Strange happenings

Sorry about the radio silence again.  For some reason (I’m blaming the weird time zone in Spain and southern France), I actually got hit with a bit of jet-lag this time (normally I’m pretty good at avoiding it), and that combined with the usual post-holiday slump, and the grey weather, left me feeling pretty unmotivated since I got home.  I’m starting to come right now though, and even felt inspired to do some sewing this afternoon (as you probably gathered from the previous post).

Anyway, I suspect this isn’t going to be a coherent blog post, just a collection of random paragraphs.

My sprained thumb is still pretty sore (not helped by the fact that I keep forgetting that it’s sprained, and over-using it).  It’s fine for most things, but then every so often there’s something it just has no strength for – like turning on taps or doing up zips.  According to the bit of googling I did, sprains usually heal in around 6 weeks, so hopefully it will come right soon (or, at least, it would if I could remember to look after it!)

On Friday night I went to the Free Theatre’s production of Tom Waits’s Alice.  I’d expected it to be a strange play, especially because the Free Theatre has a reputation for doing pretty extreme things with their staging, but it turned out to be an even stranger experience than even the actors expected, when a member of the audience had a grand mal seizure in the middle of the play.  At first I assumed it was just part of the play (it did sort of fit the scene, in a strange way), but it went on a bit too long, and then I realised that the actor playing Alice (who was in the middle of a monologue) was starting to cast worried glances towards the back of the audience (it’s a very small theatre), and eventually one of the other actors came out and stopped her, and they put the lights up so that the man could be carried out into the foyer (and, they told us later, taken to the hospital, which is only just down the road from the theatre).  There was an unplanned intermission while that was all happening, so we were chatting to the people sitting on either side of us, and they both sheepishly said the same thing, that they’d at first thought it was just part of the play too.

It probably says something about how weird the production was that someone having a seizure in the audience seems a perfectly plausible bit of staging.  But it also says something about how deeply conditioned we are by “correct” behaviour in the theatre, that even once we all started to suspect it wasn’t part of the play and that something was actually wrong, we all still just sat there politely, not wanting to interrupt the performance.

The play eventually got back underway, and despite being weird, it was actually pretty good.  Because of the interruption it was very late by the time it ended, though, so I missed the last bus – or at least, the last bus that would have taken me all the way home – I managed to get a bus as far as the university and walked home from there.

It turned out to be quite a dramatic night over this way, too.  As I was walking along Memorial Ave, I was passed by several police cars going at very high speed with lights and sirens.  And then a bit further along at Burnside High, there were alarms going off in the school, and a police car sitting in the shadows outside the back entrance, with an officer in the car watching the entrance very intently – I assume waiting for whoever had caused the alarms to go off to try and escape out the back way.  (It turned out later that there’d been an arson at the school – as that article says the police are talking to “persons of interest”, I suspect the officer’s patience might have been rewarded.)

The rest of the weekend was pretty sedate in comparison.  The only other strange occurrence (well, strange for Christchurch, anyway, where we don’t have many Jewish people) was a knock on my door last night from a person holding an unlit candle and asking if I’d lit my fire yet.  He explained that he was Jewish, and that he couldn’t light the candle because of the Sabbath, but that he also couldn’t ask someone else to light it for him, he could only use a flame that was already lit (Yetzirah, I’m sure you can tell me if I misunderstood what he was telling me?).  Hence him wandering around the neighbourhood knocking on doors in the hope that someone had a fire going in their house.  I hadn’t lit the fire yet (it had been a sunny day and was only just starting to get cold), so I wasn’t able to help – hopefully he found a neighbour who’d felt the cold sooner than me, otherwise he was going to be in for a very dark night.

When the government forces you to lie

Thanks, StatsNZ!

Actually, I heard from a reliable source that the internal recommendation from Statistics NZ was to include an “other” category, but it was rejected by higher powers (read: the Minister) because it would cost too much, and there’s not that many trans*/gender diverse people in NZ anyway (except of course the question has never been asked in the census, so nobody knows what the true proportion is), plus what about all those people who’d write in a silly answer and mess up the statistics? (to which the only response is what about all the people who now can’t answer that question accurately, so have to give an untrue/incomplete answer, and mess up the statistics?)

