Waiting For You

I found myself waiting in a small white room, the generic kind that is omnipresent in publicly funded buildings that leaves the visitor feeling cold.  The kind that leaves the visitor with a distinct feeling that time passes slower inside here than it does outside there.  I was here for myself, that much I knew, but I was also with my wife who had gone off to get some coffee.  Although I had noticed that she had been some time by the time I noticed that she had left.  This frayed my already nervous temper somewhat some-more and I found myself clutching the broadsheet newspaper with a tighter grip than usual, so much so that I could see the spots of whiteness in my pallid flesh, the pressure of over-exertion, of the body not quite being able to push around as much blood as it would like.

Although the room was small I found myself seated on one row of twenty chairs, which was one of three or four.  I was sat directly opposite the double brown doors that I had come through to reach this waiting room.  At the other end of the waiting room there was a corridor which I knew had the offices stationed in discreet intervals.  The only entertainment to be had was to view either a dull aging telly whose monotonous outpourings couldn’t be heard or to read through the much fingered magazines and papers, which happened to be some years out of date.  I couldn’t imbue the feeling that the papers were out of date for a reason, that this calmed the reader down because he knew ahead of the papers what would happen the day after what they had stated.

The room shifted again and appeared smaller and I larger.  There was no telling where this would end.

The information packet that I had received before the appointment entailed little of use, no discrete instruction or direction.  Just a time and a date.  Of course I knew why I had to come to but not the reason I needed to come.  The building was suffocating and it was suffocating my thoughts.  I thought that if I had to stay longer, without my name being called out, without an actual person pointing towards me, without wanting me, that I then would leave this place of my own free accord.  But of course I could not put a time value on the present moment, I just knew I had to feel it to enact it

Again the room shifted, lurched on its axis and scrunched inwards and became smaller still.

I didn’t mind, I had a seat and a paper and my wife would soon be by my side.  I reasoned that my name, whichever it happens to be today, will soon be called and I will be designated another temporary space to call my own.  This was the routine, this was how it was organised, and we all had to play along.

I put down my paper and surveyed the other individuals who had been called here, on the same day as me no less.  I took a quick head count: 24 people.  13 male and 11 female, none under the age of 19 or so and few over the age of 60.  I was approaching that boundary myself.  This did not give me hope.  The double door shunted open with a protest and I was delighted to see my wife again.  Although she appeared irritated and was not carrying the cups of coffee I had so hoped for.

The room shifted once more, this time compacting down to a minute size.  It only just allowed myself and my wife the space we needed to sit down next to each other, to look at each other in the eye, and to hold our hands together.

My name was called.

Other Sides

‘…..and I’ve already told you of the experience, how demeaning it was, how I felt like utter shit abandoned at the end of the world- do we really have to go through it again?’

‘Yes I’m afraid so, you know as well as I do that we have to go through each experience of importance and process it so we can begin to understand more fully why you are here today and what we can do tomorrow.’

‘But it just feels like we are revisiting the same instance, the same scene, again and again, I do not feel that this is not the main theme of my life, I’ve gotten over it, why are we doing this?’

‘I think we could be at a turning point in this session if we pursue this particular point, please can you tell me again how you felt at that point in hospital?’

‘Okay fine.  Well, it was maybe the 2nd week after the surgery, and I was managing to get to the toilet with a little help from the nurses to push me over to it on a portable commode (not the most glamorous mode of transportation), and on this occasion the nurse helped me get over to and on the toilet seat, told me push this orange button once I had been and done my business, as usual.

Fine I though, this wouldn’t take that long, heck it was nice to be sat upright, even if it was draining and made me tired and nauseous.  So I was enjoying being out of the lumpy bed, my bowels moved and I cleaned myself up, lent over to the sink and washed my hands.  After that was done I pressed the orange call button firmly and waited…’

‘Please continue..’

‘I was located in a side room, away from the main bays of the ward by myself, and the toilet was also in my room.  Effectively I was two doors away from the main artery of the ward, out on a limb from the nurses station, but I didn’t think this would be a problem.  A few minutes drifted by and I sat and wondered where the nurses were, tried to remember what time it was and if they would all be busy serving drugs or meals.’

