Thursday, September 30, 2004

You Can't Teach An Old Doc New Tricks

Can we teach the medical profession new tricks? How much longer will society tolerate high-handed attitudes from doctors who seem to forget they didn't invent the human body, medical science is still young, incomplete and therefore on occasion the benefit of the doubt or an admission of "We don't know" is not failure, but honesty? My body is mine and mine alone - I wish I'd never let glory hunting fiends muck it up to see what happens if you chop off a bit here and stick it on there.

I'm totally incredulous that now things are going up the swannee again, trying to get some support is such an uphill struggle. If I could go back a few years I'd tell my younger self not to believe them so readily. And just when you think it's all over, oops, here we go again.

I recently went to see the local orthopaedic consultant at my local hospital. Several years ago he referred me to another hospital for surgery. The operation wasn't a great success and now my local hospital is looking to farm me out somewhere else so somebody unattached to my district can take on the case once again.

All this despite my real wishes, which are to have the cause of this particular complication fully understood prior to any decisions on treatment (as they indeed admit it is not, as yet) and only to have more surgery as a last resort if there are no other credible options left.

Despite my expressing this clearly at each consultation - assuming it to be understood, on obtaining copies of the consultation letters to my GP (which are being sent out to other clinics who may take my case on), I find these mention surgery alone with no mention of my wishes to be more conservative if the situation allows. None at all mention I do not wish to proceed any further without being fully informed of the underlying features which have lead to present circumstances.

Great, innit? My local hospital guy's views went something like this;

"I realised yours was a complex case, and my intervention would probably have b*gg*r*d you up. So I send you to ***** ***** and he b*gg*r*d you up instead. I'm glad he did it and not me, that's why I referred you to him!
You were probably better off not having surgery in the first place, patients with genetic problems like yours are now discovering surgery simply gives them a different set of problems to contend with."

Tell me about it.

But the trouble is, if this is my opinion, I am an un-enlightened loon, despite being the poor sod living with the results of their more 'enlightened' intervention.

As a patient I begin to wish the medical profession would get a shake up from somewhere, although I would prefer respect for changing needs of the patient and not politicians ideals to be the driving force behind this.

In the current state, you take the advice of one, only to have another admit after the event it was a bad idea. But you can't act on that, because it's only *opinion*. In many other areas of life this is simply not the case anymore. At present I'm sure medicine regards itself as more than a service industry, but the time when doctors could shroud their profession in mystery has long passed. The patients just aren't compliant anymore.

Try questioning your doctor over any uncertainties in your condition. Getting him to admit there are things he cannot answer and chances are he will get most uncomfortable. This is what I cannot understand about the medical profession - we all know doctors did not invent the human body, nor is medical science a complete science. Yet some 'esteemed' doctors have great trouble remembering this, likely not with good grace either. Patients today are not the patients that perhaps the profession is really trained to treat. Yet this affectation is one that I understand is largely traditional - if the patient questions too closely, they are likely to be put in their place.

It doesn't help with politicians striding into the melee, but unless the medical profession responds to the fact it is, whether higher ideals are attached to it or not, there to serve people, then surely a practice overhaul of some sort is long overdue?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

a new impairment

i've done somethin stupid.

last week i bought a new wrist brace that said it was suitable for people with neoprene allergies.

they forgot to add 'all except agent fang' at the bottom, so after one night of very decent sleep because my wrist was supported, i woke up to a little bit of a rash. so what, i thought. put some cream on it. got on with things.

it got a bit worse. so what i thought, and applied a bit mor cream. if you've ever hada severe allergic reaction you'll be nodding about whaty happened next.

excuse my cr@p typing. combination of left hand, piriton drowsiness and poor-me-ish ness. i'm not goin to correct every mistake. please stay with me.

within a few hoursw i became the embarrased owner of an arm that looked like something off a Dr Who set.

it blistered. it glowed. it throbbed.

i told mr fang to shoot me if I started to grow antennae.

