21 July 2008

Hospital Security

We all know them - the primates in security uniforms posted at the entrances of our public hospitals. Very vigilant-looking characters indeed! Somewhere between REM & GCS 3, slumped over an empty box of KFC or wrapped up in a blanket on a crate outside the security booth. Their employment is to prevent theft and protect the patients & hospital employees. Aah, one feels total reassurance at the mere sight of them!

I cast my mind back to psychology lectures in first year. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. This humanistic psychologist was concerned with the psychological growth and maturity of people. According to him, human action is prompted by needs which may be arranged in a hierarchy. As the more basic needs are satisfied, higher levels of needs which are characteristic of increased degrees of mental health, emerge.

Climbing up my Jacob's Ladder towards self-actualisation, I can count on my "favourite" consultant to almost certainly thwart any attempt to rise above level 4. But that is another story to be awarded an exclusive in a future blog.

An amoeba could fulfil level 1 - the most basic of needs. Sad to think that many South Africans cannot even fulfil this level. Does this render the underprivileged subprotozoan? Although there may not always be enough food to eat or a cholera-free water supply, our population growth proudly announces we are managing to outbreed AIDS. Hence sex (often forceful) does not seem to be in short supply. Thank goodness electricity supply doesn't fall into this category! Although when I first heard load-shedding was to be instituted, I suspected a link with excretion. I was incorrect. However, I have subsequently wanted to "shed my load" on many occasions regarding the issue.

My concerns are with level 2 : Security. Being so low down in the hierarchy, I assume it to be rather fundamental. Well, by the astute selection of security guards we are provided with at our hospitals, I suspect management tends to differ with my assumption. We have had two moderately serious incidents (by SA standards - perhaps regarded as very serious internationally) over the past few months.

The first incident saw an intern stabbed on the premises. Apparently the perpetrator fancied her handbag and decided to do some affirmative shopping, sinking a screwdriver into her back as a heart-felt thank you. Luckily her scapula stopped the tool short of causing injury to a few important structures known to be situated in the human thorax. The fact that she returned to work the very next day is testimony enough to the state of criminal desensitisation we live in.

More recently, gunshots rang out one fine evening in casualties. A patient was being examined for non-fatal peripheral GSW's, when four gangsters burst into his cubicle behind a shower of bullets to finish the job. The intern examining the patient at the time, was hit. Miraculously he suffered only a soft-tissue injury whilst witnessing a murder before his very eyes. He returned to work two days later. Once again - criminally desensitised.

The newspaper article said the criminals "overpowered the security guards before speeding off in a white vehicle". I seriously doubt security made any attempt at stopping the gangsters, that's if they noticed anything at all.

So who's next? Maybe we should be donning bulletproof vests in lieu of white jackets because hospital security is a farce. But then again, this passive approach is in keeping with national policy. In the wise words of our honourable Minister of Safety & Security, Charles Nqakula :

"They [whites] can continue to whinge [about crime] until they are blue in the face, they can continue to be as negative as they want to, or they can simply leave this country."
As for Maslow, it seems according to his theories, South Africans' development towards morality and lack of prejudice will remain stifled by a lack of safety.

17 July 2008

This is me

Okay, so I have a rancid personality. Nothing I'm particularly proud of, but that is me! Problem is, it is a self-perpetuating strategy that works. It isn't anything I work on consciously, but is rather a manifestation of mankind's innate "will to survive", perhaps cracked and chipped by the very complex country I live in.

I remember an English teacher of mine saying, "all that keeps humans clinging to life, is hope". He was a douchebag, but he was right. So in a country riddled with crime, poverty, ill-health (thanks for the gap in the market), idiocy & hypocrisy, there is not much hope for her citizens - well, at least not for those capable of logical thought and extrapolation.

Hope : I'm still alive... therefore I must still have it? Well, the twisted sisters of hope are pessimism & cynicism. 'Tis me also! Predict a bad outcome and there are only two possible permutations. You are not surprised (and thus not disappointed - you are entitled to proudly declare "I knew it!") or you are pleasantly surprised. Win-win situation, not so? I can really recommend it. Occasionally, I am pleasantly surprised!

It came to pass that I have started (under much duress mind you) blogging. Well done, my friends, you have managed to bring the mountain to Mohamed - thanks for creating the blogspot for me! And thanks for blowing my cover by the way. Believe it or not, I'm not being sarcastic for a change. I have found some brilliant blogs to which I have now subscribed. At first, after reading these blogs, I considered deleting my blogspot. What massive shoes to fill - they're really good! But by your persistence, I can only surmise you find my rantings amusing and "blog-worthy"...


I will continue to sharpen my tongue and dip my fingers in bile as part of my morning grooming ritual - as combing my (rapidly dwindling) hair no longer occupies much of my time, and I will humour you with more blog instalments.

