Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease 

6

About two and a half months ago Smushface got Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. It’s a relatively mild illness in kids. She was unsettled for a few days with a considerable amount of crying. And then it passed. No big deal.

Then I caught it. And let me tell you… HFMD is no fun for adults! Nearly three months later and it is STILL affecting me! 

Apparently it’s fairly unusual for adults to catch it, but it’s usually worse for adults. Worse?! It’s bloody awful! Unfortunately though I struggled to find much info online about it, it’s so unusual. So I want to give a bit of info here to anyone out there looking for information. 

So first off I got the spots of course. Just one itchy dot on a hand to start with. Then more. And more. After a couple of days my hands and feet were covered. 

   

I also had cold-like symptoms for a few days. 

Nothing prepared me for what was to come. 

A day or two after the spots appeared my hands started to hurt like CRAZY. Honestly they felt like they’d been dipped in boiling water! I could barely touch anything. I had to take painkillers just to be able to function. My fingertips especially felt like they’d been burned off. I remember having to change Smushface’s nappy the morning they started to hurt and being on the verge of tears while I did it, it hurt so bad. 

And my mouth too felt like it was burned. It was very painful to have anything in my mouth. 

But the worst… my nipples. My nipples became blistered and sore. What on earth nipples have to do with HFMD is anyone’s guess but mine hurt like crazy. Breastfeeding was agony for about two weeks! They were covered in bleeding blisters. It was awful. 

Anyway, after a week or so the symptoms subsided and I started to feel normal again. I figured that was the end of it. Wrong!

Everywhere I’d had blisters I started to notice my skin was peeling. It got worse and worse. The skin on my hands, down the sides of my nails, on the soles of my feet… it all started blistering and peeling off in great lumps! And two months later it’s still happening. My hands are healed now but the soles of my feet, presumably because the skin is thicker, is still peeling in great chunks. 

But the worst. The WORST… my nails. Because the peeling didn’t stop at my regular skin. Oh no. About two weeks ago I discovered my nail beds were also blistering and peeling! To the point where a few of my nails are starting to separate from the skin underneath!

  
Anyone who knows me probably knows about my nail phobia. I have a phobia of damaging my nails. So this, right now, is totally messing with my head. I’m trying my utmost to avoid ripping the separating nails off! I keep painting layer after layer of polish on them to try to seal them, but as they grow longer the separation is getting worse. I caught one under a tray today and it separated from the skin just a little bit more. They are really, truly freaking me out!

So yeh, that’s Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in adults. If your kids get this generally mild illness I advise you to try not to catch it at all costs!

Stand Up

0

Time to get back to blogging I think. The demands of looking after two children leaves me little time for anything, particularly blogging. But today I have something to say.

The recent events in the world are leaving me, as many others, very depressed, distressed and sad. The actions of our government leaves me ashamed. I was with everyone else last week emailing MPs, signing petitions, tweeting and sharing, trying to prevent our government’s actions in Syria. All in vain of course. I’ve spent quite a lot of time and money buying and sending things to help refugees, sending funds to charities on the ground in Greece and Calais, spreading word about how people can help. It’s not enough. It’s a drop in the ocean. But it’s something. I’ve gotten into so many arguments with people online with their right-wing opinions. I’m tired of it all. Every time the weather is awful outside my heart breaks thinking about all those refugees with no shelter. My Facebook timeline is constantly full of pictures of injured and dead children… I can’t even say anything about that. Words can’t describe. What can you say?

The whole situation is so depressing. What the fuck is wrong with our species?!

Anyway, yesterday I attended a meeting arranged by Stand up for Racism and others to discuss how we can help. There were speakers from Unite, a gentleman who was as asylum seeker from Eritrea (and if you don’t know about what’s going on in Eritrea I urge you to find out!), and other people from other organisations who are trying to help refugees and asylum seekers. Some of them are making regular trips to Calais with supplies. Their stories would break your heart.

I could talk for a long time about what was said in the meeting, but the thing that struck me the most was the talk about creating a “hostile” environment. This really got to me. You see, it’s actually been our government’s policy for quite some time to deliberately make our country as hostile as possible for refugees – supposedly to discourage more from coming. It doesn’t, of course. They will still come. But our government is determined to make it as unpleasant as possible for them while they are here.