life sure is different with one hand in the air. no-one has given me a biscuit though. and i spent 5 whole minutes trying to piut a sock on this morning - before realisding IT WASN'T EVEN MY SOCK.

so now i am at home with it up in the air (cos its swollen, gotta keep it elevated). mr fang keeps yelling "YES?" at me, like i am a kid at school with my hand up. and I can't put it down for long cos it hurts. bugger. so thats a quota of 2 legs and one arm (plus brain, being drowsy) out of comission. only my left arm is completely working. and i'm still here.

daytime tv is a mixed bag as usual, although i'm slowly being hooked into neighbours, dammit. isn't that izzy a right cow? the rash of get-a-new-house-here-abroad-anywhere-change-your-life tv is appalling. for those that like where they live there's antiques-bargains-who-cares types of shows. theres even a car-boot-for-the-ones-who-can't-afford-to-buy-antiques-or-new-houses types of show. philip schofield and fern britten make a good team. richard and judy are loosing their sparkle over on channel 4, i fear, although it could be my sour grapes on not getting on 'you say we pay'. and anne robinson has definitely gone under the knife.

worst of all has got to be that show where they go round hospitals looking for victims for entertainment. is entertainment really watching some poor sod have a camera sent up his arse? do we need to know whats up there? its a good thing i have to keep an empty stomach for my antibiotics. no wonder theres so many wackos auditioning for the x factor. which i'm only watching for sharon osborne, by the way. she rocks.

gotta go. its time to grease the alien arm. i'm tryin to keep cheerful. what new mutation of skin will await me today, i wonder?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Pottering Syndrome - It Could Be You

I have pottering syndrome. It's a complication of Having To Rest... in that I need to, but I'm really cr@p at it. I've just gotta get up and do this, that and the flippin other. And before I sit down, I've just go to... write my blog.... make a phonecall... e-mail Mr Fang a shopping list... make a trip to the freezer for ice-cream... dust the skirting board.... go and see what's just been dropped through the letterbox... rummage around for a book for when I finally sit down.... remember there's an article in yesterdays newspaper it would be nice to read - got to go and get it before I sit down... got to get a drink first... might be nice to snack on some fruit whilst lying down - hence another quick trip to kitchen... might as well put the washing machine on... oops, left washing in bedroom... answer the phone... blah... blah... blah...

Sit down. Ahhh.


Oh bugger, forgot to do washing up. Mustn't burden Mr F anymore than usually do, will just pop to kitchen and do dishes.

Pottering Syndrome is very serious.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Silly Songs

An occasional subvertive feature. This time Liam Lynch's "United States Of Whatever" gets the Fang treatment. Sing it loud, brothers and sisters!

The NHS Of Whatever

I went to the hospital reception,
They were, like, all “ewwww”
And I was like, “whatever!!!”

Then this nurse comes up to me and she’s all, like,
“Hey, haven’t you got special needs?”
And I’m like, “yeah, whatever!”

So later I’m at the physiotherapy pool
And this physiotherapist comes up
And she’s like, “awww”
And I’m like, “yeah, whatever!”

Cuz this is my
NHS of whatever!
And this is my
NHS of whatever!
And this is my
NHS of whatever!

And then it’s 3am
And I’m the corner, wearing my leather
So I ring community transport, and say, “I thought you were coming to pick me up?”
And they’re like, “yeah… whatever!”

Then I’m at surgical appliance clinic
He says to me
“ah thought ah told you to wear those braces…”
And I’m like, “yeah? Whatever!”

And then up comes the consultant
I’m like, “Yo, dude. What’s up?”
He’s, like, “nothin’”
And I’m, like, “that’s cool.”

Cuz this is my
NHS of whatever!
And this is my
NHS of whatever!


Monday, September 06, 2004

Possessed by Bob Ross

As well as my secret disability-related activities, I teach art, for a bob or two. But not this Bob. Allow me to explain. Two of my students have become possessed by a slick daytime TV artist by the name of Bob Ross.

