THE CARE FACTOR

A STORY OF NURSING AND CONNECTION IN THE TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING

REVIEW

I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a book about Covid-19 yet, not when I was still trying to put behind me the loss, the separation from loved ones and the isolation that have been the lives of all of us for the last twelve months or so.

But all through the year I had wondered what it would be like to be a frontline worker, at the coal face, caring for Covid-19 patients and risking your life every single day to save the lives of others.

The Care Factor takes us into the life of ICU nurse, Simone Sheridan who not only retrained so she could take care of Covid-19 patients in ICU, but also provided support and training in domestic violence which sky rocketed during the pandemic, and gender awareness in the workplace.

I was moved, compelled and exhausted by her deeply personal accounts as she worked across a number of hospitals, barely sleeping, trying to make life better, easier, kinder for other people – trying to help them survive.

But The Care Factor wasn’t just about Sim. It was about the patients she treated, the staff she worked with and the support network around her, including her partner Emily whose performance and teaching career was stopped short by the pandemic and who worked as a ward clerk in Emergency at one of Victoria’s major hospitals.

Author, Ailsa Wild also shares her Covid-19 experiences with her partner and pre-school aged son, in lockdown in a two bedroom flat trying to juggle working from home, the needs of a small active boy and the loss and isolation from family and friends – not even being able to take her son to the park.

Both Sim and Ailsa are generous in their sharing of their Covid-19 lives, but the enduring friendship and the love they have for each other are the threads that tie this amazing book together.

The Care Factor helped me understand the intricacies of Covid-19 and challenges I’d never even thought of that were faced by our medical professionals as they fought to save lives. Simple things like being frightened to see your loved ones when you got home from work because of your fear of infecting them.

The Care Factor is a deeply personal story of love and hope during a global pandemic, and how connection and care can make a difference. 

If you read one book about the pandemic, The Care Factor should be it. This book will restore your faith in humanity and the power of friendship.

Hardie Grant Books will donate $1 from each copy sold to Drummond Street Services which supports families in times of need.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY – by Ailsa Wild

In March last year, as the hospitals in Lombardy were overwhelmed with Covid cases and numbers were starting to rise in New York, my friend Simone told me she was going to retrain in ICU as a nurse. I offered to be her debrief person, an ear on the other end of the phone, someone to tell her daily stories to, whatever those stories ended up being. And I asked if I could record our conversations. I felt like we were living a particular moment in history and she was going to be close to the action. I had a hunch there would be a story to be written. 

By early August, in the middle of Melbourne’s lockdowns, when we were only allowed out of the house a single hour a day, I had written three chapters – enough to pitch a book.

Ailsa (left) and Simone – this book also reflects their special friendship

My chapter outline was unfinished; it only went up to chapter six. At the bottom of the outline I wrote, ‘from chapter six to ten we still don’t know what will happen.’

I emailed a publisher and she responded that very night. She asked if I could get her a full manuscript in eleven weeks’ time.

I said yes.

And I did.  

Ailsa Wild is also the bestselling author of books for children

My partner and I put together a fiercely regimented schedule of times when I could be in the study/bedroom alone. I had thought it would be impossible to tune out my four-year-old’s raucous joys and tears, but I managed it. And it turns out I work better to a deadline. I left my unfinished junior fiction goofball horror manuscript languishing. Dragging myself to that document felt impossible. But this deadline from Hardie Grant set me on fire. 

What I understand is that I’ve written a page-tuner, something that people gobble up quite quickly, and I suspect that’s partly because of the urgency of the deadline. I think it’s also to do with my background in children’s fiction and in circus. I’m experienced in keeping people’s attention. I’m terrified my audience will get bored and wander off to the playground or start chatting in the back row. I worked to make the story as immediate and pacey as it could be, while keeping all the information and heart. 

The Care Factor is an issues book. It’s about the strength of women’s friendship, the care economy, the hours and expertise and training caring takes, and how much we, as a society should value that care. But those issues are written about very intimately. They are close to the body and full of tears. I hope this means it will touch a broad readership. 

I’m looking forward to the conversations it might start. 

Thanks Ailsa, yours and Sim’s journey in writing this book is as extraordinary as the story itself, and we’re really grateful to you for sharing it with us.

You can find out more about Ailsa and her books by visiting her website.

Kids WANT More Books!

Now that the PIR issue has finally been resolved, my mind has turned to other book related issues. As Mike Shuttleworth, Program Manager at the Centre for Youth Literature (State Library of Victoria) mentioned the other day; perhaps we should be focussing our energies on generating more readers.

To me, as a parent, and a children’s and young adult writer, I think this is a fabulous idea.

Young readers are the ones who have embraced computer technology – and are choosing it as an alternative form of entertainment to books – or so I thought.

That was until I spoke to my teenager on the weekend. He is a serious gamer – has reached an advanced combat level in Runescape  (I think that means he’s pretty good – he should be, the number of hours he ‘practices’).

He started high school this year and on the weekend we were having a discussion about how things were going.  I asked him, “If there was one thing you could change about your school, what would it be?” His answer was spontaneous and surprising. “Less computers in the library and more books.”

Admittedly, he has always been an avid reader, but it seems that so are lots of kids at his school – but they are being turned off the library; particularly by the lack of non-fiction books. I think sometimes that we assume that if we give kids access to the computer and the internet, they can find out whatever they want.

My son still loves to curl up with a real book and is still keen to learn about anything and everything. But he doesn’t want the superficial facts like the speed of the fastest car in the world, he wants to know how that car is built and what makes it run.

It makes me wonder if our school libraries are selling our kid’s short – particularly at the high school level.

Are we just assuming our kids prefer computers to books? Perhaps they want both?

The same son went to a birthday party on the weekend – his carefully chosen present for the guest of honour – a book. (Received with rapt appreciation).

I know that both my boys went through danger periods where they ‘almost stopped’ reading because of the lack of books that interested them in their school libraries.

We live in a fairly remote location, but the idea of them ‘giving up’ on reading was so frightening that I joined three libraries – the furthest of which is a 45 minute drive to get to.

It makes me wonder; before we replace bookshelves in our school libraries with computer desks, perhaps we should think carefully. Maybe the answer to encouraging more readers is to offer them more books.

Dee