More than just a job!

Corrinne has to be one of the most conscientious and hard working persons that I have ever known, and that is not in any way a biased opinion. I have first hand experience of this. When setting up a telephone fundraising company in Brighton in 2002, Corrinne was the one person I wanted to run the administration team. I knew her attention to detail would be unrivaled by anyone else and that if there was anyone I could trust and rely on, it was her. In the time that we worked together I gained an insight into just how hard she worked.

2005 saw lots of changes and procedures becoming automated. Corrinne felt that her role had changed to the point that she wasn’t getting the same levels of satisfaction. A change was needed. Every job that she ever applied for, she was always offered, what a reflection on her working character and the impressions that she made at interviews.

The job that appealed most to Corrinne was being a PA to a Pediatric Consultant. This was a role that was quite diverse in its duties and definitely quite challenging. The consultant that she was assigned to, was extremely demanding and was involved in many aspects within the consultancy. This meant although there was an enormous variety of tasks, the work load was far greater than others were getting. Often meaning late departures, just to make sure all work was completed.

Eventually the practice was moved up to Seaside View at the General Hospital in Brighton. This made it much easier for Corrinne’s journey and parking. During her time in this team, she made four friends that she has remained in contact with ever since. The girls looked out for each other, went for lunches at the garden centre across the road and also enjoyed the occasional evenings out as well.

The girls were about as different from each other as you could get. Yet together there was a closeness to one another both on individual levels and collectively that Corrinne absolutely treasured. I knew every evening there would be conversations about her work and also lots of updates from her friends. This meant so much to her and saw her through many a challenging time.

I guess so far I have painted quite a rosy picture of this job as there were many aspects that Corrinne really enjoyed. One of which was organising the medical students, so that they gained work experience at various clinics in the area. Although at times it was quite stressful, it definitely was one of her more favoured tasks. Unfortunately, there were also duties that were less rewarding, like having to cover reception. Oh how she hated this, and didn’t I get to hear all about it….

However, there was one particular aspect of work that her consultant covered that wasn’t quite so pleasant. This involved child abuse cases. These would upset her quite significantly. Having to type up detailed accounts of incidents and to see graphical images really upset her. I recall that the ultimate distress came from when she was sat in reception, covering the receptionists break and children whose details she had processed would be sat there in front of her. This made it so real and really upset her.

I could always tell when Corrinne had been working on child abuse cases. It would take so much longer for her to relax when she came home. She would often be late home as she would need quite reflection time. Sometimes it wasn’t even possible to change the thoughts that were going through her mind, and she would sit quietly and pensively at the television, and I knew she wasn’t watching it. I felt helpless, there was nothing I could do, she needed to take her time and do things her way.

These thoughts were never too far away from her mind. Even when she went to sleep, they caused the most upsetting and graphical dreams. In the middle of the night she would become quite agitated and distressed, constantly fidgeting. Sometimes, she would be so wake that she would talk about them, but mostly she rolled over drifted back into her sleep, and the dreams would continue.

I have to say considering all that she was going through Corrinne was remarkably loyal and stuck at the job for nine years, until 2014. In the last few years it did become increasingly more difficult for her to cope with. I could see that her health was suffering, she wasn’t eating properly and was extremely tired. I did all I could to try and help her through, but as always she was a martyr to the cause.

During these difficult times Corrinne suffered quite badly with migraines and was always taking tablets for her headaches. We had tablets all over the house. There was also something else that was being hidden, that I purely discovered by chance.

One day whilst hoovering, I moved the tumble dryer out to collect the dust from behind and I discovered a half full bottle of vodka. Now in no way am I implying that there was a heavy level of drinking going on. Something I do know as a fact, as I replaced the bottle and would make regular checks. It was just being used discreetly to take the edge off of the difficult times and when using the tumble dryer. I later also found a second bottle, tucked away discreetly under the kitchen sink, amongst the cleaning products. The levels didn’t change that much and that often, but I felt so sad that these were the extremes that she had to go to to portray a strong image to others, whilst hiding her struggles to those around her and closest to her.

This phase was never spoken about between us. I just watched and made sure that it never intensified. I knew that it had stopped when I replaced the vodka with water and nothing was ever said.

Eventually we got to a point where the struggles became too much. She broke down with me and began to open up. We knew that this required professional help as well as taking some time off from work. We managed to get a Doctors appointment and she was signed off with Depression. a label to her that she hated! She was given medication and advised to rest. After a period of partial recovery, she insisted on returning to work. Being the NHS, these absences have procedures to follow on returning to work. She was sent for counselling, something else that she absolutely hated. She was forced into “opening up” rather than keeping the issues to herself.

