Alex Hart

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Superman doesen’t live here!

When I was young, my hero was James Bond (Sean Connery’s version in particular). James Bond  was suave, sophisticated, always found a way to get out of a tricky situation and got the job done.  The best thing about James Bond was that he didn’t need an alien super power  he was just great at his job. Okay so he had some pretty nifty gadgets to help him but his talents like being a champion skier and bilingual in Japanese were eminently believable and achievable for us mere mortals.

wonder woman

Wonder woman – don’t you just love her outfit?

We love superheroes and I think it’s because ultimately we don’t like the fact that we are vulnerable human beings and sometimes we don’t want to admit to our frailties. We make mistakes. Sometimes we drop the ball and we don’t always get the girl (or the guy) that’s for sure!

Today I sat talking to a neighbour and friend who has been jetting all over the world over the last few weeks for work.  Being away from home, D explained that a lot of things have piled for him up at work and at home.  He was exhausted and yet he said that he needed to  do a DIY job at home just so he could feel a bit more in control by having achieved something on his enormous to do list. The sad thing is that I, like many people I expect, can totally relate to this.

For years I felt that I needed to perform like a superhero. If one task was ballooning out of control, then the answer was to simply take on another to prove I could perform that one like wonderwoman and also to deflect attention from the task that wasn’t performed to my own standard of perfection…..  My weekends were regimented in such a way that I could achieve the multitude of tasks I lined up for myself each week and heaven forbid anything (like a social activity) should throw my timetable out of sync!

Being in hospital for 2 weeks recently I was panicked to realise that I had missed the first 2 weeks of university – never mind the office work piling up and all of the other daily tasks that needed to be done at home. To cap it all, on coming home I was under strict instruction to take it easy and not to carry out certain physical activities. Some of the fundraising projects I had planned needed to take a back seat.  I had to take it easy for the first 5 days at home. I assumed that meant doing ‘half’ what I normally do.

So five days after being discharged, I headed back for  half a day back at work, came home to tackle the housework and crashed……….help! Somebody needs to find the kryptonite that has paralysed me!!!

Superman’s nemesis – Kryptonite

Superman's nemesis - Kryptonite

I was horribly unprepared for my first university tutorial and stammered my way through the session. For the very first time, the real prospect of failure loomed large in front of me. What happened to wonderwoman who can do anything she sets her mind to?  The thought of failing at something important to me is the most terrifying thing in the world and yet by driving ourselves forward at breakneck pace we all set ourselves up for failure constantly.

Maybe It’s time for me to take a look in the mirror and see that I am hurtling towards the age of 50 – I need glasses to read the fine print and I no longer have the energy of a 17 year old student!

So what if it takes me longer to complete my studies than I had planned? I will still get there if I make an effort. So what if there is a pile of ironing! There will still be something to iron tomorrow and if the garden looks untidy – well  it will still survive if I don’t manage to do all the weeding in the next week.

The real superheroes in this world are those people who don’t pretend they can do everything. They are the ones who put aside the ‘urgent’ task to listen to someone else’s problems. People who take time out of their own busy lives to help someone else – whether it is an elderly parent or their neighbour across the street.

So to all of these superheroes, I salute you and oh,  by the way, next time you are passing, any chance you can you help me look under the sofa for that kryptonite that’s holding me back from my superpowers?……..



Only when Iaugh!

Well, the TV show aired and rather than taking time to see the feedback and reflect on the journey so far, a trip to hospital kinda put a spanner in the works this week and has forced me to stop still in my tracks.

I have never liked hospitals – depressing noisy places with a lingering smell of sickness and disinfectant.  However  having experienced the NZ public health service first hand I feel it only fair to set the record straight about the excellent health service we have in this country and the dedicated professionals who work so hard within its systems.

Travelling to hospital by ambulance in the early hours of the morning was quite scary.  While the paramedic took it upon himself to lecture me on the purpose of pain (if you have pain – go to the doctor, dont wait until you need an ambulance was basically his message!) all I could think about through my gritted teeth was why the bleep bleep  hadn’t  I asked them to go the route avoiding the bumpy gravel road…

I am not surprised at the cost of our health service here in New Zealand – the care and attention delivered by the doctors, nurses and care assistants  is phenomenal. What was slightly shocking to me (from my observations this week) is the amount of illnesses being treated that perhaps could have been avoided through healthy living – from issues stemming from obesity to alcohol abuse.

Our public health system creaks along – it’s amazing with so many patients and with health decisions changing so fast that things like the hospital food service can keep up at all. I confess when I finally was allowed to eat and found my appetite –  the non-arrival of my breakfast (toast) this morning had me chasing the poor orderly down the corridor in a state of panic and near to tears. He took off at high speed poor man.  After that I thought it best to stock up on a cheese scone from the downstairs cafe in case my lunch suffered a similar fate.

The sheer kindness of the nurses looking after me is, quite frankly humbling.  They work so hard and maintain a calm professional manner in the face of some very rude and demanding patients. Personally I thank my blessings we have a public health service in this day and age – but lets face it you are not paying to stay in some top hotel!

It does however pay to have your wits about you and to pay attention to everything you are told. In a busy ward it only takes one person to forget to make some notes to find that your pain relief is not administered or food is offered to a patient who is nil by mouth. The health staff  act as social workers at times as well as looking out for elderly confused patients suffering with alzheimers.

There have been 2 occasions when I have felt like ripping back the curtains around patients who, whilst surrounded by doctors and nurses as well as close family have done nothing but moan and complain about their sorry lot at full volume, refusing to take medical specialists advice and at the same time contributing to the distress of other sick patients around them. Instead taking a leisurely walk around the ward to lower my own blood pressure seemed a better option…..

View from my hospital bedside - simply beautiful....

View from my hospital bedside – simply beautiful….






So, while I still have a semblance of a sense of humour here are some of my health service observations.

  1. Hospital Food
    okay, I had to start with this one. Actually, it could be worse – but for anyone who experienced school dinners in the 70’s and 80’s you will understand why I shiver at the sight of hospital mash potato, custard (a la thick skin)and mushy orange vegetables which even after eating I could not identify accurately. Methinks Gordon Ramsay  should pay a visit to the canteen….
  2. Doctors
    They say it’s a sign of getting older when doctors and policeman start looking really young. I have to say all the doctors here look really young which makes me slightly nervous. On top of this, they seem fit, have great teeth and are fashionably dressed. I feel like I am in an episode of a TV soap!
  3. Privacy
    There is no privacy in a shared hospital room – you hear EVERYTHING!  All the patients quickly get to know what is wrong wih their room mates, along with all their gory personal details. At the end of a short stay it’s not surprising that you feel like you are on your way to gaining a medical diploma of some sort.
  4. Drugs
    Ah! What can I tell you about the drugs except that when you are sick the drugs they dish out are goooood!
  5. And finally – yes it truly does hurt to laugh!

This weekend I have a brief reprieve in the form of a trip home before a further scan and then an operation. So right now I would like to say a big big thank you to  all those who have been looking after me – especially B and E – you know who you are!    I just have to remember to behave myself and try not to do the very big list of chores waiting for me at home…….