Unexpected Gifts – Nurse Bert!

Kerry Warnholtz

The talented Kerry Warnholtz, on a recent photo and video shoot at our farm.

“Acts of Kindness:
A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.”
~ Roy T. Bennett

 

It’s been a hard few weeks, with the loss of our precious dog Bert.

It’s also been rough because I am still fighting the antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection that I picked up in hospital last year. It’s manifested as a persistent urinary tract infection that has made my life quite miserable. Right now I’m on aggressive treatment, which is working, but which also involves regular IV therapy, acupuncture and lots of herbs and essential oils.

So you can imagine that I have been feeling a little glum…

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Ben and Harry and I have been greatly buoyed by all of your kind comments and love, and the outpouring of stories you’ve shared with us of your own pets and loved ones.

Thank you. <3

It has made a tough time more bearable.

I also received two other gifts on Wednesday which have overwhelmed us with their kindness.

The first was a little book, made by my thoughtful friend Monique Sinclaire. Inside were a collection of pictures of Bert which she must have found online. In an act of deep synchronicity the photo at the beginning and end of the book were the same ones I chose for the beginning and end of Wednesday’s blog about Bert’s passing. Thank you, Monique. We’ll treasure this!

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The other was a short video, made by the ever-kind Kerry Warnholtz. Kerry is an incredibly gifted and heart-centered photographer and videographer. Last year Kerry spent a week at our farm and one of my retreats to shoot footage for a short documentary for me. The aim of the documentary was to capture the work and care we put into preparing for and running our retreats.

I’ll show you the results soon. It’s wonderful!

Of course Kerry shot oodles of footage. Of everything. And somewhere in all of that she had the sweetest piece of video, of Ben, me and Nurse Bert, in the back yard at the end of the day, as we all enjoyed a cup of tea and the leftover treats from our photo shoot. (A big shout out to Jessie and Andrew from Home Amongst The Green, whose delicious treats feature on the plate that Bert can’t take his eyes off!)

It was such a glorious and unexpected wonder, to look at our beautiful boy once more, being his irrepressible food-oriented self. Watch his eyes, which tell you quite repeatedly that he would like a treat please!

Thank you, Kerry. It made us laugh and cry, and all of that is good medicine.

If you’re ever looking for someone to capture the heart and soul of your family or business in images, look no further than Kerry. I can’t recommend her highly enough. You can find her at Truth Seeker Images Multimedia.

And here he is, Nurse Bert, one more time…

Death Of A Friend – Saying Goodbye to Bert

Nurse Bert

“We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan.”
~ Irving Townsend

 

And so it seems that for the next installment in my Wednesday series on death and dying that I shall be writing about something very raw and close to home…

On Sunday January 15 at 4am Ben and I made one of the hardest decisions we have yet made for our little family. We chose to euthanise our darling dog, Bert.

It was an entirely unexpected place to find ourselves in. Although, if you have read last Monday’s post, you will see that I was in fact forewarned, after having chosen the oracle card for the week ahead earlier on Saturday morning. A card that I discounted and put down, so that later I might choose another, better card.

That card was such a portend; a heartbroken woman, tears running down her face, cradling in her arms her dead dog – the little ginger pup with the red collar.

Grief

Who would have thought on a sunshiny Saturday morning, with our two dogs Harry and Bert well and happy and flourishing, that by Saturday evening it would all be going horribly downhill for one of them?

Dear readers, this is so often the way death finds us and our loved ones. This is the way the world is. One moment life is fine and normal. The next moment everything is different. Changed forever.

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Our Saturday started as Ben and I grabbed a coffee and the weekend papers in town then headed home to sit on the veranda. We did some writing together before the heat of the day while Bert and Harry sat at our feet, went off for a little wander, and then came back to the shade again.

The farm is in the grip of a heatwave. As I sat down mid-morning to do a little prep work and then start a day of skype readings with clients the boys all retreated to our air-conditioned bedroom – the one cool room in the house. Bert stayed there all day, happy on the bed. Harry and Ben did a little farm work and then came back to the bedroom. It was just too hot for anything!

