Saturday, November 09, 2019

Columnist Catherine Drea


As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column for the Waterford News & Star


I WAS shocked to read that Darren Skelton of this paper has written more than 200 articles on the state of University Hospital Waterford. This is only my third and I hope my last. When and where will it all end?

I notice when I think of that Sunday morning, when I ended up in the Emergency Department, I start to tremble. Delayed shock maybe? So I’ve been trying to remember all the good people I met. People who took an extra bit of time to help; people who raised my spirits, I’m trying to find some positives in it all, say a few thank yous.

So, if I was giving out Hospital Awards, I would be giving one to the Eastern European Security Man we met that day, waiting in the Emergency Department on those hard metal chairs. Everyone was trying to be patient and wait quietly. In my case, looking back, I think I was trying a bit too hard.

After about three hours, of being “a good girl”, my body was literally slipping down onto the floor. I was soon doubled over saying to Himself, “I need to lie down, I can wait all day, but I have to lie down…”


If ever we needed comfort, hope and kindness, it’s in this hospital where we come when we are broken.


The only person who seemed alert to my situation was this Security Man. He went out of his way to negotiate with the nurses who were not keen to bend rules. He helped my husband to find a place where I could lie down, and in the end he brought me to a trolley in the next corridor. The same man even found me a blanket and brought us both a cup of tea!

In spite of everything he went above and beyond the call of duty. A big shiny Kindness Award for you Mister Security Man!

Of all the medical staff there, I would nominate Peter, a Nigerian doctor for my First Class Honours Doctor of the Year Award. After about four different medical people had poked and prodded me, he really spent a long time trying to figure out the problem. At last I felt that someone was listening and giving me the benefit of their expertise. He asked me loads of questions and sometimes the same question three different ways. I was pretty ill, but even so I began to feel reassured by his knowledge and his presence.

I never saw him again after that but he got the diagnosis exactly right. I only got confirmation two days later after a CT scan. It was down to this man, doing his job brilliantly, who spent time, thoughtfully figuring it all out. I am full of appreciation for him. He deserves an Oscar in my book.

The nurses were all amazing. I would love to give each of them an enormous bouquet and a hug. But one Night Nurse from South Kilkenny would get the Award for Making Ordinary Moments Special. She wasn’t quite as cheerful or run off her feet as the others. She had a quiet calm about her. Careful and methodical, I loved to see her coming on duty. How did she earn this fantasy award? She called me by my name, spoke to me gently and always had a chat. Honestly, that woman was an angel.

My final award, for Lifting the Spirits, is for the relatively hidden but always present Healing Arts Trust. Besides the thousands of euros worth of art in the corridors of the hospital, they organise special exhibitions, programmes of music, poetry, dance and art. They bring beauty and space to the weary patients, their families and to the staff.

I might be a bit biased, because I am a volunteer with the project and an old school art lover, but I can honestly say that the portrait of Louis Le Brocquy by Robert Ballagh will forever more be one of my favourites. It was the last picture I would see as I stumbled back to my bed in the corridor after my rambles. A big colourful Rosette to the Healing Arts project. Thanks for all the beauty!

If ever we needed comfort, hope and kindness, it’s in this hospital where we come when we are broken. It’s not rocket science is it? Yes things are dire. The short staffing is the main issue. But maybe a few small interventions of our own could help in the meantime?

A brilliant local woman Cathriona English has come up with an idea to form a group of volunteers who could help out. Maybe there is some way this could work?

Kindness, clarity about what’s happening and then some level of comfort, and a cup of tea. As I said, it’s not rocket science. Thank you to all of you who go above and beyond to make our chaotic hospital stays much more bearable.


Catherine Drea blogs at

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