Thursday, 9 October 2014

100 Hours as a Visitor at RPA

Over the last few months I have spent almost 100 hours,  as a visitor at RPA; Lifehouse Day therapy and clinic appointments with my husband, as he has undergone his operation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer. By the time Brendan's treatment is complete it will be many more. As a carer/visitor I am more of an observer than a participator, although accidentally at times I do refer to "us" rather than Brendan when speaking about attending appointments and treatments. Which I generally correct when I hear myself say it, but in all honesty although the appointments are for Brendan we both attend them and the outcome affects the lives of both of us and our children.

End of inpatient Chemo day 1, still swapping V-Dub parts

The journey has been an incredible one so far; frightening, difficult, overwhelming, emotional, uplifting, joyful and nothing short of inspiring on just about every level you can imagine. But today it's people that I want to talk about. And not the people that we know and love and that know and love us, I think I have made it really clear how I feel about you all and what your support, love and friendship has done for both Brendan and I.

I want to talk about the strangers that have touched my life and Brendan’s, some whose job it was to help make Brendan well and some that touched our lives because they were doing their job and served us in some way, not knowing that they were making a difficult situation that much easier.

There are of course the obvious; the amazing doctors; Bren's Surgeon, Oncologist and their crack medical teams. These people are super human in my eyes and although at times it felt like organised chaos, there was never any doubt that the job would get done. We are forever in their debt, but how do you repay a second chance at life. Not forgetting Sue and Kristyn, behind the scenes supporting Drs Stally and Bhadri, keeping them and us on track and organised. Then there are the earth angels, the ones we call nurses, and well chemo nurses are the cream of the crop in my eyes these days, I would name favourites but couldn't choose.

Last but not least; far, far from least there are my unsung heroes...
  • like Tony the cleaner who came in daily during Bren’s operation, with his cheerful Italian accent and grandfatherly ways, our brief conversations with Tony were priceless and spirit lifting.
  • or the elderly patient with the beautiful voice from the bed next to Brendan on ward 7E and his equally beautiful wife; with whom I had a lovely chat about cancer and how it affects the patients and their families, out on the balcony. Although in age we are decades apart, they too are a close, married couple just like us, going through a heart wrenching time, there was an instant kinship because we are on a similar journey.
  • God bless the bus driver that let me on the bus with a nod and a smile one wet evening, because I had the right card for the wrong bus, so he let me ride for free rather than kick me to the curb.
  • Can't forget Mr Liu who serves the best bacon & egg rolls ever from his food van across the road from the main hospital, and got high recommendations from the nurses.
  • of course the two wonderful managers at Ibis who go out of their way to make sure my stay is comfortable and that I have all the help I need. And for making sure the lolly vendor is full of snakes alive.
  • and without a doubt the waitresses, the cook and the barista at my fave little cafe on Missi...which is called Cafe Missi, who all greet me with friendliness, kindness and a smile. Even if they don't really remember me, they make me feel as though they do, when I pop in for a quick cuppa & a bite to eat every other day, sometimes twice a day. 

Mr Liu's Food Van always eat where the locals eat when away from home

It's the small kindnesses from these strangers that make you feel like you are still a part of a community. Although  you are a long way from home and it is not your community, these strangers unknowingly help you to feel far less isolated at a time like this. There is a little sign over the counter at Cafe Missi that reads "come in as a stranger, leave as a friend." And I say thank you every time I read it.

I find RPA and the businesses that support it to be a multicultural melting pot of kindness. Among the doctors, nurses, patients and other visitors, I am neither out of place or common place, simply just another face in a busy crowd of wonderfully diverse faces, all sharing a similar experiences from different perspectives. This small busy part of the world; that is almost a little world unto itself, in which pretty much every culture you could imagine is represented, has become a big part of my world this year.

When you find yourself at RPA it’s usually for one of 3 reasons...
  • to get well,
  • to help make someone else well
  • or to support someone while they are getting well.


Whatever the outside world, mainstream media or social media for that matter might be banging on about at the time, it seems to me those that hurriedly move about the enormous complex of buildings that are RPA, spreading over both sides of Missenden Road, are untouched by whatever drama is being beat up at the time,  at least for the part of the day they spend there. Because when in this little magical, medical world unto itself, everyone, no matter who they are, is focusing on just one thing... wellness, their own wellness or someone else's.

I give thanks today for the wonderful medical practitioners that we have in this country, and for the medical system in place that gives every one of us access to it. But above all else I give thanks for the Grace and kindness of my fellow human-beings, when we work with one and other rather than against one and other, miracles happen.

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