Update on Health Services


Remember how I wrote about my friend and her admittance to hospital? Well, she came to my place after having pathology done, and over a cup of tea, there were many tears, borne of frustration and overwhelm. She works as a casual with the elderly, and if she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid, so she has had to pick up as many shifts as she can. The specialist who ordered her scans wanted them done before the end of this week as he is going away on a conference Friday for two weeks. She tried to book in, and found that she will have to wait a month! Three sections of her spine shall need to be done as well as a brain MRI. She knows that her symptoms are a sign of something amiss, and as you can imagine, is desperate to find out what. It seems incredibly cruel to make a person wait for answers when they still have to work and somehow function in the interim.

She missed a call from her GP the other day as her phone dips out where she lives. She was let out of hospital with a severe headache and many symptoms to fend for herself. By prolonging diagnosis and treatment, the health system actually loses money. It makes no sense! It was made clear to her that if she was willing to pay for the MRI’s, she could have them done immediately. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the thousands of dollars this would necessitate. Being in a private health fund means nothing in this circumstance. It shouldn’t be this way. My job as her friend is to help keep her spirits up whilst she waits.

Why can’t our Health Service be Streamlined?


A friend of mine almost lost her life as a teenager when she came down with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It has left her with long-term problems, which saw her admitted to hospital a few days ago. She was due to have an MRI so the doctors could gain an understanding as to what was happening neurologically, but at the last moment, it was cancelled, much to the frustration of both my friend and her specialist. It was a Friday afternoon and radiology had a backlog. She ended up being discharged, and asked to make her own arrangements for the MRI and a nerve conduction test. Now this lady is a single mother with no family support, and lives quite a way out-of-town.

This scenario seems to be common in the Australian health care system, and one can feel overwhelmed, attempting to deal with it all alone. Ideally, these tests would be done in hospital, and once the specialists know what is going on, the patient would be sent home with that knowledge, and hopefully ongoing support.

It is incredibly confusing, navigating our system! On the one hand, pathology may be free when requested by a GP rather than a specialist and on the other, scans may be charged when requested by a GP rather than a specialist. If attending appointments alone, you are likely to forget to ask pertinent questions, and incredibly likely to not retain important information. Having an advocate with you is important! I would like to see a system where the person is asked before discharge what support systems are in place when they get home. How far from town do they live? Do they have transportation? If the answers are in the negative, keep them in hospital to have the tests done in-house. My friend works incredibly hard, and I have been worried about her health for some time. Instead of having answers last Friday, she has been left to organize the tests herself, with a lengthy wait in the interim. We need a better system than the one we have.

Reaching Out


I have spent a great deal of my life alone, dealing with stuff. I have been alone in court rooms, making police statements; before surgery and after. I have been alone in hospitals and clinics and in my room at home. Of course, being a writer is a solitary profession, and as a homeschooling mother, I have to organize social occasions and outings. There is something comforting about relying on yourself to give what both you and your child need, and yet it is frightening too! Big decisions are made by me. No back-up, just me. No pressure!

There is a low-grade depression which can bring forth ferocious social anxiety at times, making me wary of reaching out. I hadn’t seen a friend for many months, and had missed her greatly. I rebelled against my fear of being dismissed and walked into her work the other day. I was greeted with a big hug, not only from her, but also others I knew. It felt like a home-coming, and I realized how silly my fears were. I had felt as though I was stuck between worlds. One as a mum who travels widely in order for her daughter to see friends and attend classes, and then as a woman who feared she had lost connection to the community in her dear little town.

I see now that I can be both… I can hold onto both. I was afraid that I would be forgotten, left behind. Feeling brave, I texted other friends, and organized catch-ups. I have a list of treasured people I want to catch up with! The brain can tell us porkies as a way of protecting us, but one of the biggest fibs is that to retreat shall protect us. It won’t, we will just feel alone. I have been alone too much in my life, and it is time to reach out. Time to yourself can be reflective, a way of filling your cup. Socializing can too. It is about getting the balance right. Who do you need to make contact with?

Bill’s Meeting with the Dalai Lama


Bill Crews wrote about his profound connection and recent meeting with the Dalai Lama. It is simply one of the most exquisite, transformative pieces of writing I have ever encountered. Grab a cup of tea, sit quietly, and be prepared to be elevated by this blog piece.

