Monday, 11 October 2010

As one door closes another one opens.

Some time ago during a rare quiet moment while I was working with the volunteer manager at my local hospital she had asked me "what dream job would you like to do if you were able to have the opportunity?" "Art therapist", I had replied. She explained they do not have many opportunities for that kind of role but she would try to find out for me. As I believed you needed to have a degree to do that kind of work I thought no more about it.

There is a familiar old saying "as one door closes another one opens".

On the very same day last month when I had received a letter bringing so much despair to my life, the hospital volunteer manager had been contacted by the acting head teacher of a very special school which is situated in the grounds of the hospital. They provide a homely and welcoming environment in order to support, care and manage children’s physical, psychological, educational and social needs from the ages of 0-16 years. They use a structured programme of care and treatment usually in a non medical setting. They are a highly specialised inpatient paediatric/psychiatric unit, providing assessment and treatment of serious chronic illness using holistic, medical and psychological models of treatment. Due to the unique implementation of a joint medical and psychological inpatient approach, they can sometimes offer treatment for a child/young person and their family if other treatment has not been successful. They wanted to meet me.

A week ago last Thursday I went for my for my first interview there. Miraculously I awoke after a very rare good nights sleep, minus depression & found myself climbing out of the bed on the right side, for the first time in ages. I was so nervous but I need not have worried. The deputy head teacher was so compassionate, just as you would imagine for some one in that position. She was impressed by my portfolio of work & willingness to help in any way I could. She invited me a long for a second interview where I could meet further members of the team including both nurses & teachers. They required an artistic person to support their full time teaching staff on one of the wards. I was a little taken aback when she asked me to attend the children's cancer ward where she needed to do an assessment for a child's educational needs.

I did not want to let anyone down. The children's needs & care are paramount. I could not say no but I was not sure if I was capable of providing the right kind of support to their so precious lives. This was a duty that requires you to be totally giving. No thoughts for self, no introspection, no insecurities, no gender issues. Recently my creativity had felt blocked & my emotions had been all over the place, which made me vigorously question if I could or should pursue this role even though it was potentially a golden opportunity to pursue a dream.

I went to the children's cancer ward on Thursday for the second interview. It proved to be a day which could change me for ever. In a world of total flux & uncertainty the one thing those courageous children could have some control over was their education. By offering them the chance to continue their education the wonderful staff gave them hope & belief they have a future. The staff quickly build up a very close relationship with the children.

They are an incredibly supportive, intuitive team & seem to have a second sense of how the children, their families & also their colleagues, are feeling. If they did not care or feel for the children in their care they would not be doing the job. All the staff care deeply & sometimes the emotions get too much for them when a child's health takes a turn for the worse. When this happens they have a quiet room to go to away from the children & their loved ones, as its vital they avoid distressing the children & their families. This was the part of the job I feared I may not be able to cope with. I had previously naively assumed these staff somehow possessed a special ability to control or hide their feelings from the children in their care. When a student, volunteer or new member of staff joins they always try to establish if the new team member has any emotional link with the ward such as Leukaemia in the family. This way they can better understand how they may react in certain circumstances so as to provide the best possible care for the children.

While speaking to the staff leader I felt it appropriate to tell them about my beloved nephew who had leukaemia twice & subsequently needed a heart transplant. I told them of all the wonderful medical care he had received then. When I told her his name she remembered him & his Mum. She had worked there many years & he was a patient when the ward had first opened some 19 years or so ago. It all looked very different now. I was amazed she had such a memory as they must have seen so many patients over the years. When she asked how he was doing now we both shed a tear as I had to tell her he had tragically passed away this year after his heart finally gave out. He had been an inspiration to all who had meet him & touched many lives with his marvellous outlook on life. He lived life to the full, cherishing every moment. Music was his great passion & he fulfilled his dreams by becoming a very successful DJ.

I never imagined one day the circumstances in which I would find myself visiting the same ward in which he had received so much compassionate care. I am not sure if I will be successful or if I am right for the role of supporting the staff in this ward but with the memory of my nephews courage, I am going to give my all, to every day.

The staff leader who I briefly worked with Thursday morning said those who come to the ward have their outlook on life changed for ever & she was right.


Lucy Melford said...

Congratulations on getting this challenging but wonderful position, Debbie! Although it may prove harrowing to see some of the children succomb to their disease, you can stimulate their creative energies and might easily make some vital difference to their lives. What an inspirational and potentially very satisfying job.


chrissie said...

Debbie, it seems the PERFECT role for you.
I can't think of anyone more suited.
I do so hope you will get it.

Lots of love

Anji said...

It's just right for you. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you. I once taught 'problem' children. It was difficult but very rewarding.

I think that when you get the job you'll find that you have a hidden stock of strength just waiting to be called upon.

alan said...

I can't think of a better way to brighten a life than with a splash of color straight from a beautiful heart...


Debbie K said...

Dear Lucy, Chrissie, Anji, Alan, Karen & Nicky

I take heART from your kind thoughts here & by email. I ow it to my parents, my friends, myself but above all the memory of my beloved nephew Richard who had Leukemia twice & lived for each day, each moment in the here & now, to pursue his creative dreams, who was helped by the incredible team I will be working with in the Children's cancer ward. All my insecurities, all my baggage will be quarantined outside the ward & all my creative energy will be directed in helping those amazing courageous children whose spirit of hope keeps them going through the toughest challenge of all.