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Monday, October 31, 2005

Slow boats

Fast ferry cancelled due to 'suboptimal weather conditions' on Sunday morning.

No further ferry available during the day.

Took overnight ferry back to the UK from the Channel Islands.

12 hours. (MDH turns to me and says "We might as well have taken a trip to Singapore.")

No cabin available.

Slept on carpeted floor of ship's restaurant.

Arrived in Portsmouth Harbour 6:30am, Monday morning.

Arrive home 7:10am, Monday morning.

Commence A&E shift 8:00am.

Other than that, I've had a great time. Will update when feeling less woozy!

Monday, October 24, 2005

I'll fly away in the morning

Seagull away
Originally uploaded by
Sunshine follows me.

The best surprises are the ones that happen after a week of moping about in the dark and miserable snorting into already sodden tissues.

MDH somehow managed to wrangle five days of leave by secretly working the worst shifts and bearing the anger of the medical staffing secretaries.

And now we are going to spend the week together, watching seagulls soar from the shores of the Channel Islands.

Maybe it'll rain the whole week.

But I am quite happy to be cold and miserable in the company of the one I love.

See you all next Sunday.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sitting on the dock of the bay.


This morning I opened my eyes, and I did not feel as if someone shoved daggers into them. I could swallow without feeling sandpaper down the back of my throat. I could actually breathe though my nose!

It's a miracle!

So I have a week off (according to my rota) to look forward to - and I need it badly. MDH tells me that I probably became desperately ill because I had been overworking myself, which (in retrospect) is true.

Anyway, a week off is probably what I need to recharge the batteries. I need to reorganise the house, scout around for job vacancies in other hospitals and get some studying done as well.

Or I could spend most of the week at the beach, sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away, just sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Listen, I'm telling you a secret

Don't tell MDH, but I haven't actually eaten anything for the last three days.

Before anyone starts screaming 'Bad Doctor! Bad Doctor!' and throwing bowls of chicken soup and crusty bread rolls at me, I assure you that I have been drinking buckets of boiled water mixed with either lemon juice and honey or Lemsip (yay for MDH) to keep my fluid levels up. However, there is a limit to how much I can force down my own gullet.

I am simply not at all hungry, which is pretty unusual for me. I tried heating up a can of soup but it made me feel really nauseous when I started drinking it. Maybe it was the fact that I couldn't smell anything but the rancid odour of my own breath which put me off.

Even this photo of the beautiful pork and apple wrap that I was drooling over last week at lunch - so juicy, so sweet and tangy - fails to stimulate my appetite. I even surfed through all the food blogs - an activity that usually gets my stomach growling.

Rich, steaming hot chocolate? Nothing.

Tender cuts of roast chicken? Nope.

Fragrant, salty chwee kueh? Nada.

Chunky, hearty goulash? Zip.

I feel nothing! Aargh! I think I'm dead inside!

*staggers off to boil some more water*

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hooray for the rainbow coloured snot

I think the title of this post speaks for itself.

I blame the sugar-coated fruit jellies.

*crawls back into bed*

(3 hours later)

I sent MDH on a mission last night to get more Lemsip and Panadol. He came back with all the lovely things to pamper the sick - cans of Baxter's soup, extra soft Kleenex, cartons of Tropicana orange juice and a big bottle of honey. But no Lemsip.

He had put it in the basket, given the basket to the bumbling new cashier who dropped everything on the floor underneath the counter. In the flurry of activity following and his desire to return to the ailing wife, he forgot the Lemsip. *sigh*

He got the Panadol - Panadol Extra to be exact, the 'extra' part being 500micrograms of caffiene. I had two of those and didn't sleep all night. Took away my headache though.

My poor darling husband. How he tries. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

(1 day later)
As Fortycalibernap points out in the comments section, I got the dosage of caffiene wrong - it is 65 milligrams of caffiene in one tablet of Panadol Extra. See? I get the flu and suddenly I can't read the tiny print on the medicines bottles. This is why sick doctors don't go to work! We make mistakes!

Rewards for good service (II)

So it's croup and flu season and I have seen a minimum of five croupy children a night and a whole host of chest infections. They just parade through the department, coughing on me and wiping their snotty noses on my clothes.

And now I am shivering with fever and breathing through my mouth.

