Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Memorable Lolly Moments

I’ve had exams this week – NEBOSH health and safety. Not sure if it’s a good sign or not, but I’ve tended to finish them within less than half the allocated time. I answered every question to the best of my knowledge, so either I’m just a speedy writer or my knowledge is less than half of what it should be. Either way, I’ll find out the results in September.

So, with just over an hour to sit and ponder I found my mind wandering and revisiting past patients who, for whatever reason, continue to lurk inside my subconscious. The first to spring to mind was an elderly cardiac patient who was well known to the department. He was well known partly due to his repeated hospital admissions, but the real reason for his over-familiarity was largely due to his unfathomably big penis.

Amongst the nursing staff this guy was a legend, it seemed almost everyone knew about this monster penis. Each admission, the most naïve student would of course be assigned to him to assist him with bed bathing, urination or whatever as some kind of initiatory trial. Being 92-years-old and bed-bound didn’t curtail this guy’s enthusiasm one little bit – he was still very proud of that penis and would happily show it off to anyone who cared to look. His rather tired looking wife of 40 years used to sigh when he started showing it off and one day she sighed to me, “You know, it really was the reason I married him - he was always so full of fun.”

Needless to say, it was a heart attack that killed him in the end. Apparently, his wife died 2 days later and they were buried together on the same day.

Another one that I recall was from my Accident and Emergency days – one 19-year-old lad with an eighth of an ounce of cannabis resin lodged quite firmly in his ear canal. He’d shoved it down there with a pencil. “My mate told me it would absorb straight into my brain,” the brainless idiot told us.

Another memorable one was Michael, a five year old boy with a number of snails stuffed up his nose, and Eric aged 7, with a moth in his ear, (“I’ve got earwigs!” he told me.)

So sat in the exam room, mentally killing time, my mind wandered. For a moment, self-doubt must have crept in as I remembered vividly the moment I was gluing a 4-year-old’s scalp back together with “superglue” and I discovered with some embarrassment that I had accidentally glued my fingers to his head. “Great!” declared his father, “you get to keep him for the weekend!”

“Does this normally happen?” asked his mother as though I’d make a habit of such activities, whilst the four old asked very simply if he could have the lolly he’d been promised for being good.

This of course then got me thinking about lollies. Who invented the lolly and why? As a child I used to love the “drum” lollies – they were almost too big to fit and so chewy that they’d pull out loose teeth and fillings, but invariably I’d pull out the paper stick and stuff the entire thing in my mouth regardless.

Lollies were great, but the sticks sometimes seemed unnecessary.

So, will I pass my exams? Who knows, but if I don’t – there’s always the lolly logic of small children, which is: “I’ve got a man stuck to my head that I split open when I fell from the climbing frame earlier on. Now, I’ve got a man stuck to my head – so can I have my lolly now, please?”

Saturday, June 03, 2006

More Poo

I was searching for a medical discussion that I chanced upon the other day in order to reproduce here, when I found this. It's a Japanese children's book called, "The Gas We Pass - The Story of Farts" aimed at the 4-6 age range.

Review: "...The latest Japanese import by Kane/Miller continues in the same vein as Everyone Poops and The Holes in Your Nose, exploring yet another subject generally considered taboo. Brevity reigns in both illustration (cartoons and diagrams tinted with swaths of clashing color) and text (which doesn't even attempt to be subtle). Both informative and blunt, the book provides young readers with solid facts as well as plenty to snicker about, including some sage advice ('Don't hold them in - pass that gas!') that will send parents everywhere running for the air freshener." Publishers Weekly

What I was actually looking for was this, a discussion from the British Medical Journal Online about farting and medicine: and the follow up:

Did you know an elephant produces 1000 litres of methane a day? Who the hell measured that? And more importantly, how and why?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Beach Cows

Beach cows.
Anjuna, Goa, India.

Bombay Linseed Nightmares

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to the state of my gastrointestinal tract and the effect it has on my mind. Since I did my O-Levels at school I’ve been aware of the effect that state of my mind has upon my gastro-intestinal tract. The bowel loosening effect of stress is familiar to many, as is the difficulty peeing when having to use the middle urinal in a busy facility.

