Hard Pushed – Leah Hazard

Saying that midwives are incredible is an understatement. These women (and sometimes men) are the bringers of life, people that labouring mothers can love more than their partners at some points. But who are they behind the scrubs and the smiles? What do they see every day? Leah Hazard has spent years working as an NHS midwife and this is her story.

I absolutely adored this book, because it was so interesting. Through Leah’s eyes, we see snippets of different women as they make their way through labour. From women who are awaiting their first bundles of joy, to teenagers going through it alone, there are a number of stories that made me want to reach through the pages and hug them. Each experience seems to different but so similar at the same time and while this is, as Leah puts it herself, a ‘love letter’ to the women she has helped and her fellow midwives.

While this does have wonderful moments, what stands out is that Leah is not afraid to share the pressure midwives are under. Understaffed, underfunded and often running on empty.  Many midwives have walked away, not because they don’t love their jobs but because they are burnt out. Missed breaks, hospitals fit to burst and often not enough beds. It is one of many memoirs from medical professionals I have read in the past few years that I feel should be required reading for those making cuts to NHS services.

I gave this book 5 stars and devoured it in 24 hours, and that includes a nights sleep in-between. Leah Hazard clearly not only has a talent for writing but also a kindness that exudes from the pages of this book. Like many other medical memoirs, I am in awe of those who care for us in our hours of need. This is incredibly well written and I urge you to pick it up.

A copy of this book was given to me to review via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: This is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor – Adam Kay

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“a great doctor must have a huge heart and a distended aorta through which pumps a vast lake of compassion and human kindness.”

Adam Kay once had a different life, after training for years he finally qualified as a Junior Doctor, this is a collection of his own personal diaries, the highs and lows in detail. Adam tells us about the stretch that the NHS is under but also talks about some of the quite humorous instances that he faces when in Gynocology…including some questionable choices by the general public.

I thought about reading this for a while and when I found it on Audible I thought I might as well give it a shot, this was said to be funny as well as showing the life of a Junior Doctor. This book is something else, a real eye-opener that honestly makes me want to campaign alongside NHS staff for more rights for them because they do so much for us.

If you ever think that doctors get a lot of money, kindly read this. Just the sheer number of hours, the training and the situations that they face are astounding. I must stress that through the majority of the book there is no mention of the political, this is very much a funny and thoughtful account of what it is like to be an NHS doctor. Kay talks about the detachment he’s supposed to have but how some patients he can’t help but remember. How the job that he’s passionate about destroys any sense of a social life and the events that lead to him leaving the profession in 2010.

I felt like this was more than a book, it was an insight into the lives of those who don’t get glamorised on screen. Remember, while you’re enjoying your family, someone else is giving up time with theirs. While you’re sick, someone else will take care of you. It’s easy to get frustrated with waiting times and lists but you can really see the pressures that doctors face through Kay’s words.

I felt emotional while reading this but I laughed a lot too. Of course, there are elements which are sombre, but Kay has a way of writing that makes everyday life seem like a comedy sketch with some hardships thrown in. It certainly gets the balance right when it comes to your emotions but know that you will feel them.

Of course, this was a 5-star read. I wasn’t sure initially but once I got in I couldn’t stop. This was absolutely incredible, well thought out and really showed the life of a doctor. My favourite part was a letter at the end to the Health Secretary, the only point I could feel anger and rightly so. This is not a political book, that’s not the purpose but it makes clear what our politicians are choosing to ignore.

 

Spine Update! November 2016

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Depending on how long you’ve been reading my blog/following me on Twitter you may or may not know that back in 2015 I fell off a horse and broke part of my spine (vertebrae T12 to be exact) and damaged other parts of it. It’s been a long 18 months with a lot of pain, scans, x-rays, physiotherapy, wheelchairs, crutches and walking very, very slowly. There wasn’t any part of my life that wasn’t impacted by the accident, I spent a lot of time (longer than I should have been) on maximum strength painkillers and spent almost 2 months in this wonderful contraption…

 

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I documented on here and on Twitter whenever I could what it was like living with my spinal injury. I learnt a lot from it and it gave me a bigger appreciation for not only being able to walk but life in general. That said, it is frustrating and the pain was indescribable and is still a huge part of my life today. BUT! I finally have some good news to share.

