As I look back on the day I can see it being split into three parts. There was the going to work, supporting a friend, and spending time with my daughter.

Today work was unusual because we had a new member of staff starting. This is an important milestone for us because our small company has slipped from a total of three full time equivalent  people resources down to two and a half FTE for quite a full months now and since my wife and I make up about 1.5 FTE that is quite an extra strain to put on mainly her shoulders although the other four of us workers have also been under increased stress.

Getting to work was also unusual in that we have both been feeling a bit “different” recently (which in my case I put down to the general anaesthetic) so we decided to drive in rather than take our bikes. It turned out that last night was really frosty and so I had to scrape the care this morning (I hate using chemical defrosters) and it was much harder than I was expecting, so took longer. An another unusual aspect of the day was that I was at work for a full seven and a half hours probably 50% longer than my average; that would be normally really hard to sustain but I took it easy in the afternoon printing leaflets and discussing things with others. I ended up going home in the dark and yes, I had to scrape the car again.

A friend contacted me this afternoon because he had had another frustrating time getting treatment for his illness. He had woken up in the early hours with such pain that he had to vomit and was unable to keep even water down. As advised by his consultant, he eventually called an ambulance and was taken to A&E where he was told that he needed to contact his GP to get some pain killers. Aside from the difficulty in taking pills when one cannot even drink water, the kicker was that his consultant had told him not to take pain killers. The is the third time he has had to call out an ambulance and the second time in A&E (the first time the ambulance crew refused to take him).

The image I have for my friend is that he is stranded at sea at the moment. For a lot of the time, the sea is calm and he sails where the wind blows, but occasionally a storm suddenly arrives and because he doesn’t feel his boat can cope anymore, he calls out for help. Help arrives and takes him to a safe harbour, but space and resources are limited and so the harbour authorities ask him to leave and report to his local harbour to get emergency equipment fitted to his boat for extra safety. The local harbour does their best but feels an expert is needed. Life seems to return to normal and so my friend sets out in his boat again.

Eventually the expert sends directions for how to find her and my friend visits that harbour. Various possibilities are discussed and eventually a diagnosis is given, there is something fundamentally wrong with the boat which cannot be fixed but needs to be lived with. My friend does his research and finds that there are far off lands where more expertise exists but he is not allowed to visit them because his expert is bound by rules which ban her from asking for help outside her country. My friend has to work out how to get to these distant lands by himself. He is battered, full of doubt and losing confidence. He sets out to find the fabled lands and hopes that no more storms will come and that if they do, that they wont destroy his boat and sink him.

It seems to me that the NHS is completely stressed out. My friend is an unusual case and is falling through the cracks caused by slow and bad communication and a lack of a central management. I cannot believe the system is deliberately treating him badly but I find it very hard listening to his experience and not be able to do anything about it. I feel like intervening in some way, perhaps asking my consultant to help out but I don’t know what the right thing to do is. Am I over reacting? Have I been given privileged access to the NHS? Has the NHS changed so much since my acute phase? Who does one appeal to when the care seems to be so insensitive to the patient’s need? Perhaps the later is the most significant question to answer. I’ll do some research.

My final part was spent talking to my daughter and hearing about her recent trips. In the evening we sat down and worked through our proposed Canada trip next summer. With her enthusiasm and decisiveness we have pinned down dates and flight details. I didn’t really feel up to doing this decision making but somehow it is a lot easier to do with my daughter. Perhaps it is because we want the same kind of trip so I am not battling against a different vision in which I cannot see the point in and whose reasoning is not based on something I understand.

It is great to have something to look forward to and be excited about (though perhaps it is my daughter’s excitement I am picking up on) because tomorrow morning is the funeral of our family friend. I do not know how it will go. I know I will be upset and if past experience is anything to go by, I am going to be a gibbering snotty wreck. I am also though, a supportive husband and father and I don’t know how much my need to help my loved ones will push aside my own needs. Will my sense of duty push aside my own emotional chaos? It does seem to be how the adult me behaves.

Quite a day. Looking back I think the only time my mind went near to being overloaded was researching the Canada trip whilst my wife and daughter chatted about something else. Expressing a need for quiet seemed to solve that one. I find it a bit amazing that I didn’t get overwhelmed at work or whilst supporting my friend; is there something to learn from there? Maybe, but not tonight,  I think it is time to go to bed.

 

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