Caveat Emptor :

  1. If you're looking to read about "shiny, happy people" you have come to the wrong place. Click on the thumbs down button & continue Stumbling.
  2. Despite appearances, I love my job. I feel blessed having learnt the skill to help those in desperate need, being able to reassure & calm those who are faced with their own mortality.
  3. Woe betide those (government, administration or health professionals & auxilliaries) who have a hand in the rendering of inferior service, for you are bound for mention here.
  4. I do not suffer fools. Idiots may feature here - some may be patients too. But if intentions are good, all is forgiven & I ask for forgiveness in return. :)
  5. This blog should be viewed as the therapeutic musings of an ever so slightly frustrated state-employed doctor trying to eke out a living in South Africa. As in life, I may come across as serious, but I am mostly taking the mickey out of a rotten situation and am chuckling inside.

12 July 2008

John Coffey

The antithesis, or nemesis if you will, of John Coffey from the Green Mile is a surgeon I know. These two mutually correlated opposites ensure that balance is maintained in the cosmos.

1. Yin-Yang are Mutually Rooted
  • Both these characters hail from Central Africa.
  • Both dabble in healthcare.
  • Both are immigrants. One left to the West (which ultimately benefits) whereas the other left for the South (oh woe is me!). Why did he not go East so as to maintain the balance? Probably because no other Health Professional Council would not have him! He is our country's solution to the brain-drain. I suppose they figure, if you don't have a brain, you can't be "drained".
  • Physical attributes : these two are carbon copies - no pun intended, although JC South is of shorter stature.
  • Both talk with funny accents!
2. Yin-Yang are Opposing
  • JC West is softly-spoken, JC South bellows at all theatre staff in an arrogant manner.
  • JC West performs healing miracles whereas JC South is a finely-tuned assassin.
  • JC West is afraid of the dark. JC South does his best work at night when out of sight of consultants & the anaesthetists have no choice but to fall prey to his foul deeds. He is afraid of nothing & has no regrets or conscience.
  • JC West is honest - JC South constantly lies to save face.
  • JC West could probably put up a drip.
3. Yin-Yang Mutually Transform
  • When JC West expels the flies of evil, they traverse across the Greenwich Meridian & fly directly into JC South's mouth, nostrils & ears which are all connected to a central vacuum chamber. (see brain-drain)
  • JC West is a convicted criminal whose innocence is realised. JC South is a 007 whose criminal nature is gradually being unearthed. When he will land behind bars, though, is a mystery since the powers that be seem to turn a blind eye.
4. Yin-Yang Mutually Wax and Wane
  • JC West fluxes between small & large miracles e.g. curing UTI's to brain tumours. JC South ranges from bad to worse e.g. 2 to 4.5 hour appendisectomies.

Mrs Ples was actually a Hobbit

I am a firm believer in evolution. How could I not be when there are real, live, walking & talking examples tormenting every moment of my working day? Eureka moment! I work in a museum where the exhibits are capable of re-animation.

Yes the missing links do have a hyoid bone and are thus able to vocalise - albeit in simple, clumsily constructed sentences. They do occasionally adopt an erect stance (when not seated - which is most of the time). Ambulation is laboured and appears to be somewhat painful, but may gather speed under certain rare circumstances.

As cruel fate would have it, one of my regular helpers is a direct descendant of Mrs Ples. I have come to learn that there is a fine line between helping & hindering. Sr Ples (RN) is virtually a genetic duplicate of her predecessor : Mrs Ples in her purest form. In fact, this limb of hominids (ouch, it hurts to admit kinship!) remains uninfluenced by hybrid vigour or evolutionary changes. Since more intelligent branches have been unable to bring themselves to integrate, I suspect an overwhelming amount of inbreeding and as a result, we have Sr Ples (Mrs Ples to the nth power) hindering me today.

What palaeontologists may not know by studying their artefacts, but I am privy to with my living example, is that Mrs Ples, by intuitive observational deduction, was a Hobbit. A Hobbit, yes, a Hobbit!

"They enjoy at least seven meals a day, not including snacks, when they can get them - breakfast, (arguably) second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, tea, dinner and later, supper."
Since language is limited, all these meals are clustered together under one guise as "tea". When situations get tough - when a patient starts bleeding, or when the doctors start shouting orders, it coincides with Sr Ples having a sudden desire for a "snack". Before one gets angry, one is quickly reminded that Sr Ples suffers from Diabetes & is in urgent need of a "snack" lest her blood-sugar levels drop below 20mmol/l.

Post-script :
1. What Tolkien didn't know is, there are even more meals. Another meal (main, not snack) is consumed over an hour at around 3am. This meal is strangely referred to as "lunch".
2. The nurses tearoom will be hereafter be referred to as "Hobbiton"
3. Sr Ples is rotund.
4. Sr Ples has painful joints.
5. Sr Ples sleeps a lot.
6. Sr Ples believes that her Diabetes improves with snacks, whereas studies have shown weightloss to be beneficial. Brilliant example of a positive feedback loop.