Archive for August, 2013

Checking occlusion downstream, or don’t wait for the bleep!

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Brace yourselves, I have news for you all: being in hospital’s not like it is on the telly. I fondly remember those early episodes of E.R. when George Clooney was in it, and he spent a lot of time running down hospital corridors, often holding a cute yet vulnerable baby, and calling out things like “Have you got the central line in yet?” (I scorn modern hospital dramas, which seem more about the back love stories of doctors and nurses than about the techie medical stuff that made E.R. fascinating. Well, that and gorgeous George: an unbeatable combo.)

Well now. I recently spent more than five weeks in hospital, much of it in Intensive Care or High Dependency units. I had two significant operations, three general anaesthetics, and (for that matter) three sequential central lines inserted and removed. (You have to sort of hang upside down for part of that procedure: seriously weird.)  I was on IV drips for absolutely everything: food, drugs, antibiotics, blood transfusions: ‘Nil By Mouth’ carried to extremes. It is probably the most extraordinary experience of my life so far, and one I’m still trying to understand.

What remains most powerfully is gratitude: I’ve never before encountered such a winning combination of single-minded kindness and professional expertise. The entire staff, from the kitchens to the surgical consultants, were a professional as well as a personal delight.  I’d no idea how high-tech modern medicine is (those bleeping machines! those scientific solutions!) until I encountered it all. And I think the other most lasting pleasure was discovering that almost all the staff (from the kitchens to the surgical consultants) were the children of immigrants. There were several Irish nurses, and some from Australia and New Zealand, but in general the nursing staff’s families were from South East Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Philippines. So let’s raise a cheer for the children of those much-maligned economic migrants, without whom none of our hospitals would function.

I suspect I’m now left with fading memories: only the highlights (and probably some of the lowlights) will remain. (In some ways the whole thing was like an uncut version of E.R., with only an occasional speeded-up moment of horror.) A friend of mine recently had a heart attack at an airport (excellent choice of venue, Richard, the paramedics are right there) and is still in recovery. He says this, and I think it’s true:

“One of the better things about our consciousness is that, in my experience at least, ordeals wither and become fuzzy, indistinct memories. I don’t think that time heals but I do think that it makes space for experiences to shape-shift; they don’t morph into fiction exactly but what remains is the salience of the unexpected and often trivial and the relative absence of the ghastly stuff. Shrinks worry about repression but I think that it’s a blessing.”

Me too, Richard. Me too.

And for the world of Clooney fans out there, here’s a memorable clip:

Next Tuesday’s Tuesday Poem

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

The Greeter, by Robert N. Watson

He’s not the Reaper, but he does stop by

To say, to everything that’s ever lived, “nice try.”

I know only that Robert N. Watson is the Neikirk Distinguished Professor of English at U.C.L.A. That fact, and this witty and wonderful poem.