When I finished work just before 6pm we all headed up to the pool. While Ben and I swam Harry and Bert ran around the edges, following us. Eventually Bert tired of the game and lay down. He’d only been lying there a few minutes when he stood up suddenly. He was violently ill. After which he pooed everywhere and began to shake. Bert looked at me and our eyes locked. I got a terrible cold feeling and a sense of certainty that he was going to die. He collapsed in front of me.

It all happened in seconds.  But even now those seconds feel like hours. I called to Ben that something was wrong and we jumped out of the pool and hurried to Bert’s side. Ben thought he might have eaten something. I was sure it was more urgent than that.

I ran back to the house, my heart pounding, and began to ring the local vets. Frantically I called vet after vet. Most were on holidays. No-one answered the phone. Finally, on the sixth call a vet in Lismore, a thirty minute drive away, picked up. If we came straight away she would meet us at the clinic. By this time Ben had brought Bert down to the house. Our beloved dog was lying on our bedroom floor, his gums pale, his breathing laboured, his heart beat erratic, his body twisted with pain.

I was sure it was a snake bite.

Leaving Harry in our room, Ben carried Bert to the ute and placed him in the back seat, where I climbed in beside him to cradle his head and comfort him as Ben drove us to get help.

Our poor dog. He was in a bad way, and as I felt his heart race and slow and flutter beneath my fingers it was all I could do to stay calm. I poured every ounce of love I had into him, and told Bert stories to keep him quiet and listening to my voice.

While our world spun, life went on as normal for most everyone else. Families came to the dinner table, or sat in front of television. People went about their lives. This is how it is when your world is falling apart. Other people’s lives are progressing as they always have. The only sky that falls is yours. It’s as if you move into a parallel dimension.

The vet was young and inexperienced. She was not sure what to do. She kept walking out of the surgery room, leaving us alone for long periods of time. It did not instill us with confidence.

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It took several goes for her to find a vein. She did a coagulation test, and told us it wasn’t a snake bite. She thought our sick dog might have eaten something. Meanwhile Bert was increasingly distraught, and then began to poo an acrid foaming mess of faeces and blood. The vet thought she might give Bert a drip and then leave him alone in the clinic overnight, after which the senior vets could assess him and give him some scans the next morning.

Our dog was shaking and moaning and the vet wanted to leave him alone and unattended in a cage all night.

Ben asked for other options. The vet suggested an emergency vet hospital on the Gold Coast. But less than an hour further up the road and we could be back in Brisbane, with a place to sleep, and close to our trusted family vet come Monday morning. As soon as the drip was in place we paid the bill and Ben carried Bert out to the car, our plan already decided.

I sat in the back with Bert’s head on my lap, wads of towels under him to catch the stinking bloody waste that kept oozing from him. We strapped the drip to the door frame and raced away.

Ben hugged the speed limit as he drove us home to the farm. The familiar country roads went by in a blur. Night fell. It was still stinking hot, and I was grateful that the car was cool and quiet.

At home one of us stayed with Bert while we took turns picking up Harry Dog and locking the house and sheds. I grabbed a bottle of essential oil and my computer. There was no time for anything else.

We were soon on our way again. Ben concentrated on the road, and Harry Dog sat in the front seat, twisted around so that he could see Bert and I, his eyes worried and fretful.

I rubbed Peace and Calming Oil (the same one I used when I helped my friend Angela to pass) on my hands and then let Bert breathe it in. I rubbed it along his spine. It took away his agitation and helped him to settle. It helped me too.

I noticed everything. The velvety feel of Bert’s muzzle, the raggedness of his breathing, Harry’s gentle and frequent sighs, the steady drip of the saline from the bag into the tube that was bandaged to Bert’s leg.

