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Nurse Bel meets Six Cees Steve

June 3, 2014

Stacie thrives on being in charge. “You’re working with a bank nurse this morning!” she says brightly. “The lovely Steve. From cardiology”.
Scanning the duty rota in the vain hope that Stacie might have overlooked the presence of one of the ward’s own staff, it’s an enthusiasm Bel doesn’t share. “Should I have a clue who you’re talking about?” she asks.
“Oh Bel! You know Steve!” says Stacie. “Six Cees Steve! The Caremakers co-ordinator!”
Bel looks up. “Six Cees Steve?” she says. “What does he do? Play the Caremakers song on a one-string guitar made out of old oil cans? Oh no – that’s Sea Sick Steve”.
Stacie shakes her head. “Go on!” she says. “He’s waiting to take handover”.

The smell of aftershave pervades the small office. Linda, the night nurse, puts the finishing touches to her documentation while Magda, the more senior of the two support workers, announces that ahead of this afternoon’s Infection Control audit, she has been instructed to devote the entire morning to extra cleaning chores. “But come and find me if you need me!”. Bel stares at the tip of Steve’s highly polished shoe.
Linda scribbles her signature then reaches for the first set of notes. “Michael Jones…” she begins “…fifty-six, history of alcohol…”
“Mick Jones?” interrupts Bel. “Is he back again? What’s he come in with this time?”
“Stroke. He’s OK though – it’s just his speech. He’s got dysphasia, but he’s up and about”.
“Are they sure it’s a stroke?” says Bel. “I mean…incoherence is a way of life with him. Was he not just more-than-usually pissed?”
“You’d have to wonder wouldn’t you, but no, scan’s showing a definite infarct, so…”
Steve, silent so far, is breathing hard; a muscle starts to work in the side of his face. “Has he been referred to Alcohol Advisory Service?” he asks.
Bel sighs. “I should think he must have them on speed-dial by now” she says.
“Trouble is” says Linda “Bargain Booze is right below them on his list…” Bel stifles a laugh.
Steve puts down his pen “Actually Bel, that’s not funny” he says. “Using patients as the butt of jokes is completely unacceptable as you should know. What you say about them when they can’t hear you, that’s what betrays your whole culture, and your attitude…your uncompassionate attitude is…well, it’s very concerning. I have to say I’m getting a lot of negative energy from you Bel. I think you’ve got issues, and you need to deal with them before they poison your entire life”. He looks straight at her. “I can recommend a counsellor if you want”. The nurses fidget, or find some unaccountably interesting information printed on their handover sheets. It’s only when the phone rings that Bel realises she had completely forgotten the existence of a world outside the office. Linda answers, then dangles the receiver towards Steve. “For you”.

Steve swallows hard. Half turning away, he speaks briefly, but with surprising vehemence. “You know I want him back. He needs me…Because you don’t know how to look after him, that’s why…You swear in front of him! What d’you think that’s doing to him?…Right, right, I’ll see you there. And he’d better be OK”.

