How Far We’ve Come

 Back in June, I started this blog, thanks to the Shift Time Festival’s ‘Blogging Project’ workshops, which provided a blogging expert to show a bunch of beginners the basics and patiently answer our endless questions – Thanks Pete! Last week, I was passing-on the benefits of that short course and my eight months of hands-on experience to someone who has recently started blogging and who wanted a little help. I was happy to do that, and delighted to find that I could answer almost all his questions without trouble. A good sign of progress – but read on.

Back in September, just five months ago, I wrote about a trip I made to Birmingham to visit a friend. I’d planned it almost like a major military campaign, with Google maps and bus timetables. I’d needed to do that, as I was still coming out from the effects of thyroid deficiency and I was still struggling with planning and organising things. It turned out to be an aborted visit, as my friend had not been able to be there to meet me, but considering how tired the trip made me, it was just as well – I wouldn’t have been good company for long. However, it was a total success in terms of achieving my plans, a small tactical victory that was a huge boost to my morale, and assured me that I was getting back to normal.

It was this same friend, Graham Higgins, who’d asked for help with his blog; and last Friday’s trip was the same journey I’d made in September – this time with Graham at the far end of it. He’d also heard about my small guitar, and wanted to see it, so the guitar came too and we spent at least half the time playing through old songs. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to play along with someone else. It was a most enjoyable few hours. Unlike September’s journey, last week’s trip required no meticulous planning. Even allowing for the fact that I’d made the same trip before, I took it so much in my stride and was so relaxed on arrival, that I could see how much extra progress I have made in just those last five months, how much my confidence has come back again. Which is very encouraging news in itself – but read on.

Not long after I’d made that first trip to Birmingham, Graham had been diagnosed with a serious heart problem, an aortic dissection. So serious that it’s usually first picked up at post-mortem. At the end of December, he underwent heart surgery at Selly Oak Hospital: a seven-hour operation to replace a heart valve and line the aorta. Six weeks on from that, I was expecting to meet someone frail and still very convalescent, muddled in mind, very soon tired. I didn’t. He looks well, vibrantly alive, as full of ideas and intelligent responses as ever. He amazed me by frequently nipping up the stairs to get things, playing guitar and ukelele, singing, cooking lunch and finally accompanying me on the walk back to Stirchley and the bus at a speed that had me scurrying to keep up (and both of us talking nineteen to the dozen – we trotted past three bus stops rather than break off the conversation). All this in just six weeks – and I thought that I was doing well!

I won’t talk more about the operation here – the man has a blog, and can tell you about it far better in his own words. (Graham’s blog is under redevelopment, don’t be surprised if you encounter painters’ dropcloths and stumble over stepladders at this link.) All thanks to the doctors who spotted the problem and to the surgical team that fixed it so successfully.

Think of this, next time you wonder whatever happened to the future we used to read of in science fiction: it’s here, doing impossibly complex medical procedures as routine. (Think of this, too, next time you hear someone indulging in the national sport of moaning about the National Health Service, which provides such exquisite, time-consuming surgical work without charge.) Think of this – and just look how far we have come.

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2 Responses to “How Far We’ve Come”

  1. It would be an exceptional piece of your writing that wasn’t crisp, clear and to several well-made points, so the courtesy preview is appreciated though unnecessary. Absolutely endorse that hat-throwing endorsement of the NHS staff at every level, from the ward to the virtuoso craftsmen in the theatre. It was actually a pleasure to have the opportunity of conversation with the surgical team. Whatever they’re paid, their motivation seems to be a genuine enquiring interest in the workings of what I gather are technically known as the giblets.
    Travels over the years have reminded me how improbably fortunate we are to live in a corner of geography and history in which we’ve been spared all-out war and think nothing of reliable clean water supply, readily available medical treatment, opportunities for an education, foodstuffs on routinely stocked shelves in a variety even my parents would never have encountered in their youth…
    I’ve never been able to test myself against the temptations of conspicuous affluence but jeez, so long as you don’t get the idea that they’re your right there’s a lot to blow a little whistle of gratitude for. I know you might cavil – who to? – but as a thought exercise and a residual habit I do register thanks and applause for exceptional skies and scenery to the universe in general. On a quantum level I’m sure it appreciates it.

    • suetortoise Says:

      Maybe the best way to say thanks for the good things is by passing on the happiness by spreading it around. Make something, say something, work at something using that glow as a fuel, however indirectly. Or by trying to share the art of appreciating the world – pointing things out and saying ‘Wow! Look!’

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