Sometime in 2010
My pulse quickened as my mother in Law, Julie, drove us closer and I could start to see the outlines of the impressive house we were about to take a tour round. A tour that would inevitably set me on a path that would change my life! A simple tour that would fill my heart with so much determination and passion each time I thought about this building and the people in it I would simply never take no for an answer, and I wouldn’t stop until I was satisfied I would be returning to the same address one day wearing a uniform or better still, dressed as a clown.
As we were shown around the big house, I knew something special was happening to me. It felt like I was meant to be here, walking round inside these walls, like all the moments of my life had brought me to this point. Sounds peculiar, and a bit like I might be inhaling marijuana fumes – but that’s how it felt.
My mother-in-law and I had just taken a tour around Julia’s House hospice for children, situated in Dorset. She had asked if I would like to accompany her a few weeks earlier, as she knew I was on a path for working with children in a nursing role. I of course jumped at the chance, and after the tour had finished I did something all excited teenage boys do – I went straight home and phoned my mum.
“Mum, something has happened to me. I’ve had another moment. One day I will work at Julia’s house. I have to, it makes sense. It was like I was being called there, I have never seen anything before quite like it, I have to work there. And I will.”
Steve turned the handle to the door at the front end of the warehouse. It was directly opposite the entrance people came to to drop off large donations to the shop, like sofas and beds.
“This is it mate. Will need to have a sort through just to get things in order for Sue.” He explained. The room was full of toys and fun equipment that was obviously used for entertaining young children, or people like me. After I asked why this was all here Steve answered with words that have changed my life. The words he spoke surged through me like electricity.
“These are the toys used by Sue Keenan who works as a playmaker at Julia’s house. When a child is in the last moments of their life, she will be called upon to come in and make it a more pleasant time for the children. She will make them laugh, district them, that kind of thing. She’ll use all these toys and boxes of tricks to help put a smile on their faces, as they’re often in a lot of pain at this stage. So any donation we receive that would be suitable for her to use are kept in here. Sue is an amazing woman.”
Standing in that warehouse, on the threshold to this small little room, a decision was made for me. I knew there and then that nothing would stop me from fulfilling my ambition, no, my dream of becoming a playmaker, or something very similar. I want this more than anything.
If you treat the illness you win and you lose. But if you treat the patient – you’re guaranteed to win EVERY time
I have lived by these words my entire adult life. When I fulfil my purpose to do this job, I will win every time. Many people have said to me in the past “Oh I just could’t do it! It would be too sad..” And my response is always the same “But I wouldn’t be trained or working to treat their illness. The children I would be caring for are terminal – they are not treated, just made comfortable. That means I would actually get paid for putting the person first. I’m guaranteed to win. Children will die every day around the world, whether you do the job or not”
Of course, I am not saying it would be all sunshine and roses and I would find it an easy job. Please don’t think I am that naive. I have been in a lot of trouble of the years for treating the patient as well as the illness, because I can’t help but want to put the person first. “By their name, not by their bed number” a quote that has got me in trouble once or twice with ward sisters over the years. Or ward witches, as I cleverly dubbed them. How amazing would it be to finally be commended and not berated for putting the patient first. In a palliative setting – to put the patient first – that’s all there is!
Nothing will stop me getting to this job. Not a brain injury, not any symptoms I have associated with it and certainly not anything man made or human. I will die trying to get to it because I know that without this element in my life it has been proven that I cannot survive. I feel this is a definite calling for me. I could not do anything else, it’s just as simple as that.
I have only ever had a few “lightbulb” moments like this in my life that I knew were “path choosers“. The first was in the job centre when I told the lady I wanted to do something to make a difference and she had suggested nursing. The second was when I met a child of a friend who has Cerebral Palsy and we made eye contact, this set me on the difficult road to getting in to uni to study child nursing. A road very different to the one I was travelling down before I entered that job centre. Think I would be dead or more likely in prison if my mum hadn’t of made me stop off there on my way back from being sacked from my now old job.
A few months go by after the warehouse incident at a Julia’s house donation shop in Creekmoor. I’m at home when I receive the phone call. I nearly drop my hemp protein shake as it made me jump. It was an unknown number, so I was getting ready to tell someone who wanted me to claim back for PPI for the third time this week to piss off. So I answer my iPhone and here is the following dialogue to the conversation that ensued:
“Hi Mikey. I have been given your number because I have been told you would be extremely interested in working with the children here at Julia’s house. We have quite a few dates coming up that I can offer you, if you don’t mind?”
“This is amazing. It’s only taken me nearly four years, but to be speaking with you and arranging this is such a great privilege for me. I’ll say 14th December for now, and I’ll come back with some more dates when I’ve checked my calendar with the boss.”
I think Steve and the guys at the shop had been so taken aback by how obsessed I had become by the idea of becoming a playmaker, that this phone call was always going to happen. Everyone at the Julia’s house HQ and Creekmoor shop know how much I want this! Steve even spoke to Sue Keenan and gave me her contact details as she was so keen to meet me after she had heard of my constant quizzing of the staff at the shop over the details her job!
I feel blessed to be where I am. I am so grateful every day to be surrounded with such a supportive wife, supportive family, an amazing medical and exceptional rehab team that have been working with me since I was in my demented post brain injury state and of course: Reese. To be able to achieve my dreams is only possible because of these people. I couldn’t do this on my own, it’s just not possible. You have to be blessed with a great team. If you’re not, you’re chances of achieving what you want will be so much harder.
All I know is it’s been a roller coaster, one heck of a roller coaster. But I’m now ready to pick up where I left off, three years later. So maybe it is with a different personality, lots of symptoms, behavioural and social issues and ongoing complications. But all that will never change the fact that when my daughter asks me what I do for a job, I will be able to answer with “I am living my dream job.”
I won’t be able to say I’m a famous singer. I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a multimillionaire playboy investor who makes regular appearances on Loose Women. But I’ll be able to say this:
“Daddy looks after children that are unwell. They won’t ever get better, but you know what Reese? Sometimes making people/children smile is enough, even if it’s just for a minute or two.”
That’s MY Britain’s got talent moment!