Sleep is a good gift

Betty shares a Saturday morning Pilates class with another teacher, which means that sometimes on a Saturday she teaches four hours or so, and sometimes she has very little on. Ordinarily, when the other teacher is taking the mat class, Betty goes along anyway and participates, which is good for her; today, her plan was to practice with one of the apprentices, work out in the mat class, do some administration for an hour, and then teach her one client at 11.15. However, said client called Betty yesterday to cancel, and the apprentice had a friend to practice with, and Betty worked out for two hours with another apprentice on Monday and Tuesday, and did an advanced mat on Thursday and all the leg springs, and then on Friday she drifted into another plane of existence while watching BSG, and all in all it seemed like the better part of valour to just forgo the studio altogether.

So the upshot of it all was that Betty slept in luxuriously until half past nine. It was awesome. It has been rather a busy time for Betty sleep-wise, since she now starts work at 6.30 or 6.45 or possibly 7.00 every weekday morning, and naturally has to get there earlier to open the windows and renew her outlook, and since she also finishes work at 10.30 two or three nights a week, and (naturally) later if anything interesting goes on at work.

It’s going to be a busy week again, because the Pilates master teacher, whose name is  Cynthia, is coming out on Thursday. She will test two of the apprentices, and teach very many lessons, and then she will teach the Basic Seminar to four new apprentices, and there may be a photo shoot and a dinner. Betty will, however, have an afternoon off the following Friday. Film at eleven.

Academia: so it begins

This one time, Betty did a master’s degree. In her thesis, she wrote about three Australasian physician-writers, and interviewed some of them to talk about the ways their literary writing affected their medical practice, and, of course, vice-versa. It was lovely fun, and during the two years that she spent writing it, Betty gave a couple of guest lectures on related topics as part of her supervisor’s medical humanities course.

Last year, her supervisor asked Betty to consider coming to the big city and co-teaching the course, as well as giving it a bit of a reboot and adding a creative writing component. Betty considered this for about a quarter of a second before quitting her job and looking for an apartment. (In the interests of full disclosure, Betty must also reference the opportunity to train with the world-class Pilates master teacher, the wonderful studio to train in, and the boy person friend.)

Betty and her supervisor (who is awesome; he was at Oxford) split the teaching 50/50, and the course was a roaring success. That is to say, the students (all third-year medical students, with backgrounds in literature ranging from BA to “haven’t read a book since primary school”) read Chekhov, Kafka, Carlos Williams and Verghese until narrative and metaphor started coming out of their ears, and then they wrote a collection of poetry that made Betty blush with pride, and hope that if she ever drops almost-dead she finds a physician as empathetic, ethically sound, and articulate as they are.

This year Betty and her supervisor arranged to split the teaching 80/20. Betty is very excited. Though she has no desire to become a full-time professor, being a Lecturer: Medical Humanities is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a tantalising and chewy reminder of how much Betty loves academia.

A macadamia.

All this, of course, means that Betty has a bunch of work to do redesigning the course. She plans to improve the section on mental illness by adding some more literature (the current readings are “The Yellow Wallpaper”, a semi-autobiographical story about undifferentiated schizophrenia, and some Plath poems; keen students can also read Alice W Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease), and create a specific section on grief (using CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Plutarch’s letter to his wife on the death of their child, and scenes from Truly, Madly, Deeply). Other sections cover topics like traditional medicine, ethics, metaphors of warfare and information systems, and the doctor-patient relationship.

Gentle readers with favourite literary texts that relate even remotely to practising medicine, giving birth, dying, being well, or being sick, should let rip in the comments section — no Lecturer: Medical Humanities is an island. Medium-sized stories or excerpts, or poems, are best, but I can show a few movie clips as well.

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Practically perfect in every way

Betty’s Advanced practical Pilates exam took place on Friday and Saturday. It went smashingly, for the most part: she passed, anyway, which is the important thing, and she additionally found the examination process to be that most wily of creatures, a learning experience. The promise of a learning experience is one of those things that one hears on a daily basis from anybody connected with the process — already-certified instructors, fellow-apprentices, clients, mentors — and it is, pleasingly, quite real.

Betty first had to teach her willing victim a complete Advanced Reformer, including the High Frog and the Star, which are not to be sneezed at; in addition to demonstrating a thorough working knowledge of the correct sequence, counts, cues, apparatus settings, rhythm and dynamics, and hands-on spotting of the exercises, Cynthia (the examiner) asked periodically for comments on the goals of the exercises, and on their suitability for the victim’s body.