I have to take another sick day off work. And I'm supposed to be doing the overnight shift today - it's already a busy enough shift as it is, with only 2 doctors covering the whole of A&E. I hope they manage to hire a locum doctor to replace me tonight.

I hate taking time off work. I always feel so guilty because I'm letting my patients and work colleagues down. Whenever a doctor goes off sick, it means that another doctor is working twice as hard to pick up the slack. It means longer waiting times for patients. It means grumpy patients, grumpy nurses, grumpy everybody.

Being sick makes me hate myself.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Relief at the end of a night

I was very glad when the sun rose this morning and I could head back home for a warm shower and a soft bed.

It's been a long, long night. I think I must have eaten about fifteen sugar-coated fruit jellies in 10 hours, washed down with half a cup of lukewarm tea.

After about 6 hours, the sugar and food colouring really started to kick in, and everything was suddenly incredibly hilarious. I walked around with a maniacal grin on my face, speedtalking at my patients, who took one look at the ghastly pallor of my skin, bloodshot panda eyes, and decided that yes, it was time to cooperate, or the scary doctor-zombie might get me.



Sunday, October 16, 2005

Rewards for good service

Case 1:

Unhappy woman. I spend half an hour listening to her sad story. She cries and wails and throws herself against the cotsides. I put an arm around to try and comfort her. She quiets down after awhile. She turns her face into my shoulder and bawls.

And then she blows her nose copiously. On my sleeve.


I spend the rest of the evening walking around with snot streaks down my sleeve. The other patients are revulsed and can't take their eyes of my sleeve. I must have looked real professional and hygienic.

Case 2:

Man in pain. On top of all his problems, he also has diabetes. He's delirious from his haphazard blood sugar levels, and screams gibberish at the top of his lungs. I manage to cannulate him, give him a sugar drip and morphine to ease the pain. He becomes more lucid, realises he has a cannula in his arm and pulls it out. Bleeds onto the floor.

I replace the cannula much to his great distress. He pulls it out again. Bleeds onto my trousers.

Nice. Real nice.

I replace that cannula a third time. He is less disoriented now, and doesn't pull it out, but he hates me. He screams at me at the top of his lungs loud comments about my alternative lifestyle as an incestuous canine streetwalker and invites me to roast in the underworld for all eternity.

He continues to point and scream at me until they wheel him up to the ward. He actually stops screaming the minute he leaves the A&E. Marvellous effect I must have had on him.

Friday, October 14, 2005

When the sun sets

I hate the day that I start overnight shifts.

I wake up in the morning with a sense of impending doom.

I desperately drink gallons of Robinsons orange and pineapple squash in a bid to prevent dehydration overnight. (It's amazing how little water I drink at work - there's no time for it, so I have to play the camel. If I ever so much as take a sip from a plastic cup while I'm writing up medical notes, my patients glare at me as if to say, "How dare you take a break to drink water, can't you see I'm sick?!".)

Later on, I will force myself to sleep in the afternoon but it doesn't work, so I lie in bed with my eyes closed, trying to rest my mind. I concentrate very hard on trying to relax. I do not sleep. Instead, I wind up with a headache. I drink more squash to combat the headache. My brain starts to feel like it's gone soft and soggy.

Eventually, I fall asleep out of sheer boredom. All the food colouring in the fruit squash gives me bizarre dreams. I dream about oversleeping and being late for work. I panic. I must wake up! I fight myself awake and look at the clock. I have been asleep for a grand total of fifteen minutes. Grumbling, I flop back down on the pillow and gradually drift off again. This happens another eight times.

I give up trying to sleep in bed. Instead, I put on a TV movie (a friend of mine has taped literally hundreds of TV movies and left them in my care) and wrap myself up in a blanket. I drift off to sleep and wake up as Columbo says "Oh, just one more thing..."

I prepare a light dinner (breakfast?), and then stuff a chocolate bar in my pocket to eat at around 4am just to boost my energy levels.

It's dark outside. And I'm off to work.

Waiting for the sun

So I've got the day off and, as always, the sun has taken the day off as well and there's a grey drizzle drifting across the landscape.

I'm indoors again, busying myself with general housekeeping duties. I even tied a scarf around my head to keep my hair back.

Now that autumn is closing in, there have been fewer sunny days. We have had quite a long but cool summer this year - so hopefully it means a brief and mild winter.