A while back I woke up feeling quite depressed having had a few nightmares – quite uncharacteristic for me. After rolling about under my duvet in a state of mental distress, it started to dawn on me that maybe it wasn’t my head that was in distress but rather that is my stomach that was in turmoil. This realisation accompanied a rather urgent need to sprint to the bathroom and I only just managed to make it in time without leaving a trail of Brown Matter across the hallway. The 24 hours that followed were most unpleasant indeed but I felt remarkably clear headed once it had passed.

This reminded me of a horrific afternoon spent on a cramped and stifling bus ride in India. With hindsight, maybe catching a bus for an 18-hour ride out of Bombay down to Mapusa is not the best of ideas when one is infected with a rather unhealthy dose amoebic dysentery.

Four hours into the journey, I realised that I was not going to be able to make it to the next toilet stop, which are pitifully rare at the best of times. The uneven roads, the constant acceleration and deceleration and that bloody awful Hindi musical that was being broadcast at ear splitting volume all conspired to add to the profound sense of dis-ease.

My mind wrestled to work out the best survival strategy. It struggled and realised the inevitable.


There was no doubt that this was not going to be at all pretty. Additionally, I doubted the natives thatwere packed onto the hell-bus would appreciate it very much either and such an event could seriously damage international relations. Also, the thought of spending the next 14 hours with my trousers filled amoebic diarrhoea was really quite unpleasant enough and somehow just didn’t appeal. Not one bit.

I just knew that this was the universe extracting revenge on me. I knew that something like this would happen sooner or later because when I was 9, I was one of a small group of boys that pushed a kid called Jason into a cesspit. He toppled in and for a brief but poignant moment was completely submerged. It happened whilst we were on a cub scout camp and the last that we ever saw of poor Jason was as the Arkela-with-the-dodgy-hip was hosing him down whilst waiting for his horrified dad to come and collect him. Unsurprisingly, Jason never came back to cubs after that. So, stuck on the bus ride from hell, I just knew there was an inevitable element of Karma involved in all of this.

Meanwhile an astute native recognised what was happening and thrust a small plastic bag into my hand. I looked at it in horror as a small commotion broke out amongst the locals. Almost immediately another larger bag was then passed to my sweating hands, but this one had holes. Again, another brief commotion before magically a small kind of fragile bin liner appeared. Evidently, one of the natives had come prepared.

And...then…in front of about 2000 horrified faces... and one grinning child (I bet he was called Jason)….I….quickly squatted…and….Oh God!

Well, you can fill in the rest yourselves.

Needless to say, such an experience was one of those life-changing moments. For a Stiff Upper Lipped Englishman Abroad this was a good lesson in humility and how to be looked after and tolerated by a foreign culture that is all to often looked down upon by the Western mind.

So I thank you God for engineering that one. Next time, please could you make it something less messy, I’d sure appreciated it. Many thanks.

The reason I raise all this is that I am becoming aware just how much the functioning of my stomach and greater and lesser intestines affect my mental functioning. I used to always have quite a big lunch and spend the afternoon feeling mentally sluggish and bloated. Now, I just have a roll and two pints of water. Oddly, once the shock of, “Is that really all I’m having!!?” wears off (about 20 minutes after eating) I don’t feel hungry any more – my guess is that this is because the blood sugars have stabilised. The result of this is no more feeling fat and bloated and sluggish and my energy levels are better.

I was in the health food shop yesterday whilst stocking up on “health oil” stuff (it tastes horrific, a bit like the time I was chewing on a battery when I was a kid and it split open in my mouth) I also bought a big bag of linseeds. Take two tablespoons 3 times a day, say the instructions.

So, three times yesterday I took three tablespoons. It took me a while to work something out which I’ll share with you. Don’t chew them as this is impossible. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t breathe in and inhale one of them or you’ll end up either dead, or, spending the next week finding seeds in every nook and cranny of your kitchen.

Instead put them in the mouth and take a gulp of water. If you don’t choke to death and survive, then you'll get to experience the effect I had this morning. You'll get to wake up in a hurry reliving the moment that you were on a bus leaving Bombay and have make the mad dash to the bathroom in order to avoid the Brown Matter Trail across the corridor.

You’ve been warned.