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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Haiku on Promise/ Right/ Impossible/ Brand


You made me promise
To never tell anyone
I remain silent

Sunrise this morning
Promise of a brilliant day
Why do I feel dumb

He was so gifted
Sadly past his 'best by' date
Promise not fulfilled


Made of the right stuff
Grounded in a basic life
Real salt of the earth

He was left handed
When he did things with the right
It all seemed so wrong

Right, I'll be leaving
It seems so wrong to do so
Will you be OK?


So we reached Pluto
The impossible achieved
What was that next dream?

Lick your right elbow
That one is impossible
But can lick my nose

Create masterpiece
It is not impossible
Just be neurotic


Called his son Corn Flakes
Sued under Copyright Act
Made a brand mistake

Media branded
Mistaken identity
One minute of fame

Can't mistake the brand
Known to cause obesity
Sugar water fizz

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Transverse Myelitis: A journey of Recovery

I got Transverse Myelitis in late 2009, with a sudden onset of paralysis from about level T7 down. As you will know from this blog, I have made some recovery, even if far from complete. And as I age, maintaining the gains gets harder.
My own journey of recovery over the first 15 months, a book called 'Taking Charge' is now available as a download in pdf format. All 205 pages...
Read the full story for just A$8.00 from Taking Charge PDF Download.

I have had various chapters from the book freely available on this site since about 2011. I will be taking those down from this blog at some stage.So hundreds of you have had the opportunity to read those chapters; you may like to consider reading the rest of the book. Happy reading...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Haiku on Best/ Discretion/ Cease/ Problem


Out on veranda
After a rainstorm has passed
Breathe the best of air

Dark brown eyes catch mine
Your lips curve into a smile
The best of moments

Whoever you are
Whatever you bring to life
Be the best you can


Use your discretion
Nurture both mind and body
Choose healthy fresh foods

Open up your heart
Throw discretion to the winds
Say what you believe

Choosing discretion
Will always offend someone
Who misreads silence


Wind howled all night long
No surcease from its rampage
Now dreams have to cease

Please cease your clamour
Nightly bad news litany
Dragging us all down

Moaning in your sleep
Suddenly you cease and smile
May I share your dream


Serious problem
See it as a solution
Waiting to happen

The problem solver
Sat quietly in corner
No-one ever asked

Earth's crust is moving
Creating heated fault lines
Could be a problem

Monday, November 16, 2015

Making of a Child Psychiatrist (32): Back to the Grind (2)

