Never forget there’s a person inside that body

As a nurse it’s easy to forget the person behind the face you’re dealing with. You see your residents every day and they all have one or more issues which prevent them from caring for themselves. It’s easy to forget who they once were, to see them as just a face, a body. But there’s a person behind the exterior. A person that dealt with school, health, work, family, friends. Even if they don’t deal with that now.

The man who regularly screams for help when he hears kids playing in the street. He has lost his daughter. She drowned when she was 5. He stood on the water’s edge and couldn’t help as he can’t swim himself. No-one else was close enough to help out.

The woman who’s sitting in her wheelchair, looking out of the window all day. She doesn’t say a word. She lost two of her sons in a car crash. The same car crash which left her husband paralysed and left her with severe headaches.

the woman who clutches the babydoll and won’t let go of it, not even for food or drinks. She fell pregnant when she was 16 and had to give birth in a home. Far away from her boyfriend and her (unsupportive) family. Her child was taken away to be adopted, even though she desperately wanted to keep him. She never told anyone this story.

The man who walks into the hallway in his underwear. He once was a school director. He helped out a lot of kids in trouble. He always wanted to become a teacher and he managed to follow his dream, even though his parents had no money.

The man who lies in bed the whole time and screams loudly at night. He was a pediatrician. Many of you who care for him now, he helped when you were little.

The woman who always cries and tells you “I don’t want to live anymore.” She was the head nurse in the hospital nearby. She helped out many people in their hour of need. Now she needs your help.

It’s so easy to forget that all these people have had a whole life before they came to live in a nursing home. Looking at the pictures in their rooms, talking to them makes me realise who they once were. Now they’re just a shadow of themselves, but we should always treat them with respect.

How to treat people
Courtesy of Imgur

This post was written for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

Fryslân, my homeland

Friese vlag

I live in Fryslân, a province in the north of The Netherlands.
We have our own language, our own sports, our own history, our own heroes, our own identity.
This Frisian identity is very important to us. Many of us don’t feel like we’re dutch. I certainly am not seeing myself as dutch. I’m Frisian.

The languages most spoken in our province are Frisian and dutch. Frisian is spoken in the whole of the Waddenzee region. We like to think the English language has been derived from Frisian, but it’s probably the other way around. There are many words that look and sound a lot like English, but it’s the same for Dutch and German.
There are three dutch universities where you can take Frysk as a major (or minor).
Most of the town names are either in Frisian or in Frisian and dutch. We, of course, prefer the Frisian names.


There are a few sports that  are evident to the Frisian identity.

Keatsen is a traditional Frisian sport, related to American handball and fives, that is most commonly practiced by people from the northern Dutch province of Friesland (Fryslân). It is believed to be one of the oldest ballgames and was an unofficial demonstration sport at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. The score is similar to tennis. The first team scoring six games wins the match.

Fierljeppen is a traditional sport of the Frisians and of the Dutch. Ljeppen is West Frisian for “to leap”. It is a fine example of the close relationship between the Frisian and English languages.
The sport involves a long pole and a body of water. The pole is between 8 and 13 m long and has a flat round plate at the bottom to prevent it from sinking into the muddy river or canal bottom. A jump consists of a sprint to the pole (polsstok), jumping and grabbing it, then climbing to the top of the pole while trying to control its forward and lateral movements over a body of water, and finishing by landing on a sand bed opposite to the starting point.

Skûtsjesilen is the Frisian sailing competition with skûtsjes, in particular the competitions organized by the SKS, and the IFKS. Matches with skûtsjes have been organized since the nineteenth century. Then being sailed as the farmers had no cargo and the skippers could earn a cash prize. Often the innkeepers who wrote out a match, for example if there was a fair, so after the awards ceremony could be held in the cafe.

Schaatsen has been a national sport since the dawn of time. Especially the Elfstedentocht is very important to our province. The Elfstedentocht (West Frisian: Âlvestêdetocht, English: Eleven cities tour), at almost 200 kilometres (120 mi), is a speed skating match and a leisure skating tour. It is touching every city (by history) of the province. It is held, in practice in January or February and not more than once in a winter, when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimetres (6 in) thick; sometimes on consecutive years, other times with gaps that may exceed 20 years. When the ice is suitable the tour is announced, and starts within 48 hours.

Our culture slowly began to emerge around 400-200 BC. The Roman occupation of Frisia began in 12 BC with the campaign of Nero Claudius Drusus in Germania. The early eighth-century AD is known for the Frisian king Redbad and the missionary Saint Boniface.

