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Monthly Archives: March 2013

So pals, I’ve had this wonderful idea to do something for my non-medical friends about what medical school entails. I think there’s this preconception that in order to be a doctor you have to be the smartest cookie that ever existed and spend all your time walking round muttering the names of various bones under your breath (Hey guys! The leg bone’s connected to the…. BODY BONE!), but that’s pretty much untrue. So here I am, several glasses of wine to the good, and I’ve come up with this marvellous concept where I’m going to bang on about medical school to non-healthcare folk. It’ll be EXTREMELY exciting, so bear with me.

I’m not saying that to be a doctor or other healthcare professional you don’t have to be strong academically. There are a metric fuck-tonne of exams to be passed, not only at university but annoyingly for probably the next five or six years of your career after qualification. Exams that I will inevitably pay hundreds of pounds to sit FOR THE PURE PLEASURE OF DOING SO, and because I will not be able to advance to the next stage of my career without being able to prove that I’ve passed them. Being good at exams and pencil-wielding under duress is obviously important, not just for the written ones but also for the practical ones, called OSCEs, that involve lots of flashing lights and actors and are tremendously exciting if you like that sort of thing, and heart-arrestingly tense if you don’t (I adore them and all their bleeping sounds and drama, but alas I am one of those unfortunate people who only really shines when everything else is falling down around their ears). There are so, so many things to remember along the way that of course a ¬†good memory is essential, but one of the big reasons that the grade requirements are so high to get onto a medical course is because the demand itself is also high, and this helps to pare down the applicants a bit. Once you’re there however, just being a clever sausage will not see you through, because you realise that actually, healthcare is mostly about communicating, the mystery of diagnosis and the selection of appropriate treatment and less about (to me) boring things like SCIENCE and ELECTRONS and STUFF ON THINGS (I’m not really a traditional academic, I wonder if this comes across at all).

So I propose a small series of posts, where I bang on about some of the things we learn at medical school and why it’s important; how sometimes being a doctor is like being a kick-ass Miss Marple, and how sometimes it is quietly mundane, and people say ‘STAT’ on disappointingly few occasions. I can’t promise that I won’t devise a whole post on whether scrubs are nearly always blue because this is the most universally flattering colour but I do want to talk a bit about what it’s really like to train to be a doctor in an age where we often seek medical advice from the internet before we’d think of setting foot in a surgery. This could be a great idea, equally it could be terrible, but I’m sure you’ll let me know either way.

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I read a piece recently, written by someone who must have lots of money and is trying to come up with ever more creative ways to spend it, about baby-proofing your home. Well, not even doing it yourself, but paying some clever arse who is great at inventing unnecessary job titles to do it for you. If anyone wants to pay me several hundred pounds, I’ll be round there like a shot to point out the obvious, saying words like ‘scale down your knife collection’ and ‘minimise access to power tools’.

It made me think how much I hate that whole concept, as if by sticking enough plastic corners to all your lovely furniture you can completely eliminate the risk of your child getting hurt. I don’t want to cover my house in all this crap, or have locks on all the cupboards and I’m all in favour of a little bit of risk-embracing in life. In this spirit I’m going to tell you about the ways in which I have already inadvertently damaged my baby and we’ve all lived to tell the tale.

Nails

Those little scratch mitts won’t last forever and you can’t keep ignoring the fact that your baby has started to sport nails rivalling those of Gail Devers in the Atlanta Olympics. Or Flo Jo, for the older readers. Cutting those nails is a right ball-ache, being as they are miniscule and moving at the speed of light, but it’s got to be done, so man up and get it sorted, yeah? The first time I did this, I came tantalisingly close to causing no damage at all, but obviously got over-confident after Nail Nine and pinched a bit of skin off with the clippers on the final one. It didn’t bleed but OH MY GOD I FELT DREADFUL. To give you an insight, my baby cried for twenty seconds and was then fine again; I cried on and off for the next nine hours, at one point driving off wailing “You’ll be better off without me, I can only do harm here”.

Cheese

One day you’ll be sat there cuddling your baby, taking in those intoxicating aromas of off-milk and milky poo, and you’ll think to yourself, ‘Christ, this smells really bad’. There will be a new, worse-than-ever smell, and it’ll be coming from this little bundle of lusciousness because YOU’RE A BAD PERSON WHO HASN’T WASHED THEIR BABY PROPERLY. Your child will be secreting a minging cheese paste, probably within the folds of their fatty little neck. When you find it, all yellow and disgusting and wipe it off with your finger, gagging and grimacing throughout, it might even be sore underneath because of all the neglect and that. Bung on some Sudocrem and resolve to do better next time.

