Tuesday, November 27, 2007

E quindi uscimmo a reverder le stelle

Rather than bitch about how I have had too much going on to write stuff, I am going to start. And Sarah has suggested I write about something other than her, so I start this with the above quotation from Dante, via one of the great left-wing leaders of this country, originally of the last line of the Inferno:

And thence we emerged, to see the stars again.

And as an explanation, I will point out that there has been a Federal election here, and our archaoeconservative Prime Minister John Howard is gone.

Not just gone, but electorally savaged.

Not just defeated, but defeated in a time of unparalleled economic prosperity, defeated when according to all he beleived in he should have triumphed, utterly gralloched at the polls to the extent that both he and his smirking deputy have lost their jobs and are currently scanning the relevant columns of the newspapers. Tai-otoshi'd into the grave and then that freshly turned grave danced upon by bearded stocky doctors wearing long red dresses.

And I shouldn't gloat. I know it's wrong, and self-indulgent, and selfish, and I know I shouldn't gloat, but I really really can't stop. Watching election night on Saturday was political dark chocolate, political guarana-if-guarana-actually-did-what-it-said-it-did. No, let's be honest, it's political heroin, ideological opium for your huddled masses, pure pulsing pleasure from the vein into the brain.

I am serious - this election has made a difference to things to me. I am profoundly energised. In the last week or so I have started a compost heap, ordered a rainwater tank, gone back to martial arts training. I eat summer fruit, barbecue lamb with rosemary on the verandah and read summer short stories. I have shed fat and gained muscle, and in the bedroom is joy, as those Anatrim adverts say.

I have been reading Australian poets - Robert Gray* and John Murray and Robert Drewe, I wrap my hands and bob and weave in the dusty boxing shed under the incandescent globe, I kick the bag and the shed rattles. I feel I will wake in the middle of the night, laughing.

See, I could go on for years about Howard and what how deeply things were wrong under him, but there's nothing as boring as someone else's domestic politics. So I'll try to pick one example, and explain things using that. And it's a difficult thing to get across, and it may not really get there.

Here goes. North and west of here the sea stretches pale and flat and shallow. The sea-floor slopes shallow beneath it, irukanji pulse in the warm water, dugongs drift like clouds where campfires burned fifty thousand years ago. Australian's relationship to the sea is deceptively complex, we came across it but it killed many of us, it isolates and threatens and preserves us. Waves of us struggled here, nights beneath the stars, people smugglers and illegal immigrants, First Fleet or Tampa, Botany Bay or Nauru.

How is this a metaphor for what happened to this country under Howard? There are close connections, fearful symmetrys, between our inner and outer environments, our "ideascape" and our "seascape", in the last eleven and a half years. What happened out at sea was what happened in our country, a sortof flattened out version of the hermetic doctrine, as above, so below.

In the last eleven and a half years of this government unknown numbers of shiploads of refugees either sank off our shores or struggled to some far-flung island and... vanished. They drowned or were imprisoned, our armed forces repelled them. They were returned to oppressive dictatorships, they were sent back to be treated how we would not treat a dog here. Shiploads full just... vanished.

And as much as and at the same time as and to the same extent as they vanished in the sea they disappeared without trace from our political environment, our ideascape, as completely and fatally as they would have sunk into our unforgiving, hard oceans.

Seriously, Howard's vision of Australia was one where we didn't talk about that kind of stuff. It was one where we all worked long hours paying off the mortgage, making something of yourself, decency and respect for your traditions, cricket and the Queen. Buckle down and get yourself some, but don't rock the boat because then bang, the job's gone just like that, big business knows best, Big Brother in the evenings and we've never ever had it so good.

As much as the sea covered these men and women and children and forgot them, we covered them and forgot them. We did this because - and this is a reason, not an excuse, because we have no excuse - we did do because under Howard, for all his talk of prouder and stronger, we were scared, scared all the time - scared of Asia. Scared of the future, scared of disease, scared of Islam and - ironically - scared of terror.

And last Saturday we showed we were better than that. Better than he hoped and better than he thought and better than him.

Anyway, this has come out all wrong. I sound like I'm hating a country I've never loved more in my life, and denigrating something of which I am fiercely, passionately proud. Anyway, off to put the final touches on the John Howard pinata and revel in the confusion of mine enemies (Conservative quote of the week: The election just showed they may like you, they may agree with what you are doing, they may respect you even if they don't vote for you).

Mmm. That sound in the background is another sacred cow falling from an ivory tower.

Thaks for listening,

*Seriously, listen to this from "A kangaroo":
That hungry face moves on grass the way and artist's pencil retouches and shades

Bastard gets it right, doesn't he? And then look at this, from "A poem of not more than forty lines, on the subject of nature":

I awake to rain blown against this one room, beneath the cliffs of forest, on a slope above the valley that has welled with night.

All evening the rain riddled the lamp's beam, that stood outside as if to brace the shack. What I hear now is only the aftermath, shed thickly by the branches and settling like fishing lines through the sea, many small weights sounding separately on the tin.

