Childhood trauma leads to lifelong chronic illness — so why isn’t the medical community helping patients?

This piece is important and it resonates with me, but not because of health issues. Behavioural problems also stem from traumatic childhoods, and the fright/flight/freeze response precludes reflective processes. You can’t just ‘park’ your hurt and speed away from your own family problems without collateral damage to those left behind. What is left goes on.

ACEs Too High

ADonnaDadWhen I was twelve, I was coming home from swimming at my neighbor’s dock when I saw an ambulance’s flashing lights in our driveway. I still remember the asphalt burning my feet as I stood, paralyzed, and watched the paramedics take away my father. It was as if I knew those flashing lights were a harbinger that my childhood was over.

At the hospital, a surgeon performed “minor” elective bowel surgery on my young dad. The surgeon made an error, and instead of my father coming home to the “welcome home” banners we’d painted, he died.

The medical care system failed my father miserably. Then the medical care system began to fail me.

At fourteen, I started fainting. The doctors implied I was trying to garner attention. In college I began having full seizures. I kept them to myself, fearful of seeming a modern Camille. I’d awaken on the floor drenched…

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Overall, it’s quite possible that your Mothering Sunday is not quite perfect.

26th March 2017 and it’s Mothering Sunday.

Just by way of statistics, 1 in 5 women in the UK are not mothers by the time they are 45.

1 in 4 people in their lives will suffer mental illness. There is no gender difference here. It might be the your mother is psychotic, or she might have dementia , or she might have a narcissistic  personality disorder.

I don’t know what the percentage is of  people whose mothers are absent because they are dead/ rejected their roles at birth/rejected their roles later on.

You might have considerable caring responsibilities for your parent and  a sibling who is not pulling their considerable weight.

Overall, it’s quite possible that your Mothering Sunday is not quite perfect. Mine neither.

I’m lucky I have my boys. Blessings counted. 1,2,3.

 

 

 

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, or “Where’s Home?”

I was in Casualty at Kingston Hospital last Thursday with one of my sons, who had a condition in his lower limbs which was both painful and mysterious. We thought it might be sinister, maybe a blood clot, and the doctor gave him a letter and told him to go to A&E. It was 6pm on a Thursday night and the waiting room in the front had only about a dozen people in it.

One of the Triage nurses is a friend’s daughter, a dusky rose, and she greeted us, and said that although it looked pretty empty, they had been very short staffed and behind the scenes it was heaving. Prepare for a wait, and Goodnight, her shift was done.

We both had books. He had Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I had the latest Granta. Although we were worried about him, we were at least in the hospital. It was warm. The chairs are pretty comfortable. The reading was good.

And then it started to fill up. A builder arrived at about 6.30 and sat opposite us. He’d been told it would be a long wait. How long had we been waiting?

About half an hour, we said. What had he done?

“It was this morning, I was up a roof and drilled a bit out of my finger.” He held up his left index finger with a none too clean tissue wrapped around it.

He unwrapped it and a bloody bit of meat was exposed, dirty, with a bit of transparent flesh flapping off it.

“It’ll need stitches.”, he said. “I’ve got a scar on my forehead which healed with a ridge because I didn’t get it stitched. Look. Thought I was hard, see! Huh! If this heals with a ridge, it will interfere with how I work. I need my hands.”.

“Why didn’t you go this morning?” I asked.

“I work for myself. I had to finish the job. Get the day done and the money in. It was a cash job. I’m owed so much money on invoiced jobs at the moment that I can’t make ends meet.”.

“Oh dear.”.

“So I just wrapped it in tissue and carried on best I could.”.

A woman in a hijab emerged from behind the scenes. She was talking on a mobile and had a folder of notes under her arm, and was headed straight for the exit to the car park. Another woman followed. “Come back! We need those notes. You must come back in. Come!”. I wasn’t sure if the would-be escapee was a patient or a Doctor.

Now nearly all the seats were full and it was getting noisy. Sick babes were moved on in pretty quickly. There were some very ashen faces, people with arms in home made slings, people limping about, all accompanied by one or two friends or relatives. About a fifth of the sick people were recognisably not English and they had even more supporters with them.

Three blokes came in, builders, young men. The one in the middle was in shock, covered in brick dust, and his head was decorated in pink stuff that had been blobbed out of a sort of syringe, like a mastic gun. His eyelids and eyebrows were blobbed in pink. He had to be helped round, presumably he couldn’t see. It was 8pm by now.

