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Wisdom from the Ward

After a day of co-facilitating workshops with patients on Sandwell Hospital's Stroke Recovery Ward, Kibriya reflects on the way we think about hospitals and what Overhear aims to accomplish in these spaces.

When I woke this morning, I was anxious about the schedule; Adrian and I were set to run a workshop at Sandwell Hospital as part of Overhear's collaboration with the Midland Met - yet to be built. I was stressed about getting our resources together on time, worried about how the participants were going to receive what we'd planned and, honestly, mostly, nervous about having to spend a significant amount of time on a ward, and possibly having to confront some less-than-great memories.

a view of a busy carpark from a 6th storey window, surrounded by buildings
to be fair, I did have a pretty good view of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital carpark during my own short stint

Plenty of us have negative associations with hospitals - and for good reason. We spoke to one patient who was very firm with us that she wanted out immediately and if she never came back it would be too soon. I've no doubt that she was voicing the thoughts of a lot of the people who have had to stay on a ward for any amount of time. Another patient talked about how overwhelming it all was when they were first admitted, the shock of becoming dependent on others for basic needs, the fear of asking questions like when is it okay to press the call button? As we talked with these participants, their families and the staff who'd worked with them, however, the overwhelming theme was of determination and celebration. When stroke - or any life-changing illness - occurs, it can change everything: the way you live your life, the way you communicate, your whole sense of self. Every single person we talked to was in the process of building themselves back up from a place they never imagined themselves to be and yet every single one was taking it in their stride. I'm a man on a mission, said one patient. I'm not into toxic positivity or reducing people who go through terrible, difficult things to 'inspiration' for those who haven't. Everyone in that room knew that progress was not linear, that recovery is not ticking off a series of boxes on a checklist, that there were hours and days and weeks where they might feel devastated, frustrated, furious. The things that they held onto were often small victories, small joys: going from a 1 to a 2 on the IDDSI Diet Levels chart, the aim of playing board games with their grandchildren, reaching for a word and finding it. It made me appreciate that while hospitals hold difficult memories for many of us, they're also the places where the wonderful minutiae of human life are given their due. That's where you celebrate being able to eat a Greggs Sausage Roll, where you say out loud to your mother I'm so proud of everything you've done, where every word can be a miracle. If Overhear can play any part in recognising that, and in helping other people who pass through the space to find and focus on that joy, then I'll feel very justified in celebrating a victory.

a board covered in pink and yellow post-it notes. Each has a word or phrase on it including beautiful, fresh you can branch out, blue beyond words, branches, ridiculous
just some of the words we helped our participants find

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