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Saturday, 22 May 2010

Whither the weather?

At last the sun is here and the weather has warmed up. Not only that, the met office promises us unbridled sun and heat for three months! Trouble is , I seem to recall they promised us the same for the past two years and look at all the rain we had.

It is funny how we Brits are so fascinated by the weather. We talk of gloomy winters, wet springs and hot Summers only to find that we can see all four seasons in one week. We complain that it is too hot, too cold, too windy or that the frost kills off the plants in our beloved garden ( another popular past-time that we love to talk about. Get three or four Brits in a room and you can guarantee the subject of the weather and its effect on the garden will rear its head).

I don't suppose we should complain though (although of course we will) that we currently have high temperatures and long, lazy days of sunshine. After all, it allowed me to get out and mow the lawns, spread the lawn fertilizer and water the lovely plants I purchased this morning from a plant sale at the school my wife teaches at - hopefully a well spent 35 pounds even though the tub I bought decided to fall over in my car and spread dry compost everywhere. I had to re-pot the pot but somehow the finished article does not look like the original!

The hanging basket is no proudly displayed outside the front door of the house, duly watered while the tub and the bedding plants are, after also being duly watered, sat in the shade so the sun does not burn the leaves.

Don't ask me what plants they are as I have no clue concerning the flora of our great land. My wife, being the daughter of a great gardener will no doubt enlighten me once she has had a look at the selection I bought.

Of course, the other great thing we do at the first sign of sunshine is baste ourselves all over in creams, oils and lotions and try to get our lilly-white skin looking healthy, brown and glowing. Usually we end up lobster-like after too much exposure to the burning orb in the sky or capitulate and head for the tanning salon to compete with Tango Man to see who can get the best shade of marmalade. I have never understood the people that frequent these salons; don't they realise how fake it actually looks and that orange does nothing for the complexion? It is incredible that young girls, in particular, go through this ritual only to look worse than if they nurtured their natural skin colour.

Oh well, I guess there is 'nowt so queer as folk' as the saying goes.

Anyway I'm off outside to soak up and few rays and hope the sun is set on 'mild lobster' otherwise I for see a few uncomfortable days ahead.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

999 and all that

Watching all these medical reality shows on TV makes me hanker for one of my careers. I spent almost twenty five years in various UK ambulance services, from paramedic all the way up to becoming one of the youngest chief ambulance officers in the UK. I must admit that, looking back, I really enjoyed my time 'on the road'. The trouble with advancing through the ranks is although the pay and benefits are better you tend to become embroiled in budgets and politics rather than patient care. Of course, it is not a fun job dealing with death, injury and illness but there were times of joy too, particularly when successfully saving a patients life or delivering a baby. I left around 1996 so it all seems such a long time ago.

In the early days we were all called 'ambulance drivers' by the public and now everyone is a paramedic. When I qualified it was a six week theory course followed by a month in hospital learning advanced techniques while now it is, quite properly, a degree-based qualification.

I can remember back in the mid 70's being regarded rather suspiciously by nursing staff who were sometimes quite jealous of the skills we could carry out compared to them. Times move on now though and paramedics are a very important part of the multi-disciplinary health care team.

From speaking to ex-colleagues still working within the ambulance service, and my own observations, it is quite clear that politics still play a huge part within the health care system. Sometimes I wistfully think back to those days when we could grab a cuppa and chat to the nurses or follow up a case with the A&E doctors. Still life moves on and nothing is forever,

I value my time helping people and hope that I contributed to the health and well-being of a few folk along the way. I have kept my first aid skills up so on the odd occasion I come across an accident I can still stop and help until the professionals arrive.

Our front line ambulance troops do a great job, as do the other emergency services, so they will always get my help and support.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Volcanic ash - again

OK, OK this is getting past a joke! This volcanic ash from the Eyjafjallajokull eruption is really causing travel chaos. Like a stealthy mugger it creeps up on you and hits you before you know it. I was due to travel to Copenhagen today and although the Edinburgh airport website said the airport was closed, it stated that my flight was scheduled. So off I trot to the airport to find all flights are cancelled!

This is the second occasion my travel has been disrupted by an eruption.The first was several weeks ago on returning from a business trip to Malta. Arriving into Heathrow was fine however all onward connections were cancelled which meant a night in London and the train back to Edinburgh followed by a bus to the airport to pick up my car. To add insult to injury my bags were lost for over a week.

Still, at least this time I only had the inconvenience of a thirty minute drive to and from Edinburgh airport.

Of course, during the day the ash has now changed direction (must be female) and headed off to bug someone else. I'm going to try and travel again on Wednesday to get the trip done so fingers crossed that I can get there on the second attempt.

Talking about Iceland, why are the words so difficult to pronounce? It's a beautiful place but a strange and beautiful language. Surnames are also interesting with everyone named after someones son or daughter, as in Magnusson or Bengisdottir. It is a good place to eat fish which seems to be the staple diet and the main industry of the island. The people are very friendly and amazingly good looking so breathing in volcano fumes and eating fish is obviously good for you.

By the way, did you know the longest word in the Icelandic language is Haestrettarmalaflutningsmaour? It apparently means 'supreme court barrister'.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Automated external defibrillators - shockingly obvious!

Coronary heart disease kills more people world wide than any other disease put together. There is a sub-set within that generic that is probably the world's most prominent medical emergency; sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Did you know that 400,000 people in the US, 700,000 people across Europe and an estimated 2 million people in China die from SCA every year? Truly a phenomenal amount of people. Sadly, the survival rate from SCA outside hospital is generally, at best, around 5%; look at it the other way around and that mean 95% of people suffering a SCA are dying. Even in hospital survival rate is no better than 15-20%.

