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Nighty Night

A recent article in the Independent caught my eye, as it was on the subject of healthcare workers and night shifts. I assumed that it would be about how difficult they can be and how they have a proven negative effect on the worker but I assumed incorrectly.

Instead it appeared to be quite a venomous piece on the audacity of hospital staff daring to have a twenty minute nap during a twelve hour night shift, and how some are even brazen enough to use hospital linen when they do so. There were frequent quotes from King’s College about how unacceptable this is, including this particular gem:

At King’s, emergency situations are now said to be more common than ever before, and staff have been told to be “alert and able to respond should these occur during their break time”.

To me this is an utterly disgraceful stance for a hospital to have; I don’t believe for a second that any healthcare professional would deliberately ignore a medical emergency, regardless of whether they’re currently on duty, on a break,  or even on holiday in a foreign country. A nurse I once worked with performed CPR on the first day of her honeymoon, before even reaching the hotel.  She could have carried on walking and enjoyed the first day of her holiday, but instead she spent it exhaustingly and ultimately fruitlessly trying to save a stranger’s life.
Most breaks in this context are unpaid, and a lot of the time they’re taken very late, if at all. It’s very common for junior doctors to work a 12+ hour shift overnight, covering an entire hospital, attending crash calls and sudden deteriorations, as well as monitoring patients who were already on their lists, without eating or drinking anything, and breaks can be as mythical as an early handover.

So KCH is expecting staff stay awake during breaks, but if this is so they can be around for emergencies, does it also mean they can’t leave the department? Can’t go to the vending machine (often the only source of nourishment out of hours) or outside away from the fluorescent lights? What about the staff who spend five minutes hiding in a store cupboard during their break because they don’t want their colleagues to see them crying about something they’re struggling with? Why not just force all staff to live on site so they can be nearby at all times, on duty or not?

My advice to healthcare staff working night shifts is this:
If you get the chance to take a break, then do it. Even if you don’t need to eat or sleep, just take the opportunity to get away from things, if only for a couple of minutes. Use your own judgement, and bear your own safety in mind,  as well as that of your patients’. Driving home? Don’t take the risk of ending up back in resus as a patient, it would be embarrassing at the very least. Gone 15 hours without water? That back pain you’re having could either be from muscle ache, or your kidneys shutting down. Dizzy? Lightheaded? I wonder what state your blood sugar is in.

The key message from this is to look after yourself, because you’re no good to your patients if you’re suffering. How you do this is up to you. Some people like a proper sleep if they can get it, others prefer a short catnap instead.

The Royal College of Physicians put out their own guidance for surviving night shifts, and I found it really useful, but when you’re first starting out it can be a case of trial and error.

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Cherry Black BSc (Hons)

We’ve been living in London for a month now, and we’re fairly settled; the move itself was tough but fairly smooth overall. There were only a few fatalities, caused when a box containing crockery and a glass chopping board landed on my dad’s steel toe capped boot; RIP Matt’s favourite mug. The flat is nice (not sure it’s worth the money, but is anything in London?) and the area is very leafy with great transport connections. I still can’t believe that I can hop on a bus just up the road which takes me past the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and Hamleys, for £1.35! Assuming it doesn’t break down or inexplicably change its destination, of course… Another massive perk to our new home is that we actually have our own outdoor space, something I could never afford in Portsmouth. The novelty of sitting outside with a cup of tea and the Kindle won’t wear off any time soon. I just wish summer would arrive.

You may have noticed that I have changed the subheading on my blog from “student radiographer” to “unemployed radiographer”. This is because I have now finished my course and registered with the Health Professions Council! I have yet to find employment though, not for lack of trying; I’ve been dutifully applying for every post advertised within 20 miles but to no avail.

At the beginning of the week I was in Manchester for the UK Radiological Congress. The primary reason I went was because some of the lectures looked really interesting, but it’s also a useful event to make friends at (and this was my last year when I could get the discounted student rate). I got chatting with a veterinary radiographer who works at a really innovative practice near Guildford; when I was younger I always wanted to be a vet but wasn’t clever (or hard working) enough, so this is a field I am hugely interested in. I also attended some really interesting lectures on post mortem and battlefield imaging, quite morbid but really informative and I learnt a lot from the speakers.

So it’s been a fun-packed month, I’ve moved house, gained a BSc, rubbed shoulders with eminent radiologists, registered with the HPC, and can now officially call myself a Radiographer. A job would be lovely though.

