Tosoast for Breakfast

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The History of our Lives for the Past Few Weeks No 3: Nurseries

Since Eleanor was three months old, she has been going for at least two days a week to the Nursery at work. This is based just down the corridor from my office. We didn't even look anywhere else when choosing a nursery. I had been on courses with members of the staff, regularly bumped into other staff members at the canteen, and the children had regularly come to events that we put on at the Centre, and used our soft play room. The children always looked happy and settled, and it had a very good reputation. We were even warned about the waiting list, so Eleanor had been booked in for several months before she was born.
Eleanor settled in very well, and loved it at the Nursery. Until a couple of months ago I would visit her at lunchtime, initially to drop off extra milk, then simply 'cos I liked seeing her. She only got upset on one or two occasions when I left, and that seemed to be more because the dinner was late! Generally I found it difficult to get her to say goodbye properly, as she was too engrossed in what was going on.
Eleanor gradually moved up through the various rooms, and various staff reshuffles also happened during her time there, meaning that her keyworker happened to end up also moving up through the rooms at the same time. Meanwhile, numbers of children attending were falling, so Eleanor often ended up being the only child in her room, so would often spend time with some of the older children. In the end, Eleanor ended up getting almost a cross between a child-minder and a nursery.
With the site closing, fewer people were using the nursery, and the powers that be looked at lots of different alternatives for a new site. Various options were looked at, including becoming part of the new build resource centre that is currently being built on our car park. For a long time we were told that the Nursery was continuing, and would probably be rebuilt somewhere on site.
In August, the trust achieved 'Practice Plus' under 'Improving Working Lives' and posters went up Everywhere boasting about this achievement, and what a wonderful place the Trust was to work for. One of the thing boasted about on the posters was the Childcare provision.
In September, we had a letter (place in Eleanor's basket) telling us that the nursery was closing in February, and all the staff would be made redundant. They had been unable to come up with a viable business plan, plus the government in it's wisdom had announced that PCTs should no longer provide services, so bye bye to the Nursery.
Staff had been told the day before, and the whole thing seemed to come out of the blue. Staff and parents were in tears, and a parent meeting was held shortly afterwards, with rather heated discussions taking place, but nothing could be done.
We decided that we ought to look for a nursery in Birmingham so that Paul could pick Eleanor up as well, and we could also take advantage of the nursery for any days I was off work, or in Coventry. We looked at a couple, and also visited a Childminder that comes to our church Toddler group. In the end, we decided that since Eleanor had been used to a nursery, we would carry on with nursery rather than childminder, and at the beginning of December booked her in to a nursery in Northfield.
She visited everywhere with us, and was very happy to join in and start playing with new children and new toys. So far she has had a couple of 'settling in' sessions at the new Nursery, and not wanted to come home.
Her old Nursery, meanwhile has been steadily diminishing. Staff have been getting other jobs, and children finding other placements. They decided not to have a Nativity this year, due to the small number of children, but did have a 'Little Reindeer's Sing-a-long'. For weeks Eleanor has been giving loud renditions of 'Away in a Manger' and 'The Santa on the Sleigh goes Ho Ho Ho' in the car. On the day she stood at the front wearing Reindeer Antlers and a flashing nose, whispering the first one or two songs, then spent the rest of the concert with Wardrobe malfunction, as her nose and Antlers kept slipping off. This week they came and did a short repeat for the Centre Christmas Service (which Paul led): This time all the children sang beautifully, except Eleanor who refused even to stand with the other children and spent her time taking baubles off the tree.
Eleanor came in for an extra day on Wednesday, and the children came down to the centre again for the 'animal man': Various animals from tarantulas to owls, almost all of which Eleanor refused to touch. They then had a party in the afternoon, complete with visit from a Father Christmas. This was Eleanor's last day and there were tears all round, except from Eleanor, who looked a little bemused. She did take a very long time walking down the corridor, stopping at every small familier thing and saying 'What's that?'.
The move to a new nursery however, has at least in some ways come at a good time. Eleanor's first day is on 3rd Jan, the same day as my operation. With me being off work for anything for 6 weeks to a year, Eleanor would have needed to be in a nursery closer to home, so without the Nursery closing, we would probably been spending the last week frantically looking for a new place for her. We will miss the old nursery a lot though, and hope to keep in touch with her keyworker. It does mean that Eleanor will grow up with a more Brummie accent rather than the Black Country accent that has been appearing. Unfortunately there are few nurseries around here that are staffed entirely with Yorkshire Folk.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The History of our Lives for the Past Few Weeks: No. 2: The Clinic

The Breast Clinic at the Women's is rather like a conveyor belt: Turn up, wait, move to another waiting area, wait, test, wait, another waiting area, test, wait, move.... Plus spending half an afternoon dressed in a fashionable hospital shift ('you can wear it either way round' : however I'd rather accidently show my back than my front, thank you.)

The mammogram wasn't too bad. The literature said it can be uncomfortable and occasionally painful, but I didn't find it too much of a problem. The difficulty I had was all the contortionism that was needed: move your feet to the left a bit, your bottom to the right, stick your bottom out, put your hand on your head, chin up.... I found in the end that it was my ankle that hurt, due to the position I was in. I can't say it was a pleasant sensation being squashed, but better in some ways than the dentist's!

Then it was more waiting, an ultrasound, yet more waiting then meeting the consultant and having fine needle aspiration and a biopsy. The aspiration they describe as having an injection in reverse, the biopsy (under local anaesthetic) the literature they give you describes as sounding like a gun going off. Not the most encouraging of analogies, however I only read that post procedure. It sounds more like a staple gun.

This part of the procedure was observed by a medic from Akrotiri, the British base in Cyprus. He was visiting Birmingham which is a centre for defense medicine, to brush up on his clinical skills. He was a Wing Commander, and we had a rather surreal conversation about how nice Cyprus was at this time of year, while all the above was being sorted. Very polite chap with a very plummy accent.

We then had about an hour's wait, while the results from the aspiration came through: the biopsy will take a few days.

When we came back (after the standard shunt between waiting areas), we were told that the lump was cancer. Basically, they can take it out along with some of the surrounding healthy tissue (a wide local excision) along with some of the lymph nodes under the arm. I'm booked in for this on 3rd Jan (going in on the 2nd) and should be in for a couple of days. At the moment I'm not too worried about this: yet another operation, different hospital this time; it's at the QE, which is just opposite the women's. At least the scar will be in a different place.

After the op, I'll be having radiotherapy and, because I'm so young, (!) chemotherapy. Quite how this will affect me remains to be seen, and I've no idea how well or ill I'll be during the process.

The History of our Lives for the Past Few Weeks: No. 1: The Lump

I don't check my breasts at all regularly or thouroughly, but a few weeks ago I noticed a lump in my left breast. I was a bit concerned, so took myself off to the Doc's, who examined me and told me that it was most likely to be fibrous but just in case, she'd refer me on for a mammogram. Though she did tell me that at my age as my breasts were 'immature' it is possible the mammogram might not show much, so I might need a biopsy. So, yet another trip to the Birmingham Women's Hospital. I seem determined to visit every department and ward there. At least we know where to park.