A Week On
I always knew it would be a tough first week back. Especially after the highs of the week and the luxury of concentrating on the Oceans Project full term. There have been a lot of highs and low this week, but I think I’m over the reverse culture shock now.
Hopefully I will have electricity restored to my room soon, and I know that once the men have finished digging up the street, the water and electric should be available fairly consistently, although its just a question of how long it will take. One of the aspects of living in a country undergoing a refit I guess! But the portion of the street which has been fixed is looking nice, and its now possible to see that through the dust and noise and lack of electricity that it will be worth it in the end.
Uisce seems to be responding to the daily vet visits, drips of Ringers solution, and two hourly injections which I have been giving her in a cold and dark room. She has passed her first motion after my giving her an enema at the vet’s suggestion and she seems to be eating and drinking a little now. So, now it is just a question of time. Its not a pet friendly country and that does make life hard, as I was probably expected to just leave her and let her die. But, having not been around for my granddad and having always put others needs before my own, I decided that I was going to do everything I could, especially since its viral and not to do with old age or anything untreatable. At the last vet visit her heart was sounding better and she looks a little more like herself and doesn’t seem to be suffering, beyond the physical aspect. After the experience with medical school and not being allowed to visit my grandfather because I would be missing a lecture in Health Psychology, and then his funeral. And that he ended up spending two days in a chair because no one could get anyone to come and see him, I vowed that never again, would I let anyone force me or guilt trip me into putting their needs before my own or my family’s. So, yes, Uisce is a cat, but she is also the only family I have, and has stuck by me through thick and thin and saved me from killing myself in my darkest hours over the past 16 years, and she deserves my attention and is reliant on my doing something when she is unwell. Its not a concept understood in Georgia, but I’ve made a lot of compromises in order to live in Georgia, and this is something that is non negotiable. Its also tough, because if I was Georgian, then I would have extended family at home to take a part in the care, but I don’t, so its only me, and since she is my cat, then it is my responsibility.
I never had a Christmas holiday until I came to Georgia, and I always had to put work and my finances or long term security above spending time with family and friends. This year I have no choice about that, as it seems that school runs until 29th December and I will be giving end of term exams at that time, because Georgians celebrate Christmas and New Year as per the Orthodox calendar. I’m living in Georgia, so I need to follow that calendar too, even though it will be odd not being able to celebrate Christmas or to call friends and family around the world because I will be at school teaching.
I’ve also swapped a good salary, pension, mortgage, and higher quality of life materially for one where I can’t shower when I want, can’t eat food that I am used to, and am no longer in receipt of free and understood health care, and all the time I am here, I am no longer paying into my old age pension. Those are all sacrifices I have made, in order to pursue the happiness that I get from living here. I’m not complaining about them, but more just putting them out there as considerations for others looking to move their life and world to another country.
I’ve also loved and lost relationships with my blood family members as a result of my decision, and no one is especially happy at my decision to leave the UK or my profession to follow a relatively poorly paid teaching post in a foreign country which has a reputation elsewhere of war and corruption. I know its not like that, but others don’t know the nicer side of Georgia, and so only hear the bad bits because only bad news sells.
I’m worried and feeling guilty about my grandmother this past week. She had a knee replacement, and being here makes it hard to be in touch and find out how she is. I can’t phone, a letter takes forever, and I have no other way of being in touch, as she doesn’t have a facebook account, skype, or anything like that. I feel that I should at least be in touch, but with the time difference and her being in hospital with a communal pay phone that a nurse has to answer and bring to her bed, its logistically more difficult. SHe should be home by now, and I know my aunt is going to stay with her for a few days until she gets more mobile again, but its not the same as being able to pop in and say hello and bring her some flowers or chocolates or whatever.
Ringers and Hartmann’s
It was weird to be giving Uisce Ringers fluid. In America, you are not allowed to use the term ‘Ringers’, I heard it was because of a association with something Ringer did to Jewish people, but I’ve never heard more about this, and have no idea whether or not its true, perhaps it is more to do with a British or American sense of history and pride??. In America you use a solution called Hartmann’s instead, but its essentially the same thing, and is a fantastic fluid that can be used to mimic blood, and which organs and tissues can survive in for a short time. Its an isotonic solution, and in A and E where I used to work, it saved many lives, especially where people had a lot of blood loss or were very unwell.
Even though I have forgotten much of my medical knowledge, it was still interesting to think that a British man from Norwich in England, back somewhere between 1834-1910 invented this fluid, that was now responsible for saving my cat’s life. He went to the same university as I did for my Masters, University College London, and I have worked in many of the same buildings and hospitals Children’s Hospital. A job which he gave up because it was not considered socially acceptable for a physician to have two hospital posts. He was an introvert, and lived with his wife in London, going to bed early, and before his clinical shifts began, he would experiment with different types of fluids in the lab every morning, his only social life being trips to Lambeth to listen to musical concerts. He wasn’t from a wealthy family, and it took him a long time to get a place at medical school, and then he struggled to raise the money to pay for his course and living expenses, and he wasn’t famous until after his death. But his work, changed the face of medicine, of anaesthesia, and of cardiac surgery, and I believe that he inspired the work of Hartmann, a doctor in Louisianna in the USA shortly afterwards. Hartmann developed the fluid further, and was the only person not to call this new fluid Hartmann’s solution. And in some weird way, it makes me wonder about the paths that people take in life, how they overcome struggles and hardship, and how they go on to become something that has such a dramatic effect on others, not just at that time, but all around the world and for generations and generations to come. I wonder what those people who didn’t support him or believed in him would say now, if you interviewed them? Would they regret that they didn’t give him a place at their medical school, or that they didn’t fund him??? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.
And I guess, my point is, that we all have that potential inside us, but we all need a drive a belief in ourselves, and to follow our instincts despite people advising us this way or that. Who knows what he might have invented had he continued working at Great Ormond Street Hospital, could he have come up with a cure for some devastating paediatric condition too? I like to hear stories of Brits like that, and to know that they have had some impact on my own education and behaviour in some way. And I love that he was also friends with another life changing Brit, a man called Jon Snow, who also lived in London at the same time. I wonder how many people realise that their life has been protected in some way by the works of Jon Snow all those years ago??
Jon Snow is the father of epidemiology and perhaps Public Health Medicine, something that I studied in for an MPH (Masters in Public Health Medicine) in the West Indies. There is even a pub called the ‘Jon Snow’, and I wonder how many of its beer drinkers realise who this plain named chap is? At that time, in 1854, hundreds of people were dying from what we now call an ‘epidemic’ of the disease cholera also affectionately know as ‘the Black Death’. No one knew why, but Soho in London was at the centre of all these deaths.
Jon Snow and the local Vicar interviewed local people and tried to establish any patterns in the deaths, and Jon came to the conclusion that the only commonality was a hand pump at a well on Broad Street, so he took water samples from there and decided to shut off the water supply so that people were forced to use other pumps. The death rate dropped, but the government refused to believe in the oral-faecal route of transmission of the disease because the mere thought of it was just too repulsive and wouldn’t be acceptable by the public. But it is interesting to read Jon’s letter to the local paper from that time:
The result of the inquiry, then, is, that there has been no particular outbreak or prevalence of cholera in this part of London except among the persons who were in the habit of drinking the water of the above-mentioned pump well.
I had an interview with the Board of Guardians of St James’s parish, on the evening of the 7th inst [Sept 7], and represented the above circumstances to them. In consequence of what I said, the handle of the pump was removed on the following day.