Showing posts from 2011

Darwin toilet frogs

I went to Darwin on the weekend to visit my good friends Miriam and Marcel.

Everytime I go to Darwin I am struck by how *perfectly* Peter Goldsworthy captured the town in his book, 'Maestro'. I will be walking down the street, looking at the lush jungles in every frontyard, taking in the dense smell of fruit rotting, thinking: "Hey, this is just like in Maestro!"

It was so humid that we went swimming literally four times a day. Marcel says, "That swim was a real game-changer'. That is: the game changed from being drunk and drowsy with heat, to being cool enough to function for an hour or so.

Mim and Marz have a frog living in their toilet. They warned me about it, and I wasn't too fussed. I thought, "Hey I'm down with the local wildlife." That was until I saw the frog. It is a full-sized green frog living up under the toilet rim. I would say it is a green tree frog, but clearly, this is a green toilet frog. It slips down the bowl when…

Ascetic aesthete

I saw the Bill Cunningham documentary last night and it made me FULL OF HAPPY!! "I'm not interested in celebrities and their free dresses! I'm interested in clothes!" says Bill.

This earnest 80 year old rides around New York on his bicycle snapping photos of street fashion for the New York Times. He still uses film that he develops at a corner shop. He wears a bright blue workman's coat that he bought from a hardware store, the same coat that the garbage collectors used to wear, and when his plastic poncho tears he tapes it together gleefully with gaffer tape.

He chains his bicycle to a pole before entering the Museum of Natural History to photograph a high-society gala dinner. Now that's my kind of guy.

Inflated, deflated

This week I read a coroner's report from the UK regarding a man who died under anaesthesia:

The man was having an operation to repair an injury to his little finger, for which he requested a general anaesthetic. A general anaesthetic is not entirely necessary for a finger operation, however perhaps the patient didn't understood the other options.

The anaesthetist taking care of him had difficulty intubating him (putting an endotracheal 'breathing' tube through his throat into his lungs), possibly because he weighed 124kg. After trying several different strategies the doctors ended up putting a Cook catheter in- a narrow, pointy tube, which can deliver small amounts of oxygen. The endotracheal tube can be threaded over the narrow Cook catheter.

That's when things really started to go wrong. The Cook catheter wasn't held in place properly, and it slipped down through his lungs and ended up in his chest wall. At the same time, the nurse was asked to connect the …

Housemates part three: Cops'n'Robbers

After leaving our house in Fitzroy, Pen, Stu and I moved across Smith St to Collingwood, and a much dingier abode. Pen and Stu still live there but I moved out of 'Grey Gardens' in 2007.

The only entrance to Grey Gardens is through an alleyway off Easey street. The alleyway usually smells of piss and on weekends there are often piles of empty shoeboxes and clothing tags, presumably belonging to goods stolen from a Smith st Factory outlet.

When I lived there the light switch in the main living room was broken so the only way to turn the light on and off was to remove or insert the light bulb. I kept special leather gloves for this purpose as the bulb was hard to remove when it was hot. However, it wasn't all doom and gloom: Grey Gardens has a lovely backyard with a lemon tree and my room had a glorious golden glow with the mid-afternoon sun.

The most memorable occurrence during my time in the house was The Gun Siege.

I got out of the shower one evening and walked to my…


Ghita and I went to see Jonathon Safran Foer speak at the Wheeler Centre yesterday. Before I left, I told Jason that it wasn't too late for me to ask JSF to marry me instead. However Jason needn't have worried (and I'm sure he didn't), because it was not as great as I had hoped.

Mr Safran Foer seemed terribly serious, expounding seriously about Parenting, and Meat-Eating. He seemed to be hiding his incredible imagination quite well. He also reproduced verbatim lengthy answers and anecdotes that I'd read before in print. Though perhaps the interviewer should be blamed for this one.

At the end, as usual, one lady in the audience asked quite a lengthy question about trans-generational trauma. There was a titter in the audience as she entered the third part of her question. I'm sure we all thought, "Who does she think she is?" Surprisingly, Jonathon replied with, "Well that was an *excellent* question."

Ghita felt that this was an example of…

Clinical Detachment

It surprises me when people admire the way I can 'detach' myself when patients die.

It surprises me because it's not really an effort and it's not really a skill. I think it just comes from the experience of seeing several people die. These days death is so separated from the public sphere that so-called 'lay people'- those who don't work in healthcare- only ever see their own relatives die. And their relatives usually die in a hospital bed.