We noticed an elderly bearded man on the other side of the room. He had an old tweed overcoat on, and a pair of track-suit bottoms and boots. There was a thick gold chain around his neck. That was all. His overcoat was open to his bare chest. He looked miserable. He got up and went over to the desk. “I want to know about patient transport. I’ve been waiting hours now. When will it be?”

“I don’t know.”, said the man at the desk. “We will let you know.”. The old man plonked himself down again.

And I didn’t see this, we were at the back of the room, but I heard about it from a woman called Joan, who I met the following day, and who was admitted from Casualty into the Acute Assessment Unit (along with my mother who was delivered by ambulance half an hour after I took my son home – it was a long night for me), because her stomach had swollen up like a nine month pregnancy on account of a kidney dysfunction caused by acute constipation, and who recognised me from the night before. An elderly couple were sitting in front of the reception desk. He looked just awful. Then he fitted and his head lolled to the side. His wife screamed. Joan shouted to the receptionist, who said, “Yes, we know about him.”. Joan said “But I think he’s dead! Look at him!” Nothing happened. No Doctors came out. Joan shook his shoulder and he came back to life.

That happened a couple of times before he was admitted.

The old man with the gold chain and nothing but hairs to keep his chest warm approached the desk again. “But when will it be? You don’t understand. I’ve been here all day. I need to get home.” Every “e” was elongated, pleading.

“How long is a piece of string?”, said the receptionist.

“I don’t know? Please tell me? How long is this piece of string?”

“Look we’ve got one ambulance for patient transport. And a whole list of people who need it.”

“But how long? Please give me some idea.”

“Two hours. At least.”.

“Two hours!”. He walked back to his seat and cried.

My son and I looked at each other. Poor man. This was very hard on him. We decided to pay his fare home. It wouldn’t be much more than a fiver. I looked in my purse. I had twenty quid and some shrapnel.

I went over and sat down next to him. He smelt mildly of booze, like a pub at eleven in the morning.

“Hallo” I said, “I’m sorry you are having trouble. Have you thought about getting a cab?”

He looked at me with big soppy blue eyes, and emptied his pockets. “I haven’t got any money.”.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got some.”, I said. “Would you mind if I paid for it?”

“That’s really kind of you, but I don’t want to be a charity case.”, he said, grabbing my hand. He didn’t smell that bad really.

“Well it sounds like it’s going to be a long wait.” I said. “Are you going to be ok?”

“Not really. I’ve been here all day. It’s been a long day.”

He sighed.

“How are you feeling at the moment. I mean can I get you a drink of water? Would that help?”

“No, no thank you. I’ve been drinking water all day. I could do with something stronger if you know what I mean!”

I knew what he meant.

“Please let me get you a cab. Look, there’s a free phone over there for the cab-service.”

“Are you sure? Well if you’re sure, that would be so very good of you.”

I was on my feet and moving towards the phone. “Where’s home?”, I asked. “XXX Sunbury Road, Walton.” he said.

Walton! What the bloody hell was he doing in Kingston A&E!!

It was absolutely too late to back out now, in the middle of the waiting room, between the old man I’d offered to help and the phone.

I explained the situation to the cab firm. “Well it will be £22.50.”, she said. “Has he wet himself?”.

I don’t know why she asked this. It was as if she could see him more clearly than I could.

“No, he just smells a bit of alcohol. But he’s been in hospital all day. It’s stale, quite mild really. But hang on a sec, let me check I’ve got money.”

I had £23.37 in my purse.

“Go ahead.”

“Ok, so the driver will be there in about ten minutes.”.

I went and sat down next to him again. He was very grateful. And so he should be. “You’re so kind.”, he said. “I’ve been here all day. It’s been so awful.”

“Why did you come here?”, I asked, “Don’t you have a more local hospital?”

Walton is so far away in this tight urban landscape, about a fifteen to twenty minute run, and it’s behind the back of beyond and then some, and I haven’t a clue what the hospital situation is like there.

“Yes, I’ve been to St. Peter’s several times, but they were no good. I thought Kingston might be better. But they were no good either!”

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m just so worried. I’m worried all the time. My Landlord wants to sell the bungalow and evict me. It’s so stressful. I feel very unwell.”.

“Oh! That’s awful.”

“Yes but the doctors and nurses just won’t listen. The problem is that none of the staff are English. They are all Johnny Foreigners. England’s not like it used to be. I can’t understand them and they can’t understand me.”