At the start of the Middle Ages, Frisia stretched from what is now the Belgian border to the River Weser in Germany. After incorporation into the Frankish empire, Friesland was divided into three parts. The westernmost part developed at the start of the second millennium into the County of Holland.


Grutte Pier Pier Gerlofs Donia (c.1480 – 1520) was a Frisian warrior, pirate, and rebel. He is best known by his West Frisian nickname Grutte Pier (“Big Pier”; in the pre-1980 West Frisian spelling written as Greate Pier), or by the Dutch translation Grote Pier which referred to his legendary size and strength.
Approximately 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) to the north-east of Donia’s village of Kimswerd, in the city of Franeker, the Black Band, a Landsknecht regiment in the service of George, Duke of Saxony was quartered. The regiment was charged with suppressing the civil war between the Vetkopers, who opposed Burgundian and subsequently Habsburg rule, and the Schieringers. The Black Band were notorious as a violent military force; when their pay was insufficient or lacking, they would extract payments from local villagersand on 29 January 1515, the Black Band plundered Donia’s village, then allegedly raped and killed his wife, Rintze Syrtsema, and burnt to the ground both the village church and Donia’s estate. Seeking revenge, Pier started a guerrilla war campaign against the Habsburgs and allied himself with Charles of Egmond, Duke of Guelders (1492–1538). The legendary status of Grote Pier as a hero or a villain has endured over the centuries with his exploits retold in book, poetry, song and more recently television.
Today, a great sword that is said to have belonged to Pier is on display at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden. It measures 2.15 metres (7 ft) in length and weighs about 6.6 kilograms (14.6 lb). Some sources put his height at 7 ft. Pier was alleged to be so strong that he could bend coins using just his thumb, index and middle finger. A huge helmet said to be Grutte Pier’s is kept in the town hall of Sneek.


This post has been written for the Weekly Writing Challenge. I couldn’t simply find one icon that would represent my homeland, so instead I chose to take fryslân as the icon.

Paperback or eBook?

This week’s writing challenge is asking: How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand?

That’s not a hard question to answer for me. Paperback!
I like the feel of an actual book. The scent of an old book (or a new one) makes me happy.  I love going in a bookshop and just browse. I can spend ages in a charity shop, going through books. I love to see row upon row of shelving filled to the brim with books.

And, think about it. What am I supposed to do with my spare room when I don’t have books?
What about BookCrossing? I’m an avid BookCrosser. How are we going to make the world one big library when we don’t have real books anymore? It’s simply not possible.

I can see the advantages of eBooks over real books. If you travel a lot you can bring as many books as you like without the added weight. And if your book is a thick book, an eBook is easier to bring with you on a train, but there’s no joy in eBooks for me.
I’d rather take a FlipBack with me while travelling then an eReader.

So, no eReader for me. Just give me a good book and I’ll be happy.

Photo courtesy of jurvetson:
Photo courtesy of jurvetson:

If you do decide to get rid of some books, please think about donating them to BookCrossing. There are lots of BookCrossers who are always on the look out for new books to set free!

Oh, how I wish…

For years I’ve been going up and down these steep streets. For years I’ve dreamed about what’s on the other side. When I go down I can see the sea in the far distance. Can I go there? Can I play in the sand? Can I feel the water surrounding me as I dive in? How does that feel? Does it feel like the rain that comes after the months of drought? The rain that makes me spotless again. Does it feel like that?

I’ve heard the sea is so big no-one knows exactly how big it is. I heard the sea covers 71% of the planet. But how big is the planet? And how much is 71%? I’ve never been further than this street, so I wouldn’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this street. I love going up and down. Seeing the people, the animals, the houses. But sometimes it bores me. I want to see more of the world. What is on the other side of the houses?
I’m jealous of the people I see. They can go wherever they like. The can just walk to where they want to go. How I wish to do that.
But I’m stuck on this track.

Photo courtesy of Cheri Lucas.

For more posts in the Weekly Writing Challenge, please go here.

The girl in the photograph

Annie was one half of identical twins. Her mother didn’t know she was carrying twins. Annie was born on the first day of spring, early 1950s.  Her sister had died weeks before, her body poisoning the amniotic fluid. After she was born Annie’s mother was told Annie wouldn’t live very long. It may be days, may be weeks, but she was told not to expect her daughter making it through the first year.

After the twins birth the hospital chaplain came to christen Annie, for she may not survive very long. Despite church (and hospital) policies the chaplain christened the stillborn as well. So they could be together in death. This meant the stillborn girl could be buried in the family grave.

