Monday, September 28, 2009

Life happens when you least expect it

Or so the saying goes...

Two weeks ago my mum had a stroke. My mum is a healthy 47 year old, non-smoker, non-drinker, health-food junkie, exercise-doer. As far as risk factors are concerned she has none. But her's wasn't a typical stroke - it was caused by a spontaneous internal carotid artery dissection, which affected the right side of her brain and manifested in speech disturbances and left upper body weakness. Just like that, so unannounced. One minute we were making plans for what to do on the weekend; come the weekend, we found ourselves confused and bewildered around a bed in the stroke unit of our local hospital. I've been meaning to blog for a while but I've just been so damn busy between hospital visits; my petty attempts to keep up with uni work; contribute what I can towards housework; answer the bloody phone with people (mostly family and friends from overseas) wanting to know what happened; etc, etc. And amongst all the kerfuffle, incredulously, my friends are demanding to know why I can't go out for dinner, attend the Med Ball, come to their farewell party, watch a movie, grab a coffee, reply to their text messages, phone calls, emails, blah, blah.. which makes me think, have I been all-consumed by this and wallowing too much in self-pity? Genuine empathy is a really hard thing to feel because, quite simply, unless you're there and it's happened to you - you don't know what it's like. And so I ask myself with this newly-found insight: is it reasonable to even expect it? People have such short attention spans anyway (either that or they weren't listening to you in the first place) - why even bother trying to explain things when they're going to miss the point anyway. Anyway, enough pulling my hair out.

From an educational point of view, this experience has been a combination of terribly interesting and terribly frightening. When the neurologist told my parents and I the diagnosis, my parents responded as though she'd announced "oh it's just a cold" whereas I gasped in horror. Morbid as this is, sometimes I think, "OmG just die already - get it over and done with and that way I don't have to spend the rest of my life worrying about all the terrible things that can happen to you!!". Clearly I'm a little tired and world-weary. But alas, life goes on. And, perhaps, that's the point that I'm missing, with everyone's reactions around me? Bah humbug!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Today, I spent the morning on prac at the morgue. I went in with no feelings of apprehension or fear, but came out somewhat irked and paranoid. It wasn't the sights or the stench or that sense of death in the air; it was the case report at the end of each dissection table that told the story of how each body came to be. Suicide was the order of the day today - a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. Not pretty. Not pretty at all. I'm hazarding a guess in saying this, but I think if anyone was half-heartedly contemplating suicide; a trip to the morgue would potentially sway them otherwise (probably not the case for someone who'd already made up their mind though). From an educational point of view: a totally surreal and priceless way to learn anatomy. I stayed behind when my classmates left, to watch the autopsy of a neonate - the organs were tiny but eerily pristine and perfect. Kind of like microanatomy. Again though, its story was so sad - I wish I could share it with you. Such a fine line between life and death - I never realised how fine it was until today. Two days ago this person was alive; today they are not. The weirdest feeling perhaps, was that of walking out into the sparkling daylight at the end of the prac and seeing live people walking down the street. Anyway, I need to go have a long shower - the scent of death has permeated my skin.