Monday 8 September 2014

If you haven't got suitable friends, we won't operate

My left little finger has been permanently contracted for ten years or so.
Another week, another bureaucracy raising my blood pressure, this time the hospital system.
This all started some years ago when a genetic disorder which I didn't know I had, it's called Dupuytren's contracture.
This is the arrival of a thickening node of fibrous tissue in the hands, feet, and sometimes, though thankfully I've been spared this, on the penis.
Though I have had plenty of risable comments from other guys about how I got this clawing of my hands, usually to do to with a "man's self love".
However, my contracture has been caused partly by genetics, those of Celtic and Scandinavian ancestry are particularly at risk.
This fits as our family trace our ancestry back to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Cornwall, England.
Men are more at risk than women, but the most common cause of Dupuytren's is alcoholism, and that of course fits for me as well.
I had one on my right hand as well, and that was operated on some years ago, very successfully, and my right hand now functions well with only this scar to remind me.
So I'm looking forward to getting the surgery done, and regaining the use of a fully-functioning left hand, however the process of going into hospital, is beyond stressful, and it's prejudiced against those without much social support.
Actually, first I'll backtrack a little.
This all started four or five years ago when I was playing soccer on a Thursday night.
As I've mentioned before this was an attempt by me to stay in shape.
However it had a ludicrous component as the guys I was playing against were all in their twenties and thirties, and to see me wallowing along in their wake was very funny.
Anyway, this night I was sprinting next to a young man from Israel, named, Levin, when my right hand came forward, and his left hand came back.
His knuckles collided with the back of my right hand at speed, and broke my third metacarpal bone.
A spiral fracture of the bone leading to my ring finger.
Man, did that hurt.
I stopped playing and went round to the hospital, they did the x-ray, confirmed the break, and told me to drive up to Tweed Hospital Fracture clinic the next morning.
They told me at Byron Bay A&E that I had to be there by seven.
In my ignorance, I thought they meant 7pm.
Oh no, 7am, Lachlan.
So the next morning I maneuvered my self one-handed behind the wheel of the car and set off.
At Tweed they examined the break, reset it with a new cast, and in so doing noticed the Dupuytren's contracture on my right hand, and so put me on the list to have it operated on.
18 months later my number came up, and I went in for surgery and had my right hand opened up for the first time in ten years.
Once the right hand was done, they then entered me on the list for the left, and now the time has come for that.
However, things are a little different this time, and so the stress has been even higher.
When I went in for my right hand op, I was told a week in advance what time my operation would be.
This, as I've now realized, was crucial, because I was able to get all my ducks in a row regarding transport up to Tweed, fasting and all the rest for the surgery.
I say that because my surgery time then was 7am, and like an international flight, you have to check in well before that, six am in this case.
Now I, again, in my unholy ignorance, thought I would drive up to Tweed, have the surgery, get in my car and drive home, singing all the way as the after affects of the drugs spiralled around my cortex.
No, no, no, it's general anaesthetic, Lachlan, and for insurance purposes, you can't drive a motor vehicle for 24 hours after going under.
So I couldn't drive.
However, my friend Jim came to the party and did me such a massive favour by picking me up at five am, thus having to get out of bed at four, and drove me up.
Surgery done, the next group of friend's Tom and Becky, drove up to Tweed to pick me up, bring me home, and provide accommodation for the night.
This was important as one of the measures that goes under the heading of safety is that you can't be alone on the first night out of hospital, in case you fall over, or have some other mishap.
Right, so that was the right hand, stressful enough, but we got there in the end.
However, this time, things are kind of in flux.
So I'll just refer to the phone call I had with the hospital.
The phone rang, and I pressed answer and learned that it was the check in staffer at the hospital.
She went through a few things with me, type of op, name, age, weight, health status, general ground work.
Then I said: "Can you tell me what time my operation will be?"
Her: "No, you'll have to ring up the day before."
Me: "Oh, um, that's going to make it difficult to co-ordinate things."
Her: "Yes," or words to that effect.
She went on: "How are you getting here?"
Me: "Well since I'm staying in overnight afterward, I thought I would drive."
Her: "No, you can't do that, I'm sure the surgeon won't want you driving after the operation. Can a family member bring you?"
ME: "No, I live alone, my only immediate family are eight hours drive away in the Hunter valley."
