shone a light in that lonely Covid bay, in words that are hard to express.  Apart from that, her evident, genuine care for each of her patients really moved me. For every patient that enters that Covid assessment ward, and the fears it brings, thank goodness for the bravery of this incredible team. Thinking of them all in this hospital right now, and across the country, as they courageously battle on.

Carrying a smile to carry you
 

'What a king, a true overcomer'

This portrait features a patient during my December hospital stay, but with his permission, I decided he must feature in the tales of the hospital.  ****** is a true champion. He wheeled himself around the wards, and one day passed my door. We started talking; I think it's a conversation I'll never forget. We talked about life; about surgery, misdiagnoses, life not going to plan, bereavement, faith, travel, and realised we had some similar life experiences. The light shone into the bay, and in that moment I realised the meaning of some counsel a very wise friend told me: we can be joyful and heartbroken at the same time. We laughed, smiled and admitted the journeys hadn't been without tears. He told me stories of his life, islands abroad, turquoise clear waters, sand, sunsets and my imagination was transported into places in the tales he recounted, with such visual attention to detail and sensitivity. The conversation drew to a close and he returned to his bay. A few seconds later, "Oh and one more thing..." he appeared back at my door. Ah...a fellow extrovert. Initially he wasn't sure about getting a portrait; "Ach, it'll just get lost," he smilingly shook his head. Then, a few seconds later, "Oh well, go on then!" and he struck this pose, cardigan draped over his shoulder in appropriate regal style. I'd explained I'd send his painting in the post, and about half an hour later, a paper aeroplane was launched through my door! He'd written his address on said aeroplane and had chosen this creative way of delivering the information. As he reversed backwards out the doorway, I heard: 'Gotta keep moving baby, gotta keep moving," in a sing song voice, and off he wheeled to the window, to gaze out at the sparkling Tay. I plan to drive to deliver his portrait to the door, once lockdown restrictions lift. And on a day like today, feeling under the weather, I think back to his shining example; what an overcomer.

What a king; a true overcomer
 

'Porter with the smiling eyes'

This portrait portrays a very cheery porter I met in hospital in December. He came to collect me, and wheeled me in the wheelchair to another ward, to have further procedures. As soon as he entered the room his eyes were twinkling and he was cheerfully trying to jolly me along. On the way, he picked up a blanket to cover me, just to keep warm, and for extra 'dignity.' I was really touched he'd thought of it. We chatted on the way down and he kept me amused talking about the wheels of the trundling porter's chairs he pushes patients in, and the unfortunate risk of anyone who 'gets in the road,' by mistake. "So have you ever run over someone's foot, by mistake?!" I asked, thoroughly engaged in the inside hospital life of a porter. "Sccuse mee," wheels trundling along, he politely asks people in the wards to make way for us.  There maayy have been the odd bump-pi-de-bump over someone's toes, in an unfortunate meeting with the porter's wheels; but they've all recovered now. Arriving in the next ward, naturally anxious about what lay ahead, I lay back on the bed feeling faint, and was entertained by the cheering 'work banter' of ***** and the nurses. Busy, constantly - undoubtedly - but keeping each other (and us all) going with light hearted humour as they worked to clean and spray yet another bed down between patients. The next day, I decided that ***** played such an integral part of this overall NHS team (I would've liked to have drawn them all!), so I asked another porter to ask if ***** could drop by before I left. Just as I was going over my medicines with the pharmacist before leaving the hospital there was a loud 'rat-a-tat' at the door, and there stood ***** smiling in the doorway of my bay, just in time for me to ask if he'd like his portrait. I was so pleased I'd caught him before leaving, I forgot I was mid conversation with the long suffering pharmacist, but I'm delighted to have been able to portray and celebrate ***** and his colleagues as a vital and cheering part of the #NHSteam. 