As we drove I patted Bert, and talked to him. I breathed in his pain, and breathed out love. I thought about the fact that here we suddenly were, pushing ourselves on this frantic journey to get help for our loved one – enroute to an excellent animal medical facility. I was monitoring Bert’s drip, we were safe, and yet there were so many people in the world in that same moment who did not have the care, attention or even the rudimentary treatments afforded our dog.

Bert settled under my touch and rested. But his eyes tracked our movements and he did not sleep. If I stopped patting him or talking to him he nudged me until I began again. He seemed unaware of the smells and the ooze. He became peaceful. Almost content. I filled the car with gentle talk about burgers and walks and adventures and lots of food stories. Bert loved his food, and burgers most of all.

When we arrived at the veterinary hospital it was just before midnight. Ben went ahead to get help and soon orderlies came with a stretcher. They carried Bert away, Ben following, while Harry and I stayed with the car.

As soon as the heavy doors shut and we could no longer see them, Harry began to whimper. I could not quieten him. He did not want me to put essential oil on him. I understood. He wanted to feel his feelings. He did not want to be pacified. Eventually the whimper became a howl. I crawled onto the front seat beside him and held him in my arms. I couldn’t cry, so Harry did for us. Nothing I did gave him any comfort. It was awful.

Ben took forever. Enough time for me to wipe up most of the shit and the blood from myself and the car. Enough time for me to use the remains of a bottle of water to clean things as best I could and to dump all the filthy towels into a vet waste bin.

Finally Ben returned and beckoned us to come inside. The vets had suggested that we bring Harry too, so we clipped him onto a leash and he trotted in beside us.

Reception was similar to a hospital waiting room. While Bert was being attended to by the vet team a nurse brought me a cup of tea. Ben couldn’t stomach one. We sat in uncomfortable chairs and waited, Harry lying pressed against our feet. Above us the minutes ticked by on a gigantic clock.

Then they brought me Bert’s big red leather collar, which I stuffed into my bag.

Ben kept one hand on me, and one hand on Harry. Somehow his hands steadied us enough that we could breathe again and be calm.

The night dragged on.

The emergency vet came and talked to us. The young country vet in Lismore had not forwarded Bert’s test results and records like she had promised us. They were running new tests but it was clear that Bert was a very, very ill boy. I asked if she could run the snake venom panel again, and the vet told us that the first test in Lismore would have been done too soon, and therefore was possibly unreliable. The best way to test would be with urine, but they’d need to insert a catheter. Bert was dangerously dehydrated so they were currently pumping him full of fluid. The vet agreed that it looked like snakebite, but the tests would take at least an hour. She was quietly reassuring. They were getting things under control.

I still felt cold to my core. It didn’t seem real and at the same time every detail was seared into my memory. I was certain we were losing him.

The vet went back into the surgery to do her work and a nurse took us to another room where we began filling in forms and giving our credit card details.

Finally we were asked to come through into the big, airy treatment room. There were several dogs in crates, most of them sleeping. There was medical equipment everywhere, and teams of people in scrubs working at lab stations.

It was three in the morning and Bert was now resting on a comfy bed in a large open cage on floor level. The nurses had given him a pillow for his head and a stuffed toy to keep him company. The vet was sitting beside him on the floor.

Harry went over and licked his face and cried a little. Bert rallied and licked him back. Suddenly Harry pulled away and went and sat on his own with his back to us, near the door. Ben and I gave Bert cuddles and hugs, and told him what a good boy he was and how much we loved him.

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The vet staff urged us to go home. Bert was stable, they had given him pain meds and he was getting dopey. Soon he would sleep. They would call us as soon as they had any results. We could come back and see him in the morning.

One final round of cuddles and we did go home. We scrubbed ourselves clean under long hot showers and then slid into bed, worried and exhausted.

