Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Mr 6 sitting, observing casually at La Roche, Beirut, Lebanon.
Date: 16th July 2008.

Wouldn't you just love to sit and watch the world go by?


To be an observer.

For once.

Not a participant.

Just once.

To sit and watch the world go by.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Recovery & Thanks

Late last week I underwent a surgical procedure which I had been avoiding for almost a year. I would like to thank my family, friends and blogger friends who have sent me good wishes. You are all very kind. I also appreciate everything that my family have done for me. All the love that they have shown me, the flowers and books they have showered me with and a lovely fish and rice dinner and that apple streudel. Thank you for all those cups of coffee you have made for me, which have usually gone cold as a result of me dozing off without notice, due to various analgesics (and thank goodness for them!).

I would like to say a special thank you to Kayleigh and Valerie for their wonderful stories which kept me occupied while I waited to be 'wheeled in' for surgery. My mind was pleasantly occupied as I tried to ward off my hunger and anxiety.

You see, I underwent my first general anaesthesia ever (yes, I used my resources to look up the data on risks associated with the anaesthesia and I was quite concerned to say the least, as rare as the risks are). I almost completely forgot the reason I was there in the first place and just focussed on the anaesthesia and its possible side-effects. But it was unavoidable. Much to my surprise however, it was actually quite pleasant to 'go under' . My surgeon was the sweetest. He held my right hand with both his hands (which I squeezed very tightly) and he told me all would be okay, that he would see me that evening, that I was beautiful, and I would have his ugly face to look forward to seeing (which, of course, made me giggle). I know this is what he says to all his patients but his words put me at such ease that, when the anaesthetist placed a mask over my mouth and nose, I felt more relaxed than I had been all week.

And, yes, I am still here!

With my love and best wishes to you all.

P.S. If I have commented on your blog recently and my words do not quite make sense you now know why...but nothing, not even high grade pain killers, could keep me away from my laptop (despite letters and words running into eachother and my head falling towards the keyboard!)!

P.P.S If I have made any errors in this post then, please forgive me (she says with a slurred speech!).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sweet, sweet Samar

We have just returned from a wonderful, memorable holiday. And as lovely as this break was, I will never remember Nelson Bay without remembering my cousin Samar, four years my senior. You see, whilst we were away we learnt of Samar's death.

The last time I saw her was January 1991. At that time, her silky, chestnut-brown hair fell down to her slender waist, which was only just betraying an early second pregnancy. She was wearing an emerald green jumper she had recently, quietly, patiently knitted. I remember her proudly threading identically-coloured ribbon at the ruffled neckline she had created, her eighteen-months old son playing quietly at her feet. She had the demenour and quietness of a shy twelve year old girl, yet a tranquility, apparent in her person, was missing in her eyes.

And whilst I was away, on holiday, pleasurably spending time with my family, she was being taken away from hers. But in life she never knew joy. She never knew peace. Maybe in death she may at least know the latter. However, as a result of her death and her finally knowing peace, her loved ones will be deeply burdened by her loss.

Samar, your name, meaning beauty in darkness, was so apt, for you truely were beauty in your dark, uncertain world. Samar. Your name cannot be forgotten. Samar. From my heavy heart I can only offer you a rose in your loving memory. Samar, may you finally, eternally, rest in peace.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My tender child

We spent hours walking from one hospital wing to another, lost souls, waiting and gazing at artworks by school children from all over the country. I remembered, with guilt, throwing away my son’s similar 'artworks' in the previous house move. My son, whose tender skin was being deliberately sliced, whose spine was being deliberately exposed. These kids' artworks on the hospital's walls were a bitter reminder that some of my own child's 'moments in time' were languishing into the earth. Wasn't there a blank wall in this hospital, anywhere, where I could stare blankly, no thoughts, no guilt, nothing?

This was my entry into a recent 100 word writing competition. Although I don't know if I will hear from the organisers, I would like to share it with you. Whenever I write, and as therapeutic and thrilling writing is to me, I remind myself that it is the opinion of the reader that matters most. After all you chose to take the time to read my work. I appreciate any questions or comments as it is your feedback that improves my writing .

Friday, April 3, 2009

Anatomy Summer Special

Please let me know if these posts, about my years studying anatomy, are inappropriate or too detailed. I know that in the general/lay public there may be a clinical, non-human view of research. In writing these posts I hope to give you an insight into the student and researcher's viewpoint, and to remind ourselves that we are all human, and that the human body, in all its various forms is special, if not sacred.

Since studying anatomy, I've never looked at margarine or butter in the same way again. Read on and you'll learn why.

As a third year anatomy student I was asked to participate in a summer dissection class. Only invited students, that is, those who received the highest marks in their end-of-year exams, were given a part of a person to dissect, a person who had kindly, unselfishly recently donated their body for study and research. In making my decision about what part of the human form I wished to study closely, I definitely did not want the head (if you read my recent post on this, you will understand why). The lower limbs would have been too cumbersome to manouvre; I thought the rowers of our study group would manage these better than I. So, the upper limb it was for me.

