Monday, 20 January 2014

World-class UMT*

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

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Not quite the weekend I’d planned

Right, let’s see.  Can I type?  I know I can’t handwrite; you can’t grip a pen properly with a numb, rigid forefinger and thumb.  Tying shoelaces is a problem too.  And shirt buttons.  My sartorial preferences are going to have to change, temporarily.  But this seems to be working, more or less.  And it must be good occupational therapy.
I’d better explain, hadn’t I?  I woke up in the middle of one night last week to find that my right hand had frozen.  Literally  - I couldn’t move a finger, and it was numb and COLD.  I remember thinking ‘that’s strange’, and going back to sleep.  In the morning, the hand was kind of back to normal, but my arm ached every time I moved it.  After a day or so, I thought ‘can’t be doing with this’, so I went to the doctor.  This was 9.10 a.m. on Friday.
At 11.00, I was in an ambulance being whisked off to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, the nearest place where they do vascular surgery.  They used to do it at the Royal Berks in Reading, but the other sort of cuts have put paid to that.  “So they can bloody well run to an ambulance,” said my doctor.  “This is critical.”  I had to agree; there was no detectable pulse anywhere in my right arm.
By 3.00 p.m. I was undergoing a right brachial embolectomy.  I didn’t know this at the time, of course – all I knew was that it was something like what used in car maintenance circles to be called a decoke, with arteries playing the role of cylinders and a scalpel that of a socket wrench.  It was quite complicated, taking nearly two hours as opposed to the expected forty minutes or so.  Apparently my arteries aren’t in the right places.  “Next time,” said the surgeon during a subsequent ultrasound scan, “can you please make sure you read the textbook first.”
I came home on Monday, scarred and knackered but at least (let’s hope) clog-free.  The hand dysfunction I mentioned at the start is, I’m assured, a temporary by-product and will right itself in time.  (They didn’t say how much time, though.)

I’ll report on the actual hospital experience next time.  A cross between ‘The Prisoner’ and a Tony Hancock sketch.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Christmas Card Audit 2013

Executive Summary:

The most significant trends this year have been:

·         An alarming fall in the Animals and Birds count.  Robins in particular have been cut by a staggering 600%.
·         A disturbing new category, which I have felt it necessary to incorporate, is Cute Children.  The card-count (4) does not reflect the actual number (inevitably, double counting tends to occur here).  It is at least twice that, all doing nauseatingly cute things involving puppies, sleds, snowballs, etc.
·         Also, there are a few (3) of which I can’t make any sense at all, so have counted as ‘totally abstract’.  I like this trend very much.
·         Glued-on glitter has tripled, from one to three.  I’d make more of this were it not for the fact that (I belatedly notice) all the cards I sent had at least some glued-on glitter. (It’s hell to hoover up, isn’t it?)

The full figures (last year’s in brackets):

Snow/Snowmen/Snowflakes:               6 (2)
Santas/Reindeer:                                  4 (3)
Animals/Birds:                                     4 (17)
 (of which Robins:                               1 (6))
Landscapes:                                         7 (6)
Boats:                                                  0 (0)*
Nativities/Wise Men/Angels:                4 (4)
Christmas trees/Baubles:                      5 (5)
Comical:                                              1 (1)
Puddings:                                             0 (0)*
Cute Children                                      4 (0)
Totally Abstract:                                  3 (0)

*These will be eliminated from the next count, unless there’s a resurgence of boats and puddings.  I have no strong feelings about this.
Special categories:

 Homemade/designed:                          4 (5)
Cards with glued-on glitter:                  3 (1)
Ecards:                                                 1 (1)
Wonderfully weird:                             3 (1)

 There is no Card of the Year award this year.  The overall quality of cards is so much higher that it’s impossible to choose any single one.  All have done well, and all shall have prizes (purely metaphorical ones, you understand).


Friday, 3 January 2014

The best-laid plans…

New Year’s Eve is a time for looking back and forward; or, in this case, neither.

We were supposed to cross the triangular village Green to N’s house, for nibbles and vodka shots, at about half-six.  I’d then go back to the rented cottage to peel potatoes and turnips and heat up two or three haggises (haggi?) in time for a late supper, for somewhere between five and fifteen people.  I’d thought ahead, even brought my own masher for the tatties’n’neeps just in case the cottage didn’t have one (it did).

Around eight-thirty, it became evident that this wasn’t a plan any more.  The nibbles were running out, so we dashed back over the Green for an extra pork pie and a few more bottles.  At this point, the plan swerved into a visit to Kate and John’s house round the corner, where their son was running a tiny disco in his bedroom: only room for about five people to dance, let alone fifteen.  So fifteen of us danced.  The haggi were receding into the future.  I think it might have been around this time that I uttered my first profundity of the evening: “The Best Plan Is Not To Have One.”  Or something like that.

I got into a deep musical conversation with John, leading up to the crucial question: “So, what’s your favourite album, Tim?”  I was about to explain solemnly that it was Petra Haden’s a capella version of ‘The Who Sell Out’, and why, when he looked at his watch.  “Ah.  Excuse me.”

I think I heard a distant shout of “Kate!  Get your fiddle!  Now!”, but I can’t be sure because the next thing I knew I was about four places back in a Pied Piper’s procession across the Green towards our cottage.  John was strumming to Kate’s exuberant fiddle-playing, and everyone was doing that side-to-side splay-legged arm-flapping walk-dance that you can only do when intoxication and euphoria exactly coincide and merge into a perfect moment, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Just as we reached the space in front of the cottage, the church bells started ringing the Year in, riotously, joyously blending with our music (I think there was singing by then), and twelve struck – a momentary reflective pause – before Auld Lang Syne was sung and someone suggested we nip across to the pub for “Just the one.”

The haggi have been frozen, puir wee sonsie beasties, possibly to be regenerated around 25th January.