Saturday, 22 April 2017

NTW NHS Awards Night

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The Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Staff Awards Night happened last month, but I've been wanting to blog about the fabulous night I had ever since. I think it was a really important night about recognition, dedication and teamwork in the NHS.

Now, the first question you'll be asking was why I was at a staff awards night despite not working for the NHS. Well, I was lucky enough to be nominated for the 'Positive Impact' Award, which I'll go into more detail about later on!

So, the staff excellence awards were held at the Civic Centre in Newcastle. It was a beautiful, formal, event. There was live music, great food and a drinks reception. I was allowed to take 2 guests so I brought along my lovely mum and good friend Danielle. Both of them had helped me with a lot of my mental health volunteering, and mental health battles, so I was privileged to have 2 inspirational women to me by my side.

Danielle and mum helped especially last year making up the mental health packages for St Georges at Christmas. For the past 2 years now, we've put 20-30 decorated bags together with chocolate, decorations, socks + toiletries for the people at St Georges hospital at Christmas. This was like a little branch off from project parent as I know from personal experience how lonely it is to be in hospital, especially suffering with mental health issues, so wanted to give back and support them. Danielle and I have also done our fair share of mental health campaigning, especially through vInspired, so it was really nice to be able to bring her along.

There were 10 categories; Apprentice of the year, Behind the Scenes - Individual, Behind the Scenes - Team, Clinical Team of the Year, Clinician of the Year, Knowledge, Safety & Innovation, Healthcare Worker of the Year, Working Together, Leadership and Positive Impact. You can find the winners here - there's some incredible people and teams!

My category was last, the positive impact award. I had been nominated by one of my lovely friends Kelsey who works in the NHS. She wrote the following in the glossy handbook which I've kept as a memento of the incredible evening.

'Supporters want to thank Kate simply for being Kate. Any opportunities she has, Kate pushes herself to raise awareness of ME. She lives with this, EDS and Vasovagal Syncope which comes with a lot of depression and anxiety. Yet, even though she battles crippling pain and anxiety, Kate is fierce, a fighter, and for all the support she gets she sends back out into the world ten-fold. She regularly volunteers, raises money for charity and supports a large group of friends, goths those with the condition and without. Kate blogs at chronicallykatelouise.blogspot.co.uk which helps raise awareness and understanding for everyones benefit. She has an earnest desire to give back to the world having received support herself, and is and inspiration to many people. She does an amazing job through great adversity which is a testament to her character'

The first time I saw this was at the awards and I was in tears, Kelsey has been a big support to me and this nomination came totally out of the blue so I am so thankful for it. I don't like talking about myself too much so feel a bit weird typing this all up, but those words really touched me.

In my category, I had some phenomenal people. The lady who won had been a nurse for 40 years, retired, but then continued on a voluntary basis for 3 years whilst being a carer! In every category I learnt something new about a service which I found so interesting, so even at the awards night I was gained more knowledge about what was available.

One of the most interesting things was chatting with the CEO (Danielle is the most confident person after a few glasses of wine...) about services and his own experiences with the mental health system. He (John Lawlor) was a lovely guy and as well as him we gained some really good connections. One other highlight I couldn't miss was that we got to ride (is that the right word, haha!) in the Mayors private lift - true wheelchair privileges.

It was a fantastic night, and it was lovely to see some really dedicated teams and staff. It also was hard, because I know there's so many stretches and cracks in the mental health system at the moment too yet it's not up to the people in that room to be able to change that. I've been in some of the serves in the area which haven't gone well at all yet I'm in some at the moment which are really trying to look after me. The bottom line is, the whole system does need more funding but there are some very incredible people who are doing so so much to literally save as many people as they can.




Kate x


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Calvert Trust Respite Stay

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Adventure Time

I've managed to put a little bit of energy aside to type up my absolutely incredible time I had last week at the Calvert Trust. I was incredibly lucky to be one of the guests who were sponsored as part of Rosedale Leasing's huge fundraising attempt to raise £5,000 for Calvert Trust.

Who are they?

Now, a little about each one.  Calvert Trust is a registered charity and it isn't just any respite break. They encourage guests of all abilities to achieve their potential through outdoor adventure. Located in Kielder Water Forest & Park, it is a beautiful setting with lots of opportunities to do various activities from crafts to zip wiring. For the respite care, they have special activities like themed weeks throughout the year and staff really go the extra mile to adapt to the needs and likes of each guest.

I met the Rosedale Leasing team for an hour before my respite and I honestly have never met such a lovely bunch of enthusiastic staff. With such a great atmosphere, and being such a charitable company, I was thrilled to support them in their (huge) fundraising mission they had to tackle! They will be doing parachute jumps, Great North Run, fairs, auctions and whatever else they have up their sleeves - I cannot wait. The bubbly team are well on their way with their target, so I'll keep you update on that!

