Back at Brize

It’s strange to be back at Brize. Last time I was flying into the unknown; this time I know what to expect and it’s a mixture of pure excitement and sadness.

I said goodbye to Lily today. Yes I properly said goodbye. I know it sounds like I am being over dramatic. I’m really not. Just prepared. 7 weeks is a long time in a dog’s lifetime and she’s not as steady as she used to be. She’s very happy and she’s always wagging her tail and she is reasonably fit for her age but she’s old and she’s smelly (she’s not that smelly that’s just what we say). She is pretty amazing really for her age, she’s 15 in May and really doesn’t look it.

Lily can also tell the time. She is constantly telling us what time it is; ‘Treat Time’.

But, I have noticed she’s getting very thin now and she coughs quite a bit. I think she probably has something going on in her lungs. Pete says she will be fine and of course I really hope she is, but I have a feeling. I really hope he proves me wrong.

I do feel sad but the one thing that I am holding on to is that we thought she was going to leave us when she had cancer in November 2018 and she’s still here so I am so very thankful for the extra time we have had with her. She has been an absolutely wonderful dog; the best. She looks into my soul! She also gets the most mentions in the Air BnB reviews!

So back to Back at Brize. I love co-incidences they life seems to throw. I seem to have had a few lately. Maybe I just look for the links. Pete and I were finishing our meal in a small pub near to Brize Norton when my landlord in the Falklands passed our table. Ok so it’s fair to say that there is a chance that other people would be eating on the way to the airport, but totally unexpected. The last one was when I was in Johannesburg at the luggage reclaim when a lady came up to me and asked me if I had been to the Falklands before. She recognised me! Now that I thought was a major co-incidence. I have a friend who I have had a few co-incidences. One of them was when was in a table having breakfast and I was chatting to the persons ex-girlfriend for 30 years before. She didn’t live in the area any more, it was in a hotel out in the middle of nowhere and I was actually seeing him that day. I love co-incidence.

So I do have a very exciting time ahead over the next 7 weeks. I’m going back to the scene of the crime. My ankle is much better despite it hurting a great deal today. I think the diving we did over Christmas really helped. This time it’s summer and I’m determined to keep my feet safely on the ground and I am really quite excited to see what the Falklands has to offer.

I have a brand new camera (my camera got taken on the way home from the Falklands last time) and I have my watercolour paints. So I am planning some creative downtime. I am going to spend the time learning how to use my camera, take some pictures of the wonderful wildlife and then paint them. That’s if I get time away from the laptop 👩‍💻

There is also a brand new cinema next to my little house so I can’t wait to go to the movies.

The flight seems to be full tonight, there are so many more people here than there were last year. I have got seat 1A, so I’m feeling lucky.

We’re flying at midnight, first stop Cape Verde!

Why don’t you come on over Valerie

I was due to fly home today but we had some unexpected work which means that I need to stay for another week. The first two weeks have flown by. I think mainly because we have been working from 8am to 10pm most days. Thankfully by putting in those extra hours meant that we were leaving closer to 6pm by the middle of this week.

I have been so busy and tired that I’ve not been able to keep up with my blog. I am hoping to get out and about a little more this weekend to see some of the island and be able to describe a little more about what life is like here on St Helena. It’s a wonderful place here and despite being tired it’s been a fantastic experience.

Damian has left this morning, he will be arriving back into the UK on Monday. We had a great night last night and were both feeling a little ‘delicate’ this morning. I am delighted to say that I got to sing with the band and what a fantastic band they are. I sang at a place called the Mule Yard and it is exactly that, it’s down by the harbour and at one time or another was the yard where donkeys lived. It’s now a ‘venue’ that is popular on Friday evenings by the locals and contractors alike. You can pick up a pizza at a small pizza cabin called Get Carters. I met a whole crowd of really lovely people and I can absolutely see the attraction of living and working on St Helena. Everyone is so welcoming here.

The Mule Yard has a covered dance area with a bar and a stage, a portacabin which is fondly nicknamed the band room. You know why when you open the door. It’s full to the brim with instruments, PA speakers, cables, mic stands. Everything you need for a brilliant gig! It’s a musicians dream.

So with a full to the brim band room, wonderful venue, fantastic band and a waiting audience, all you need is a great singer who can remember her lyrics! OOops! Ok so in my defence I haven’t gigged regularly for at least a year and it takes practice to remember lyrics. Unfortunately my lyric app was not working properly (actually this morning discovered that it was probably the wine and ‘Shipwrecks’ that I was drinking that was the purpose of the ‘app not working properly’ and the app was actually working fine). Although I ‘think’ I got away with my rendition of Valerie, I sang the same verse three times on Freefallin, Rolling in the Deep and Sweet Home Alabama! Doh!!Thankfully I sang the right verse in the right song – that was at least a bonus! Anyway the band were absolutely amazing, we’re extremely forgiving and I absolutely loved every second of it up there. So that’s what counts right? Maybe I will get a chance to redeem myself before I get home.

Now I’m all alone – everyone has left me. I can hear those tiny violins playing.