In preparation for the day, we were asked to bring in gloves (not our usual surgical gloves, but the thick dishwashing variety that have extra grip) and lots and lots of absorbent towels. Of course from previous tutorials where we studied various parts of a cadaver there was absolutely no blood. I wondered what the thick towels would be for and figured that they may be for drying our hands post-dissection. Was I in for a shock.

That morning I was quite nervous. I tried to imagine having somebody's arm, from armpit to fingertip, in front of me, this arm that was with this person their whole life. It fed them, brushed their hair, held their children, embraced and caressed its loved ones, it signed mortagage papers, and of course, signed its own destiny to our anatomy lab.

I finally entered the cool lab and sat in my usual place at the stainless steel, raised-edge table in which a V-shape formed at its centre. I kept asking myself why I had agreed to this? I had studied pre-dissected limbs, and yes they were maybe a decade old and overly dry, and discoloured, and probably inaccurate with overuse rendering a few nerves loose. And, they no longer resembled a human form. I tried to convince myself that in doing this dissection I would see accurate blood and nerve supply. But, I still questioned what I was doing there. It was too late to back out, however.

Looking at a left arm before me, starting at its finger tips, I noticed a groove in the fourth finger that for years must have housed a wedding ring. This groove was whiter and narrower than the surrounding skin. The colourless, lifeless nails were long and had been carfully manicured into an almond-shape. I guessed this must have been the arm of a woman. Moving up to the back of a plump, freckled hand I noticed that she must have been quite a large lady. Further inspection of the upper arm and my suspicion was confirmed. She was a really large lady.

We were then instructed to start at the excision surface (that is, near where the breast would have started, called the mammary tail) and to work our way through to the nerves that lay beneath. I was specifically informed that the Anatomy Museum was short of a specimen of the nerves that supply the whole arm. This not only meant I had to start the dissection through the skin directly in the arm pit to ensure as little cutting action as possible, but I had to be extra vigilant not to make the slightest mistake. There was a donor, maybe, every one or two years and I was not about to stuff this up.

Upon turning the limb I noticed a five o'clock shadow where the armpit must have been shaven, and also, a mole as big as a lentil on the outer edge of this shadow. I imagined how many times the lady must have nicked herself shaving as a result of this mole. This made the whole task even more poignant and I knew I had to take care, to respect, regardless of whether or not I was going to have my name displayed on the front of a perspex jar that would hold this specimen.

Whilst trying to expose the nerves I had to hold back the protective flaps of skin and excess fat that had formed a roof over these nerves. This was when the thick, ribbed, rubber gloves had to be used. In pulling those very thick, taute flaps of skin back, what I can only describe as a bubbly butter-like liquid oozed through my gloved fingers. Sensing a rising nausea, I just told myself to focus on the cells, the cells and to forget the whole picture. I kept thinking about the cells and how the cell membranes must have broken down sufficiently to allow this fat to escape. I then realised what the thick disposable towels were for and quickly made use of them to absorb the yellow liquid.

The rest of the dissection flowed smoothly and took me nearly a week to finish. By the end, I was glad and proud to have taken on this task despite my initial misgivings. We discovered that this person's forearm revealed some very unusual anatomy near the wrist- an artery had pierced a major nerve to the extent that the lecturer questioned its function in life. Did this person experience incessant pain, discomfort or weakness? Did they notice anything unusual about their arm at all? Further, how was this person to know that their arm would be examined and studied by generations of doctors, surgeons and anatomists for decades to come?

Sometimes, when I get a flick of discomfort or an odd sudden burst of pain, I wonder whether that part of my anatomy is atypical, an anomaly, and I wonder what someone someday may discover.

* * * * * * * * *

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Doing easy things the hard way

Image courtesy of:

For the life of me I cannot seem to hard-boil an egg, no matter how, ahem, 'hard' I try. I have used timers, checked for how quickly the shell dries on exposure to air, I've even left the egg in boiling water over the set time and still, there is a runny centre in the middle.

I know sometimes people find usually 'easy' things the most difficult to do and I tried to think of other examples. I came up with making toast without burning it (and trying to get it all golden, crumbly and crunchy on the outside, moist and soft on the inside!), cooking fluffy rice that also separates (this still has me stumped!), and of course the old addage of not knowing how to fry an egg or boil water. Even some restaurants cannot cook pasta to be al dente , and this is probably the only difficult/easy thing I can get right!

And, as far as keeping indoor plants alive, a huge 'you have got to be kidding' races out of my mouth before you or I blink. I even managed to destroy artificial lush green leaves. How you ask? They went mouldy after a particularly humid end of summer and had to be disposed of. Sad, really.

What are the 'expected' easy things that you find near impossible to perfect (and they can be outside the kitchen, of course)?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Last weekend my gorgeous family came to our house for lunch. I love having them over and it had been way too long since we had had our once typical family gatherings that did not involve a birthday. You know, a 'just for the sake of it' get together. To my darling family members, I love each and every one of you.

One of the highlights (and when my lot gets together, believe me there are a highlight or two!) was watching my 6 month old angel of a niece dig, head first, into a peach which was almost as big as her head. I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Peach, Pre-Baby:

Peach Post Baby:

When was the last time you got together with your extended family and were there any highlights that you'd care to share?


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