Her: "Oh, well can a friend bring you?"
Me: "Well various friends have offered, but the driving ones have all got to work Thursday, so if I knew what time the operation was, we could at least do a workaround with their working times."
Her: "Oh, well, no, there's no way we'll know what time the op is till Wednesday."
Me: "Oh, um,...," then I had a thought, "what about community transport? Would that be an option?"
Her: "Yes, it could be."
She then looked up a number and gave it to me, then rang off.
So I rang community transport.
They were at least trying to help, however the number that I had been given was for elderly patients, and as such I couldn't use them.
But they gave me a number for another community transport group.
So I rang them.
I told them of my requirements, a lift to Murwillumbah hospital from my home of Byron Bay.
The nice lady there then asked me the question that I am already heartily sick of, "What time is your operation?"
Me: "I don't know, they said I couldn't find out till Wednesday, the day before the operation."
I went on, "when I had my other hand operated on at Tweed hospital, I had to be there at six am, for a seven am op, if this time is the same, can your organisation help me?"
Her: "Ah, er, no, I'm sorry, the earliest pick up we can do is six thirty."
I gave a long suffering sigh, the lugubrious sigh of a man going through enough stress without having to co-ordinate an interconnected series of transport operations involving multiple friends and others.
So I salvaged what I could, "Okay, so if the operation is during relatively normal hours, you can take me up to Murwillumbah, that won't be a problem?"
Her: "Yes," she said, "as long as the pick up is after six thirty, we can help."
'Well that's something at least,' I thought, then thanked her and rang off.
OK, so now things were relatively in play.
My friend Jim, had said he could take me on another hospital trip but only as long as wasn't during working hours, which for him meant before seven a.m.
So if it's early Jim can take me, if it's late, the community transport can help.
But even then, I think you appreciate the massive service my friend Jim is doing here.
If it's a six am check in, he is going to get up at four am, drive round and pick me up, then drive me the forty-five minutes to Murwillumbah, drive back to Byron, then go to his work for the day.
What's Jim's work?
He's a bus driver, and will then drive for the next several hours.
Final summary of all that is that if I didn't have friends like Jim, and the surgery was early, then I would have to drive my perennially unstable car to the hospital, watching the temperature gauge like a hawk all the way.
Then find somewhere near the hospital I can park it for more than a day.
Park the car, go in, have the surgery, then wait until 24 hours have elapsed, and drive the car home one-handed.
Thus, the message is "unless you have suitable friends we won't do the surgery".
As my friend Michael said when I saw him on Sunday, "They seem to have this airy assumption about the levels of support that people have."
Okay, so that's getting there.
There then comes the problem of escaping from the hospital.
When I had my right hand done, I went out into the recovery room and waited there for Tom and Becky to arrive.
After a time I was heartily sick of that and so thought I might go for a walk out and get my circulation going.
I went up to the desk and said "I'm just going for a walk, if my friends arrive could you tell them to call me on the mobile, and I'll come back."
The woman at the desk then said, and this floored me I must say, "Sorry, you have to have someone sign you out."
I reared back, "Sign me out?!" I said, "What so I..., what so I can't even go for a walk?"
Desk woman: "Sorry, no, you have to be signed out of our care."
Me: "But what if my friends had car trouble, and couldn't get here today? Would that mean I have to stay here in this waiting room until their car was fixed?"
She didn't say actually 'yes' to that, but that was certainly the substance.
However, luckily, Tom and Becky arrived not long after that and signed me out, and we went home via the fish and chip shop on the Tweed River, and as was well.
I mention that because this time I was planning to leave via community transport,and thus would be checking myself out of the hospital.
My friend's Sandy and Pete offered generously to pick me up, when I asked them, but that was when I thought I would be out on Thursday, but they both have to work on the Friday.
However, another friend, Eric, a valued gardening client at Clunes, offered to pick me up on the Friday and I'm so thankful for that.
However that now means Eric has to drive from Clunes to Murwillumbah, pick me up, then drop me in Byron, and then drive home to Clunes before 2.30pm as he and wife Shelagh have guests coming over in the afternoon.
Thank you Jim and Eric, and all the rest who made offers.
Without you, I'm not sure what I would do.
And I would say in closing that I'm not having a go at the staff of the hospital, they're busy enough with all the cuts made to the health system.
There's nothing they can do to reduce the stress, but this whole process is stacked against those with less social support.