We have spent the week having breakfast with Vince and Fu-Yuan from Michigan and their travelling companion KT from Texas. What a wonderful bunch of people they are and I am going to miss them all very much. Each morning at breakfast, we would discuss the differences between living in the UK and the US, UK and US politics, movies we had seen and enjoyed, books we had read. Vince has an Italian heritage and was fascinated with Napoleon and his life on the island. We would hear about their daily travels and Damian was giving Vince and KT lessons in the rules and regulations of cricket and Rugby. To the extent that one morning Damian demonstrated the construction of a scrum! Fascinating stuff – I didn’t realise the ‘scrum’ had a specific format and was so technical!

So it’s been a really good couple of weeks, although still quite a lot still to do, we are in a good place. Im looking forward to discovering what this week will bring.

Jacob’s Ladder

I shuddered when I first saw Jacob’s ladder. You can’t miss it really. As you look out from town to the sea it dominates the left hand bank of rock.

Jacob’s ladder is a construction of 699 steps which starts from the bottom of the town and leads up to Ladder Hill Fort. The staircase itself was built in 1829 and is all that remains of a cable railway. I think they lost a step along the way.

‘Designed by the local engineer J. W. Hoar, the Saint Helena Railway Company built a two-car inclined plane, 924 feet (281.6 m)-long, in 1829 to carry cargo between Jamestown and the fort. The cars rode on a pair of iron-plated fir rails, laid on wooden sleepers anchored into the rock of the valley wall, that were separated by a staircase of 700 steps for pedestrians.’ (Wikipedia)

The rails and cars were removed in 1871 due to termite damage but the steps were left and have since become a tourist attraction.

It looks unbelievably steep (between 39 & 41 degrees) and my first thoughts were how much of you would break if you slipped on one of those steps. All of you.. was the answer ended up with!

Lights were installed along the sides of the stairs in 2000 and the steps were refurbished in 2006. The staircase has also been given Grade 1 listed status.

I fear that Jacob’s Ladder is one of those phenomena that draws you in. My first thoughts were that there is no way I am going up there. No way at all. Then I saw it at night and it looks absolutely beautiful. A string of fairy lights running down the side of the rock. My attitude then turned to, oh I wish I could climb the steps but I know I definitely can’t. I saw it again last night and I must be warming to the idea. I actually said to Damian, I wonder if I could hold on to the railing and go up and down sideways. The thing is I heard that you get a certificate if you complete it. I have a thing for certificates! 😂

Our landlord Colin has lived on the island forever and he said that when he was a child, the school was at the top of the ladder so each day the school children would run up and down the ladder with ease. There was a fisherman that used the ladder twice daily he had one of those milkmaid type affairs where two buckets would be attached to a wooden brace full of fish that he wore across his shoulders. He would use a swinging technique with his legs to navigate the steps without having to hold on to the side railing.

Also, Colin was telling me that a lot of his old friends including his wife, Marlene would slide down the railing when they were much younger. This is where you have your hands on one rail and your legs on the other. It’s unbelievably steep and I cannot imagine how difficult that would be to do, but I guess there’s no fear in the young.

Colin said he had never attempted it but he was taking a group of tourists around the island a few years and one of his friends offered to try ‘the slide’ to see if he could still do it. Colin said he would have loved to have seen it again but he said that all he could imagine was a pile of broken bones at the bottom of the steps.

I asked how often people fell and surprisingly it’s very rarely. There was someone recently who had been drinking and fell some of the way down. Thank goodness they were ok, although they did end up in hospital with a few cuts and bruises!

There is an annual Festival of Running and this took place on the 7th November, the day we flew to and arrived in South Africa. Oh what a terrible shame I could have tried the Jacobs Ladder challenge 😂. The current record stands at 5 minutes 16 seconds!

So it’s yet to be seen whether I end up trying to navigate Jacob’s ladder or not. I still have another 12 days or so to make up my mind.

I won’t be breaking any records though or bones!

End of the runway!

When you come into land at St Helena airport, the end of the runway stops suddenly and drops into the sea. Yep just right there in front of you – one second runway next second sea – runway – sea. Sea – runway! Well that’s what it looks like from inside the plane as the captain turns after touchdown.

In fact, Damian was explaining the landing to me as we were landing and I am quite relieved he did that at the time because it is quite an interesting concept and not one I would liked to have thought about too much beforehand.

Essentially as the plane is finishing its descent you fly past the island with the island on the left hand side. The captain does a u-turn to commence the final approach. You start to see the island quite quickly and you fly closely to the mountainous rocks. You actually fly in between two large rocks called King and Queens rocks as you land.

Because the runway is built on high land, it’s quite a strange sensation to see the sea so far below you, and then to suddenly land. You really don’t expect to land so soon. Then as the plane comes to a slower speed towards the end of the runway you notice the big drop!!

Since arriving I have been asked quite a few times ‘how was the landing?’ ‘Did you land on the first go?’

The airport has been opened for two years now and it’s still the most popular question on arrival. I had a thought that if the locals are asking whether you landed on the first attempt, I wonder how many flights have multiple attempts at landing. That’s good to know too just in case I come back in the future. Having been on a plane where there were two aborted landings is very scary but not so scary if you know it’s the normal here. I do know that the flights are often cancelled and on one occasion the plane had to return to Johannesburg because it couldn’t land.