‘I could see the orange glow of the button I’d pressed so I knew it’d be making that humming noise every few seconds, with a light above my bedroom door flashing as well.  It was only a matter of time, but the longer I sat the more sore my bum became, my bones ached more and I felt more and more uncomfortable generally.’

‘I began to feel like I’d been abandoned, lost, and I was racked with aches and pains.  I hadn’t moved this much since the surgery, I began to tremble. and I… I…’

‘Go on, you are in a safe room here,’

‘Well I’m not afraid to say a tear fell loose from one of my eyes, I felt like I had been cast away, left to rot on a desert island of clinical smells and frustrated, worn out, bodies.  Surely I must have been in there for more than half an hour?  Maybe more?  The seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes seemed to drag into hours.  This can’t be right I thought, surely someone has seen the orange glow, has heard the hum above the hustle and bustle of the busy ward?  it’s not hard to ignore, but at the same time it signifies that someone needs your attention.’

‘Sure, it hasn’t the red glow and the violent incessant thud of the emergency alarm but it was still a signal saying that someone needed attention, was waiting to be seen, hoping to be heard, right?  I was there and I needed someone.  And I just couldn’t help it or myself, I felt broken by such a small thing, by being left on the toilet atop of my own shit, my own weak body holding me back, and I just couldn’t fathom how… how I could get out, how to do it, I think at one point I shouted a bit, not much, I was meek, weak at the knees at needing attention but never actively seeking it.’

‘hmm right, please go on, how did the situation resolve?’

‘Resolve?  It never resolved, I was found on the toilet half asleep from the weakness of sitting there for so long.  The nurses told me that it had only been 30 minutes but it had felt like a lifetime.’

‘And how did you feel towards the nurses after the incident?…’

‘I viewed them the same as before, how could I not?  I depended on them, I needed them.’

‘Did you think you were consciously abandoned?’

‘No, of course not, I mean why would they when they knew I was out of bed so recently after major surgery, they probably had better things to do right, you know this is a hospital, right? Some people are far sicker than me…’

‘Hmm…’

‘I, I don’t know, I just thought that this is it, this is how my life is going to be, waiting for help, waiting to be moved, waiting to be noticed…’

‘Ah, I’m afraid the session is up for today, please can you come back next week, say Wednesday at 2pm?’

‘Yeah of course, I guess so…I just don’t feel as though we have made any breakthrou…’

‘Goodbye Mr Petersen,’

‘Thanks…’

The day was bitter and the wind whipped at his face as he left the gray tawdy building.  It looked warm in the sunshine, it looked relaxing to be outside in the great bosom of nature, but it was a facade, it was cold and unwelcoming.  Mr Petersen knew this, but he could not comprehend it.

Repose: An Experiment

 

  • The physical scars are my tattoos and they are my identity, of this I am sure.  The mottled brown skin, the lines that gently snake down both my thighs, help ground me to this earth in a way no mere object can.
  1. Sitting on the white plastic toilet in a sanitized room, forgotten and sobbing, whilst an orange alarm softly glows in the glum yellow light.
  • A few scars have been kissed several times by the cold blade of the surgeon’s scalpel, the limbs drained and bled, the bone gently replaced by metal.
  1. Learning to walk once again: hands steadying on the grey frame, one foot forward and one long silent inward scream released.
  • The flow of the blood up the arm; the nauseating but welcoming wave of painkiller, muscle relaxant and fresh oxygen combine to make the eyelashes flutter, the nurses grip that much tighter, the lights that much brighter, the machine beeps that much colder, my battered body that much older.
  1. The camaraderie that endears the long term patients to cluster together, the adhesive that bonds them, and the angels that watch over them.  The simple dichotomy of a child’s mind.
  • Food that is welcomed wholeheartedly into baying and desperate hands, the food that represents the familial bond.  Breaking bread with friends outside of that hospital environment, with the fresh air and clear blue skies and freewheeling squawking of the seagulls reinvigorates a tired body.
  1. The scars that sit silently, bubbling and boiling, ready to ruin a Thursday night with the T.V.
  • A visit to the emergency room; a quick stab of a needle and a swish of glistening scalpel; pressure, pressure upon the limb, watch it drain, watch it drain; the glittering of a thousand stars at night as the wheels glide over the tarmac.
  1. The book chronicling my experiences and more, given up around page 30.
  • At my most fractured, strapped to the bed, broken but healing, here then were people that cared, the conduits of a beauty unparalleled, the seeds of a love sown with the deep blues and pure whites of their uniform.  Of the nurses who took their time to talk, of their radiance and gorgeous faces.  A friendly radiographer taking the time to explain how his mysterious machines worked.
  1. The acceptance of your fate, whether on the operating table or in a newly prescribed drug, would be taken as a given, but was never fought for.  For all the wealth accumulated through the suffering of others.
  • Discharged and disowned, just one in a long bitter queue.
  1. The book I wished I had wrote when I had barely finished reading it.
  • The dream that I am yet to live.

