Many and varied methods

It’s been a while since I last seriously studied, and I had forgotten the true power of procrastination.

Once more (as always) the housework is getting done, the blog is being maintained, my computer files are getting (re-)organised, and more people are being emailed to (although any number is likely to be above my previous level of close to zero, and does not necessarily represent a huge increase in that activity overall).
I haven’t quite resorted to exercise, but I’m sure as the temperature drops towards the middle of the year that too will come into play.

Go crazy? Don’t mind if I do!

This week, as the latest delightful assignment in my term of relieving, I am working in the mental health department.

I’m there for 2 weeks.

In order to do any of the genuinely useful tasks as a doctor you have to be trained in and certified in the use of the mental health act (so that you can admit/detain/treat psychotic patients against their will etc). Unfortunately to get trained takes 3-4 days, so they didn’t have time/incentive to do that for me given the short time I’m around.

That fact, combined with the fact that I haven’t dealt with a seriously mentally unwell patient in almost 3 years, and even then it was in med school at a hospital where the mental health unit was spectacularly understaffed, and resultantly dysfunctional, and so we didn’t really get to actually do/learn all that much (general hint here – don’t come to me for treatment if you get schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, because I won’t be of much help to you).

So basically I am wandering around all day doing general medical things for the other doctors who have better things to spend their time on, and trying not to draw too much attention to the fact that I’m not really much use to anyone. I go and see patients, and diligently write down what I see and what they tell me, and generally have no idea what to do about it beyond saying “they seem better/worse than how they were described yesterday”.

That said, I did still feel quite chuffed this afternoon when I managed to get a patient to tell me all about how he was seeing things that weren’t really there, which is not always the easiest thing to do.

Oops, I cured cancer

In what surely has to be one of the more amusing lab “accidents” a researched may have accidentally stumbled onto a cure for a number of different kinds of cancer.

She was working with cancerous epithelial cells while researching treatments for inflammatory bowel disease when she made a mistake and added too much of one of her test drugs.

Afterwards she found that all the cancer cells had died. Initially she was irritated at her mistake ruining her experiment until one of her co-workers pointed out that perhaps “it killed all my cancer cells” was actually a cause for excitement.
So we’ll have to wait and see if it makes it to clinical trials, but it’s a pretty cool story.

Call me cynical

One of the things I remember commenting after September 11th, was “Well, that officially ends airline hijacking”.

Prior to 9/11 it had seemed to generally be in the hostage’s best interests to sit quiet and wait to be released/rescued. The likelihood of getting harmed by cooperating was sufficiently low as to discourage heroics.

After 9/11 that all changed, and my assertion was that anyone who tried to hijack a plane would be assaulted by every able bodied passenger on the plane because the odds had now swung to being “moderate chance of getting hurt attacking the hijacker” vs. “certain death if they kamikaze the plane into something”.

So it seemed that the in convenience and additional billions spent on upgrading airport security was probably a little hollow, because the most effective deterrent was the knowledge that not only would any future hijacking fail, it would probably fail in a manner that involved the passengers beating the hijacker to death in the process.

And now (and I’ve actually seen several stories similar to this one in the past few years) I’ve been proven right (at least in this one instance).

Jack the academic

As I have mentioned perviously, I have begun studying for the surgical part 1 exam in october, and so it would seem has Jack.

Whenever I sit down at my desk to study he plonks himself down behind my textbook to supervise.

Sometimes he sleeps. Sometimes he swishes his tail across my textbook or my computer, and sometimes he decides that I’ve been studying long enough and steals my highlighter and bats it around on the floor until I come and take it back/play with him.

Below, for the pleasure of the jury, is photographic evidence.

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Today, given the page Jack was trying to knock my physiology text book open to, I think he wants to learn about Excitatory postsynaptic potentials and neuron membrane physiology. I can certainly see why that would be an issue of some interest to him…

Wierd Signage

The other day on one of the wards I saw a sign that made me do a double take because it seemed so incongruous.

It was attached to a Zip hot water system, and I’ve included a picture of it below, but owing to the poor image quality I’ll also tell you what it said:

Caution: Boiling water. Do not use to wash hands.

I mean seriously!??! would anyone honestly be dumb enough to try and use water out of a zip to wash their hands???