I know a lot of trans*/gender diverse people are protesting by requesting a paper form and writing in their gender, but I wasn’t organised enough to do that in time, and anyway, I do actually like the idea in principle of an on-line census (as long as it’s backed up by paper forms for those who don’t have a computer/internet access, of course). So I just had to tell a lie to the government.

And then there’s the whole NZ European/Pākehā issue…

So far

Things I like about my new phone

  1. I can talk to it!  And it knows what I’m saying (mostly – there’s a few NZ vowel sounds it struggles with still (setting an alarm for 10 pm is something I’m yet to achieve – that lovely NZE [e] vowel in ten just confuses the poor thing…)) and does things when I tell it to.  There’s something so satisfying about waking up and saying “Hey Google, what’s the forecast” to find out what the weather’s like (yeah, I know I could just look out the window, but where’s the fun in that?).
  2. Google maps knows when my next bus is going to arrive.  And even better, it can tell where my nearest bus stop is, and tell me which buses will arrive there next, so I don’t have to try and find the bus stop number.   So I don’t have to do the “The timetable says a bus should have passed here 3 minutes ago, but they’re often late, so there’s a chance it could still turn up, so maybe I should wait, but if it’s already passed then the next one won’t be for half an hour, so it might be quicker to walk” calculation I’m constantly doing at stops that don’t have an arrivals indicator (which is most of them).
  3. I can download e-books from the library!  And audiobooks! (I could do that already, but I was limited to the ones that were in the correct format to play on my little mp3 player, so this opens up the range of audiobooks I can borrow enormously! Technically I could also download e-books before, but (because Amazon’s complicated licencing agreements) I couldn’t read them on my Kindle, so my only option was to read them on my computer, and you can’t cosy up in a comfy chair with a computer.)
  4. I had lunch with Jacq yesterday and they showed me a magic trick: you can write a text by swiping across the keyboard instead of typing each character individually.  I have no idea how it manages to figure out which word I meant from my vague swipey motions in roughly the direction of the right letters, but it does (mostly – it gets a bit confused if you like to make up words like swipey).
  5. My search for a protective cover (it took me about a day of carrying it around to realise the chances of me dropping it/banging it into something/crushing it by having too many books in my bag were very high, and that this would make me anxious if I didn’t do something about it) led me to the discovery that there are very many very cool phone cases out there.  I settled on this one for now (well I had to – it’s a cat wearing glasses and drinking hot chocolate (yeah, it’s probably supposed to be coffee, but I don’t like coffee), and as a bonus, the cat looks like Parsnips!), but I suspect my phone will end up having several outfits it can change into according to mood.  Who knew a phone would have so many options to decorate it?
  6. I can take photos (like important photos of my phone case to put in my blog) even when I don’t have my camera with me.  Which is a good thing, because my big camera is big.  And heavy.  So I only carry it when I’m going somewhere I think I’ll want to take photos.  Which means when spontaneous photo opportunities happen, I’ll actually be able to take photos of them (and yes, I know everyone who has a smart phone has been telling me this for ever, but it wasn’t a big enough reason to buy a smart phone.  But now that I have one, it’s a nice bonus.)  The photos aren’t as good as I could take on my real camera, of course (I would hope not, given how much I paid for it!), but they’re good enough for quick snapshots.  My big camera will still be accompanying me on my travels and to places I know I’ll want to take real photos, though!