Porter with the smiling eyes
 

'She loves her job'

This portrait portrays a phlebotomist, ******, who loves her job. This portrait is the last individual portrait from the first series of Portraits and Tales from a Hospital Bed, (stay tuned for the second series to come soon!) One of the main things that struck me during my stay in December, was how incredibly the NHS staff, no matter what part of the team, all work together. Like clockwork, the team all work so hard through the day to make sure the patient's care flows. My bloods had been requested, so I met this phlebotomist, who said she loves her job. She was so happy meeting all the patients and taking their bloods, which she did very well. I remember she came in at the end of a day, full of investigations, procedures and I was struck with ****** chatting and how at ease she made her patients feel. After getting cannulas in for chemo earlier in the year, (which makes the veins collapse and the whole procedure more stressful), this day's bloods felt a breeze in comparison. It's so pleasant meeting phlebotomists, (and all of the NHS team) really enjoying their job. Today at online church I heard a prayer for all the NHS team; the doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners and other workers. Although we're all looking forward to restrictions lifting, my hope and prayer is for the NHS's team strength as they carry on, undoubtedly very tired from over a year of such conditions, yet soldiering on.

She loves her job
 

'The Dietician who made me laugh'

This portrait is the first in my second series of #portraitsandtalesfromahospitalbed - the series I began in hospital, during my recovery from my diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

This portrays a brilliant dietician, ******, who, in my hospital stay in March, brought humour, (yet spoke with such kindness and empathy), when she found me in my hospital room. I'd been admitted to hospital for more ongoing unexplained symptoms in March this year, where I had pain, trouble eating, persistent strong nausea and had begun to cough swallowing food. The week was full of scans, and investigations led by my incredible consultant, (who leaves no stone unturned), and her wonderful team. The day I met *******, I'd had an OGD, where you swallow a small camera, and I'd opted to have sedation. This was day 5 of being in hospital, and I was very sleep deprived and under the effects of sedation. ****** therefore found me in an emotional and very weak state in my room, but I will not forget her kind and compassionate handling of it. She explained sedation can make people emotional and was totally understandable. She made me laugh with her dry humour, telling me funny stories about the after effects of sedation, and was fully supportive. She advised on my diet, (this was the day I was put on a liquid diet), in a very sensitive and kind way. After more investigations, a month ago I was diagnosed with severe gastroparesis, requiring further treatment, and a permanent liquid diet. In a distressing day, she managed to make me not just smile, but laugh, which was a welcome relief. She brought warmth, kindness and cheer to my room, and I think she should be celebrated

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'A sterling porter'

This is ****** , the porter I had the privilege of meeting in hospital in December. He ferried me to my scans, and chatted on the way. He was so kind and empathetic, and even brought NHS sweets to me. When I went back to hospital in March, I saw him again; I'd remembered his kindness in December. He stopped what he was doing to take me back to my ward. Later that day (the same day I met the dietician - see previous portrait), I was emotional from the sedation, fasting, lack of sleep, and investigations. My consultant, Dorin, had kindly stayed in my room, talking to me and giving her time as always, helping me through, to see a way forward, dealing with the processing from my diagnosis. On this day, I acknowledged and heard it was now time to heal my "broken body," which felt hard to take, in this seemingly never ending journey, not only pre cancer, but still with the after effects of cancer. ****** the porter came and knocked on the door during our chat and was visibly surprised at finding me upset. Later, Dorin left my room, and the ward sister came to my door and said ****** the porter had been waiting outside, and was concerned. I couldn't believe it; he'd waited quietly and then came into my bay to simply say, was I alright, he was worried about me, and was there anything he could do? 'I'll sort the radiator if you're cold...or, do you want anything from the shop..?' He wanted to assure me of his care and I was so moved that he'd kindly and sensitively waited outside my bay until I was ready to be spoken to. Like in December when he checked if I was okay in passing, again he went above and beyond to ensure I was okay in my next stay. I think he deserves to be celebrated, as he is a sterling porter.

