Monday 16 March 2015

Turn your lights down low, I need to see your liver

Once again to the north
I did not expect today to be as difficult to cope with as the last time I was in hospital to have a FibroScan and it wasn’t.
All sorts of tests needs to be done to check on health of the liver, from liver function tests that are derived from blood tests, through the FibroScan to check for liver fibrosis and today, it was the turn of an ultrasound scan of my liver to check for scarring on the liver.
The instructions for today were not to have had any meals for at least 6 hours before the scans, however, because the appointment was in the morning, it meant I was not suffering as much as when I had to do with meals for 2 hours, but the appointment was for the early afternoon.
The pickup talk
After attending one of the many almost pointless talk shop telephone conferences, a forum for the deluge of conversation with the aim of achieving something much longer than if everyone just instinctively and assiduously got on with what they need to do, I got dressed and called UberXL.
The driver arrived and whilst his name looked Turkish, he revealed that he was from Eritrea and there begun a discussion about power crazy leaders whose penchant for war over peace had led to the unnecessary demise of Africans fleeing conflict.
Then, I told him where I was from and where I had lived. When I mentioned the Netherlands, he expressed reservations about how safe Holland was for children because of the Red Light District and the coffee shops.
What we never talk about
First, I gave him some insight into Dutch thinking, the realisation that we are prone to vices and whether legal or not, people will indulge in their needs for sex and drugs, they will also pay for such if they need to. In Holland, the Dutch have provided a ‘safe’ and regulated framework within which prostitution can be practiced and drugs procured legally. He got that.
On the matter of children’s safety, I tried to make a difference between instruction and education, stressing that children need more involved parental education on the realities of life so that children can end up making wise choices.
For instance, I said, if my parents had discussed sex with me and clearly indicated that if I was touched in certain parts of my anatomy, it was wrong and I should come and tell them, it is unlikely I would have silently suffered any child sexual abuse. There are more things effective parent communication on the issues of life and experience that could have been discussed and saved the child the misery of bad choices and worse.
Our different experiences
Parents again sometimes fail to realise that the cultural environment in which they were reared as children and grew up in could be so radically different from that of their wards. Failing to adapt and reconcile might well leave the kids in a somewhat schizophrenic world of home life that has no semblance to street life; their encounters in school, with friends or in social settings. It ends up a disservice to the child and could be damaging in the long-term.
It is no appeal to abandon our traditions, but we cannot recreate little Nigerias, little Eritreas, or little Pakistans abroad and expect them to pass for the new realities of our nostalgic feelings for home than we can pass on to our children. Where we live moves on and where we left has also moved on, we are then caught with fossilised expressions of things that no more exist.
My UberXL driver could begin to see my point, we all reach back to our experiences back home in our childhood and castigate the realities we now exist in because we have refused to integrate at first and then aim to claim cultural superiority of our host cultures, thereby depriving our children of the essential education they need to thrive better than we ever have done here.
Our conversation ended as we drew up to the hospital, each of us having been challenged of the need to take a more liberal view of where we now belong.
The deceptions of receptions
At the main reception, I asked for directions to the X-Ray department, and much as there are many signs to the various departments in the hospital, it is a labyrinthine maze of corridors that taking directions beyond the third left or right turn is bound to get you lost in the morgue.
I found the section reading the signs and submitted my appointment notice to the section receptionist whose fast-talking demeanour completely threw me that I did not get to answer all her questions of name, date of birth and home address. I faltered giving my home address, it was not comfortable.
Then she made a mistake of ticking off the wrong name on the appointments list before properly searching for my appointment and ticking that off.
People like me
I was asked to sit and wait to be called. Most of the seats about 7 abreast per row were in theatre-like formation some 6 rows deep and then the wall to both the right and the front had one long row of seats facing us.
Many of the people occupied the seats in the theatre-like area apart from one middle-aged African woman, from what I could make of her features who sat alone to the right finding spiritual solace in the pages of her bible. Some others had the company of friends or relations as I made to sit amongst the crowd.
Just as I tucked into my bag to retrieve my tablet to make notes of my observations so far, a nurse called out my name. I arrived some 15 minutes before my appointment and was being seen to ahead of schedule.
Quite like yoga
We walked another labyrinth of corridors to the ultrasound equipment room where another nurse was busy on a computer to the foot of the bed. The ultrasound machine was against the wall to the left with the bed between us.
I was asked to take off my coats, pull up my shirt and lie on my back facing up for observation. The nurse then said she had to dim the lights in the room before commencing the ultrasound scans. I quipped in the words of a Bob Marley song, “Turn the lights down low,” to which she said, that was as far as the excitement will get. I remonstrated that she was a spoilsport and we all laughed.
She applied some gel to my stomach having warned me that is was warm, a stark contrast to the gel applied to my sides for the FibroScan that was cold enough to send me into hypothermic shock.
The probe was pressed against my skin and she started taking shots of my liver, from the front, from the right side, from the back and then slightly to the left. I asked if it was kicking, it brought a chuckle to all of us as she answered, it was.
In all this, I was instructed to breathe in, hold my breath, breathe normally and push out my stomach and this went on for almost 15 minutes. I could well have been in yoga classes for all those breathing exercises.
A short story
When we finished, a good deal of gel had smeared my shirt, but it washes off easily, I was told. There was time for an anecdote or short story related to pulling out a yellow plug at the end of the day. It was a short film starring Omar Sharif as a taxi driver taking a passenger to a cosmetic surgery hospital.
They passed by another major hospital that had been closed due to unfortunate circumstances, the case of unexplained deaths that damaged the reputation of a once renowned establishment. People in intensive care were dying overnight and some night doctors were about to be charged, being suspected of murder.
Eventually, they installed video cameras in the intensive care wards and it transpired that at 1:00AM the cleaning lady when into the room with her vacuum cleaner and simply pulled the plug of the life support machine to gain a socket to plug in her vacuum cleaner. The horror!
Hospitals now have tamper-proof plugs for critical equipment or red notices posted that such equipment should never be disconnected.
I left in high spirits after being told again that my liver looks fine, but I will get the full detail from my consultant when we meet at the end of next month. I was home just before noon.

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