Then Cynthia asked Betty to teach a few Advanced mat exercises as if for the first time, showing modifications and spotting for safety; following this, she requested a selection of exercises on some of the other apparatus. This part of the test is mainly designed to indicate that Betty will not drop her clients off the Wunda chair or decapitate them with the Push-Through Bar. Once satisfied on this score, Cynthia directed Betty and her victim to the Wall, where they finished the test with some aplomb.

The following day was the mat portion of the test; the studio’s regular Saturday morning Advanced mat clients gallantly stepped up and performed a flowing mat, arm weights, castanets and standing stretches. The overall effect was a little flat, and Betty was inclined to be unnerved by the fact that while testing requires a flowing sequence, the Saturday clients require a full hour; but it worked out tolerably in the end.

The upshot of all this was that Betty passed her practical, and her certificate is in the mail. Since her first seminar was in late January, the process has been swift and intense: her right ankle, broken just after the first seminar, still hurts; but the key thing is that it is absolutely worth it. Onward and upward!

2009 so far

It’s been rather an, oh, how shall I put this delicately, annus abyssus? A hell of a year. At the end of last year, I threw caution and the dregs of childhood to the winds, quit my job, left home, and moved to one of the swankier suburbs of the big city. Once the wheels were in motion, there was no stopping me: one thing led to another, and in the space of a year, I have

  • Found a flat, or rather, a bedroom and a landlady
  • Found a part-time job, in which I got to use a hoist
  • Broken my right ankle (walking on the beach, slipped on the rocks, rescued by paramedics, tide coming in, hopped up the cliff, true story)
  • Entered a second Pilates training programme, and completed the first two stages of certification
  • Been hit by a car, badly spraining my left ankle
  • Rehabilitated two ankles
  • Crashed someone else’s car, in a very minor manner, but still
  • Found another part-time job, in which I get to drive cars
  • Quit the first part-time job
  • Found a full-time job, teaching Pilates
  • Had another part-time job, lecturing in humanities at medical school; secured same gig for next year
  • Done NaNoWriMo, winning by the skin of my teeth
  • Started a blog, and posted more than five times (see previous blog)
  • Watched Battlestar Galactica
  • Done Balance Control Step Off on the Reformer

In order to round out the year, there are some things I plan to do in the next few weeks:

  • Complete the Pilates certification — practical exam on Friday, mat test on Saturday, updates then.
  • Turn 27.
  • Fix the car.

Stay tuned, gentle readers.

More things I love about my job

  • I get to drive past Random House Books, which has a pleasing sign out the front, viz:

  • The cars have remote locking and flash their lights — simple pleasures, I know
  • When I am early I can get a tiny burger from Burger Fuel
  • Or a Thai meal
  • Though I have never done so
  • There are actual magazines in the staffroom, with covers and actual words, like North & South and Mindfood and so on, rather than tattered stripped copies of Truth
  • Other staff encourage me to leave humorous messages on the whiteboards
  • I get to sing in the car

News from the first aid front

Since Betty’s employers have her dispensing glipizide and metformin and lithium carbonate with gay abandon, they deemed it appropriate for her to do a first aid course. Fair enough. It was no flighty three-hour jobbie, either, but a hefty two-day workplace first aid course, which means that Betty is now the hefty workplace first aider (though, as she shares this responsibility with every other employee in the place, it’s not much of an accolade). It’s nice to know, though, that if Betty does run her nice work car into the back of someone, she will be able to get out of the car, triage the situation, and perform minor emergency manoeuvres in her sleep. This will be useful.

A few notes, for the benefit of those who think a cup of tea is the safest answer:

  • DRSABC. That’s doctor’s, so you don’t have to panic wondering how you’ll be able to remember the acronym DRS come the revolution. Doctor’s ABC.
  • The doctor’s part is Danger (switch off the engine, and for pete’s sake chuck a towel on that cup of tea), Response (“hulloo? Anybody home?”), Send for help (and be specific: there are almost as many variations on the emergency numbers in different countries as there are acronyms in the mental health system, and it turns out that mobiles over here should try calling 112 instead of 111, so there you go).
  • The ABC part has been changing with the times. A is for Airway, of course, which means that it pays to pull the bubblegum out of baby’s gullet before you waste time with the crepe bandage; B is for Breathing, which is pretty much held to be compulsory, even in this technological age; and C no longer stands for Circulation, allegedly because finding a pulse is v. difficult when in the heat of the moment. I have always found that a diffident finger in the carotid does the trick, but I bow to the wisdom of the latest research; anyhow, the story goes, if the patient’s respiration has ceased the pulse is not long for this world either, so it pays to get straight into the CPR, which (fortunately for the acronym) also begins with C. So that’s what you do. CPR.