Two events occurred close together in time, but disconnected. Both had an impact on me.
The first related to an Engineering student resident at Halliday Hall. He was charming, somewhat naïve, and had a habit of saying dumb things. He was to be married in that early spring of 1964, and seemed not to talk about much else. I rather liked him, but many people in the Hall would groan when he joined their group or said something silly related to a television News item or program. There was a stag night at the Hall, organised by all the Engineering students, and this character got absolutely plastered, and passed out. Some of his friends carried him upstairs and put him to bed. At breakfast the next morning he came down looking most odd. He had been growing a rather wispy young man’s beard for some weeks – I guess in an effort to look more grown up and manly at his forthcoming nuptials. His so-called friends had decided to play a prank, so after they had got him to his room, they organised a razor and some soap. And shaved the left half of his face. I am not sure he had quite realised what had happened. He was bleary-eyed, not quite with it, but had decided he needed breakfast to help with his hangover. He clearly was miserable about what had happened, but had taken it fairly well. I was later to learn that the so-called friends had also shaved half of his pubic hair.
Why do people go that far with practical jokes? At one level you could say that he had not been harmed physically, but given his nature and behaviours in Hall, he was not only naïve, but rather sensitive in nature. He had a sort of funny story to tell (for the rest of his life), but I have always wondered how he explained what had happened to his new wife, and how he himself came to terms with friends who were somewhat less than caring friends. They were perpetrators who treated him like a victim. What I now know about practical jokes is that they invariably include a modicum of anger, malice, or sometimes envy. The perpetrators (we might use the term ‘bullies’) are actually courting real physical or emotional damage. “That will teach him!” they say, laughing amongst themselves. They would be horrified if something really did happen, and might even be horrified at my explanation, not wanting to recognise their own underlying feelings.
It took me a long time before I could make sense of my discomfort about the incident. I had not been a direct part of the bullying; had not known it was about to occur. But (post hoc) I was a passive onlooker. Our poor friend did look odd enough the next morning to make us smile. But I was uneasy, could not shake off the discomfort, and wondered for a long time whether his personal image had been damaged permanently in some way. At least our coffin in the Lord Mayor’s Show, and then on The Underground, had harmed no-one.
The other incident occurred at about the same time, and was in the context of a Spring Saturday Open Day at Halliday Hall. There were events during the day with stalls erected around the grounds. There was a tennis competition. And later that night there was to be a Halliday Ball with a band; I was never to find out who, or how good they were.
I had invited Jan, and while she could not come during the day, I looked forward to seeing her in the early evening. She arrived looking tense and teary, clearly did not feel anything like joining in the frivolities downstairs, and we went up to my room (strictly against the rules, but who cared). She just wanted to be held, and it was some time before the story leaked out in its entirety. She had got dressed up, gone to Kidbrook station to catch the train, and in the early evening darkening light had been followed. Anxious she began to walk faster, and as she neared the station she had been grabbed. She had rolled down a grassy bank. It was not clear what his intent had been, but the best we could understand was that he was a lonely man seeing a pretty young woman, and wanting her. She fought him off and he ran away, luckily not stealing her handbag or her student bag with notes for an upcoming paper that had to be written. Luckily Jan was not seriously harmed physically, though she did have some scratches and bruises, and her coat had got pretty dirty. But emotionally, Jan was very bruised again. She had been through the episode in Adelaide, and survived that well, but this new evidence for the dangers of being alone left her confused, numbed, distressed and questioning why men did such things. We talked and talked, and I held her fully clothed, fully protected and loved, throughout a night of weeping. We had some tricky manoeuvring the next day to escape The Hall without being seen. We had listened to the music, dancing and frivolity outside in the night, and I guess everyone was exhausted and sleeping off the effects of alcohol and a slightly wild night.  We got on with our lives, but I know that it left Jan scarred; it wrecked her confidence and self-reliance for some time, and she became more tentative than I had ever known her. But, if it were possible, we bonded more deeply during that night of upset.
With a group of others from my year I stood, anxiously fearing the worst, in front of the list of those who had passed 2nd MB, my eyes not really seeing the names. “Well done Ged!” said someone, and I had to shake myself to clear my vision and find my name. Apparently I had passed. It took a while to sink in. And then several of us were thumping each other on the back, and laughing somewhat maniacally. Others sloped off, heads hung low. My physiology partner Chris Lines had failed, and I did not find him in the melee, nor later. As we moved forward going with this particular tide, there were rather a few friends I was not to see again, and failed to follow up. I have regrets about that, but we all got swept up in the excitement of the moment, and the need to make a myriad new arrangements. Of course, as I have mentioned before, the successful students were now split into 3 groups to go to their respective hospitals. So there were highly successful people, whom I had admired, who I would not see again, and never until now wondered how they got on, what avenues they followed, and ultimately how successful they were in their careers and lives. One of these was Rob Walton, a rather formal and correct person, hard working and thoughtful, and one of our bridge group at Halliday Hall. I miss his solemn advice, and (what seemed to me) his almost encyclopaedic knowledge base. And I wonder where he got to in life.
But a small group of us got down to planning a new place to live; we had to move out of our beloved Halliday Hall within weeks. Jim Flower (later to become a GP), Richard Lenz (later to become an anaesthetist (and my best man), Barry John King (also later to become a GP in Norfolk) and I decided it would be great to move in together. I can’t remember who found the place, but someone came across a small two-storey house at 4, Melon Road, Peckham. It only had one large bedroom (that would take three beds) and a tiny one that took one, but we jumped at the chance, and got ready to move. I think Jim Flower scored the single bedroom (much to my chagrin).
It was dirty. It had previously been abused over many years by students, and we had to work really hard to clean the place up to make it habitable. The focal point was the kitchen, which had one of the most filthy and abused gas stoves I had ever seen. Jan, bless her, used up nearly a whole day of her life to ensure we did not get food poisoning. And then she cooked a stew for us that night. There was basic furniture, which needed attention, but we had to supply our own sheets and blankets, and then had to arrange food supplies and arrange utensils, crockery and other things that were not part of the deal. We loved it. We wanted parties. But we also had to discuss the realities of house rules and some rosters for cooking and cleaning. I was fairly relaxed about it all, Barry was enthusiastic about everything, Jim had his own strong ideas about how life should be, and Richard was the sensible, organized grumble bum, who made us see reason from time to time. It became home.
Melon Road was only a short walk from The Rye in Peckham, our local shopping area, and only a short bus ride to Denmark Hill, Camberwell. From memory, Jim had a mini, and was generous to ferry us around. Sadly the house no longer exists, having been knocked down several years later (to build flats, of course).

