Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Remembering Professor G. Ayliffe

On Wednesday the 24th May, my day starts as usual; after eating my cereal, l open my emails and scroll down to find one from my friend of 28 years, Sue M saying I thought I would send this before you see it on twitter...its 11.30pm too late to ring you - she knows I am always in bed by 9pm!

The subject heading reads Remembering Professor Ayliffe.

I read the Healthcare Infection Society email with tears in my eyes then sit back in my chair and remember...

I started my nursing career in 1980 in orthopaedics and I loved it from my first day on the wards. In 1989 I changed direction when I joined Professor Ayliffe's team as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Infection Control.

Initially I had no idea how lucky I was to secure a job working within this team in the Birmingham, Hospital Infection Research Laboratory (HIRL). But as I studied the subject I saw the names of people I was spending my days with crop up in research papers and books. I was immersed in an environment of learning and my education was coming from the best; the founders of much of the theory Becky, Elaine and then Kathy and I taught others in the classroom and in practice.

Ayliffe et al 1978


In the late 1970s Professor Ayliffe and his team were the inspiration behind the  evidence based six step hand washing technique that can be seen adorning the walls of restaurants, cafes and healthcare premises across the world. In doing this and other significant practical research; such as producing early evidence of the value of wearing plastic aprons over uniforms; Prof and his team made an outstanding contribution to reducing the risk arising from the transmission of infections, thereby saving millions of lives.


Prof Ayliffe was an advocate of nurses specialising in infection control and in 1970 was the co-founder of the Association for Infection Control Nurses (ICNA). It was a privilege to be able to attend my first conference in Guernsey, soon after I joined the team. I met Sue M and we listened in awe as Prof Ayliffe, John Babb, Jean Davies and many of my colleagues took their turn to stand on the stage and share their wisdom.

In 1990 I commenced the Foundation Course in Infection Control run by Marian Reed. I  listened as Prof's soft spoken voice held the attention of a room full of nurses as he taught the practical application of Microbiology. He then gave me quiet reassuring direction as I embarked on my first piece of research, my course assignment looking at the prevalence of infection in long stay elderly care wards. I passed and he then guided me as I prepared it for publication. He grinned as I ran in to his office waving a copy of the Infection Control Supplement in the Nursing Times containing my first published paper!

I tried not to smile at Prof Ayliffes serious face when Becky and I seized an April fools opportunity which coincided with our team meeting day. We described the symptoms of a pyretic man admitted to an open ward with sores on his hands, who was working on a sheep farm...to carefully lead him and the other microbiologists to a diagnosis of anthrax. We then shared in their quiet laughter as we declared our hand before they left the meeting in search of this imaginary patient!

In 1993 Prof, Kathy and Becky supported my successful application for a Birmingham Hospital Fund, Travel Scholarship to travel across the USA studying the infection risks associated with parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding).


This award included a book of my choice and without hesitation I asked for Control of Hospital Infection, This was our day to day infection control handbook, which we referred to constantly. After being awarded the book I proudly asked Prof Ayliffe and then the other authors, to sign my book. As a bibliophile, although retired from use, it still sits proudly on my bookshelves at home.
Prof Ayliffe continued his visionary approach when he encouraged and supported an annual Lab day out. Kathy organised the minibus and off we would go, picnic stored in the back, singing and chattering all they way there and back. The most memorable for me was a visit to Chatsworth House where we picnicked in the grounds before visiting the grand old house. Nowadays this kind of outing is called 'Team Building'!

I flew the nest of Prof Ayliffe and the HIRL Team six years later to take up a lead nurse post still in infection control in a nearby hospital but we remained in constant touch. From this team I realised how important it is to share research, experience and knowledge. I had witnessed with admiration their constant open and giving approach to others in the world of infection prevention and control. From Prof and his team I learnt that we were one family united in our aspirations to prevent and control infection across the globe.


Left is Prof Ayliffe, I am behind in blue 
and Marian Reed is in white



In a subsequent role of chair of the West Midlands Infection Control Nurses Association which I held for many years, I attended quite a number of happy events with Prof. We shared in the smiles of budding infection control nurses when awarding the annual Marian Reed prize.






In 2007 when I was working in Wales as a national Nurse Consultant, I was delighted to be approached by Tina Bradley, the current Director of the Research Laboratory, to ask if I would co-write a chapter for the new edition of The Control of Hospital Infection Book with my infection control colleague and friend Sue Millward. The new edition was to be titled Ayliffe's Control of Healthcare-Associated Infection. By this time Prof had retired from day to day work but throughout his retirement he continued to give of himself and his skills on a regular basis.



