Archive for January, 2009

Little drummer boy

I am not a drummer. Not really anyhow. I was best defined by Skeeno‘s Da – whether i like it or not – as a frustrated country guitarist.

But I’ll have a go. I started drumming in my church cause they’re didn’t seem to be anyone else to do it and i really quite fancied having a go. There was somehwhat of a steep learning curve to that approach.

I used to get nervous drumming – I never got nervous playing guitar or singing (though I should be with the singing) – but with the drumming I was so totally aware of how loud and significant all the mistakes were. With the guiatar you could fluff a note or simply not play the bits you didn’t know. With drumming you have no such options.

People say if you hit one or two wrong notes then you’re crap but if you hit three wrong notes then it’s jazz. I’m prett sure that doesn’t apply to drumming.

I’m getting better and realising that it’s probably the most fun instrument in a band. Well it is for me, if not the most fun for the rest of the band who have to listen.


I’m going to stop pretending that I didn’t break your heart

this story gets headline in the BBC Northern Ireland section as if it’s something new when we’ve been on divert as we call it maybe twice a week for the past month and have done it lots and lots of times in the past.

we’re not allowed to put up a “hospital closed” sign or anything but it means that any patients referred by GPs will get sent to other hospitals.

would be interesting to see what would happen if we did just stick up a closed sign. Very little I imagine. Pulling a randon unsubstantiated figure out of the air, I’d say that 90% of those who come through A&E in a day would be still fine (when I say fine I mean not dead – us emergency medicine doctors have a funny definition of “sick”…) the next day if they didn’t come anywhere near us.

That said, we should still be providing a decent servive for that 90% and we’re not. Believe nothing of what hospitals and politicians say about delivering normal high quality service under extreme pressure – we don’t. Let’s stop pretending we do.

So here we are

I usually have rules about coffee after 7pm. Generally it all goes wrong when I don’t follow them. I end up awake all night with the head buzzing. Oh well, too late now, the coffee’s in the system so I’ll do whatever I usually do when I can’t sleep. Clean or blog. I’m not sure the lads would appreciate the former.

I’ll start with a bit of background.

I live in Portadown. More specifically I live in the middle of the Garvaghy Road area of town. Portadown is famous for very little – though we do seem to do a good line in sectarian violence. Most people know Portadown most famously for Drumcree and the Garvaghy Road came at the centre of that.

It is just far enough in the past (at least the worst bits) for it to become partly history. It doesn’t inflame the same passions it once did. Most are thankful for that.

Whether I like it or not, I am in Northern Irish terms a Protestant. This is how I would be viewed by many definitions. Again I say – whether I agree with that definition or not. As a Protestant I am also expected to subscribe to a number of national past times – being British, Bible bashing, and wanting orangemen to walk down the Garvaghy Road.

I travel on an Irish Passport, politically speaking I’d prefer a united Ireland, I think a lot of people made a lot of mistakes about Drumcree. I think the church in Northern Ireland was either co-opted into the loyalist agenda and in other cases was simply drowned out in the noise.

Portadown has issues in its past. All of Northern Ireland does – in many ways ours maybe aren’t even as big. Reconciliation is a big, tough word. We’re not there yet.

So as a Protestant living in the midst of the Garvaghy Road I realise there’s a bit of history and background that I can’t simply walk away from.

More background.

About 6 years ago I got involved in helping to run a youth club in town for a bunch of kids – from both sides of the spectrum. This was back when it was simple, you were either a Mickey or a Prod. Nowadays we’ve all the overseas guys are making our bigotry all a little bit more complicated.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – I grew up in nice sheltered middle-class suburbia in a stable 2 parent family with endless opportunities ahead of me. Some of these kids weren’t so lucky. It was somewhat of an eye opener.

I remember chatting with two other folk in particular thinking that why is it that all the Christians live in certain areas of town, while very few live in others. Thinking that if the church was doing what it should then maybe the church should be moving into certain areas, and indeed maybe I should…

So that’s how I ended up here. 6 years but I made it here eventually. Good thing GOD isn’t in a rush.

Now I’ve never quite understood the concept of calling or vision in the Christian life, maybe I’m a bit better with vocation. Most of the time I am doing what I think most people are doing – making it up as they go along.

But being here, living here is about the one thing I’ve ever felt called (which is a big, complex, hard to explain type of a word and I’m not gonna try that)… to do. That and medicine. I think so anyhow. Glad that’s as clear as mud then…

In particular I’ve always been excited about the idea of a church based on the Garvaghy Road, filled with and for the people of this area.

The evangelicals involvement in this part of town in the past has largely been “ship lots of folk in to do something and then leave at the end of the week.” Which has not been all bad by any means but hardly satisfactory.

More worryingly we have often committed that most heinous of crimes and tried to make good old fashioned Northern Irish Protestants out of them. We have not always covered ourselves in glory in that regard.

We are very bad at grasping other people’s point of view. That maybe not everyone is as keen on the Union with Britain as we are. Maybe not everyone is a big fan of the orange order and maybe everyone isn’t a big fan of some guys coming in and telling them that their mother Church is the anti-CHRIST.

So maybe if we’re talking about church and JESUS and all that we need to see it from their point of view.

People, generally known as missionaries, have been doing this in the church for years, but generally in some foreign country where us Prods can’t see them doing it. We’ve never quite learned to apply the same lessons at home.

And so that’s what we’re kind of about. To put it simply – trying to plant a church here. That term of course carries a lot of baggage and you will no doubt have pre-conceptions of what I mean by that. We are in the process of working all this out.