Haiku on Entertainment/ Pride/ Step/ Move


Droplets down windows
Rainy day entertainment
Betting on outcomes

Red white and blue crabs
Entertainment on the beach
Formation tattoo

Sitting in the dark
Entertainment all switched off
Looking at replays


Water in a pool
The steady fall from above
A pride of large rocks

My pride of lions
The generations roar on
Occasional fall

Haiku of the day
Taking pride in golden words
Evoking the Fall


This tiny white step
Comes from lines of stepladders
Reaching for the sky

Step into my world
Be part of my family
We have love to share

Curing depression
Somewhat slow patient process
Begin with first step


We need to move house
Squeezing ten rooms into three
May be difficult

At moments of joy
In that ecstasy of love
Can worlds really move?

Move your ass right here
Use disabled parking spot
The one next to mine

Transverse Myelitis and Sex (2)

Sexual function, and how to get the best out of caring intimate relationships, is a topic that is rarely discussed, yet it is crucial to the self-esteem of those of us unlucky enough to have Transverse Myelitis. The simple answer is that our ability to be involved in intercourse varies according to the spinal level involved. It may also depend on how complete a block exists, and of course the stage of the disease. In my report in this blog about my own experiences from 2010 (Transverse Myelitis and Sex) (a chapter from my book (Taking Charge)), I attempted to raise the issues from a deeply personal experience.
Now, a woman on one of our Transverse Myelitis Facebook lists has reported their own issues and was refreshingly explicit about their problem. It made me go on a search to improve my own knowledge, but also try to be helpful to others.
I struck gold with the following article (Neurogenic Bladder, Neurogenic Bowel, and Sexual Dysfunction in People With Spinal Cord Injury) which is the most detailed and careful I have ever come across. It was written by Barbara T Benevento and Marca L Sipski, in 1999, which makes it somewhat elderly, but still the best I have come across.
Everyone should be able to access it, given it is 'open access'.
Yes, it is full of technical jargon and medical detail; but if you persevere, you will get not only a very detailed knowledge of how bladder function, bowel function and sexual function appear in spinal injury, but you will also get some useful ideas about how to manage and improve - depending on the progress of your illness, and your personal needs. 
I hope this helps.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Making of a Child Psychiatrist (31): Back to the Grind (1)