Ah.

In the background I can hear someone say. “If it wasn’t for foreigners, there wouldn’t be an NHS.”, which were my thoughts,  projected.

“Not one, not one of them was English. They just don’t understand. They come over here, taking our jobs. England should be for English people. Like you and me!”

I didn’t tell him I was half immigrant Irish, and married to an immigrant who was a hard working leading scientist, and I wasn’t clever or hard working enough to be a Doctor, and what’s more I suspected that neither was he.

“Are you a Doctor then?”

“No, I was an engineer. Why don’t they just go home to where they came from?”

“Well a lot of them were born here.”

Like my boys. They are a quarter English, and a quarter Irish, a quarter Italian, a quarter Kosovan. Where should they “Go home to?”. I didn’t voice this. They’ve got this foreign name. It was something my son and I had just been talking about. Was that going to be a problem for them in this new Brexit world.

“They can go where they like but they should leave this country to the English! Make it great again!”.

Oh dear god. What to say here? I learnt a little from Brexit. Picking arguments with selfish stupid old Xenophobes like you, self obsessed distant relation, who wanted an end to immigration and thought that leaving Europe would put a stop to, not the Europeans, because you had nothing against the Europeans, it was those Pakistanis you wanted out, or you graceless local politicker, who wanted more control of our legislation, which was fair point though, but we could stay in and change it, and you, my mum’s gardener, who voted to leave just for a laugh, to see what Boris could do, because, you know, he’s so ridiculous, and that’s one in the eye for Cameron, does not make me happy and did not change their viewpoint. I mean, nobody liked Cameron. But don’t give us Nuttall and the UKIPS and a right tight little England in his place. Don’t give us stupidity and lies. Don’t, for Christ’s sake, give us America.

At that moment the cab driver arrived. He was Asian.

“See? They are taking all our jobs.”

“Oh, do you know, cab-driving is definitely not for me. Or you.”

“No, I suppose not.”

As we said good-bye, he said, “You will come and see me, won’t you! You’ve been so kind to me. Will you phone me! I will pay you back.”

I said “Of course.”

“But how can you, you haven’t got my phone number!”

“It doesn’t matter. Just be kind to someone else. That will be good! Good-bye, and good luck!”

And I kissed him on his fluffy bearded cheek, because he was a poor old sod.

I went back to my son. “This is like a zoo, Mum. I wish we could go home.”, he said.

Yes, but where to?

Anyway, that passed the time.

My son gets called into Minors at about 9.15pm. Minors consists of a series of half a dozen cubicles big enough for a chair, a small waiting area, and a desk area. The nurse, a skinny lad, possibly Vietnamese, with an interesting top-knot held together by a kirby grip and an elastic band, shows us into cubicle 3, and points out our doctor, a West African woman whose hair is styled with what looks like lard, but can’t possibly be. She immediately comes over and tells us to vacate that cubicle and disappears into cubicle 4, emerges, and then disappears completely. After a few minutes, nobody else comes to cubicle 3, and we discuss occupying it again. The Doctor comes by again, brandishing notes and calling my son’s name.

Where have we been? She asks.

Here, we say.

But I’ve been calling you, she says, why didn’t you answer?

But we’ve been here. The nurse put us into cubicle 3, and you told us to get out of it.

But I went into the main waiting room to get you. ……

But the nurse called us, we saw you, and you told us to get out of the cubicle…….

Our faith in the Doctor was wasting away.

But as it happens, she was very good. Tests were done, and although she could not say what was wrong, she could say, with confidence, that there was no blood clot, no kidney problems. Go home and if it persists, go back to the GP, was the advice. And he’s now better. It was a thing, but not a persistent thing, and hopefully it won’t come back.

In the middle of all this my mobile rings. It’s Dinka, Mum’s Bulgarian carer. Mum’s not well. What should she do?

It was going to be a long night.

War at Waitrose. Wartrose. Waitrage.

 

Take four shoppers, let’s call them A, B, and C and D. They finished their shopping in that order. You wouldn’t be reading this if they had unloaded at the check-out in that same sequence. A, so far as I know, was a faultless shopper. D had arrived at the check out next. She has unpacked some shopping, some rather nice china bowls on the conveyor belt after A’s groceries, before going off to get a cup of coffee and then finish the rest of her shopping, viz bread, butter, and cheese and milk. She’d left her trolley which had about another twenty or so items in it at the check out, presumably because at that point the conveyor belt was still full with A’s shopping. There was just enough space for those bowls.

