'Angel's Decent aka the Caregivers arrived!'
~I can hear the angels sing 'AL-L-L-L-LAY-LOO-YA, HalleLUya, HalleLUya...All-lay-hay-loo-hoo ya!~
Jan's Zentangle is a perfect fit for Kirsty's blog post. Suddenly, life turned on a dime for Kirsty and she had to act fast. Her instincts to help someone in desperate need kicked in and were in high gear. Read further about her experience working hard, at a moment's notice, to save a stranger's life.
Nurse, Blogger and Founder of The Umbrella Dementia Café, Australia
‘In Just 30 Minutes’
“Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being.”
My guest blog piece to you Carole, and your readers, was going to be a story of a heroic and determined community, working together to create self-sustainable dementia café events in Blackburn, Melbourne, Australia. I was going to share stories with you celebrating our successes to deisolate elders living with dementia in our community, while at the same time bringing awareness and education to our children. I imagined the blog to be an exciting piece, fashioned to enthuse people about the wonders of bringing together a community who are motivated to be a more connected and provide a dementia-friendly village.
Something happened to me this week that changed this would-be story. I had an unexpected role to play as an unprepared Caregiver. And it began and ended in only 30 minutes, 30 minutes!
So, here is my blog to you, my lovely friend, Carole. I am in awe of you and in all those who have too given so much of themselves to be a family Caregiver; some unexpectedly, most under-resourced, and many reluctant. I salute you all and vow to learn from you as I continue to travel my own Caregiving journey.
My (revised) guest blog begins it's journey scribbled on an old piece of paper. My face is stained with tears and my chest and hands are covered with the smell of dirty sweat and blood from a stranger. Thirty minutes earlier I was happily driving home, jubilant to have just won a fiercely fought game of netball (similar to basketball). My relaxed brain is in full blissful writers mode, already choreographing the heartwarming words about being a professional Caregiver, prepared to blog about my recent collaboration, connecting people through Dementia Cafe.
In just 30 minutes after my elation, I had a different story about Caregiving. It was an unexpected story about giving and being, without question or choice. (Our instincts hopefully are on point in time of need, at a moment's notice.
So here’s what happened, just 30 minutes ago:
I’m driving on a familiar local road, journeying east, approaching the top of the undulating road. The traffic slows unexpectedly and I quickly see something is not right up ahead. Something….Someone! A large black object is in the middle of the road blocking traffic. I see a young man, waving his arm furiously at passing cars, visibly distraught while talking erratically on his cell phone.
There is a motorbike, well half of a motorbike, in the middle of the road. The rider of the bike, also in the middle of the road, appears to be laying star-shaped about 30 meters away from the bike. The biker is in full protective gear, not moving. There is a car involved. Its been impacted, badly. The car door is completely concave, but I see no blood on the shattered window. A small woman is still in the car.
Very slowly, from the opposite direction, two cars approached the scene, and then very slowly, drive off.
I take a deep breath. God, I’m up. It’s my turn. I have to do this. Here I go !
I pull the car over, get out and run towards the scene. First, I need to check the biker on the ground. Another woman, very young, she’s running towards me determined to help.
“Traffic!” I yelled.
Without hesitation she stops the cars in both directions. Literally, she runs in front of them. “Stop!” she yells with stern authority! Good girl.
The biker’s legs move deliberately. Alive. Back is not broken. Good.
Second, check the small woman in the car, also moving. Alive. Good.
Stay calm. What’s next?
I run back to car, grab my first aid bag – all nurses have one in their car, right? Band-Aids. Full of blasted Band-Aids. Dear God, how can I help these people?
A middle-aged man is suddenly at the window of the impacted car. He’s talking with the small woman inside and wants to help her. I notice she is elderly.
Ok, here we go. The biker. I wish I had better equipment. A stethoscope? A blood-pressure machine? A limb splint? I have blasted Band-Aids.
“Hello, what’s your name?” Carefully pushing back the helmet visor. It’s a man, mid 40’s and he’s still alive. Eyes open, blinking but not focused. Fixed. Pinprick pupils. He’s in shock and begins to shake. Dear God, what do I do?