The last sunny day I had off, I spent it chilling out by the coast, watching the boats whisk across the water, their triangular sails tipping back and forth to catch the wind.

Laid back
Originally uploaded by
Sunshine follows me.
I kept my eye on this particular sailor - she had her long brown and blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, a bright blue lifejacket and a black wetsuit with blue stripes down the sides.

It was amazing, how she single-handedly manuveured her craft (which had a white sail with bubblegum pink circles printed on it), how she had to lean way back to keep it balanced (sometimes with her ponytail dipping into the water), how she zigzagged across the sea, sometimes a speck in the distance, sometimes so close to the shore that I could see drops of water trickling down off the ropes.

In the distance, I could see the rain shafts coming down over the waters, creating a silvery mist. And the wind blew cold, and it was time to go home.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hambone and Jennicakes

So if you're having trouble with insomnia, I say shade your tired peepers and block out the world with these wicked-cool hand-embroidered sleep masks by Jenni.

I really love the slogans on them - my personal favourite is the one that reads 'Sod Off!'. They're made out of cotton so they'll be soft and comfortable to wear.

Jenni has got some other cute items on her site, including simple linen bags for delicate girly underthings(with "Brevity is the soul of lingerie" embroidered on them!).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to attempt to catch up on my beauty sleep.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A potato for all seasons

I love my potatoes.

It's one of the perks of being in the UK, where potatoes are the staple carbohydrate source. It's great having access to a whole range of potatoes and their beautiful, high falutin names - King Edward, Desiree, Maris Piper, Juliette, Estima, Duke of York, Lady Christl. I always feel like I'm looking at high society 'A' list when I'm at the supermarket.

One of my favourite lunchtime meals nowadays is the Jacket Potato. No longer the little foil-wrapped accompaniment to a sizzling Jack's Place sirloin; it's a main meal in it's own right.

And the endless combinations of fillings! Who knew the baked potato came with more than just the standard butter, sourcream and chives with bacon bits? Bring on the coronation chicken, the ratatouille, the chilli con carne!

The jacket potato I had today was stuffed to overflowing with creamy soft cheese, ham and juicy fresh pineapple. It came with a crunchy fresh salad (something else that I've only learned to really appreciate since leaving Singapore).

Of course, there's nothing wrong with the sourcream and chives. Perfectly acceptable, especially when served on top of piping hot papas bravas with crispy skins and sweet floury centres.


I think I'm gonna go boil me taters right now.

Courtesy calls

This week, my most courteous patient was:

NOT the 28 year old "I'm not taking these stupid antibiotics, why can't you give me an injection" schoolteacher with the urinary tract infection.

NOT the 54 year old "Stinking asian nurses don't know a bloody thing" mechanic with the cut on the hand.

NOT the 18 year old "I want someone who can actually speak real english, you go home to china" architecture student with the dislocated kneecap.

NOT the 67 year old "What do I pay my taxes for if I can't get what I want in hospital" ex-banker with pneumonia.

NOT the 24 year old "Why can't I be seen first why why why" law student with a sprained ankle.

My most courteous patient this week was a 35 year old gentleman, illiterate and untidy, with old, fading needle track scars over his arms. He was rigid with pain and his face was quivering, shiny with beads of sweat. His lip was bleeding where he'd bitten himself in a desperate attempt to stop screaming.

As I approached him, he pulled himself upright and said, grimacing with effort, "Doctor, please see that lady over there first - she's been vomiting and looks worse than me. I can wait another 20 minutes, I'll be alright. I'm not that bad."

He may be a drug addict, a school drop-out, a vagrant. His future is grim and bleak with the endlessness of detoxification units and reform centres.

But he still had more class than the diamond-encrusted gucci-clad PhD yuppie ("Can't you all see that I'm dying here?!") in the bed next to his.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tell me your sign!!!

