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Our own experiences early on in life shape us and affect how we cope with major events through the years. In childhood, care from others, not just our parents and families, teaches us empathy, compassion and kindness. Here, NHD's Publishing Editor, Lisa Jackson, takes a brief look at certain experiences that have led her to where she is today.

When I was a child critically ill in hospital with third degree burns back in 1964/65, I remember very little of the intensive treatment and healthcare I received. As I recovered and went in and out of Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton for various operations and physio, I do remember being regularly served one particular dish – mash and mince. I can still smell it to this day!

I also remember the summer fairs at St Mary’s back then, full of stalls and sunshine and frail little kids like me accepting hospital life as our reality. I still have a photo of dad and me in the hospital garden eating candyfloss, an absolute treat!

What I am convinced of, is that those early experiences of months in hospital and the care I received, has shaped me. I can visualise nurses in blue dresses, no faces, just shapes, talking to me, comforting me, always being there. And I remember the nurse who fed me mash and mince! The kindness and compassion for me and my parents was evident throughout that journey of recovery.

Hospital care today is second to none. We only have to look at what our NHS staff are going through and what they are achieving during this horrendous pandemic. Hospital food has been in the headlines on and off in recent years, with Jamie Oliver's input and now Pru Leith having been heavily involved in the latest review. So, what are children on the wards served up these days? I’m sure you NHS Paediatric dietitians could give me a run-down of the meals and snacks provided, and probably could give much comment on how you think hospital food for little ones has improved or could still be improved. Perhaps we should feature a blog on the topic next year. Message me if you’re keen to write something.

In 2017, my mother was cared for at East Surrey Hospital. She had lymphoma and the Macmillan drop-in centre there often provided us with tea and biscuits and TLC. Mum was also given advice on nutrition while we were there, and ideas on what she should eat to provide her with calories and much-needed energy. When she was admitted for the last two weeks of her life, visits from the dietitian were limited. At that stage, mum was finding it difficult to swallow and she soon slipped into that last ‘induced’ coma, where the care pathway states no water, no nothing. It wasn’t easy for us, her family, to deal with, as it was such a quick transition from her sitting up in bed, sipping ONS drinks, to unconsciousness. Despite everything, I observed the tremendous efforts of the consultants, doctors, nurses and assistants who, despite being overwhelmed with the workload and lack of resources, all provided care, compassion and empathy, just as they had when I was little.

End of life care is a hugely difficult role, even for the clinical experts, when nutrition management is limited but quality of life needs to be priority. Empathy is all important, not just for the patient but for the family too. We recently published a very honest and open article by Belinda Mortell on end of life care, and the journey taken in managing the challenges of nutrition in cancer care. The article was all the more poignant as Belinda was writing about her brother.

You can read Belinda’s article in the NHD digital issue here…

I have been with NHD for many years now, ensuring to the best of my ability that every issue provides you, our readers, as nutrition professionals, with information, facts, advice and resources that are relevant to you. Perhaps I came to this job as a way to give a little something back. Fate? Luck? Who knows…

We aim to cover all areas of dietetics and nutrition and it’s thanks to our authors (experts and specialists in their fields, freelance dietitians, community professionals and students starting their careers) for providing us with such a variety of content, to make NHD the unique publication it is, just for you. New authors, by the way, are always most welcome. Email us here...

We have been able to continue publishing the magazine through this year during this pandemic, because of the advertising and sponsorship we receive. We don’t charge a subscription fee anymore. NHD is free – as are our other offerings, including our weekly NH-eNews Bulletins and Alerts, the CPD eArticles and additional resources on our website.

Next year we aim to continue providing you with much to read and digest, and we have put together an exciting schedule of features and topics.

From the Paediatric wards, to the care homes and everything in between, nutrition is our business, as it is yours.

Thanks for reading. Lisa

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