I think I’m beginning to understand what “working out your salvation with fear and trembling means”. None of us claim authority or all the answers. Anything we proclaim, we proclaim with humility and an acknowledgement that what we are doing we have not always done well in this place.

I get very excited about church. I mean the concept of the church, the big, universal, holy catholic church that they used to talk about back when I was growing up anglican where they had nice things like liturgy.

There are not very many people in Ireland doing this. At least not that I am aware of, though that’s maybe not saying very much. I know Zoomtard does this for a living in many ways in Maynooth and seems to be doing very well.

The North is one of the most churched places on earth though we’ve not always been renowned for being innovative in how we do church.  Hopefully we’re learning.

At the minute we’re still only beginning. There’s a group of us living here, with the same vision, the same heart for the place and the people. We meet on Sunday mornings in this house to chat and pray and eat bacon. Kind of simple but it’s a start.

Baby it’s cold outside

One of the advantages of working lots of evening shifts is the random free mornings when people with proper jobs have to go to work and I get to lie around worrying about going to work. Occasionally I manage to do something useful with the mornings, especially when big brother is off work too.

Cold weather, ice, snow and rain are no obstacle to a bit of kayaking. I’ve found myself even wanting it to rain a bit more so we can get a bit more flow on the upper bann. I never thought I’d think such a thought.

But even a quick paddle from town is nice when you get it.


Despite the Volvo not starting (yet again – looks like I’m buying a new battery tomorrow, either that or always parking the car on a steep hill..) we were eating brekkie at 8.30 and on the water by 9.30.

I had not feeling in my hands for the first 10 minutes or so. Must buy those fruity looking fingerless goves Simy has…

There were a lot of swans who seemed to have abandoned the town in fear of Eastern Europeans poaching them for Christimas lunch. That may only be a vicious racist rumour that’s going about but there have been reports… I have to say I could eat a swan given the opportunity… Err yes…

Maybe the Eastern Europeans don’t know that the queen owns them all (actually, i think she’s official protector or something, whatever that means).

I dislike swans. There was an incident in NZ with a swan that has left it’s scars. More mental than physical i must say. In fact they’re all mental really but it’s a genuine phobia honestly…

There were also two boys with a gun shooting things. Though thankfully it was birds and not protestants. Good that times have changed eh…

I let you down

I’m one of the slightly grumpy bitter ones who never enjoys new year – perhaps because I tend to have a difficult time actually enjoying myself at the inevitable social occasions that go with it, or maybe it’s the compulsive happiness that i object to. Or the reinforcement of the social ideal that is implied – get trolleyed and pull a random bird to go home with – do anything but don’t be alone…


Since starting work I’ve now got a wonderful excuse to avoid such revelry. I’ve managed to work 3 out of the past 4.

3 years ago – with dying nursing home patient in resus in A&E in craigavon, wondering where all the nurses had buggered off to and not looking at my watch

2 years ago – sticking tubes and lines in the lady in NZ who was too pissed to walk home and drove – into a tree

1 year ago – outside a cottage in Donegal with cigars and Bushmills, trying our best to ignore countdowns and the fact that the rest of the guys in the cottage had locked us out…

Last night – examining some woman’s manky infected toe. Poor dear.

I was not looking forward to last night’s shift – these days I’ve progressed to on-call from home overnight instead of being in on shifts but New Years Eve is normally chaos so we put extra staff on on purpose. Though i the end it was lovely and we were twiddling out thumbs at 3am wondering if maybe the credit crunch meant that people couldn’t afford to go out, get hammered and punch a window through.

I spent most of the night thinking through my latest medical mistake.

We all make mistakes, most of you reading this will know this. And mostly that’s not killing people, it’s more missing things that you could treat, and usually only missing them for a few hours till someone else notices them.

Medicine is not exactly an exact science and the luxury of time and observation usually gives you the diagnosis. unfortunately thanks to the wisdom of our government we don’t always have that in the emergency department.

None of this is excuse, none of this gets me off the fact that I missed something, but all of it put together makes all of us medics go “yeah, I’ve done that, I feel your pain…”

Yes it was busy, yes I looked at the x-rays for where i presumed the pathology would be and not looking at it as if it was a fresh slate – one of those situations where seeing the x-rays only and not the patient is actually a benefit cause it forces you to be thorough and not just look at the part of the x-ray where the swelling and bruising is… And yes it was a difficult patient who had absolutely no regard or responsibility for his own health. Yes he was hammered and that always makes everything more difficult. And yes alarm bells in my own head did go – that cautionary panic in your gut about a patient (which I have found bizarrely to be almost never wrong – i wonder how we could evidence base and audit that one…) – but still I did not listen. Still I got it wrong.

I’ll not mention what I got wrong -if you’re keen to know I can send you some interesting scans that even the non-medics could spot from across the room. The problem is not the scans, the problem was the decision to order them.

Now let it be clear that it made absolutely no difference to the patient. My gaff was picked up on the x-ray review within 2 hours of him leaving the department. We brought him back the next day and got him sorted having come to no harm whatsoever.

But still. You can’t help but take a little bit of a look at yourself. You can’t help but beat yourself up about it.

Mistakes are an inevitability of the job – this is probably my biggest in 5 years –  thankfully of no consequence, though that’s hardly the point. The point is that it happened, and it happened due to a mixture of busyness, pressure, timing, a difficult patient and most of all breaking almost all of my own rules.

Lesson learned? I hope so. Though I got away with it – and maybe one day I won’t and some poor patient will face the consequences.  Anyone have a better idea of how we do all this?


January 2009
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