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Crisis in the next bed

The day that I started my chemotherapy, it was clear that the person in the next bed, who I’ll call PNB for anonymity, had been having a rough day. He had needed a lot of care, and was clearly in some distress. But towards the evening, things seemed a little more comfortable and by the time I fell asleep, briefly, at midnight, the ward was quiet. True, PNB’s curtains were drawn around his bed, meaning that even though apparently stable, he wasn’t doing as well as he might.

I woke a couple of hours later in pain, and needing to urinate — recall that I was very heavily hydrated as part of the chemotherapy. Suddenly one of PNB’s family was sent running for a nurse. There were sounds of distress from the next bed, so it was with some relief I heard the nurses walking up. Another medical person was sent for, and the three of them started work.

Over the next three hours these three battled through various difficulties, all the time displaying standards of professionalism such as I have never seen. Three or four times it seemed to me, listening behind the curtains, that huge problems were met, confronted and overcome, with only what was available in the middle of the night, and boundless courage. At times the difficulties pressed more heavily than I thought anyone could bear, but the team all rallied around, worked their information–decision–action loop again and again, and it got them through. At about 5 a.m. PNB seemed once again stable.

I felt amazingly privileged to have witnessed, even at a remove, an episode that was so frequently trying, so frequently almost past hope, yet was recovered every time by this team of people working relentlessly as a true team. They supported each other professionally, medically, emotionally, in short in every way possible. Their principle tool for that appeared to me to be the information–decsion–action loop, as I could hear it being invoked all the time. And boy! did it work. It was an utter inspiration to me that you don’t have to be flattened by events, you can manage yourself and them, no matter how difficult, provided you apply that one discipline.

I couldn’t help but tell the team the following morning how impressed I had been with what they had achieved that night. Thankfully, it was taken in the right spirit. I realized later was that I was certain that everyone on that ward would have behaved similarly. I don’t believe there is a better group of people caring for cancer sufferers anywhere in the world, and I am humbled that I have been lucky enough to be cared for by all of them.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. David Allsopp | 18 January 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Hi Chris,

    Glad you’ve got a team you can have confidence in – with all the sniping at the NHS in the press it’s easy to forget the good bits!

    I spoke to someone today whose relative was treated at the same place as you, and they described it as “the best there is”!



  2. icyjumbo | 18 January 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard similar opinions from others too. I’m very pleased to be able to confirm them personally.

    And if anything, my article understated how impressed I was.

  3. Gary Coathup | 18 January 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve only just learnt of your problem – fight it with all at your disposal. (Well, perhaps you could leave the “sparkly” steroids out).

    I agree with the sentiment about the NHS by the way – it is a humbling thought that so many people devote their life to the very active support of others.

    All the very best,


  4. icyjumbo | 18 January 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Gary, I will. I may even be able to use steroids next time. It turns out that there is no correlation between a psychotic episode with one course of steroids and its repetition with the next. But my consultant assures me that there are multiple ways to treat the nausea, so there are still plenty of options.