Things I don’t like about my new phone

  1. It’s very distracting.  Because it can do so many things, the temptation is to be constantly using it – I can understand now why teenagers are constantly on their phones.  I’m hoping the novelty will wear off soon though and I’ll stop finding excuses to play with it.
  2. My pockets aren’t big enough.  I could carry my old phone (which was tiny) around in my pocket if I needed to, but this one won’t fit (or, it will, but it hangs out of the top and I’m scared it’ll fall out).  So if I want to take it with me, I have to either carry it in my hand, or in my bag, which means I always have to carry my bag (which I generally do anyway, because my bag is where I carry books, and being stuck somewhere without a book to read is my worst nightmare).
  3. It doesn’t understand the difference between ten and tin in a NZ accent (see above, although honestly, I’m impressed it can understand a NZ accent at all – voice recognition has come a long way!)
  4. Having an actual app to read library e-books and audiobooks means I have to return them on time.  I’m so used to uploading a few at a time to my mp3 player (which isn’t sophisticated enough to have DRM, so keeps playing them even after they expire), and only removing them once they’re finished, instead of at the end of the loan period.  I’m sure I’ll cope, though.
  5. If I have it too close to my bus card, it starts beeping at me (presumably it’s trying to read the RFID in the card?).  So I can’t use the card slots in the nice new case I bought for it as intended (because if I keep my bus card separate to my other cards, I’m sure to forget to bring it with me, and I never have the right change to pay cash on the bus).

Yeah, pretty minor complaints, really.  So on balance, I think the phone was a good purchase.  (All of you who’ve spent the last several years telling me to get a proper phone may now say “I told you so”)

But isn’t my new phone case cool? :-)

So this is what the twenty-first century looks like

Even though (or perhaps because) I work in a digital lab, I have a touch of the Luddite about me.  I like technology, but in its place – I’m not a fan of technology for the sake of it.  I like to use the tool that does the job best for me, which is not necessarily the newest and shiniest toy.  Which is not to say I’ll always avoid the new and shiny (far from it – I can think of several new and shiny things I’d love to have and that only the exorbitant cost is keeping me from), but that I’ve got to convince myself it’d make life better than what I’m currently using.  Which is why I write with a fountain pen, why I love my antique wooden ironing board, and why I’ve resisted buying a smart phone… up until now.

Because yes, I finally gave in, and upgraded my ancient Nokia dumb phone to something that can do more than just phone and text.  Finally the number of times I’ve been in situations where I’ve thought “It would be really useful to be able to [check map/bus arrival times/look up details of a business/check whether x has emailed me/other smart phoney type things]” has reached a tipping point where not having a smart phone went from “I don’t really have a use for one so why bother” to “Ok, now I’m just being stubborn about it”.  So I spent way too long comparing service providers and plans, and then even longer looking at the different phones, and then spent an hour or so in the mall this morning asking many many questions of the very patient shop assistant in the Vodafone shop, and finally walked out with a shiny new phone.  Which I have spent the rest of the day manually transferring numbers onto from my old phone (patient Vodafone guy looked very relieved when I said I didn’t expect him to be able to magically find a way to connect very old Nokia with shiny new phone to transfer the contacts across – some tech is just too old to be compatible with doing things automatically).

So here it is.  Very much a mid-range, just does the things I want it to sort of phone, and I’m sure those with i-whatevers or the latest $1000+ models will look down their noses at it, but I’m happy (or at least, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Google will now know even more about me than they already did, but I think that was a lost cause anyway).

I feel like it needs a name…

Shaky Isles

Back working on my models again.  I thought I’d be almost finished by now, but last week I discovered I’d missed a couple of crucial steps from the process, so I pretty much had to start from scratch again (not quite, because a lot of the work I’d done before will be useful, but still feels like I’ve wasted a couple of weeks’ work :-( ).

Well, it’s been an … interesting… couple of weeks since I last posted.  First there was the American elections.  We were watching the results come in in our office (it was early afternoon here), and, like the rest of the world, couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing as the map turned redder and redder.*  The mood was pretty sombre by the end of the day (especially for Rosalee, who does a lot of environmental work outside her paid work, especially around climate change, and I think was feeling like it was all for naught).

And of course, if we’re feeling unhappy about the election here, I can’t imagine how my American friends are feeling (or rather, I can – I’ve seen such an outpouring of grief, and fear, and anger from various corners of the internet that I occasionally inhabit).

