Wandering Thoughts

September 29, 2008

On Compromise

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 7:01 pm

Favourite Quote:

From a friend of mine when it was suggested to him that compromise might resolve his current state of loggerheads with the local council:

“I agree we need a compromise. But it’s them that need to be compromising…”

September 27, 2008

Warfarin Humour

One of the consequences of my new artificial valve is that I will have to take Warfarin for the rest of my life. With all that foreign material now so near my heart I run the risk of blood clots forming. Clots which could lead to a stroke or something similarly nasty. So I take Warfarin – it’s an anti coagulant, which means that it slows my blood’s clotting, and that reduces the risk.

The side effect though, is that blood that clots less readily also bleeds more heavily. And it’s harder to get the bleeding to stop.

Now I’ve never been the most accurate shaver, nor the most coordinated of men. Like a raft in rapids my traverse of our flat involves swerves, stumbles, bangs and bumps.

Aware of this, and wondering what it might all mean for a man taking something to stop his bleeding from stopping, I found myself in my doctor’s surgery a couple of weeks ago. Interrogating him about Warfarin and what would happen if I cut myself.

“Warfarin,” his sentences are always rapid-fire, smart and thorough, “slows the speed that your blood clots but, so long as your INR is in the target range, your blood will still clot just fine. Slower but fine.”

“So if I cut myself shaving or surfing…”

“…You’ll be ok. Just make sure that you stem the bleeding if you need to.” He must be used to my worrying nature by now but, if he is, he never shows it.

“So what do I need to worry about?”

“Well I’d definitely advise you not to get into any serious car crashes…”

He paused, a hint of a smile began to curve his face.

“…but then again, I give that advice to all my patients.”


Ok – so I’m aware that footnotes kill jokes but I do feel the need to add two things:

1. That’s not quite how the conversation played out but, between the two of us, we did discover that punchline.

2. Please, I’m no medical professional, and this is just my memories shaped into a blog post – if you are taking Warfarin always get your own specialist advice and follow it.  An excellent resource (although still no substitute for professional advice) is Valve Replacement Forum’s anti-coagulation section:


September 25, 2008

Relative Risk Reconsidered

Ok, so ever since my pre-surgery brush with risk assessment I’ve become obsessed with the stuff. In particular I need to know, ‘what is the most dangerous sport on Earth’?

Click here to read more

Canberra Reconsidered

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 4:17 pm
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My first visit to Canberra was very nearly my last. Some years back, me and my partner at the time took the train down from Sydney to see a Freida Kahlo exhibition at the National Gallery. The gallery was a wonder, but the city surrounding it appalled us. The pomp of the parliamentary architecture, the sterility that always accompanies pre-planned cities (unless they’re in Brazil)…and what’s worse we were there in a weekend, and so had to wander near-empty artificially-wide streets. To be frank the effect was eerie, like we were on the set of a zombie movie. I half expected to turn a corner and discover undead civil servants descending upon us, their wrecked throats groaning out ‘polliicccy’ instead of ‘braaains’.

Needless to say I didn’t race back. But earlier this year my wife and I vaulted the Tasman and found ourselves returned to Australia’s capital. And I found myself loving the place. We arrived to grumpy grey skies and a temperature low enough to have me purchasing the first scarf I saw. And yet, weighed down by that sky, the buildings seemed almost dignified, while the deciduous trees, that ought to have been out of place like colonial nostalgia always is, actually felt right, losing the last of their leaves in the wind gusts.

Click here to read more…

September 21, 2008

Wikipedia Rulz Sux 4 Eva!

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 6:36 pm
Tags: ,

Nowadays, the Wikipedia reminds me of those indie bands I used to listen to as a younger man. First everybody loves them, then everybody realises that everyone else loves them, and then no one is allowed to love them anymore.

And so it is that Kathryn Ryan* can grouch about the Wikipedia on National Radio, while ‘serious’ Internet commentators can profess to being shocked (just shocked!) that anyone would ever even dare link to it.

