Thursday, 8 February 2018

Being a Norland College student with a feeding tube

Author: Imi Giles, Set 40

My name is Imi and I’m a second year student at Norland College in Bath. I want to share my experience of being a higher education student with a feeding tube and the journey I have been on.

Having to celebrate my birthday in hospital
Going to Norland College was always a dream of mine. I was on a beach with my closest friends in Malawi when I discovered I had been offered a place. What I didn’t know at the time would be that my amazing trip in Africa would turn out to be my biggest regret.

Back in October 2016 I was on my first placement at a nursery and I suddenly became really poorly. After numerous GP appointments and hospital admissions and having to pull out of my first placement, I found out that I had picked up a tropical disease called Bilharzia or Schistosomiasis; a small snail that holds a parasite and gets in to the host via water, for example through showers or swimming. We had been told it was safe to swim, shower and wash our clothes in the water but to drink bottled, so that’s exactly what we did.

By that December I was admitted to Southampton Hospital for almost three weeks. This is the first time I had ever heard of a feeding tube. I hadn’t been able to eat for three weeks and had nearly lost three stone in weight since, so my consultant decided I should have a nasogastric (NG) tube fitted to give me the nutrition I had been deprived of for so long. All in all I had this for two of the weeks I was in the hospital. Once I had celebrated my birthday in hospital and helped decorate the ward for Christmas, they decided I was well enough to go home with special drinks which would supplement food.

With my Norland friends
Returning back to Norland for our lectures was strange as I hadn’t seen my fellow students for so long and hearing their stories from placements made it harder, knowing I had missed out on such an important part of my training.

Our placement team were very supportive and ensured I would be able to make up this time elsewhere throughout my time at college. Their support during this period was 24/7; calling me in hospital and checking in most days, no matter the time.

I was optimistic and thought it was bound to be uphill from there, and that I would be on the road to recovery. Putting it bluntly: I wasn’t! The rest of my first year would be a mixture of happiness and hard times with more trips to hospital and outpatient appointments to try to understand why I couldn’t keep anything down. This caused me to be really tired and susceptible to picking any bug going around, but I tried so hard to just keep going. This would’ve been impossible if I didn’t have my close friends alongside me, Helen and Rachael, and my amazing tutor too, all of whom have been there for me at every step.

With the Norland Choir, meeting
Miriam Margolyes at the
Osteoporosis Society Christmas concert
Once we broke up for the summer I used this time to give myself a break and time to recuperate before my first nanny adventure abroad to Sicily. The main challenge was to somehow pack all of my special drinks which I needed with me – 240 of them! This was not cheap, and as the airline unfortunately didn’t class it as medication, I had to pay £200 to include it. Thankfully it didn’t all have to fly back with me!

Skipping forward to September 2017, my consultant informed me that it wasn’t sustainable for me to keep going as I couldn’t keep any fluid or food down. They therefore decided to fit me with a nasojejunal (NJ) tube.

My initial thought was that I wouldn’t be able to undertake my upcoming placements and the children will be scared of me because I have a tube on my face. My other thought was ‘how will the other Norland students react to this?’

When I began to tell people, I was surrounded by love and countless hugs, which is exactly what I needed. Once it had been fitted in Southampton, the next day I returned back to Bath so I could go to Norland Choir practice. This is my way of feeling normal in the world: singing with my friends and having a great laugh whilst learning new music in preparation for numerous concerts that we would be attending over the coming months.

Running the
Great South Run
Our many classes at Norland are often classroom based, but Food and Nutrition isn’t. Many fellow students were shocked that I didn’t find this a hard class to go to. In fact, this was the one class I looked forward to each week. Having the Norland College lecturers right behind me throughout everything has helped me to remain on track with my academia.

I’ve allowed nothing to stop me. Back in October 2017 I took part in the Great South Run in Portsmouth to raise money for Southampton Hospital. Completely underestimating myself mainly as I had done such little training, and finished it in 2 hours 18 minutes.

If you are hoping to come to Norland and have a medical problem or something you think may set you back from a career as a Norland Nanny, I can honestly say that I thought my medical condition would create a barrier to achieve this degree with a difference. But it has only made me more and more determined as the year has progressed!

I’ve written this blog on a very cold day from Southampton Hospital whilst planning my next assignment. Norland never is too far from my mind and I’m proud to be part of it. 

Imi Giles joined Norland in September 2016 and has written this blog for Feeding Tube Awareness Week. Visit our website for information about our degree with a difference.

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