I welcomed 2017 with bittersweet hope, looking down the road full of uncertainties. In my last post, I spoke of never-ending brick walls in my way. I was nearly in despair, only to be reminded of the love & support I am surrounded by. It was the one bubble keeping me hopeful & pushing me on. Continuously whacking at that brick wall with my battered hammer.

And today, I am happy to announce that I have finally broken down that brick wall! Made a huge hole in it, and watched it crumble. Then proceeded to climb over it; now I’m seated on the remnants of that wall, sipping on my iced lemon tea, and staring at yet another brick wall a little further down the road. But that’s ok! Nothing can dampen the triumph I feel right now. The sense of achievement, the appreciation of just how much I have accomplished, & the cognizance of how far I have come.

The most important lesson I’ve learnt in 2016 is perseverance brings progress. One step at a time, things started to work out. There was always something in the way, rocks, boulders, rivers, you name it. All the damned time. I started wishing so hard for things to be over, for everything to come together already but all I experienced was the seconds ticking by like they always have, speed unchanged despite my fervour prayers.

I had to learn, that there is a time and place for everything. And there was. Every action, every decision, every turn led me to where I am right now. It wasn’t always easy. But I always remember believing in the magic.

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“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

 

Like how I’ve wished so hard for snow to come falling and, finally I got to see snow woo-hoo!

I honestly believed in that. It is one of those things that I keep telling myself over the years whenever I come across adversities. It is one way of letting myself discover how much I really want something. Because one can only have so many dreams, and one can only achieve all of them if they really want to. Don’t you think?

 

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

 

I promised myself I wouldn’t let the fear of failure stop me. Even if I think it almost did. My mom never lets me forget that it’s ok to try again (& again & again & again…). It’s not the end of the world.

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 “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

 

And that, my friends, is how perseverance brings progress. Because by the eighth time, you would’ve set fire to the rain.

I did.

After two long years of paperwork, exams, and bureaucrazy, I am finally a registered nurse in this country I now call home. It was just yesterday that I was reminded that it has been 2 years since I graduated, since I made the decision to make my dreams a reality.

I don’t think I have ever been more proud of myself.

Right. Off to tackle that brick wall down the hall. Beyond that wall lies my new phase in life & I can hardly wait to begin.

To my first success of 2017.

 

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Toodles. ♥

I will be honest:

I am exhausted. I am disappointed.

Day by day, when I know I could do better, but I can’t. Or I don’t.

When I see my comrades as weathered as I am.

When strangers see me, a battered soul.

When I start drowning because I am weakened, helpless.

When I try to save everyone, but the one person that really needs saving is myself.

 

 

The excerpt above is a fragment of a burned out heart. Mine.

It is unfortunate that I have come to this point once again. And I hope that anyone reading this will somewhat understand that not all days are rainbows & sunshine; that it is as real as it gets & I do my best to portray the whole picture.

It is also unfortunate that I acknowledge my burnout state on Nurses’ Week. And decided to proclaim it on Nurses’ Day. I thought it would be an interesting change in the way we celebrate Nurses’ Day. To accept & recognise that it is OKAY to admit to the pessimistic side of nursing. Like how we should celebrate life: we accept the joys & sorrows both for we cannot have one without the other.

Despite this burnout, I only have the utmost respect & support for nurses everywhere.

For your willingness to keep going, no matter how bad things get.

For your strength to bear all the brunt, being at the front line more often than not.

For your heart & wellbeing, that so many have failed to take care of, leaving you to retreat in solitary to lick your wounds.

For your determination to do it all over again, every single day, in spite of knowing the consequences; because only you hold the key to what got you started in the very beginning.

 

CAMIE Angels

 

Happy Nurses’ Day!

 

Toodles. ♥

This week, we commemorated the 3rd year of CAMIE’s existence, as well as achieving our milestone of 1000 days of restraint-free interventions.

It was such joy to be present in the celebration, it was an amazing pride to be part of it. Let me tell you why.