It's not that it's not sad, or that I don't see them as a person, or that I don't feel sympathy for their loved ones. Of course I do. But people die. Some of those people will be very dear to me and others I hardly know. Truth be told, a number of them I never knew because they were dead on arrival.

Of course some deaths upset me. If the person is similar age to me, or perhaps they are suffering the same disease as a relative. It always poignant if they have a book in their posssesion because I imme…

My weekend in celebrities

1. Alan Ball.
The screenwriter (Six feet under, American Beauty, True Blood and Towelhead) spoke at the Wheeler Centre on Saturday night. He wrote the screen play for American Beauty whilst he was working on the sitcom Sybil. Apparently the key to creating something good is to hate your main job so much that it gives you a furious energy. He also spoke of his admiration for Frances Conroy, the actress who played Ruth in Six Feet Under. He said he could give her a script which read, 'Ruth eats a puppy.' And she would be completely unruffled, "Okay. Well I haven't eaten a puppy before."

2. Patti Smith.
I read her autobiography, 'Just Kids'. By page 7 I had that warm, secure feeling of starting a great book. She is candid, self-critical and name-drops impressively without ever really name-dropping. Cue happy Sunday afternoon listening to the Velvet Underground, drinking gin and reading.

3. Sofia Coppola
Well, not really. but I'm certainly taking her…

Other people's stories

So here's an awesome story a patient told me about when she got sick several years ago.

My patient described being at work, having had a bit of a cough for a few days. But on that day, she was sore all over- "Even my calves hurt!" Her mother insisted on taking her to hospital where she was admitted to a medical ward with pneumonia. She remembers, "I was having a chat with a really nice nurse who was taking my vital signs. Then the nurse said, "Holy Shit!" The last thing I remember was the nurse hitting a button on the wall behind me."

"When I woke up there was a sheet over my face. And I thought, "They must think I'm dead!" So I lay there for a couple of minutes, not wanting to push back the sheet in case I was in the mortuary with the dead people. And then I realised someone was holding my hand."

In fact, she had sterile drapes over her face whilst a central line was inserted in her neck.

An infectious diseases physici…

Old-timey weekend

Ahh, the weekend. The anaesthetists are all over it. I was filled with a long-forgotten euphoria on driving home from work on Friday after my first week in anaesthetics.

Overall a decadent weekend. A couple of night-time bicycle adventures, buying long necks and carrying them in water-bottle holders. At Mel's birthday party on Friday night I managed to tell Sophie Cunningham that I read the first chapter of her book in the bookstore and then didn't buy it. Whoops!! I did like the first chapter.

I watched another episode of my new obsession, 'The Killing'. It is a Danish TV series about the brutal murder of a teenage girl in Copenhagen. Yes, the plot bares a passing resemblance to my favourite TV show, 'Twin Peaks', but in place of Special Agent Dale Cooper is Sarah Lund, CID detective. She is an intriguing character. Clearly the brains of the detective team, she wins the audience's sympathy with her clever sleuthing. However in a side-plot Lun…

Happy adjustment disorder

I have not posted for a couple of weeks but I have not been idle.

Jason and I got engaged and we bought a flat! The flat is in a corner of Collingwood I like to call 'Ghetto Collingwood', near the Tote and the Commission flats. Perhaps the commish put the other bidders off, or perhaps it was the bums who came to enjoy the auction, but we were the only bidders and pretty soon we were pasting up our very own 'SOLD' sticker.


Last week I felt so overwhelmed and stressed that I thought I was developing an adjustment disorder.

In other news:
I saw Taxi Driver for the first time at Nova
I went to Warrnambool to work
I bought a Matthew Sarecen tshirt for running!
I read 'The Shaking Woman; or a history of my nerves by Siri Hustvedt, and 'Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth Century Paris' by her sister Asti Hustvedt.
I've started watching the Danish TV series 'The Killing'.

Book Holiday (the best type of holiday)

When I woke up this morning I said to Jason, "I want to be clear on one thing, Jason: our children will LOVE reading."

I do enjoy making absurd proclamations as if in response to an argument Jason never started in the first place. This also speaks to my concern that our children will only want to play and watch football and thus render me a prisoner in my own home for most of their childhoods. But mostly, I would be so sad if my child didn't like to read! How would they find out about the world or have fantastic adventures from their own bedroom?!? Clearly, they could end up having any number of disabilities that would mean that could not read, but imagine if they simply didn't like reading?