So after a two-day journey and a short stop in Namibia for refuelling, we arrive at St. Helena island. My first impressions were good ones. The airport was bright and the team welcoming the passengers were extremely friendly. We had a short wait in immigration and then for our bags to be removed from the plane.

One thing I did notice as we were landing was that there was a viewing area in the airport that was packed with people watching the plane land. Because the airport is so new and some people hadn’t seen planes before and because it’s so new to the island, it’s become a bit of a past-time to watch the weekly planes come in. I do wonder if it is the multiple attempts or the challenging landings that attract the islanders. For a very small airport there were lots of people watching the weekly arrival.

After going through customs, we met Brenda who had arranged our travel, picked up a couple of others who were due to start contacts at the hospital; a new doctor and a mental health practitioner and then we were off on the 20 minute drive into Jamestown.

As we drove away from the airport, the driver asked us if we wanted to watch the plane leave. We sat in the minibus on the side of the road, watching the plane take off for its final leg of the journey. The plane was taking a group of passengers to the Ascension Islands which is two hours away for a night stop before returning to St Helena the following day for the return journey to Namibia and then final stop Johannesburg.

The driver started the van and we were off, I don’t know why because thinking about it afterwards St Helena is not in the same part of the world but I expected the island to be quite like the Falklands. It’s not, it’s totally different!

Dive, Dive, Dive

So we had a great journey from London to Johannesburg yesterday. It wasn’t the most comfortable of flights because our seats were bang smack in the middle of a centre bank of four.

I watched the newly released film Yesterday and half of Solo from the Star Wars franchise. Yesterday is the film about a global electrical charge which results in the Beatles being wiped from everyone’s memories (well almost everyone). A struggling singer/songwriter takes this as an opportunity to boost his career. Imagine the whole world not knowing any of the Beatles songs. Imagine….. can you see what I did there? It was a really good concept and made for some really good twists and turns and was very funny in places. It was a British made film with a cast of quality actors and Ed Sheeren playing a cameo. He was pretty good too! The story was a little confusing toward the end but that could be because I was tired. I will certainly watch it again. On the whole a really enjoyable film.

I tried to get some sleep but it wasn’t easy and drifted in and out. I do long for the day when I can afford to fly business. There you go that is my mark in the sand right there. I will have ‘made it’ when I can afford to fly business 😂

We were about half an hour late on arrival and our hotel was a short walk away. I completely forgot about check in time which would be later in the afternoon and so Damo and I sat in the hotel reception trying to keep from sprawling out on the sofas and sleeping right there and then. We only had to wait for about 3 hours!

After a short shop in Woolworths (yes Woolies is alive and well in South Africa) and a snooze we met in the bar to finish some work and have some dinner!

We were standing in the check-in queue this morning when I spotted ‘Dive, Dive, Dive – Dive St Helena’ on the back of a chaps T-shirt. ‘OMG Damian can we go diving in St Helena?’ ‘No not really, you have to be Padi certified? ‘Have Padi? I am a Padi Rescue Diver’, I did point out to Damian shortly afterwards that I don’t really claim to be a rescue diver but i have passed it and it is an indication of the numerous Padi courses I have completed. So then Damo called Anthony the diving instructor over and we have made arrangements to get in touch when we are on island to see if we can fit some diving in. I did say that Pete may be just a little bit jealous!

I am now on a mission to get Damo into a wetsuit and out in the water on a try dive! I am certain he will love it. Anthony did say good luck with persuading him though.

So we are now waiting by gate A23 to see whether or not our flight will be leaving. Flights to St Helena are regularly delayed due to the inconsistent weather pattens and strong winds. I have heard that the landing can be quite an exciting experience. Not sure I’m too enamoured by that thought but there’s no turning back now! Damo also thinks he is a jinx in that every time he has traveled to St Helena, he has had considerable delays – once by a week!

If Damo is a jinx, I will stop encouraging him to come diving!

Take the National Express when your life’s in a mess!

Well my life’s not exactly a mess. I’m having a really nice time of it at the moment; but that song by The Divine Comedy has been rolling around in my head all morning.

The reason? Well that’s because it’s actually one of those annoying songs where I can’t quite work out whether I like it or not….

Oh the reason…. that’s because I’m sitting aboard a coach on the way to Heathrow Airport. I’ve got my colleague Damian by my side and I’m very happy to be back in the saddle that is work and back to commuting by aeroplane.

We are on our way to a small island 5,000 miles away in the Atlantic called St Helena. It’s going to be a marathon journey: we leave Heathrow this evening and fly to Johannesburg where we arrive first thing in the morning: We then have a day layover and then a 6 hour flight on Saturday morning. Damian’s a cool chap having been to St Helena before and has already found out where the bands are playing on Saturday night so I’m pretty excited. I will be making sure that I look after my ankles! Look what happened the last time I went to see a live band.

So what are we doing in St Helena? Well we are finishing a clinical system deployment in the hospital there and ensuring that all of the nurses and doctors who need to use the system are skilled appropriately. Now that I’m a Director (that means I’m a very important person you know 😂) I’m sure that there will be some engagement meetings and such like.