As you may already know, CAMIE means Care of the Acute Mentally Infirmed Elderly. A project started 3 years ago with a selected bunch of nurses to pioneer the unit. At that point in time, I was sure a number of us felt very uncertain about the whole thing. Was it doable? Were we fit for the job? What were we in for? But we’d never know unless we actually try, so we took a leap of faith and soldier on. Hand in hand, we took up the job of caring for people with dementia, at the same time nursing their acute medical issues. Being a fairly new nurse back then, I wasn’t decided if that was what I wanted to do for a long time. I wasn’t even sure of my life, heck. What more having the confidence in taking care of a whole lot of confused, delirious elderly.

But three years on, standing there in the midst of the festivity, I realised I have never been so sure in my life. That I have taken this calling to heart, and I know there’s nothing I’d rather do, or associate myself with. I am a proud geriatric nurse, and a very proud dementia nurse. We don’t always get the recognition we deserve & we certainly don’t always get remembered by our patients. The lessons I get from nursing every single person with dementia were more than enough to balance out the lack of acknowledgement. And the bliss that balloons up my heart when I get glimpses of the persons behind the disease, is indescribable. No words can define that great satisfaction.

CAMIE

It has been a crazy 3 years, like roller coaster rides, we won’t deny this. Nurses came and left, patients lived and died. Ironically, what I am really sadly happy about is how (only) a handful of us pioneer nurses are still around to savour the fruits of our labour. And what I am proud of is how we managed to convince a few more nurses of the pleasure of caring for people with dementia. It is from this ability to care for PWD, that we become even more capable & patient in caring for elderly in general.

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And who would have believed it, we achieved what most people thought (or still think) we could not achieve. 1000 days (and counting) of restraint-free. We did it, we painstakingly did it. All it took was for us to be human, to empathise, and to willingly spend that time to resolve the problems. It also required creativity & patience. But most of all, it necessitates love. Can you see the love in our eyes in the photo above, lol.

 

Of course, there are the non-believers, the sceptics, the cynics. Until today, despite the 1000 days milestone, they still scoff at the possibility. They mock and they jeer at our attempts, and it is extremely disappointing that some of them were supposed to be our role models. It is also discouraging that I had to learn the hard way –  that in this profession, not everyone celebrate our successes, our trials & tribulations. All we really want to do is to show you that impossible can be possible, that people with dementia can live well. All we ask is for you to respect that, the same way we respect your own set of skills and knowledge in your area of expertise.

These CAMIE angels are the most knowledgeable, understanding, loving nurses I have ever worked with in my entire life. I cannot be prouder to call them my comrades, my happy pills; and with them I am certain we can take on any challenges together. Our team’s support is something I treasure, we laugh & cry over cups of coffee to keep us going. And we mustn’t forget our lovely team doctors, all the other healthcare professionals & volunteers who have never fail to support us throughout. It is incredibly soothing to be able to share our thoughts and opinions with the team, knowing they won’t brush us off or take us lightly. Team work is essential, I learnt that from working with all these wonderful people.

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So, thank you all. We wouldn’t have done it without one another. ♥

I hope our work inspires someone out there, the same way it had inspired me once upon a time.

Happy CAMIE-versary!

 

Toodles. ♥

Today, we received news that one of our ex-patient passed on last night; cause of death – sepsis.

Of course, we are used to deaths.

But we certainly did not see this one coming.

Mr. T had been with us for a fair amount of time, nearly a month. He had dementia, yes. He was this tall, rather huge old man who was still able to walk (with assistance) and was able to engage with us (even if he went off track sometimes). He was mostly pleasant & grandfatherly in some ways. He was also a very proud man. He liked his autonomy, and would be most displeased if you try to force something upon him. He was catheterised when he was warded with us, and was very protective of his urine bag. Although he did not exactly understood what it was, but he seemed to get that it was connected to him, therefore, it was his property. Try to take it away from his curious hands and you will come across a very grumpy man indeed who would tell you to mind your own business and go away. Often times, he successfully disconnected his urine bag and would simply refused to have us put it back. It also did not help that he had trouble processing information/instructions. We would be asking him questions/his permission to do certain procedures and he would most gladly nod with agreement – only to have him resist & fight you off the next second.

Despite all that, he was a quiet & gentle (when not provoked) man. His son was one of the nicest person we’ve ever met. His family were supportive and kind, and most of all, they were willing to take care of him, even when they do have other pressing problems within the family. They’re a rare gem in today’s society.

