General Hospital St Helena Island

It is health that is really wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”. Mahatma Ghandi

I admire those people who deal with blood and other body composites every day. I’m not afraid of death but it still doesn’t mean I can ‘stomach’ my own blood and wounds easily, let alone someone else’s. At work we once lost someone to a heart attack as we tried to apply CPR. There were no intestines hanging out. I didn’t feel the same aversion to seeing this man pass (even as I felt incredibly sad for him and his folks) on as seeing open wounds and body parts. I must not have watched enough horrors as a child 🙂

Oh well, continuous exposure to most things settles the stomach hey?

As I waited to undergo a couple of minor procedures, I saw people rushing to and fro, with smiles on their faces. Whether cleaning, cooking, nursing or carrying out intricate surgery, this is a place where clinical competence is vital. The General Hospital, St Helena Island. I saw (and chatted to) people who have had to undergo major surgery and treatments and are now on the mend. I also saw people who are still battling. I saw people who have come in to have scans and tests, nervously awaiting results which could be huge game-changers.

Some of us take life for granted. We treat our bodies as if we have a right to demand its resilience through some of the worst forms of abuse. Then we say to the Dr, “oh I need some help, please cure me and save me”. Or, we don’t say anything at all but leave sobbing loved ones in our wake. Some people know that one day it will be too late. “One more day, if only I had one more day”. Why do we need the alarm clock to go off to realise how we are risking everything we hold dear for that vice or an extra hour slaving over work when we are completely depleted by the demands of a job that may well pay the bills but leave us fighting for life?

Some people have stopped caring and nothing we can do or say makes a difference. The uphill climb seems too steep, where do we start?

I suggest that mental health is the basis to many illnesses. The day I recognised how the flow of energy through the body has an impact on my physical well-being (internally and externally) I began to feel a difference to the way my body was turning up for life. I could be carrying illnesses but all I know is that pain doesn’t feel as bad as it used to and the voice to stop caring isn’t as loud.

The little red and yellow birds fluttered about in the gardens and it was a pleasure to watch them in-between reading about Winston Churchill and chatting to the many friendly faces that passed by. It was quite a wait, but I didn’t mind, I didn’t have to be anywhere and I could spend the time reading, observing, chatting and waving. There is always something to enjoy when we can draw presence into everything we do.

General Hospital St Helena Island
I was never a big fan of hospitals

The last time I went ‘under the knife’ I was a teenager, having my wisdom teeth removed via general anaesthesia. The ‘bright lights’ aren’t exactly the ones I was hoping for at this point in life. The dentist’s lights are bright enough, these ones are made to blast a hole in any irregular shadows and shades. Mistakes needing to be kept to a minimum and all that.

I was very brave (tee tee). As brave as someone who isn’t in for major surgery. I didn’t get a sticker though for my bravery. Boo.

It’s interesting laying in theatre with the pulse being loudly monitored through a finger scanner. Quite quickly, one becomes aware of any inconsistencies. I often monitor breathing through meditation, so to have this loud bleeping sound was a reminder that the quality of life can be measured tangibly and spiritually, spiritually is harder to hear with clouds of noises coming in from every direction, hence stillness and meditation.

I wondered what the bleeping would be like for someone who was a heavy smoker or suffered with blood pressure.

Numbing the area around the infected sweat gland which was being removed was a doddle but the needle through the foot was another story. In amidst the searing pain, I was aware of the bleeps quickening. Whilst I lay under a warm blanket I was curious about every sound, every prick, every instruction, every technical name that I would only hear during this procedure and not in every day life. I felt (without pain) the needle and thread slide through my skin, I’ll opt for a button on a shirt as opposed to human skin.

I was encouraged to remember, “our health is our wealth”. We can have all the money and materialism in the world, what is it to us if we compromise our health through abuse to our bodies, including stress. Do we get so caught up in the pettiness of life when there are serious issues which require some of our attention? How much is left for our relaxation and restoration to tackle the important issues if we give much to inconsequential energy? Consider the absolute piffle that we get caught up in. Do we really need to?

It was nice to see so many friendly, familiar and smiling faces during this procedure. I cannot fault the kindness and professionalism of those involved. The cherry on the icing (not taking away anything from the team of course – from the receptionist to the theatre nurses) was having a world class surgeon at the helm. Could I have afforded to have had these procedures done in the US with the same surgeon? Could I have received this treatment in the UK in a timely fashion by the same gentleman? But here on St Helena Island, when a surgeon comes to the island from the outside world, most are saying, “we are here to help”. Whatever the cost to the St Helena Government, it suggests to me that the administration do care about the service offered to the people of this island now. There is only one hospital, we all have to use it, so this is one factor of island life that is not open to ‘interpretation’. 

General Hospital St Helena Island
Outpatients, Administration, Dentistry

In the UK I might have been on a very long waiting list. The procedures were minor, perhaps it might have taken more than a year or more to see someone. “Go private love, cause we’re not open for business to such piffle”. Priorities are changing everywhere when it comes to waiting lists and sometimes profit. I would have had to travel some distance perhaps and stayed overnight in a hotel? Instead, my Mum’s home is two minutes from the hospital, the weather was kind and the birds kept me entertained. On completion of the procedure, I could limp home and make a nice cup of tea and eat the rest of my baked tuna pasta. 

In speaking to a visiting nurse she confirmed that the UK is still experiencing extremely high appointment bookings and delays for major surgeries, she suggested it was quicker to turn up at A&E at times. Are we really so unfortunate all the time here on the island? Can we recognise the benefits and blessings too?

I know our health service has some way to go. I hear the stories and see the grave concerns. Perhaps if I were to frequent the hospital more often (hope not) I might share some concerns but for all the appointments that I have had, I have no complaints. If you’ve been living on the island however and dealing with challenges for years, I can understand the fear and frustration. In the end, I have a choice, moan and cuss and get down on everyone or I can turn up for life saying, “I accept what is in the moment and where change and shifts might be necessary, we can tackle this without allowing it to absorb or derail us to a point where we actually become part of the challenge instead of the solution”.

I had a very good experience. The wait is not an issue for me as I have lived in a country where waiting for five hours and more, even in A&E is a regular occurrence. Tis not to say that we shouldn’t be pushing for better, especially on such a small piece of land and with a population which is titchy in comparison.

Piffle? My health is not piffle, in order to live purpose we need bodies, minds, hearts and spirits which are tuned into the significance of life. One day when my heartbeat is a straight line and I don’t get off that operating bed as I did yesterday, I hope in that I honoured the gift of life and a fully functioning body by using it and treating it wisely.

Isn’t it about the quality of life as opposed to the quantity?

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