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Anna Nolan: My A&E trip showed me how staff battle hard on the frontline


Anna Nolan in St Vincent's A&E.

Anna Nolan in St Vincent's A&E.

The Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz.


Anna Nolan in St Vincent's A&E.

Its been a long, long time since I was in A&E.

Last time was in Edinburgh and I had to get my appendix taken out. That was over 20 years ago and it was a really positive experience. The UK health system is a well-oiled machine - I had to wait just ten minutes before I was taken through.

So I wondered what it was going to be like last week when I made my way into St Vincent's Hospital's A&E at 10pm with pains in my chest and arm.

I'll say this now - the pains turned out to be nothing, perhaps some muscular issue. But my 24 hours in A&E was fascinating.

As they took me straight through to resus, I was placed in a cubicle. After going through my initial consultation I lay back and listened to what was going on around me.

Doctors and nurses were extremely busy, but they did everything in a calm manner.

One young doctor told me that he was heading off to the Middle East. He said that what happened in Beaumont A&E could easily happen in St Vincent's: they were understaffed and full to the point of crashing.

Then an emergency came in, an elderly woman who was having a heart attack. I heard everyone rush to the next cubicle to work on her.

They worked on her for 15 minutes, focused, determined, thorough. Just as I was being moved to the next department, I heard the lead doctor say to a colleague who had suggested more drugs: "It's her battle now, let's just wait and see".

Then, as I was wheeled around to the cardiac unit, I saw what I had only heard of and never really believed.

Every inch of wall space had a trolley beside it. The corridors were packed with ill people. There was a man with a beaten up face, an old lady with an oxygen mask. Just outside my new cubicle was a very elderly man who could hardly breath.

To see all these people lying in the corridors instead of wards was utterly unbelievable. They were everywhere.

I cannot fault the staff at Vincent's. The way they treated me, the way they looked after that lady next to me, was wonderful.

I don't know why the words "Its her battle now" have stayed with me above everything.

Perhaps because the doctor knew that no amount of drugs or CPR could save someone if their time was up.

I don't know if that woman made it, but she was surrounded by the most respectful team that allowed her dignity and peace as she decided to stay here or move on.

The nurses and doctors work over Christmas and I would like to wish them and all the other care professionals a very happy one.

I could watch Christmas movies all day...in fact, I think that's what I'll do

Last week I got my RTE Guide, I got my pen, I plonked myself on the sofa in front of the fire and got down to some serious highlighting.

Christmas movies are one of the more enjoyable things about this time of year. I would watch telly for ten hours a day if I could.

There are the movies I loved as a child and then there are the grown up movies that I know I should watch, like Argo. But I know on the day, I will pick ET over Argo anytime.

When I was a child, I remember seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time. It was magic. The transition from black and white to colour was mesmerising.

The munchkins welcoming Dorothy was utter happiness.

When that cowardly lion ran away from the Wizard and jumped off that corridor, I laughed so much I nearly died.


I had never laughed at something on the television before, and that memory made sure that I would watch that movie every Christmas.

The other childhood Christmas classic that I search out each year is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Again there was a first for me in this movie: I had never seen baddies on the telly.

I couldn't believe that someone would turn up and offer a child an amount of money for an everlasting gob stopper.

I couldn't believe that Willy Wonka could be so cruel and turf Charlie out because he drank the soda pop that made you fly. But then of course, it all made sense at the end.

Christmas films are filled with words of wisdom and lessons in life.

So I have them all underlined, categorised and reminder linked on my television. I will while away the hours, conferring with the flowers, as I watch my favourite films this year.


Keeping up with the celeb baby names

* I LOVE a good celebrity baby name. From Apple to Memphis Eves, from Ocean to Blanket, celebs can make a right tit of themselves with their choice of names. So I think Kourtney Kardashian can take her place in the silly name gang, as she recently called her son Reign. Whatevs!

* What the heck is a Pendulum Summit? Well, it seems like it's a gathering of smartish, well-known people who will talk to you for a relatively large amount of money. It's taking place in Dublin in a couple of weeks and Grainne Seoige is somewhere in the mix, asking questions and being sort of smart and sort of well-known too. I'm sure it's worth it, but the title seems a bit ridiculous.

* If you fancy a look back at the year's funniest, most outrageous and controversial moments, why not watch Totes 2014 on RTE2, at 10.15pm next Saturday. It's actually great fun and has the likes of Jennifer Maguire, Bressie, Kevin McGahern and Daniella Moyles giving their tuppence worth. I might be a little biased, I worked on the show!