Showing posts from 2012


Every now and then we get a Dead on Arrival come to ED.

When people are found dead, they need to be 'certified'.  That is to say, you're not dead until the paperwork's done.

A few weeks ago I went to certify a DoA that arrived about 4am.  The body was in a hearse in the ambulance bay, attended by two old, ocker funeral workers.

I realised as I approached them that I'd forgotten a torch, to check the dead person's eyes.  I said to  the men, half-jokingly, 'Oh, I forgot my pupil-torch.'

To which one of the men replied, 'Oh don't worry love, he hasn't got eyes.'


Homeopathy, existentialism, Stegner.

Jason and I have returned from Western Australia with a suntan and some excellent secondhand books.

First, a pristine copy of 'Homeopathy for Emergencies':

This is a lightweight, pocket-sized alternative to the Australian College of Emergency Medicine's preferred 2100-page tome, 'Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine'.  It covers the core Fellowship Examination syllabus, including appendicitis, acute asthma, heat stroke, fractures and 'crushed fingers and toes'.  I particularly like the ominous image of the smashed bottle with pills on the front.
Perhaps it was the inspiration for the Homeopathic A&E?

My second excellent find was Sartre's 'Quiet Moments in a War', a collection of letters to Simone de Beauvoir during WWII.

Sartre served in some type of meteorological division.  His notes about his own reading- Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty- are fascinating.  But the best parts are Sartre's accounts of mundane army life. He almost seems…

Cabin in the woods

I am having fantasies of a long hot holiday in a cabin, in a forest by a lake.

I'm not sure where the cabin is.

Perhaps it's in Canada, as Alannah Weston recalls in her profile in the Gentlewoman,
All we do is canoe and kayak and roast marshmallows and swim. The water's like silk, and you get those hot, hot blue days, but there's always a breeze. And then there's a thunderstorm and everybody gets into bed. Or perhaps it's south of the Canadian border, as in Wallace Stegner's 'Crossing to Safety':
"I'll be out on the porch, looking and smelling and recherching temps perdu." Which is what I do for a good long time.  It is no effort. Everything compels it. From the high porch, the woods pitching down to the lake are more than a known and loved place....The light is nostalgic about mornings past and optimistic about mornings to come.    I sit uninterrupted by much beyond bird song... Aah.

I want to sit uninterrupted by much beyond birdson…

body bags

I have had a crappy week at work.

An ICU colleague once told me that ED doctors make good ICU doctors because, "They're used to shit. Loads of bad shit.  They've waded through shit."

So this week I waded through shit.

I have been listening to classical music.  All week- Sibelius, Berio, Shostakovich.  This felt like a regression to my adolescence, but perhaps it is a renaissance.

Yes. I want to see you feed a mouse to your snake.

This year I have mulled over the contrast between working in the Emergency Department and the Intensive Care Unit.

Working ED is mundane, in the sense: "of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; wordly; earthly". Rather than the pejorative sense: "common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative." The Intensive Care unit exists in a theoretical realm of controlled physiology and patients devoid of personality and social context.

In ED I see patients who are largely ensconced in their normal life.  Their stories commence with them sitting at their desk or cooking dinner, when injury or illness intervenes. They are still contemplating how this new illness or injury will fit in around their work, children or interstate trips.  They wear their work clothes and apologise for not having shaved their legs.

When patients are admitted to ICU the rupture from normal life is complete: they have entered the sick realm.  They are unable to tell their stories, whi…

Men writing women writing men

Natasha was telling me that she wants to read more books by women. I think the phrase she used was, "I am sick of reading men's stories." I've never given this much thought before.

I think that there are two different issues here.  First, female writers, and the support and recognition (or lack thereof) they receive for their writing.  See: the Miles Franklin prize, the Pulitzer etc.

Second, the issue of men's stories vs women's stories.  This is a very interesting one.  I like to read stories that open up other perspectives. So I like men's stories sometimes.

I realise in hindsight that we were prescribed a lot of 'women's stories' in my high school literature classes: Pride and Prejudice, A Doll's House, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary.  But there were men's stories too: The Grapes of Wrath, Hamlet and A Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich.