She says: Doctor, I have some pain in my knees.
She means: I haven't walked for 3 days because I keep fainting all the time, and the last time I fainted, I think I wet myself and bit my tongue.
Time taken to get the real story: 20 minutes

He says: Doctor, I had a bad cough last week.
He means: I have had this chest pain since last night that has made me short of breath and, by the way, both my parents died of heart attacks.
Time taken to get the real story: 15 minutes

She says: Doctor, I fell down this morning.
She means: I fell from the 2nd floor window.
Time taken to get the real story: 5 minutes

He says: Doctor, I have had some constipation.
He means: I haven't opened my bowels since two weeks ago and I've been vomiting this smelly brown stuff that looks a bit like poo.
Time taken to get the real story: 10 minutes

She says: Doctor, my back hurts.
She means: This morning, I had blood in my urine.
Time taken to get the real story: 25 minutes!

Why?! Why can't they just tell me what is the real trouble instead of making me interrogate them? It's like squeezing blood from stones.

I'm just a doctor - I'm not a clairvoyant! I'm intuitive, not telepathic. I may be far-sighted, but I am certainly not second-sighted. I'm sorry, but I left my mind-reading seer powers at home today, why don't you call the psychic hotline?!

I'm not sure if my patient's reticence stems from the natural conservative nature of the British folk, or if maybe, just maybe, they are trying to play sadistic mind games with me.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Brrr, it's cold out here

It's 15 degrees outside.

I'm chilled to the bone, shivering my way into the house.

I turn on the hot water tap in the shower and listen as the boiler splutters and splutters again and then, with a wheeze and a clunk, goes silent.

There's nothing worse than frigid water beating down on aching muscles.


(two hours later) And now my usual hot water bottle (MDH, that is) has gone off to work - he's doing a week's worth of night shifts.

There's nothing worse than a cold bed.


Update (2 days later):

In other thoughts, I've just realised that the drastic drop in temperatures on the 8th of October were probably secondary to the terrible earthquake in Pakistan. A thousand lives have been lost, and there I am complaining about cold water like a little frog in a well.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Pastime with good company

Just returned from an evening out with a couple of old and dear friends.

Whilst I'm typing this, MDH is happily singing in the shower ("You're just too good to be troooo..."). This is a rare thing, because MDH only sings when he's feeling particularly at peace with himself.

It's amazing how, even at the end of a long working week, just a few hours spent laughing over dinner (a hearty meal of rabbit pasta!) can really invigorate a person.

The best part was after coffee and chocolates when we prayed together - for each other, for our jobs as doctors, for our patients, for the future. It was good to acknowledge the Silent Listener in our conversation. I really felt that it reaffirmed how much we cared about each other and how we support each other in our prayers, even though we live miles apart.

Thanks, you guys! It was a great evening.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Good outdoor sounds

Pebbles by the sea
Originally uploaded by
Sunshine follows me.
I really only discovered the joys of walking when I left Singapore. In the cool dry air, walking has become a great pleasure - not a sweaty enterprise. I began to take more notice of my surroundings, having been released from the controlled environment of motorised vehicles.

There are so many
good sounds that make me feel happy when I'm out walking - but to hear similar sounds at work effects an entirely different response.

1. "Crrrrrk Crrrk" This is the sound of walking on pebbles that have been worn smooth by the sea. This is also the sound of ancient knees bending and arthritic joints grinding together which always reminds me how transient youth is.

2. "Ffshh-t Ffshh-t" This is the sound of wading through crispy autumnal leaves that have gathered up in great piles on the ground. This is also the sound of a loud heart murmur, indicating a heart valve that is dysfunctional. It reminds me how fragile our bodies are.

3. "Chkrrk Chkrrk" This is the sound of crunching through snow that has been partially melted in the sun. It is also the sound of the inflamed layers of lung as they rub up against each other, usually causing a great deal of discomfort. It reminds me how sensitive we are to even the slightest changes.

4. "Plinksh plinksh" The sound of tiptoeing across a shallow stream in the woods that trickles coolly over large flat stones. This is the sound made by dangerously bloated intestines that are on the point of bursting. It reminds me not to judge people by their appearance alone but to listen to what they have to say (that is, "I'm not always this fat, you know!").

5."Wsshhhh" The sound of sliding across slippery wet concrete paving. This is the hollow sound that I hear in the chest of a person who is no longer breathing, whose heart has stopped beating. It is the sound of emptiness, and I am always struck by how loud it is.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Soul food

I think sometimes MDH hopes that I have a stressful time at work, because he gets to reap the gastronomical benefits.

These meatballs were seasoned with cinnamon and oregano, and then mixed together with finely chopped onions, minced garlic and cheese whipped eggs.