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Relativity.

It’s incredible how one’s current situation can affect even the laws of physics. To paraphrase the famous quote:
“A two hour lecture can feel like a week, yet the week before one’s dissertation deadline feels like two hours. That’s relativity!”

It’s been a shitty couple of weeks; a fortnight ago I had a dental appointment to do the prep for a crown fitting, but the prep work aggravated an infection in the tooth that was otherwise dormant. I’ve spent the last week or so in agony, with the painkillers only taking effect for an hour or so each time. It was so bad last night I went to A&E to beg for something stronger to knock me out. It worked, and I had the best night’s sleep in about a week.

Also, Dusty, AKA Schnauzersaurus Rex, AKA Puppula, AKA Fluffy, AKA D-Dog, AKA Schnaut, has declined somewhat recently.

She’s 14 and 10 months old, which is apparently pretty good, but it doesn’t make the current situation any easier to handle. On Friday afternoon, shortly before I hop on a flight up to Manchester for QEDCon, the vet’s coming round to put her to sleep. While I 100% agree that it’s the best decision- her quality of life has decreased in recent months- that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. She’s been around longer than Daisy, in fact I distinctly remember her sticking her head in the bucket containing Daisy’s placenta at the birth. Gross. So after saying goodbye to one of my oldest friends, I’ll be shooting off to a weekend-long social event. Apologies if I’m a miserable bitch.

Also, this week I finally finished off my dissertation.

It was essentially written by Monday morning, but I was lucky enough to have it proof read by lots of people so I spent yesterday and this morning making adjustments and re-reading, and this afternoon I had it printed and bound, ready to hand in tomorrow. Following this, I have three weeks of academic time, five weeks of placement… and then it’s all over. Hopefully.

Yikes.

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Home Sweet Home?

The second leg of the flight was interesting. I had a seat in the row directly behind first class so the leg room was vastly improved, and there was no one in the seat next to me… until the child belonging to the family across the aisle decided to sit there and continually bash into me and generally be really bloody annoying. No sleep for me then.

Then about halfway into the flight some crazy drunk lady decided to go on a loud racist rant-fest. She started shouting about how she wanted a Business Class upgrade and was declined even though there were empty seats “because Qatar Airways don’t want white people in Business Class!” which I found hilarious as when I walked through there earlier there were loads of white people enjoying their overpriced seats. So her tirade went on for about half an hour by which time everyone around me was muttering words to the effect of “shut up” as it had gotten rather tedious.

Then, when we eventually landed at Heathrow, none of us could leave for about 20 minutes while armed police boarded the plane to deal with the (now rather quite calm) situation.

When we were allowed off the plane, there was then the tense 15 minute wait at the luggage carousel, and then I met Matt at the arrivals gate.

After a long drive home (the A3 was closed so we ended up going round in circles trying to follow the diversion) we got back at about midnight.

So here’s the emo bit: after an awesome month, it’s actually been a bit depressing being back in Portsmouth. The mundanity of shopping in ASDA is tenfold now, and I just want to go back to Pokhara as soon as possible.

I miss Nepal.

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Go WEST!

Sat in Doha airport having found the wifi and the power outlets, but I made the mistake of putting my power cables in my checked baggage.
iPhone – 47%, laptop – 66%
I do however have my Kindle but I can’t read when it’s noisy (and boy is it noisy here) so I might go to the prayer room and worship at the altar of Carl Sagan if I’m allowed.

On a side note some crazy Italian-sounding lady is lurking next to me asking for technical support… seriously, it’s a free wifi hotspot, if you can’t figure out how to use it, it’s probably for the best.

So I got about 2 hours sleep last night, partly due to getting back to the hotel so late and partly due to the loudest monsoon rain so far. So I’m knackered. I left the hotel at 6am, at the same time as Daniel, an Icelandic guy who was staying at the one next door. He was going to the bus station to hop on the Greenline to Pokhara which is on the way to the airport so we shared a cab as it was pissing it down and there was only one in sight. I was a tad jealous, and told him so, and he was relieved to hear that Pokhara is nothing like Kathmandu. It took a fair bit of will power (and admittedly some common sense) to stay in the cab and go to the airport rather than following him to Pokhara.

