I was hesitant about writing this post, because unless I choose my words quite carefully I could risk leaving you with one or both of two impressions: that I take the medical trauma I’ve been through this past week or two less than seriously; or, worse, that have anything less than the highest regard, respect and gratitude towards the many amazing NHS staff who have been so brilliantly supportive and effective. Neither of those is the case. It’s not over yet, but it’s getting better. And a big thank you to the NHS!
As part of my treatment, I’ve been put on a course of Warfarin. As I’m sure you know, in addition to killing off any rats that might be lurking in my bloodstream, this reduces the rate at which blood clots, and hence the risk of recurrences of the original problem. Frequent tests determine how well the drug is doing this, by measuring something called the INR. Briefly, an INR of 1.0 is normal, 2.0 means clotting takes twice as long, and so forth. My target is 2.5.
So, you’ll be wondering, what does ‘INR’ stand for? Here’s where the fun starts. You won’t guess, so I’ll tell you. It stands for ‘International Normalized Ratio’. (Also the Russian Institute for Nuclear Research, McKinley National Park Airport and Indian Rupee, but let’s stick to the point.) So if you want to know how fast your blood is clotting, just have your international normalized ratio checked, okay?
I’m not totally against jargon – it can be a useful form of shorthand – but I do prefer that it bears at least a smidgeon of connection to the concept it represents. The roots of this particular item are lost in the mists of the early 1960s, the mystery perhaps being how it’s persisted for so long in the face of its patent meaninglessness. It’s not even a ratio, for God’s sake! Couldn’t someone, over the decades, have thought to give it a more helpful label? ‘BCR’ (Blood Clotting Rate), for instance.
* Utterly Meaningless TLA**
** Three Letter Acronym