“Hello, I’m here. My name is Kirsty, I’m here to help.” The man on the phone is crying and talking to the emergency help operator. He’s doing a great job.
Louder, “What’s your name?”
“John*” He throws his helmet off. Great, his neck (and arms) don’t appear to be broken.
“Hi John, I’m Kirsty. I’ve got you, it’s going to be ok.” I hold his head steady between my hands.
“Stay still John, we’re all here, stay still. Ambulance is on its way.”
Someone else is now holding his hands and checking his limbs. Now what. Come on ambulance.
“It’s ok John, you’re going to be ok. Stay calm John, it’s going to be ok.”
20 seconds? 1 minute? I don’t know. I keep talking to John. “You’ve been in an accident, we are all here helping you. Stay calm, it’s going to be ok.”
I hear the sirens. It’s going to be ok.
And so it was. First the police, then the medics, and then two ambulances. John was assessed. Physically at least, he was ok. He was helped up onto his feet by two ambos, put in their ambulance and sent off to hospital, sirens blaring. The small elderly woman was being comforted by another medic and was also sent to hospital, just in case. Police directed traffic and a witness statement from the first responder was taken. The tow trucks came and began to clean up the road.
And so I leave. I get in my car and I drive away. I get 200 meters before I pull the car over and just sob. Full shoulder action, head on the steering wheel sob.
In those moments I became the unexpected, under-resourced and even, somewhat reluctant Caregiver. Armed with all my nursing experience, it was for nothing. All I could give John was my support and reassurance. I could only be there for him until more help came. Perhaps, that was enough. Maybe, that’s enough in that role?
As a nurse, I’ve played the ambulance role a thousand times; taking over from the under-resourced Caregiver. And what of the thousands of sons, daughters and partners who played me, the under-resourced reluctant Caregiver? The thousands of men and women who reluctantly, and sometimes indefinitely, handover the reigns of this Caregiver role to care professionals? What of their fears, tears and heartache?
And so this blog has changed from a story of a united community working towards a better dementia inclusive society, to one of humbled recognition.
I want to humbly recognize the sons, daughters and partners who too become unexpected, under-resourced, and even reluctant Caregivers. To the men and women who give their lives to care and to simply be there for loved ones when they are diagnosed with a terminal illness, such as Alzheimer’s. To the men and women who are caught between generations directing traffic, providing physical and mental support, offering reassurance, navigating health care systems looking for help, all while being under-resourced and sadly, more often than not, isolated.
I’ve learned today that courage is something called upon to get you through a journey that you have no idea where it will take you. For that reason, Caregiving should not be done alone. The Caregiving and care receiving relationship does not solely exist between two people, it’s more complex than that. It’s a united team effort from an extended supportive family, from responsive care professionals and from an aware community all working together to prop up these two people piloting the best possible life outcomes under very difficult circumstances.
Therein lies the importance of a connected network of people and community who understand and support that care relationship. The courage, within this care relationship, believes that this support network exists and, thus being brave enough to seek it out.
That’s the unique complexity of care relationships, well, the artistry of it anyway.
Thank you Carole for the opportunity to pour my heart out on your pages and be allowed to write such a vulnerable piece.
You can reach out and connect to Kirsty here:
You can reach out and connect to Kirsty here:
The Umbrella Dementia Café - Facebook
YouTube: The Age of Senescence
LinkedIn: Kirsty Porter
*John is not his real name and changed to protect his privacy.
Thank you so much for being my guest blogger today Kirsty. You certainly made me pause and you painted a clear picture: when we're called to action and responsible in a life or death situation, we must act fast.
We are designed to care for others from the time we are born. We are created to love others, be of service to others and our instincts are our best friend. In time of crisis or daily living, we connect to those around us.
Kirsty Porter, you really showcased your best self, no matter the circumstances, you were present. Thank you for sharing from your heart, our most vulnerable space, and shedding light on responding quickly, when the Call comes in. You are a shining example of living your best life. Thank you for being on board with SanGenWoman Blog and keeping it real. My best to you from me and my readers who relish your testimony!