Shopper B is me. I finish my shopping. I arrive at the check-out, see the nice blue bowls on the conveyor belt, and the rest of the shopping in the trolley, and think, oh, someone’s forgotten the bread or something. And I wait. There’s nothing else to do. Minutes go by. Shopper A has now got her shopping through and is paying and getting ready to clear off out of it.

Shopper C, who has arrived a couple of minutes after me is a tall, elderly, Eastern European man.

“Have you seen this person?” asks Shopper C of me (B). He means D.

“No.” I reply.

“Have you been here long?”

“Three or four minutes.”

C is fed up. He tells me he has seen this before. I think he has seen rather a lot of things before, rather more serious than selfish behaviour at Waitrose. But this is really getting up his considerable nose.

“Do you know what we should do?”, he says, Shopper C, “Take that trolley and push it into the aisle.”.

And so that’s what we do. The moment when I release the trolley and watch it roll with it’s own kinetic force down the shampoo and minor medical supplies aisle is a uniquely pleasurable experience. C is enjoying it too.

And then I unpack my shopping. But we made a mistake. We left the nice blue bowls on the conveyor belt and at that moment Shopper D comes back, having actually now finished her staple shopping, an armful of it, and drinking a cup of coffee.

D is a well groomed woman in her thirties. Just look at her. She has a superior attitude and a sense of entitlement.

She steps in front of me. So now the order at the check-out is D, B, C. Which is clearly wrong.

“Terribly sorry,” she says to the cashier, “They had run out of cups at the coffee machine……. Where’s my trolley?”

“It’s in the aisle.” I say. “Next to the shampoo. Sling your ’ook.”

She was of Middle Eastern extraction and perhaps she didn’t understand the expression. “Oh.”, said the cashier, and started to put the blue bowls through, leaning over to me and saying, “It’s just that she got stuck at the coffee machine.”.

“She hadn’t finished her shopping.”. I protested. “She half unpacked, then went to get a coffee and THEN finished her shopping. I’m first. Serve me first. Please.”

I might not have said please. I probably did.

The cashier puts the blue bowls through the check out.

“I want the manager.” said Shopper C, in his tall, Eastern European, frustrated way. “This happens too often here. I want to know what the culture is in this shop. Is this how people are supposed to do their shopping?”

“I just had a few other things to get.”, said D, as she gets her trolley from the aisle. “Everybody does it.”.

In discussion it turned out that although we had sometimes left our shopping to get one or two items, neither of us, B or C, had done that and got ourselves a cup of coffee at the same time.

“It’s not my fault there weren’t any cups”

“No but it’s your fault you went to the coffee machine after you took a place here!”

“Everybody does it. Your coffee goes cold if you get it when you come in.”

“What! WHAT!????”

“Don’t talk to me. Don’t say anything else to me.”

The manager, who is about 24 with a spiv moustache, is tackled by shopper C. “I want to know if this is now the normal procedure in this shop. Or is it that some people think they are better than others, that their time is of more value to them than mine to me. It seems to me that this type of person is also the type who park their enormous four wheel drive vehicles in the spaces for families with children because they are too stupid and selfish to park in normal spaces.”.

Fair point, I thought. But I wasn’t convinced that this was normal. It seemed extraordinary to me. It had been a while since I’d been in this Waitrose. It had been like a balm to me to go out and do the shopping here when all this caring business landed on my shoulders three years ago. It was an escape from the sick/madhouse. Now it was the madhouse.

Shopper D has now pushed herself in front of me (B), and is pushing my shopping back to make room for hers.

The check-out supervisor comes over and helps her. “Don’t worry Madam, don’t take any notice, let me help you with your shopping. Do you need someone to help you pack?”

“Yes of course she does.”, I say. “She’s now got to unpack the rest of her trolley as the cashier checks the first bits through. She’s not capable of packing her own shopping.”

“It’s not my fault they ran out of cups. You shouldn’t run out of cups.”. The second sentence was aimed at the Supervisor. The bitch, sorry, Shopper D, is annoyed at Waitrose for inconveniencing her with its inefficient free coffee service.

“Terribly sorry but, please don’t worry Madam, it’s fine. It’s fine. Take no notice”

“Thank you. Thank you.”, says D.