Anyway, I am on my much anticipated first-ever resort holiday deep in the Daintree rainforest. I am currently sitting in an armchair on a balcony overlooking the rainforest and the Mosman river, dappled sunlight on my legs. Ahhh. Although I'm not sure I'm complete…

Hairy-legged patients are a-okay.

Here's the thing ladies: when you come into ED, I don't really care if you've shaved your legs or not. In fact, working as a doctor for this long* has pretty much wiped clean any expectations of flawless, hairless legs that the media have tried to instill in me via their stealth campaign of women's magazines and late night television advertisements.


In fact, sometimes if you come into ED looking too nice, I become skeptical. "Hmm, unsmudged eye-makeup and shaved legs under stockings?? Perhaps this isn't an *emergency* after all??"

So to the next lady who says to me, "Oh, sorry I haven't shaved my legs," when I attempt to examine whether they have a DVT or a rash or fluid around the ankles or some other sign of *actual illness*...well, just don't.

*okay not long but LONG ENOUGH. Long enough to say 'several years' when the nosier among you ask.

The New Workout Plan

I am the crappiest, happiest runner around. I run around the Carlton gardens twice and then back home. This is not very far, but I love it!! I run past the museum and think about how I would like to go there to visit the little bower bird who has his blue-things nest in the forest. Today I ran over all the autumn leaves.

Here's what I listened to today:

'This Charming Man'- The Smiths (warm-up, walking)
'Lose Yourself'- Eminem (running now)
'Harlem River Blues'- Justin Townes Earl
'Every little thing she does is magic'- The Police
'Let Her Dance' Bobby Fuller Four (walking break)
'She plays yo-yo with my mind' Sonny and the Sunsets.
'Don't think twice'- Bob Dylan
'The New Workout Plan'- Kanye West

and for the grand finale (running home) 'I got you babe'- Sonny and Cher

I try to pick tracks that either naturally match my running pace ('Lose yourself'; also 'Survivor' by Destiny's Child) or t…

Bereft, anxious, relieved.

This week I am:
1. Bereft. I have finished Friday Night Lights, and no amount of listening to The National's 'Boxer' on repeat is going to bring it back. The sun-drenched Texan football fields!! People who struggle!! The music of Explosions in the Sky!!

2. Anxious, after reading Tina Fey's memoir 'Bossypants'. I love Liz Lemon because she is a plausibly imperfect high-achiever. She has a great job but she has lettuce on her sweater and a room full of unopened Ikea furniture boxes. She doesn't have it all!!! But it seems that the real Tina Fey *does* have it all. And apparently you get it all by working all night
whilst your toddler sleeps in the next room, and then making your toddler breakfast in the morning before going off to work again.

3. Relieved. Our book club met on Sunday, and this means that I don't have to try to read 'Wolf Hal…

Housemates- a brief diversion

In an awesome development, a new girl is renting Ghita's room whilst she's overseas. HER NAME IS LAURA PALMER.

Housemates part 2

In 2005 I lived with Pen and Stu in a house next to Rose Chong's costume shop in Fitzroy. My room was at the very front of the house and I was plagued by snatches of conversations of people walking past my window. Worst were the suburban tourists making their way to Ladro's for a fancy pizza meal:

"It's so hard to find a park! It's all permit parking!"
"That's because the people around here don't have garages!!"

That's right, we had no garage. But we had a lovely courtyard and a sunny kitchen.

Pen: well, clearly I'd lived with her before. And to be honest it was a relief to move in with someone who had the same cleaniness standards as me. (which i would classify as 'moderate'. Moderately clean and occasionally very clean).

Pen's most notable habit was her penchant for running around the house naked. She liked to clean the kitchen and bathroom in her undies and a large pair of rubber gloves. She was always running to…

Housemates: a Retrospective

I am becoming increasingly reserved about telling my work colleagues that I live in a share house. Most of them have bought houses in Eltham, and the rest live in rented apartments with their partners whilst they save for houses in Eltham. I have received some pretty strong reactions to the revelation that I share a house with at least four others: "But where do you wash your CLOTHES?!?"**

Meanwhile- and I say this because I know it won't last- I live in a mansion! With a conservatory and a cellar!! With talented and interesting housemates!! So to the sharehouse sceptics, I say this: wouldn't your life be more interesting with housemates?? Wouldn't you be more interesting (and AT LEAST AS CLEAN) with housemates?

My first sharehouse was a small place in Flemington, a former bootmakers workshop on a roundabout in a beautiful tree-lined street. It felt terribly Ivy League compared to my friends' Brunswick digs, even though I could see through the gaps in the …

Mad lady skillz (or how I wish I could sew)

I went to my friend Arla's baby shower today. It was great, she got a huge surprise, but did not actually go into labour.

