So much has happened over the last year, with a lot of work on developing our new strategy, culture and the refreshed vision and values to support this. I’ve also had the opportunity to get out and about and visit many different teams, which is without question the best part of my job. I never cease to be impressed, humbled and full of admiration for what you do, day in and day out.
There’s so much more I want to learn about the services you deliver, how your teams work, and the fantastic people that work here. But I also think it might be helpful to learn some more about me.
So, I’m taking this opportunity to reveal something about myself.
Something personal which has had a huge impact on my life. Something which will hopefully help those who already know me or will meet me soon – and also those who welcome an open and honest message about understanding and respecting everyone as individuals, whatever our challenges.
It’s also important we all feel safe, comfortable and supported if we open up about personal information. Especially when we work for an organisation such as ours.
You see, I’ve been managing a long term health condition whilst holding down a high profile role
Two years ago I had heart failure.
I hate the word 'failure' to describe my living, beating heart, but when I asked another doctor how he'd describe what happened he called it 'heart inadequacy’ which is worse!
Its sometimes easy to forget the psychological impact of a ‘label’, until its ours to wear.
I was visiting Ghana when it happened. I’ve got diabetes and high blood pressure runs in my family, but I started to take a lot of extra medication on this holiday as I was feeling really rotten.
A few days after I returned home, I woke one morning and was struggling to breathe. It was scary enough for me to visit my GP, and before I knew it I was in an ambulance rushing to the MRI. I was in hospital for 10 days, and the care was amazing. We all know how wonderful the NHS is and how lucky we are to have it.
I now have to take 14 tablets every day, which I find both stressful and tedious. I line them up in pairs, according to their shape – anything to make it feel less of a daily trial.
Only four out of the 14 have side effects, but they are gruelling side-effects and take their toll. That means, especially with sometimes very long days of meetings, that I can struggle.
I tell you this in the spirit of openness and caring about the impact it can have on our family, friends and colleagues and so you have more of an understanding about why sometimes I may appear fazed.
I have four children who worry, my son just wants the doctors to ‘fix me’ my eldest daughter practically moved in when I came out of hospital, my middle and youngest daughters worried for some time whenever I went to the GP in case I ended up in A&E again and my adorable grandchildren (6 & 7) worry about me dying.
We also laugh about it though, as there are plenty of funny moments. My relationship with lifts and stairs, and my reaction to being advised to get a ‘blue badge’ are just a couple they tease me about.
Laughing is a good medicine, but one of the best things is that when needed I can indulge in my ‘guilty pleasure’ TV court shows - Judge Judy, People’s Court, Paternity Court and judge Rinder – without feeling I should be ‘up and about’ busying myself all the time.
So, I’ve opened up my ‘weak’ heart to you all. It’s still bursting with pride to be part of our fantastic organisation. I just want you to know that my passion for and commitment to the Trust is strong and I will work to ensure that I carry out my role effectively.
Thank you for reading.
Evelyn Asante-Mensah MBE