Despite what the doctors had said, Annie turned out to be stronger than anyone thought. She survived her first few days, weeks and even months. She lived to celebrate her first and second birthday. On her third birthday she was in hospital.
The photograph shows a tiny little girl in a hospital bed way too big for her. On the bedside table is a piece of cake with three candles burning. Annie is looking into the camera with a laugh on her face. Her heart-shaped face, surrounded by blonde curly hair is glowing with excitement. But her body lies stiff, she’s unable to move anything but her head.

About five months after the photograph was taken Annie’s tiny body gave up. Her mother held her in her arms when she died. Annie’s body was buried in the same grave as her sisters four days later.

The photograph clearly shows a little angel. An angel too beautiful and too good to ever stay long on this earth.

This story is a mixture of facts and fiction. The photograph exists, the girl in it died very young. She really was an angel, the photographs show that very clearly. But her name is not Annie.
I wrote this post for the Daily Post Writing Challenge.

Wrapping it up

2012 began on a low for us.

With a move at the end of October 2011 and many, many hours of DIY and sorting out our belongings we were shattered by December. Then, we got a phonecall. One that we’d been waiting for for quite some time. It was my dad, telling us my grandma had stopped eating and drinking.
Many trips were made to the nursing home that lovingly cared for her and had been doing so for the last 4 years. Early in the morning, on december 30 2011, her heart finally stopped beating. She was 92 years old.

My grandmother

The days that followed were frantic and filled with clearing out her room (to make space for the next person who desperately needed a secure place to live), getting the cards ready, arranging the funeral and 2 nightshifts. All of this in a festive period.

I don’t really remember much of the days between my grandma’s death and the funeral. Two things I do remember. Waking up to a card with spelling mistakes and finding out it had already been printed. And me falling asleep whilest arranging the funeral with the rest of the family.

After the funeral I felt terrible. I was so, so tired. Tought my Graves disease was acting up again. I had  quite a few appointments with my GP, only to find out my thyroid was working fine. As it turned out I had gotten the Kissing Disease. How? No idea.
It took months to recover.

Whilest recovering we had a few projects going on. My dad and my uncle came to lay down the tiles in the kitchen and hallway. Until then we’d been living on a bare concrete floor.
We wallpapered the hallway, the stairwell and the study. We painted the study, finished the flooring and instelled a desk. Finally, on March 10, our pc’s were turned on for the first time in 6 months.
The biggest project, the one we spent most time on, was the garden. We spent almost 4 months on it (and it’s still not finished). My dad came over quite a few times to Help Jay with it.
In summer we’ve spent many hours just relaxing in the garden.

Wild flowers in our garden

In July I got back to work fully. Despite still being tired sometimes. The tiredness still lingers to this day.

The last few months were frantic again, many people who needed our help with things and we have been away many weekends.

For 2013 I want a bit more time to relax. A bit more time to finish the house. We’ve still got loads to do. I want the skirtingboard going up in the livingroom, the hallway and stairwell painted and I want to start my veggie garden.
Oh, and I want a fullblown winter with lots of ice and skating!

2012-02-11 12.36.46

I hope to spend even more time on my blog. These were my top favourite posts:

1. Escape to the Country

2. Thank you mom/dad Bloggers

3. And there it is again…


The moment when I realised; This is wrong

My Uncle was tied to the bed. Tied up like an animal.

My uncle was 35 when a brain tumor was discovered. He had an operation and it went pretty well. After the operation he suffered from brain damage that affected his motor skills. He staggered around, had trouble holding anything and he had slurred speech. It was like he was drunk, but without the alcohol. But he managed just fine. He became a boatman on a local maritime academy where he was the leader of a small group of pupils.
Two years later the tumor had grown back. This time it was bigger and worse than before. He had another surgery in October, but it didn’t go to plan. The brain damage got worse. He couldn’t stand or walk any more. He had a hard time eating and drinking by himself. He got transferred to a rehabilitation center, but that wasn’t the right place for him. They specialized in getting people better, getting them home. And getting him home wasn’t an option. So he got transferred again, to a nursing home. Closer to where his family was.

In this nursing home they weren’t really equipped for younger patients. He had a hard time at first, when he had a bed in a ward with 5 older men. But he got a room for himself and he was happy about it. In this time I went to visit him at least once a week. More if I could manage between school, work and friends.
He loved listening to music and watched TV. He got an electric wheelchair and we went out if the staff had time to lift him out of bed into his chair. I helped the staff washing his hair or doing his nails. Or just give him something to drink. At this time his motor skills got worse and he was tilting his head unvoluntary and he was drooling all the time. But he was fully aware of his condition. One time, when we went out we came across an old lady who thought she had to make a remark about “how nice it was of me to go out with a lunatic”. I kindly told her that we shouldn’t talk about people that way and certainly not about people who didn’t have any mental problems.

