Childhood and Teenage Years

I went to a brand new Primary School in Newmarket from the day it opened, where I passed my 11 Plus and went on to Cambridge Girls Grammar School.

I struggled with the academia and was kept back a year when it was felt I couldn't keep up with the other students but I still managed to leave with 4 O levels and a CSE. I went on to 6th Form College and managed to  pass a further 2 O levels and an A level in Social Biology.

At the age of 14 spurred on by a friend, I joined the Junior British Red Cross, and this was a turning point. I loved it and passed exams in Childcare, First Aid and Home Nursing eventually achieving the highest accolade at the time - A Grand Proficiency Medal, which incidentally I still have. I made lots of new friends and attended first aid duties at fêtes and race meetings. I felt a sense of purpose and it made me certain of the career I wanted to follow - Nursing!

At the age of 16 I was struck a bitter blow, it was discovered that gynae problems ( too complicated to go into here) meant that I could never have any children - it was before the days of IVF which in any case would not have been any use to me. I was devastated, I adored children and loved helping my Mum with my younger brother and sister when they were babies and toddlers. I had also won the individual childcare cup at the inter county Red Cross competitions for 2 years in a row. Of course this was at a time when I should have been concentrating on my exams and probably didn't help the poor results I got. I also lost my wonderful Grandfather at about the same time.

I was Head-hunted at the age of 17 by the Warden of the newly opened "Old Peoples Home" (sorry not PC today) but it was what they were called in the 1970's. She knew I was going to go into Nursing and thought I might like some experience. I started work as a Domestic Assistant, helping in the kitchen, serving meals and even cleaning toilets. I worked hard and soon swapped my green overall for the Yellow one of a Care Assistant. This was more like it, enabling me to provide some hands on care.

It was here that I saw my first dead body, a lady who just weeks before had celebrated her 100th birthday. She looked so peaceful and had just passed peacefully away in her sleep. I'm sure it's how we all hope we will go. I got a good reference from there which along with my Red Cross qualifications and experience earned me a place at Bury St Edmunds Hospital to start my SRN training in October 1979.


Why Nursing?

This is a very moving poem which I have remembered from my Nursing Days, it brings back memories of my time working in the Old Peoples Home and on the geriatric wards caring for elderly people with their years of experience and their own memories. It shows how important it is to see the real person and not just a tiresome and possibly irritating patient. They are someone's wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother, parent and grandparent.

A Nurses Response poem follows on my Nursing Years page and says it all, Any Nurse will empathise with the sentiments in that poem


"Crabbit Old Woman"

What do you see, what do you see?
Are you thinking, when you look at me-
A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice,
I do wish you'd try.
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who, unresisting or not; lets you do as you will
With bathing and feeding the long day is fill.
Is that what you're thinking,
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes,
nurse, you're looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still!
As I rise at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of 10 with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who loved one another-
A young girl of 16 with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet,
A bride soon at 20- my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure happy home;
A woman of 30, my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last;
At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man's beside me to see I don't mourn;
At 50 once more babies play around my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread,
For my young are all rearing young of their own.
And I think of the years and the love that I've known;
I'm an old woman now and nature is cruel-
Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body is crumbled, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart,
But inside this old carcass, a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells,
I remember the joy, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living life over again.
I think of the years all too few- gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last-
So open your eyes, nurse, open and see,
Not a crabbit old woman, look closer-
See Me.

By: Phyilis McCormack

©Jenny Harrod 2009