After delaying putting pen to paper for almost all his life, Northland DHB nurse, Jason Drake, has published his first book which he plans to offer as a free download to those looking for a good thriller/murder mystery to distract them from COVID-19.
Jason said he has always wanted to write a story, but life always seemed too busy to justify the self-indulgence of squirrelling away somewhere quiet to get on with it.
Growing up in Cornwall in the UK he was surrounded by myths and legends which inspired his love for dark thrillers. His literary talents were spotted early by his English teacher who encouraged him to submit work to the local paper – but he never did. Then, at age 50, he decided if he didn't start writing then, he never would. Spurred on by wife Vonney, he started his book in April 2016 and finished three years later.
'Atlas Bloom: A Nurses Requiem' is a story of murder and the supernatural in small-town New Zealand. It is a mix of Jason's own experiences working in hospitals, which he says are always full of drama and an idea that came to him in a dream.
The main character, Atlas Bloom (also a nurse), is confronted with being the suspect of murder. The rich descriptive novel pings back and forth between centuries in its telling. Exploring and testing the facade of respectability and dipping its toe into the dark side of medicine.
Like most writers, Jason was worried that what made sense to him, may not to a reader – but Vonney, who is an avid reader proofed his manuscript and thoroughly enjoyed it.
He then submitted it to various publishing houses and agents and had three offers to produce it, but at a substantial cost. So, instead, he decided to publish it himself on Amazon's Kindle, which was a great experience and cost nothing.
Jason's work on Ward 16 at Whangarei Hospital puts him in the Red Zone of the COVID-19 pandemic which he said initially raised staff anxiety to a level he had never seen before.
"Sure, we've nursed patients with TB, and we went through the whole Norovirus outbreak a few years ago. Then more recently the measles outbreak - but this was different.
"I think that's one important thing to remember - that although we are nurses and caring for patients with infectious diseases is what we do - we are also members of the public too - sharing the same concerns they do."
Jason said all the misinformation in the media and on social media added to this anxiety. Hence, meetings with infection control staff and the lead consultant were put in place so the facts could be explained – which was very important.
Also, because this was a new disease, they were learning along the way and had to adapt their protocols - the goalposts kept changing.
"During times of greater challenges like now with the COVID-19, it's interesting to see how people cope. Because we do cope - all of us in our own way and it brings out the best in us."
Jason recalled one patient (and her daughter) who turned out negative for COVID-19 were being discharged and spoke to him about the kind attention and 'chats' they had with one of their Spotless Services cleaners.
"They praised the way she made them still feel like a human being. And I'm a little ashamed to say some of us nurses did not do that! It reminded me that it's just not nurses who are caring for our patients."
Jason urges the public to be careful about what they read. And for those in lockdown to enjoy this time with the family and whānau you are with. He predicts in six months you may be reminiscing about how nice it was and that you wish you had a little more time like that with them again. For those who are not with family and whānau, remember you are helping to keep them safe.
He says that the patients and their care are the centre of everything we do. And, it does provide material to slip into another story.
“Maybe not a story about a pandemic, but the more interesting stuff about how we rise to a challenge and the ways we overcome it."
Jason's book is available now through Amazon as an eBook and will be offered for free for five days from Thursday 16 April until 21 April. Search Atlas Bloom: A Nurses Requiem - https://www.amazon.com/ref=nav_logo(external link)
Image: Jason Drake