Sunday, 16 December 2012

On Catching a Cold, but not Air France flights, and catching up with Colleagues

I wasn’t sure I would be up to writing this week’s post. My eyes are watery, my head is pounding, throat is very sore, my chest congested and my nose is redder than Rudolf’s! Yes, I have got a cold and I am feeling extremely grumpy, irritable and grouchy. Unusually for me, I even left work on Friday at lunchtime, took to my bed and didn’t re-emerge until late Saturday afternoon. Not sure where I caught the cold from. 

Studies conducted by Cardiff University have shown that close personal contact is necessary for the virus to spread, although the common cold viruses are not spread by contact such as kissing but appear to be spread by large particles expelled at close range by coughs and sneezes, and by contaminated fingers that pass the virus to the nose and eye. The incubation period for a common cold is usually around 2 days before the symptoms start. You are most infective when you have the early symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and cough. Travel to foreign countries can increase the risk of viral infection.

I mention the last point as last week involved flights getting me there and back to Brno, the 2nd largest city on the Czech Republic. The airline was Air France (my least favourite airline ever), and flying through Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (in my experience the worst airport in the world). The Cardiff studies also showed we are more likely to catch the cold virus while travelling by plane. So I guess I might have caught the cold going out and then unintentionally passed it on to other passengers on the flight home – Sorry...

I was in Brno as a Visiting Professor to the Department of Nursing at the Masaryk University. I was there with my colleague Karen Holland, Visiting Fellow. A fantastic new University campus has been under construction in Brno Bohunice since 2002. The last stage of development should be completed in 2015. We were wonderfully looked after by our host Andrea Pokorná. Both Karen and I have known and worked with Andrea for a large number of years so it was a real pleasure to spend some time working with her again.

And it was a full on few days. After 17 hours of travel (thank you Air France) and a disturbed night for me, we found ourselves standing at the gates of Brno’s long term psychiatric facility – the Brno-Černovice Psychiatric Hospital. Even in the snow, and minus 10 temperature, I was transported back in time to my days at what once called Prestwich Hospital (now Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust). What followed were a couple of hours of really stimulating discussion and interaction with service users and the nurses.

The rest of the morning was devoted to a workshop with MSc nursing students exploring the realities and rhetoric’s of evidence based nursing practice. In the afternoon we were hosted by Professor Tomis Kaspaek, Professor of Psychiatry. One of the services we visited was an Intensive Care Unit – not what I had expected, which was a highly staffed unit able to look after those going through mental health crisis and perhaps at risk to themselves or others. This unit was for those who had attempted suicide. It was very small, (5 beds), and the patients looked extremely physically ill. For some reason I have not yet got to, I felt a little emotionally disturbed on visiting this Unit.

The following day was just as hectic. This time at 08.00 Karen and I found ourselves all suited up ready to observe a total hip replacement (total hip arthroplasty). Interestingly, this pioneering technique for hip replacements, devised by a British surgeon John Charnley, marked its 50th year of use in November this year. Sir John Charnley, a surgeon with a love of engineering, developed his artificial hip joint and surgical technique at Wrightington Hospital in Lancashire. It revolutionised hip replacement operations and became the 'gold-standard' procedure, which is still carried out on patients across the world.

I was fascinated by watching the operation although the whole procedure left me having to rethink how surgical nurses are enabled to consider the dignity and care of an individual undergoing this procedure. The afternoon was devoted to a workshop on writing for publication with staff and PhD students. There was enough time to visit the local Christmas Market to stock up on Christmas gifts.

The following day we headed home, and by now the cold was making its presence felt. I fell asleep on the way to Prague – again not like me. We used the couple of hours we had in Prague to visit the city centre. I decided to deal with the minus 8 temperature by purchasing a hat and partaking in a hot toddy. Despite my cold discomfort and Air Frances ineptitude (yes we struggled on the return journey as well!), sitting there under an outdoor heater, sipping the warm spiced fruit drink, I felt the trip had been worthwhile. We have established a process to take community care research forward, and we will sign a MoU to offer places for student exchanges, and best of all, we had reinforced our good working relationship with Andrea and her colleagues – catching a cold along the way is a small price to pay. And now I am closing the computer down, and will go back to sleep.