Over My Dead Body

January 29, 2009

My daughter and I each took a deep breath yesterday evening and ventured into BODIES, the controversial exhibition which is currently showcasing in Dublin. Real human bodies are on display, all of which have been dissected to feature every organ in the body. The specimens have been preserved permanently by a process called ‘polymer preservation’ so that they will not decay. This exhibition is highly educational but it’s also raises something of an ethical dilemma.

bodiesThe origins of the bodies used in this exhibition continue to create controversy, prompting an allegation, denied by the exhibitors, that some of the bodies are those of executed Chinese prisoners.The exhibitors claim that all the people whose bodies are being exhibited, died of natural causes. The ethical dilemma raised here is the fact that the exhibitors are profiting from displaying the remains of individuals who have not consented to their remains being used in this manner.

A sign on entry to the exhibition states that “the specimens  have been treated with the dignity and respect they so richly deserve.” I’ve no problem admitting that I found the exhibition far more interesting than disturbing. Having once studied anatomy and physiology using bodies donated for research, I loved having another opportunity to look inside the body and marvel at it’s sophistication. Our bodies are amazing things really when you consider how they function without us even thinking about it. My daughter has just completed a college semester in the dissecting room and she felt the exhibits helped her to put her recent learning into context. One curtained off part of the exhibition contains foetal and embryonic specimens but visitors are given the option to skip this section due to the sensitive nature of it’s display. A sign outside states that “all specimens perished in utero from complications during pregnancy.” While sad to look at, my daughter and I marvelled at  the various stages of development in utero and we were able to relate what we saw to my own experiences of pregnancy loss. This is not for everyone but it does form a useful learning experience and if nothing else, it makes you stop and think about how precious life is.

We left the exhibition feeling that we’d witnessed something very special. Some might argue that this exhibition teaches that there is nothing wrong with exploiting the dead in order to make a profit, as long as it is in the name of science or education or art. I believe that it offers a unique insight into the wonders of the human body and allows access to sights and knowledge normally reserved only for medical professionals. By understanding how the body works, you are in a better position care for your own body and keep it healthy. Having said all that, I’m happy to keep my body to myself.

Another article on the exhibition can be found here in the Irish Times.

Matters of the Heart

January 27, 2009

If you’re into real-life medical documentaries, then Superdocs is for you. This new 3-part series features some of Northern Ireland’s leading surgeons and the dramatic stories of the patients in their care. The series follows the patients and their loved ones as they prepare themselves for their surgery, learning of their hopes and fears before their operations; witnessing the drama in the operating theatre; and meeting up with them after their operations to see how their lives have changed.

superdocsEarlier tonight, I watched the first programme in the series and was on the edge of my seat throughout. The focus was on cardiac surgery – Matters of the Heart – where viewers got an insight into the intricacies of a triple coronary artery bypass operation and also two further aortic valve replacement operations. It made for compelling viewing.

Next week’s programme – The Brain Doctors – will feature neurosurgery while the final programme – Quality of Life – follows the work of a plastic surgeon and a breast surgeon. Don’t miss it!

SUPERDOCS  Mondays  9pm  BBC 1  NI

Senior Moments

January 25, 2009


An elderly male resident at the nursing home said to a female resident in a wheelchair, “Betcha can’t guess how old I am.”

She replied, “I can if you take off all of your clothes.”

So he did as she asked and she instructed him to turn around slowly.

Then she said, “You’re 95.”

“That’s amazing!!” he exclaimed.  “How could you tell?”

“You told me at breakfast.”

Stay Away From Hospitals!

January 24, 2009


Do you worry about going into hospital? You should. These sentences were dictated by doctors and typed by medical secretaries in the NHS Greater Glasgow area. As far as I can ascertain, they are for real.

1. The patient has no previous history of suicides.

2. Patient has left her white blood cells at another hospital.

3.  Patient’s medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

4. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot  in bed last night.

5. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

6. On the  second day the knee was better and on the third day it disappeared.

7. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

8. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in  1993.

9.  Discharge status:- Alive, but without my permission.

10.  Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert, but forgetful.

11.  Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for  lunch.

12. She is numb from her toes down.

13. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

14. The skin was moist and dry.

15.  Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

16.  Patient was alert and unresponsive.

17. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

18. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life until she got a divorce.

19. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

20. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

21. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

22. Skin: somewhat pale, but present.

23. The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

24. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

25. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

26. When she fainted, her eyes rolled around the room.

27. The patient was in his usual state of  good health until his aeroplane ran out of fuel and crashed.

28. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant.

29. She slipped on the ice and apparently her legs went in separate directions  in early December.

30. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Smith, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.

