Posts Tagged ‘life’

Alongside all the up-in-the-airness of the last few weeks, paediatrics has been really quite lovely. I love children. A baby can get me smiling when frankly, little else will. I had a nice week on neonates, essentially following a doctor and sticking my pinky in babies’ mouths to comfort them whilst they got prodded and poked – and loved it. The hard side of paeds, is, of course, when children get exposed to things they shouldn’t be, whether that’s a serious illness, family hardship and disputes, or more sinister things like abuse. We see all of this – and nothing makes me question those big questions about life and fairness and morality, quite like an abandoned, disabled baby with a history of neglect, does, and such complex needs that few fosterparents will consider them. Some people just are not born with fair chances. I hate that.

One of the things people associate with toddlers and small children are the temper tantrums over trivial things – but for me, this is a good thing. Firstly because I’m patient and young enough that screaming children don’t put me off and don’t make me love them less – but also because when a child is crying because they didn’t get their choice of ice-cream, or DVD, or jumper, or whatever – it means they’re still shielded from the worse parts of the world. It means they are still innocent from the badness and hardship that happens to everyone, eventually. When a child doesn’t cry at those things, because they are frequently ┬ábeaten, or hurt, or demeaned, and used to real pain, that’s so much worse. When they stop crying when you take blood because they’ve been through so many painful procedures, it’s so much worse than when they do. It’s difficult, seeing these babies with what the professionals call ‘frozen watchfullness’, before they’ve learned to smile. It’s hard, hearing the sound of a baby withdrawing from methadone, which is the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever heard. It’s hard, seeing the photographs and hearing the stories about the depths to which human cruelty can reach.

We all ‘grow up’ at some point. When I was at school, I remember being jealous of all the other kids who didn’t have a father that drank himself silly or was always on the cusp of violence. I envied their freedom and security. The petty disputes meant less to me, as I had so much more to handle. The arguments over boys, meant less, when I was spending evenings visiting in rehab, or hiding the whisky bottles, or making sure my younger brother was ok. I sometimes think that I grew up far too quickly, and missed a lot of milestones due to my families difficulties, and then started going backwards once I hit 21, and tried to see if drinking the same as everyone else would make me feel less different. It didn’t make me feel less different. It made me feel more alone, as no one else struggled with it as I did. Both drinking and not-drinking isolated me for a long time. My early experiences coloured everything and made me see things in a different light.

I have a happy-ish medium now, in that I am confident in choosing not to drink when I don’t want to, but can also enjoy a glass of wine occasionally without starting to panic about following in family footsteps. This has probably been the single best thing that’s happened this year, as having a healthier attitude towards drinking makes so many things easier. And yes, my early experiences do mean that sometimes I find it harder than others, and that I’m not comfortable around people who have drank a lot, and am actually quite scared of them – but I get by. I’ve found a vague balance.

I was back at the GP’s today, and she really is a good, lovely doctor. She asked me if I’d had bouts of depression before, and now, it’s easier to see that I have had periods of low mood, probably since I was sixteen, if not longer. And when she asked why I hadn’t seen anyone, all I could say was that my family was preoccupied with other things, and no one noticed that I was fading into the background. No one noticed at all. As for me, I thought it was normal, and it wasn’t until recently that I read my old journals, that I realised just how sad and lost I was, so determined to escape. It wasn’t until I came away that I realised just how hard my family life is.

I don’t remotely suggest that my own childhood even comes close to some of the things unfortunate children go through – but I do mourn, when I see that something has stolen their childhood from them irreparably, I do mourn, when I see that they are forced to grow up too soon and act in ways beyond their age. I wish that all every child had to cry about, was the wrong sort of icecream. I wish that all every teenager had to worry about, was whether some boy knew their name. We don’t live in a world of fair chances.

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Mixed experiences

This post has two parts: a light-hearted part, and a pretty heavy part. Here goes.

I am working in my city’s accident/emergency department at the moment. It’s great, as I’m getting to do lots of skills (I am the ‘cannula monkey’, apparently), and see lots of things – but I also had a shock this week, on my first day, when I was called to the resus room over the tanoy, and then asked if I could start chest compressions on an elderly man whilst the team got stuff ready to shock him.

I’ve done CPR once before, as a very green 16 year old lifeguard, when to be honest, it was such a shock to have to drag someone out of the pool that we were all on autopilot. Then, it was a fifty year old man with an unexpected heart attack – it made sense to try. This time, however, was different. He was 87, with three previous strokes, and a previous heart attack. We stopped after about ten minutes of compressions from me, then a further stint using the automatic compressor (which is officially the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen), and I could hear his ribs breaking. He was brought in so quickly, and the ambulance staff left so quickly, that none of the doctors knew his name. He should have been allowed to die at home, peacefully, but instead, ended up bruised and naked, in the ER. He was allowed to die, at last, whilst we watched his heart trace finally flatline. I held his hand. Not the good death, we are supposed to aim for. CPR is actually much less effective than most people know. Only around 5% are brought back – and of those, many end up dying in ITU, or similar. I ‘m not saying it’s not a wonderful thing – for some patients, it’s a true miracle. However, for most, it’s futile, and barbaric.

This was the first of what I know will be so many deaths I will face as a doctor – but unlike my first successful cannula, or blood gas, or intubation, this is one first I did not look forward to, at all. Sometimes, I think that so much is wrong with how we approach these things – GP’s have targets for managing so many symptoms, yet don’t have to make sure that appropriate patients have DNAR orders. This man probably did not want the treatment we gave him; his wife certainly didn’t. I want to be a doctor who protects rights to a good death, as much as rights to a good life. I want to help my patients die where they want, surrounded by family. I don’t want them to end up cold and broken after a trainee cracks their ribs. I want better for them. As I was doing CPR, my eyes drifted to the clock on the wall, and it was midday – which is when, according to my church’s current project, we are all supposed to pray. And at first, all I wanted was for him to open his eyes and start breathing. All I wanted was a heartbeat. But then, I realised that I truly wanted what was best for him, and that is what I prayed for. I believe, that God delivered on that. I believe he heard me.

Since then, I’ve been a little shaken up; long hours, and particularly bad sleep at the moment make me short tempered and tearful. Counselling on Monday was harder than it’s been for quite a while. I’m a bit overstretched. I’m partly mourning, for a man I did not know.

On a lighter note……..

My other ‘first’ is that tomorrow I am going on an official, real-life, bonafide date. With a boy (or more specifically, a young man who teached maths at the same school the former conductor of my choir also teaches at). I know – who’d have thought, eh? We met at my conductor’s wedding celebration on Saturday, and after a lovely chat, agreed to meet again.

I have never done this before. ‘Terrified’ doesn’t quite cut it, to be honest. My only other ‘serious’ relationship started after I’d known the guy for eighteen months – we didn’t need to do the whole dating, sit down and talk about music and childhood nicknames thing. We knew each other. This, is so different, so strange. Part of me wonders if it’s a good idea – I’m still so wobbly, and have so many ups and downs, that even the scent of a relationship seems badly placed. But on the other hand, it’s nice to be asked – I’m not the sort of girl who turns heads and gets a lot of interest from lads. Most of the ones my age, are a bit intimidated by me. I’m a hopeless romantic, but also often wonder if I’ll ever find someone who matches me, challenges me, but will love me for all my discrepancies and hidden issues. I’m often not that convinced he exists. And being faced with a possibility, no matter how slim, no matter that this is informal and friendly – is a bit scary. I’m not sure how ‘good’ at dating I will be. I’m not sure how ‘good’ I want to be. Here goes.

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