Whilst I have nothing personal against the (late) Bob Ross, (no – stuff it, I’m lying, I hate his work and everything he stands for) I now have an explanation as to why, inexplicably, they have demonstrated the desire to paint evergreen trees and lakeside 'shacks' in every art session they have attended for the past year.

After a shack and evergreen tree ban imposed by myself last week, one of them confessed that all he wants to do is paint "like that white bloke with an afro off the telly". Further probing led him to spill the name 'Ross'. Bob Ross is apparently incumbent on Sky TV most mornings, although I haven't had the pleasure, being on modest earnings like many others of my profession.

Internet investigation this morning has revealed the true nature of the beast, leaving me aghast at the sheer volume of wooden shacks, evergreen trees, lakes and other Harbingers of Cheese at such volume as I have never before encountered, (even though my Nana owned both ‘The Dusky Maiden' and ‘The Crying Child' - or was it ‘The Pissing Boy’? I can't really remember).

I am trying to reconcile the fact that although this Bob Ross is not what I would personally subscribe to as 'good art', the students who attend my class do so as part of a day-centre program - and are NOT there to be bullied into being culture vultures, nor to be ridiculed for simple pleasures like painting indescribably kitsch landscapes. (Although I will draw the line at encouraging them to spend their cash on the somewhat extensive range of specialist paints and brushes this Bob Ross cult seems to insist are the only instruments capable of truly emulating the master...).

My dilemma is simple - I should surely go in there and speak calmly, objectively, knowledgeably, convincingly and without bile on this, attempting to steer them away gently, but what I fear what will actually happen is, on the mention of Mr. Ross's name, or the sight of a slickly painted evergreen, my head will spin a full 360 degrees and fire will pour from my eye sockets. My students don't really deserve this.

Help me someone please.


Biscuit Sinner?

I go to a meeting regularly where the patronising woman who hosts it always puts the biscuit plate down right in front of me - almost like she's making a point to be EXTRA SPECIALLY nice. (And they are very good biscuits, Marks and Spencers ones, or those posh little Italian ones. Sometimes there's even chocolate mini-rolls.)

Now, I do in return make a point of offering the biscuits to everyone at the table, just to make sure they're aware I do not, in spite of this lady's actions, consider I have any more right to the biscuits than anyone else in the room.

But people are too flippin' polite in this country and nobody, despite her obvious efforts to buy nice biscuits, makes free with this biscuit bounty - so it sits, beautifully presented, sometimes for hours, untouched, unappreciated, undevoured…

Recently I have begun to wonder whether this lady is not, as I have previously suspected, being patronising towards me because I am disabled, but simply sees in me a kindred soul, who appreciates a good biscuit. Perhaps she is saddend by the other meeting participants lack of biscuit interest. And it would not take an expert to note my impairment has nothing to do with my appetite, nor does it effect my weight. I do not look starved.

So last time we all met, the biscuit plate appeared as normal, pointedly in front of me. I offered, profusely, several times - and met a stonewall of no-thank-yous. So guess what? I ate all the biscuits! Every Last One. As time passed, with no other interest forthcoming, I ate the mini-rolls too!

As much as I tell myself it was only biscuit appreciation or good manners not to offend the hostess, in my heart I know I cracked and put biscuits before my disability pride. (Seriously, I did feel pretty terrible)... does that sound right to you?!

Constant pondering upon this act has only galvanised my guilt. Next time the biscuit plate appears in front of me I am resolved to tell her straight I do not like 'that sort' of biscuit. I shall push the plate to the middle of the table where nobody can touch it.

I thought it was a small sin, but perhaps it was more like the tip of of a big Disability Pride Iceberg.

Am I the only one with a stain on my soul, or are there others out there who have similar sins to confess?


