Sunday, 24 October 2010

Holidays, Hearing Hopes Dashed, and Emails Ignored

Well last week was great. I was on holiday in Scotland, on the Solway Coast, and the sun shined. The Gulf Stream weather kicked in and it was wall to wall sunshine and clear, clear days. The light was fantastic, the air fresh and I was able to really get away from it all. I notched up six books read (all novels of course!) and when not reading or resting my eyes, I walked. For those of you who have not been to this part of the world, you can walk for miles on rolling hills without seeing another person, stroll on deserted white beaches, with just the waves for company, and trek through forests that are so vast that it defies one’s ability to comprehend the scale of planting.

Cello acted as if he had never had it so good. Last time we were up here he was plagued by ticks and became poorly, was miserable and generally did not enjoy himself. However, this time, thanks to the wonders of veterinary science (which as we know, is akin to the wonders of medical science) he was kept safe and was able to bound up mountains, leap streams, swim in the sea, and generally had a great time!

As the week progressed, I felt strangely quite guilty. There I was relaxing and having a good time, while elsewhere, many others were awaiting the outcomes of the UK Governments Comprehensive Spending Review. Much had been trailed before, and as a School Executive we have spent some time thinking about the possible scenarios arising from a reduction in our income and in the resources of our partner organisations. When the announcement came, I watched it live on TV and my feelings of guilt and depression rose to new levels. It seemed to me that the consequences of what was being proposed would, for all of us, be far reaching, and likely last for many years to come.

That I was almost completely deaf during this time was of little consequence. Having self diagnosed tinnitus a few weeks ago, I finally went to the GP, who, surprisingly swiftly, diagnosed a wax in the ear problem. He said the treatment was simple. All it required was olive oil (virgin) drops applied to both ears twice a day and then having both ears syringed. Getting the olive oil was easy, well once I got past the ‘health and safety’ inquisition from the Tesco pharmacy assistant. Getting someone to syringe my ears was much more problematical.

In Bolton, those requiring such treatment must ring a central telephone number. I rang, spoke to a very helpful person who arranged an appointment for yesterday (Saturday!). Whilst being seen on a Saturday impressed me, the delay in getting an appointment ran to over a week. Getting there at the appointed time I was wheeled in and asked the usual questions and I was then examined. The changes in the nurse’s body behaviour alerted me to a problem. When she excused herself to find another colleague to come and examine me, my pulse rate increased, slightly. The second nurse came in and examined me and immediately her body language changed from relaxed to a somewhat more guarded posture.

Now as a trained anthropologist, one of things I find myself doing all the time is observing the behaviour of others. Some call this people watching, and ever since I started my training as a mental health nurse I have been fascinated by observing the behaviour of others. So I found it an interesting experience sitting in the examination room with two health care practitioners talking about me as if I wasn’t there, presumably because I couldn’t hear, but doing so whilst sending out high anxiety non verbal communications. I am sure Jan-Kåre Breivikwas, the Norwegian anthropologist whose work on the cultural identities of deaf people and populations has contributed to changing attitudes towards minority cultural groups, particularly people who are deaf.

Eventually, the senior of the two nurses said, I wasn’t to worry, but I needed to see my GP as soon as possible that my right ear in particular was infected and very inflamed. I told them I wasn’t worried as getting to see my GP for the referral to the syringe of ears clinic had taken nearly two weeks and I assumed it would take another two weeks to see him again. By which time whatever the problem was would probably have cured itself. I just had to deal with the deafness, or so I thought. However, on returning home I was advised (strongly) that I needed to report to the Walk-in Clinic at 08.30am, and get the nurse on duty to prescribe some antibiotics.

So despite, having hundreds of (holiday) emails to deal with (and apologies if yours is one of these), that is what I shall be doing later on this morning. And there was me thinking that dealing with the CSR outcomes was tough!