In One Night

I hold ‘Shaking the Habitual’ in my hands now, and it is beautiful.  I am wonderfully biased to loving the music of The Knife and there are tracks on this album that can seem to go on forever, but there are more than enough diamonds on this album to outshine the dullest of tones.  The album art and format is simple and striking, and The Knife retain their ethical considerations and personal mystique.  I have nothing more to say but to link to this beautiful song below…

Bad Pharma, or The Worst April Fool’s Joke

I’m currently reading Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients‘.  It would be fair to say that this is a book that can change the way you think about medicine and the medical world.  I am only a third of the way through but it has already provided so many insights into how the industry works, cataloging both the damages that have been wrought, and what can be essentially fixed with fairly minimal fuss.  In particular the book deals with the suppression of negative and missing data, that is not published or made accessible to regulatory bodies, hospitals or doctors, ie pretty much everyone in the realm of medicine.

This is particularly interesting in the case of National Institute  for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the UK body that help to regulate and provide decisions on which medicines best benefit patients in the UK.  Even this body does not have access to companies and researchers, who are legally allowed to hide, not publish and prevent governmental bodies from accessing valuable research (Goldacre: 28).  All in the name of profit and exploitation.

Legal battles with drug companies for access to information can lead to years of legal wrangling.  The European Medicines Agency, a EU wide body that approves and regulates drugs for use throughout the Union, has also been known to block researcher access to study reports on drugs due to ‘commercial interest’, even in the view of a systematic review to uncover which drugs are most effective treatments for certain life-saving conditions (Goldacre: 71).

This book is an essential yet disturbing read on how drug companies work, and how they influence bodies across the board.

In some good news India’s Supreme Court has stopped Novartis patenting a cancer drug that is desperately needed.  This gives the Indian drug companies the opportunity to make generic copies of the cancer drug to give to patients at a price that they can afford.  The comments from Novartis are, largely, disgusting, with threats to pull out of the India market altogether.  Ah, the price of profit is a body dropping dead it seems- well done Novartis.

Yesterday was April the 1st, a high time for jokes and japes of all characters.  Yet the British government have seen that day as a choice day to enact deep structural changes to the NHS, as well as the partitioning and selling off of certain parts of the NHS to private contractors, with a specific clause for buyers not to favour the NHS options when considering equipment and staff.  This can only end in one way- to benefit the big pharma and private companies, and not to help patients.  Unbelievably the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently dropped the clause that put the rights of patients first to be formally enshrined at the heart of the NHS, this was a Central Recommendation of the Mid Staffordshire inquiry.

This is a fundamental step towards watering down the value and accessibility of the NHS.  In particular this is a step away from seeing patients as a person to fix and to heal, to seeing patients as moneybags.  This will have dire effects on individuals with rare diseases, where the treatment is costly and specialist.  I worry for the future of the NHS, an institution that has cared for me in my direst hours, after intense surgery and massive blood loss, caring for my broken bones and helping me to heal once again.

The ‘Missing Data’ section of the above book got me thinking about how science is applied and researched in other disciplines, especially in my own realm of human osteology and archaeology.  The meta-analyses and systematic reviews in particular could be a useful approach to identifying and classification of disease in palaeopathology, with regards and relation to the clinical medical data.  I bet there is some interesting results in the way bioarchaeologists and osteologists present their data.