I have to say that the PatientSource team have been extremely supportive during the recovery period after breaking my leg. I have found a really good bunch of chaps and I’m absolutely delighted to be working with them. It’s a really fantastic feeling to have finally found my feet and to be so happy in my job.

It would also seem that my blogs have taken a natural re-birth. I was absolutely gob-smacked with the response I got from my Falklands blogs. Why on earth would anyone be interested in the ramblings of a project manager but it appears that my adventures were of some interest and I have had a few requests to start again, so let’s see how this goes! It’s actually a really good way to keep a diary.

Ohhh I spy a plane and we have just turned off from the M25 so I guess we are going to need to start getting ready to move soon….

On the National Express there’s a jolly hostess
Selling crisps and tea
She’ll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks
For a sky-high fee
Mini-skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle
Back in ’63 (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
But it’s hard to get by when your arse is the size
Of a small country
And everybody sings ‘ba ba ba da’
We’re going where the air is free
Tomorrow belongs to me

Take the National Express……

Now it’s in your head too ❤️

Come fly with me… and my entourage!

So the only chance I get to be a VIP and there’s no Business Class 😭. C’est la vie!! But I do have my own entourage.

It started when I arrived at Mount Pleasant Airport MPA. So I was very nervous. I hate my crutches and have avoided using them. I know that’s not particularly helpful especially as they are going to be my only mode of transport in the coming weeks and I should have spent more time practising with them. Unfortunately I slipped using them on Saturday night and I have lost my confidence. Just presenting the facts! I’d fallen off a step and broken my ankle so what damage could I do to myself with out-of-control crutches.

I had a number of worries. As I left the hospital the first snow flurries of winter had made their appearance. I had no idea how easy it was to control a wheelchair in the snow and so would the driver of my wheelchair slip and I go rolling off down the pavement and off the curb? It’s definitely possible to slip without the addition of snow. I fell off a step after all! Then there was the rest of the journey to navigate. How will I get to the aircraft? Will they let me get the high lift? How will I get to my seat? Will I be able to get to the toilet? Rather than ask questions, I internalised them. I imagine that the outside I probably came across as being relatively ok, but on the inside I was really anxious. I so wish I hadn’t been taught risk assessment during my recent project management course!

When we arrived at the base, I was taken to a nondescript military building. Outside was what looked like an old fashioned army truck with a large Red Cross in the side. It reminded me of the type of unit you see in a disaster movie. You know the type, when you the military come out in chemical warfare gear and start putting up cordons and isolating towns. My imagination taking over again and I promise I wasn’t on anything more than paracetamol. Please remember that when I also describe the experience on the plane later on!

I met the medical team and they took me into a room to assess my current situation. Took observations (blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse) a whole list of questions about current medical history, previous medical history, shoe size, favourite band. They told me about the regular injections which I knew I would be having during the flight but reminded me that I had something else to worry about – the feared DVT which would be a higher risk to me with a cast and being heavier than I should be.

We then sat in a waiting room which I assumed was the Primary Care Unit because every now and again a man or lady in uniform would appear from one of the doors and call a waiting person also wearing uniform. Thinking about it, I never actually saw anyone return from those rooms. Hmmmm….. I am sure I wasn’t there long enough.

In the short time that I had left the ambulance driver and returned from the assessment, it had started snowing heavily and the area outside the med centre was white. I was asked to put on my coat, given an emergency blanket which was green and much thicker than the silver type I remember from watching the London Marathon years ago. For some reason it reminded me of a large thick sheet of scotch tape or panel of insulation (I suppose it is) and wasn’t as comfortable as it looked but I guess it would do its job.

I was then introduced to my med team; Lee, Holly, Bobby, Sarah and Rachael. Lee was my nurse and dedicated carer for the duration of the trip. Ooooo I have my own entourage. Well I do have to share them with one other passenger but he is walking wounded: I have a wheelchair. I am far more important. Oh this was definitely starting to feel very VIP!

I was then wheeled through the snow to the other side of the road and along to the terminal. Ok so we got there – didn’t slide off the curb, blood pressure reducing slightly!

So the next hurdle was how they were going to get me into the terminal. The door to customs was too small and the usual wheelchair route was a long way and they wanted to avoid because of the snow. However, because it was me and my entourage (I’m liking this) they decided to avoid customs altogether and one of the uniforms was sent off to open a set of double doors. I waited there in anticipation. It was like standing behind the main curtain on stage and waiting for sound of the pulley to kick in.

The doors open and I’m pushed through to my audience which was the entire group of passengers waiting for their call. Of course everyone turned round. I don’t blame them, I would have done the same. I saw a sea of faces and al I could do was laugh and imagine hundreds of cameras and flashes. Well after all it was my entourage and I! No cameras but inquisitive faces. Some smiling, some nodding acknowledgement to my bad leg, some sympathy looks, some wondering I am sure why does she have her own entourage. Well that’s because I’m a very special lady today! VIP I’ll have you know. Can you see my leg? I did start saying ‘thank you, thank you’ quietly under my breath. I think some of them caught the irony and I thought it was a really funny.