The airport was chaotic, which I had anticipated, but not to the degree that I experienced this morning. I dashed out of the taxi, through the monsoon to the departures area, where there’s basically a load of different entrances depending on what airline you’re flying with, although they all open into the same check-in hall. All the doors were closed when I arrived, as was the airport. This remained the case for an hour, which was fun, and then they opened the door next to the one I was meant to go through, so I thought “bugger it” and went in anyway. It’s not exactly a finely tuned system at Kathmandu Airport, I wasn’t going to mess up their perfect check-in process.

Another slight issue was my lack of boarding pass having checked in online and being minus a printer, but apparently waving a British passport around does the trick, which was good. I will be very surprised if my baggage is waiting for me in Heathrow, however, as they didn’t stick the tag on properly and I watched it fall off the baggage carousel when it got to the airside of the conveyour belt. Ah well, nuttin I can do.

In the airport, I bumped into Corey, an American guy who we kept meeting at Busy Bees, and the last time I saw him he couldn’t afford his bar tab, so Kat kindly bailed him out by giving her phone as a deposit. I frantically texted her to ask if she ever got her money back, but by the time she replied he was already airborne. It’s weird that I keep meeting Pokhara people in Kathmandu, that’s the third time it’s happened.

Anyway, eventually the airport opened properly, flights resumed, and mine was only running an hour late so it wasn’t too bad. Except yet again some asshole had nicked my seat, but as I wasn’t running late this time, I decided to make an issue of it. Turns out he was meant to be in the seat next to mine, but had decided to take the window seat instead so the steward bumped him across. This meant I had to sit next to him for 5 hours, which was unpleasant as he was borderline obese, rather sweaty, and refused to turn his mobile phone off until the steward threatened to kick him off the plane.

I managed about an hour’s sleep I think, but the seats weren’t far enough apart to accomodate my femurs so I was hunched at a very awkward angle. Moan moan moan… bitch bitch bitch. Can you tell I’m tired?

Yeah, so Doha is not my kinda place. The airport stinks of money and so do the people in it. I’ve not dared to find out how much a cup of tea would be, but if it’s what I expect then I’ll improvise. I have some tea bags in my hand luggage, so all I need is a mug, some hot water, and some milk. Oh, and a spoon.

Wish me luck.

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Last Night in KTM

Today was my last full day and night in Nepal and it could have been better! But it could have been worse.

It rained all day, so I tried to get around and see a bit of Kathmandu, I even downloaded a walking tour onto my iPhone but I couldn’t really walk around with my phone in my hand as it would have drowned. So I walked down to Durbar Square to see the temples and places like Freak Street, but there were military folk everywhere and I really don’t like how they stand with their fingers on the trigger while they’re milling about so I had a quick nose around and then wandered elsewhere. It wasn’t very easy to get around though as the streets are so narrow and everyone’s got umbrellas, and occasionally a rickshaw or motorbike will squeeze through so making progress is difficult. I gave up and headed back to Thamel where at least the streets are slightly more negotiable (omg I miss Pokhara so much) and picked up a few souveniers for next to nothing, as the shops weren’t selling at all today. I bought a silk dress for NR800 when the guy originally wanted NR2800 so it just shows how much profit they normally make!

So I mooched around for a bit, somewhat annoyed that I couldn’t see the city, and ended up at a hairdressers for no apparent reason. Got a haircut for NR275 but gave the change from a 500 note as a tip to the hairdresser as she did such a good job (I think so anyway). So that’s a cut and blow dry for less than a fiver.

Then I went over to the Last Resort office to collect my DVD from yesterday’s jump. The guy at the shop was the same one who harnessed me up on the bridge; he had a wicked sense of humour up there and it was still in action back on the ground, so that was cool. Then I went over to a restaurant for dinner as I had somehow managed to miss lunch. During dinner, Chloe, one of the girls who was at the Last Resort yesterday came over and joined me, and the evening picked up from there. We finished dinner and headed upstairs to Tom and Jerry’s-
holy shit there was just the loudest bang and a flash, and then the power went… eek! Anyway…
ahem. So we went to the bar and chatted for a while about all sorts, although a major theme was Auroville, a very new age concept for a sustainable community. Look it up, it seems incredible but a tad cultish, if you know what I mean. Plus there’s some controversy about paedophilia which is never a good sign.

Anyway we chatted for a while and then a Nepali guy (whose name I can’t remember) came over, I chatted to him before leaving for the Last Resort, and he wished me luck and told me if he didn’t see me back in the bar on Thursday then it means I fell to my death in the Bhote Kosi. So he and his mates came over and sat with us and we talked about all sorts of things until a vague kind of argument broke out between the guy and Chloe about trekking knowledge. I stayed out of it but it was all fairly good humoured anyway.