*The whole red=right wing, blue=left always throws me when I watch American elections.  Here (and in the UK, and most other places I know anything about the politics of), red = left, blue = right.  So I always get excited when I see a state go red, then have to remind myself that it’s all back to front, and red is actually bad news.

The next horrible and unexpected event was last Monday’s earthquake.  It didn’t feel that strong in Christchurch, but it was enough to wake me up, and it went on for ages (I think they said it was about 2 minutes, which is a VERY long time – the September 2010 earthquake was only about 50 seconds, and that one felt like forever).  Even though the shaking didn’t feel that violent, it was a big rolling motion that was enough to get all the doors in my house swinging open and closed, and it definitely got the adrenaline going – it took me a few hours to get back to sleep (the quake struck just after midnight).

Getting back to sleep wasn’t helped by spending the first hour or so obsessively checking Geonet and various news websites to find out what had happened.  My initial worry was that it had been centred in Wellington (I could tell from the length and strength of the shaking that it had been big but not close to Christchurch, so Wellington was the obvious conclusion).  Thankfully it wasn’t, or the death toll would have been many hundreds instead of 2, but the news still isn’t good – Kaikoura and several other small towns in North Canterbury and Marlborough have pretty much been destroyed, and the main transport route between North and South Islands is gone, which we’ll be feeling the effects of for many months.  And although it wasn’t centred on Wellington, the direction the earthquake travelled means they took quite a hit from it, and there’s been quite a bit of damage to their CBD.

In happier news, Christian (of Jenny and Christian) is in town for a conference, so is staying with me.  It’s been great catching up with him, although I wish Jenny had been able to come over too (actually, she is in New Zealand at the moment too, but at a different conference up in Hamilton).  It reminds me of how much I miss their friendship – I really must find the time (and the money) to go over to Brisbane and visit them sometime! Maybe once I’ve got this thesis out of the way…

Three happy things

1. Housework done, a casserole simmering away that will provide quick and easy meals when I’m working late this week, the sun is still shining despite the threat of rain, and enough time to sit and eat lunch with a book.

2. The closest I’ll ever get to gardening. One of the supermarket chains was doing a promotion where they gave you a seed kit every time you spent a certain amount (a huge improvement over the previous version which involved plastic toys), and so far I haven’t managed to kill any of them (which is more impressive than it sounds, if you don’t know my long history of killing potplants). So I have lettuces and radishes and spring onions and a fennel growing on my windowsill (plus, just out of shot, a couple of very baby basil plants, who I don’t think it’s anywhere near warm or sunny enough for yet, but they’re struggling along nonetheless).

3. I finished the quilt for my supervisor’s baby, and (despite sewing machine problems in the middle of it, and running out of the cool variegated thread so I had to finish it off with a slightly different colour, and that my quilting is still pretty haphazard) I think it turned out pretty well. As long as you don’t look too closely…

Actually, there’s some bits I like even when I do look closely:

It’s a long way from perfect, but I can see I’m improving, and that’ll do for now :-)

Birds and bus delinquents

Evidence that spring is here: I came home tonight to a house full of feathers.  So many feathers that I was sure Parsnips must have caught a blackbird, or possibly an albatross.  But when I followed the trail of feathers in and out of several rooms, and finally found the victim under my desk, it turned out to be a very young (and very dead) sparrow.  The poor thing can’t have been much beyond its first flight (which probably explains how Parsnips managed to catch it – she’s not the most able hunter, so it was probably more a case of the bird accidentally stumbling into her jaws, rather than any determined act of hunting on her part).

In the “another reason to lose faith in humanity” category, a month or so ago I was catching the bus home very late one night when I encountered two very drunk very young teenage girls (like only barely in their teens young).  They were happy drunk rather than aggressive drunk, and started chatting to me about what a fun night they’d been having.  They said they lived in Avonside (which is way over the other side of town), and were plotting how to sneak onto the bus without paying, because they’d lost their bus cards (in some long and complicated story), and had spent all their cash.