Olivia, the hostess, showed us the curtains she had made for her bedroom. They're fantastic, they look like they've been professionally made. Eve had crocheted a baby blanket (AND has made her own curtains). Bonita, of course, was wearing an outfit she'd made herself. Arla is making her own baby's clothes. I wish I could do things like that!!

I think that I have spent too long studying the books and not enough time learning the things. (Admittedly, reading books and reading about books are pretty much my favourite things). My practical skills are now centred almost entirely around emergency medicine- eg putting in a central line, reducing a fracture, removing a foreign body from eye. Moreover, most of these things require me to be in a certain location with specialist equipment.

One day I will learn to use a sewing machine.

Paging Dr Zhivago

A few days ago at work:

An elderly man had travelled to Melbourne from Adelaide for the long weekend. Unfortunately he got sick and had to come in to see us.

Hs young nurse came in to meet him and opened with the phrase, "So why are you here?". The old man replied, "I'm here to see Dr Zhivago."

His nurse assumed that Dr Zhivago must be his specialist. He spent the next twenty minutes on Google trying to find Dr Zhivago's consulting suites. He eventually discovered that Dr Zhivago is currently practising at Her Majesty's Theatre.

Art Smart & lifesavers

Tonight I attended the first of Juliana Engberg's lecture series 'Art Smart- 100 Works that matter'. I have been extremely excited about this for some time, posting the flyer on my desk. As Jason pointed out, it seems that ART SMART is centred in the temporal lobe.

I had spent my day in Emergency Medicine lectures, and revelled in the contrast between the fine art lecture delivered by the charismatic Ms Engberg and the absolutely practical afternoon's lectures on metabolic disorders of childhood and invasive ventilation strategies. This was one of my favourite parts of school and university, studying both sciences and humanities and feeling my brain zap open new connections between the two through sheer temporal proximity.

Tonight Juliana said, "You've got to have your elbows out if you're thinking about art," showing a series of gallery-goers contemplating paintings with their hands on their hips. This reminded me of doctor/comedian Rob Sitch'…

this gun's for hire

Back on night shifts.

Seven nights in a row, ten hours per night, sleeping up to 10 hours during the day. This leaves me sitting on the couch eating breakfast/dinner for approximately one hour before work each night.

I always have this dread, this terrible dread prior to starting the week of nights. From about seven pm on Thursday night I slide into a funk. Sometimes it feels like I'm preparing for my own funeral.

I don't know if Bruce Springsteen ever worked as an emergency doctor, but he understands:

I get up in the evening, and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the moring, I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired, man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

Golden cowboys

Today I tried to convince Mel to catch up with me for dinner. Both she and Pen were busy working, and I was like, "WHY are you always working?" Which of course is ridiculous- as a shift worker I have learnt not to expect that other people will share my days off. Mel said, "Well, there's work to be done. If a guy was having a heart attack, you'd go and help him, wouldn't you?" To which I replied, "If a tree falls over in a forest, and the emergency tree doctor isn't rostered on, does anyone hear the crash?" *

Anyway, I had a Golden weekend at Golden Plains. I nearly popped with excitement at hearing Belle and Sebastian play. Ate too many delicious beatbox chips!! Hurt my shoulder playing totem tennis!! Listened to Joanna Newsome at sunset!! But my pick of the weekend was Justin Townes Earle, the hot cowboy son of Steve Earle. His music was great, and he was hilarious: "This next song is about a woman from Louisiana. And let me…

Moog the Prozac Cat

Moog joined our household in the middle of 2010. He is a very handsome cat: a golden coat with tiger stripes and bright green eyes.

He doesn't seem to like us very much and certainly has not done much to endear me to cats. He is skittish at best, darting out of the room the moment anyone walks in. And he wees on EVERYTHING, including:
-the downstairs couch and both arm chairs.
-Ghita's handbag
-Under Andrew's bed
-on our clean washing.

Alex has been taking him to the vet and trying various cat-taming strategies, including letting him outside whenever he wants, spending more quality time with him and installing a cat pheromone diffuser. But to no avail!! Moog continued to wee on the freshly steamcleaned couches. So he is now on kitty Prozac.

Unsurprisingly, he doesn't seem to like taking the tablet very much. Alex has to grab him and moosh his mouth open to jam the syringe in. I think this is the perfect situation for the Medication Blow Dart TM: Jason could sho…

Friday Night Lights.