The importance of being dumped

Elsewhere, I'm can't quite recall what brought this up for me this week, but as I walked restlessly alone along the beach I was reminded of a party I went to in Sydney when I lived there in the nineties.
But a little background before we get to that.
This was in the period after I had been dumped and I was still reeling from the affects of that.
I had quit my high-paying job, and as such was soon homeless on the streets of Sydney.
I spent some time squatting, with permission, in the gutted shell of my friend Derek's half renovated terraced house in East Balmain.
There was no electricity or hot water, and so I slept on the bits of floor that were still there, and showered when I went down to Bondi Beach for a surf.
I ate take away food, McDonald's and such like mainly, and coped as best I could.
With no power, I couldn't watch TV of course, not that I had one, even if the power had been on, and so I began to read even more voraciously than I normally did.
I went to counselling when I could and one of my therapists, Nick put me onto Intimacy and Solitude by Stephanie Dowrick.
I've mentioned this book before, and still to this day recommend anyone and everyone read it.
In those pages I learned the difference between alone and lonely, and many other valuable things.
Once I'd finished that, I then became addicted to so-called self-help books.
I went to the library whenever I'd finished one, and got out another.
As such, I then became something of a bore on the topic of emotional stuff.
Since most of my socialising revolved around drinking in pubs with engineer types I knew from the computer industry, while watching the rugby league game on the Friday night, you can imagine how this constant harping on 'chick books' that I was currently reading went over.
However it had a long term affect, and I'm pretty sure that these days my emotional intelligence is just a little higher, and that can be traced back to those long sessions of reading by torchlight in the gutted shell of Derek's house.
Derek's house where I did my reading.
[For my north American readers, in Australia torch means flashlight, not a flaming brand as carried by angry mobs of villagers as they go to set fire to Dracula's castle.]
Anyway, so one weekend a friend mentioned a party at his old share house.
He said: "Yeah, they're having a party, it's being hosted by my old flatmate, Brian's, girlfriend."
He went on: "I can't stand her really, she's pretentious beyond belief, and so far up herself she's got two heads, I don't know what Brian sees in her really, but there will be plenty of hot birds there."
Sorry, by the way, but that is how I, like my friend, talked and objectified women in those days.
Anyway, clearly I had nothing better to do so I decided to go and check the party out.
I went with a friend from the computer industry, a Scotsman, Ian.
And it was pretentious.
I don't know what we were thinking, really, as ever being young men, we had the vague notion that we may pick up one of the hot women that we'd been told about, and hook up.
However, the the usual laws applied, and those single hot women who didn't already have boyfriends, were quickly snared by the men there, also pretentious, who had the most money.
Obviously, once I mentioned that if this putative sex partner were to leave the party with me and we went back to see my etchings, it would be into the gutted shell of a half-renovated terraced house, interest in me dropped precipitately.
So we come at long last to the nub of the story.
At one point latish in the evening we were in the kitchen area of the party and with Ian, I was talking with the pretentious woman who was hosting the party.
I, as usual, vouchsafed that i had recently been dumped, and was suffering from it.
(An unspoken part of this constant telling people of this dumping, was that I was hoping some woman would take pity on me and offer a shag. They never did.)
Once I'd said this, the pretentious hostess of the party said, "I've never been dumped."
Bald statement of fact, as she saw it.
Ian, my Scottish friend, then said, and I loved him for it, "And you think that's healthy?"
The tenor of the woman's remark was "I am so fantastically desirable that I have never been dumped, whenever there is dumping to be done, I will do it."
The tenor of Ian's remark seemed to be that you cannot be any chance of being a fully formed, well-rounded human being, if you don't go through the horrendously painful process of at least one dumping in your life.
And I have to say that, all the empirical evidence then and there, seemed to prove Ian right.
This woman was beyond pretentious, and if some part of that formation was that she had never been dumped, then clearly Ian was right on the money.
She didn't much reply to Ian's comment, and soon the conversation turned to other things.
However, we ad our revenge, and this shows you all out there 'never be pretentious', as it will come back to bight you karmically.
Later that evening, Ian and I and some others were in this woman's bed room smoking pot out of sight of the partying throngs.
I packed the bong then handed it to Ian, however, in my laxity, I let go too early, and the device fell on the floor.
The condition we left the pretentious hostess's bedroom.
A shower of filthy bong water then sprayed up, and covered the end bit of the Doona cover on the bed.
All of us there looked at each other with a wild surmise.
We knew who's bedroom it was.
We could imagine her reaction when she found out.
We acted.
Without a word, we leapt up like Saturn rockets, and without a word, left the bedroom, and then the party.
If she had been a remotely nice person, we would probably have offered to clean it up.
As Ian and I got in the taxi we shared an unspoken agreement that really she got, albeit accidentally, what she had deserved from the moment she said, "I've never been dumped."
So I hope you never get dumped, but if it does happen, sometime later you can take small comfort from knowing that it has undoubtedly made you a more rounded human being.

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