CPR is quite fun, these days. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember how fast to do the chest compressions, and even more worried when the manual said to do 100 per minute, which requires complex fractions, but the tutor had a nifty trick: simply bounce away on the sternum to the pace of two chirpy rounds of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. That gives 31 compressions at an appropriate rate; then give two breaths (for no apparent reason; the Americans have given up on them altogether; but chest compressions are jolly hard on the wrists), and repeat until either the paramedics or the patient tells you to stop.

Just in case, each workplace first aid graduate was sent home with Mini-Anne, who has an inflatable torso, a disposable set of lungs, and a pinchable nose; her chest clicks when you do it right. Stay tuned for pics, later.

Things I love about my job

  • The dishwasher works perfectly. When you pick up a cup, it has no lipstick, coffee-gunge or limescale on it.
  • There are eighteen different kinds of herbal tea on the staff-room table as I type.
  • I get to drive a nice car.
  • There is a wage range for my job, and though I was quite inexperienced and had a BA, they paid me above the minimum.
  • They send me emails asking whether I would fancy attending a psychosis conference on my days off.
  • They have whiteboards.

The Educated Heart

This is one of my favourite books on professional ethics and boundaries. It was written for manual therapists, but has been updated for movement teachers as well. I wrote a review of the book recently; apart from anatomy and technical material, this is the book I refer to most often in my Pilates teaching. It has quite lovely illustrations, also.

Educated Heart

Gainful employment, what larks

Wednesday was the first day of my new job. I went to the studio in the morning, and taught clients at 7, 8, and 9, and then I did a bracing Advanced Reformer workout with one of the other teacher/apprentices. It was smashing, actually: the first full Advanced I’ve done since I broke my ankle, and I left out only the Arabesques and the kicks in the Control Push Ups Back. I did Snake and Twist and stepped off in Balance Control and all sorts. Then, I went home and changed, and caught a bus to Mairangi Bay. The truth is that Windsor Park buses are rare and flighty creatures — I’ll be walking up Hastings Road many times yet, I suspect.

When these bods say induction, they have their minds made up. They started me out as they mean to go on by producing a training supervisor with practically the same name as another supervisor, who I was expecting; while I was still reeling from the dissonance, she started using a cunning technical-difficulty manoeuvre developed experimentally at Guantanamo, and when I was good and stonkered, she gave me a 60-page PDF about divergent models of mental health care. It was written in academic jargon, however, and contained a joke by a PACT alum about narrowly escaping a life “running for Clubhouse president”, so sucks to her: I survived the reading time with wits to spare and finished the day with a meeting. Meetings and acronyms, that’s where it’s at.

So. Thursday. More of the same. Obtained keys, drop-files, photocopier logins, and the lay of the carparking situation. Began the more interesting and useful orientation to various mental health disorders and diagnoses, treatment models, clinical teams and care responsibilities — I had a brief moment of doom when the supervisor asked me, for the purposes of analogy, to name people involved in a long-distance car rally. “The driver…?” said I, racking the remaining quarter of my brain; but she was kind enough to tell me, and this may interest readers, that someone sits next to the driver during these rallies. I was surprised, frankly: surely, in this modern age, such an arrangement represents an unnecessary risk that will inevitably lead to tyre and suspension wear, higher petrol costs, social awkwardness, helmet-hair — the list goes on. It’s fortunate that nobody has yet revolutionised this, however, in a way — I doubt that the mental health sector would take kindly to having to replace their navigator (family support, for anyone who’s still reading) with the equivalent of KITT or a GPS device. KITT, incidentally, is one of only eight remaining acronyms in the world (two of them undiscovered, like dvi-lanthanum) not in use in the mental health sector. Fascinating.

Anyway the point is, after lunch, I went back for three more meetings. Client perspectives, other services, and health and safety. Doting relatives may rest easy: there are plans for every hazard from stress to tsunami. Do not drink the floodwater, it may be contaminated.