We all chatted until after midnight when we all got kicked out, so I ran back to the hotel in the rain, where I’m now writing this post. I ought to get to bed as I have to be up in 4 hours for my flight…

Good night!

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36 Hours in Kathmandu

The journey back from the Last Resort was interesting. At points I thought that we were going to have to get out and walk, but the bus clambered over landslide after landslide, until eventually the driver noticed a problem with the rear wheels when we stopped at a roadside cafe halfway through the journey. I honestly didn’t notice and I was sat over the rear axle, but that might have something to do with the general state of the bus.

So we then transferred onto another bus for the remainder of the journey, and by this point it was dark and we were so high up the mountain that we were driving through thick cloudy fog which was so bad that you couldn’t see more than a metre or so in front of the windscreen. I’m assuming that the driver knew the road quite well as we didn’t plunge off the windy mountain road to our death, but there were some close calls with pedestrians, motorbikes, cars with faulty headlights.

We got back to Kathmandu and I remembered I didn’t have a hotel booked (well I did, but there was no way I was paying $30 a night again) so I asked one of the girls on the bus if she knew of anywhere cheap and cheerful. She showed me the way to where she was staying, a hotel on the outskirts of Thamel (the main touristy district of KTM) and they had a room available for less than £10 for 2 nights so I took it. It’s not great, I’ll admit, but it has a bed and a bathroom with a working shower so I will not complain.

I’ve just checked in online for my flight home, meaning that in 36 hours I’ll be leaving this stunning country, so I expect it’ll be yet another emotional journey. Especially if someone nicks my window seat again.

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WHEEEEEEEE!!!

So the massage was possibly the most awkward hour of my life. I rediscovered old bruises and made some new ones too at the hands of a 60 year old Tibetan lady whilst listening to pan pipes and wailing monks. It was ok when I lay on my front because I could grimace all I liked and she couldn’t see, but when in rolled over I didn’t know what to do, especially when the music took a turn for the worse I ended up giggling like an idiot. Also, where the hell do you look? Something in me says that you shouldn’t make eye contact with the masseuse but equally, what else do you do? I opted to count the spiders on the ceiling instead. It was such a Mark Corrigan moment, my inner monologue was going nuts.

After the awkward massage I headed over for lunch, and got chatting to Giles and a guy called Ed who was from NYC and had cycled through Tibet, taking in Everest Base Camp along the way. They both had some pretty interesting stories to tell so we hung out for about 6 hours chatting about everything from trekking to 911 conspiracy theories. The kids Giles was “supervising” were quite funny to observe; highly privileged as they are all kids of high fliers living in Singapore for the massive companies there, and really quite naive too, which is to be expected. So we basically didn’t move after lunch, and then it was dinner time so we chatted for a few more hours until about 10.30 when I really needed to get some sleep.

The tent was not bad, the bed was pretty hard, but at least it wasn’t too hot. I had a couple of unpleasant arachnid encounters but I was too tired to battle for long so I gave up and went to sleep after chasing them outside. Then in the morning I got up and went over for breakfast, where one of the crew convinced me to do the canyon swing instead of the bungee and I’m so glad I took his advice.

The bungee is cool and everything but you can bungee jump anywhere, they even have cranes at carnivals, whereas the canyon swing is rarer and you actually get to see the gorge as you hurtle through it. Also, you get nearly twice as much freefall which makes it totally worth it. I was petrified up on the bridge, watching everyone else go first, and convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to do it, but when the time came I told myself that if the rich kids could do it, so could I. The hardest part was taking those couple of steps towards the edge- the rope is pulling you forwards and the guy behind you is holding the harness so you’re safe but it’s still terrifying! After a bit of hesitation, I shuffled forwards and looked down, thought “holy fuck” about 100 times and then involuntarily stepped forwards.

The feeling was indescribable. You fly 100m through the air, towards the raging river below, until you reach the end of the rope, flailing wildly the entire time. Then you swing sideways for 240m at about 150kmph until you run out of momentum, and then you have to grab the rope to pull yourself to the ladder at the riverbank. This part and the walk back up the gorge was probably the hardest part of the whole experience because my knees were still shaking and the adrenaline was coursing through my veins, and I just wished I had my camera to take pictures of the view. It was a long walk back, and I stopped at every waterfall to cool myself down and take in the scenery.