I completed my chapter just before a brain tumour changed my life forever. I received a copy of the book a few months later in 2009 and it rests on the same shelf as my signed copy of the previous edition.








But Prof didn't forget me as I didn't forget him, we have shared Christmas cards and met up at a conference when I attempted to return to work in 2009 and again after my retirement in 2011. But Prof and Mrs Ayliffe will never know how much I valued a visit from them when they were in Bristol as I recovered from my brain tumour surgery at home.

Tears fill my eyes again as I remember Janet and Prof arriving, sitting in the sun, sharing a cup of tea, talking about infection control. About life. I asked Prof to sign my new book as we chatted about mutual friends, our love of birds and birdwatching.

I like to think that Professor Ayliffe is now resting in a great laboratory, amongst mutual colleagues and friends; John Babb, Johns wife Janet; Professor Lowbury, Professor Emmerson, Kathy Mitchell and Marian Reed to name but a few.


Rest in Peace Professor Ayliffe x



Friday, April 14, 2017

S Club 43

I can't talk about it I mutter to my friend Mike over lunch

What he asks

I can't say. I really can't say...

It's just ...

I am in a club and I'm not happy about it, people'll judge me if I tell them so I have kept it to myself 

Mike starts to laugh it can't be that bad surely

Oh it is

To me anyway. I cough nervously then tell all

I am one of the seven million members of S Club 43, Mikes grin widens and he laughs. So am I he titters nervously. I can't talk about it either, as an organic vegan all my mates would double up in glee if they knew.

What are you doing about it he asks

I have been trying to give up sweet things, cake and chocolate, like a self imposed Lent, and I was doing really well until I bought some chocolate bunnies as a surprise for Easter for me and Mr H. 

But only I knew where they were hidden..

One evening I went to bed but couldn't sleep I kept seeing the bunny bounce before my eyes. It was teasing me in all it's chocolateyness...

So I came downstairs and tried to distract myself with a jigsaw and raw carrot but the bunny kept hopping into view sniffing eat me, eat me, please eat me...

...and I caved in and dragged it from its hiding place. I ripped the cellophane off and bit one of its ears, it melted in all its organic-ness as soon as it hit my lips...

I bit off the other ear, then the body, too solid to break into pieces I gnawed like an animal, chocolate smearing my face...




Picture Le Comte de Reynaud in the film Chocolat when he repents and fasts during Lent but then surrenders to a window full of chocolate the day before Easter Sunday...that was me!


I managed to stop myself just before I reached his ground thumping feet and hid the mangled, chewed remains in a drawer...



A symptomless HbA1c blood sugar level of 43, found by chance when the GP tested me following a group of horrible seizures, is so frustrating. Forty one would be within normal range but 43 means I carry the pre-diabetes label. I became a member of S Club 43. Luckily it can be reversible so it's better to know so that Mike and I can do something about it and prevent ourselves becoming members of the ever growing Type 2 Diabetes Club. Now for me the most important thing I can do is lose some more weight...whereas Mike is a thin as a rake so maybe its genetic too...

More information and statistics can be found on Diabetes UK website...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Aunty Magic

I’m a Granty I squeal as I ring Mr H with the news

Oh my goodness that was quick, email me a photo

I was having a lie in but the news means I spring - I wish - rather I yank on my bed stick and clamber slowly out of bed…

I ring my sister, now a Nana, who was at the birth with the Daddy…and of course my now Mommy niece!

I am blessed I tell friends later that day on the phone, my nieces and nephew are my world. Mr H gives an attention seeking ‘what about me’ cough in the background!

Being an aunty is like being in Cadbury World and eating all the chocolate I want…The best scrummy, yummy thing!

When they were little I let them eat pizza for breakfast, stay up a bit later than Mummy and Daddy allowed, let them sit in the washing basket and roll around the garden…



I then handed them back to their parents to undo the damage I had done breaking all their rules…

They come and stay as they revise for exams, ring me if they need guidance, help and support…

As they grow older I take them to the theatre, on trips to London, spoil them in the shops buying clothes that their Mom and Dad said were too expensive. We take mini breaks together and call ourselves ‘Girls on Tour’…

I tell anyone who will listen about my special ‘boy and girls’

Now, this sharing of time and love shines through in their grins and hugs when they visit, or come and collect me; in cards and letters they send, texts and calls they make. They walk slowly when they are with me, help me in and out of the car and carry my bags. They understand epilepsy and how to look after me if they need to…

I am the luckiest aunty alive.

