Departure angst

Take off_240

 

Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed travelling.

Yet, as long as I can recall, I have always experienced  nervousness for a few days before my departure. When I was a child and even in my twenties, I used to feel positively nauseous during the last few hours before setting off. Nowadays, I still feel anxious a few days before leaving on a trip, but I no longer have that sensation of nausea.

The cause of my anxiety is probably a mixture of concern that all will go according to plan and excitement at the prospect of travelling and new experiences.

Whatever the reason for my pre-travel ‘neurosis’, the problem evaporates once I set off on my travels.

Am I alone in this needless worry before departure, or do others feel the same way?

I thought it was a bean

Is fear of the needle 

worse than fear of the mask?

Without them, we suffer

business care clean clinic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many of my adult patients remembered going to the dentist when they were children and having to be put asleep under a black face-mask. This memory instilled in them a life-long fear of visiting dentists.

The day after the 17th of March 1982, when I qualified as a dentist, I was legally allowed to administer general anaesthetics for dental procedures without an anaesthetist being present. General anaesthesia is hazardous enough but without the assistance of an anaesthetist, the risks of problems multiply. I could have accidentally killed a patient on my first day in practice. For the record, I have never ever administered general anaesthetics with or without an anaesthetist.

For a brief while, a few months in the 1990s, I worked in a practice that specialised in treating dental patients while they were under general anaesthesia. The anaesthetics were administered by a visiting hospital anaesthetist, who was assisted by a fully trained anaesthetics technician. The patients, when unconscious, were intubated to maintain their breathing and all the right things were done to ensure their safety. When the patients were ‘under’, I worked on their teeth, as quickly as I could because the anaesthetist wanted to keep the patients ‘under’ for as short a time as possible.

Children were given gaseous anaesthesia through a face mask. Once, I sniffed the gas briefly. It was terrible stuff. It felt as if a knife were shooting up my nose. Most children were, quite naturally, terrified at the prospect of anything that was happening in our clinic. Getting them to accept the black mask with its attached rubber tube was often difficult. The anaesthetist was a friendly man from the Middle East. He would say to the children things like:

“This smells of peppermint.”

The child might reply:

“I don’t like peppermint.”

The doctor would then say:

“I’ve got strawberry flavour.”

“I don’t like strawberry.”

“How about some lovely banana?”

And so, it went on.

One mother impressed me. She said to her child that if he allowed the mask to be put on by the count of three, he could have a treat at McDonalds later. She counted “one”, and the child refused. And, then “two”, but the child still resisted. Then, I wondered how different it would be when she got to “three.”

I was impressed when she said:

“Two and a quarter,” and then “Two and a third”, and so on without ever reaching “three”. Eventually, her child cooperated.

 

I must to admit that although we got a lot of work done on fully anaesthetised patients, I did not enjoy working under these conditions. However, I enjoyed my weekly encounters with the friendly anaesthetist, ‘Dr A’. He was extremely fond of fiery chillies, which he consumed during our lunch breaks. He was always seeking hotter chillies. This was probably because his taste-buds had become partially damaged by his excessive consumption of these almost corrosive chillies.

One lunchtime, Dr A and I were sitting in the staff room with a male anaesthetic technician from an agency. Wickedly, Dr A passed him a long, thin fresh green chilli, saying:

“Try this.”

The young man put the whole green chilli in his mouth and started chewing it. Soon, his face went bright red, and he rushed to the sink to fill a glass of water. When he recovered, he turned to Dr A, and said:

“I thought it was a bean.”

PS: Nowadays, general anaesthetics for dentistry cannot be administered anywhere in the UK except in a fully-equipped hospital.

Sabotaged

My late and much-loved mother was very protective of her two children. She saw dangers everywhere. We were not allowed to go near to electric wall sockets just in case we got an electric shock. Intelligent as she was, I have the feeling that she believed that electricity flowed out of the holes in the socket like water from a tap. 

 

During my childhood, my aunt and uncle used to smoke Benson and Hedges cigaretess that were supplied in nice small hinged metal boxes, which when empty were very useful for storing small objects. When one day I was given one of these boxes, empty, my mother confiscated it immediately. She was concerned that I might cut my fingers on the sharp edges of the box.

As for matches, much caution was needed here. Despite the fact that her grandfather had owned a factory that manufactured safety matches, even safety matches were deemed unsafe by my mother. Therefore, we were forbidden to handle boxes of  (even safety) matches just in case they should spontaneously ignite in our hands or packets. I am sure her intentions were well meant, but sometimes they went a bit too far. This excerpt from my book “Charlie Chaplin Waved to Me” (he did!) shows how her anxiety sabotaged what promised to be a wonderful hiking trip:

The four of us (aged 17) embarked on a second youth hostelling trip the following Easter. Once again, we took a train to South Wales, and made our way up to our first hostel, which was located at Capel y Ffin in the Black Mountains near to the English border. We spent the night there, and awoke to discover that snow had begun to fall.

 

I had been instructed that I had to telephone home every morning to ensure that my mother knew that I was still alive. I rang from the hostel’s public telephone and my mother answered. She had heard on the radio weather forecast that there was snow in Wales, and asked meabout it. When I said that it had begun falling where we were, she ordered that we return to London immediately. Believe me, this was not an order that could be discussed. My mother, anticipating that we would surely be lost like Scott of the Antarctic in an avalanche or in freezing snow drifts, had to have us back as soon as possible. I broke the news to my 3 friends, who were furious. For about an hour they kept offering me reasons that I should give my mother in order to try to change her mind about our premature return. Eventually, they gave up. We all knew that none of these would work. And, because, I imagine, they feared my mother, we set off back to London. I have never been allowed to forget this fiasco. Even Hugh’s mother, now in her eighties, often recalls her amazement when she learnt how my mother had successfully wrecked our trip.