Melbourne


I recently flew down to Melbourne with a wonderful group of friends. People have raved about how beautiful Melbourne is, but it surpassed all expectation. From the moment we checked into our apartment on Flinders Lane, there was a sense of coming home. A lovely friend was minding my daughter, and I found myself abandoning the infamous mental list of things I must do.

Laneways were emblazoned with art, and a Romani musician delighted with his violin. Scented candles and essential oils beckoned you into little shops, and my mind was torn, as I decided on where to eat, and what to eat! There were so many choices! Within an hour of arriving, I had fallen hard for Melbourne. It’s architecture is stunning, and rather than dismantle its history, it seems to preserve it. It is easy to get around, and the public art is astounding! My soul wept with the beauty it was being fed. I stood in Bourke St Mall, silently remembering those who perished a few short months ago. There was almost a holy reverence at play amongst the crowds. We shopped and dined at Chin Chin, a funky bar/restaurant, which catered to our individual requirements with aplomb. We walked to South Bank, ate at cafe’s and pubs, and had an exquisite time. Melbourne is far cheaper than Sydney, that’s for sure! It felt as though it didn’t matter what your leanings, you could find your tribe here. I was sad when our three days came to an end, and it was time to fly home. Melbourne, you have captured my heart, and I can’t wait to come back with my daughter.

 

 

Holding Space


It always means a lot. As humans, we can find it hard to hold space for someone and just listen. We feel uncomfortable with the depth of emotion being displayed. We may be triggered by our own stuff, or excited as we think of something in reply to the subject matter. We may be socially awkward, and jump in mid-sentence. To acknowledge the other person is a gift we give not only to them, but ourselves. We learn more, we feel more and we open ourselves to learning more about that precious person. We are in the moment, not projecting to what we are going to say in reply. Time stops, and if you are lucky, the birds may sing and the sun may break through the clouds. If you see someone looking lost or at a loose end, invite them to walk with you or sit at your table. Some of my dearest friendships have been founded by doing just that. Zip it and listen. You will gain so much!

Be Vulnerable


I learnt an important lesson this past week. Life had become extraordinarily busy; happily due to wondrous events, and I was delighted to share photos and details with my friends. I was less enthusiastic to share information about my foot. How I would be curled up in a ball due to the pain, both before and after surgery. I wouldn’t let my daughter see the wound, nor anyone else. It was a large crater. It was all well and good to pronounce that I was in the city, going about business, and share pictures of places and smiles and happiness. I found it hard to articulate how my foot felt at the end of the day, and the challenge of getting bandages off which were fused to the wound. How every step was excruciating.

On Sunday, I took a picture of the site, to see how it was healing. Despite all internal objections, I shared the pic. A friend and her husband have a podiatry practice, and she made contact. They organized for me to go to the local high-risk foot clinic, and an appointment was made for that very day! Everything from my circulation to neuropathy was tested. The podiatrist made me a cushioned insole to place in my shoe, did some work on my foot, dressed it appropriately and gave me supplies to ensure it healed well. With glucose intolerance and a nerve deficit, I was at greater risk for infections, etc.

I went from a stoic woman who felt she had to do everything alone, to allowing a group of people to help me, and it was humbling. It was hard to share the photo of my foot, as it felt I was making myself vulnerable. I felt silly; people didn’t want nor need to see a gruesome image! However, friends assume you are doing well, when all they see are happy snaps. By allowing them to see another side to my life, I was able to receive the help  I desperately needed. A big lesson was learned! Being vulnerable is a risky business, but so is stubbornly trying to do it all on your own. There are wonderful people in this world, willing to help. All you need do is ask.

Surrender


Surrender is  tough, particularly if you are a control freak! I had been having trouble with pain in the sole of my foot, but was mindful of money over the Christmas period. My doctor is excellent, but charges over the Medicare Rebate. I needed new scripts, and thought about asking about my foot, though decided against it. It would have meant a short consult would be billed as a long one, and I was on a budget! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I was billed the higher fee anyway on my way out. When it got to the point where I couldn’t walk without agony, and my spine was affected, I sought help from a GP who bulk-billed. X-rays and Ultrasounds led me to a surgeon. I was given a gift, by meeting this remarkable human. He scheduled my surgery,and then the consult was spent with him regaling me with stories from his remarkable life. He had come to Australia to study medicine, and he talked of how he felt stuck between worlds when he went back to his native country. He talked about when he first started his practice, and was invited to a property for dinner with his family. There was a sign out the front, saying ‘Animal Kingdom’. It certainly was! When his kids went into the living room, they were delighted to see a kangaroo sitting on the sofa, watching TV!