What do you say to that? Answer on one side of the page, please.

**Note - there's no friendly informal noun for a person of right wing beliefs, is there? Speculation as to why this is welcomed.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Abnormal service is being resumed...

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes. Vast amounts have gone on. As a precis -

Sarah has had steroid plus anaesthetic injections. They have had an almost miraculous effect. She is now sleeping through the night and is much more mobile mobile again. We are both deliriously happy with this.

She is being shuttled from neurologist to neurosurgeon and back. My own suspicion is that this is a neurosurgical "problem" but not one that is amenable to surgery, if you follow me. The good news is that if it gets worse, we know what to do. The bad is until it does, we don't. Currently it is about the same as last time I wrote.

And a lot of other stuff has happened. Our loathed Prime Minister has been swept away, and in a personal rejection unparalleled since the thirties, looks to have lost his seat in Parliament - i.e.: be personally unemployed. I have given up and decided that emergency medicine isn't something I can do any more, for a variety of reasons, and am considering my options. I have an interview today, my suit is in my car.

And things are so much better now than a month ago that it's hard to explain.

Back soon with writing,

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A chance to cure

First off, thanks to those people who have checked up over the last few days. It has been a bit frantic, only now settling down, but thanks.

First off, a friend of mine had a lovely looking child, first child, a boy. Wonderful mother, wonderful child - photos here.

Now - update. Sarah has been seeing specialists and getting various bits of news. About a fortnight ago we saw the neurosurgeon, Mr Broca. He feels we should wait on the surgery, as a proportion of these cases settle down spontaneously and also because it doesn't look like the kind of problem that would be easily fixable by surgery. I don't know that this is unambiguously good news.

It's difficult to explain how this felt. All the week lasting up to the consult I had been angry. Not snappy or short-tempered, not angry at anyone, not even angry in a way that I could articulate. I only knew I was angry because I could feel it - that calm, measured way of speaking, that change in posture and muscle tone, getting up every morning to punch and elbow and knee and kick the punching bag, half an hour before breakfast, again when I got home. Anger that was just under the surface of my consciousness, waiting for something to materialise, someone to stand forward so you could hit them. An intransitive anger, like that intransitive, objectless fear anxious people get.

The thing is, when Mr Broca said that Sarah wasn't going to have surgery I started crying. Seriously, in the waiting room, so I had to go outside, and Sarah followed me and comforted me. Her (with the medical problems) comforting me (without them). First time I've cried in public since - I don't know. Decades.

Anyway. No surgery yet. And I don't know if this is good or bad. In the end you go to a surgeon to ask one question - "Is this going to get better with your surgery?" - and at the moment we don't have a perfectly satisfactory diagnosis and we don't have a treatment and the problem has not gone away and Sarah gets occasional paraesthesia (that pins and needles feeling) on her forearm.

Mr Broca has referred us to a neurologist and that's next.

In the interim we went to the orthopod. The way it is told in medical school, orthopaedic surgeons are to medicine what drummers are to pop musicians and this guy was to more normal superfolk. It's a lot of hammer and chisel stuff, and geeks often look down on manual labourers. Ortho is intrinsically simpler than, say, renal medicine or neurosurgery. Most damning of all, orthopods tend to be good looking, as well as rich and good with their hands, and that can't be good.

But our guy was excellent. He was clear, and comprehensible, and sympathetic, and examined Sarah, and used words like "accelerating" and "disabling" and "severe", and the gist of it was Sarah's hip joint is bone on bone, and there are pits and cysts in the socket itself, and there are bony spikes growing where they shouldn't, one of which has fractured, and she has less than a quarter of the normal range of motion that she should have.

Try this - stand legs straight, feet together, holding onto something for support. Keeping your leg straight, lift it sideways - this is hip abduction.

Normal range of motion is about forty five degrees, more in trained people. Sarah has ten. He has signed her up for hip resurfacing.

By the by, I am not an orthopod, but from my reading, if you are looking to have hip replacement surgery, ask your doctor about hip resurfacing surgery. If you're suitable, it's a lot better operation. This guy has professional surfers and footballers who've had the surgery.

Anyway, Sarah has been off work for a week or so. The main thing that is worrying us at the moment is the pain, and tomorrow she goes in for joint injections - uberantiinflammatories and anaesthetics injected into the joints. And after that - and not immediately after that, because Medicare is not what it was - comes the surgery.

Anyway, today she managed to go off to a cat show. It's the last one of the year, so we loaded up the cats and she drove off in the early morning light. I am going to potter around and await her return.

I almost feel my next post should be about something other than my worries - maybe my patient with Gender Identity "Disorder" (not to be confused with the much more frightening Christian Identity Disorder - seriously, don't click on this if you are easily offended. Or if you can read. In fact, don't click at all). But it's all I've been thinking about lately. "He who loves gives hostages to fortune", as they said in "Swamp Thing - the Movie". Apparently Francis Bacon also said it, but I think I heard it first in Swamp Thing.

Thanks for listening,