There’s nothing like a nurse

Hawkeye Pierce said it 40 years ago and it still holds true, there is nothing like a nurse. Alex has reached the end of his radiotherapy treatments, and while we are very glad that the treatments are done we are going to miss the staff and nurses at the R.A.H very much. Given that theirs is an adult care environment, all of the nursing staff who looked after Alex were incredible and I would now like to thank them for making a very difficult six weeks vastly more pleasant and easier than it had the very real prospect of being.

Without exception they were always cheerful and friendly, and always had time to explain any part of the procedure we found confusing or confronting (and there were a lot of those). They all went above and beyond what would be expected of them in the normal course of their work.

Renate was fantastic, every day as we booked in she would talk to Alex about her grandchildren and her dog, giving Alex something he could relate to and understand to focus on, rather than the new and different environment. Every evening he would give us a run down of what he was going to do the next day – going to say hello to Renate was always top of his list.

Because of his vision loss all of the nurses who looked after him took extra care to explain everything to him before starting any procedure. They also created a poster for him, so he could put a sticker on each day prior to his treatment. Nurse Kelly bought some 3D and tactile stickers for Alex, and Tash raided her mother’s fabric scraps box and created a ‘rope’ consisting of many different textures for Alex to follow down the corridor into the treatment room to find his poster.

Kate, A.K.A Betty Crocker, shared some of her baking with me on a day when I really needed some extra support – her chocolate cheesecake brownies made me instantly feel better! She was also kind enough to share the recipe with me.

Nurses Sandy, Sheree, Angela and Angela were all wonderful, their care of not just Alex, but myself was one of the few things which made this treatment bearable.

Kelly, no matter where she was scheduled to work that day, always came by and said good morning to us, and Sandy the anaesthetic nurse was always unstinting in her care. Sandy, in fact, had one of the most important jobs of all – she looked after the colours. On the very first day when we were ready to give Alex his anaethetic Sandy put some strawberry lip gloss on the inside of the mask, and we asked Alex to hold it to his face and tell us what he could smell. He sniffed and told us he could smell red. Not overly unexpected since it was strawberry lipgloss, but then he expanded the idea and went on to tell everyone that he could smell red, yellow, pink, green, purple, orange and blue – in that order – and then asked me to sing the rainbow song. I’m not quite sure why but after a day or so he decided that the paediatric anaesthatist who came over from WCH had to sing with me, and this resulted in many a startled look followed quickly by the racking of brains in search of the lyrics. Any doctor who got the words wrong, or the colours in the wrong order was told off in no uncertain terms! We had a lovely moment on his last treatment day, with everyone in the room joining in to sing the rainbow song one last time.

So a very big THANKYOU! from us to all the nurses. Thanks also need to go to the paediatric anesthetics team for sending someone over everyday – Todd, Scott, all three Davids, Laura, Rowan, Rob, Cormac and Smithy, you guys are amazing!

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This arrangement of saying hello to Renate, following his rope, putting a sticker on his poster and then smelling the colours quickly became routine, with Alex asking every evening if we were going to go and smell the colours when he woke up. We had some difficulty on the weekends in fact, since Alex wanted to go every day to smell the colours and see everyone! We were a bit apprehensive about how he would handle the end of his routine, but he has been fantastic. I think all the goodbyes and presents he received on Monday helped to cement the knowledge that we wouldn’t be going back every day, but I still had to promise we would go back and visit.

The day wasn’t over though, we went from the hospital to Alex’s kindy because they were having a very special day. November 3rd was ‘little heroes day’ at both the kindy and the primary school, with all the children dressing up to raise money for the little heroes foundation. Alex’s kindy also had a special ‘tactile day’ with all the children given sensory games and activities to explore

So now we look slightly ahead to the 4th of December which is his next MRI date, and return to the pattern of 3 monthly scans, with our fingers firmly crossed each time for the result of “no significant change”.
With luck the tiredness Alex feels will diminish rapidly and we can try and get back to ‘normal’ and hopefully back to kindy too!

For those curious few this is the M*A*S*H episode I’m referring to:

and for the rainbow song click here


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