And of course, this is a false dichotomy.  The Grapes of Wrath tells women's and men's st…

There is only one way.

"There was a terminal narrative.  It was a story until it stopped being a story and until then they kept wanting to know.  Give up, the doctor told Donald, kindly.  Surrender your need for detail; there is only one way this is going to end."

-Emily Perkins, 'The Forrests'

Spring I'm Sprung

So I suppose you are wondering where I got this lovely array of blossoms?

Or perhaps this pussy-willow?

From the overgrown park on my way home from work...

I have become a furtive flower thief!! This makes me ridiculously excited and happy. I try to be very stealthy, I don't want some council-worker or 'neighbourhood watcher' giving me a hard time.  I only took a very modest amount! But I'll admit, I took some sturdy scissors on my second trip.

And here are some flowers that I definitely didn't steal: beautiful prints by Lara Cameron (for the blank spots on the wall in the photos above).


We are in Darwin visiting Miriam, Marcel, Floyd the dog, their toilet frog and of course, new baby Pearl!!! Here she is:

Stylish just like her mum (and dad!).

We finished the Jatbula walk on Thursday. It was amazing! The daily rhythm of the hike was simple and intoxicating: walk each morning, eat a lazy lunch by a water hole, then a short post-lunch hike to a campsite by a waterfall.  Swim and laze all afternoon. Repeat, five times.

I enjoyed being very aware of where the sun was in the sky each day. Just peeking over the horizon meant: get up now!! It's walking time. Low in the eastern sky made for cool morning hiking. High overhead meant: hot-dang! Let's get there soon.  Low in the western sky meant: maybe one more swim before dinner??

We hiked through heaps of different landscapes. On the second last day it was mainly jungle: palms, high grasses and vines, punctuated by waterholes strewn with water lilies. This reminded me of the beautiful opening scene of 'Apocalyp…

snakes on the brain!

It has been so long since I've posted that I've nearly forgotten which books I have read! Nearly...but not quite:

'The Observations' by Jane Harris, our book club's book for the month
'Jeff in Venus, Death in Varanasi' by Geoff Dyer
'Sic' by Joshua Cody
'The Bridge' by Jane Higgins

In the past year or so that I have begun to define myself by my love of reading. Somehow reading has moved from background noise to the 'hobbies and activities' section of my internal CV.

Tonight Jason and I ate dinner at the Brix, partly because Ghita had told us the barman was Jason's dopelganger. It was odd, he did look like a bit like Jason. But the similarity was more 'Guess Who' than gestalt. 'Does he have a beard?' 'Does he have brown hair?'

But the food was great and I enjoyed their excellent art (a Gerard O'Connor photo of barnyard animals in a last-suppper-styled feast) and their soundtrack (rolling stones, old t…

The Honest Tailor

For the last few years I have been going to Mr Nicola Ricci, the tailor on Rathdowne street.

He is 86 years old and seems to enjoy remarkably good health for a man who smokes incessantly. He often leaves a lit cigarette smouldering on his work bench, but I haven't found any scorch marks on my clothes yet. The only change I have noticed over that past 7 years is that he now wears chemist glasses with the prescription sticker still on the lens.

I first met Mr Ricci after the great Vintage Dress Disaster of 2005. I had bought a beautiful blue party dress with ruched sleeves. I wanted to get rid of the sleeves, to make it more 'summer day dress' and less 'Molly Ringwald goes to a birthday party!'* My housemate Ian was very confident that he knew just what was needed.

I should have known when Ian picked up the kitchen scissors that it would not end well. IT WAS A TEXAS PARTY DRESS MASSACRE.

Enter Mr Ricci, tailor. He was very disappointed with me. Very disappoin…


This Easter we went to Blairgowrie to stay at Thomas' beach house.

The day before we left I bought some watercolour paints and paintbrushes at one of the 2-dollar shops on Smith street. Bargain!! I have never really painted before, and as you can see, I am really very bad. I used to hate art so much in high school that I even volunteered to clean out the paint sinks instead of having to paint. But this time I found it incredibly relaxing and fun. Somewhat disturbingly, I just read an article suggesting that a new desire to paint is one of the first signs of frontotemporal dementia!

