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I am the oldest of a set of triplets. We are all female but no-one ever guesses we are triplets. This is because the girls, Sarah and Caitriona, are mirror images of one another. They are identical in every way and I have lost count of the amount of times people have come up to ‘Caitriona’ and started talking only for me to point out that they are in fact talking to Sarah. I love being a triplet. I love that I get to share the biggest moments of my life with the girls. They are my best friends.
That is why what happened on the 23rd of December last year was so devastating. It was 7.30 am and I was still half asleep when I heard Mum shouting for Caitriona. When I heard Mum say she was calling for an ambulance my blood ran cold. I raced to the kitchen to see Sarah lying on the floor having a seizure. Sarah had never been sick. My mind blanked as to what to do. Luckily I kicked back into action quickly enough and Caitriona and I made sure Sarah was out of harms way. There was nothing else we could do while she seized. It lasted about another three minutes. They were the longest three minutes of my life. Once she had stopped we moved her into the recovery position, each of us holding a hand , begging her to just be ok. She was unresponsive until the paramedics arrived. It was only when she began to rouse, ignorant as to what she had just been through, that I began to sob at everything that I had just witnessed.
The next day, Sarah was diagnosed as epileptic. The team of doctors who cared for Sarah were fantastic and so supportive. However during those two days I have never felt so helpless. I truly understood what it was like to be on the ‘other side’. In healthcare we often at times are so focused on being good healthcare professionals that we forget to think like human beings and relate to the patients and their families. In college there were plenty of lectures on the topic of effective communication with the patient but family and next of kin relationships were rarely mentioned. Often times we are not privy to the relationships that exist between our patients and their visitors, which is a pity because if we did we might realise that often while treating one patient we are actually impacting on the lives of an entire family. Since that day I have made a concentrated effort to get to know the family of my patients in as much as I can. They are the ones who sit waiting for the visiting times so they can see their loved one. They are the ones sitting in waiting rooms, wringing their hands as they wonder what terrible news awaits them. I hope it doesn’t take other healthcare workers going through a similar experience to realise the importance of effective communication with families of their patients and the difference it makes.
Suzanne Murphy is from Dublin, Ireland. She recently qualified as a general nurse from Trinity College Dublin and is currently working towards a post graduate diploma in Tissue Viability. She is planning on pursuing a career in medicine after completing her post graduate diploma.