Of course, “I’ve lost my bus card” is a well-known scam for getting money out of gullible people, and normally I would have just said I couldn’t help and left them at the bus stop.  But, as I said, it was late at night, and they were drunk, and young, and I kept thinking about all the things that can happen to drunk and vulnerable young girls at poorly-lit bus stops late at night, so I decided the cost of a couple of bus fares was worth it to not spend the rest of the night wondering if they were ok, so when the bus arrived I told them I’d pay their fares, as long as they promised they would go straight home.  They were surprised and grateful (in a way that made me think they really had just been telling me the story as a cool story, not because they were begging), and (after a bit of negotiation with the bus driver, who was understandably concerned that they might be sick on the bus), we all got on the bus.  When I got off at my stop, I asked the (female) bus driver to keep an eye on them and make sure they got off in Avonside, and all seemed good.

Except, last Sunday night I caught the same bus, and the driver recognised me, and told me the story of what happened after I got off.  Apparently they got as far as Shirley (about another half an hour on from my stop) before robbing one of the other passengers and assaulting the bus driver when she tried to intervene.  She’d had to call the police to get them removed from the bus :-(  I was horrified, and apologised to her for having inflicted the girls on her, but she said she didn’t blame me at all, because I was just trying to do the right thing and wasn’t to know.  The really sad thing was that she said it didn’t even surprise her, after everything she’d seen driving the bus at night.

So yeah, so much for my good deed – all it did was ruin the poor bus driver’s night.

The gory details

Wow, time has sped by again, and it’s already two weeks since my operation (and already September, and spring!).  I did mean to come back and write something more substantial than my brief post-op note of stillalivitude, but for the first week or so sitting at the computer was painful and not conducive to writing blog posts, and then I’ve been back at work and trying to catch up with everything I didn’t get done while being distracted by bodily malfunctions, so just super-busy.  Anyway, I’m still super-busy, and it’s still a bit sore sitting at the computer for too long, but I’m in the middle of a long and tedious task at work that I needed a break from, so what better excuse to write a blog post and catch you all up on my medical adventures (warning, this could get long and tedious, but I’d never been to hospital before, so I found the process really interesting).

So, as I intimated in my previous post, the surgery was not quite as straightforward as expected.  Neither was the lead-up to the surgery, for that matter.  I’d been told to report to the hospital’s day surgery unit at 11.30 am, and that I was to eat only a light breakfast, then nothing but water from 7.30 am onwards, and once I got to the hospital nil by mouth.  The wonderful Lytteltonwitch had taken the day off work to be my chauffeur, so she dropped Mum and I off at the hospital (I was only allowed one visitor with me, because of lack of space in the waiting room) and went off to play Pokemon in the park, expecting to come back and pick us up mid-afternoon.  Well, the afternoon stretched on and on, and we were still in the waiting room, as everyone else was taken off one by one by the admitting nurses.  I worked out later that as I was one of the youngest people waiting, they probably put me at the end of the queue, assuming I’d have less risk of complications than the ones they saw earlier – but anyway, it was a very long and boring wait, especially because I was feeling pretty nervous, so couldn’t really concentrate to read a book or anything.  Oh, and nervous = nervous bladder, so the waiting was interrupted by several trips to the toilet.  This will become important later.

Finally the nurse called my name, and took us through to a consulting room, where we went through all the paperwork again, and I signed more consent forms, and she gave me a gown and surgical stockings… and a hospital-issue dressing gown and slippers!!! (so why did I have to go and spend all that money on ones of my own???).  Then she told me that standard procedure before gynaecological surgery is to do a pregnancy test (my jokes about immaculate conception not withstanding), so I’d need to provide a urine sample.  I said that might be tricky, what with having already been to the toilet a couple of times, and the whole nil by mouth since 11.30 thing (why couldn’t they have mentioned they’d need a urine sample when I checked in?  I could have easily provided one then).  So she told us she’d go and check with the anaesthetist whether I was allowed to drink some water to encourage things along, and told us to wait in the next waiting room in the meantime.

