Showing posts from May, 2014

Blurb from Bohemia

Leaving home at 6am yesterday on a Bank Holiday Monday, I flew to Prague for the 30th International Confederation of Midwives Congress - a momentous occasion when over 3000 midwives from across the world will gather together.  I am here early as our twinned midwives from Cambodia and Uganda will attending the pre-congress ICM council so I will be supporting and spending time with them as well as preparing for my presentations, workshops and our exhibition stand.  Our Nepalese twins will arrive in a few days' time.

I nearly missed my connecting flight in Vienna - we had almost touched down when we took off again at alarming speed. The captain later told us there had been a car on the runway!  The time it took to ascend, circle and land again gave me just 20 minutes between flights and I had to run from one end of the airport to the other.  Amazingly my suitcase and me both made it!

As I arrived in daylight and had no immediate deadlines I braved the pu…

How I met the love of my life!

The short version
He fancied my friend, she fancied someone else so palmed him off on me.  Met by letter from Africa to Cambodia, blind date, love at first date though not at first sight.  Long distance relationship for over a year, got married when we hardly knew each other, adopted a baby 3 years later, 18th anniversary approaching. Still best friends.

The long version
In late 1994 I was approaching the half-way point of a two year stint as a volunteer in Cambodia, running the health component of a community development programme in rural Prey Veng province.  Far away in Africa there was a huge refugee crisis after the Rwandan war and Emma, another midwife who had been my lodger in Nottingham (and about whom I wrote in my previous blog) volunteered to go to Goma in Zaire (now The Democratic Republic of Congo), on a CORD/Tearfund relief team.  Emma had already lived in Africa for a year so was a perfect candidate.  Emma and I wrote letters to each other - in neither situation did we h…

A spiritual bit

I am aware that I have readers of many faiths and none and try to make the blog accessible to all. However, there is an important spiritual addendum to the story of my year in Iraq that completes the picture.  Feel free to ignore this bit if it doesn't float your boat!

My faith is a quiet one.  I certainly don't experience God speaking to me every day.  There have, however, been some notable exceptions where some words in the Bible have seemed to be directed straight at me in my particular circumstances.

The first time this happened I was in Thailand working with Cambodian refugees.  In my mind I had a firm career plan: I would stay just one year in Thailand (I had thought about this very much in terms of a late gap year) then return to the UK and take up the place I had been offered to study children's nursing in Edinburgh. Three months into my 'Gap Year' I began to see my plans as self-centred, realising that until then my world view had been so small.  I was on…

A year in Iraq after the Gulf War

I have recently been reflecting on my experiences of trauma and how these have shaped my life.  I am hugely grateful for the relative stability of my current life whilst recognising the inevitable long-term impact that trauma can have.

In April 1991, aged 24, I had returned home from two years working with mothers and children in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand and had just completed a course at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.  I had secured a place to study midwifery and was looking forward to a few months off to recharge my batteries and reconnect with friends and family.  I went away to 'Spring Harvest' (a Christian conference held at Butlins) and, whilst watching TV in our freezing cold Butlins' chalet I was confronted with heart-breaking images of Kurdish refugees literally freezing to death on the mountains in Iraq, casualties from the recent Gulf War but also from years of ethnic cleansing by Saddam Hussein's regime.  At that time I felt emotio…

Episode 6: Staff Nurse Cooke!

I qualified slightly later than the rest of my set thanks to 5 weeks off with chicken pox during my training. However, I was proud to pass my finals at the first attempt and to win the Peel Prize for academic achievement (John Peel was the Queen's Gynaecologist and there is a memorial plaque dedicated to him in the Kings College Hospital chapel). We had a presentation ceremony at Normanby College (Kings' nursing school) where I received my hospital badge and silver buckle and I started working as a Staff Nurse on Ruskin Ward (Male Surgery) at Dulwich Hospital in September 1987.

I felt I had found my true vocation.  I just loved being a nurse and was so fortunate to work with Sister Ferguson ('Fergie') who had a quiet, empowering leadership style.  Some criticised her back-seat approach; she let her staff nurses run the ward whilst she took her own patients and worked alongside students.  However, I learned to manage a ward and a mix of staff under her gentle supervisi…