Crawlies Vs. Crips

I never used to be wary of moths... until I became disabled. Months at a time of being stuck in bed meant not being able to leap around and swot the little buggers, or, ahem, escort them outside. Crane flies are just as bad, if not worse, as they are unlovely and look like flying spiders. Don't make this comparison to anyone who hates spiders, unless you want to give them a phobia about crane flies too. (Now, don't say I never give you nuffink...)

Lying in bed at night, listening to them creep, flutter and buzz. Under the bed. Across the ceiling. Urrgh.

Aparently it's not uncommon for disabled people to hate flying insects. I know this because I have questioned many of my friends on the subject. The general concensus is that if you can't move around enough, or for other reasons unique to your particular situation, can't do anything to reach, splat or expel them, you become more sensitised to their presence. It's something you can't control - not that I'm saying disabled people are control freaks, of course... we just like things to be right, and our right is often different than somebody's elses - but I digress.

Gadgets are my salvation, although I will briefly mention other techniques I don't advocate you try at home, unless you are suicidal or have no feeling in your hands - in which case try at your own risk.

Bug Katchas.
These are great. They're little plastic pyramid things on the end of a long stick. Various doorstep botherer cataloques carry them. The idea is the bottom of the pyramid thingy is a trapdoor that slides open and shut (still with me here)? You place the pyramid, trapdoor open, over the nasty, then twist the katcha closed, then hold out of a window and drop the nasty outside (from a great height if you're not sure if it flies and want to find out). Of course, if a breeze catches it or it has wings, it lives to terrorise you another day - so may pay another visit in future.

Drain guards. I wouldn't pay for these as flying nasties are my main fear. But they sit over the end of the pipe your bath water drains out of, being opened by the force of the water and closed the rest of the time. They work on the principle spiders won't be able to crawl up the plughole. But when did those long legged terrorists ever play by the rules?

Sticky papers. Not bad. They work, but put you off your dinner. A good method if you're trying to lose weight. The "AF Visit The Flypaper Before Dinner Diet". You heard it here first.

Sprays that discourage nasties. Again from doorstep botherer cataloques. As if. Any nasty worth it's visible leg hair and biiig buggy eyes would spit on this method!

At Your Own Risk

Lighter fluid. Neat, it appears to shrivel them up alive. Only for the most sadistic. I learned this technique when working in a graphics studio, where they use it to dissolve glue after paste up blunders. Except now they probably use computers for paste up... that is, if the company survived into the electronic age - and didn't go up in flames after their staff habitually chucked around what is basically a flammable excelerant to kill stuff in which was probably the grossest manner I have ever, ever seen.

Lighter and flammable aerosol. This could backfire and blow up. But not always, which is why I'm able to bring you this blog today. Weigh up your own odds. If you're feeling lucky, aim the aerosol spray at the nasty, then light the spray (keep a couple of inches away from the can), and frizzle it into oblivion. There's very little in the way of remains, and is the number one choice for things that hang from the ceiling, thus preventing you from killing them by a sharp whack against a hard surface. Once I was sleeping when Mr Fang discovered a nasty hanging from the light... a gentle whoosh was all I heard before returning to my slumbers. If you're unsure, rent Dog Soldiers on video and watch how Sean Pertwee does it before going ahead. He's a master, that man.

If I have helped some disabled person somewhere to fight the menace of nasties by writing this, then I have, in these early days, already proved the value of this humble blog.


The Deviant Lid Flipper

A necessary ritual I must always perform when choosing things that have to be opened is - lid flipping.

Stuff that is difficult to open causes unnecessary stress in my life - so I must study them, holding, opening and closing any product before purchase, to answer the following questions:

Can I flip it open with one hand?

Can I grip it at the same time?

Could I do this with wet hands?

Could I do this when my head is upside down and I'm showering/washing my hair?

What about a combination of the above, coupled with (generally legal) substance side effects?

Which leads to:

Am I likely to knock it over (yes), and when it hits the carpet, what is the chance of gross spillage from the open top?

...and ethically:

Have bunny rabbits had the stuff rubbed into their eyes? (if yes, replace on shelf)

....and less crucially:

Does the container look stylish?

