Saturday, December 29, 2007

Has this year held the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything?

I am conscious that I have been neglecting my blog in recent weeks, so here is a copy of an email letter I recently sent out to various family and friends to mark the holiday season, and the end of the year.

As I contemplate another birthday about to hit, and with that, the prospect of moving on from being the age of "the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything" (and if you have no idea what this means, you obviously need to read The Hitch-hikers' Guide to the Galaxy series), I send you belated Christmas wishes (as I didn't seem to manage to get my act together to do Christmas cards, or even a proper Christmas email this year), and trust that your Christmas was a special time of peace and blessing.
The past few weeks have held many things for me, and I will attempt to give you a snapshot of how it's been.
I continue to LOVE the CPE unit I'm doing at Peter Mac Cancer Centre. It is incredibly challenging and demanding physically, emotionally and mentally, but I am loving the work, and especially the privilege of travelling with the patients and their families as they experience hard times and some good times.

A particularly special moment for me came a couple of weeks ago, just after I had spent a very intense couple of days supporting the family and friends of a young woman who became very ill and then died. On my first visit to the ward after this had happened, I was almost pounced on by a patient who I had spent some time with the previous week; he was very excited, and keen to share with me some things he had written down, articulating his take on the meaning of life. He told me that he had been inspired by a conversation I had with him earlier, where we talked about issues of meaning, and he thought he should take the opportunity to write some stuff down, so that when he was going through dark times in the future, he would have something to come back to, as a kind of reference point. This encounter was a real gift from God, which helped to lighten my own spirit after travelling with the family and friends of the other patient through the heaviness and intensity of their grief the day before.

I currently have my mother staying with me (her first visit to Melbourne!), and since her arrival, we have done most of the important cultural icons of Melbourne: we did Lygon St the night she arrived; savoured Brunetti's the following night, then IKEA (and their smashing $2 breakfast!) the next day (and we even finally got around to buying the bookshelves I have been threatening to buy for so long, and now the many boxes of books that have been cluttering my living room for many months are now neatly tucked away).

Last night, I initiated Mum into the pub scene of Brunswick, as we had a counter meal at the Retreat Hotel for dinner. Then this morning we did Sydney Road, from Coburg, where I bought a sewing machine (something I have been wanting to do for ages, and saw a great bargain advertised on TV last night, so went out and bought it), then I introduced Mum to the Mediterranean Wholesalers, an amazing Italian supermarket/general store/cafe on Sydney Rd, and I bought some of their great pasta, and we had a cuppa there, before heading down to the local supermarket for some more mundane grocery shopping before I had to head into the hospital for afternoon/evening shift.

Of course, the biggest excitement of Mum's visit was going to the Boxing Day test match on Boxing Day, which even I enjoyed. It was a great atmosphere, we got to do the Mexican wave, saw the cricket up close, gave Hayden a standing ovation for his century, and even got a bit sunburnt (despite numerous generous applications of 30+ sunscreen). And Mum, being an utter sports nut, just loved it, even though she was hoping to see Ponting get a century, and he let the side down big time (in both innings).

Mum and I spent Christmas Day in Ballarat with my friend and neighbour Susan and her family. Even though we both shed many tears over the week or so leading up to Christmas, as it just didn't feel right not to have Dad around, it was great to be with the Malthouse family, who made us very welcome, and we had a special time with them, for which Mum and I are both grateful.

During her stay, Mum has also been trying, with some success, to bring some order to the chaos of my abode. So my kitchen and bathroom are now gleaming, and you can even see the floor in the living room, and there are numerous cockroach baits now strategically placed in the kitchen and laundry. (I think Mum got sick of me whingeing about the "bloody mainland vermin" so she thought we should take more direct action to get rid of them)... now if only we could do the same to get rid of the spiders and their pesky webs...

I think that's all the news for now...

I'd like to give special thanks to everyone who has been in touch to offer Christmas greetings to Mum and me, especially in the light of the sadness surrounding the celebration this year in Dad's absence. Even though I haven't managed to respond personally to all these greetings I really do appreciate them, so thankyou.

