We all have patients that stick in our mind and who bring a smile to our face or tears to our eyes.
There have been a number of patients who stick in my mind, many from my time as a Registered Nurse at ward 15 at the (then) Royal Brisbane Hospital.
I loved working in medical wards – the work was very hard, but it was always so fascinating and rewarding.
Outcomes were built on a commitment to strong relationships – relationships with your nursing colleagues and the rest of the ward team, but also relationships formed with patients who we all got to know very well after repeat admissions.
One such patient was a man named Bill, a very long-term patient awaiting nursing home placement. He was an unstable diabetic and a very heavy smoker.
This resulted in bilateral below-knee amputations that meant he was unable to safely self-care at home.
He was so saddened about the pending nursing home placement and the loss of his independent life.
Despite literally smoking his legs off, Bill continued to smoke out the back of the ward building whenever he could. (These were the days before smoke-free hospitals!)
This was also effectively the staff tearoom area, so we all got to know Bill very well.
A bushie and a rough diamond with a heart of gold, he had only the occasional visit from an estranged sister, so the ward staff became his main friendship network. He had a particularly strong relationship with our ward person Lenny.
The stories that I could tell about what those two got up to…
Bill was really alone in the world and Christmas was approaching.
He missed the simple things in life, like going for a beer at his home away from home, the Queens Arm Hotel in the nearby Fortitude Valley.
He didn’t get the chance to go out anywhere anymore and had infrequent visitors. All in all, life was pretty bleak for Bill.
So we decided to invite him to our ward Christmas dinner. After all, he was effectively part of our team.
He was granted a pass to leave the ward for those few hours on a Friday night.
A few of the consultants were perplexed by the addition of Bill at the table, but to the nurses he was one of us.
It was our shout as a Christmas treat for Bill.
The night was not without some drama. Bill had a hypoglycaemic episode just prior to dinner. (I still have the photo of me administering the honey under his tongue.)
Then we had a few challenges transporting him to and from the hospital.
But we got there in the end and it was all worth the effort, especially for Bill’s sake.
We had a great night and the thing I remember was the laughter, including from Bill who was not really a jolly kind of guy.
It still stands out in my mind as the best work Christmas dinner ever.
Not because of the food, but because of the company of the fabulous hard-working and cohesive team we had at Ward 15 who cared so deeply for a man named Bill.
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