About Me

January 22, 2009

My blogging friend, Paddy Bloggit wants to know more about me.  I’ve been challenged along with Grannymar and Baino (his faithful trio) to do this meme so here goes…

  • What is your occupation? At the moment, I’m busy keeping the show on the road for family and elderly parents. I’ve had a long ‘career’ in medicine (on the receiving end) but once upon a time I worked in medical research.
  • What colour are your socks right now? Black.
  • What are you listening to right now? My 9-month old cat, Noodle playing with a twig on the kitchen floor.
  • Can you drive a stick shift? That sounds positively naughty but having checked it out, the answer is YES.  No other choice.
  • Last person you spoke to on the phone? My hubby, who was on a ‘call-out’ this morning. He and my son, are volunteers with the local Coast Guard team and today they were on a search and rescue mission to look for a missing person. The casualty was eventually found severely injured, but alive.
  • Do you like the person who you stole this quiz from / tagged you? Yes, Paddy is someone I’d love to meet. Hopefully, some day we will.
  • How old are you today? 51 going on 21.  Happy Birthday for tomorrow, Paddy!
  • Favourite drink? Italian wine. I’m also partial to a pint (or two) of the black stuff when on holiday.
  • Favourite sport to watch? Tennis and when I’m not watching tennis, rugby.  I don’t like football, golf or cricket.
  • Pets? Two cats. Doodle (age 10) and Noodle (who drives Doodle mad!).
  • Favourite food? Fresh crabmeat with salad and brown bread/chips.
  • What was the last movie you watched? Last movie I saw in the cinema was Mamma Mia. I’m not a big movie fan.  I prefer real life documentaries.
  • What’s your favourite day of the week? Don’t have one really. I’ve had to learn to expect the unexpected with my health and so any day that goes as planned, is a bonus.
  • How do you vent anger? I usually talk it out of my system. I don’t bottle up feelings and I’m known for speaking my mind.
  • What was your favourite toy as a child? I never had a teddy 😦   I think most of my toys were shared as I had a twin brother.
  • What is your favourite season? I love the colours of autumn.  Autumn also means shorter days and a great excuse to meet friends in the local pub for drinks in front of an open fire.
  • Hugs or kisses? Definitely hugs.
  • Cherries or Blueberries? Don’t much like either. Raspberries are my favourite berry.
  • Do you want your friends to do this quiz? Only if they’d like to.  I’m looking forward to reading Grannymar and Baino’s answers.
  • Who is the most likely to respond? I’m sure they both will.
  • Living arrangements? I’ve been living with my present husband 😉 for 30+ years and our two adult children come and go.
  • When was the last time you cried? I cry regularly.  Ever since I became a mother, the tears seem to flow easily.  It doesn’t bother me as I find crying very therapeutic and generally feel better for it.
  • What is on the floor of your closet? Now that would be telling!  I don’t want to let the secret out of the closet  😉
  • Who is the friend you have had the longest that you hope takes this quiz? Doesn’t really apply here.
  • What did you do last NIGHT? Need you ask?  I read blogs all evening and then went to bed icy cold.
  • Favourite smells? A cooked breakfast when someone else cooks it.  Otherwise fresh coffee or a turf fire.
  • What inspires you? Stories about other people’s lives and especially those who have faced great adversity.
  • What are you afraid of? Spiders and snakes.
  • Favourite dog breed? Not fussy. Dogs make me wheeze but I still love them.
  • How many states have you lived in? I’ve never lived anywhere except Ireland. If I had a choice, I would love to live in New Zealand.
  • Favourite holiday? Without any hesitation – a stay in Connemara, walking the beaches and enjoying loads of pub craic.

How To Charge

January 22, 2009


An optician was instructing a new employee on how to charge a customer for new glasses:

“As you are fitting the glasses, if they ask how much they cost, you say €200

“If their eyes don’t flutter, say… For the frames. The lenses will be €50

“If their eyes still don’t flutter, you add…Each!

Start Spreading The News

January 21, 2009

The nominations for the Irish Blog Awards 2009 are out!

The Biopsy Report has been nominated in the Best Specialist Blog category (sponsored by iQ Content).

davymacI’m honoured to have been nominated – thank you! The rest is up to the judges.

Check out the full list of 2009 Irish Blog Awards Nominations. It’s a brilliant opportunity to explore new blogs.

Big thanks to Damien for all the hard work in compiling this list and to davymac for his excellent logo.

Good luck everyone!