I have had a horrible cold and had a few days off work.

JAson and I watched episode after episode of 'Friday Night Lights' whilst I shivered and shook and sneezed on the couch. It's about the high school football team in small town in Texas. I don't think there are too many shows depicting middle America in this way, or at least we don't get them in Australia.

We watched so much of it that I was beginning to hallucinate about Texas football. I'm pretty sure I was a cheerleader.

Clear eyes, Full hearts, CAN'T LOSE!!

Parachutes and airways.

One of my colleagues in Alice Springs is a keen sky diver. When you're learning to sky dive, a lot of time is spent devoted to learning what to do when your chute doesn't open. This only happens approximately one in every 600 jumps. But if it happens when *you* jump, you need to know what to do.

Not many people die from sky diving, but all of the jumpers who have died in recent years died with 'RIP' or Reserve in Pack. The moral being, that if you things go haywire, you need to recognise the problem early, cut away the main chute and pull the reserve chute. There is no point in tugging and tugging on the main chute whilst you plummet to your death.

Unfortunately for Amanda, her chute failed to open on only her sixth jump. She pulled the cord a couple of times, checked her altitude and realised that she needed a chute open *now*. Going through the drill, she cut away the main chute, then pulled the reserve. The reserve parachutes are small and tricky to steer, e…

Mosquito hunter

One of my great joys this summer has been watching Jason kill the mosquitos in our bedroom.

Generally we have just got into bed when we notice several mozzies zipping around the ceiling. Jason stands up on the bed with a tissue box- his weapon of choice- and tracks the mosquitoes. Then- BAM- he slams the tissue box against the ceiling, often killing two or three mosquitos in a single hit. He is perfectly engrossed in the process and oblivious to how hilarious he looks standing naked on the bed with the tissue box. He prowls all four corners of the bed till there are no more live mosquitos to be seen.

Come autumn we will need to clean the ceiling.

Touch up teens

Tonight my friend Felicity- a high school psychologist- told me that at her school, students can opt to have their school photos touched up prior to printing. Apparently in last year's photos, nobody in the entire school had a pimple! Unbelievable!! She also said that her students routinely photoshop their Facebook pictures prior to posting them.

I have vague memories of obscene hand gestures being airbrushed out of the 'whole-school' photo when I was in year 10. But not optional airbrushing to remove pimples.

Over the past two decades photoshopping has become standard practice for fashion shoots and other commercial projects. In fashion photography the viewer expects a flawless image and is generally well aware of its artifice. (Although Susan Sontag would probably point to the artifice of all photography, even in the pre-digital, pre-photoshop era.) I suppose that fifteen year olds now expect photos of themselves to be similarly flawless. And why not?? A digital i…

Horrible hunstmen

Spending the week down at Inverloch, Jason's parents beach house. Pretty lucky, I know, but *every* time we come down here there is at least one awful great huntsman that crawls out of the woodwork to get me. I hate hunstmen so much. Their fat fleshy bodies and scurrying legs.

This time I (fool!) thought I’d be safe because Jason’s parents had already spent two weeks down here, and Jason’s mum had even vacuumed under all the sofa cushions. But yesterday when Jason was moving the old telly yesterday to make way for the new digital one, a big fat huntsman crawled right out of one of its vents. Brrughough. This is in fact the second huntsman to crawl out of that TV, the first one two years ago when we were watching ‘Ghostbusters II’. Other spider incidents:

- One was on the ceiling of our bedroom
- one crawled out from between the sofa cushions
- one was inside the wardrobe
- one crawled out from the airconditioner.

The last one ran across the kitchen ceiling whilst our friends we…

Novelty Pool Toys - a near death experience.

We went to Tom Groggin, a lovely bush campsite on the Murray near Thredbo, for a week over the New Year's break. One of our major planned activities for the week was floating down the river and the other two couples came quite well prepared with rubber dinghies and proper lilos, respectively. Jason had bought for us two novelty pool toys. The first was a round inflatable armchair that leaves the rider sitting high above the water, toes just dangling in the water, with no means of steering. The other was a colourful reclining lilo complete with backrest and drink holder. This is my excuse for leading Jason, Nico and I on an unplanned trip down the rapids completely unencumbered by *any* floatation aid.

We jumped in the river as far upstream as we were willing to walk on a sticky day. The river was high after weeks of rain. Tara had lilo-ed down that section of the river before and told us, "I nearly died!"and we laughed.

After a few hundred metres Nico signalled us o…