Presumably they must have for the signs to be necessary, but I would think they would have to be a serious contender for a darwin award.

What is a lift?

One of the things I found most disconcerting after the September 11 attacks was a story I heard about an american journalist who went into Afghanistan before the american invasion, and was showing afghani villagers pictures in glossy magazines of the world trade towers collapsing, and asking them what they thought about the attacks. The interesting thing which put many things in perspective, was that there were many villagers who commented that it was sad that so many people had died, but that they had never known that buildings could be built that tall, and additionally a number of them were fascinated by the magazine, having never seen a glossy magazine before in their life.

It created a nice contrast of priorities, when we were so outraged that 5000 people had been killed, but weren’t even aware, let alone concerned, that there were many people in the world who were so poor that they had never known highrises or magazines even existed (although whether this in fact made them very lucky is a matter for debate at another time) (and lets not even begin to get into illiteracy rates).

Now the reason that I was reminded of this story is because the other day I was on the ground floor of the hospital and an old aboriginal lady asked me how to get to one of the medical wards. I told her that it was on the 4th floor, and she asked me if I could take her there. She seemed quite nervous and so I took her up in the lift to the ward, and it was only afterwards that I realised that the probable reason for the request was that prior to coming to the hospital it was quite concievable that she had never been inside or operated a lift before.

I actually remember being told about this situation in some lecture in medical school, but it wasn’t until I experieced it that it hammered home the disparity of development that exists, even over relatively small distances within a supposedly first world country.

If (as I suspect) she had been flown in for treatment from a remote aboriginal community on the Cape or in the gulf, or even from one of the torres straight islands, then she may actually not have seen a building taller than 2 or 3 storeys. I take lifts for granted. For her it may have been a completely new and (at the age of 70-odd) frightening experience.

Water water everywhere

For the last week or so it has been raining in cairns. A lot!

You may have even seen it on the news, with flooded streets and overflowing dams (oh how the residents of Brisbane must be jealous).

I have been finding it fun because I don’t recall the last time I was somewhere that it rained for 4 days straight, and being in the tropics, it has meant that I have been able to go outside in the (warm) rain and jump in puddles and generally exercise my inner child.

There has even been a bit of surface flooding on our lawn, but it’s a pretty sandy base with several drains, so it never gets beyond being a centimetre of water covering everything, and certainly doesn’t come close to flooding our house.

So all things as they are it’s been kind of fun to watch the clouds roll over the hills behind our house looking all grey and rain laden, and a few minutes later to hear the thumping of big fat raindrops on our roof.

Suburban insecurity

One of the things I have noticed in our house, parked as it is in the middle of suburbia, is the preponderance of wireless networks in our area.

Not only do we have good reception on our own wireless modem, we can see at least 4 others depending on where you are standing in the house.

This says something quite interesting about the extent to which networking hardware and fast broadband internet connections have become mainstream technologies.

The other thing that this has illustrated is that you can make technology simple and accessable, but as much as you spell it out in the installation instructions you can’t make make people take security seriously. Of those wireless networks I mentioned, only 2 had any form of security set up on them. The others were open for anyone to see/use/access/hack. I imagine that it simple constitutes ignorance on the part of the owners, but if they knew how much a person parked outside their house could access, I think they’d be pretty disturbed.

Neuroanatomy makes brain go splat

Well, I’m officially into the study for the surgical part 1 exam, and I’ve been reading all about neuroanatomy, and it makes my brain hurt.

I find myself looking forward to going to work, so I can give my brain a rest, and try and loose the feeling that there is someone standing beside me as I study slowly packing more and more cotton wool through my ears into my skull.

That said I am beginning to wonder why they weren’t more insistent that we learn this more thoroughly when we were in med school. I still feel that there’s not much point in forcing everyone to learn detailed anatomy if they’re not going to use it (similar to making everyone learn biochemical pathways they’ll never use again), but the chapter I am currently reading would have been a good thing to examine, because it lays the groundwork of general principles and basic details that everyone would probably benefit from.

I keep on having “Oh, right, that makes sense”, and “Riiight, so that’s how that works” moments, and I can only assume that I will end this year an awful lot more knowledgeable than when I started, having finally been forced to read all the text books that I was too slack to read properly while I was at med school (it also presumably helps that I have a better practical contextual framework to place the knowledge in now than I did then).