We’d only just gotten to sleep when the phone rang. It was 4am. The vet had news. She had decided to do an ultrasound of Bert’s belly while they waited for the snakebite kit. She’d found a large mass on his spleen that was bleeding heavily into his abdomen. Then the snakebite test had come back positive. Bert needed urgent surgery for the mass, but his blood wasn’t clotting because of the snakebite. If she attempted surgery in his current state he’d bleed out.

He was bleeding out anyway.

On top of that it was likely he had damage from the snake venom. Heart damage. Nerve damage.

The vet was distraught but professional. She began talking surgeries, transfusions, risks, medications. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Months. Pain management.

Everything was risk. Everything was a gamble. All of it would mean more suffering for our beautiful boy. But she could try.

Meanwhile Bert was resting comfortably, finally asleep from the pain meds and a sedative.

So, Ben and I told her we’d call her back.

We sat on the bed with Harry beside us and we didn’t even need to talk. We just looked at each other and both of us shook our heads, tears running down our faces. It was enough. We couldn’t let him suffer.

So we called her straight back and asked her to euthanise him. We didn’t want for him to have to wait for us to travel to see him one more time (although we wanted to, but that was about our needs, not Bert’s), or to wake him up when he was finally calm and asleep. The vet explained that it was easy for her to do. She just needed to add a little extra medication to his drip. The vet promised us that she would hold him and stay with him until he passed. She had been unable to be with one of her own animals a few weeks before when her elderly pet had taken ill and had needed to be put to sleep. It was something she wanted to do now for Bert. I knew she would help Bert to feel loved, and one more time Nurse Bert got to comfort and support someone in need.

Because that’s what our beautiful dog always did. He loved you and stayed with you and looked after you until he was sure you were okay again.

It’s been ten days now.

Our home feels emptier.

Harry Dog is pining and clingy.

There’s too much room on the bed.

If I drop food on the floor it stays there.

Even though we are grieving our hearts are full, because this goofy dog who came into our lives when I found him abandoned and near death one hot summer afternoon – in a cardboard box at a suburban shopping centre – turned out to be one of the greatest friends we’ve even known.

We’d had him nine years almost to the day.

Nurse Bert. Our dog. Our friend. <3

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A Quiet Wednesday Today

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“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

 

Wednesday is my day for posting about death and dying.

Today just happens to be Ben’s birthday as well.

And for us, death and dying just came right to our front door, with the recent heartbreaking and sudden loss of our dear friend, Nurse Bert, the bestest and goofiest dog we have ever known.

I have tried, but I still can’t bring myself to tell you what happened yet. It was a little like being in a war zone for those last few hours of Bert’s life. We are still running on adrenaline and not enough sleep. We’re all still bruised and traumatised and too numb. We’re all still raw and feeling too much and not numb enough.

That’s what death brings to those who remain. A deep grief and sorrow. A total disorientation. An ocean of feeling and a desperate need to be able to find a way to navigate that ocean without our flimsy crafts being tossed around and going under.

On top of all of which I am undergoing procedures to help settle this intractable antibiotic-resistant UTI, which has been making life a misery.

While enduring a heatwave.

And with a dog left behind who is mourning the loss of his brother hard, and for whom there is currently only sadness in this world. Poor Cafe Dog, our sweet Harry, needs extra cuddles and care right now.

So, today we are having a very quiet day at home. We might just retreat to the only room with air-con – the bedroom – and all have a cuddle and a cry and try to catch up on some sleep.

Thank you so much for your outpouring of love and support. It has been such a comfort to us all.

Hug your loved ones, and be kind to yourselves and each other, today and always,

Much love to you from Nicole, Ben and Harry xx

Vale, Good Sir Bertle, the most distinguished Nurse, companion and burger connoisseur.

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Nurse Bert

The Week Ahead – Oracle Reading for Monday 16 January

Grief

“Grief does not change you… It reveals you.”
~ John Green

Hello, dear friends!

I apologise that today’s post is late in coming. In fact I was unsure if I would even be able to write it at all. But here it is.

Here’s the oracle card I have chosen this Monday, and my take on the energetic outlook for the week ahead.