To this day, I still believe that the level of detail that Corrinne was subjected to has mentally scarred her and possibly has some connection with how the mind is now. That will never be proven or dis-proven so we will never know for sure.

These events were the beginning of the end of her time working at Seaside View. As well as the encouragement that I was giving her to return back to the care side of her work, something that she really enjoyed, she was also being told from her Mum, Dad and Sister who were also seeing her unhappiness.

Eventually we found a Care Assistant role at Deanswood BUPA home in Rottingdean which quite appealed to her. As always, one interview and the job was hers. There were different aspects to this job, depending on which floor you worked on. Corrinne always enjoyed working on the top floor with the “residentials”. This was less pressurised and gave her more time to sit and talk with the residents.

The shifts were long, 13 hours at time, but it was only three days a week. This really appealed to her as she thought she would get more time to herself. Unfortunately after long shifts it did take some time to recover, so it wasn’t quite perfect. But it was definitely an improvement on what she was doing before. Sadly BUPA is not one of the best for paying its staff and there is a high turnover of staff and a lot of agency staff who work there.

The salary was not an issue for Corrinne and I, it never had been. I always earned good money, she just wanted enough for a few luxuries. However, others were constantly telling her that she could be earning more, elsewhere. This was true, but it was not going to be as convenient and would come at a price. In the end, the pressure became too much and she did end up leaving BUPA. Something I didn’t agree with and certainly wish she hadn’t done.

One of my reasons for taking this journey back in time is to try and see if there were any early signs or symptoms that in hindsight might have been relevant.

Whilst working at BUPA, Corrinne was still driving. The location of her work was an easy route and with ample free parking, so was not a problem. However, there were occasions where she missed her turnings and got lost or she quite simply went the wrong way. At the time we laughed about these and put them down to being tired after long shifts. Headlights on cars also caused her visual problems, as the lights seemed to dazzle her on the windscreen, something her sister also confirmed happened to her, so this might be totally irrelevant.

The thing that I found most worrying and was something that was beginning to develop was her inability to retain any details. Again, we put it down to tiredness etc. We decided that we could help her by keeping a small notebook in her pocket and when she was given details she could write them down, and refer back to them as and when required to do so. This was particularly relevant to combination locks on doors.

When the first notebook became full and we needed a second one, I offered to help transfer details across for her. I was shocked to discover the same codes written on so many pages, this definitely was not right. This has to be one of the earliest signs that I can go back to.

After only a short period of just over a year working at BUPA, Corrinne finally bowed to the pressure and moved back to the NHS at the Sussex County Hospital. A similar role as a Care Assistant working on a Dementia ward, but paid slightly higher. The increase in salary did not reflect the added problems driving, cost of parking and of course being stuck in rush hour traffic.

We managed to get around the transport problem, as I held a taxi licence I would take her and pick her up. I would also be able to use the bus lanes to avoid traffic congestion. Lightheartedly I also claimed it had the added bonus that she wouldn’t get lost on her journey or forget where she had parked the car.

Corrinne started at the hospital in October 2015. A key thing with the NHS is making sure all staff receive the relevant amount of training. Courses were arranged and time was expected to be made both at work and home to complete the NVQ qualifications. The folders that were full of papers were huge. This was not an easy task that lay ahead. Corrinne’s lack of enthusiasm for study and the increasing ability to retain information were causing a massive problem. I would spend many an hour sat with her helping and even at times sat alone doing it for her.

Again retaining details at work was becoming harder and other staff were not quite so understanding when the same questions were being repeatedly asked. Corrinne hated the fact that time was restricted with patient and that she was always being rushed from one to another. She was repeated told off for sitting talking to the patients, who absolutely loved her to bits.

We were due to go to Australia in the January of 2016. This meant that Corrinne only worked on the ward for four months before taking a months unpaid leave. As I have detailed previously on our return from Australia, she was immediately “signed off” and never actually went back to work. She was called in for a couple of meetings with her Manager, and I have to say was treated exceptionally well. Her Manager also agreed that it would probably be best if I accompanied her to the meetings as well.

It wasn’t until the November of 2016 that we finally handed her notice of resignation in. We knew then that there was no way that she would be able to go back to work, and certainly not complete the NVQ. Such a sad way for it all to come to an end.

Corrinne loved to help others and was always a fantastic addition to any team or environment that she worked in…………..

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