I will leave nursing to the professionals | Steve Canavan

I gained a new found respect for Florence Nightingale this week after taking a foray into the world of nursing and realising very quickly that it’s not for me.

Saturday, 6th June 2020, 12:00 am
circa 1856: British nurse and hospital reformer Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910), standing left, nursing wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. (Photo by Edward Gooch Collection/Getty Images)

Flo became a national hero in the 1850s for tending to soldiers wounded in the Crimean War.

But what I hadn’t realised was that there was so much more to her than that. Born into a very wealthy family, she was slightly eccentric but in a wonderful kind of way. Florence was also a whizz at mathematics and is credited with developing the pie chart.

She became etched into folklore when, during the Crimean War – and after reading reports about how horrific conditions were for the wounded – she trained 38 volunteer British nurses and took them to the Ottoman empire where she tirelessly cared for casualties of three different armies.

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To this day the highest distinction for a nurse is to be awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal, given to those who show ‘exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict or disaster’.

But I daresay even Florence might have uttered the odd expletive or two had she been in my house at the weekend.

Mrs C had a funny turn on Sunday and complained she was feeling sick. This was a bit annoying because I had my day planned out – walk in the park, bike ride, bit of time playing my guitar, then the footie on TV at 2pm.

Initially I thought Mrs C was exaggerating. She often does that. For instance she complains I am lazy and she has to do everything around the house, but she only has to do the cooking, washing, dusting, hoovering, cleaning, polishing and ironing. I do the rest.

It was only when I heard a frail voice shout from the bedroom 'can you get me a bucket?' that I realised it must be serious. She spent the next three hours being violently sick.

Call me a kill-joy but I've never much liked vomit, yet Mrs C likes me to be there when she does it.

'Can you hold my hair back?' she asked between heaves.

The answer I wanted to give was, obviously, 'not a chance – you're being sick and I'm coming nowhere near you', but of course I had to do as she said lest I appear too cold and callous.

And so it was that I found myself, last Sunday, watching someone eject a horrific-smelling green liquid from their mouth into a bucket we normally use to keep the recycling in.

I was fairly sympathetic at first. I even put the sound on mute as I watched a re-run of the 2006 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham, calling upstairs every so often 'are you okay sweetheart?'

However, West Ham had just gone two-up and I'd opened a packet of Jaffa Cakes to go with my freshly made coffee, so, as I tried later to explain to her, there was no way I could leave my seat and check on her condition.

She remained in bed for the rest of the day and in my defence I mopped her brow with a damp cloth, emptied the recycling bucket of vomit on several occasions, and even went to Sainsbury's to buy lemonade. This was on the advice of my mother, who I often think missed her true calling a as doctor.

Mrs C took one mouthful, then turned an odd colour that I’ve rarely seen on a living human, before once again emptying the contents of her stomach into the bucket I’d just cleaned.

At the start of the day I was fairly kind and considerate. But by the end of it I was starting to get narky, as demonstrated by the moment, about 8.30pm, she shouted from the bedroom that she'd quite like a glass of water. I may have uttered a short expletive, though in my defence All Star Celebrity Family Fortunes had just started.

Which is why I salute Florence and the thousands of others who look after someone else. You need the patience of a saint to do it.

I'm not a saint.