Head

‘Golly, I’m so efficient! Look at me carrying my baby in a harness AND doing the hoovering! I’ll put that shopping away now, that’ll be fun for her to look at’. These were my thoughts five seconds before I opened the fridge door into my baby’s head. To give her credit, she only made a brief ‘Rargh!’ sound (think goats on youtube), but I felt absolutely terrible and once again considered phoning Social Services to report myself. It’s okay though, once you tell people this, everyone has a story about how they’ve accidentally wanged their child into a wall or some such. My favourite comes from a friend who was showing someone how he put his daughter into one of those harnesses. With a breezy “…and so, you just slot her in like that!”, he pushed her in from one side, failing to notice that the other side wasn’t shut, essentially posting her through and frantically grappling to catch her before she landed on the floor. Which he did, for those who enjoy a happy ending.

So there we go. There’ll be more obviously, since one of the first things my husband said about her was “Man, I can’t wait to teach her how to spin fire!”; not to mention the untold psychological damage inflicted by parents with a questionable music collection and a fondness for practical jokes. I just thought I’d tell my mates who are doing babies that it’s both okay and inevitable if you ruin them just a tiny little bit, it’s life innit.

P.S. Please don’t give me any tips on how to cut nails etc, or advising me to bite them for her instead, I think that’s rank. Kind Regards xxx

Hello. I’ve fallen back in love with exercise. I’ve sorely missed it over the past year and right at this moment I’m dizzily high on my own endorphins, admiring my own quads and polishing my kettlebell until it gleams. I’m feeling stronger than I have in ages, feeling a little bit spiffy in my clothes and no longer having to do ‘resigned face’ when I look in the mirror. This isn’t really because I’ve lost loads of weight (well, it’s a little bit about being slimmer than I was, I just wanted to sound like a really well-adjusted person incapable of vanity). I like not bulging out of my clothes and putting undue strain on the elastic in my knickers, but more than that I’ve got back on the bandwagon of lycra-clad pain because I want to be super strong and glossily, enviously healthy. In the words of my wonderful Twitter friend Lizzie, I’d like to be able to ‘bench press a sofa’ and live to be 130.

My fondness for exercise is a fairly recent concept in the grand old timeline of my life. We walked a lot as a family and always played outside, but the idea of organised sport always left me cold. With that terrible all-or-nothing part of my personality that I have tried to tame over the years, I thought that if you couldn’t be olympically wonderful at a thing, there wasn’t any point. My parents had both set some pretty amazing precedents in that arena, so I figured that since there was no likelihood of me representing my county or my country at anything, there wasn’t any point. Added to which, it seems a common theme among many of my friends that we detested PE at school. Like, physically loathed it and all it represented. It will paint a very accurate picture of me if I tell you that my three favourite sporting moments at school were an interpretative dance class where we did a robot routine to Axel F; a lone aerobics class in sixth form where I got to grapevine to the Prodigy; and a game my friend Selina and I made up called ‘colonial tennis’. It involved a lot of shouting and gesturing and very little hitting. My sporting life, people.

When I went away to uni, I put on the eminently predictable two stone that came hand in hand with drinking every day and subsisting entirely on carbs and fat. It sort of crept on and I didn’t notice until I sort of stopped one day and looked into my cruel mirror and realised I had become pudgy. Sort of sluggish looking and a bit grey. I did that dreadful and very British thing for a while of wearing the size of clothes you wish you were rather than the size you actually are, and looked way more horrendous than I would have done in jeans say, two or three sizes bigger. My friend Anna and I embarked on my first ever diet. Well, it was more than a diet, it was a colour-coded series of lists and checkboxes designed to revolutionise our whole life. Foolproof.

I tried a few things exercise-wise until I finally joined a gym, a place I thought was for saddos and people with body hang-ups. Despite fitting neatly into both these categories (I unsurprisingly went through a hazy, not-sure-if-it’s-finished yet period of complete body dysmorphia in my early twenties and took most of my anger and fear out on the way I looked or thought I did. Ugh. Getting older’s good isn’t it?) I found I really enjoyed myself. Something clicked and I found what I liked – it wasn’t competitive sport, it was exercising ALL BY MYSELF.

I’m a horribly competitive person. Losing at Scrabble or cards makes me a bit sad, but in terms of physical stuff I hate competing with other people (unless of course, they don’t know I am doing it, in which case it’s wonderful and YAY I WIN I WIN I WIN). Maybe I don’t have much confidence in my own abilities, or maybe I’m just scared to see how many people on a netball team would die if I really got going but it doesn’t float my boat. Running, however, or going to the gym, or swearing at workout dvds in my lounge, that’s totally my bag. Beating the crap out of a punchbag, doing some really good press-ups or sprinting until I do a little bit of metallic-tasting spitty sick; that’s when I feel all alive and super. And now it feels important, because although it was only about six or seven years ago that I didn’t want to exist at all, now I want to be here forever. To qualify that, I’d really like to be here, in as good nick and as sane as possible, for a very long time. That’s a nice ambition, isn’t it? On my count, let’s all do squats.