I love making meatballs, because its like playing with plastacine, except that you can eat it afterwards. More rewarding, I think.

I decided to stuff each meatball with a little block of cheddar before coating it with a layer of brown breadcrumbs. The meatballs were quickly seared in a frying pan and then baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I got the pasta ready, and when the meatballs were done, I served them together, topped with a simple tomato and basil sauce.

MDH was quite happy with the results - he cut open his meatball and gasped in surprise as the melted cheese oozed out. And just watching the look of pleasure spread across his face really made my day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I have to leave for work in a few minutes' time. The sky outside is a pale blue, and I can feel the chill in the air even as I sit with the windows shut.

I feel like a piece of cloth that has been wrung out and left to dry. There appear to be weights hanging from my eyelids and my neck feels like a steel cable.

This is a bad sign, because I am supposed to be a morning person!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bali the beautiful, the broken, the brave

This is a picture from our honeymoon in Bali - a typical sunset over Jimbaran beach. It had been a while since the bombs in the Kuta night club, and the tourists were pouring in as if the horror had never happened.

And now, the Balinese have to struggle through another season of tourist drought - they picked themselves up pretty quickly the last time around, and I'm sure they will manage to be up on their feet in no time.

It may not be much comfort to them now, but terrorists cannot steal away their spirit and cannot maim their sunsets.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been affected.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Growing old gracefully

"Go away! Go away!", he shouts, waving a wiry arm in the air, "Go away!"

Who is he shouting at? Answer: The nurse who is looking after him.

"I don't like her! She's mean to me!"

Why is she mean?

"She won't let me pee where I want! She won't let me pee in the bucket. She won't let me pee on the table. She won't let me pee in the corridor. She won't let me pee on the bed. She won't let me pee on that bed, either. She won't let me pee on the wall..." He is shaking his head in despair, as he carries on listing all the places where the Evil (long-suffering) Nurse has forbidden him to relieve himself.

He walks on, grumbling to himself about the lack of places in which he might urinate, and turns around, just as the Evil (long-suffering) Nurse takes a sip of her cup of tea (well-deserved, I might add, seeing as she has already changed the sheets of one bed about twenty times in two hours.)

"I pee-d in that!", he exclaims, pointing triumphantly at the teacup.

Evil (long-suffering) Nurse pauses, her face turning a delicate shade of green. She looks around at the other nurses who are stifling their laughter, as the old man carries on, "Yes, I pee-d in it so much that I couldn't pee anymore, and then I pee-d all over the table and then I wiped it up with a cloth and squeezed in into the cup."

Evil (long-suffering) Nurse has been put off that particular cup of tea (although it is pretty obvious that it hasn't been anywhere near anybody's pee) and pops off to make herself a fresh one.

Meanwhile, the old rogue has nipped round the corner and is happily emptying his bladder into a plant pot.

You can get away with so much when you're old.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Well, the Outlaws are here to visit again for the weekend, so there was much bustling in the house yesterday - frantic tidying and obsessive disinfecting. MDH was late, so he couldn't help out, so I was just a tad grumpy when he got home. Fortunately for him, he had some good stories to tell ("For the blog!"), so I'll let him off. This time.

An afternoon at the beach (III)

At the beach
Originally uploaded by
Sunshine follows me.
So MDH and I relaxed on our beach mat, reading novels and watching as the windsurfers zigzagged back and forth across the bay.

MDH would like you to know that he took this picture of me (you can tell it's me, because I'm wearing the anniversary present) with a couple walking their dog in the background. Marvel at his photography skills, everyone!

There were lots of people walking their dogs, idly throwing bits of driftwood into the water whilst their pets barked and ran in circles around them. The dogs would go jumping and splashing around in the water, sneezing as they tried to breathe in the sea foam, paddling madly as they retrieved the floating stick of wood.

There is a black labrador in the background of the photo above - you can see it's carrying a huge plank of wood in it's mouth, trotting meekly alongside the water's edge.

MDH and I watched them enviously - we would so love to have a furry four-legged chum. Dogs, however, are too much like children and require so much attention and space. Cats are ideal, being the independant creatures that they are. But it's a dream to us still - it would be impossible to keep a pet in a rented apartment.

It was starting to get late, and I had to work in the evening, so we reluctantly packed up our things and headed for home.
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