On neutropenic sepsis, Nightstand Central, laughter, family and good friends

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Nightstand Central
I have extolled the merits of Nightstand Central this past week, since I discovered the existence of this wonderful app, created by Thomas Huntingdon – http://thomashuntington.com/. I have recently had a five day stay in an isolation ward in hospital for neutropenic sepsis, and on day one, my son kindly loaned his mini-ipad and set up Nightstand Central to play my favourite music (which, coincidentally, is also amongst his music collection).

What a Godsend Nightstand Central has been during all the stresses and anxieties of hospital life. I wonder how I might have coped without it. During my most awful moments and long, painful nights, when illness seemed to take over every fibre of my being, Nightstand Central has displayed its wondrous images and played its sweet music so unfailingly, that I have drifted into a different world entirely, far, far away from my hospital bed.

Several nurses and the Consultant, discharging me on my final day, have enquired about the app and also about the classical piano music collection (though I confess amongst the 32 tracks in my son’s compilation, I know the names of only a few pieces). It has been my delight, and I am most blessed to have a son who anticipates my needs, even before I know them myself.

Tuesday 7th May, 04:04am. I raise my hospital bed and contemplate my choices: to write or to read. There’s an overhead reading light that is really quite magnificent, and so beautfully accessible even as I’m attached to this drip and my bed. The night shift nurse, who’s ‘part of the furniture’, brings me simple linctus for the cough that’s awoken me. The drink is sweet and familiar. It reminds me of childhood. I ask about the other patients and chat as the nurse lingers. There is a momentary calm on the ward beyond my isolation room, a world I can only hear and imagine, but never see.

The spacious and high tech room fascinates me and I am mystified by the positive pressure room I inhabit and resolve I must investigate further on my discharge.

My son’s gift for my hospital stay of his mini-ipad set up to Nightstand Central, has been a godsend and the greatest delight. I am soothed by music from his classical piano collection, by the images that drift across the screen and tempt me to worlds far away, and by our mutual favourite sound track, Dr Zhivago. Not the old Julie Christie version, but the more recent tv adaption with Keira Knightley and Sam Neil. Outside, early morning birdsong drifts through the just ajar window (how is that possible to maintain a positive pressure with an open window?) and I gather my book to read to the sound of Dr Zhivago and the morning chorus.

Scott’s Last Expedition is my night time reading, though I am sad that it is only this last few days of my stay that reading, or any task of pleasure, has been on my agenda. All this time on my hand, and too poorly to do anything much at all.

I had a signficant birthday during my hospital stay, and on the morning of my birthday, after the most debilitating night, I felt that I could not cope with visitors. I was of a mind to ask the nurse to turn any visitors away. I looked dreadful, my skin dry and sore from persistent coughing from my chest infection, I have no hair or eyebrows or eyelashes at this stage during chemotherapy, and in the hospital room it was far too hot to wear my bandana. I pictured myself as some awful, alien creature the likes of which would inhabit a Dr Who, or episode of Buffy, and on top of that, I felt poorly too.

Such is the nature of the wonderful, caring staff who tended all my needs, that I was persuaded around to see my first visitors at 12 noon. I am so pleased I did not give way to my initial maudlin thoughts. The sight of my three visitors, lined up on guest chairs against the wall, in transparent gowns and bright blue gloves, was so ridiculous that I laughed out loud. It looked for all the world that they were waiting on some bizaree, shame-inducing party game. And oh, how their visit and our chatter lifted my spirits! It was so good to escape the prison of my own misery.

After a respite sleep, my second visitors called late in the day, my son and daughter, carrying a host of cards and presents, keen to chat and share their day in Oxford and lunch at the Cherwell Boathouse – http://www.cherwellboathouse.co.uk/ The restaurant choice was inspired by a conversation on Twitter, with the delightful and quite wonderful Josh Spero.

The weather was good and I was so pleased they continued with the planned birthday events as there is such pleasure in sharing these precious moments. I hope I will get to visit there myself some day, when my treatment is over and recovery assured.

Cherwell Boathouse

I have been profoundly moved by the comfort and support of family and good friends, who have weathered these stormy times during my treatment for breast cancer, without a murmur of discontent. I am blessed indeed.

My final image is of the restaurant that so impressed my son and daughter, as they dined and gazed out at punters on the river Cherwell at the Cherwell Boathouse, which seems to my mind, the epitomy of elegance, redolent of the finest of our English customs and traditions.

cherwell boathouse 2

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Marcel Proust

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