We patted ourselves on our back when we’ve finally managed to sort out care arrangements for Mr. T & family, and discharged him some time mid last week, thinking that he would be discharged well with no major issues. After all, he stayed for so long in our unit and he had been fairly well throughout. Little did we know that he would develop an infection over the weekend and then got readmitted. He deteriorated quickly and then death comes like a thief , silent and unexpected. I say unexpected although he was aged, because throughout his stay in our unit, there was never a need for a “what happens if and when Mr. T collapses/deteriorates/falls terminally ill” conversation. Which is why when we received this piece of news this evening, all of us who had taken care of him were shocked.

I still can’t quite digest the fact that Mr. T is gone, I can still picture him quite clearly in my mind, sitting on the geriatric chair, watching the TV. I can only imagine just how difficult it would be for his family now. Trying times for the family, indeed.

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May you rest in peace, Mr. T. ♥

I forgot how old she is now, I definitely overlooked that bit. But she doesn’t look that old entirely. Small-sized & she’s got this adorable toothless grin that she gives on and off. Now in her advanced stage of dementia, she was also suffering from sleep-wake cycle reversal. But what sets her apart from my other patients, was the fact that she cried out, all the time, whenever she was awake. Really loudly too. And because she has limited vocabulary now, the one thing she can remember to say is: “Let me pee!”. Occasionally, she remembers other words like “Exercise!”, or “Sorry”. Occasionally. But mostly, “Let me pee!” is all you’ll hear her say. Or rather, cry out. And then she’ll wail really loudly.

If I can sum up this situation: imagine a baby. No. More like a toddler. A year old toddler, or slightly older. Crying for attention. But what this toddler is saying doesn’t seem to make sense of what she/he actually wants. It is exactly like this now with Mrs A. Everyone who doesn’t know her story thinks we’re mean nurses who ignore her pleas. We get shot with these looks of disdain, of “how could yous” and complete disappointment. Because while Mrs A. is busy shouting “Let me pee, let me peeee!”, we all know it’s not the bathroom she’s asking for. She was probably asking for many things, but definitely not the bathroom. For all we know, she could be hungry, cold, or even in pain – but we’ll never really know. It’s all guesswork.

When her eyes are closed, sometimes she looks like she’s at peace; other times, she looks disturbed. Like tangled thoughts in her head and she’s trying to sort them out. Or maybe, I’m the one who’s making it all up in my head. But that was how I saw it. I feel this sense of loss whenever I was nursing her. She doesn’t remember her children anymore, has vague impressions of her husband (because she apparently make small talks with him when he comes by), and she calls all of us, whoever who attends to her “aunty”. And she has this really pitiful look on her face when she cries, a look that screams out “HELP ME!”. It is that expression from her face – that lost, helplessness expression that gets me. Not the cries.

She was discharged, and then readmitted in less than a week. Her behaviour remained unchanged, if not a little better – not so much of continuous wailing like the last time. Again she was discharged; and some time within the month, again she was readmitted. This time she wasn’t under our care in the dementia unit, she was admitted in the general geriatrics. She still wails out and we all give a little chuckle, all too familiar with that sound. Only this time, I found her somewhat improved in certain ways. For one, her appetite picked up drastically. The first time we nursed her, she was too busy crying to want to eat. Now she can finish a good bit of her meals, and that kinda made me glad. She seemed to be more responsive, although still lost to the world. She would reach out for your hand, and give it a good kiss, before rubbing/caressing her coarse, roughened palms along your arm. Little acts of love she is still capable of.

Once, she was put on the geriatric chair and looking all cute, but actually crying out once in a while. And probably still dopey from all the medications, she placed her head down on the geriatric table when she got tired. It looked really uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but took her pillow from her bed on my way out, and offered it to her. I have yet to say anything to her, but she looked up when I approached her with the pillow and cried out a really loud “Thank you” to me before snuggling down onto the pillow. My heart melted. This is why I am here for. This is why I am still doing this.

Maybe all this time while she wails and shouts and calls out, and we go to them, helpless; she’s trying with all her might to tell us what she really needs.

The most we can do for her now, right now, is to sit by her. Keep her comfortable, keep her company. Hold her hand, give her all the attention she needs. Let her wail, let her cry. And occasionally we get that toothless grin that makes our spirits soar a little.

 

Toodles. ♥