I have lost count of all the operations I have had; all I know is that there wasn’t room on the hospital form to list them all! This foot surgery wasn’t the worst of them, that’s for sure. Mind you, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated what an essential job one’s feet play until now. The stuff we take for granted is mind-blowing. We hold on so tight in our lives, to people, places and circumstances, as though through willpower alone, we can control the outcomes. I have always loved the feeling of release, when I am put under. I can feel myself slipping away from consciousness, and yet it is a relief rather than something to fear. I can let go for a little bit, and let the theatre staff (with their eclectic taste in music), take over.

Before the anaesthetist came, my surgeon showed me a collection of photographs he had shot throughout the years on his Iphone. He had taken up photography after his wife had died, and the images made me well up. There were pictures of zebras, waratahs and spiders and it were as if seeing them for the first time, from another level. He remarked that people fail to stop and see what is in front of them; the beauty and terror. He is right. So much of our life is spent trying to avoid big feelings, and ignoring beauty. Maybe I can learn to stop a little more. Maybe I can learn to release and surrender, without having an anaesthetic. Perhaps each second of the day doesn’t have to be accounted for. I want to see waratahs and zebras from a different light too. If a busy surgeon can find time to stop and surrender, surely I can.

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Come as you are, See me as I am


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My daughter’s Godfather is Reverend Bill Crews, an icon in Sydney, admired for The Exodus Foundation and The Bill Crews Charitable Trust. At the end of a service at the Uniting Church in Ashfield, we all hold hands, forming a circle. In part, he says the following “come, come as you are… This is not the door of hopelessness. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what sex you are, who you are or what you’ve done.” We all feel it. A bunch of eccentrics, poets, misfits and empaths, we feel that we can indeed come as we are. The ego is a silly thing, misguided and sometimes seeing to it that we neglect opportunities. Neglected, because at that particular time, we don’t feel 100%…Our house is a mess, we lack the funds to put on a fancy spread for dinner, we need a haircut or we feel we need to present better before having people over… I didn’t think I had allowed my ego to misguide me, but I certainly had! I have planned dinners in my head, and am waiting for the perfect opportunity. I have planned to have people over, then neglected to actually invite them! I look back and in all honesty,  perfect gatherings were unscripted. I have drunk cheap wine out of jam jars, and had a drizzle of olive oil on bread with friends by candlelight, vying for space amongst magazines and cushions. Those nights were sublime and unforgettable.

I have a problem with my right foot (where nerve damage has occurred from my spinal injuries), and am having surgery next week. In spite of this, each day I have showered, done my hair and put fresh clothes on. I have cleaned my home, and put everything in its place. Last weekend, the pain got the best of me, and I had heavy-duty painkillers and put myself to bed, where I stayed. Sunday, I was surrounded by empty bottles of water, clothes and medicines strewn all over the floor, the Sunday papers covering the bed. I was still in my pajamas, and looked a sight with unbrushed hair and teeth. Of course, this was the day that a friend I haven’t seen in ages came for an impromptu visit. She didn’t bat an eyelid at the chaos; rather she got herself a chair and sat by my bedside. I didn’t feel self-conscious; she had come as she was, and so had I! It actually felt good, to visually demonstrate the chaos that was happening within. I felt authentic, un-judged and valued. She not only tread through the detritus when my mask fell, she also gifted me this magnificent umbrella!

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Apparently, it had spoken to her at the shops, and she knew she had to buy it for me! We avoided niceties, delving into the deepest parts of our lives and the society in which we live. My friend gifted me a reminder to stop the avoidance of extending invitations to people because my life/house isn’t perfect that day/week. No life, house or veneer ever is, and those whom love you don’t give a flying fig about any of that. They will step over the clothes strewn on the floor to reach you. Come as you are.