Give Us Our Lives Back! | Rebecca Jane
A couple of weeks ago I told you all my dad was unwell. He has an aneurysm coming from his heart.
I write this week's column from my mum’s lounge, as we await news of my dad. He is in surgery, an intensive care bed is allocated for him and we expect him to be brought round into a coma for a little while.
The last few days, my heart has been broken and tears have been endless. My mother is devastated, my brother has come home from Devon and my children just want their grandad back.
Alongside that, I have a grandmother with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Between my dad and my grandmother, we have spent a considerable amount of time navigating the hospital systems. I can only explain from my family's view what we have experienced over the last three months.
Grandma can’t communicate for herself well. She often doesn’t know where she is, what is happening, she certainly doesn’t know what day of the week it is, nor the time of day. Nana is essentially nocturnal.
We have had three hospital trips via ambulance over the last three months. Carers call for an ambulance, ambulance take her and then it is quite literally a game of ‘where is Nana!?’.
Nana clearly cannot communicate, but no one ever calls us to let us know where she has ended up, no one ever tells us when she is admitted to a ward and no one tells us what is ever wrong with her. It is nothing short of a nightmare.
You know what makes it worse? Covid restrictions. We can’t visit, we can’t speak to her. When she gets admitted to a ward, she doesn’t even have television because she can’t set it up without us.
On one occasion I had to find where in the hospital, after two hours going from department to department, I found her. I then had to wait for the ‘visiting hour’ of the ward, which was another eight hours later.
When I turned up, Nana was sat in the chair next to her bed, dressed up, coat, shoes on and handbag on her lap. Nana was highly distressed, she didn’t know where she was or why she was there. Her hair was a mess, her glasses were missing and she looked scared to death. Nana was adamant she was going home, but that wasn’t true either.
I understand the need for COVID restrictions, but when it is a detriment to the welfare of a person. These restrictions are wrong, and in my opinion a breach of basic human rights.
In normal times, I would have been there as soon as she was admitted. I would have been able to explain, settle her and make her comfortable at least. The story is virtually the same for the other two admissions.
And then it comes to my wonderful father.
Dad, he’s not the same as Gran, he is no technological expert though. He doesn’t know what ‘wi-fi’ is, can’t use a mobile phone (well, not an iphone). He firmly has all his senses and although he doesn’t have the best hearing, he communicates reasonably well.
My dad has a life threatening condition that could end his life at any second. We’ve known that for three weeks. The treatment he has had from the NHS has been wonderful, and the staff have been exceptional. Truly amazing. What isn’t amazing is the restrictions.
Through all his consultations, no one was allowed to be with him. He had to take news and digest it alone. We spent two weeks barely understanding what was actually wrong with him, until doctors gave him paperwork to give to us.
Only two people from our family are able to visit him. We can only go one at a time, and we cannot swap visits. We can only go at 2pm and 6pm, for a maximum of one hour.
That means we had to choose who the two people would be between myself, my mother and my brother. Not just to ‘visit’ my Dad, but potentially to see him for the last time.
It meant that my dad had to spend last night alone, scared and worried. Knowing he will not see us again before he had surgery.
We weren’t able to say goodbye this morning.
We aren’t able to be there after, whatever the outcome. If it goes wrong, we will get a phone call, goodness knows when and to who. If it goes right, we have no idea when we will be told anything. He obviously won’t be able to communicate with us, we just have to hope someone, somewhere will.
These restrictions are horrific, inhumane and frankly wrong. They are also nowhere near as horrific as the restrictions for hospitals during Covid. My heart literally aches for the people who knew their loved ones were dying and they weren’t allowed to be there.
As for the people who knew they were dying and had no one with them, that doesn’t even bare thinking about. The courage those people had is nothing but admirable.
It’s time we got our lives back! Covid is going nowhere. We HAVE to move on and learn to live with it. I say that with the upmost respect for the illness too. It is a serious illness, but it is not the ONLY serious illness.
There needs to be a severe and immediate overhaul of the visiting and treatment within our hospitals. Specifically, the support patients are allowed during these times. The long lasting mental damage being caused through these unnecessary policies is barbaric.
Someone within our NHS trusts needs to put themselves in the positions of patients, their families and their friends - because they’re the most important, and they seem to be the ones who have been forgotten.
For all the hardworking NHS ground staff, who are with our loved ones when we can’t be - thank you. We have encountered some true angels in this process, and it has made a very horrific situation a little bit easier.
There’s one reason I can write today, whilst everything else feels entirely impossible. One of the best things my dad ever instilled in me was a relentless work ethic, if we have committed to a deadline, we are committed! He is a religious reader of this paper, and would be a little bit furious if I missed this week because of him.
We carry on regardless, which is exactly what the boffins sat in the NHS trust offices need to be doing.
I love you Dad.
Dad successfully came through 7 hours of surgery on Friday. Whilst he remains in intensive care, and we aren’t quite ‘out of the woods yet’. He is expected to make a full recovery over the next 12 months.
The Gregory family would like to send their eternal gratitude to Mr Alkafaff and his team, who performed Brian’s surgery on their day off. Nurses Sally, Sophie and Perkins for their exceptional care. Finally, Sister Catherine, a literal angel sent to us on earth. No words will ever express how grateful our family is to you all.’