Give me the strength!

And then the announcement. It came from nowhere. It shocked, and you took an involuntary intake of breath.


FullSizeRenderImagine the scene.  It has been a wearying time.  You left your hotel room at 11:00am on the final day of your much-needed holiday.  You spent a final few hours trying to enjoy the last dregs of the Mediterranean town you have inhabited for a week, but at the back of your mind a voice is chanting with increasing volume: “I just want to get back home …”

At 3:00pm you, your holiday rep, and your bags are thankfully reunited at the local airport for the 5:30pm flight.  The temperature outside is just below 30C.  The queues for the ham and cheese paninis and coffee are long, and the Mediterranean males are shouting and stomping  as they serve, while their resigned women sit quietly and take the money.  The airport lounge is overcrowded and there are not enough seats.  “I just want to get home,” you say to yourself.  “I just want to get home.”

And then the announcement.  It came from nowhere.

Continue reading “Give me the strength!”

Elephants in the Therapeutic Community

Sometimes, for the private practitioner, it can feel like there are more local therapists than clients.

38830The therapeutic community is trying hard to ignore two elephants sitting in its midst.  Their presence is discomforting.  In more considered moments we know they are there, but, broadly speaking, many of us hope they will go away.

The first elephant can best be described as ‘the glut’.  It used to be claimed that there were more therapists in the UK than members of the armed forces.  Whether it was ever true historically, it is almost certainly true now.  But sometimes, for the private practitioner, it can feel like there are more local therapists than clients. Continue reading “Elephants in the Therapeutic Community”

In Recovery

I cried not for the physical pain …

FullSizeRender(Augst 26, 2016)

I cried today; I cried today; I cried.
Not for the physical pain
Or the emotional scars
From weeks in bed,
Or the mental trauma of knowing
What the surgeons had done
(With my consent)
Or the daily prodding and measuring by routine hands,
Or the critical attempts to suck blood
From swollen limbs and terrified veins;
Not for the tubes, or stitches, or suppositories,
Or the heat and sweat,
Or leaking wounds,
Or the constant, proximate reminder of ill bodies,
Or the future cloud hanging nearby –
Its menace temporarily curtailed but not destroyed;
Nor for the breathless stumbles,
Or the endless lonely nights.


No, today I cried
From weariness.
I cried from weariness and waiting,
From wanting to feel whole again,
From needing to sit down without having to adjust my seat,
To walk without having to consciously move my legs,
To move quickly without gasping for breath,
To stand for a while without feeling faint.
I cried today; I cried today; I cried.

Free Trip For Well-Being

There were people in town – much more interesting to watch than day-time TV – and coffee shops, and tuna melts, and teacakes, and biscuits.

“Why don’t you get on the bus and go into town?” she suggested.510750075_eeee488cd6_z

“Brilliant idea!” I thought.

Two hours later I had printed off the timetable and was standing in a line of ‘seniors’ awaiting the arrival of the North Wootton 3.

I hadn’t been on a bus for years, partly because I hadn’t needed to, and partly because they were so small and, as I was so big (6’6″) it had become awkward and embarrassing.

So why, at the age of 63, was I waiting at a bus stop?  Quite simply I was going stir-fry crazy from being bored and confined.  I had recently had major heart surgery and had spent three weeks in hospital and four weeks at home.  I wasn’t fit enough to work, I was temporarily banned from driving until my body healed, and I could only manage to walk for up to 30 minutes at a time.  The superficial attraction of day-time TV soon waned.  With my wife at work, I was alone all day with no means of escape.  Continue reading “Free Trip For Well-Being”

It Wasn’t The Saw That Disturbed Me Most

They would open my rib cage. They would take bits of tubing from my leg and from behind my heart …

510750075_eeee488cd6_zIf you were told several times that they were going to cut you open and even saw through your sternum to get to your heart, I wonder what would disturb you most?

Ok.  I confess.  I’m terribly squeamish.  I shut my eyes during a lot of TV.  I avoid needles like the plague.  I don’t like people “doing medical things” to me, however necessary they are.

So, the worst case scenario for me was a consultant sitting beside me following a series of minor heart-attacks and an angiogram saying the fateful words: “I’m meeting with the surgeons at lunchtime today and I’m going to recommend you for a bypass.”  And here’s the laugh.  He added: “And because you are young and healthy (dear reader, I am 63 and have had five heart-attacks), they will all be fighting to do you.”  Continue reading “It Wasn’t The Saw That Disturbed Me Most”

Things I Learned While In Hospital

Trying to work out the names and roles of the many people who may briefly interact with you during your stay is like trying to master the full cast list of “War and Peace”.

27450950284_bb638e39fa_zDon’t get me wrong, I have many, many reasons to be grateful to the NHS.  It has saved my life on at least two occasions.  I wouldn’t be here writing this today if it wasn’t for the skill and care of paramedics, nurses, doctors, and surgeons.  However, having just spent 19 days in four hospital beds on four wards in two hospitals, I have had plenty of time to reflect as I gazed at the ceilings.  My random observations are listed below.

  • Spiders that crawl up the walls beside your bed in hospital appear at least twice as big as the spiders that crawl up your bedroom walls at home.  And there is also a clear correlation between your inability to move and the size of the spider.
  • The “call bells” are always there when you don’t need them, and always out of reach (usually on the floor) when you are in your greatest need.
  • The American military obviously first came up with the idea of using constant invasive sound and/or sleep deprivation as a means of torturing prisoners after a visit to a British Hospital where the use of quieter electronic notification means had not yet been considered.

Continue reading “Things I Learned While In Hospital”

Meeting Needle Phobia

Understand that the fear is genuine. Patients don’t wake up and say: “I know what I’ll do today. I’ll pretend to have a fear just to be awkward.” The look of terror isn’t good acting. In many cases, there may be sound reasons behind the fear relating to previous traumas.

“…the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Advice for all medical staff when confronted with a patient who has a needle phobia. (Written by a psychotherapist who has a deep-seated needle phobia.)510750075_eeee488cd6_z

  • Smile and look sympathetic. Don’t look annoyed or judgemental. Having a face that says, “You stupid fool! Why are you being so awkward and complicating my day!” doesn’t put the patient at ease or keep the retreating veins near the surface. Go on, show a bit of compassion for someone in genuine fear.
  • Understand that the fear is genuine. Patients don’t wake up and say: “I know what I’ll do today. I’ll pretend to have a fear just to be awkward.” The look of terror isn’t good acting. In many cases, there may be sound reasons behind the fear relating to previous traumas.
  • Make sure you don’t make things even worse. In some cases the phobia has been made stronger by numerous unhappy repeated experiences. Work to make sure that this occasion challenges the awful experience rather than reinforces it.  Continue reading “Meeting Needle Phobia”