As I continue to work away through the summer at Peter Mac, I trust that some of you will be getting the chance to relax and refresh yourselves at this time of the year, and that the New Year of 2008 brings many joys and good things your way.

Thanks for your friendship and support, I really do appreciate it.

Happy Christmas/ New Year/ holiday/ birthday
(strike out where inapplicable)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Professional boundaries

Yesterday (Friday), in my hospital pastoral care placement, a patient I have spent some time with on the ward where I'm working, was transferred to Intensive Care Unit, as things were not looking good for her.

Just before 8am, I received a call from ICU saying that this family was in need of pastoral care (the call came to me because I was the overnight on-call pastoral carer), but as the day duty person was likely to already be at the hospital by that time and it would have taken me half an hour to get there, I suggested they contact our department and speak to her.

Later in the morning, after I had seen the referred patients on the ward I was assigned to, I went up to ICU, to see how things were going, and whether the day duty person might need a break, as she had been with the family for a couple of hours by this time.

Because I already had a pastoral relationship with the patient and her mother, one of the senior pastoral care staff suggested that I should travel with this family for the rest of the day and be their main point of pastoral care, and so
I spent most of the day with the family and friends of this patient (about 4 hours in total).

As I left them at the end of the day, I told them that I would be going home soon, and encouraged them to have the pastoral carer on duty paged if they needed someone to talk to, or to be with them during the evening, or through the weekend.

As I went home, I had trouble getting this patient and her family out of my mind. Today (Saturday) I felt keen to know how things were going for them, and was sorely tempted to ring the hospital to speak to the ICU nurse to find out what was happening. I managed to resist this temptation, because I am not on duty, and there is someone else who is, and if there are any needs today, this person is the appropriate one to look after them.

So I am feeling slightly squished between the rock of genuinely caring about what happens for these folk (and also wanting to be involved in their pastoral care), and the hard place of professional boundaries, that providing care for them was my responsibility till 4pm yesterday, but since then has been the responsibility of other people on duty overnight and the weekend, (so I shouldn't butt in).

This is certainly an issue that raises lots of emotions for me, and confused thoughts, so I think I need to write it all down in more detail for my own benefit, and then take the issue to my next supervision session.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

another first!

Today as a colleague was listing the various religious festivals and holidays that are coming up during December, he commented:

"and of course the most important religious holiday is the day after Christmas"

Yes folks, here in Melbourne, that sports mad city, we have the Boxing Day Test coming up. I groaned.

But then this got me thinking... my mother will be here in Melbourne on Boxing Day... my mother is an utter sports nut... maybe she would like to go to the test on Boxing Day...

So tonight I checked out the prices and ticket availability (and both looked achievable- gee it's great being a student! :-), and then rang Mum to see if she would like to go to the cricket when she's here. Of course, she was delighted at the prospect, so I jumped onto the internet and booked us two tickets to the first day of the Test.

Mum was very excited and said it will be a first for her... and I think maybe for me too. I have been to one day matches at the SCG and MCG (all many years ago), but I don't think I've ever been to a test match (or as in this case, part thereof)... and as Mum said, if we get bored with it, we can always just leave and go home - she may be sports mad, but she's also a pragmatist, is my Mum.

Talk about the ultimate in mother-daughter bonding (or is that 'bondage'? :-)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

... it happened!

After more than 30 years, Bennelong is no longer a Liberal seat, and John Howard is no longer a sitting member. I heard on the news tonight that Maxine McKew has claimed victory in the seat (although the APH website still claims the seat is undecided).

This is the first time that I have regretted no longer living in that electorate (having grown up there and had John Howard as my local member for about half of my life). With the result so touch and go, it would have been the first time that my vote actually meant anything, as it seems that most places where I have lived since then have been very safe seats for one side or the other.

Before the election, I was planning to do a bit of a victory dance, singing: "ding dong! the witch is dead!" if Howard lost, but after his amazingly gracious speech conceding the election, I kind of feel sorry for the guy, and think it would be unnecessarily nasty of me to be so excited about his defeat.

So maybe I'll just have a quietly excited phone conversation with my mother about the joys of having a new local member in Maxine after so long with "Honest John".