Sunday, 18 October 2015

Coughing my way through breakfast to dinner, but with some great conversations along the way

I am not really a breakfast person, but when travelling on university business and staying at hotels I do like to indulge in the Full English Breakfast meal. And so it was this last week, on Monday I had breakfast in Singapore, Tuesday it was Leeds, then Wednesday it was Wigan, Thursday’s breakfast was in Sheffield and Friday it was back to Salford. I felt I needed to keep my strength up as after a quick visit to Australia, I had been left with a jet plane traveller’s hacking cough, streaming cold and raging sore throat.  More than 23% of all flyers think that the cabin air has made them ill.

There is evidence to support that this might be the case. US studies have revealed that many disease causing bacteria can survive for up to a week inside plane cabins, on surfaces such as seat pockets, tray tables, arm rests and so. Staphylococcus aureus (more familiarly known as MRSA, once the scourge of UK hospitals) and a bacteria that can cause infections, skin disease, pneumonia, and sepsis, was found to survive for up 168 hours; and Escherichia coli (E coli), which can cause urinary tract infection, respiratory illness and diarrhoea, was found to survive for up to 96 hours. If you really want to see the full horror of contemporary air travel, watch this video.

In any event I started with a cold and cough somewhere over Dubai and it’s still with me. Last Tuesday I gave all at home a bit of a shock when my coughing fit sent me crashing unconscious to the floor. One minute I was walking out of the room on my way to bed when the next I was on the floor with Cello barking, and W slapping my face asking if I was alright.

What I had experienced was an episode of transient loss of conscious (TLoC). TLoC is usually defined as a short-lived, self-limiting loss of consciousness with spontaneous recovery to normal.  TLoC is secondary to a cardiovascular or neutrally-mediated disorder resulting in transient global hypoperfusion, where in my case the specific term to use would be (cough) syncope.  Interestingly, such episodes account for 3% of all presentations at A&E departments in the UK. However In my case I was just told to get up and to stop making the place look untidy.

Whilst looking tidy was important for me last week, I would defy anyone to look anything other than rather dishevelled after 15 hours flying in a plane. However thereafter I did my best. I had a great meeting and exploration of possible opportunities with Peter Viqueria on Tuesday, many thanks Peter. Wednesday I was proud to facilitate a superb presentation and discussion on understanding mortality data in the NHS at the Wrightington, Wigan, and Leigh Foundation Trust Quality and Safety Committee. This is work led by the internationally respected Dr Martin Farrier (Consultant Paediatrician and someone who lists as one of his speciality areas, syncope). On this occasion he was joined by Dr Debapriya Mondal from the university's School of Environment and Life Sciences, who had brought her considerable skill as a statistician to help unlock the issues involved in better understanding mortality data and reducing avoidable deaths.

Thursday it was conversations with colleagues from the Council of Deans (Health) at the Full Council meeting in Sheffield, some outstanding discussions and presentations, not least of which was a key note form Professor James Ferguson, an Emergency Care Surgeon and Director of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare. I, like many others sitting in the room, was spell-bound by the possibilities he opened our eyes too, and with often nothing more complicated than a smart phone! These days the technology is available, is cheap and easy to use. Any limitations to what might be possible are only those we impose upon ourselves or are imposed by our professions and by the culture of organisations we work in.

I have a great team who make it possible for me to do the above. So thank you Elaine, Debbie, Brian, Nick, Jennie, Neil and Gill. And if last week was all about starting the day eating breakfast in different places, next week it’s a travelling dinner experience: Monday –Wigan; Tuesday – Chester; Wednesday – London; Thursday –Manchester; and Friday, after 4 long weekends away, it will finally be dinner in Scotland!