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The last month has been rather tumultuous for me. It started with some abdominal pain in mid October, and progressed through several visits to the doctor, a number of tests, 3 trips to the ED, and 2 stays in hospital – first for an emergency appendectomy and then for treatment for a post-operative infection. I’m home now, and much improved, but still weary from the whole experience and the effect of the antibiotics and lack of sleep.

Nights in hospital seem very long. Visiting hours are over by 8, lights go out, the day staff hand over to the night shift, and then begin the seemingly interminable hours, punctuated by IV alarms, 4 hourly obs, other patients’ buzzers, snoring, hallway conversations and toilet trips, before the cleaners come in around 7, breakfast arrives at 8 and the next day begins. I struggle to get to sleep quickly at the best of times, and found it nigh impossible in hospital. Having a Facebook world to talk to at any hour certainly helped!

When your world is reduced to the small space around you, and your weary mind craves sleep, you notice sounds acutely. I particularly noticed the unexpected musical quality of the drip machines, which I soon realised play different tunes depending on the flow rate they are set to. Most of the tunes are in 5ths – C…G.C…G.C… for example, but when my drip was set to 40ml/hour it played a very odd tune – G.F.Eflat.B…Eflat.F.G.F… Posting about my musical discoveries on Facebook helped to while away some of the time, but after hours and hours of it playing in my ear, the novelty definitely waned.

It was while I was in hospital the second time that the news came of the awful terrorist attacks in Paris. Being somewhat isolated in hospital, I didn’t see a great deal of the news coverage – mostly getting my info from Facebook and from chatting with the nurses. But what I heard was terrible enough and it certainly made me think about how petty my own little health problems suddenly appeared. It seemed horribly selfish of me to be griping about snores and IV earworms when people were experiencing such dreadful things!

A lovely friend visited and brought me some books to read. I started one of them – Rush, Oh! by Shirley Barrett – and was totally enthralled. It’s a story about a whaling family on the far south coast of NSW in the early 20th century, a fictional account but historically based. Now I probably would never have thought to pick up a history book about whaling in Eden in 1908, but this book was absolutely compelling, because of the way it tells a very personal story. It is beautifully written and the characters are well-rounded. The narrator’s voice is attractively down-to-earth, but also slightly elusive, and her story is funny, sweet and sad.

Reading this book made me realise that there’s a place for both the big, broad strokes of historical and world events, and the small, intimate details of personal life. The socio-political context of the Paris attacks will be recorded, analysed, dissected and remembered in the history books, but the personal experiences of individuals are important too. History is made up of the facts and figures, but also of the feelings and experiences of the people involved. And personal stories do matter. Our future grandchildren will be able to read about the world events of 2015, but who is going to tell them how we felt about them, what impact they had on us, what we learned about ourselves and the world from them?

So I will keep telling my stories – even though they are small, personal and not in any way earth-shattering. Personal stories have their place, and their own power too. If you don’t tell your story, who will?

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11 Responses to Blog: The power of the personal

  1. Terry Vachowski says:

    Very moving story, Alison, and a great reminder about journaling. So glad you are better!

  2. Jan says:

    I just get a smile on my face thinking about you hearing music in your drips…and when I think of you being HOME and recovering!! Great points about recording it all, too! xx

  3. Deanna says:

    I’m glad you are better, Alison! Prayers for continued strength and recovery! You have convinced me that I need to do a bit more than just journal. 🙂

  4. Kathy Stone says:

    Beautiful post Alison. Thanks

  5. Joy says:

    Keeping you in prayer. As I was reading your post, I thought back to when I had my first MRI. With all the noises it came to me that it would be a great time to pray. The nurses coming into the room constantly, lights coming on and off…my sister who is a nurse has always suggested to her patients to speak up. Ask them to post on their charts no lights, always close the door, check vitals only every 2 hours instead of every hour, etc. BTW your page looks great.

  6. Beautifully written! So sorry you had those health problems, but am glad to hear you are better! I need to document more of the events, or seemingly un-events, too. There is no written family history except for what I have been doing and am hopeful my daughters will find it interesting later in life.

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