So, my mediocre depiction of our weekend features:
Jenn reading a book next to baby Niamh
Huw, Eva and Tara swimming in the deep rock pools
Nico floating in the surf on our inflatable pool toy
Dan and Thom making a fire
Jason chopping wood
Verity and I playing soccer
Tanya and Ao playing Kubb
Erin and Kath fishing
Rohan streaking
Pippen (the dog) chasing butterflies.
Chilli (dog) with a bright red belly fr…

On Not Getting Kidnapped

When we were little my Dad was obsessed with taking us for Sunday drives to get 'out of the house.' Apparently it never occurred to him that that a car journey is not an activity in itself for a child. I think that for a child- actually for most backseat passengers- car journeys are only tolerable in light of the destination. Dad was clearly working on some sort of car-advertisement model of the journey, perhaps somewhat stymied by our early-80s Mazda 626. And the persistent grizzles from the backseat.

The most memorable of these journeys was our trip to Springvale to learn Why We Would Not Get Kidnapped. When Pen was in year 8 one the of the girls in her class was kidnapped from her home. She was found one year later shot dead. In fact, she was the second girl to be kidnapped from our high school in two years. Understandably, the whole situation left us both a bit anxious.

So Mum and Dad's genius strategy was to take us on a family drive past the kidnapped girl'…

Everybody Dies!

Whilst shopping for Pen's birthday present, I found a picture book that sums up my life's work in 20 pages. By Japanese-American artist Ken Tanaka, it is an artful reminder that our lives are better lived with an awareness of our certain mortality!

To the best of my knowledge Mr Tanaka has not worked in an intensive care unit, but he seems to understand the conversations ICU doctors and nurses have on a near-daily basis. It is not macabre, it is simultaneously hilarious and sensible:

If I were to write a sequel, it would be called, 'When Your Heart Stops, You're Dead: A Guide to Cardiac Arrest and CPR for the 'ER' Generation.'

Oh, the banality.

I miss my housemates! They made me feel more interesting by association, what with their dance shows and their trips to SXSW and their freebie-press-passes to Golden Plains.

If I had flatmates today I would have told them the following banal observations:

1. These days whenever I drink water instead of wine people assume I'm pregnant. For the record, I'm not. Moreover, I am not a big drinker at the best of times so you'll probably never spot it when I *am* pregnant! Ha ha!!

2. The new housing commission flats on Brunswick st are less ugly than any of the new apartments that are being built in Fitzroy.

3. Shit ICU doctors say: "She didn't want to live any more so we gave her some amitriptyline." and "She kicked me so I paralysed her."

4. Autumn is awesome.

5. Gorski and Jones (the restaurant) sneakily fill Aesop handwash containers with non-Aesop purple, artificial-smelling handwash.

6. I think it would be great if 'home theatres' were actual…

Never leave with a sweaty hippy to a second location

So, I do Bikram yoga. I rarely admit to this because I am aware that it seems like a sweaty, hippy cult. Actually, it is a bit of a sweaty, hippy cult.

Nonetheless it is a useful hobby to have in my armamentarium when an alternative health freak attacks me for being a *medical doctor*. "Do you use garlic when you get a cold, Lucy, DO YOU?!? Hmph. No WONDER I have no faith in doctors or vaccination or the obstetric care that has seen the maternal mortality rate drop 100 fold in the past century. NO WONDER!!" "No, but I do Bikram yoga..." Game-changer!

I will never be one of the skinnies who do 60 day challenges drinking only coconut water. Who really has time for 90 minutes of yoga, plus arriving fifteen minutes beforehand plus mandatory post-yoga shower every day?? I only go once per week.

But I love it. Even when it makes me so light headed I have to lie down. I like that it's difficult every time you do it, except for maybe once every six months when i…

Market Value

Things I would have paid more for recently:

1. A second hand copy of Maggie Alderson's book, 'Mad about the Boy'. Bought from the second hand bookshop in Porirua, a small town in NZ. It was well written chic lit, perfect reading for our disastrous weekend away.
Actual price: $2 (NZD)
I would have paid: $5 (AUD)

2. A glass of lemonade. Bought from a stand two kids had set up outside Jason's parents' house this afternoon. It was proper homemade lemonade with zingy bits of real lemon.
Actual price: 20c
I would have paid: 50c (I actually tried to give the kid a 59c piece but he insisted on giving me the correct change).