So they deliberately make it difficult for refugees to access funds, housing and support. There was one story about a refugee lady in our town who was expected to walk, weekly, from our town to the next city, (a walk of about 24 miles!), to claim her benefit money and if she didn’t it was stopped. The charity Unite claimed that refugees who often do not speak English are given forms to fill in with no help at all, and again if they are not completed correctly their money is stopped. (In our town they now have a volunteer translator and they will provide free support for refugees for one year). Refugees are housed like the Victorian poor, cramped together in tiny houses forced to share rooms while their landlords make a fortune by cramming as many people as possible into their housing.

How is this acceptable?! Have we lost our humanity?! And this is after they’ve managed to get here. Because creating a hostile environment involves making it as difficult as possible to get here. Barbed wire fences, etc at Calais itself. The refugees will still come, they will just end up horrifically injured in the process. And we hear stories all the time of the refugees being injured trying to jump the fences and steal onto lorries passing through Calais. There is no medical centre in Calais. They limp back to camp and treat their injuries themselves.

These people are not pests! They are not vermin, as the Daily Mail and The Sun would have us believe. They are people, just like you and me. They are doctors and teachers, solicitors and University lecturers. They are fathers and brothers and mothers. They are PEOPLE. Imagine if we accepted them into our country and offered them employment. Wouldn’t these people work their socks off?! It’s shameful. Absolutely shameful.

I am ashamed to be a member of “fortress” Britain. I’m ashamed to live in “fortress” Europe. Where walls are being constructed to keep out refugees from countries that WE destroyed! It’s a fucking disgrace.

That’s it. That’s all I have to say for now.

Why I Baby-Wear

1

I’m a pretty hardcore baby-wearer. I don’t own a pram or pushchair. I wore Nookie until she was three, and now Smushface spends hours every day in the sling. She takes most of her naps in the sling. I have a growing collection of various slings; a ring sling, a few Mei Tais, a Moby wrap and my newest addition, a podaegi. I just love baby-wearing. Why? Here’s why:

  • The closeness. I love having my babies near me. I love their smell. I love being able to just put my head down and kiss them on the head. I love cuddling them. I can’t imagine having them away from me in a pushchair. They should be right there, snuggled into my chest.
  • Breastfeeding. I can feed Smushface in most of my slings. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, but I can. So I don’t have to stop whatever I’m doing, sit down and feed my baby. I just whip my boob out, stick it in her mouth, and then resume whatever I’m doing. Walking the dogs, cooking dinner, playing with Nookie… I’ve done them all whilst feeding Smushface in the sling. Having a baby around is so much easier when you don’t have to be pinned to the sofa feeding them! I also never worry about nursing in public because no one can see a thing!
  • Practicality. Getting on a bus with a pram? Putting a pram in a small car? Storing a pram in a tiny house? Getting a pram into any shop! Fuck that. I can’t actually describe to you how much easier using a sling is. I used a pram with Nookie for about three months and hated it (as did she!). They’re fucking cumbersome things. Granted, there are a few occasions when having a pushchair is easier. Baby-wearing in hot weather is a bit sweaty, for example. But a sling is more practical in about nine out of ten situations I would say.
  • Price. Unless you buy a pram or pushchair second-hand (like I did with Nookie), I understand they cost a pretty penny. And their resale value is negligible. Granted, some slings are hugely expensive. But they don’t have to be. My favourite Mei Tai cost £50. And when I’m done with it it’ll probably sell for about the same amount of money. I’ve bought and sold numerous slings as I’ve tried them out, and they’ve always sold for about the same amount as I bought them for so long as they’re well looked after.
  • Getting on with daily life. There aren’t many things I haven’t done whilst baby-wearing. Cooking, cleaning, walking, climbing with Nookie, ironing, mowing the lawn, planting trees, walking the dogs, putting up a tent… hands-free parenting! And the added weight must be making me stronger and fitter. Double bonus!
  • Aesthetic. Have you seen some slings? They’re beautiful! My podaegi is just gorgeous. My Maya wrap Mei Tai is so boho and pretty. Some of the woven wraps out there are made of the most intricate, beautiful fabrics. I love matching my slings to my outfits and wearing them. They look awesome!