See you on 21 Feb in New York Cork…

Where There’s Hope

January 20, 2009


Daffodils are one of the icons of Spring. Sitting at my mother’s bedside in the nursing home where she lay motionless, I gently whispered in her ear yesterday that Spring is on it’s way. I told her about the first daffodils of the year beginning to peep their heads above the freezing ground. On hearing this news, my mother opened her eyes and rewarded me with a huge smile.

This conversation brought me back to a time when I was in a little hospital room in the UK, recovering from major surgery. My husband had returned to Ireland to sort out a business problem leaving me to fend for myself for a couple of days. Being in hospital was bad enough but being far away from home meant that I had no visitors. My beacon of hope during that time, was a huge bunch of daffodils in the corner of my room. They had been given to me by a doctor from a nearby hospital whom I’d never met but who I knew to be an old school friend of my husband. When he heard news of my operation, he picked the daffodils for me from his garden to brighten up my stay in hospital. I’ll never forget this kind gesture. Those flowers represented a world with which I was familiar, unlike the lonely surroundings in which I found myself at that time.

My mother has always loved garden flowers and although now severely disabled, she welcomes any opportunity to be taken outside in her wheelchair. We made a pact yesterday to mount an expedition outdoors as soon as the first flowers of Spring appear.

Where there’s life, there’s hope and where’s there’s hope, there’s life.

Weathering The Storm

January 18, 2009


Been a bit off form the last few days with blinding headaches accompanied by a major sense of humour failure.  I took to my bed on Friday evening, battening down the hatches until the worst was over.  While the storms raged outside yesterday, I had my own lightening bolts going through my head.  Today, the forecast is brighter bringing with it a welcome return of my sense of humour. You have been warned…

Two kids lined up for surgery are lying on trolleys outside the operating theatre.

The first kid leans over and asks, “What are you in here for?”

The second kid says, “I’m here to get my tonsils out and I’m very nervous.”

The first kid tries to reassure the other and says, “Oh! don’t worry. It’s very simple. I had that done when I was four. They put you to sleep, and when you wake up they give you lots of jelly and ice cream.”

The second kid, feeling a little better, then asks, “What are you here for?”

The first kid says, “A circumcision.”

The second kid says, “Whoa! I had that done when I was born. I couldn’t walk for a year!”

Missing In Action

January 15, 2009


Have you noticed that our Minister for Health, Mary Harney has been ominously quiet of late? What’s going on at the Department of Health? Leadership has been notably absent despite the spiralling chaos in our health service.

This is what Senator Fitzgerald, Fine Gael Senate Leader and Spokesperson on Health, has to say about Harney’s silence…

Silence from Health Minister as co-location big idea looks increasingly shaky

“In 2005 Minister Mary Harney announced her co-location big idea claiming it would deliver 1,000 extra beds ‘in the fastest and most cost-effective way in the next five years.’ Almost four years later, not a single brick has been laid and not a single bed opened.”

“Recent media reports revealed that six Beacon head office staff have been let go and senior management have agreed to pay reviews. Considering this group has won three of the tenders for co-located hospitals, it’s financial condition is pivotal to the project. Together with the lack of bank credit for developers, the whole project has to look increasingly shaky. The HSE’s own service plan for 2009 notes that projects will only be progressed to completion phase ‘subject to satisfactory banking arrangements’. The current crisis in banking does not bode well for the co-location project yet the Minister has had nothing to say on the subject.”

“Whilst co-location remains uncertain the reality for patients is that 500 existing public beds are currently closed and the Minister has rubberstamped a HSE plan to remove 600 more. The Minister is actively reducing capacity, not increasing it and the HSE are seeking a further €900 million in cutbacks for 2009. The result is her big idea is terrible news for patients meaning less isolation facilities to stop the spread of MRSA, more overcrowding in A&E, more cancelled operations and longer waiting lists.”

“The crisis in the health service continues unabated in the first two weeks of 2009 but the Minister for Health is missing in action. Many of the ongoing problems began long before the present financial crisis but while responsibility rests with this Government, leadership is absent. In December, the Minister signed off on the closure of 600 more acute beds and the slashing of €900 million from the health budget before riding off into the sunset. Instead she should be telling us how she intends to deliver long-promised reform, beginning with tackling waste and inefficiency in the back room rather than constantly hitting the front line and hurting patients.”

Well-said! Senator Fitzgerald. My thoughts exactly.

Source: Fine Gael website – Latest News 12/13 Jan ’09

UPDATE: Sara Burke, journalist and health policy analyst, may be able to solve the Mystery of the Missing Minister for us. She believes that there is currently a stand-off going on between the HSE and the Minister. You can read Sara’s excellent analysis here.

Source:  Irish Times online 29/12/08.