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  • nbrightside 10:31 am on April 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Tunnel Vision 

    In my job, I work as a technical consultant and try to fix problems with call centre software. Often, the root cause of these ‘technical’ problems are not technical at all but a result of poor management and lack of communication. For example, Oracle DBA’s are often excellent database administrators, developers are often very talented people, network administrators secure and manage complex network infrastructure and managers manage. Once you get all of them into a room and talking to each other, while the problem may not be immediately resolved, many possible avenues of investigation present themselves while other possibilities are eliminated. The problem is tunnel vision – DBA’s just do DBA work, managers just manage, developers just write code and never the twain shall meet (‘not my job’).

    I was reminded of this during the final days of my prolonged stay in hospital. During the doctors rounds one Monday morning, we had the daily status update from each surgical team.

    Urology: ‘Looking good. Kidney function normal’.

    Plastics: ‘The wound is clean, healing slowly and being dressed daily’.

    Surgery: ‘Bloods are excellent’.

    Then, a doctor piped up – ‘Excellent. Well I think we can look to discharging Mr. Brightside towards the end of this week so we need to ensure district nursing support is available and the patient has access to any equipment needed for his ongoing recovery and recuperation…’

    I was feeling very uneasy about this sudden pronouncement but, thankfully, before I could interject, the senior nurse on the ward intervened on my behalf.

    ‘There’s only one minor problem – Mr. Brightside can’t currently walk unaided or climb stairs’.

    The surgeon replied ‘What ? He can’t climb stairs yet. Oh OK. Well can we get physiotherapy to try to help with that ?’.

    And with that, the gaggle of doctors trouped out of my room.

  • nbrightside 11:32 am on April 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    anointing the feet of a plastic surgeon 

    Every morning during my stay in hospital, I was visited by three separate teams – surgical (sharp scalpels), urology (waterworks) and plastic surgery (reconstruction).

    One member of the plastic surgery team – let’s call him Kieran – seemed to take a particular interest in my case. For example, while his colleagues would grunt and leave the room when I replied ‘OK’ to the perpetual question of ‘How are we feeling today ?’, he would stay behind in order to examine the wound on my rear end.

    This often meant re-positioning myself on the bed which took considerable effort and exertion on my part but he simply would not be denied and normally he would look at my bottom and purr: ‘That is excellent, that is really looking good’.

    I couldn’t lie on my back and if I was lying on my left side, he would sometimes politely request that I turned over to lie on my right to give him an alternative view of things. I didn’t really know why he so keen on my case; I assumed he was using me as a case study, he was just a consummate professional or a young, very keen, aspiring doctor. Either that or he was slightly weird.

    Weekends in hospitals are normally very quiet and the full doctor’s rounds don’t happen and the on-call doctor just pays you a fleeting visit. Imagine my surprise, when on a Saturday morning, Kieran appeared in my room dressed in his civvies ready for his daily dose of a detailed, close up view of my backside. On his day off. Now that’s what I call dedication.

    Four weeks after surgery, the wound re-opened which was unfortunate but not uncommon (35-40% probability). Consequently, the wound now had to be washed and dressed every day by the nursing team. This only seemed to further increase Kieran’s level of interest and his daily examination which now had to check on the progress of the healing process of the wound site.

    One morning, after my shower, I was slowly making my way back to my bed with the aid of crutches when I suddenly felt very hot and light headed. I had to stop and crouch down before I fell down. I managed to ring the call bell and a nurse duly arrived just in the nick of time as a wave of nausea crept up on me. I looked up and said ‘Quick – please can you pass me that bowler hat ?’. The nurse looked blankly – ‘Bowler hat -what do you mean ?’. ‘The bowler hat on the trolley – the cardboard bowler hat you’re sick into’.

    Finally, the nurse passed me the receptacle and simultaneously Kieran arrived in the room dressed in his white coat and purple, plastic Dutch clogs so favoured by surgeons. He look a little perplexed to see me down on the floor and asked ‘Are you OK, Mr Brightside ?’. I promptly replied by vomiting into the cardboard bowl and said ‘No – I had a shower and felt a little faint and queasy on the way back’.

    The nurse passed me a glass of water to rinse my mouth out and Kieran politely enquired ‘If I help you into bed, can I have a quick look at your bottom ? Or maybe if you could just stand up’. I looked at Kieran, I looked at the nurse, I looked into the sick bowl and, inevitably, the horrible smell triggered me off and I puked again into the bowl which was now dangerously full.