Overall I baby-wear because it makes life, especially with an older child, much MUCH easier. I can’t imagine how I could do so many of the things I do without my slings. I don’t have to sacrifice any of my daily activities for my baby. She just fits into our lives.

Community

0

A few recent events have really made me think a lot about community. Or rather, the lack of it in this age. We each live in our own little bubbles, isolated from each other, surrounded by people living in theirs. We go about our daily business alone except for our family, whilst our next door neighbours go about theirs. We’re probably doing very similar, or even the same, activities. But we do it in isolation. The more I think about it, the more crazy it seems.

Going to the home-education camp recently really brought it home to me. Being surrounded by close friends, sharing the load, always having someone there… it was amazing. The kids would wake up and all go off together on their adventures, whilst the adults chatted while we cooked and got on with the few chores that camping entails. There was always someone there to hold the baby. If someone was doing a load of washing up they would take everyone’s. There was always someone with some spare hot water for a cup of tea, or a bit of leftover dinner so someone wouldn’t have to cook. We shared, we cooperated and most importantly of all, we were a community. If only it could have lasted forever…

I knew that coming home would be a culture shock. But it’s not just that. This way we live seems crazy to me. Why don’t we know our neighbours?! Why are we all so reluctant to come together and share? We’re all people aren’t we? We all want similar things in life. What is this sickness that is our culture?

Over the last few months I’ve had the great pleasure to be part of a wonderful community of women on Facebook. What started off as a group to support us through the process of Intuitive Eating and healing ourselves of a lifetimes damage when it comes to body image, has become so much more. Being amongst these women, sharing our innermost feelings and problems… it’s been an inspiration. And an invaluable emotional resource the like of which I’ve never known before. Here are women who are genuinely trying to help each other in any way they can. Whether it’s a virtual hug, a listening ear, someone to call in the middle of the night when you’re feeling down, practical help… they’re there. They’re always there. And not in the platitudinous, empty “we’re always here” that you often get from well-meaning people, but know they don’t actually mean it. In a very real, going-that-extra-mile kind of way!

But it’s made me realise what we’re missing in society. Why do we live the way we do? Isolated. Why don’t we share? Why is it that I share a garden with two neighbours and we each have our own play equipment that we would never consider sharing? Why couldn’t the more fortunate members of the community come together to help those in need? Why are we relying on the state?! Why can’t we rely on each other?! It’s insane.

I long for a tribe: a community. If only my friends and dear family had the money to buy our own plot of land and build our own community on it. It would be wonderful!

But it has got me to thinking about where we live, and what I could do to make it better. Not waiting for someone else. Actually doing something. Am I brave enough to break outside of society’s recipe?

The Best Bits of Home-education

1

It’s the little conversations. That’s where the real learning happens. Yes we do learning activities. We cook and do experiments and paint pictures and have trips out to museums. These things all have their value. But the chats in the car or whilst on the train; the running commentary about life discussed as we walk to the shop to buy sweets… this is where the questions arise and the explanations are given. Informal, relaxed, about things that matter there and then.

Why do those plants look spiky?

Why do people drop litter?

Why do workmen dig up the road?

Learning. Happening. Constantly. Language developed. Curiosity fed. The web of knowledge expanded and connections made in unknown ways. Known only to her. Meaningful only to her. Some things will be forgotten. Many things will be remembered. But it’ll be what’s relevant to her, not what can be assessed by another.

This is learning.

A New Beginning

0

So lately I’ve been thinking a lot. About life, about privacy, about my reasons for blogging, and about what I want this space to be. And it seems to me that my blog had become stagnant. With the current demands of my life I haven’t really been tending it, and it wasn’t serving me the way it used to. I needed a change.

So, I’ve decided to make my past posts private for now, redesign my blog space, and start anew. I think I’ll be focusing more on radical unschooling, rants and reflection, rather than the daily life stuff. But we’ll see. I also won’t be posting recognisable pictures of my children anymore, for reasons of privacy. I might archive some of my old posts at some point, when I get time, but for now I’ll keep them private. I really need a fresh start and a clean slate.

So to my followers, I hope you stick with me. And to new readers, hello. Welcome to my blog.

What Psychiatric Nurses Do (Part Twelve – Mentoring and Supervision)

0


This is part twelve (the final part!) of my series on what psychiatric nurses do. You can read the other parts of the series here.