So now everyone settled down and got back to their magazines, books and toddlers. As we sat in the terminal building, I noticed the snow was getting heavier and suddenly it was a white-out! Oh dear this wasn’t looking good at all.

Eventually we were called and taken to the front of the queue. Me and my….. yeh ok it’s getting a bit boring now isn’t it.

We were taken to a large yellow lorry towards the back of the plane and the back was opened and I was wheeled in. Thankfully I had worked out that this would be the lift that would take us up to the plane’s rear doors. Ok so this was ok and looking good. At one point I was told over the weekend that the RAF plane would not accept me if I couldn’t walk up the steps on crutches and I may have to be flown to Chile. There was no way the crutches were happening on stairs! Did they not realise that I was a danger to myself on one step? Let alone on stairs with crutches. Where’s the man with the clipboard for god sake? Don’t they know who I am? 😂. So very relieved to be on the lift. Blood pressure reduces slightly! I managed to use my crutches to get to my seat, blood pressure reducing even further now and I gave myself a little pat on the back. Maybe my confidence is coming back too.

We are getting ready for takeoff when the captain says he needs to de-ice the plane. So we sit on the tarmac for another hour while we wait for the snow to stop and the de-icing process to take place.

Right hour later ready, take off. All is good and then they most surreal experience happens. Please remember just paracetamol! Water starts to rush by the window and it’s really strange, really really strange. So strange, we are all making comments to each other. Clearly it’s the de-icer on the plane being blown from the front of the aircraft to the rear but it looks and feels like we are underwater. Really does, I expect to see a whale or a shark swim by at any point: It seems to go on for a while too. Almost too long, but eventually it stops and the ice starts to clear from the glass and the sun starts to poke through.

And that’s it really I have 10 hours to relax, my team are on hand to look after me, I am having regular observations taken. I had one earlier where my oxygen seemed a little low (normal on the ground). I have a blood thinning injection every 12 hours. I have to make a trip to the loo soon but once I’ve done that my blood pressure should be back to normal.

So if anyone has ever flown Medocac before then you will know what I have been through today. I guess though that you may have been upgrade to business class and perhaps had a bed. No such luck for me, this is the RAF! I did have the option of a stretcher though it would have required a jump so I declined. I do have 3 seats to myself though and 5 for my uniformed entourage. I forgot to mention the uniforms! Hahahah I am really milking this entourage thing can you tell. Please allow me this pleasure just this once – I have broken my ankle after all!

It’s quite entertaining. I already mentioned that I don’t like asking for help but I really don’t need to. I am holding myself back from giving any impression at all that I need anything because my dedicated nurse, Lee is amazing. He Jumps up at the slightest move of my head checks I am ok and asks what help I need. A couple of times I have had to say no it’s ok, I’m just stretching. I think he may be on appraisal but I don’t mind he is really looking after me well and I feel absolutely fine.

So I am going to settle back now. Next stop Cape (cape) Verde! 10 minutes to landing Cabin Crew!

p.s he was on appraisal!

It’s more than just care!

I woke at 3am this morning. As I woke, I remembered there were a few things I had forgotten to send over to Dr A. Dr A one of our directors and co-founder landed last night and was ‘rolling up his sleeves’ to help me with the ‘system go live’. His coming all this way wasn’t anything to do with my accident he was waiting at Brize when he heard about my fall. He was coming to provide support. I have to say, that type of attitude in a line manager and director fills me with absolute respect. That’s how I operate. We’re all in this together and I am so happy that I am working with a like-minded team. Nothing better than a team trying to solve problems. I thought about that earlier. It’s probably why I prefer collaborating with other songwriters rather than writing alone. Every song is a puzzle, a problem to be solved, a rhyme to be found, story to be told. Hahaha see what I did there, wow haha I promise that just came out. Some kind person may tell me that it’s someone else’s lyric- I’m above 30,000 ft and no access to Google! 🤣🤣🤣. (By the way ex-line managers reading this – you too – you know who you are!)

Sorry back to the story!

‘Look, Emma! There are easier ways to get out of the go live’ said Dr A as he strolled in exhausted from his 18 hour flight and I then. got a hug. He was lucky I didn’t burst into tears!

I was especially grateful because I was technically leaving Dr A to it. Poor Dr A! We had a couple of hours’ handover and I hope that the project is in a position that he will be able to slot in and take it live. Project managers out there who have to leave a project early, you will feel my pain!

So after I sent a couple of emails and ate breakfast, I started thinking about the process of getting out of bed and to the airport. I’m not very good at asking for help. It’s definitely not a control thing; just an independent thing. It’s a liking to get things done thing and a love solving problems thing. If there is a problem let’s find a way out of it. It’s like a computer game, it’s an escape room, it’s interesting and challenging and keeps me motivated. I was intrigued by and answered a ‘troubleshooter required’ job advert once and ended up working for them at weekends for over 10 years. I only wish ‘Troubleshooter’ had been my job title because before I saw that advert, the only other official ‘Troubleshooter’ I could think of at the time was Red Adair when he went to resolve the Piper Alpha disaster.