Last week I attended a clinic called Hampshire Backs to see a back specialist. I’d waited since September for this appointment and had an MRI (I was stuck in the machine for an hour!) determined that something would happen this time after seeing endless doctors, consultants and surgeons only for them to shrug their shoulders. My new consultant is brilliant, I’ve seen the scans and my break is fully healed, as is the damage to other parts of my spine, my nerves are clear of disruption and my spinal chord is good. All the majors were ok! We then went to on a physical examination, one that’s almost routine to me now, it took him a small amount of time to work out what was going on.

Due to the fact I’ve tried almost all the options that I have been able to at this point, including a year of physiotherapy, we were going to the next step. At some point next year I’m going into hospital to have a procedure, during which I’ll be asleep while a mix of steroids and anaesthetic will be placed in to the joints in the base of my spine. The hope is that this will give me relief, meaning I can build up muscle before it wears off and hopefully that will help the pain. IF this works then there will be talk of further procedures, if not…well we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I won’t lie to you, I’m terrified of going to sleep and having people stick things into my spine but I also have a new found hope. This could be the start of me not living in constant pain and worry. I’m going forward and trying to be positive about this.

My experience of Acupuncture

As a part of my fracture recovery I semi-voluntarily get stabbed with tiny needles all over my spine and occasionally my legs. Doesn’t that sound like fun? What I thought was just something that you paid people to do if you were slightly mad, is actually funded on the NHS. Now I’ll be honest I was very sceptical about the way this works and if it works at all. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. After weeks and weeks of still not being able to move and a little persuasion I was booked in to acupuncture.

I said last week that things are only slightly improving with my spine, leading me to be willing to try anything and everything to get rid of some of this pain and get a more active lifestyle back (I was supposed to be super ripped by this point, then I decided to fall off a horse). Meeting Nicola I was nervous, more than nervous but because she is absolutely fab she managed to make me feel informed enough to give it a try. Nicola is the most amazing physio, she answers any and all of my questions, encourages me and understands when the pain is a little bit too much. I don’t think I would have let anyone else use me as a dart board three times.

A lot of people ask me things like what does it feel like? Does it hurt? Do you watch? I can answer honestly that it feels like someone is jabbing you, not in an ‘oh my god what the hell are you doing’ kind of way. Some lucky so and sos don’t feel it at all apparently, I most definitely do. For me there are certain points which are quite painful, whereas others are just a bit annoying, for example there’s one in the middle of my lower back that I’ve had every time and I can usually ignore it. Another point that I had today was on my hip which lead me to swear out loud, it didn’t feel great and the weirdest one I’ve had so far is the backs of my knees, I don’t even know how to describe that. Obviously with it being on my back I can’t watch it, nor would I want to.

If you don’t like needles, scroll past this next image…

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Sometimes it can cause pain afterwards and, you guessed it, I’m one of the lucky few who get a fair bit of pain after. I can also get sleepy too. I’ve had 3 sessions and I haven’t seen any incredible results yet unfortunately. I’m going to have a few more sessions, partly because we tried the alternative today and I nearly cried in pain as Nicola tried to relax the muscles. I can’t say that I’d recommend it to people other than to help curb a needle phobia, I’m starting to not be that bothered as long as I don’t have to see it.

I think if I wasn’t struggling so much with pain and it hadn’t been so long I would have held off. I don’t see it as anything magical or groundbreaking, that said it might be more to do with what’s wrong with me rather than the actual treatment, who knows. I’m hoping that after pain clinic and seeing the Neurosurgeon I can finally get back on track, get rid of acupuncture and get back into some fitness!