Note that at this stage I was still in my street clothes, having been given the gown etc, but not told where I could get changed.  There were two other people in this waiting room, both wearing gowns, and nurses coming in and out, but everyone just ignored me, and I never saw the admitting nurse again.  She’d left me a sample cup in case I did manage to squeeze out a few drops, so after a while I decided to try anyway, because there was no sign of the promised drink of water.  Having deposited my sample on the signposted tray, I went back to the waiting room, and waited, and waited…  After a while the surgeon came to talk through the procedure with me, and then the anaesthetist, and neither mentioned the fact that I wasn’t changed yet, so I assumed that next a nurse would come and show me where to get changed.  The other patients went into surgery, and I was still sitting there.  Finally, at about 3.30, a theatre nurse came in and called my name, saying as she looked up from her chart, “They’re ready for you in theatre… Oh. But you’re not ready.”  There was then a flurry of activity as she whisked me off to a private room and I was stripped and into the gown and stockings in record time.

I dashed back into the waiting room to say goodbye to Mum, and then was taken to the anaesthetic room, where the anaesthetist attempted to find a vein to stick the drip into.  Oh yeah, did I mention I have veins that disappear at the sight of a needle?   That was quite a process, and involved me sitting there for quite a while with my hands wrapped in heated blankets while clenching and unclenching my fists and attempting to coax a vein to the surface.  Eventually he found one though, and put in the drip.  Then the surgeon came in, and went through the checklist of making sure I was who I said I was yet again (they did this a lot – every time anyone interacts with you, they ask your name and date of birth, and check it against your wristband ID thingy to make sure you’re not the wrong person), then noticed what the anaesthetist was doing, and suddenly remembered she’d meant to ask him to take a blood sample before he flushed the port… but too late (they took a blood sample from the other hand during surgery, and, proof that once you’re unconscious they’re much less concerned about being gentle with you, that hand bruised spectacularly, while the hand that had the drip hardly bruised at all…).  Then I was wheeled through to the theatre, which looked just like in the movies, I got off the trolley I’d been lying on and onto the operating table, and after one last check of my name and date of birth the anaesthetist plugged in the drip.

I expected to be asked to count to ten or something, but no, I was just lying there staring at the ceiling and thinking that the anaesthetic obviously wasn’t working, and then next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room, with a nurse (a male nurse who I remembered seeing earlier in the day, because Mum had assumed he was the surgeon, and was horrified to realise she’d made a sexist assumption when she found out he was a nurse and my surgeon was a woman!) offering me a drink of water (at last!) and telling me that the surgery had gone well, but they were keeping me in overnight.  I was surprised to see it was dark outside the window – it was after 6 pm, and I was the last patient left in the day surgery ward (actually, I think that’s why they kept me overnight – the day surgery staff wanted to go home!).  The nurse told me they’d removed an ovary and some adhesions, but said he couldn’t tell me much more, because he was just reading it off my chart, so I’d have to wait to see the surgeon in the morning to get the details.

They removed the drip, then brought Mum in, who’d been waiting in the waiting room all this time, and an orderly came to take me up to the ward.  I told him it was just like one of those clichéd movie hospital sequences, watching the lights on the ceiling go past as my bed was wheeled along the corridor, and he replied that he’d try not to do a Monty Python and slam me into the doors.  So of course I asked him if they had a machine that goes “Ping”, which greatly amused him – he said I was the first person he’d encountered in the hospital who knew that Monty Python sketch, and normally he got blank looks from people when he quoted it.  So, much to Mum’s bemusement, we quoted Monty Python at each other in the lift :-)

We reached the gynaecological ward (which turned out to be very small – only three beds), and I had to be transferred from the bed I was in to the ward bed.  Which was a very painful process.  The orderly suggested they raise me up to sitting, then I could swing my legs off the bed and they could help me swivel myself over to the other bed, which seemed sensible to me, but the nurse had other ideas, and wanted him to put the beds right next to each other and then I could “roll” across.  Did I mention I’d just had 4 holes poked in my stomach?  Rolling was not an option.  So I ended up very awkwardly trying to prop myself up on my elbows and drag myself across, with no help from the nurse or orderly (who couldn’t reach me because the beds were squished right together), and a lot of pain.  I still think the orderly’s suggestion would have worked much better!