When I talk to Liz my choir leader we share our aunty experiences. Liz had a magical aunty who sadly recently passed on to aunty heaven.

Its Aunty Magic Liz says


So now I am Granty Dawn I can sprinkle more aunty magic…


Aunty
A person who can give hugs like a mother
Keep secrets like a sister
and share love like a friend

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Empty Wheelchairs...

I sit back down in the grey airport wheelchair and stuff my feet back into my converse. 

Sorry about that says the young man who is pushing me through into departures but no one escapes the shoe scan.

He helps me out onto a blue seat with a wheelchair picture printed onto the fabric. 

Thank you 

Mr H slips him a tip then wanders away to find the toilets. I pull my belt back through the loops of my jeans, push up my sleeves and wipe my forehead, it feels like its 29 degrees inside as well as out there in the Caribbean sunshine...

A few seconds later...

Bing Bong final call for passengers flying on TOM815 to Birmingham please make your way to Gate 4

That's us I call out as I frantically fasten my belt and grab my bag. Mr H returns and we ask where the wheelchairs are to take people with disabilities to the ambulift.

The lady responsible for getting the disabled onto the aeroplane tells us they haven't got any available...

But if you walk over there and out of the door the Ambulift is waiting she points. So a snake of crutches, sticks and mobility scooters weaves its way towards the pointed door. As we go out into the sunshine we spot thirty or more empty wheelchairs silently sitting. Waiting to be used...

One by one, like suntanned canaries in a cage, we are lifted on a yellow metal platform into the tin box ambulift. Mr H says to the Barbadian gents assisting us These people should be on the plane before the other passengers, little chance of that now. Again! 

Image result for image of airport ambulift


I am fed up that the disabled are always last on the plane here in Barbados. There is a fifty dollar tip if you can get us all onto the aeroplane before the other passengers. A look of shock passes over the young mens faces, then they giggle as they whisper to each other. The process of loading us speeds up...

We trundle along the road by the side of the aircraft lined up, ready to fly. We watch anxiously as lines of buses fill with passengers about to head to our aircraft which is waiting on the tarmac. 

Get your foot down Mr H shouts as he waves the fifty dollar bill at the driver. 



We are all laughing and giggling as we clutch our sweaty fists. We must be doing the speed of light now Mr H laughs as the ambulift snails it's way towards the first aeroplane. 

We pass it. 

Not ours. 

We stop at the third. Reverse up to the side door. The ambulift mechanisms creak as like birds we are lifted into the air. The giggles of anticipation get louder. The gents knock on the cabin door. 

It is opened immediately. It's a miracle I shout!

Mr H calls to the air hostess is the plane empty, are we the first passengers.

Yes she grins.

We all cheer...

Mr H stands back to let the crutch and stick brigade clamber across the metal bridge to enter the aircraft. Then with a huge grin he hands over the fifty dollars...

That's a first I say to the blue hatted air hostess as she directs me to my seat. We have never made it onto the plane before the able bodied at this airport. Just proves that money talks...


Time to Relax...

Friday, December 23, 2016

Look into your heart...

I can't wait for Boxing Day I say to a friend when she asks me if I am looking forward to Christmas. Don't get me wrong I add, I love going to church on Christmas morning to sing carols and see friends i have met on my Brain Tumour journey.

I love seeing the grins when I give gifts to my family on Christmas Day. I love giggling as we share jokes. I love sitting around a table eating far too much food; then using up our spare coppers to play our Christmas card game... 

But this year  I don't have the energy to decorate the house with tinsel and trimmings. Can't be bothered really. All that bending and twisting exhausts me. 

When Mr H comes home from work I tell him to close his eyes  

Two seconds later I tell him to open them

Tada...The Christmas tree is up I grin...



We giggle at the £2.49 childish, tacky tree which brings Christmas into our home.

In the shops  I feel like a pressure cooker with a bobbing lid. Sweat drips off my forehead as I am knocked sideways by present clasping grey haired ladies and pram pushing mummies.

In Tesco I spot two young lads handing out leaflets to people as they clamber onto the escalator to buy more food. They give me their scouts grin as they tell me, we are collecting food for the food bank today.