It’s been really uncomfortable asking for help because my god I have had some real life problems. Can’t reach my charger, ‘so sorry can you grab my charger for me please’. Table too far away when I went to the loo and forgot to position it back ‘so sorry can you move my table back please’. Need the loo – again – ‘So sorry can you please take me to the bathroom’. My leg not positioned properly. ‘So sorry can you move my leg’, ‘So sorry can you please help me lift up my bed’, ‘so sorry can you…..’ ‘so sorry can you…..’ I did try to save things up but sometimes when you gotta go, you gotta go!

I really can’t wait to get home and see how long my normally very patient husband Pete copes for before he is begging me to get back to the Falklands ❤️

Oh the other problem is that you have to press the buzzer too and I paused slightly before each time I pressed it; what if somebody had real problems and really need help.

Oh reminds me, I must get a bell! 🤣🤣🤣

The nurses were wonderful they went above and beyond their duty. I’ve never slept overnight in hospital before and I didn’t realise how vulnerable you can feel. I’m very independent but I was really scared on a few occasions. Actually a lot of the time. Ok I admit it, I thought that I was going to die during the manipulation process and not wake from the sedation. It’s ridiculous when you think about it but that’s how it gets you when you aren’t firing on all cylinders and you are 8,000 miles away from your husband and your mum. However, the nurses and assistants made me feel safe, they stopped me from falling, helped me wash, went home for me and got my things for me, went home, took my washing out of my washing machine, took some washing to their own home to ensure I had clean clothes to wear home. They didn’t have to do any of that. Having experienced it, I really know what it’s like to be at the receiving end of care and to see first hand what nurses really have to do.

I’ve have always held a great deal of respect for my clinical colleagues. I advocate making a difference and most people who know me well get that part of me. But I have only ever been in hospital for eyes, broken fingers or as an outpatient. I’ve never had an ‘episode of care’ as an inpatient. It’s not completely changed the way I think because I have always tried to put clinicians first but I have had situations where the dreaded ‘workaround’ has had to be used. Had no choice and I promise I have felt terrible every single time I have used the words, ‘yes we can do that, but it’s a small workaround’. The ‘workaround’ is code for the system can’t do what you need it to do so you have to change the way you do something whether you want to or not and do it like this. So ‘small’, ‘large’ or whatever size workaround I am describing to the clinician means that we will be making the clinician change their practice to suit the system. With the technology we have available to us, why are we still using ‘workarounds’?

I spent a lot of time speaking to the nurses about systems and how they use them, where they have worked and which systems they have used before. I was being wheeled to theatre and talking to the surgeons about how they managed their processes and wished I had had my laptop to make notes. The consensus was that there are some great systems out there but they are not always designed or set up in the way they they are needed to be. It’s true! Depending upon your project team or consultants will depend what you get!

So I am even more determined to ensure that if I manage to go back to the Falklands or anywhere else for that matter the clinician needs are met first. I owe them! That is easy to say and sometimes there are constraints but I will do my level best. The system should not dictate working practices and workarounds must be non-existent or at least minimal with a view to change. I am using a really good system currently and I am certain I didn’t use the workaround word once! ‘Work in Progress’ for items that were nearly ready maybe but not workaround! Let’s hope it stays that way.

So that was the end of my stay and in about half an hour the safety and sanctuary of the hospital would be no more. I pressed the buzzer again. ‘So sorry can you please help me get to the bathroom’ was my final call and I was now getting ready to leave. I have been cared for brilliantly this weekend by the nurses (and by lots of other people) at KEMH Stanley. But it’s more than care, I saw it in their eyes as I left and I think she definitely saw it in mine. Those nurses didn’t know me prior to my arrival but this weekend I felt their love and compassion. It wasn’t special treatment either I know that. I’ve listened to their stories, I’ve heard how terrible life is for some. I could quite easily have been a fisherman 8,000 miles away from home and I would have been treated just the same. It’s more than just care!

I can feel a song coming on!!

Everyone’s looking for their big break!k

I was worried what I would say when I woke up from the anaesthetic and I told them before I went to sleep ‘I cannot be held responsible for what I say from now on’. It’s not unusual to be worried apparently because some people are cryers, some feel really groggy, some tell everyone that they love them. I’d have put money on that definitely being my wake up statement! What I actually said was that was an amazing dream but I can’t remember it, that I remember being really jealous as a child of never having a cast like my friends and that I would definitely be giving them all a 5 star review. Oh and when can they sign it? They can’t unfortunately!

So that’s been my weekend and my Falklands dream has been cut short!

In my head I had been planning the content for a May Ball post because I went to The Falklands May Ball on Friday night. It was wonderful and like nothing I had ever seen in the flesh before. Very much like an American prom that you would see on a TV film. The theme was space because it was 50 years since the first lunar landing. The hall twinkled with fairly lights had Falklands and UK flags adorning the walls. I spent the evening watching the girls in their beautiful dresses and the boys in their Daniel Craig suits. What surprised me the most was that it was all about the dancing, the main hall was dry and there was a small bar off to one side of the entrance. The bar was not the focal point of the evening which was lovely to see and very surprised to see that the hall was full all evening.