Why did I go?

We have been pushing for nearly a decade to get some form of respite care, more so to give my parents a break. It's hard for people who don't know me very well, or who might just follow on social media, to see how my illness really effects me. I do tend to give a very 'positive' view online (although not in person sometimes!) so it's difficult to see. I am classed as needing 24h care, I have to have regular checks if I'm not with someone and things can change with me very fast. So because of this my parents always have to be on 'alert'. So, it was time they had a break. So much so, when I was collected, the driver thought my mum was the one going for respite she looked that tired (sorry mum!) so it was really needed. I needed it too. I needed to get out of my room, disconnect from my phone/Project Parent/helping people, breathe some fresh air and enjoy nature. Most importantly, I wanted to really test my anxiety with staying away from home too - this was a huge step for me as I haven't been away without my mum in about 4 years so I wanted to try. Oh, and I love outdoor activities so this was so perfectly matched.

What did you do?

Monday - I rested all morning and got the Calvert Trust transport bus up to Kielder at about 1pm. Because my WAV still isn't here and I wanted to take my electric chair, they came down with the bus so I could get it all strapped in. It's a good job they bough a bus with the amount of things I took with me. My medication bag was nearly the size of me, considering I was staying 4 nights it was pretty impressive. We had a cheeky stop on the way to get some chicken and sweets (which weren't consumed together) and arrived at Calvert Trust. The first thing I looked at was my phone from habit and was so relieved to find there was no signal, before realising my mum would worry like mad! We got off the bus and I parked myself up in the lounge area. I was shown to my room which was surprisingly spacious and I was so relieved I had an en suite as I'm funny like that! I rested for an hour of so before having dinner with everyone in the cafe. The meals are all home cooked and Kate friendly. There's more stories on the Kate-friendly food to come! I sat with everyone in the lounge in the evening and we decided what evening activities we wanted to do throughout the week. Then, the group decided tomorrow morning they would do archery/laser clays then in the afternoon motor boating. Me, being me, I was like 'yep I'll do them all' until one of the guests said she would like a lie in and I realised it's ok to rest. I then spoke to the carer and said that realistically, I do an hours activity a day so I usually rest in the morning and I'd be better doing something in the afternoon (as the morning there starts at 7am, I've never heard of that time...) and they were totally fine with that. I stayed up a little longer to play a game with another guest (giant connect 4 in electric wheelchairs is a nightmare when every time you accidentally ram into it all the counters fall out the bottom for the record...) and went to bed. I had a fairly panicky night, what with being my first night away, but I think I coped fairly well.



Tuesday - After a lie in, Rachael, Julie & I (Rachael is from Rosedale Leasing and Julie, her mum, is the other sponsored guest) decided to go for a little walk. I was being all professional, getting a map and directions. I started off with the map upside down then forget every single direction we got given. My chair has good suspension, but poor old Julie was bouncing around so much I was concerned we might have lost her at one point (out of the chair, not died, I must add, Rachael is not that badder driver....). After our lovely little bonding trek we get to a metal gate. Now Julie is a whole foot smaller than me, meaning her wheelchair fits under the gate. I put my wheelchair in recline, the only way I personally could think of tackling this scenario, and attempt to limbo underneath (shaking my shoulders for the full effect). After nearly being concussed we realised my height head failed me once again. So, the only way around was to go a good mile down the incredible bumpy track again and miss lunch (we are not one to miss food), or, go around the gate. Either side of the gate were 2 massive bogs of mud followed by steep inclines. I slowly drove the chair through and realised when I was fully in this was not the best plan. Totally stuck, with the heaviest chair, I had no signal. Rachael and I then spent the next 20 minutes trying to lift and pull the incredibly heavy chair out of the mud. We eventually did it, I had to be hosed down when we got in it was that bad, but we had lunch and Julie laughed most of the way back so at least we made her smile. After lunch, we went on the motor boats. I'm not going to lie, I was dreading this. I have a phobia of being trapped and feeling sick, so boats aren't my favourite things. The first 10 minutes was amazing, sunny weather, lovely view and I was just really proud. After then I started to get anxious and by the time we got to the first stop I really wasn't good. So I went from my wheelchair to lying on the boat floor waiting for my medication to kick in and tried to get myself through the rest of the journey. I did drive the boat though! It would honestly be amazing for anyone who wasn't me and was scared of everything in life, everyone else loved it, so don't be put off by what I say! Their water week is one of their top attractions! I got back and went to my room, I had a chat with a lovely carer who helped me prioritise which activities I'd love to do and talked with me for awhile as she knew I was upset. I did have a bit of a private emotional breakdown afterwards, then went through to phone my mum and just needed to cry to her as the boat had rocked me (see what I did there...). But, I refocused. It was a night walk so we went out at dusk around the nature trial which was really nice as the evening activity - the first time I've tried my wheelchair lights out too which was a bonus! Called it a night and went to sleep as I was so emotionally drained after that but ready to take on tomorrow.