We all have sad feelings returning home after a holiday, especially if it was a fabulous opportunity to get to know relatives who are not much more than names on a family tree. But both Jan and I were excited about our second year at University, and Jan was very keen to be back in touch with her parents and her sisters. We had done our best to keep her from feeling lost, but when you have always had such close emotional ties, to be away from them can be agony. If it were possible, I loved her more for putting up with me re-emerging as a Martin, and for the input from an often overwhelming tribe of us. She had put up with living in very strange places, erratic hours, working in alien environments, and being abused; the stress had taken its toll with migraines – her cardinal sign of needing to slow down.
We arrived back in England, and picked up at the airport and driven back to Kent, telling stories about our adventures and filling in gaps between the sparse letters sent home to Westgate. However, there was barely time to get over jetlag before we were back into the maelstrom of living in London, and lectures and practicals, social gatherings. During the time we were away, Reg had purchased a small flat at Kidbrook near Blackheath in South London, and Wendy had already moved in. Cute, first floor, square box in a three storey modern building, close to the Kidbrook station, and with heating. Jan got settled. It was somewhat longer to travel into Bedford College by train, but much closer to Halliday Hall.
King’s was a flurry of pressure to revise all the work from the 1962-3 academic year, and build towards the exams in early March 1964. I remember that pharmacology became the bane of my existence, probably understandably given my rather poor underlying knowledge of chemistry. I did my best. In fact I worked hard to get my head around the various drugs used for systems and illnesses, but it was not really to fall into place until we began to have contact with real live patients and their medical problems. Almost every week we were expected to try a small dose of a medicine and report on the results in our own body systems. A great way to experience the drugs and any minor side effects, but I have to confess I balked at taking each of the aperients, of which there were several types expected to be taken week by week to compare results, and compile a report. These days, of course, you would touch the button on your iPhone, and ‘Google’ the drugs, using eloquent descriptions from others. I did manage some, but I also laboriously constructed some of my written work from written texts from various books. This cavalier approach to such a core subject came back to bite me when I did my finals exams, but that was in the future.
‘The writtens’ took place over three packed days. Six exams of three hours each sitting uncomfortably at ancient etched desks in a large chilly hall at King’s on the strand. A one-hour lunch break to wind down, discuss some of the questions in a desultory way with friends, and then back into it. I remember the musty atmosphere, the occasional cough or moan, the shuffling of bottoms, the intense exam technique of writing brief notes on each question and then expanding the notes somewhat more fulsomely, but under time pressure. I do not remember any of the questions.
Within days we were into ‘The practicals’, of which the only one I sort of remember is the anatomy exam. We were seated outside one of the large demonstration rooms. Once your name was called you passed through a large wooden door. The examiners sat at a large desk covered with bits of bone and pictures, and various specimens floating forever in formalin in a variety of glass containers. My steps echoed on the wooden floor as I walked across the room and sat facing the tribunal. The central figure, of course, was Professor Nichol. The exam began. “Mr. Martin, (ah, the strains of that Scottish accent etched into memory) will you peruse this organ, tell me what you think it is, and point out to me the arterial and venous blood supply”. Haltingly, I did so to a non-committal grunt. Several more jars followed, and nervously I stumbled through. “Tell me what you think this bone may be, what function does it serve, and show me some of the insertions of relevant muscles.” “On this diagram, point out where you think the aqueous humour resides.” On and on we went, and I gradually gained in confidence, and became less hesitant, until: “At what level of the spine does the oesophagus begin?” I was flummoxed. I searched through what I knew, and tried valiantly to visualise the oesophagus in place in relation to the spine. I stumbled out “At about C2, sir…” (praying). “Would you like to think again, laddie?” “Somewhat lower, sir?” The response was one of those pauses that tell you that you have no hope, and have failed miserably. I felt winded. “Yes, laddie, somewhat lower…”
“Come over here to the model” (a live male stripped to the waist, removing what appeared to be a dressing gown. “Now, I want you to ask the model to perform a movement that will demonstrate Latissimus Dorsi.” Well, I did know that this muscle was the broad one either side of the back. I thought quickly, and asked the model to pull against my hands in front of him. Phew, the muscle stood out quite well. I felt pleased. “Now show me another way of demonstrating the Latissimus Dorsi.” I asked the model to pull down on my outstretched hand above his head. He did so, and the muscle stood out. “Can you tell me a much simpler method?” I thought hard, my momentary confidence fading. “The model could push upward, sir.” “Well he could, but he won’t.” And the Professor of Anatomy turned to the model and commanded: “Cough!” The model did so, and the muscles on either side of his back stood out very well, of course. “You may leave.” I knew I had failed, and head down I turned to retrace my dragging steps to the door. Nearly there, I heard this triumphant Scottish voice: “You won’t forget about C6 will you laddie?” Not only had I failed, I was being mocked.
The next couple of weeks went by in one of those miseries that follow failure, however big or small. My medical career was over before it had really go going. How would I face Jan? How would I face my friends? Whatever could I do? Well, like all of us in the small group of med students at Halliday Hall, I waited in limbo. Well, mainly in the bar, and then sleeping well into the morning. During the afternoons, I read or went for runs around Clapham Common. Jan and I visited the Tate Gallery on The Embankment, and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. But she had pressures in her own Degree studies, as she moved towards her end of her second year exams in June. She (not for the first or last times in our lives) told me I had to be patient.
It seemed such a crossroad. If I had failed, I was not quite sure what would happen, what I would do (you must remember, I still had not come to terms with the system; I did not understand I would be given a second chance of doing battle with the Scottish professor). If I had passed, I would have to make rapid arrangements to leave Halliday Hall, and find other accommodation nearer the hospital.

More tomorrow…