Wednesday, December 7, 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 the toilet is flushed and then climbs back up again. IT IS THE SIZE OF MY HAND.

Friday, October 28, 2011

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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

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 oxygen, which was turned to 15 litres per minute. At this point, the coroner notes, the patient "began to swell up extremely rapidly...The delivery of high pressure oxygen in these circumstances would have caused [him] to inflate."

Some moments later the doctors heard a loud crack- which turned out to be the man's scrotum exploding. He died.

I had several reactions to this report. First, a horrible 'there but by the grace of god go I' fear: it is SO EASY to make horrible mistakes in my job. Second, compassion for the poor man's family. Not least of their traumas is that their loved one's death is detailed for all the world to read on the interwebs!

It's the first time I've properly read a coroner's report and I have to say I really like the way they describe the events both plainly and meticulously. At times it reads like a tragi-comic pantomime: the senior anaesthetist racing into the room at the call of the emergency buzzer, the nurse on hands and knees trying to find the oxygen source whilst a doctor scrambles over her trying to reach to patient's airway.

And finally, if I'm honest, a Roald-Dahlian wonderment in the grotesque: he inflated!! But instead of floating up to the roof like a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he popped and then he died.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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 bedroom in my towel. I usually left my bedroom curtain open because the window faced a narrow alleyway with no adjoining windows. A bright spotlight was shining through the window into my room!! And there was a *commotion* next door: shouting, and a very loud bang which may or may not have been an actual gunshot! I peered out the window and saw three policeman standing on the roof of the adjoining property, one was shining his torch into my window. I walked back to the bathroom and looked out into the backyard, which was filled with policemen. Two police cars were blocking off the alley. I was surrounded!

Embarrassingly enough, the first thing I did was call Jason. He sagely advised me to get dressed. I got dressed. Then I called the Collingwood police station and was reassured that, "There's a job next door."

Decent, I went into the backyard. The policemen explained that there was a robber in the shop next door but they couldn't find him. I said that if I were robbing my house, I would escape through the front window onto the eaves above the shops. You could run along the eaves for a whole block. So the policemen came through our house (I asked them to look in all the dark corners with their torches) and jumped through our front window.

In the end, the police sniffer dogs found the robber hiding in a cupboard in the shop. Busted.

This year, Pen and Stu called in the police again when they were visited by a Pantless Intruder. But I shall leave that story to them.

Monday, October 3, 2011


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 Australia's tall poppy syndrome in action: the Australian audience cringing at an overt display of intelligence whilst Jonathon, the American, took the question seriously and answered it.

Whenever I hear a young American speak eloquently and intelligently, I envy them for the way they have been expected to take themselves seriously since a young age. In Australia I don't think we take ourselves seriously enough. Although we also don't dissect our trivial problems on day time talk shows. Hmmm....

Monday, September 12, 2011

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 immediately feel a connection to a person with a book. They clearly had so much to live for!

It is also upsetting if I think our treatment went awry- either that we should have been able to save them or that we somehow did the person a disservice in our efforts to halt their inevitable slide towards death.

I loved Six Feet Under's depiction of a death at the start of each episode for similar reasons. Some deaths were incredibly sad, others mundane. Each only really began to make sense once you met their family or loved ones later in the episode.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

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 lead when it comes to weddings and wedding dresses. I found a lovely simple dress, not white, not long, NOT from a bridal shop. Jason and I went into Brides of Melbourne for approximately 45 seconds. To put it mildly: it was not for me. Jason thought the dresses looked like mattresses stacked together, and I just thought they all looked dirty. Old and dirty and sad.

Now, to *look* like Sofia Coppola...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

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 physician would take this story as a nice illustration of bacterial sepsis in a young adult: "Even my calves hurt!", the mother insisting on taking her adult daughter to hospital, the inevitable dramatic deterioration. But I took it as a reminder that mundane aspects of critical care- sterile drapes- can be terrifying to a sepsis-addled brain.

A couple of weeks ago I put a central line into a seriously unwell patient who kept asking for a McDonald's cheeseburger during the procedure. I was thinking, "Lie still or there will be no more cheeseburgers, lady!"

Friday, August 12, 2011

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 Lund is a terrible parent to her thirteen year old son, who is basically left to fend for himself. This is subversive in that it resembles the the way 'bad fathers' are portrayed on television: understandably distracted from parenting by their important work. Although as Pen pointed out, a father neglecting his son because of work commitments wouldn't feature in a subplot -it wouldn't win screen time at all.