The problem outside hospital in particular is due to the way we treat SCA. This is a life threatening condition for which the only effective therapy is defibrillation. However, traditionally the only place one would find a defibrillator is in the back of an ambulance. Now, given the fact that for every minute that passes without defibrillation survival falls by 7 to 10 percent one can clearly see that waiting ten minutes, at best, for an ambulance to arrive gives the SCA victim little chance of survival. Ambulance response times appear to be getting longer in some places due to a year-on-year increase in emergency calls coupled with less resources, traffic grid -lock in major cities contributing to their struggle to meet the needs of the population. Studies from around the globe have shown that by placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public place can increase survival by over 70%. AEDs are easy to use, safe and effective devices that can be operated by non-medical persons with the minimum of training. By getting to the SCA victim and defibrillating them within 2 to 3 minutes can make a big difference to survival.

In 2004, the department of health in the UK, in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation, funded a defibrillation in public places programme, placing AEDs in railway stations, the London Underground system and the major airports in England. A study of the first 200-odd rescues showed an increase in survival from around 5% to 25% - a five-fold increase.

It is well accepted that AEDs are the way forward in saving lives from SCA, however the number of these devices is still small compared with the overall problem of SCA. By placing further AEDs in public places, workplaces, sports facilities and the like we can save more lives and increase survival considerably. Many individuals and organisations around the world are championing this cause, however unless the government of the day in these countries are prepared to stand behind this cause then the survival rate related to SCA will increase only slowly.

Many governments have implemented long term plans; healthy eating, stop smoking programmes or fitness regimes, these however are a slow drip, drip of preventative measures that will take several years to take effect. Saving lives should be the number one priority for any government and only by placing more AEDs will we be able to achieve both short term and long term survival for SCA victims.

Shockingly obvious wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Happy birthday!

Today is a day of birthdays. Firstly, my sister celebrates today (I won't say how old she is of course!). It is also the fifth birthday of my grandson, Josh. My wife and I are lucky to have four gorgeous grandsons although sadly two of them, Cody & Robin, moved to the USA two years ago with my eldest son and his wife. We don't therefore get to see them that often but thanks to the modern technological marvels of Skype and web cams we get to chat to them, and my son, most weekends.



Josh's birthday party was a cacophony of noise and rumbustiousness as all his nursery friends arrived to celebrate. Although the weather wasn't that great we all had great fun in the park playing on the swings, roundabout and various other items of paraphernalia.



Back to the house then for the food, which I think ended up more on the floor than the kid's plates. Calm was restored when they all sat down to watch 'Toy Story 2.



Next month it is Cody's birthday so that means making sure I buy his card and post it off early so it arrives on time. Cody & Robin live in a very pleasant suburb of Milwaukee where the winters are freezing (the cold wind and snow blowing off Lake Michigan) and the summer is hot and sunny. They live in what is called a 'walking community' which is great as there are few cars around to pose a danger to the kids playing or walking to school and traffic is very light. This explodes the myth, and to some extent my experience, of all American households having at least fourteen cars on the driveway - I didn't think anyone walked in the US!



No doubt by the time Cody & Robin reach their teens they will be acting and speaking like Americans.

Birthdays always make me think how quickly time passes, especially when looking at ones kids and grandkids. Oh well, the march of time is unstoppable and it is true that the older one gets the quicker time seems to pass.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Cricket, Jolly Cricket!

Ah, the sound of leather on willow, sunny weekends, cricket teas and the applause of the hardy spectator. Thus is the game of cricket defined within this fair isle. As Sarah Bernhardt said "I do love cricket - it's so very English"



Being in my third season up here in a not so sunny Scotland, after a twenty-five year lay off, it is hard to equate those endearing words of lovely Sarah to this quintessentially quaint and historic game. Sure, the sound of leather on willow resounds throughout many a Scottish cricket ground (in my case its usually the stumps getting it rather than the bat) but sunny weekends are at a premium up north and I can tell you from personal experience that two shirts and a thick cricket sweater do not keep the raw north-east wind blowing off the sea at bay at all.



Given that everything related to English sport is anathema to our northern cousins, it really is strange that cricket is such a popular sport in these climes. Jaunty Scotsmen who would rather pour whiskey down the sink than support the 'Sassenachs', have even been heard to talk about the wonders of the English cricket team; unheard of praise in any other sport!



One thing I have discovered though is that sprinting quickly 22 yards between wickets is considerably harder at 57 than it was 25 years ago. No doubt the reason why we were soundly thumped by a team of 16 and 17 year olds last week, plus the fact that the aforementioned leather smacked me on the knee, foot and finger requiring a five hour wait in the local emergency department.

Starting Out

Well, I have often wondered what this blogging lark is all about. Exposing one's soul to the world? A form of self -aggrandisement? A fillip to the ego perhaps?

I enjoy writing so having experimented with Twitter and Facebook, as well as an initial blog that turned into my life history, I thought it was time to start again and see if I can get to grips with this technology - baring my soul to the world of fellow bloggers. Trouble is though, how far should one go to bare their soul, if such a thing exists, to the wider world? I guess everyone has problems but it's funny how one's individual problems always seem greater than anyone elses.

Reading this back makes me out to be a maudlin soul which is not my usual personality at all. I read somewhere that blogs, Twitter etc all lead to a tendency to expose every foible of ones life; as if the computer screen acts as a barrier to the wider world and lulls the writer into a false sense of security. Hmm, all these philosophical questions.

I will try and make my future blogs more exciting, fun and interesting!