When we leave the shop Mr H and I push our trolley over to the charity collection point and wait as a lady in front almost completely empties her trolley bursting with tins onto the table. A joyous tingle runs up my spine as we then add our tins, jars of coffee and tea bags to the magically growing collection. It's food for people who don't have enough money to buy even the basics.

At home I hum to myself as I stir cake mixture and roll icing to create cupcake gifts for some of my friends. When I give them they are met with wide smiles and gasps that I have made cakes for them. 

I make more for the staff and volunteers in the Green Community Travel Charity. Their help means I can get out to my exercise classes and to meet friends when Mr H is at work...



When I walk into their office for the first time I am met with smiles and Santa hats. These happy people work or freely give their time to help people like me.  I hand the cakes to Jenny the office manager with a request. Please save one for Richard my friendly Friday morning driver who takes me to choir every week....

My friends please remember this for Christmas...


 I wish all my friends and blog readers a Peaceful Christmas and a Healthy 2017

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My two pink bundles

Chatter, chatter, chatter...

Like a typewriter clacking on sheet after sheet of paper

my mind writes its own script for a play I want no part in

I pick up a pen, press it between my thumb and middle fingers, watch as it slots into place in my hand and black ink flows like blood from my blue and silver pen...

I looked at you when I opened my eyes and gave my first cry. I don't remember seeing you,  but you were there, two pink bundles of skin, bones and the teeniest nails. You helped me to eat, clutch my mommy's fingers, gave me something to chew on when my first teeth broke through. 

Now as I glance down I see years of hard work etched into the creases from hand washing and caring. You helped me through exam after exam scribbling on paper for hour after hour. You are always there for me...

So in 2008 when I wake up after my second brain operation to see my left fingers curled up like a claw. My arm coiled like a spring up to my chest. I lift you with my right hand and gently place you on a pillow on my bed. I ease each finger out and lie them flat. I whisper I will take care of you now. 

Like a baby I teach each finger how to hold a spoon so that I can feed myself cereal while steadying the bowl with my working right hand.  We progress to holding a flannel and reach up with the help of a nurse, to wipe my swollen face. I grin as we lift the items off my bedside table one by one, laugh when the nurse asks why so my left hand can put them all back again I tell her. I work you hard, we work together to get you moving again. Gripping a zimmer frame was our biggest challenge when I was re-learning to walk. But together we did it. Together my hands and I can overcome anything.



So today as words do a merry go round in my mind I once again turn to you, my precious hands. With all your wrinkles, dry skin and nails I am trying not to nibble; you help me to write out my thoughts. And my mind slows as unhelpful words float by on a cloud...



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rolling waves

I can’t believe we are here I say to Mr H with a grin. A whole week, we won’t need to use the car.



We stroll hand in hand along the narrow, cottage filled lane to the sea front. I stop as Mr H clicks his camera to capture my ever widening smile. 






I breathe in slowly as I fill my lungs with the salty air. My shoulders drop as the ozone fills my nose. I stare and listen to the swooshing tide as it spreads onto the beach before being pulled back into the sea, washing away some of my anxiety. The sky may be grey but my heart is full of sunshine.



I hope that this break will settle my head. Stop the electrical storms which have kept me at home, too scared to go out on my own.

This change in behaviour started a few weeks ago…

In Tesco I shout out Whooooh as a huge wave crashes through my head knocking me sideways. I stumble and grab a tin filled shelf.

Can I help a lady asks, so I send her into the next aisle to find my Peri Peri sauce hunting husband. I breathe a sigh of relief when he rounds the corner. I slide myself down onto the floor. Tesco staff come to help. First aider arrives. They bring a wheelchair and take me out while Mr H pays.

A one off. I hope.

Then last Saturday it happens again…

I am alone, walking past Boots in the mall and Whoooh breaks through my lips. I lurch to the side. A man standing there sees, looks, then walks away. I try to walk again but the waves stop me and I slide myself once more to the floor. My legs cannot hold me up. I need to sit I whisper to no one.

I call out to two ladies can you help me please?

Epilepsy.

They stay with me and I book a Taxi home, quicker than ringing Mr H. When I can stand, these lovely hen party planners walk with me and wait until it arrives.