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'Hello, I'll be here to take care of you'

This portrait portrays the first nurse, *****, who came to look after me during my hospital stay in March. She is at the beginning of her nursing career, though I'd have never known if she hadn't said to me. She exuded a sense of calm at all times which really struck me. As soon as she walked into my bay, the calm, peaceful aura she carries really made me feel very safe in her care. I arrived Saturday night, and was woken up after an hour to be wheeled through for my first scan; trundling through endless fluorescence lit hospital corridors, my face whiter then the sterile walls. When I arrived back I'd only been asleep a few hours, and ***** had to wake me for my obs, several times through the night. Again, very kindly and calmly she softly queried; "You're blood pressure's very low; is it normally that low... your body temperature's cold, maybe we'll get a doctor to come and see you before the rounds..." In the dead of night, it always feels a little alarming to be told this, but somehow the way ***** communicated these messages, I knew she had me safely looked after, no matter what was going on. Later in the week, as I stayed in the ward, ***** looked after me again and was always so extremely kind, and pacifying in her manner. She was also  creative, bringing me milk for my liquid meals in a jug, when the bowl wasn't to hand, and nothing was too much trouble for her. I know that she'll make many, many patients very calm and happy and I feel privileged to create her portrait at the start of her career.

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'Lifting the spirits of patients'

This portrait is of nurse ******, who I met in March during my hospital stay. During my stay under her care, she was another calm and very steady nurse, who breezed into my room and was great at keeping my mind off things by having a wee chat. I noticed immediately her beautiful skin, and we started talking about her Portuguese heritage, which was very interesting, before the conversation got onto her recommendations of skin products, the extra moisturising one with a funny name... that I've now forgotten...

To be taken out of the circumstances, even for five/ ten minutes and chat about 'normal' things was so appreciated. It's clear when nurses like ****** do this, that even in their busy, spinning schedules, they'll make time for you, and clearly love the people, and caring side of their job. At the end of the 12 hour shift on my last day in her care, I said you must be so tired, yet still, after giving to others constantly for 12 hours, ( and before going home to no doubt her own personal responsibilities), she remained chatty and bright. Again, I am so grateful for her care during recovery, and this portrait is a thank you for her.

And so they soldier on, our #nhsheroes

'Lifting the spirits of patients'
 

'Compassion in Action'

This portrait portrays a nurse I met last December, then again in March during my hospital stay.  When I first met ******** I was lying in the hospital bed, waiting for an investigation. She came over to take my notes and go through the procedure. Like most, asking what brought me there, I summarised my journey. And in those moments, I noticed something I will not forget; suddenly I saw right through to an incredibly warm, compassionate person, eyes listening intently. Like countless others with ovarian cancer, I recounted there had been a long misdiagnosis, as the symptoms of Low Grade Ovarian cancer are not well documented, and much more research is needed. I explained this had resulted in fertility loss and major abdominal surgery nine months earlier; there was no going back now, that door had closed. Her eyes glistened with tears; she leaned forward, notes poised in her hand, listening to every word. She understood. She understood, in a deep way, that this broken world can throw such things at us. She expressed and understood that beneath many people's smiles, they carry broken hearts, and there's no choice but to keep fighting and carry on. It was one of the most moving moments in hospital, when I learned again I wasn't alone; there are others I meet who I know understand. We see 'Be kind' posters and mantras everything nowadays, (which is great), but to be kind, and compassionate, is a verb, an action. It's when kindness and compassion are put into action, it moves people, it warms hearts, and it stands along side people in their broken roads. And this is what ******* did for me that day, she knew, she understood.

She embodied compassion in action.

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'The nurse with the Argentinian bow'

This portrait portrays a nurse I met in my hospital stay in March. She came in one evening, as she'd heard I was drawing, and was very interested in seeing the art. She was very kind and encouraging, which I found uplifting after a long hospital day. In her hair she wore an Argentinian hair bow as it reflected her heritage, and she chatted about this. It made me reflect on the uniforms the NHS team wear, colour coded, but how so many of the nurses wore something that gave a hint of something special to them, or that spoke of their personality or personal heritage. They're soldiers in a war, but underneath, they're humans, and show such bravery and kindness in these unprecedented times. This nurse spoke of the time they'd just passed through (second wave) and how the pandemic as a whole had been one of the scariest times in their careers. I know the country is sick of hearing the Covid word; but what about the medics? They, I'm sure, want nothing more than for it to disappear, yet work tirelessly to fight it on the front line. The ward I was in usually deals with receiving acute surgical patients. With the change of wards for Covid, they were suddenly dealing with all sorts of incoming patients, and this meant that medics were not only dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic in general terms, but were constantly being thrown into completely new situations, rising to the challenges with such bravery and a smile, as they worked together as a team, to keep patients safe while recovering. She spoke of how scary the whole situation had been, and as far as I hear, it hasn't stopped for them yet. Yet, she made time to come in and chat in an encouraging way, with a smile, and ensured I (as a patient) was okay.