 

Charlie Chaplin Waved to Me” is available by clicking: HERE

The boys from South London

mobile phone stolen

contacts imag-es vanish:

 modern  tragedy

 

phone

For several years I worked in a west London practice near Portobello Road . My patients came from families that had originated in many parts of the world. Almost all of them had lively characters. They were not your average quiet provincial types, who respect professionals – a bit too much in my opinion. They were unpredictable in their punctuality and behaviour. This made every one of my working days exciting, sometimes a bit too much so.

‘J’ was a frequent attender with many dental concerns. Although he made appointments, I could be sure that the appointment times were those that he was least likely to appear at the surgery. His timing was erratic to say the least.

When J arrived, he ignored the reception desk and would come straight into my surgery even if I was already treating a patient. If I was in the midst of treating someone, he would respect my asking him to wait until I was free. He would then hover around outside my surgery, and if the wait was too long for him he would disappear, only to reappear unannounced and unexpectedly a few days or weeks later.

One afternoon when I was free, J, who was not a nervous patient, ran into my surgery. He was too agitated to sit down in my dental chair. Instead, he leant against one of the walls of my small room.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“It’s bad, man.”

“Can you tell me about it? Do you want to talk?” I asked.

“My mobile ‘phone has been nicked.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“I know who took it.”

“Really,” I said, “then, can’t you get it back?”

“I don’t know, man. But, I know who nicked it, and I am going to get the boys from South London to put him six feet under.”

Having said those worrying words, he settled into my dental chair.

Magnetic moments

MRI 1

By nature, I am most apprehensive about having to undergo any medical intervention. Even having my hair cut at the barber gets me worried, not because I am concerned about the final hairstyle but because I fret about what might go wrong. Recently, I had to undergo an MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) scan for reasons that need not concern you, dear reader.

I first heard of magnetic resonance whilst studying biological chemistry as part of my physiology degree course at University College London. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is used to investigate the physical and chemical properties of molecules and is of particular usefulness to organic chemists. On the other hand, medical MRI scanning allows a non-invasive investigation of body parts (including soft tissues) without any dangers such as harmful radiation.

Many people who have experienced MRI scanning have told me how fearful an ordeal it is. Their main concern is having to lie still for a long period of time in a noisy, featureless, confined space in a narrow tube barely large enough to hold a body. When I learnt that I was going to have undergo an MRI scan, I was filled with anxiety. For someone like me, who dreads even haircuts and eye-tests, you can imagine that I was not looking forward to having my scan.

I arrived at the scan and felt like the peanut which stood on the railway track, whose heart was all a flutter (when ‘around the track the engine came… toot toot peanut butter’). 

Putting a brave face on it, I entered the scanning room through a reinforced metal door that looked like the entrance to an atomic bunker. I lay on a narrow bed, which turned out to be extremely comfortable. Before being given a set of headphones to protect my ears from the noise that would be produced during the scan, I was asked what music I would like to hear. I asked what was on offer. The choice was between Motown and classical. I opted for the latter.

The bed with me on it slid slowly into the circular tunnel in the centre of the Siemens ‘Magneton’. I continued entering it until only the crown of my head was outside it. When I looked up, all I could see was the grey funnel like rim of the entrance to the machine.

There was a sound like a fog horn, and then the sound of monotonous soporific classical piano music, rather tinny in tone. No decent composer would have had the gall to own up composing this pathetic attempt at ‘classical music’. Nevertheless, it was mildly distracting, and its lack of variety helped me to relax.

Then, the fun began. For reasons that the nurse could not explain the MRI machine produces a series of extraordinary noises, which must have been very loud because I could hear them quite clearly despite wearing the ear-protecting headphones. The first of these noises resembled someone hammering loudly at a building site. This was followed by bursts of sound (each lasting several minutes) that included ‘kerchunk, kerchunk, kerchunk,…’; ‘boop, boop, boop…’; ‘whooo, whooo, whooo,…’, ‘tak,tak, tak…’; and so on. All the time, the monotonous piano music droned on, barely competing with the miscellany of bursts of weird mechanical sounds coming from the magnets in whose womb I was confined. At several stages, the machine seemed to become over excited, not only emitting noises but also causing the bed on which I was lying to vibrate.

Far from hating the whole experience as I was sure that I would, I found it mildly entertaining. The 40 odd minutes of my scan shot by. Let me explain. First, I was extremely comfortable. Having to lie still on a comfortable bed was very restful and relaxing. It was far more comfortable than sitting for 40 minutes in an aeroplane or in some theatres. Secondly, the noises conjured up various images in my mind. During the vibrations described above, I felt as if I was on a reclining chair in Business Class on a long-distance flight. The odd combination of the repetitive classical music accompanied by the series of ever-changing mechanical noises being emitted by the scanner resembled the music of minimalist composers, notably the compositions Steve Reich. At times, I felt as if I was listening to a bad pianist giving a concert in a busy construction site. Many years ago, I attended a concert of Spanish Flamenco dancing. The endless racket produced by the dancers stamping their shoes on a hard floor was far less bearable than what I heard during my MRI.

At the end of the day, I realised that the horror stories that I had heard about MRI scans should possibly be discounted. I have written this to allay the fears of those who might one day need to undergo one of these investigations.