Tag Archives: trauma

The call bell

Ding goes the call bell.

I pressed the button fifteen minutes ago when Tara’s tramadol wore off, four hours since the previous dose. A big, angry wound in her abdomen is giving her acute pain. One of our twin infants dozes in my lap, the other in a cot. Tara lies in bed, brows knitted in pain and exhaustion.

It’s about 2am.

There’s a speaker right outside our room. Every couple of minutes, the call bell dings again.

We’re waiting on one of the two overnight duty midwives to come and assist us. After a few more dings, she arrives, and we ask for more pain relief. Of course, she says, and promptly leaves.

Another fifteen minutes pass. In one of the other two dozen rooms served by two midwives, someone else presses the call button. Ding.

Approximately thirty-five minutes after I initially hit the button, the midwife returns with the tramadol. Tara ingests it and waits for it to take effect. Eventually, after a full hour of agony, she gets some relief.

Ding goes the call bell, on through the night and day, summoning health professionals that don’t exist.

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This is far from the most gruelling episode of our six-day hospital experience when the kids were born, but it’s one that stays with me. It’s symptomatic of a system that is desperately under-resourced.

You look back on times like that and think, well, we got through it. And people are more than willing to tell you it’s just something you have to get through. Some people, anyway.

But I’m sharing this tiny story today because a much worse case of maternity ward understaffing and negligence is being widely reported. A baby died after a labour and birth in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Individuals made mistakes but the system overall is accountable.

And if so many people are ringing the bell to say that the system is inadequately resourced, that midwives are constantly at breaking point, that having a baby outside business hours loads significant risk into an already risky process, that the trauma of their hospital birthing experience haunts them for years, why are we still talking? Is anyone listening?

Ding.

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Christchurch Earthquake: “sirens and news helicopters”

Mel and I worked in the same store in Christchurch. I last saw Mel in Japan four years ago, when we walked around Shinto and Buddhist temples in Kamakura. (A lot of my connections to Christchurch are also connections to Japan.)  She now lives in Christchurch again and has been a regular participant in the volunteer silt-shovelling that follows each bad aftershock.

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I was meant to be in High Street around the time of the quake to tutor a Japanese student but ended up changing my plans at the last minute to travel to Hanmer to see a friend from overseas. So I wasn’t in the thick of it as such, instead felt the quake while I was driving around Amberley somewhere.

What was a negative emotion you felt on Feb 22?

I felt a mixture of shock and fear. My friend and I arrived in Hanmer at her family’s bach and got told by her parents (who happened to be there for time out) that there’d been a major earthquake in Christchurch. I also felt extremely worried when I finally managed to speak to my mum, dad and sister on the phone. In the aftermath, I felt scared and confused due to various things, most notably lack of running water, electricity, the presence of the army and police, continual aftershocks, liquefaction in the flat I was living in and the constant sounds of sirens and news helicopters.

What about a positive emotion on that day, or over the course of the following week?

The only positive emotion on that day was gratitude for the fact that I’d changed my tutoring plans at the last minute and may have missed the unthinkable (although, who knows?) and that my friend’s parents let me stay the night at their bach as it was meant to be a day trip only. During the course of the week afterwards, I felt touched at the amount of caring and attention shown towards the people of Christchurch.

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Christchurch Earthquake: “We all knew.”

I met Neil Purkiss on Twitter this week. Neil was living with his family in Christchurch on Feb 22 and, a few months later, wrote this detailed blog post reporting his and his family’s experience of the earthquake and its aftermath. He says that writing that post was “very therapeutic!”

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What was a negative emotion you felt during Feb 22?

I had a feeling straight away that Christchurch was doomed.

I was in Caxton Press, Victoria St. I tried to drive home to Brighton and it was chaos. We left in June and live in Melbourne.

Thinking about it, the sense of doom maybe crept up on me in the next week. You could see it was bad on people’s faces. We all knew.

What was a positive emotion you felt during Feb 22?

Just when all family was together.

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