Two days later I step out of the front door, wrapped up to guard me from the autumnal breeze.  I pass cottages, the club house, but by the bungalows a wave crashes inside my head. I wobble against someone’s dry stone wall. I lower myself down at the bottom of their drive. Almost in the lane. But not quite. Please stop someone I whisper to myself as cars pass by…

Eight years ago, when I was alone in my hospital room, unable to walk after my surgery I promised myself this…


A whole week in a cottage by the sea.

I am living my dream of an epilepsy calming, ozone smelling, seagull crying, bird watching, fossil hunting, chip eating week.


I am not afraid of storms for
I am learning to sail my ship
Louisa May Alcott

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In a hole

Sue and I grin as we arrive at Mesmerize Me in Birmingham

This is it she says, Excited?

I  have been treated to a make over day with my friend, Sue's sister Jacquie bought it for her for Christmas  and told her: go with Dawn you will have a great time

Our pale, make up free faces stand out against the black sofa we are asked to sit on as we sip a cup of coffee.  Phase one Selfie Sue says as we grin into her camera...

We glance at the forms we need to fill in.

Mmmm which feature do you want enhanced in the photos I mutter as I glance at Sue, dimples for me, eyes maybe, for you she suggests

Which feature do you most want to disguise...wrinkles we giggle 

But I bow my head and instead scribble I don't want to look disabled. 

Upstairs our faces are transformed from pasty pale to palettes of colour. Our eyes and cheeks are defined as the beauticians apply more make up than I have ever worn!  We use theatrical make up they tell us, you will need it in the bright studio. They tease our hair into bouffant styles. Very Mary Quant I say to Sue when her rollers come out!

Back on the sofa we take phase two photos...


When it is our turn we wheel our suitcases into the studio. Lets look at your outfits first Laura the bubbly photographer suggests with her camera hanging around her neck...

She asks me what my limitations are...

Try me with everythingI don't want my stick to get a peep at your camera lens I mutter as I abandon it in the corner of the room.

She suggests we sit on the floor and clicks away as we pose, first on our front, after waiting for my left leg and foot to register what I want it to do. We laugh as I try to hang onto the position long enough for a good shot...



You look fantastic she smiles as we kneel...


Do you think you can get into this hole next Laura asks me with a grin.

I'll give anything a go...

I hoist my bum into position. 

Now slide down, let the curve do the work she tells me as Sue watches, her grin getting wider with each shuffle..

Oh my goodness thats amazing they both say as the camera clicks...


Not a disability in sight...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Time to ask the right questiions

When I was young the last thing on my mind was to sit down with my parents, aunties, Grandparents and ask them to tell me about their lives.  In my late teens I often stayed with my Nan on my time off from nursing and we giggled our way through the days. Grandad and I had our love of books, birdwatching and nature to keep us talking for hours over a cup of tea in a china tea cup.

We would walk to the shops or library together like the best of pals. Me on the inside of the pavement as he protected me from the road, his brown shopping bag swinging on his arm. But I never once asked him or Nan about the Adult School. 

It was their homes I took myself to when I lay in my hospital bed in 2008, distressed in the darkness, unable to move. I walked my memory through each room recalling the chairs - chairs I now sit on at home, the glass clown by the fire at Nans, the bird paintings at Grandads - paintings which now hang on my walls. I rarely got upstairs as I was always asleep before I reached the bottom rung of the stairs.

Last year it was my late Grandad who silently took me by the hand and led me into the Adult School research I am currently doing. He wanted the story to be told. He wanted me to tell the story.

The interviews I am undertaking with many silver  haired ladies and gents make my heart sing out as I see their smiles, their joy in sharing happy memories with someone who is interested in what they have to say. But in my quest for stories, all too frequently I hear:

I wish I had asked my Mum...

I wish we had sat down and talked....


If only I had taken an interest...


So when I sit shoulder to shoulder with my Mum in The Archives and Heritage Dept of the Birmingham Library; we discover letters to and from my Grandad, minutes of meetings written by my great Grandad; notes about my aunt and uncle. 

I smile when Mum excitedly gasps your Dads name is here I didn't know he was on St Oswalds Camp committee. We find letters, brochures and photos some featuring people I have never known, others were uncles and aunts, Grandads and Grandmas who I never thought to ask...



My brain tumour gave me the gift of Time

Time to ask the right questions of octogenarians who want to tell their stories...

The Midland Adult School Youth Committee 1944 - including my Uncle in the backrow
Photograph courtesy of The Midland Adult School Uncatalogued Archives held in Birmingham Library Archives and Heritage. Photographer unknown