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The Hospital

Some of my best friends are doctors. They are all incredible individuals, wonderful healers and gentle souls. I realised today that I am not fighting an individual, but a broken system. It is the same fight I have been fighting in aged care for the past 24 years, where the most wonderful people are paralysed by a broken system. I am told that the hospital is too small, there is not enough staff, it is dif cult to nd trained employees. Of course, that is like waving a red flag to a bull. (Yes a cranky old bull with good eyesight that hates red ags!) I am NOT interested in the fact that you take on more patients than what your capacity allows, that you treat your staff like shit so they don’t want to work for you, or that they leave your business for better pay. “As management does unto staff, so the staff will do unto the clients/residents/patients”.

I have bandied on about this to the point where I actually irritate myself! And here I go again. What does “person-directed” mean? It starts with knowing WHO I AM! The basics – I am de ned by my story, not my illness or disease. I have a family. Or not. I am a mother/father of small children. Take into consideration that there are people around the patient/resident to consider, console, inform, and consult.

The medical aid and hospital bills arrive quicker than the offer of a cup of tea or a glass of water (in fact the latter does not arrive at all.) Is it because the staff are so overworked/underpaid/badly treated that they seem to not care/notice/acknowledge the presence of their clients? I am yet to nd a kind word, a small gesture of care from ONE person in this hospital.

This will be my last post on the matter. I will now focus on the beautiful process that I am witnessing of my father’s transition. The privilege of being with him, of noticing his beautiful hands, the softness of his face. As a mechanic, my father’s hands were always battered and bruised. He came home at night and scrubbed his hands and fingernails like those of a surgeon about to operate. His skin was always covered in cuts and bruises, spots that showed his manual labour. My Mom would fight with him about another cut or bruise, which he almost never knew what caused them.

Now his skin is soft. The last bruises of the fall when he had the stroke are still there. A big blue bruise on the back of his head. The paralysed arm lie gently in his lap, the other hand reaching for his head every now and then, scratching his head as he always did. Is it muscular intelligence or is there really an itch? His breathing is irregular and shallow. And then he would fall into a deep, soft, gentle sleep.

The oxygen tube in his nose irritates him. I ask him to not pull it out when he reaches for it. His hand goes back to his lap. I know that he worries about my Mom. For the last number of years, he was her primary caregiver. Preparing meals, making tea. Then coffee. Then tea again. Helping her fasten her bra, and pull up her pants. Putting in her earrings and brushing her hair. Every morning he would bring Sally (the dog) to lie with her while he makes her tea. Gentle. Kind. Incredibly patient. He would then sit in his study and read his bible.

Today the caretaker of the caravan park in Witsand came to visit “die Oom”. Shock and disbelief, on Thursday my dad still visited him. A message comes through later – “die Oom was my rolmodel”.

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