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'Jeamie (Not Jimmy)'

This portrait from the #portraitsandtalesfromahospitalbed series portrays Jeamie, a superb cleaner I met in hospital in March. Rewinding four and a half months: I lay in my hospital bed in a very drug induced, foggy state, post the OGD procedure. My eyes were closing, on and off, as I lay dosing, mildly aware of the typical buzz all around. I was vaguely aware of Jeamie entering my bay, sweeping around the bed, but (unusually for me) I felt too tired to make conversation. "Ohh, let's see the drawings; you're into art are you?!" Jeamie was smiling and peering over the abandoned sketchbook in the pile of hospital blankets at the foot of my bed. "I love art!" he exclaimed, and started to tell me about the Van Gogh painting he loves and the art chosen for his walls. Bleary eyed, I sat up, intrigued by his interest in art and chirpy conversation. He cheerfully recounted how another lady in a different ward was busy making 3D paper creations: "I love it!" he exclaimed, of seeing her paper sculptures. He loves his job; and he can say this even after his initial few weeks. Jeamie changed job, to start working cleaning the hospital in December, and subsequently, very unfortunately caught Covid. He was very unwell himself with it and passed it to loved ones at home. (It's sobering to think how many brave health workers this must have happened to). Courageously, he returned to his job and still without hesitation hails it as the best job, one he gets immense satisfaction and enjoyment from. Jeamie ensured I knew he was 'J-e-a-m-i-e,' not Jimmy, named by his friends years ago as inspired by the moose from 'Oor Wully.' Not only does he cheer patients, but does a splendid job of cleaning the hospital bays. I think he and all the other courageous NHS army should be celebrated.

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'A reassuring smile, a caring glance'

This portrait is of nurse ******. One of the surreal points I found when staying in a hospital was walking through the ward to the shower area in the morning. Before my diagnosis, I hadn’t stayed in a hospital before in my life, and wouldn't have ever imagined these stays were just around the corner. As I walked through (invariably forgetting my mask before reminded), I looked out in the ward: faces of strangers in varying health lie there, the flock of consultants move as a unit on their morning round, nurses, health support workers and cleaners zip past in that morning buzz. I remember during initial stays feeling somewhat vulnerable, but nurse ****** smiled over from the nurses station when I walked past. She'd check, "You okay?" reassuringly smiling at me, as I nudged past in my hospital slippers, clasping the NHS towels, trying to keep out of paths of fast moving people. Such a surreal feeling, being in such an environment and busy space first thing in the morning. Later, as I lay in my hospital bay, Nurse ****** would walk past, arms swinging in a cheerful, breezy way; if I called her, she'd drop into the bay with such an open and approachable manner. I've been reflecting and thinking as humans we always exude atmosphere and emotion as we walk around our environments; these can be positive, or negative. Without saying a word, our walk, stance, body language and pose can deem us approachable or otherwise. During a pandemic, with pressures risen and much unprecedented work, nurse ****** managed to make me feel safe, comfortable, and welcome - 'at home' even - in an 'out of home,' hospital environment. These lovely features add to a person in a caring atmosphere. I'm sure many have appreciated her demeanour and care in a vulnerable place.

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'Going home time'

Around handover time, when the nurses are finishing their day shift and the night ones start, usually just before seven pm if I remember rightly, these four nurses popped into my hospital bay, I think to see someone's portrait if I remember rightly. There was a really lovely atmosphere; this NHS team I've referred to so often really do team work like I've seen nowhere else. The team work is truly inspirational. As a patient you notice how they have each other's backs, and all work very hard together (supportively) of each other and their patients. When they grab their water bottles and are ready to go home, there's a certain tiredness, but in my hospital bay that day there was a marked happy tiredness, from four nurses who've given their all in their shifts. It strikes me every time how fast the whirl of busy staff around you move all day. I wanted to capture this beautiful moment of four members of this team, cheerfully chatting in my hospital bay at home time. 