But not me people. I still love the Wikipedia. (And, while we’re at it, although this bit is slightly off topic, I might also even buy the new Dinosaur Jr album, too).

It’s true that I wouldn’t use it in my own field of expertise. But that’s because (I hope, at least!) that I might – after all that study – now know more about these things than an encyclopedia could tell me.

And I would, I confess, be very wary about relying on it on any topic that is in any way politically contentious.

And, I agree that it’s not a permissible academic reference (although, plenty of equally dodgy references, I suspect, make it past referees and markers every day, simply because they don’t have the brand recognition of the Wikipedia).

But I still love the Wikipedia, because when I get home from a movie and want to know more I can look it up. And when I just want some rough and ready information on a historical event or person I can find it there in one click – no Google wading. True it may not be correct, but I’m aware of this risk, and read with open eyes, which is what I should be doing anyway. There are plenty of errors on-line, and in newspaper articles and magazines, and academic journals too.

Finally, for all its flaws, it remains a useful starting point for reading further. Good Wikipedia articles are sourced, which not only means you can assess their veracity yourself, but also that you can follow the link-sources onwards to information that you can use.

So I still love the Wikipedia – warts and all. It’s annoying that you have to read through the unimportant simply because it was placed in an article by a zealot of another cause and it’s a pity that some articles are now chopped to bits thanks to edit wars.

But it’s still fun and it’s still useful. And I hope it stays that way.

*Update: This isn’t a criticism of Kathryn Ryan by the way – I love Nine to Noon!

September 15, 2008

The Month So Far

Filed under: Aortic Valves,Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 12:56 pm
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“Here we go. Think of something pleasant.”

I closed my eyes and pictured myself riding waves – skimming across the glassy surface of the sea. Only for a moment though, then darkness crowded in, overwhelming first the periphery of my imagination and then the rest of my thoughts.

An instant later, or so it seemed, I was at work. Labouring on a never quite achievable task in the jumbled office space of a dream.

I did not, I think, dream for long before something else caught my attention – sound. Talk and the noises of the intensive care unit pulled me into the waking world, where at least 8 hours had elapsed.  I was aware, then unaware, lapsing back into sleep, then waking again for sometime before things steadied. People arrived – my parents and wife. I tried to scrawl a message on a piece of paper. I fell back to sleep – letters and words never quite formed. I woke up again and had the intubation pulled out of me. I can’t remember what my first words were but, drugged and happy to be alive, I was jubilant in the gently clearing fog. I gave the thumbs up to my parents, to my wife, to the semi-comatose complete stranger in the bed opposite me. As I found my voice, I cracked jokes and spoke to my sister on the phone.

For someone who’d just spent seven hours in surgery (four of them on the heart lung machine) and who had his aortic valve and a long chunk of his ascending arota replaced, I felt remarkably chirpy.

Inevitably, this didn’t last. My first night in ICU was horrid. Minutes dragged past like hours. I ached and couldn’t get comfortable, let alone sleep. The nurses were wonderful though. Kind. Helpful. Patient (I am, as my wife can attest, an utter wimp when I’m ill). One of them mixed me some diluted fruit juice. I don’t think I can even begin to tell you how nice this tasted.

After that first night things got steadily better. Winter sun spilled in through the windows of my ICU ward and I lapped it up. I stared at pictures in the Surfer’s Journal and, starting with captions, slowly found the strength to read.

After two days I moved back into the ward, which was to be my home for the next three. My reading skills advanced so that I could read magazine articles and a children’s history of Great Britain that my mother dug out of an old bookshelf. Friends came to visit and I started teetering along hospital corridors under my own steam.