In the afternoon we all converged at lunch to watch our videos, which I couldn’t not buy. All in all, the whole 2 days including food, drink, transport, video, jump etc etc has cost less than £100 which I think is actually a pretty good deal. A few years ago at a festival in Germany they were charging €120 to jump off a crane, so I reckon I got a bargain. I just hope the road is clear for the drive back to Kathmandu!

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The Last Resort

I’m writing this part while sat in the bar/restaurant area at the Last Resort, a hotel built around a rather unique selling point, which is that it is only accessible by a bridge, 160m above the Bhote Kosi river. Getting here was an adventure in itself: I left the hotel at 5.30am to meet the bus which was to take us the 100km to the resort. However it stopped about 4km short due to a landslide (just as I was starting to enjoy being in the comfiest vehicle since the flight here 3 weeks ago) so we had to walk the rest of the way. This wasn’t really a problem for the other guys on the bus as they only had day bags, but I had my rucksack with everything in it, and for someone as weak and unfit as I am, carrying 20kg over rubble, river and road is not a walk in the park.

The first treacherous climb was over a 6ft high pile of rubble which had descended from the mountain. Climbing up was ok but I was pretty convinced I was going to fall as the rocks gave way beneath my feet on the way down, but somehow I survived. Until the next bit, where I went to overtake someone who was walking slowly and ended up sinking up to my knees in gravel and quicksand. Giles, one of the guys who was walking with us grabbed my camera out of my hand and a local Nepali guy took my rucksack so I could wriggle free, which was a massive help as I was still sinking rapidly, but I lost my shoes, which was annoying. Luckily I have another pair, but I kinda need to hold on to these ones. Giles also kindly took a photo of me looking bedraggled and muddy, which was nice.

He’s an English ex-pat maths teacher who is accompanying 4 students (also ex-pats) from a school in Singapore, but up until 10 years ago he lived in Southampton. I figured they’d be rich brats as on the bus one of them was talking about how daddy owns an island in Indonesia…

After an hour and ten minutes of walking we arrived at the spectacular bridge which leads to the resort, but which also doubles as the bungee platform, which I am apparently jumping off of tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes, but for now I’ve booked myself a massage as my back is killing me. At least if the road isn’t cleared by tomorrow it’s a downhill walk.

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Leaving Pokhara

Today I packed up my stuff (abandoning a pair of shoes and a towel) and checked out of the hotel. I went to the airport via the WtW house as I owed Anna some money from last night, and I was hoping to bump into Sunil or Aneeta to thank them for their help throughout my stay. They were both there, and so was Padme the housekeeper so it was really lovely to say goodbye to the three of them. I then got back in the taxi and went to the airport. I got there quite early so one of the guard-type people ran out on to the runway to see if the earlier flight had left yet. Can you imagine that at Gatwick? The flight had gone so he kindly carried my bag upstairs to the restaurant (the stairs were missing, it was just a load of concrete rubble to clamber over and he fell over twice which I felt awful about) where I waited for a couple of hours.

I eventually went through “security” where a female officer glanced inside my bag and made a poor attempt at patting me down, and then got on my flight. It was really cloudy and I couldn’t see the mountains, but there was more of that pesky dust getting in my eyes again so I wouldn’t have been able to see them anyway. The guy in the seat across from me looked a bit freaked out at the crazy Western lady crying on the plane, so I attempted to compose myself.

Arriving at KTM was interesting, they just dump your bag on a platform which anyone can access, and a couple of people tried to take my bag, probably to try to get me to pay them to carry it so I just grabbed it back and marched away from the airport. I got in a cab and let myself get ripped off because I had no idea how much it should have cost. Apparently NR300 is the going rate but I paid NR500, oh well. I chatted with the driver all the way and he was nice enough so sod it.

The Kathmandu Guest House is very nice, but so expensive ($30 for a night) so I won’t be staying there on Weds/Thurs when I get back. I can survive without he palatial views for two nights. So I’m currently sat in a bar over the road called Tom and Jerry’s and they’re playing everything from Rainbow to Prodigy which is good enough for me, although I could have done without the Macarena.

5am start tomorrow; meeting at the Last Resort office at 5.45 for the bus to the Tibetan border. I am shitting a brick about jumping off that bridge.

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