Image from paramount-physiotherapy.com

10 things I’ve learnt in the last month

Yesterday was 1 month since I fell off Rose, I couldn’t believe how quickly one month had gone. Although I still have a month until my next spine appointment, I will have hopefully made some more improvements. Where am I at the moment? I’m still taking very strong painkillers and have trouble getting up but I can walk that little bit further than before. I was quite poorly yesterday night (hence no blog) but I wanted to use today’s to think about some of the things I’ve learnt this month while I’ve been resting. Enjoy 🙂

1. Fear of falling is never a good thing

When I fell from Rose, I wasn’t scared. I knew that I had to just let go, it was only a fall. Ok, yes I ended up with much more than just an initial bruise BUT I want to get that feeling back. I want to get that feeling where I’m not scared of falling because I can’t just go around scared whenever I ride. I kind of want to apply it to other areas of my life too. I’m a total perfectionist, I’m absolutely terrified of failing, especially academically. So maybe I can relax a little? Just enough so I’m not a huge ball of stress all through third year.

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I will get back to being this fearless on a horse! 

2. How lucky I am

I am walking. I am not permanently in a wheelchair and I’m so grateful. The lack of finding the fractures meant I went back to my normal life, I could have very easily ended up paralysed. I’ve been cared for by the people who matter and I’m still getting there but it looks like I’m going to recover from this, for that I am so,so lucky.

3. I want to be financially secure so I can afford private healthcare once I’ve graduated

I don’t want the NHS to be privatised because for most of my life it’s been there and I’m glad we can rely on a National System. That said, I wasn’t treated well with this serious injury, I’ve had to wait and push and be in extreme pain for appointments and I still don’t have my back brace never mind that the fractures were missed. It’s one of my goals in life to have private healthcare because I know I will be treated with the best possible care, it’s sad but true.

4. I have lots of wonderful people around me 

My family is incredible and so are my friends. I’ve had this outpouring of love from all of my friends and family. Cards have been sent, I’ve been accompanied to hospital, Ali’d had to help me move, I’ve been pushed in my wheelchair and made to smile about it, comments,presents and messages. I feel so loved and appreciated everything so, so much.

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5. Sometimes it’s ok that things don’t go to plan 

As you all know I was meant to go to Prague with Eleanor and Dani this month. I’d been counting down for so long and I couldn’t go. I was devastated to say the least and I cried, a lot. The thing is although I didn’t get to go to Prague, I got invited to the Society Awards instead and saw my society win an award, as well as another one of my best friends win an award. Am I still sad that I missed out on time with El and Dani? Of course I am but at least I still got to smile with two of my other best friends.

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6. You can always embarrass yourself in front of your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together 

Ali and I have been together for seven years and yet I still find ways to embarrass myself. I’ve been taking showers as I can stand up in the warm water, it helps the pain. I decided my legs NEEDED shaving so I sat down in the bath…then realised I was stuck. Ali then had to come and lift me out of the bath, it was a beautiful moment. I was so embarrassed, love huh?

7. There are other ways to let out pain and frustration 

In the past when I was in the darkest parts of depression I didn’t know how to let my pain and frustration out in a positive way, now it’s a lot better. I write a lot or I draw sometimes. There are so many things that you can do to let it all out, I’ll be writing a post in the future about it.

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8. Friends are priceless

I couldn’t have kept my spirits up the way I have without my friends, they’ve been incredible. They’ve visited or messaged me and kept my spirits up with I’ve been very low and they haven’t gotten frustrated when it takes me so long to walk anywhere.Thank you to all of you, I love you so much.

9. A lot needs to be done for people who are permanently in wheelchairs 

I’ve gone out in my wheelchair twice and I’ve noticed this. While the majority of people have been nice and helpful I’ve been moaned at my people in cars for not being off the road the second the light turns green for them, I’ve been sighed at when someone needs to change their path because of my wheelchair and I’ve been walked in front of. This is where angry Chloe happens who doesn’t give a monkeys, I usually shout after them. It’s been so hard getting about in the wheelchair, to get up the pavement is a major issue, getting into shops, getting around in general! More needs to be done for people in wheelchairs to make their lives easier!