I had arranged to go to the second ball on Saturday night but I was also desperate to see a live band and there was one playing at the Trough. This is a small venue just out of town where they hold gigs. When I found out that there was live music on and it would be last chance before people were off on their holidays to grab some of the UK summer, I decided I had to go. If I spoke nicely to the band they may also let me have a song :). I had originally planned to go on my own jump in a taxi and come back a little later to the Family Ball. During the day I met a lovely lady who said she would like to go too and she said that she would give me a lift.

So we ended up meeting at 8 and driving up to the Trough. The Trough is a cool venue. It has a stage level with the audience to the far end of the main hall. Really good set up and in-house PA. A small bar area in the corner a dance floor and picnic bench seating all around. When I arrived the owner greeted me and said that her sister had told me that I was a singer and to have a chat with the band. A little later I did but the band that usually had people jumping in with them was a different band. This band ‘Phenomenal Toxic Lemons’ were playing their second gig and they had been rehearsing their set all day. If I could find a song on their set then they would be happy for me to sing. There were one or two that I probably could have done but I realised at that point despite it being cool to be able to tick off ‘Emma Gale Live at The Falklands’ I needed to let them be. It really can be an absolute nightmare when you get some random person rocking up and asking for a song. Especially as it was their second gig. They would be really concerned about getting their set right and didn’t need me muscling in on the act. So despite me wishing I was up there, we had a great couple of hours they were a brilliant band and played a lot of popular pub rock songs and played them well. Great evening!

So that’s when the fun started! It was about 10.45 and time to go to see the dancing at the Town Hall. I went to the loo and found my coat. As we left the venue there were a few people at the bottom of the three wooden steps. Just three. You can see where I am going with this now can’t you!!

Now I have been suffering with my knees for a while. A year or so ago every step up and step down was painful. I am sure it was down to being too heavy and I have been making a real effort to walk more. This has very much improved the pain and I am nearly pain free but I am still very careful when walking up and down steps. Especially going down. Because of this I remember the next few seconds with perfect clarity and I have been going over and over this in my head quite a lot.

I executed the first step perfectly. Carefully stepped on the second and at all times holding on to the hand rail. It was dark so I could be forgiven for taking my time. As I stepped on the third, I lost my footing and slipped and that was it, I was over. Why is it as well that when you do that sort of thing, there is a crowd watching you! So Emma Gale Live At The Trough – my dream came true!

I then had a million people around me making sure I was ok. I knew I wasn’t – I am sure I heard a break and my ankle was killing me.

The police are the first to turn up when an ambulance is called. It’s standard policy. So a few minutes later I had a lovely policeman cradling me from behind telling me it was ok to swear as much as I wanted and the ambulance wouldn’t be long. I didn’t feel the need to swear actually. I knew the process of the ambulance because I had been through it with the Lead Nurse in A&E. There isn’t a need to have the department fully staffed so in the event of an emergency, the driver is called (they don’t have paramedics) and he picks up the nurse on the way to the scene.

So you can imagine my delight and embarrassment when it was my friend who jumped out of the ambulance when it arrived a few minutes later.

So that’s why I have just woken up from my second night in the hospital. I have been told on a few occasions that I am really going above and beyond duty testing out the hospital processes. Yesterday I went through a process of manipulation where you are sedated and they squeeze the bones back into place and put a temporary cast on. They don’t have orthopaedic surgeons here so I have to have surgery when I get home. I have also been told not to worry about the project and to get my foot fixed first. When I asked the surgeon now that my foot is stable could I not just stay like this, work from the ward and have the pins put in my feet when the project is over. That is a really bad idea apparently!

So I am now going to be trying out the Medical Evacuation process – thank God for insurance! I should be on a plane heading for Brize in the morning. Then off to Dorchester County Hospital for metal work!

I remain positive and there is a bonus at least I get to see Pete and Lily earlier than planned. I am just really upset that one of the first words to my new project team was that I promise I am not going anywhere until the system is in!

It’s a tough job!

I can’t believe I have already been in the Falkland Islands for a month. I am half-way through what I thought would be my original stay here. I say that because I am actually going home in June as planned but coming back in July to complete the project. Hurray! Now those with a good memory may think. ‘Ahhh I remember you saying in a previous blog the definition of success means you don’t come back’. Well thankfully that couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that the scope has changed as the project has developed.

I wasn’t going to write much about my work but now is a good time to spend some time reflecting. For the first couple of weeks I did a due diligence exercise and reviewed how much had been completed on the project. I then developed a proposal for both the EPR (electronic patient record) supplier I am working for and the hospital and presented this to the Project Board. Whilst the project manager had done an excellent job before me, I had a few ideas and found a few gaps along with redefining the schedule.

Its been really exciting for me because some of the clinical scenarios I have been involved in are new. I find it’s always exciting to be learning something new. I have deployed ‘millions’ (that may be a slight exaggeration there) of systems and sometimes it feels like I could do it all in my sleep. But this is very different, this is an EPR for an entire country. Incidentally, I don’t think I appreciated that before I came to the Islands, I thought I was going to a small outpost of the United Kingdom. The Falkland Islands is actually a self-sufficient country with a long history, its own currency and unique culture and the people of the Falkland Islands have the right to self-determination, enshrined in international law.

