What would you like us healthcare professionals to do better?’
The person asked was an older gentleman who had survived several admissions to Intensive Care. On each occasion he suffered delirium.
His answer was simple: ‘come into my world’
For me this summed up the American Delirium Association conference. It was, in every sense, a conference about people and for people.
I had been looking forward to Nashville for many months. The only minor obstacle raising my stress levels was the flight itself. I have a well documented discomfort of flying and this would be my first transatlantic flight by myself.
To make the flight better I had booked a window seat – ironically I do better when I can see the horizon or the ground below. However I’d manage to book the only seat on the plane without a window. What the……?!?!?!?!
I tried to explain to the cabin crew but as the flight was fully booked I had no choice but to go back to my seat, albeit with another glass of Prosecco as an apology.
The lady next to me however had a much bigger problem – her TV wasn’t working. It was at that moment I felt the universe had conspired towards us. We started talking instead. It turned out to be one of the best journeys. Joyce was turning 70 this year and was making the trip home to South Carolina having visited family in England. We talked pretty much non stop the whole way. So much so that another lady came over to join us – she heard the ‘animated’ discussion and wanted to join in. In that 8 hour flight I entered the worlds of two other people. We shared stories, opinions and wine.
Although I didn’t know it at the time it was to set the tone for my whole trip.
After a 7am start on the Sunday I figured I could justifiably spend the afternoon doing a tour of Nashville. To be specific is was a 3.5 hour extravaganza of ‘Nashville the TV show’. It was as amazing! Not only did we go to all the sites they film at but we took in the surrounding area including people’s houses (Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton, Tim McGraw etc) plus we got to go inside the Ryman Auditorium. Hugely exciting! The people on the tour were as friendly and entertaining as our tour guide. Apparently my Scottish accent was ‘awesome’ although by their own admission their impersonations of it were less so… 😀
At dinner that night an older lady clambered up on to a bar stool next to me. Fearing she’d break her hip I offered to help. I was emphatically told ‘I can manage just fine but thank you all the same’.
We got to talking – she’d also been at a family wedding over the weekend but was now intent on ‘partying’ in Nashville. She was 73. She went on to tell me that she was from Colorado. A state, which she proudly explained, has one of the longest life expectancy. Seemingly the thin air makes your body work that bit harder especially with all the ‘outdoor living’ The whole conversation was a testament to positive ageing. Her only gripe was the arthritis limiting her skiing now.
The next 2 days would be jam packed with delirium research, raising awareness and education. The aspiration being to better understand something so complex and yet so simple in terms of its basic management.
As I got on the plane to come home I thought about how fortunate I’d been to meet so many incredible people. Each of them allowed me to enter their world for a short period of time and by doing so they have changed mine forever…..