10. Pain doesn’t mean the end of happiness 

I’ve been pretty low through all this but I’ve still managed happiness. I can stil laugh with my friends and I’ve adapted things. I’m not saying I don’t get upset, frustrated and angry, but I can still achieve happiness even if it’s harder.

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Still smiling 

Being very lucky

I’d dropped off the radar for a few days from Twitter, Facebook kind of because I got some shocking news yesterday about my fall. I’d been called back into St Heliers Hospital after my GP got a letter saying that they had gotten something wrong. I spent 7 hours in hospital yesterday with people looking at my spine, checking me, taking my blood pressure, having an MRI scan (which was absolutely horrible) and waiting some more. The result? I’ve gone from being told I have nothing wrong to having three fractured vertebrae, possibly a fourth that they’re not sure about. I’m also told that they’re not sure how I’m walking around as I am, basically I’m lucky to be walking and not to have to have surgery. For now I’m in the clear for surgery as I have stable fractures, hopefully they’ll stay that way.

For the next 10 days at least there is no driving, no shows, no carrying my handbag. I’m stuck either in the flat or for little trips out. In short, I’m very lucky to be walking and to be the way I am I just have to be extremely careful. If I’m honest, I’m heartbroken more than anything. I was living and breathing for riding this year, it was always the best day of the week, Wednesday. So I feel really gutted and a bit back to square one, I’ve had to cancel Prague and shows and my parents as well as Ali had to spend hours and hours in a hospital.

So hopefully these blogs will be updated because I really don’t have much else left to do. Everyone is being so good to be at the moment and to be honest my anxiety is sky high worrying about the fractures moving and you know what? I’m really, really angry that this was missed one, I could have forgiven but three or four is just not on. Now I just have to wait to go to fracture clinic for more x rays and hopefully all will be well until then.

Should an NHS fee be introduced for all non UK residents?

I was born in 1994, my birth (like my sister and all my cousins) was in an NHS hospital meaning luckily our healthcare came out of our taxes and mothers would not be charged for giving birth in a clean and professional environment. It came to my attention today that many other women can travel to the UK to avoid paying in their own countries. Some people would argue that women can go into labour early and I understand that part it’s not a fault of the women if they go into unexpected labour! However there is a much more sinister side to this, I found out today that anyone can come to the UK and receive free medical treatment. There are a lot of people who are travelling to the UK to gain access to our healthcare system while unfortunately we are paying the price.

In latest news the British government are proposing that in order to enter the UK you must pay at least £200 towards healthcare costs. In my opinion I do not feel this is enough, £200 is not a lot in the case of many treatments and appointments. When you can see the strain that the NHS is under at the moment I wonder why this hasn’t been done long ago. To travel to other countries from the UK you must have travel insurance and to move to countries like the USA or Australia health checks and travel insurance. I cannot even begin to understand why we are not stronger on this! We can’t simply keep giving to everyone else and watch our country crumble around us. It is not only healthcare we are far too free in many ways, benefits for example are another problem.  Some people are calling this racist but I don’t see it that way, people should come here either with money or job prospects just as we are expected to when visiting/moving other countries. 

For once I think this government has a point (and I am not a fan at all normally). There has also been a call for NHS ID cards, also not a bad idea (although I may lose one because I am hopeless with cards). It has also been made clear that in the case of emergencies people will not be simply turned away they will be treated (STI’s will also be treated to stop any infections) so it is not unreasonable. I feel that this could be a good idea, we should not try and stop people from moving into the UK. Some of our greatest doctors,nurses,lawyers etc are from other countries and some of our brightest students, however we must be as strong other countries in this situation. 

 

I need to point out that in this blog is all my own opinions. 

Thanks for reading! 🙂