Teaching and mentoring students and newly qualified nurses was my favourite part of psychiatric nursing. I loved when we had students on the ward, especially first-years. Their bright-eyed, naive, blank-slate approach, and the opportunity ahead of them… It was exciting helping them through their journey. 

Basically, all the staff on the ward are responsible for guiding and teaching students and new nurses. There’s so much they need to learn, and students will spend time with various members of the team, getting experience in all the aspects of running and working on a ward. But each student and preceptor (a newly qualified nurse on their initial introduction to the job) will be allocated a mentor and co-mentor who are responsible for overseeing their learning and ensuring they’re meeting all their learning objectives. 

Becoming a mentor is a complicated business. I undertook the training as soon as I was able to. You have to enrol at university to complete the mentorship training, which is paid for by your employer. Then you attend university one day per week for a number of months, or some people do an intense course of a few days a week for just a few weeks. You attend lectures and have to do coursework, as well as working with a student, under supervision, at work. Once you’ve passed your course, you then have to co-mentor three students before you can be signed off as a mentor and have your own students. You have to complete top-up training every year, and maintain a portfolio of your work with students. 

To be a mentor to preceptors is more complicated, and at the place where I worked only Band 6 nurses (most nurses are Band 5) could mentor preceptors. 

Unfortunately, despite passing my training I only had the opportunity to co-mentor one student, as soon after I left university I went on maternity leave. But I had the pleasure of working closely with lots of students and preceptors throughout my short career. I would let them shadow me, teach them about writing care plans and doing assessments, observe them giving injections and taking physical measurements, and talk to them about their experiences and issues they were having. It was very rewarding and interesting. 

Not all nurses are so interested in students and preceptors. I had some awful experiences as a student myself, with disinterested staff who couldn’t care less about teaching students and were sometimes downright hostile! And I guess that’s one of the reasons I was always so keen to be there for students when I was a nurse myself. But overall, all nurses are professionally obliged to assist students and preceptors with their learning and most do. 

Mentors basically work closely with their allocated students, working with them directly ideally a couple of times a week, matching shifts. Each student will have different learning objectives based on where they are in their training. First years generally need to focus on basic things like interpersonal skills, taking physical measurements, and general learning about healthcare, whereas third years need to focus on the more advanced aspects of nursing like shift leading, assessment and staff management. The mentor will closely monitor what the student is learning, meet with them regularly to identify learning opportunities, and assess their progress throughout the placement. The mentor is also responsible for noticing and addressing any issues with the student, such as areas they’re struggling, problems with attendance, etc. Sometimes it may be necessary to inform the university if the student is not meeting their obligations, and mentors can refuse to give the student a pass for the placement if serious issues arise. Mentors are basically teachers and assessors, working in tune with the university, for the duration of the student’s time with them. It’s a lot of responsibility. 

The final part of the job of a psychiatric nurse I just want to touch on is supervision. All nurses, as part of their professional development, are supposed to access supervision. Supervision is basically a form of informal counselling with a more experienced nurse who you get along with. Soon after commencing employment you have to approach a nurse you’re comfortable with and ask them to provide supervision. It shouldn’t be a nurse who works in the same place you do. It could be a nearby ward nurse or community nurse or lower manager. The supervisor/supervisee relationship is confidential and you’re supposed to meet at least once per year. Supervision is basically intended to discuss any issues that have arisen for you at work or even in your personal life, and get support. The supervisor might listen to problems you’re having, suggest things you could do or places you could access services to assist you, or help you work through issues you’re having. Supervision is protected time which you’re allowed to take whenever you need it, fully paid. 

In practice, in my experience, supervision wasn’t accessed nearly as often as necessary. I myself rarely accessed it. There just wasn’t time, and trying to match schedules with someone on a another ward was a logistical nightmare! However you are professionally obliged to have supervision, as it’s part of professional development criteria. 

So that’s it. Twelve sections of description of what exactly psychiatric nurses do. Told you it was a diverse job! It’s a hard, stressful job with little reward and high-risks. Those that do it need a medal! Kudos to all my ex-colleagues. I couldn’t do it anymore, but they’re still there, day after day, putting their heart and energy into helping others. I take my hat off to you. X