How can someone feel so safe in such a vulnerable place? It's not the walls, the décor or the bay itself. You could put four random people in a room and not necessarily feel that way. I believe it's the personalities and the demeanour of the caring NHS staff, where you know they truly care about you, and work in such a self-sacrificial way, daily to help us. These caring vibes are why we feel safe. We, their patients, are so very privileged to be looked after by such an amazing team.

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'Night Fall in Hospital'

That night in March, my thoughts led back to the nights imminently after surgery last April. Now I felt broken, but safe and calm. In April, I'd felt numb. 

The second night after surgery I awoke and was repeatedly sick. Hours passed, the injections to stop sickness didn't work. Morphine no more, I couldn't turn without pain ripping up from the scar, the tightly stitched door of future dreams and hopes closed, to save my life. This reality hadn't even begun to filter through. 3.5 weeks prior, pre-diagnosis, I'd been a working adult. Now I lay here, without the strength to sit up, constantly sanitising everything anyone touched down, with the words, 'If you catch Covid, you've a 70% chance of dying' etched in my head. My faith, family and friends were the mental strength used to get out of this. It was April 1st, before the days medics wore masks, in the peak of the first wave of Covid. I looked up at the painkillers and thought, I can't swallow them; I can't be sick any more. I hadn't the strength to talk to family. Then I remembered Dad's inspirational strength in his suffering, with the gruelling journey of Parkinson's he travels, and the little scribbled note he'd given me in my pocket. If he can get through that, I need to swallow those pills, I thought. One step at a time, I need to get out of here. I was in The Princess Royal Maternity Hospital, ironically, and I was there for all the wrong reasons. 


I felt the hollow space under that scar, the loss which seared, but at levels untapped back then...I just lay frozen, blank and numb, knowing there was a lot to process and a lot to get through. I knew, deep down it was that heavy ache and grief that weighed down the most, the fertility loss from surgery which I'd have to face. I wouldn't get over the loss in a day, it'd take a life time. I'd build my life back up around it. The loss of hopes felt by so many women, mostly unspoken. 


It was March now, and the night staff are right there, while no visitors are allowed. Thank goodness for the #NHS night staff, I thought.

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'The nurse who's always been there'

This portrait has a twist to it, as not only does it portray a super and dedicated nurse from Ninewells, it portrays my life-long friend, Debbie. At the time of my first Ninewells Hospital stay, Debbie was actually off on maternity leave, but like so many medics their genuine care, kindness and concern for people's wellbeing is not just their job, it's ingrained in their character; it permeates their life. During my December stay, when no visitors were allowed, I had several tests and awaited results. Debbie packaged up a bag of teas and snacks, (always good to have around), offered to send pyjamas and other essentials from home to help me feel comfortable, as the hospital stay was unexpectedly extended. During the next surprise visit to Ninewells in the Covid assessment ward, when I felt trapped in the side room for a few days (nowhere near as long as people with Covid endured), Debbie again sent comforting messages and offered to walk through the hospital grounds with her twin boys, my special godsons, in the outside area my room looked onto, to give me a wave; a gesture to again help me feel they were with me in spirit and I wasn't alone. There have been countless other gestures Debbie has shown since my diagnosis, including a beautiful cap I could go out with when my hair fell out, and many other personal touches. Since the words of diagnosis, leading to surgery, she's been with me every step of this journey. I met her when I was 4 years old; a small girl scuffing her ballet shoes on the cobbled sides of the road of our family homes; cue many happy hours, happy years playing games as we grew up. The shades of her peach ballet shoes and blue tutu skirt on that day are reflected in this portrait. She always had a kind heart, and my family were amazed at her practical caring ways; a born nurse at heart. Like many in the NHS Debbie embodies so powerfully that this isn't just a job, it's their way of life, who they are. And through that, they make the world a better place to be in.

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