Eventually my Uncle got worse. He told me he vision and hearing were getting worse and that it looked and sounded like he was constantly under water. He didn’t want to listen to music any more and the TV became a torture for him. He just laid on the bed and couldn’t do anything. The staff tried very hard to help him in any way they could, but he got worse and worse. In May he got sent back to the hospital for another operation. They tried to drain fluids from his brain and hoped that it would help his condition. But it didn’t. By then he had decided that he didn’t want to live like this anymore and he signed an intention for euthanasia. This ment that he wouldn’t go to ICU if his condition worsened. But the hospital doctors didn’t want anything to do with it and sent him to the ICU when he got a chest infection. He couldn’t breath on his own anymore and they inserted a breathing tube. My Uncle, the whole family, was livid about this decision. My Uncle tried 3 times to get the tube out. Twice he succeeded. But instead of letting him die, like it was his wish, they re-inserted the breathing tube. Instead of helping him they tied his hands to the bed. A human being, fully sensible, fully understanding what was going on. they simply tied him to the bed.

About 10 days later we got a tip that the next weekend there would be a doctor that might be willing to help my Uncle die. My mom immediately got in touch, but called too soon. She got nothing. A few hours later the doctor called her back and discussed everything. The family went to the hospital and my Uncle was granted his wish.

I remember very clearly when I saw my Uncle alive the last time. He was lying in ICU, all wired up. I didn’t know what to say to him so i searched for his hands. I found them on the cold iron of the bed rail. All tied up. I stroked his hand and looked at his face. I knew he only saw blurs, but he knew I was there and his eyes begged me to free his hands. And I had no idea what to do. I was 17, what was I supposed to do? I felt guilty and just plain terrible. I thought one could trust hospital doctors, they were there to help a sick person. But instead of helping my Uncle, they tied him to the bed.
I realised in a split second that we should have a law insisting doctors to help people who had a good reason not wanting to live any longer. We should have people who you can trust to do the right thing should you need it.

Thankfully we now have a good system in place. If anyone wants euthanasia they can get help. Doctors have the right to say no when they’re asked to help someone, but they need to give them a name of a different doctor. And I’m thankful for that. I hope this means that there never will be anyone tied up to the bed, simply because there’s no-one who wants to help the die.

My uncle got tied to the bed. All because he wanted to die in a humane way.

Weekly Writing Challenge: How do you tell her?

Before I became a nurse I worked as a cleaner for elderly people. They hired my employer and he send me to the job. By the time this happened my boss found out I was quite good at working with people who were (almost) blind. I had 4 clients, 3 of them were legally blind, although all 3 could see vague shapes in a well-lit room.

Mrs C. was a lovely old lady, almost 90 years old. She lived in an apartment close to a care home. Her meals were brought to her from the care home kitchen and she could join in with the activities organised by the care home. Mrs C. was quite a good sjoeler, despite being legally blind. She had no idea what she did, but she’d won the competition at least 4 time in the past few years. A few months ago her washing machine broke down and her nephew (she had no children) and I had decided it was best to let the care home do her laundry. She frequently over-filled the washing machine and once I stood knee-deep in foam when she managed to empty a whole bottle of laundry detergent into the machine. She wasn’t too happy about it, as it ment that she had to go and pick up her laundry every week, but when I promised I’d go with her for that walk she’d given in.

On this morning, it was around 10.30 AM, Mrs C. and I were on our way to the laundry room of the care home. She told me that a new neighbour was moving into the apartment next to hers. Her old neighbour passed away just a few weeks earlier and, as all deaths did to her, she was quite distraught by this. We picked up the clean laundry and walked back to her apartment, through the long, well-lit corridor. We passed a neighbour, recognized by Mrs C. as Mr V. “Good morning Mr V.” She said. “morning Mrs. C.” Mr V. replied back. By the door of the empty apartment Mrs C. saw another vague shape. As she wasn’t sure what the name of the new neighbour was she tried to be polite and said “Good morning”. The shape said nothing back. Barely 2 steps further she told me, just a tad too hard “Well, that’s not very nice. One could at least say good morning back.” I had a really hard time controlling my laughter, but managed to say “Shht, Mrs C. You can’t say that when you’re still in earshot. You have to wait a few seconds longer.” But I couldn’t tell her why the shape said nothing back. Because how do you tell someone she just said hello to a vacuum cleaner?


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