Early afternoon. After a trip outside for a smoke, Mick’s daughter brings him back to the ward. Bel always lets Michelle visit outside normal hours because she’s a single parent with no one to care for her son in the evenings. “How’s things?” she asks.
Michelle leans on the nurses station. “Oh I dunno” she says. “It seems to go from bad to worse. I know I shouldn’t say this, but I feel so angry with my dad. Ryan’s at that age now…he’s getting really into his football, and I just wish my dad could go with him to matches sometimes…have that time with him…take the pressure off me a bit as well I suppose, but it’s never gonna happen is it?”
“It could, you know – if he sees sense and stops drinking. It must hurt that spending time with Ryan isn’t enough of an incentive to do that?”
“Well that’s just it!…I mean what he’s saying is, he loves his booze more than he loves his own grandson!. He’s such a stupid twat! He’s the stupidest twat I’ve ever met…but at the end of the day, he’s still my dad, so what can I do?”
“D’you want a cup of tea?” says Bel. Michelle doesn’t answer. Turning to look at her, Bel sees she has been distracted by Steve, who has just walked past with a large cardboard box in his arms. “Does he work here?” she asks.
“He does today. He’s doing a bank shift. Why? D’you know him?”
“No” says Michelle.”He was in was in the car park when I was downstairs with dad. He was having a right old set-to with another nurse….really going at it, they were. And then she gave him that box”.
Bel would like to probe further, but before she can do so, Stacie appears.
“Now…” says Stacie. “Is this area all ready for the Infection Control audit? Everything nice and sparkly?”
“As the Strictly final” says Bel sourly “and so it ought to be, the time Magda’s spent cleaning it”.
Stacie tuts. “Oh Bel! If we pass, it’ll all be worth it! How’ve you been getting on with Steve anyway?”
Bel decides not to mention the outburst from morning handover. “He’s OK” she says. “He’s been getting some funny phone calls though. Has he broken up with his girlfriend or something?”
Infection Control is suddenly forgotten. “Yes!” squeals Stacie. “Didn’t you hear? He was living with Sheryl from Melmotte ward, but they split up”.
“Sheryl? Big Shez? Big gobby Shez? She’d eat him for breakfast! What was it, opposites attract?”
“Well I have heard” says Stacie sotto voce “that it was mostly sex. She’s spreading some evil rumours about him now it’s over. Really nasty. Didn’t you see what she put on Facebook?”

The Infection Control audit is in full swing when Bel realises Mick Jones is missing. He’s not by his bed, he’s not in the toilet, he’s not in the office or the bay next door or in any of the side rooms. Bel asks Steve when he last saw him, but Steve, eyeing the Infection Control team as they slowly make their way down the corridor, opening cupboards as they go and running their fingers over pumps and drip stands to check for dust, seems distinctly edgy. “I don’t know. I can’t…really say” he says, mussing his gelled hair with his fingers. Bel wonders if it makes his hand feel sticky.
“Well what time did you give him his Pabrinex?” she says. “He must have been here then”.
“I don’t know…Um…half past two, it might have been? Look, can you excuse me a minute”.
Led by Stacie, the Infection Control team completely blocks the corridor. They have ground to a halt, discussing the finer points of an alco-gel dispenser, it looks like. Stuck behind them, Steve’s polite pleas to be let through remain unheard. The group starts to move again. The next room they come to is a large poorly-heated bathroom, mostly used for storage. Bel sees them turn raggedly towards the door, then move back slightly as Stacie opens it. Steve seems to have vanished.

“So how do you think I felt” says Stacie “when I opened the door and there was a budgie in there? In a filthy old cage? And he was telling Mick Jones ‘mine’s a pint’?”
“Yeah, I know – but it turned out OK in the end didn’t it?” says Bel. “When I explained how bringing Buzzer to the ward was all part of Steve’s compassionate master plan to get Mick’s speech back on track through engagement with an un-threatening non-judgemental domestic companion bird? I admit some of the phrases Shez had taught him to say were a bit unfortunate under the circumstances, but she only did it to wind Steve up. He really loves that bird. He was desperate to get him back”.
Just then, Steve himself flops down in a vacant chair. He contemplates his perfectly manicured nails for a moment, then takes a deep breath: “I just wanted to say thanks Bel, for getting me out of a hole this afternoon. You showed a lot of compassion there, and I’m all about compassion. It’s what I do.”
“I was lying through my teeth” thinks Bel “and you know it”.
Steve continues “You know, you could be a really good nurse if you stopped hiding behind all that cynical stuff and showed your real self. Why don’t you come along to a Caremakers meeting? We’re looking to engage with older nurses as a way of improving our credibility going forwards. We’d really welcome your input”.
“Thanks a bunch!” thinks Bel. Out loud, she laughs it off: “Nah Steve, you’re all right, thanks all the same. Cynicism  is my real self. It’s how I cope with all this absurdity…although, to be honest, I think the modern NHS wishes that subversives like me would just…do one. We’re not corporate enough. We’re too off message for the way things are these days”.
Steve says nothing. Buzzer meanwhile, out of hiding now, lovingly cleaned up and placed on a shelf in the office, rouses himself and surveys his new surroundings. “Caremakers?” he says suddenly. “Load of rubbish!”
Steve shrugs. “Well there you go” he says. “Obviously it’s a work in progress”.

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From → Nurse Bel

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