I was released from hospital two days early only to return home to my most ill 48 hours since surgery. The first day I spent vomiting, on the second my memory collapsed. It’s slowly returning, but for the last few weeks I’ve really struggled to recall my immediate past. Other than that, recuperation so far has been pretty kind. My energy levels are low, and now I have a cold. Sometimes my newly ticking aorta keeps me awake at night and my upper spine aches. But I am getting better. And endlessly relieved to have surgery behind me.

Update: my wife informs me that I didn’t vomit all day; just once, after eating. Well it felt like I vomited all day. See, I told you I was a wimp when ill.

September 8, 2008


Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 4:47 pm
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Ok, so I’m not really up to blogging yet but I thought I’d paste in an exercise from a travel writing course I took once. Just in the name of keeping the blog alive.



With a disgruntled lurch, the mini-van started its journey anew and I was left alone – standing on the edge of Palmeira’s village square, the harmattan catching my hair and tickling it across my face. With it, the wind brought fine desert sand; airborne from the Sahara hundreds of kilometres to the east. And the sand muted what should have been a blue sky to a murky, midday-twilight.

For a while I just stood there, waiting – after a few years roaming I’d learnt that the arrival of a lone tourist with a pile of surfboards usually led to something: a throng of hotel touts; curious children; offers of assistance. Palmeira – however – seemed indifferent. The square was almost empty; quiet except for the impatient rattle of roofing iron and the shish of sand weaving its way over cobblestones. Concrete-box houses lined two of its sides, while the third was occupied by a larger building – a Restaurante according to the sign over its closed front door. Both restaurant and houses had once been painted in pastel colours – pink, yellow, green – that had long-since worn pale. There were no buildings on the fourth side of the square, just two date palms and a view over Palmeira Bay.

Adjacent to the restaurant, looking over the bay, was a bench occupied by three old men – the only Palmeirans in sight. They were facing out to sea; not paying me the least bit of attention. But, with nothing else to do, I chose to watch them; wondering if I ought to ask them where I could stay in the village. I didn’t want to: elderly people always had the strongest accents; hiding recognisable Portuguese words amongst the ebb and flow of their Crioulo. But alternatives seemed scarce. So I watched; pulling my hair out of my face and tucking it behind my ears.

All three men were shoeless and clad in cast-off clothes. The first was wearing worn jeans and an old but clean white shirt. He had short, tightly curled hair and a tidy beard – both greying. His skin, like most Cape Verdians, was the colour of café com laite rather than the charcoal-black of the rest of West Africa. Sitting beside him, the second man was wearing dark green football shorts and a faded tank top. Age had turned his thinning hair rusty-brown but his uncovered arms still curved with the shape of well-defined muscle. The third man was taller and older; his hair straight and wispy. He was wearing trousers and an old suit top with nothing under it; his chest visible between the flapping lapels.

For a while the men were motionless but then, slowly and deliberately, the first man leant over to the second, and bit him on the shoulder. Not aggressively, but strong enough to provoke an Abe Simpsonesque cry of protest: “aaaayyyyeeeee”. Once he’d finished biting, the first man then turned away and sat up straight again, a satisfied grin hovering over his snowy beard. And for a moment things returned to normal; and I wondered if I hadn’t dreamt the vision amongst the midday haze. But then the first man turned and bit again, with the same result – “aaaaayyyyeeeee” – followed by the same almost-wolfish smile.

As the slow motion assault took place, the third man added to the strangeness of the scene by totally ignoring his companions. He didn’t jump; he didn’t flinch. He just kept staring towards the bay. Watching as the same gusts that tugged at his jacket made their way out onto the Atlantic; teasing first ripples and then whitecaps from the silver-green sea.

With one of the three men presumably senile, another potentially mad and the third busy being bitten, I was rapidly letting go of the idea of asking them for directions. Not to mention the fact that I wasn’t so keen on being bitten myself. So it was a relief when the door to the restaurant swung open, releasing the sounds of African reggae, and the promise of lunch and directions.

I put my pack on my shoulders; lifted up my over-weight and awkward bag of surfboards; and set off across the square.

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