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.