Not only am I deploying a system for an entire country, but is also for most healthcare scenarios which is also quite a unique position to be in. As I understand it, there is only one UK system supplier who can do this at the moment and that is the company I am working for (forgive me if I am wrong with my assumption here). I suspect because of the distance, most suppliers didn’t tender for the work and those that did, didn’t have the system that would be able to cope with the different types of healthcare settings. So what an amazing opportunity for a start up company to prove their worth and what an amazing opportunity for me.

I am dealing with complex healthcare scenarios and as you can imagine I love it. If it was straight-forward it would be far too easy 🙂 Patients may need to see their GP or Dentist, go to A&E, arrive in an ambulance, have a baby in maternity, have some minor surgery, need some physiotherapy, meet with the mental health team, visit the child health team, have a sexual health test, need to see a clinician out of hours, have a stay on the ward, have an x-ray in radiography, have their bloods tested in the laboratory; I am sure that I have forgotten something here. All of these different types of patients will be dealt with differently from within the system and its my job to work out how that all fits together. Also, patients may need to be seen by visiting specialists and/or transported to the UK for specialist treatments. In addition, there is a transient population and a variety of people who will arrive on the Islands under a number of circumstances putting a demand on the hospital resources. British nationals like me who get free healthcare because of a reciprocal arrangement with the UK, the army, foreign tourists on cruise ships, foreign nationals on work-permits who are not entitled to free healthcare and fisherman working in the waters close by. Some patients need to be charged for their care so each consultation or procedure needs to be aligned to an associated cost. Obviously we don’t have to worry so much about that in the NHS in the UK but what is so good is that this system will work for both NHS and private clients which is pretty unique. Usually you would have a range of systems dealing with the different types of patient settings and then systems that just work with NHS or Private healthcare companies. I feel that I have stumbled upon my dream system and suppliers. (Shhhhh don’t tell them that).

So its been a really good month. I have really enjoyed meeting with all of the teams at the hospital. In fact most of the challenges are the same as those that we have in the UK. At each initial meeting, I am establishing how they use their current system and how the patient flows through their service. We are able to work through potential scenarios, set up templates and I am able to offer development solutions. At the same time we are identifying how we can help them improve the healthcare they are delivering by using features and functionality which may be new to them. It is fantastic to be able to influence the development schedule of the system and to be able to give healthcare clinicians the things they need. This is also a very unique position to be in.

So we have done a lot of the preparation work and we are currently in the process of preparing the training documents. Now when it comes to training, most people assume that you only need to train somebody how to use the system. In this case, the system is so intuitive that I don’t believe that much training will be required. But like any system, it is easy to teach somebody to fill information into a box. The key to getting it right is ensuring that we understand enough about how the patient uses the service and how the clinicians need to use the system to support their work. Its not about training someone to use the solution – that’s easy. It about training them to manage their processes and clinical workflow within the system. That’s the hard bit because although generally most teams across the UK and the Falklands do it in the same way there are local anomalies.

So if all that is not enough, I am likely to be leading on the design and development of a bespoke specialsit module to support the core system. I don’t want to tempt fate, so I wont be speaking about this in any detail until the proposal has been approved. But its very exciting and pulls on my experience of system design and development. I do hope that may require a future visit to the Falkland Islands preferably in the summer, the wildlife is much better then 🙂

As you can imagine being 8,000 miles away from the rest of the team has its challenges when it comes to communicating. Not only are we in a different time zone, the internet on the Falklands is extremely slow. Mind you this has not stopped us from having regular stand-ups and communicating on a daily basis. We are using Microsoft Teams and its brilliant. We are all at remote locations and we can send messages to each other for informal questions, share documents and then have regular stand-ups (or sit downs in my case) with them on the conference facility. Even though I am physically far way, I never feel very far away from the team at all.

I really can’t leave this post without mentioning my wonderful assistant. I am not going to name names, but you know who you are! This person is taking on the management of the system when I leave at the end of July and she has been amazing. Only in post for 3 weeks now and already knows more about the system than I do. We have got through a ton of work. The Senior Team at the hospital have also pulled out the stops to make sure that decisions are made quickly. This is a dream project.

Being a solo deployment and working for both the hospital and the suppliers means that it is far from a walk in the park, although I have worked hard over the years and I have the experience to support me which helps. I couldn’t do this without the wonderful support I have from both the supplier who are also working all hours to get this to work and the senior team at the hospital. This isn’t about personal profiles or egos. You need to hear the background story to understand it fully but I really do get it. The suppliers are creating this system to fix an urgent problem with patient record systems in the UK and to save lives.

I always wanted a job where I made a difference and I felt this on Friday when the Chief Nurse who I suspected initially may have had her reservations was telling me what an intuitive system we have and how engaged the teams are. When I saw her ‘almost skpping’ with enthusiam out of my office to her next meeting, I knew then we are getting this right and it feels good.

Some say you make your own opportunities, some say its luck. I don’t know what it is but I think it was meant to be. And to think when I got the message from Lee, I thought it was an April fool!