3. A sausage in bread with onion and tomato sauce. At the operating theatre sausage sizzle; I hoovered it down during a short break in an all-day neuro list.
Actual price: $1.50
I would have paid: Up to $6, given location and convenience.

4. Navy Kate Sylvester trousers (second hand). Bought from Industria.
Actual price: $50
I would have paid: $70.


bru cintrel

This weekend Jason and I flew to Wellington, NZ, for dinner. An absurd extravagance!

In our defence, this was not the original plan. We were going to fly from Wellington to a wedding in the Queen Charlotte Sound. Jason was determined to attend his good friends Bryce and Lucy's wedding, despite the fact that it was only accessible by boat or plane and we didn't have any leave from work. He planned a convoluted weekend trip involving a chartered seaplane: allowing us 23 hours (!!) to spend at our final destination on the Queen Charlotte sound, before returning to Melbourne in time for work on Monday.

I was actually pretty excited about the whole ridiculous palava. Jason had visions of jumping from the seaplane in his dinner suit, Jason Bond-style. I was excited about seeing the Queen Charlotte sound, seeing our friends and drinking some good wine.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out. Saturday morning was overcast with a persistent drizzle. At breakfast in the mot…

Married life, sans AC

So married life is remarkably like pre-married life, only I am less harried and have more awesome kitchen gadgets (thanks everyone!!).

I really like to take things slowly in January, even when I am not on holidays. In order to celebrate the last weekend of January, and my last weekend on the marvelous anaesthetics roster, I have been taking things very slowly this weekend:
1. Reading crappy Sookie Stackhouse novels. They are almost unreadable.
2. Baking ginger shortbread. I tried to convince Mel to swap some figs from her fig tree for some of my gingerbread shortbread biscuits but she didn't reply. Don't hoard your figs, Mel!!
3. Overeating at Pinotta and Gorsky and Jones.
4. Going to the movies.
5. Showering frequently and sitting in front of a fan in an effort to replicate air conditioning.

I love hearing about people's strategies to survive the summer heat. Joe Foley puts his shirt under the tap every hour or so and then puts it back on. I eat icy poles almost constantl…

Lost on Mt Buggary

'What sort of a two-bit honeymoon are you taking me on??' I asked my Jason as I lost feeling in my hands halfway across the Crosscut Saw. In fairness it *may* have been my suggestion to go hiking...

We drove to the Upper Howqua camping area on Monday, which was a bit of an adventure in the corolla. (Incidentally, Jason tried to name the car Nora in a bid to prevent me naming any future daughters Nora but I shut that down pretty quickly).

Tuesday we were supposed to hike to Mt Buggary and then across the Mt Speculation, which has a campsite and a creek for water. At about the 8km mark the track deteriorated. We were climbing over or crawling under large fallen trees every 15 metres in some sort of 'It's a Knockout' style obstacle course. Then half way up the Queen Spur we lost the track completely and ended up bush-bashing through waist-deep scrub to the top. By then it was 6pm, and we hadn't found the trail.

So we set up camp, lost, halfway up Mt Buggary. N…

Wedding highlights

1. The flowers. I want to have these flowers all the time, for ever.

2. Before the ceremony, our good friend Jesse Marlow took our photos in the streets of Collingwood. We had a lot of fun. Jesse talked about textured walls and Jason complained about the glare.

It was very hot so Scott went to the servo to buy us water, then we went back to Pen and Stu's backyard to wait in the shade for the ceremony to start.

3. Wet weather plans! We had to change the ceremony venue the Compound Interest, Stu's warehouse studio at the last minute because of rain.

Karina and I went to Lombard's the day before to get some awesome heart shaped balloons. Keith made a closed-loop video of the Carlton Gardens, where we were supposed to get married, and projected it on the wall behind the ceremony.

Pen, Stu, Karina and Mim made the warehouse look great.

Though you can see I'm not sure about the result in this photo:

Jason and I walked in via the motorcycle shop (see actual motorcycle in back…


So Jason and I got married!

Here is some preliminary proof.