Anyway, once I was finally settled into my bed they did all the blood pressure, pulse and temperature checks, and offered me painkillers and dinner.  I turned down the dinner (I just wanted to sleep at that point!), but gratefully accepted the painkillers and a glass of water.  Once I was settled in, Mum called a taxi to take her home (she didn’t want to bother LW, who’d gone home by this time), and I settled down to sleep (or so I thought – one of the many things I didn’t know about hospitals is that sleep is not really an option – they come round once an hour to check blood pressure etc, and give you more pain killers.  So no sooner are you dozing off than they’re waking you up again – and then they say “try and get some sleep”!!!).  A while later, what I thought was a nurse coming into my cubicle (or whatever you call the curtained-off areas) turned out to actually be Lytteltonwitch.  She’d come to see if Mum needed a lift home, but she’d already left.  She stayed to chat for a while, but I was pretty dozy, so I’m not sure if I contributed much to the conversation!

After a long and frequently interrupted night (not helped either by the fact that the woman in the bed next to me had some sort of electronic device strapped to her legs to massage them so she wouldn’t get blood clots – kind of an advanced version of the surgical stockings, but much noisier – which hissed and wheezed all night at just the wrong rhythm to be able to sleep to), I was wide awake at about 5 am.  The nurses had given me firm instructions I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed on my own, so I waited until the next time the nurse came round to do the checks (I did have a bell, but I didn’t want to ring it unnecessarily, because I’m sure the nurses are busy enough without constantly running to answer bells!) and asked her to help me walk to the toilet.  That managed, with only a little staggering along the way (and the discovery of just how difficult relaxing your bladder is when your stomach muscles are all clenched up from the pain!), I got back into bed and realised I did need to ring the bell after all, because I couldn’t reach my bag with my book in it (and I was still woozy enough that trying to lean over that far to get it was probably a bad idea), and just lying there without a book for hours while I waited for the official waking up time at 8 am was not viable.

Official waking up time finally arrived, along with breakfast (very cold toast, cereal and fruit) and more painkillers.  I tried turning them down, because I actually wasn’t feeling all that sore, just a bit uncomfortable, but the nurse insisted, because it’s better to take them before it starts hurting again.  I was allowed to get up and move around on my own (with care), so I went and had a shower, which went fine until I started to get dressed, when the last of the post-anaesthetic wooziness combined with the heat in the room (the bathroom was tiny, and very very over-heated) meant that I nearly fainted.  So I got to ring the bell again, and a nurse came and brought me a cold facecloth for my head until I felt steady enough to go back to my bed.

Once I was out of the heat I was feeling ok pretty quickly, and impatient to go home, but I had to wait to see the surgeon, and then to get my discharge paperwork.  After an hour or so the surgeon arrived, and showed me the photos of my insides (very cool!).  She said they’d discovered that my ovaries, instead of being nicely on either side of my body like every textbook picture you’ve ever seen, were actually hiding behind my uterus, and had tangled together and fused (a condition known as “kissing ovaries”, which I am greatly amused by and keep telling everyone about!), which is why the surgery had taken a lot longer than expected, because they’d had to separate the adhesions between them before they could remove the one with the suspect cyst (a procedure called a salpingoopherectomy, which is another seriously cool word :-) ).  They’d also found some endometriosis on the bowel, but decided it was too risky to remove it, so, as I haven’t had any pain from it so far, decided to leave it there.  Otherwise, everything looked good, and she hadn’t seen anything cancer-like, but would need to wait and see the biopsy results to be sure.  Then another doctor came and saw me, to write me a prescription for more painkillers (vast amounts of painkillers, which I’ve only used a handful of, so if you ever have a headache, you know where to come), and a medical certificate (she signed me off for two weeks off work, just in case I needed it, but I only took 7 days in the end).