    Kieran withdrew a little, back towards the door presumably to keep vomit splatter off his purple, plastic Dutch clogs and said ‘OK – I think we’ll have to skip the examination today but I’ll see you tomorrow’.

    At Christmas, months after my discharge I took a photograph of my buttocks and fully healed cleft, enclosed it in a Christmas card with the greeting ‘Happy Christmas from the Cheeky Boys’ and sent it to Kieran.

    • Ruben 11:11 pm on April 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Do the Cheeky Boys have a blog too?

  • nbrightside 10:52 am on April 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    the shortbread finger incident 

    For the first few months after being diagnosed, my state of mind was pretty good considering. In hindsight, I think I was in a state of shock. Also, there were so many different appointments, scans and minor procedures that my life was quite busy and I didn’t (seem to) have much time to dwell on things.

    However, in 2012 which was supposed to be the year of ’emerging victorious’, I endured three separate episodes of feeling ‘clinically fed up’ with each one being more serious and more prolonged.

    Thursday March 15 was a day I had been slightly anxious about for a while. It was the final day of my radiotherapy treatment. Over the six weeks of hopping on and off a sunbed, I had got to know the nurses on the Willow unit quite well so I thought it would be nice to buy them a token gift to show my appreciation for their kindness, professionalism and good humour.

    The day before, I bought some shortbread fingers (Sainsbury’s Highland All Butter Shortbread Fingers) to be precise. As I dithered over my selection, I could feel the anxiety building – just at the very thought of giving them to the nurses.

    On Thursday, I treated the radiographers to another surprise – by donning my Spiderman boxer shorts. This raised a laugh and provoked some conversation on my final session. When the short 5 minute dose of radiotherapy was over I got dressed in the small cubicle and stared at the orange Sainsbury’s carrier bag. Now I felt so on edge and nervous, I even contemplated leaving quickly via the main reception without even having the courtesy to say ‘Thank you and goodbye’.

    I took a deep breath, told myself to stop being so bloody stupid and get my shit together. I opened the other door and walked back into the restricted nurses area. I approached one of the lady radiographers and withdrew the shortbread fingers from the Sainsbury’s carrier bag.

    The acute sense of tension I was feeling was bizarre, inexplicable and embarrassing. I managed to blurt out and mumble ‘I just wanted to give you something to say Thank you’ before it started. I started crying. A grown man crying. For no reason. The nurse looked at the biscuits, looked at me and said ‘Oh – there’s really no need for that’.

    At first, I thought she was referring to the biscuits but I am now sure she meant the sudden and unexpected outpouring of emotion. A grown man sobbing uncontrollably at the nurses station with the next patient imminent.

    Then things got worse, much worse – I reached out and and hugged the nurse saying ‘Thank you for everything…’. I honestly don’t know who was more surprised – me or her.

    Now let me put this spontaneous show of affection into context. I have been married over 20 years and during that time, I have hugged my wife twice. One was on the birth of my first child and the second occasion was in May 1999 when United won the Champions League Final.

    Thankfully, the nurse didn’t scream out ‘Get off me, you bloody pervert !’ but reciprocated. She whispered  ‘Don’t worry – you’re going to be OK, you’re going to get through this’. Which was nice but didn’t really help.

    Finally, I managed to compose myself but still found time to give my favourite nurse a quick hug and some ‘Maryland Deluxe Double Chocolate Chip Cookies’ before leaving, saying ‘Thank you’ yet again and pledging to come back and see them at some undisclosed point in the future.

    With hindsight, I was probably ‘clinically fed up’ around this time which explained my unusual behaviour and fragile state of mind. Of course, the underlying reason is fairly obvious – in fact, it was even obvious to me back then.

    I was coming to the end of one phase of the treatment. I would not be coming back to Willow unit for my daily visits. I would not be booking into radiography reception again. I would not be seeing the familiar warm faces and hopping on to the sunbed again. I would not be listening as the radiographers positioned me exactly and calibrated the machine until they both agreed on ‘89.4’.

    I was leaving this comfort zone and being forced to face the next phase and the next phase was the big one – surgery. The surgery that my original consultant surgeon wouldn’t be able to perform as it was so complicated.

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