‘Grief’ is from the Chakra Wisdom Oracle Deck by Tori Hartman.

On Saturday morning I chose this card for the week ahead. I thought I might get organised and write my weekly post early, before my unplugged Sunday, and so that I might spend Monday morning (today) working on my almost-finished memoir.

When I pulled this card, I did a double-take. Oh, I thought, looking closely at the picture. It’s a heart-broken girl holding her dead dog. I can’t post that! So, I put the card down, and I moved onto another project and then some client readings and suddenly it was Saturday afternoon, and I forgot all about that card, and I went for a swim on that hot afternoon, with Ben my husband, and with Harry and Bert our dogs.

Well, some of you already know what happened next. Bert collapsed without warning. The next minute we were racing him to a vet. And then racing him from our country home back to a big veterinary hospital in the city. Our beloved dog Bert died at 4am on Sunday. We are all heartbroken. Yesterday was just a wash of tears.

And then this morning I remembered the card, and wept anew.

But, that’s enough of me. I need to talk about this card, and how it relates to you.

Grief is actually a beautiful card. An important card. I’m sure some of you are feeling these energies right now. These energies of grief and loss and tragedy and yearning and heartache and regret and disappointment and emptiness, right as the year began fresh. What an awful energy, you might think, to strike right when we need to be  hopeful and optimistic and to enjoy our fresh start.

It’s okay. The Grief card has a powerful message for you this week.

This is what grief reminds you: Grief is just love with nowhere to go.

That’s as it should be when you first lose something. Until you learn how to keep loving without it.

If you let grief keep rebounding inside you with no expression and no flow, eventually it can lead to frustration, anger, and then to depression.

All of that love, if you don’t eventually give it form again with something else, all of that love held as grief will weigh you down, and prevent you from living truly and fully in your life.

So, feel into the energy of grief this week, for in it are the seeds of so much locked-up positive emotion, so many gifts, so much power to propel you forward again.

This might be grief around relationships, choices, changing circumstances, mistakes, outcomes, all manner of loss…

Where have you got energy locked up in grief? Where is there energy trapped in your life with nowhere to go? How can you untangle that and repurpose it and give it somewhere to flow again?

How can you take all of this love with nowhere to go, and channel it into something new and good?

You might be surprised at the breakthroughs you have this week!

Supportive crystals this week? Rose Quartz, Chrysocolla, Green Aventurine and Citrine. Helpful essential oils? Young Living’s Inner Child essential oil blend, or  a combination (or singly!) of any of orange, jasmine, rosemary and geranium.

Feelings are a part of our lives for a reason. They help us to understand ourselves and the world around us, and they light the path for us, if we can be brave enough to follow where they lead.

Holding you, as always, in my thoughts, prayers and meditations.  All my love,

Nicole ❤ xx

 

 

Grounded Goodness

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
~ Rachel Carson

 

Yesterday was one of those days when my body just wasn’t cooperating.

At first it got me down. I had so many things to do, and I couldn’t see well enough to do any of them!

Ben came to the rescue and suggested what I needed was a walk and then a nap. He was right.

So, here, in pictures is my walk around the farm, and then the beginnings of fruit salad for dinner.

The bird is a tawny frogmouth fledgling who took shelter on the wheelbarrow in one of our sheds. Cute, hey?

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Nurse Bert Reports

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“To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care.”   ~ Mandy Hale

 

 

I’m not letting her out of my sight.

Nicole, that is.

Because she’s still really sick.

I’m making her rest. I’m following her if she needs to get out of bed. I want her to know that my job is to look after her. And I take my job very seriously.

Human peoples, Nicole is resting. Rest can make you better. So can love. So I am making sure she has both.

Maybe you need some rest and some love too. I think it is very good medicine.

That’s all for now.

