The famous author Anaïs Nin said: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospect.”
Those moments can be ones of great joy, or great suffering, or the endless multitude of daily emotions we all experience somewhere in between.
For Margaret James, the past couple of years have been some of the most challenging of her life.
In August of 2018, Margaret was doing some routine tasks at home when she began to experience what she describes as a “spasm up my right arm followed by a paralysing numbness of a shaky kind.”
She drove herself, one-handed, to the Emergency Dept. here in Bairnsdale.
It was to be the first step in a long journey that would see her undergo spinal surgery and hip surgery, and go through the extraordinary experience of having to learn how to walk again.
During this time Margaret spent many hours with us here at BRHS, forming a strong bond with our Allied Health and Rehabilitation teams, and in particular Physiotherapist Emma McKinney.
Also during this time, she wrote, documenting her experiences and the emotions, revelations and personal discoveries that came to her along the way.
Margaret described the process of writing about the things she experienced during this challenging time as “marvellous therapy.”
“Writing helped me,” she said. “Writing is my way of explaining myself. For the life of me I can’t cry, and I don’t shout. I keep things inside, but I bring them out when I write.”
Margaret has collected her writings in a small booklet that recalls some of the many people she met in her journey, and records the feelings, fears and personal victories she experienced.
Of the priest she met at St. Vincent’s Hospital: “I can only wish I could recall the beautiful words he said to me. This was a most inspirational experience…”
Of male nurses: “I had never experienced male nurses before. It was back in the 1980s when I was last hospitalised and they were unheard of. The male nurses who cared for me were absolute standouts…”
Of the medical staff she met: “How wonderful are these professional people where your life is entirely in their hands. They are all ‘Saints’ in my mind…”
Of her fellow patients: “Meeting new roommates and sharing their stories was an experience and a chapter in itself…”
And, of course, of the moment when after a successful Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion surgery and many, many hours of rehabilitation, Margaret took her first steps in the BRHS physio gym.
“It was an out-of-body experience,” she wrote. “I miraculously took off – not in a walk, but a run. There was one hell of a celebration by all who witnessed it. No words can explain my elation at such an achievement…”
“And I’m going to live it, you better believe I am.”
We’re thrilled that Margaret took the time to document and share her experiences and feelings during her healthcare journey.
Not only has it given BRHS staff a unique insight into the very personal role they play in a patient’s life, Margaret says it has also sparked something in her – to record the important moments of her life and her family’s lives, for future generations.
“Maybe this could become a little book for my granddaughter,” she wonders.
But, the writing will have to wait for the moment.
For Margaret, the realisation that she was once so close to losing her mobility has given her a new perspective on the years ahead of her.
“I’ve got a lot of life to live,” she says, smiling. “And I’m going to live it, you better believe I am.”