Well it is not fine with me. “It’s not fine to behave the way you do. It’s not fine at all. Supposing everyone did that? Half unpack their unfinished shopping and then go to get a coffee. The place would be in chaos. It’s not right. Don’t do it again. Get your coffee when you start your shopping. Then finish your shopping before you go to the checkout. That works fine. Can you imagine people behaving this way in LIDL?”

To be fair to her, and in retrospect, I can’t imagine Shopper D imagining anything that might take place in LIDL. And that might explain her response, through clenched teeth.

“I told you already. Don’t talk to me.”.

The increasingly annoyed Shopper C is still expressing his frustration at the Manager, who, going by the external arrangement of his facial features and gangling limbs, is finding the situation humorous. Customers, eh. This will be a good one for the staffroom. What can be done? Nothing. It’s not an issue, just a shopper who had forgotten a couple of items.

“You are laughing at me. You are not taking this seriously!”

The manager is definitely smirking.

The check-out supervisor offers to open up a new check-out for us.

We are unanimous, C and I, (or B, if you are lost in lettering). “No thank you. We just want this one to be managed properly. ”

D hisses, “I was here first and I only went to get a coffee.”.

“Oh dear. Madam, it’s fine. I hope this hasn’t spoiled your shopping.”

Shopper D is leaving.

“IT’S NOT FINE.”, I say. I definitely don’t want this D woman to think this is fine.

“Goodbye Madam. Hello Madam, so sorry to keep you waiting. Do you need any help with your shopping? Have you got your MyWaitrose Card ready?”

***********************

I go back in to Waitrose a couple of days later.

I do my shopping. I think I finish. I approach the checkout. I remember a few more items, and I push my trolley over to the fresh pasta, pesto, other stuff, and then come back to the same checkout which now has an unattended basket travelling down the conveyor belt.

I can’t believe it. I am Mr. Meldrew.

An elderly Indian man appears with his arms full of shopping. About ten items. More than are in his basket.

“You can’t do this!” I say. “You can’t dump a basket on the check out and THEN GO AND FINISH YOUR SHOPPING!”

“Everybody does it.” He says. “It happens all the time. People even get their coffee after they’ve put their stuff down on the conveyor belt.”

I turn round, saying “So this is a thing. Is it me or is everything shit?” to no-one in particular when I see that the lady behind me in this excuse for a queue is my very glum looking ex-manager from a long-time gone.

“Yes it is.” She said. “I’ve just had my purse pinched in the High Street. Could you look after my trolley while I pick up a couple of bits?”.

This time I complained to the manager, who, at the age of 12, had never heard of this happening before. He would speak to the cashiers and make sure it never happened again.

Electric blanket

Mum likes her electric blanket on to preheat her bed.  I had to write this to the care agency today. I had just got a reply to my week old email asking if the carers are trained to recognise stroke symptoms, which they missed in Mum a few weeks ago precipitating an emergency. I was assured that the carers had basic training in this, and it would be revised in the case of these particular carers. 

I will just take the electric blanket off the bed. She’s not been feeling very well lately and I wonder if that’s a contributory factor. She probably dehydrates more than she should at night with thethe extra heat. 

Dear xxxx

Thanks for the reassurance about the extra training regarding stroke.  It should be sufficient. 

Another matter, and maybe it should have been written into your care plan, but I don’t think that this is in the new folder at the moment; I wrote a note to the carers on Saturday asking that mum’s electric blanket be turned off by them on the evening call, after it had been left on all night. 

The next night the same thing happened and I highlighted that line on my note. The note is placed, by the way, on top of the page in the care book that they write in. They have to move it in order to get to the page. 

Last night, mum fell. I was called around in the wee small early hours of the morning. She fell because her non-slip Mat which she has by the side of her bed was not in place. I had removed it in the day and washed it. It was in full view, drying in the shower which is in the same room. If they had looked for it they would have found it within seconds. Anyway, I got mum up and she was ok

The electric blanket was on full. 

I’ve asked xxxxxxxx not to turn it on anymore, so it won’t be an issue, BUT are your carers aware that people with diabetes are potentially less sensitive to feeling heat than the rest of the population? 

They do a really important job, helping people to stay in their own homes, these women, and it is appreciated, very much, when they do a good job. But it is a very responsible job. Mum feels they are always in a hurry. The time they are supposed to be there for is half an hour, to put her to bed, I think? Actually they were in and out in twenty minutes last night. Which would have been fine if they had left mum safe for the night. But they didn’t. 

Kind regards,

Etc