It's important to remember You Can Be Disabled and Stylish.

Obviously this involves a certain amount of study. Pick it up (grip testing), read the atrociously small writing on the back (bunny cruelty check, not to mention the struggle due to a slight decline in my outer retinal latice), and, of course, the lid flipping. It can take a while, but its a small price to pay on the days when you have to be busy busy busy. "i'msorryismellihadproblemsopeningmyshowergelthismorning" does Not make for a slick business woman.

Unfortunately, when you are disabled person, spending time looking at things in a shop may lead staff to wrongly assume that you are too thick to actually know what you want, or worse, that you are a deviant of some kind. This causes all sorts of problems, detailed as follows:

Staff/Security: Can I help you madam?

AF: No.

SS: Are you sure?

AF: Yes

SS: Quite sure?


SS: Call me if you want anything lifted down from a higher shelf, won't you?


By this time I am getting twitchy. Security staff are very attuned - not just to disabled people's ligitimate needs - but to the fact that if you're disabled, with plenty of space to hide goods down the side of your wheelchair, scooter basket or the like, ample clothing, bags on your lap, etc, etc (not to mention being on benefits), there is a raised possibility that you may actually be out nicking. (I have heard this from several security guards and shop staff. It's an easy thing to discover - all you need to do is visit the right sort of nightclub - or get yourself a CB radio - find some, and ask them. I almost certainly guarantee they will tell you the same.)

Meanwhile, this unwanted attention is impacting on my lid flipping rituals. It changes the whole tone, so natually I begin to tense up, flipping the lids up and down more than once, looking (in their eyes), less like an innocent disabled woman trying to find a bottle that is easy to open, and more like a deviant waiting to seize the moment (and the goods), then escape under cover of disablement - what weaselly minded offical would stop a disabled person...?

Watch them as their gaze follows your progress. Watch the same members of the public mill backwards and forwards along the same aisles as you. Are they really members of the public or plain clothes detectives?

A little Time in Life gives you access to worlds usually hidden. Disabled people have the patience of saints, and we are great people watchers. Not that you'd ever go out nicking with this in mind... no, neither would I...

Flip, flip, flip. Read the back. Replace on shelf. Flip, flip, flip. Read the back. Flip again to be sure. Shower gels are the worst, although I have also experienced problems with dental floss. With dental floss you have to take pot luck because most of the containers are behind molded plastic. You can't flip before you buy. You just have to peer closely at the packaging to see if it looks likely or not. Flip, flip, flip. Read the back. Some of the flip top lids have a sort of 'second lock', where you can flip them open and closed easily, but click the top further down for security when transporting them. It's difficult to completely unflip from closed, but you can counteract this at home by not putting pressure on the lid after use, so it sort of semi clicks shut. These ones are ok, and when identified correctly, do not tear my delicate skin. The real problem here is that I like a bargain. If I stuck to the same product each time I wouldn't have to do this. But according to my profile in certain personality tests (Do You Have Millionare Potential? et al), it is a facet of my nature (apparently) that I have to go for the best deal every time. You can't fight nature, can you?

So, ritual over. Product in basket. Up to four weeks of living with the scent, the look of the thing on my bathroom shelf, the knowledge that I have not conciously contributed to the suffering of rabbits and the pride of finding the best value, most perfect flipping lid in the range.

And, not least, the knowledge that every time you go into the shop, you are going to see them, and put the wind up those bastards. All because you need a good flip top lid on your shampoo and shower gel.


Sunday, September 05, 2004

In the beginning...

...Agent Fang found out there was a new alcoholic beverage on the market that seemed to have been named after the action of a finely tuned wheelchair on a smooth, flat floor... (Bailey's 'Glide', FYI) the agent, for purposes of research, drank several of these beverages, and saw that they were goood.

And on that fateful night, as a result of this over-consumption of said alcoholic beverages, Fangworld was born.

I'm not promising anything, mind...