The move to Australia had been the most challenging time of my life so far. Along with my Husband and three children we nervously boarded the plane.
I had only held my qualification as a Registered Nurse for nine short months and I seriously wondered if the decision to take the position so far away had been a wise one.
Saying goodbye to friends and relatives tore at us and I cried for most of the flight over Europe.
When I look back now I can’t believe that we did it – a foreign land, very little money, and just like those who had gone before us we too blinked at the bright Australian sunshine, tired but filled with hope and excitement for what was ahead.
A few years previously I had thumbed through the paper and announced to my Husband ‘I want to be a Nurse’.
He looked at me over the top of his paper and said ‘Well you had better go do it then.’ Our youngest child was only four at the time and I am eternally grateful of his support through my journey.
During my years of training every emotion that could be experienced was. Depths of despair when an assignment just wouldn’t come together, and days of absolute heart filling moments, be it on the ward with a successful shift or grade achieved.
On the last day I sat with my fellow students, tearful and filled with pride as I received my certificate and pin.
However now I nervously hugged my mug of tea before the trip to work for my first day on ‘Medical ward’ rural Australia.
Was it a dream, was I really here?
When I reached the Hospital there was mandatory orientation to attend, stomach chuming and still tired from the move I made myself a coffee.
Just then an impish face with short brown hair peeked at me from behind the fridge door.
‘Skinny or fat?’ I replied ‘Well I’m quite fat darling, but I’ll put the skinny milk in and see what happens.’
Well that was it, we laughed and firm friends in an instant we became. Throughout the day we sat at the back whispering when we should have been listening, taking too long over lunch trying to cram in our life stories into precious minutes.
We will call her … ‘She’ and ‘She’ was a mature Nursing student, young in looks and even younger at heart.
During the months that followed ‘She’ helped me endlessly – lifts to work (as I didn’t drive when we first came to Australia.)
Tours of the countryside, driving lessons, tall stories,coffees, long sunny lunches.
‘She’ even helped me find my son when he was lost, we drove round for hours, he had gone back to a friend’s house for tea after school and forgot to tell me.
He wrote ‘She’ a letter of a apology for the ‘inconvenience caused’ but ‘She’ laughed, tore it up, and hugged him.
Although I loved my work on medical ward, I had always had the nagging feeling that my journey of Nursing should be elsewhere.
Many nights I had the reoccurring dream of cycling over a small bridge, but when I reached the other side the dream would end.
‘She’ said ‘Palliative Care, that’s what you would be good at’.
Strangely enough I had once emailed the local Palliative Care unit in that area when in England, but was told that I was far too junior to work there, as the unit was mostly Nurse-led and the Medical officers only visited the unit after their normal Surgery. However I should reapply in my second to third year if still interested.
‘She’ was pushy, very pushy.
‘Im going to come and pick you up and take you to the Palliative care unit – there’s a job going!’
By this time I had already been Nursing for eighteen months or so and maybe this would be enough.
We reached the unit hidden in a small rainforest overlooking the mountains, every big picture window framed the beauty of the view.
‘She’ took my hand and as her usual bossy self pulled me through the doorway. Some recent casual shifts had meant that ‘She’ had already met the staff and Nurse unit manager.
I loved it ….. Where could I apply.
The manager was amazed that the little invisible Nurse that had emailed her so long ago was now standing in front of her, wide eyed and very keen.
That night ‘She’ helped to compile my application, and with fingers crossed I pressed the send button.
‘She’ celebrated with family and I when I got the call that the job was mine. On my first day I decided to cycle, as work was so close to home.
Over a small bridge I went, but unlike the strange re-occuring dream I had experienced for so many nights, this time I knew what was on the other side.
Palliative Care Nursing has changed every aspect of my life, not only as a practising clinician, but on my general outlook on life and the deep recognition of my own mortality and the fragility of the human condition.
The journeys I share with my patients and their relatives is humbling and I feel privileged to share this most intimate and precious time in their lives.
They know I cannot cure, but they know I can give them comfort.
At 3am when darkness and despair surrounds them, they can hold my hand and I will not leave them, I will listen, until sleep comes again.
I can wash them in cool water when they are too wann, wrap them in blankets when they are cold, or frightened.
Relatives can tell me stories of memories, cry, laugh, I will not judge.
I balance symptomatic medications to bring relief and comfort, most often by my own clinical assessment as the Doctors are guided by our assesment when giving telephone orders for medications.
I will advocate, I will silently tell my patients stories in the notes written at the end
of each shift … I am proud to be a Nurse.
‘She’ came to the house for coffee …’I’m sick’ …Acute Myeloid Leukemia.’
The battle commenced … and ‘She’ fought well.
I tried to be the friend that ‘She’ had been when I first arrived in Australia. My turn to repay that wonderful kindness she had given to my family and I.
‘She’ lay on the cotton sheets that I had put on the hospital bed for her. We watched the blood filter slowly on the second unit of her transfusion.
Desperately hoping that it would give her the energy she needed to carry on with the life that she so desperately clung on to.
I stroked her hair – ‘who knew that you would bring me here, so strange how life works.’ I guess my eyes filled up.
‘You don’t mind nursing me do you?’
I looked at her and said….’at this time, the only thing I can give you is my friendship and my Nursing …it’s all I have .’
Between admissions to the unit I also nursed ‘She’ at home.
They were precious days, and I continued to give her the one gift I had which was my Nursing.
It was Autumn when ‘She’ lost her fight, she never made it to graduation.
In those last days she became my inspiration to strive on whatever and never lose sight of my dreams.
Recently I have pushed my boundaries taking on further challenges and acted as
Nurse unit manager and Deputy Director of Nursing for the Hospital.
I would like to apply for the position permanently if I can, working together with other members of my team to improve both the Hospital and Palliative Care Services within my area.
All the time knowing that ‘She’ will be watching and cheering me.