I also discovered Frank Fairfield, an amazing American folk musician who plays old timey music on the banjo and fiddle. He plays his fiddle on his chest (sometimes his stomach!!) and is handsome to boot. Listening to his music reminded me of a year ten school camp in the Victorian high country. At the time I was a bit tired of classical music-I was practising, rehearsing and performing for 15-20 hours a week. On camp we visited a beautiful pub by a creek in the middle of nowhere. Whilst the leaders went in for a beer, we had a hoe-down on the grass by the creek, playing a box-fiddle one of the science teachers had made. Dancing, clapping, taking turns on the fiddle. For the first time in ages I LOVED playing and appreciated my technical facility.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

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'.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

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 completely converted to the whole resort experience- last year's holiday of driving Mim and Marz's car to Darwin with a swag in the boot was at least as fun.

Here are the books I've brought with me. I paid for checked baggage specifically so that I need not restrict my selection:

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht- I have already started this but then lost my way during nightshifts. The fault lies entirely with nightshift and not the book, which seems great.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness- This was a recommendation from the talented Ms Leanne Hall. A young adult adventure novel, a cracking read! Last year Jason and I coined the term 'Kiddie Crack' to describe this genre of novels: young adult books that are as addictive as crack. I suspect that the pornographic connotations will prevent this new term from entering the general lexicon.

The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness- sequel to the above.

Medical Muses- by Asti Hustvedt. This piqued my interest because it is written by the sister of Siri Hustvedt (What I loved, The Summer without Men). It is fantastic!! It's a study of Charcot's hysterical women.

Books I've yet to commence :
Caleb's crossing- by Geraldine Brooks.
The Vagabond- by Colette.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

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 tracks that I love so much that I know the singer would be disappointed if I stopped running during their song ('I got you babe').

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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 Hall' anymore. That book did nothing for me. Although, as housemate Andrew pointed out, if I were on the First Tuesday Bookclub, I would have to read the entire book even if I didn't like it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

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.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

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 the bathroom in only her underpants, and then would yelp and grab her boobs if I came out of my room. This made it difficult to bring new boys home.

Stu taught us to pack a rugby scrum. He loves to drink scotch and every month or so I would come home to find him sitting on the couch looking somewhere between smug and guilty, nearly-empty bottle on the coffee table. He introduced me to 'Six Feet Under' and graphic novels.

Monday, May 9, 2011

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 bricks to the street outside.

My first housemate was Kate, the cellist. When she dug the spike of her cello into the polished floorboards, the entire house shook with Bach. She drank gin and planted rosemary. She also introduced me to healthy oat-based breakfasts, a habit I maintain to this day! Kate was one year older than me but seemed about a lifetime ahead of me in terms of knowing how to live.

Felicity joined us two weeks after we'd moved in. She had just finished her honours in physics and was waiting to start a PhD in Austria. She would sit next to the heater knitting knee warmers, elbow warmers and arm warmers- all manner of woollen tubes. She was very crafty, and our house was very cold. Flic had the smallest room in the house and her bed was surrounded by towers of boxes. She once had a nightmare that the boxes toppled over and crushed her, and that Katie and I had to pull her mangled body from the mess.

One of Felicity's colleagues was the first person to successfully teleport a photon!! When she told Kate and I, we laughed at her for hours, making terrible jokes about teleporting ourselves into uni. But it turned out to be true.

Felicity moved to Innsbruck and was replaced by Huw, a pianist and student of art history. He hung a colander on his bedroom wall as installation art and listened to Zorn. In summer he got together with one of his uni tutors. I was very suspicious of the whole affair until I got up one Sunday morning and saw a lanky man sitting in garden in the pouring rain, wrapped in Huw’s tiny dressing gown, holding an umbrella in one hand and a cigarette in the other, a book resting in his lap. They were meant to be together!

In 2003 Kate moved to Zagreb to play the cello and was replaced by Bobby, who was studying creative arts. We were very very different: she got up at 5am to go to work, listened to Coldplay and was terribly good at both drawing and being skinny.

Dave also joined us in 2003- he was doing his final year of a mechatronics degree. His major project involved programming a ball to roll autonomously. I never really fully understood what this meant. Periodically he would rush from his room to demonstrate the latest breakthrough with the ball. Once he rushed out of his room in the morning in only his underpants pursued by a sparrow which had crept in through the window. Amongst other things, Dave taught me to cook an omelette properly (ie with runny bits in the middle).

Dan (2004) is another engineer. He took an engineer's approach to the smallest bedroom in the house, constructing a high bunkbed under which he could store a desk and clothes. After some initial testing of the bed, he installed a rail.


**In the washing machine. I wash my clothes in the washing machine.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

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.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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's advice that it is very important to be making the right face when asked to read an MRI.

