Opinion Columnists

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Fiona Ness: 'Festive heroes in HSE should take a bow'


'From the receptionist to the doctor who took time out to say “there, there” while I sat and cried, there wasn’t a single Grinch in sight in Temple Street over Christmas.' Stock image
'From the receptionist to the doctor who took time out to say “there, there” while I sat and cried, there wasn’t a single Grinch in sight in Temple Street over Christmas.' Stock image

Notebook: Fiona Ness

I never thought I'd say this but thank you, Taoiseach Leo. Back in November when the good doctor cancelled Christmas for his hospital colleagues I had thought, poor show. Having worked every holiday and Friday night for the guts of 10 years as a newspaper sub-editor, I knew what it was like to toil while the world partied and eventually, a person could come to feel quite put upon. Even if it was your duty, it was nice if someone whose heart wasn't two sizes too small asked you nicely if you wouldn't mind turning up to the front line. Again. While they were at home talking turkey.

"I'm very glad you gave up your Christmas to come into work," I said to the radiographer as I pumped her hand on New Year's Day. The youngest child had spent four days and nights screaming 'sore tu-mmy' before I felt he was traumatised enough to present at Temple Street A&E in Dublin. And once there, I was entirely glad the doctors and nurses were there also.

"I'm glad too," quipped the radiographer. "It's kept me out of trouble."

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When you're thinking about having children, you're thinking about a tiny, squealing bundle of joy. You don't think about the amount they are going to cost you at the orthodontist or the new year you will ring in driving in search of a D-Doc who can tell a child's distended abdomen from his own elbow. You cannot conceive of how much you will owe to the people who show your children love and care when you have exhausted all of yours.

From the receptionist to the doctor who took time out to say "there, there" while I sat and cried, there wasn't a single Grinch in sight in Temple Street over Christmas. If staff were struggling with their circumstances, they didn't show it.

"It makes sense if you're running your service well to always make sure you match peak demand with peak resources," An Taoiseach said in November. Sensible stuff; except that to describe medical care as a 'service' only seems like a huge disservice to the people who provide it 24-7; 365.

So now that we're getting over the hump of the holiday period, I sort of feel that he - and we - owe a big thank you to the emergency workers who kept on going while the rest of us didn't. A display of jazz hands would do.

Forget January dread - just be kind, rewind

I've never had any sort of resolve and so have come to dread the annual 'new year, new you' pressure January presents. In fact, if I ever want to achieve anything, I have to reverse into it, denying that I want to do the thing at all. Never, for example, did I ever want to leave home. And so I have lived in a foreign country for the past 20 years. Children were never a consideration. Now I have three. I've been 'not bothered' whether I got to the top of every mountain I've ever summited.

And so I'd like to give up entirely on January being a month in which you strive to change what you have, and instead make it a month to appreciate what you've got. Much kinder to everyone and still includes chocolate.

Riding the rails a train of thought that's tempting

Resolving to be happy with my lot doesn't stop my interest being piqued by Iarnród Éireann's call to recruit women train drivers. Apparently there are only four female drivers out of a staff of 500. The salaries are great and the work is described as tough, responsible and solitary. Perfect for mainlining podcasts.

Occasionally a small child will ask you to "hoo hoo" your horn as you're leaving the station. Grown men will envy you. And as you wipe the sweat from under your cap at the end of your shift, you'll know you've done an honest day's toil. Where do I sign up?

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