Then I just had to wait (and wait, and wait) for the paperwork.  One of the nurses warned me not to arrange a lift home until after the paperwork was done, because it is the lowest-priority thing on the nurses’ list, so will keep getting dropped for more important stuff.  So I had no idea when I’d get to go home.  At one stage I thought I might be there until the afternoon, because someone from catering came to take my lunch order!  But finally at about 11 the paperwork was done, and I could call Mum and ask her and Uncle (who’d come up to Christchurch with her) to come and pick me up (LW was back at work by then, of course, so couldn’t be chauffeur, but by then Uncle was feeling a bit more confident about finding his way around Christchurch – he hadn’t been here since long before the earthquakes, so was finding navigating a bit tricky!).  So I ended up leaving the hospital almost exactly 24 hours after I’d arrived there.

The next few days were a cycle of me feeling fine, so suggesting an outing to Mum and Uncle (I was feeling guilty about them sitting around at home being bored when they’d come all the way to Christchurch – plus, I was getting bored myself – I’m really not good at being sick, especially the “patience” bit of being a patient!), during which I’d overdo things and be exhausted and sore and have to go back to lying on the couch for a few hours to recover – rinse and repeat.  But with much rest and many painkillers, I was feeling ok by the Sunday, so Mum and Uncle went home, and I spent the rest of the week feeling guilty for being at home when I wasn’t really sick (well, apart from the whole getting tired really quickly, and not being able to sit at a computer for too long without it starting to hurt thing…).

Not being able to use the computer was frustrating, because I’d hoped to be able to at least get some thesis work done, but I managed half an hour here and there, so I didn’t get too far behind.  And I discovered that I was able to sit at a sewing machine slightly more successfully than at a computer (probably because sewing involves much more getting up and down to go to the iron and cutting mat, not just sitting in one position putting pressure on my belly-button stitches), so I sewed an entire quilt-top (only baby blanket sized, but it’s still a quilt top).  I don’t have a photo of it, but I’ll try and remember to take one tonight.

Anyway, I came back to work on Monday, and although I’m still a little tender, as long as I get up and walk around a bit every so often (a good idea anyway!), I’m managing ok.  I got the results of the biopsy on Monday, and all is clear, so that’s good news.  I’ve still got to have another blood test in a few weeks, just to keep an eye on that marker, but otherwise it looks like I’m done with hospitals – hopefully for a very long time!

But still, despite my occasional criticisms, I was really impressed by my travels through the public health system (note for Americans – this means the entire thing (less the $15 prescription fee I paid at the pharmacists when I picked up the painkillers) was paid for by the government – I didn’t have to pay a thing).  Although people complain about long waiting lists, as soon as there was a glimmer of a chance of this being something life-threatening, those waiting lists disappeared, and (apart from the odd hiccough) I was treated really well by everyone I encountered. And this in an underfunded health district still struggling to pay for repairs of earthquake damaged facilities.  Well done CDHB!

How to lose a sale

Dad was in town yesterday, so I took advantage of having access to a vehicle to go round a few places over on Blenheim Road and investigate wood burners (as my one has been declared too old to live by the dreaded ECAN, so I need to replace it before next winter or face a fine).  All went well at the first place we visited – the guy there was really helpful and gave me lots of good advice, and I left with a stack of brochures and useful information.

At the second place we visited, the woman was equally helpful, and equally forthcoming with advice and brochures.  Except that she directed absolutely everything she said to Dad, not to me.  Even though I was the one who’d approached her and said that I was looking for a log burner, and even though Dad was hanging back letting me do all the talking, she still kept talking to him and ignoring me.  Every time I asked her a question, she’d turn to Dad and tell him the answer!  The single time she directed a comment to me was when she demonstrated a feature on one of the fires and said “We girls like this, because it makes lighting the fire so much easier.” GRRRR.  I’ve just been asking you intelligent questions about kilowatt outputs and clearance requirements, and you somehow think I can’t even figure out how light a fire???

So yeah, guess which company I’ll be buying my new log burner from?