Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Night Nurse

I went to bed last night chanting a mantra, “don't freak out, Stephen, don't freak out.” I'm pleased to say I didn't but it was a close run thing. It was the night of the night nurse.


During the course of last weeks multi-agency mega-meeting we asked if we could have some night time respite care so Polly could get a good nights sleep without me waking her every hour or so to move my shoulder or give me a sip of water. Somewhat disconcertingly it was agreed instantly and before I'd really taken it on board it was arranged. For two nights a week I will be getting a night nurse to attend to my every whim. Sounds good? Last night I was faced with the reality.


The nurse would come from Marie Curie which has all sorts of connotations that I hadn't really absorbed. Was somebody trying to tell me something? I checked my medical records but no, I was disabled not terminally ill. Apparently imminent death is not a prerequisite for respite nursing care.


So, cometh the hour, cometh the nurse. I had been put to bed as usual and had settled down to read a good book (The Awful Secret by Bernard Knight in case you were wondering), when the doorbell rang and a uniformed nurse arrived. Polly introduced her to me and then decamped to the sofa-bed in the living room for her night of uninterrupted quality sleep.


I don't know if you have ever tried to sleep when you know someone is watching your every move, breath or creaking joint but I found it rather disconcerting. Originally the plan had been for the nurse to be in the room with me but I put my wheel down and said no so she was settled down in the hallway outside our bedroom with a lamp, armchair and small table. The lamp had a low wattage bulb in it, sufficient to read OK! magazine by and in our practice run had seemed dim enough not to disturb me as I lay in bed. In reality, of course, once my eyes had adjusted, the light seemed bright enough to perform micro-surgery by. Eventually I drifted off in to a fitful sleep but was awoken by a muffled cough. My shoulder hurt so I called for help and was instantly responded to. The nurse adjusted my arm and gave me a sip of water. Sleep came and went over the next few hours. I felt obliged to call the nurse whenever I awoke because I didn't want her to feel unwanted or that her services were unappreciated. I hoped Polly was sleeping soundly because I sure as heck wasn't.


At about 3.30am I asked if I could have a painkiller. The nurse leapt into medical action and seconds later I was fully medicated. Minutes later I was sound asleep at last.


Morning came and the nurse departed having acquitted herself with the professionalism expected of her uniform. Bleary eyed I arose and eventually made my way to the living room to find Polly returning from the school run. “Good night?” I asked. “Have you ever slept on our sofa-bed?” she responded somewhat irritably I felt.


So what have we learned? Well, it's early days yet, and I'm sure I can become accustomed to sleeping in a flood-lit room under the watchful eye of a uniformed care-giver. Whether Polly can get used to the sofa-bed is another matter. After all, the whole point of the exercise is to give her a good, restful uninterrupted nights sleep. It may be that without a spare room in which to install a proper bed the whole respite care thing is less restful than the alternative. We'll have another go on Thursday and see if we can tweak things to make them better. I'll let you know, if I'm not too sleep-deprived to write.