She went on to say that when people encounter a work of art that they don't understand, they say, "Wow!" This is actually them taking a big breath in so that they can begin to cope with it. Of course, earlier in the afternoon, I had been learning about alveolar recruitment manoeuvres for the ventilated patient: ie giving a forceful breath to a ventilated patient in order to 'open up their lungs'. Perhaps we could use really awe-inspiring art to improve their breathing instead?

The funny thing about my job is that occasionally I will actually, in some sort of immediate sense, save some one's life. And that's pretty cool. And of course I think: Aha!! I figured out the diagnosis and gave the correct treatment and ta-da!! I saved them!! But it's not like I can go up to my newly-resurrected patient and say, "YOU'RE ALIVE!!! YOU'RE ALIVE!" There's no time for self-congratulation or even a celebratory cup of tea. It's on to the next patient, "Well it started in my shoulder but now it seems to have moved to my stomach.."

Friday, March 18, 2011

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

Monday, March 14, 2011

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 tell you something about the women from Louisiana- they will cut you."

I am becoming increasingly panicky about turning thirty and therefore am keen to maximise my *young* experiences in the next two months- hence music festivals. Again, RIDICULOUS, Lucy. And though I had a really great time, of course it was nothing like the time I would have had when I was 23. It was me and my Jason, hanging out, going to see the bands, running into friends. It was fun and in no way out of control. Saying that, I did drink too much cider and vomit on Sunday night But even that, my friends, was quite controlled. It really was.

*Of course I would help in a Good Samaritan-type situation, but that's not work, is it?? And I am acutely aware that one of the best parts of ED work is that when you are not there, you are not there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

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 shoot him with a prozac blowdart like a sniper. Moog wouldn't even know what hit him! And then he would stumble off to have another catnap.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

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!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

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, especially for a novice. But she made it down and, in her own words, went to change her pants.

I think the same principle applies to airway management. People devote years to perfecting their 'difficult airway' algorithm, knowing the steps to go through in those rare cases where the tube just won't go down. But the principle is clear: if you've tried laryngoscopy a couple of times and failed, there is no point in just continuing laryngoscopy, convinced that you'll get it down 'next time'. Your patient is still in free fall! Instead, you need to throw away the laryngoscope and move on. And if that means doing a tracheotomy, then that's what you do. The fact that you're inexperienced doesn't matter if your patient is plummeting to their death. A patient who dies an airway death without a hole in their neck is like the skydiver who dies with his Reserve In Pack.

Monday, January 17, 2011

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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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 image is just waiting to be improved.

If a kid disliked their entire face, could they photoshop a celebrity face onto their shoulders? "Oh yeah, year 9, that was my Taylor Swift phase."

A pimply photo could become the mark of the high school rebel.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

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 were cooking dinner. Everyone became very excited as they hunted it down: someone banged on the bongo drum and everyone did high pitched chanting “wowaw-waw-wow-wow” like a cartoon tribal sacrifice ceremony. Luckily I was in the shower.

Jason and I have developed a routine for scouring the place for spiders at the start of each trip. We enter the house, each armed with a can of bug-killer. After initial reconnaissance , we methodically turn up each chair and couch, inspecting each cushion and the underside of each chair. We are both very nervous and trigger happy- once we both got spooked by a small movement and sprayed each other in the face with bugspray.

When we inevitably find the spider, I leave the house to let Jason kill it. I used to stay to witness the killings but I would become hysterical, shouting things like “We’re all going to die!!” and “I hate this place!” This made Jason too nervous, so now I sit in the car until he gives me the all clear.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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 off the water as he'd seen some fast rapids ahead. I was the last in line, floating on the ridiculous arm chair, and I left my jump too late. I landed in fast, deep water and was completely unable to stop. Jason tried to grab me, but I ricocheted off him. Nico managed to grab me and we were a wavering human chain for a few seconds before Jason, who I had unseated moments earlier, smashed into us breaking the chain.

And then we were off!! Three of us tumbling down the rapids. Falling standing up.

After the deep rapids the river narrowed to a series of rockpools bounded by high rock walls. It became even deeper here, and at one point I sunk under the water, leaving just my hat bobbing down the river. Even now this seems strange to me, as I am strong swimmer and I didn't feel overly panicked. I heard Nico say to Jason, "She's gone under!!". Then I managed to turn my body around so that my feet could take the impact on the rock walls. We bounced down the rock pools, at each one Jason managed to grab on to a rock for a millisecond and he would declare: "It's okay!! We're okay now!!". And then whooosh! We were off again down the river.

At the fourth rock pool there was a well-placed log fallen across the river, at reaching distance from the water. We grabbed it and clung to it, hugging it and panting, three drowned rats in a row.

Ten minutes later we were off down the river again.