Love from Nurse Bert

xoxo

 

Pretzels and Early Morning Strolls

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“I can’t think of anything that brings me closer to tears than when my old dog—completely exhausted after a hard day in the field—limps away from her nice spot in front of the fire and comes over to where I’m sitting and puts her head in my lap, a paw over my knee, and closes her eyes, and goes back to sleep. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve that kind of friend.”Gene Hill

 

I needed a good stretch and a long walk this morning.

It’s because of my bed. Because of the way I’ve been sleeping.

After a week away on retreat I was so looking forward to coming home and sleeping in my own bed. And for the past few nights that is where I’ve rested. But I’ve been waking up stiff and sore.

Usually my bed is like sleeping in a cloud. Comfy mattress, just the right amount of pillows, a little lavender oil on the sheets, and a view out my nighttime windows to the moon-bathed trees.

I have a problem since I came home.

Dogs.

Dogs that sneak up onto the bed in dead of night. Large Cafe-Dog-and-Nurse-Bert-shaped dogs, who drape themselves along me, pressing their whole body weight to me. Dogs who use their substantial body weight to lie on top of me, where I am snuggled up to my sleeping husband, and then use that body weight to slowly wedge themselves between us and open a space on the middle of the bed. After which they extend themselves, claiming all of the space, and most of the blankets.

So we sleep like human pretzels, contorted into strange positions.

The dogs wake before me and then stare at me, waiting for my eyelids to crack open so that they can slather me in affection and help me greet the day.

I guess they missed me!

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Still, I missed them too, so all is forgiven. And an early morning walk fixes everything.

Sending much love and good clean country air your way,

Nicole xoxo

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Keeping Bert Quiet…

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“The way you help heal the world is you start with your own family.”
~ Mother Teresa

 

Nurse Bert is healing well from his cruciate ligament surgery. Next week he’ll have an x-ray to see if the bone has healed. If it looks good, the vet says Bert will finally be allowed to run free. He’ll be able to climb stairs, to race through the paddocks with his brother Harry, and to jump on and off all of the furniture to his heart’s content.

But now, of course, our dear boy must remain confined to a small room. No mad racing around. No walks, unless he is on the lead and strictly supervised for short outings only. NO overdoing it.

I know this one well, having lived with lyme disease and various other maladies for so long. You get a whiff of energy and you instantly want to do all the things. That’s a recipe for pushing too far, overdoing it, or even causing damage.

So as much as Bert hates being confined we are playing the caution card, and keeping him quiet. We’ve even taken to bringing him with us for trips in the car just so that he gets a change of scenery. He loves that!

I can tell Bert’s feeling better because he is itching to escape. He has the spark back in his eyes, and he’s eager to regain his freedom. I feel a little mean to keep him quiet, but it’s the only thing to do until we are sure that the bones are strong and that everything is where it should be after such major surgery.

So for now it’s short walks into the yard and back, and lots and lots of cuddles.

We’re all looking forward to him being back to his nimble self.

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Feeling Better Every Day!

 Hi everyone. 

It’s Nurse Bert reporting from Mum’s phone cos we have no power. This bed’s a little crowded! We’d like to be blogging but actually, we all slept in because of the blackout. It was lovely. 

We are here at the farm and today I get to go for a very short walk on my new bionic knee. Mum says my knee being fixed is much better than any silly holiday she would have had. I think so too. 

That’s Harry in the background. He is ready for a cafe visit. But I think I might have a bit more sleep. A big truck just arrived with men to fix the broken power line where a tree fell on it in the big wind last night. That is all my news. 

Oh yeah, plus one new baby calf. I hope it will be friends with me. Bye for now, love Bert xx

Mum’s Priority!

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“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”  ~ Oprah Winfrey

 

Dear Peoples,

There’s no blog today. It’s my fault. I had a bad night. My leg was sore so I was crying. Mum had to come and sit with me. She gave me some healing and it made me feel a bit better. But that happened about six times in the night.

And then there was the poo accident.

It was a very, very bad scene.

So there’s no blog post today.

I’m real sorry.

Lots of love from Nurse Bert xoxo