 Wednesday - The gang were out on the golf buggies this morning which I was gutted I missed out on but I know my body needed the rest. Instead, I caused havoc with one of the carers for half an hour late morning planning the meals. I have a really restricted diet, having a digestive system which doesn't function, so we were trying to wind the chef up. Now, the chef makes the most gorgeous, home cooked meals every day and did everything to cater for me, and, provide variety. But, today his life was made hard. We decided to ask for homemade gluten and diary free profiteroles (with 4h notice) for pudding and an eggless omelette. We could've been there all day causing chaos in the kitchen but it definitely put my morning off to a good start. I was totally ready for this afternoons activity - the Kingswing! It's basically a giant swing which you are attached to and you fly around. My favourite bit was actually watching Rachael scream after getting about 2m off the ground and everyone else being 10 times the height and not flinching. I love a good adrenalin rush though and really enjoyed that. I came back in early and had a rest as I knew I wanted to take part in the arts & crafts night. We painted piggy banks and it was so lovely seeing such a wide range of people all laughing and having fun painting!



Thursday - I laid on the sofas in the lounge this morning whilst the group went geocaching. I was so tired so I was pretty glad it was quiet around. I didn't fancy this afternoon's activity (sailing - I aint going back on a boat!) so my lovely carers took me on a walk round the reservoir. Rachael and another guest joined, the whole of the reservoir is surprisingly accessible with lots of pieces of artwork and I got my first proper geogache! I waited too long before asking to turn back today so by the time we got back to the centre I was absolutely exhausted. Unfortunately, then I fainted on the bed and then started having my panic + seizure. My legs spasmed and it shook me a lot. Stupidly, because I heard other alarms going, I waited about 15 minuted before pulling mine so I didn't do myself any favours. My feet curl in spasm when I seize so I sprained that but otherwise I was ok. I just wanted to get up to phone my mum (as I got no signal in my room) and then go to bed. I missed out on quiz night but the care team kept a good check on me.



Friday - Last day :( I got up at a reasonable time because today was my last morning. I had a go on the zip wire which was lots of fun then went back in to put my legs up before lunch. After lunch, I said bye to the group and took the bus home. An incredible trip and I honestly will never forget what an amazing time I had!



*Please note, this is the shortened version. We would be here for days. Calvert Trust did do a lot of things like personal care, help moving, socialising, etc and I haven't put in too much detail to keep it as short as possible.


Best Bits

Narrowing down my best bits has been the hardest part of writing this, because I truthfully have had the time of my life. I've enjoyed it ever so much (okay, minus the boat) and really would recommend it to anyone looking or needing respite care. One of my best bits is simply the location. It's breathtakingly beautiful being amongst the wildlife, trees, fresh air and by the reservoir. I loved having carers around me who were not only just good at their job, but also love their job. I loved the other guests. For example, one of the girls who was profoundly disabled saw me crying secretly in the corner to my mum on the phone and next thing I know she's parked her wheelchair next to mine and she's holding my hand. One guest was deaf and the whole week was like a massive game of charades and he laughed as the one thing I told him I could sign was chocolate cake so every time he saw me he thought I was hilarious. I learnt to communicate with a guest who was none verbal which was so rewarding and I never thought I would be able to do. I gained friends there and especially have to say that I laughed every minute I was with Rachael & Julie especially, so I'm so lucky to have been sponsored with such an inspirational family. I loved the kingswing and the zip wire at the centre, the adrenalin is a feeling I thrive on. I also loved going for walks and more relaxed craft sessions. I stayed away from home and not just survived, I actually enjoyed it. I managed to get the right balance for me of rest and stimulation, which I can't even do myself at home, and I think that was probably my biggest achievement. I was looked after so well, I had a laugh with the staff and guest so my week was really enjoyable.

Thank you

Of course, I can't leave this post without a thank you. A huge thank you to Rosedale Leasing for doing all the amazing fundraising so that I was able to be sponsored for a place this year. A special thank you to Rachael from the team who does have a caring role to do outside of work and therefore was brilliant with me when we were away. A big thank you to Calvert Trust, in particular Charlotte who put me forward for the nomination for the scholarship, as I've had the most amazing time. The carers, activity staff and caterers have taken such good care of me over the week and I don't think the word 'thank you' does enough justice. But from the bottom of my heart, the opportunity I have been given to have a week of something to do for me, and for my parents to have some time to themselves (although poor mum was poorly bless her!), we will always be grateful for.

Kate x