Month: January 2012

Your health and how you too can achieve it.

I’ve made my thoughts on women’s magazines clear in the past and I wont rehash them – too much. Today I was in Mag Nation with my man and while he was browsing through the copies of Monocle and whole magazines dedicated to t-shirts (fall of Rome?) I picked up a copy of Women’s Health under the belief that it would be, you know, about health.

I judge a magazine by it’s cover. This cover told me how to be better in bed, ways to not be ashamed about my bikini bod, a food and exercise diary to get that bikini bod, and multiple different ways on how to ‘trim down’ or ‘lose the excess’ etc etc.

This is not health. In that magazine’s defence, they often publish the results of studies in an easy-to-read and useful way so it’s not all bad. But plastering the front cover of a magazine with the ten million ways you too can lose weight and be desired and then linking this with the idea of health is just wrong.  It’s also this assumption that all women want to know about is how to be thin and attractive.  It assumes you’re a fat idiot who needs a diary to do basic things like eating.  And if you are overweight, no 3-week-fat-blast-your-way-to-a-bikini-bod program is going to fix it.  It’s going to set you up to fail and the cynical part of me says that it sets you up to fail so you keep on buying all that shit.  And if you are overweight, you don’t need that.  You need to know that there are no obese 80 year olds because they don’t make it to 80 and then you need to fix what’s broken in your life.

And what if I’m not fat?  What if, god forbid, I like my body in a bikini and what if I don’t binge drink, binge eat, drink sugary soft drinks or snack all day at the office?  What if I don’t do any of those things but I’d still like to read a magazine about health?  Yes, obesity is a frightening problem and yes I think everyone should be made to walk through the dialysis unit where many too-young people sit with kidney failure thanks to their type 2 diabetes but I don’t think treating your audience with contempt then setting them up to fail is really the way to go about fixing that.  What about a two year diary?  What about an article on how your friends and family love you in spite of the fact you don’t have washboard abs or the right size boobs?  And that if it really really was about how you looked then we’d all be lonely with no friends because none of us, not a single one, would match up to the ever-shifting image of visual perfection created for us?  That maybe those perfect boobs and washboard abs are nothing more than constructs set up to undermine you into believing you need these things to be loved?

How about an article on things you can get your body to do rather than how it looks?  Because it’s a pretty amazing thing your body.  It self-detoxifies (that’s called your liver), it extracts oxygen from the air, puts it into your blood, then exchanges it for carbon dioxide (that’s your lungs), it can recognise and defend you from the most complicated of microscopic lifeforms (your immune system), and did I mention it can do physics?  Play the piano?  Love someone?  Invent rockets?  Do backflips?  Swim?  Get tingles when someone kisses you?

And these magazines want you to worry about how you look in a bikini?

Your body is already amazing.  And being loved isn’t as simple as being hot.  If that were true, supermodels would never get dumped.

I want a magazine that says “aim for a waist circumference of x” so you don’t die of a heart attack at 60.  Now here’s some martial arts moves.  Want to  learn backflips?  Swim in the ocean without getting puffed out? A 5 week plan to a handstand.  Here’s how to play outside as an adult.  Juggling moves and circus tricks.  Amazing things you can do with that body of yours that no one ever told you about.

I put the magazine down and I walked away.  Found another one called “Dumbo Feather”, all about the amazing things people do, how they did it, the challenges they met, and what they did about them.  I don’t need to be treated like an idiot – and neither do you.

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And now, as you breathe in.

Internship finished with an arrest.  A rip roaring drop-where-you’re-standing cardiac arrest.  One of our patients had been sick for a while, I’d seen her the evening before on an after hours shift and she looked so bad.  I did everything, documented everything, and then left when told by the med reg.  I didn’t get to make any decisions for her, and it’s not like many could be made.  The next day, eyes wide open, gasping for air, she just stopped.  Stopped breathing right in front of the poor nurse who was unfortunate enough to come into work on her birthday.  The rest runs like clockwork.  The nurse hits the panic button.  My consultant leaps out the door leaving my slightly confused reg and I standing in front of someone elses chest xray.  We cotton on, and follow, to find our boss doing CPR.  My reg takes over when he gets tired, I get a line in.  I take over from my reg.  I feel things crack under my hands.  I look at her face and I know.  We keep trying.  We all keep trying and about 5 different people rotate in and out while the head boss makes the decision.  “Enough guys”.    The nurse and I cover her up.  There’s nothing dignified about this but we try anyway.  Maybe more for ourselves than anything.

I clean up the various packets I’d ripped open in the melee, dispose of my sharps and suddenly don’t notice anyone else.  We go back to our round, everyone just goes back to work while the team leader calls the cops to go and find the patients husband – they were a poor couple and their phone had been disconnected.  He’d been by her side every day for her whole admission. No one says anything and for the first time I get it.  In medical school I’d seen similar things happen, I’d always been on the periphery, I’d watched everyone just get back to work and wondered at the heartlessness of it.

But it’s not heartless.  You’ve just watched someone die.  You’ve tried to bring them back, you’ve done all the right things for what they’re worth.  And you carry that with you all. day.  You’re too stunned, too defeated to cry.  And by the time the shock wears off, so has any tears.  You comfort the patients in the beds around her, still living, who witnessed the whole thing before the curtains were drawn.  Later her husband is there, saying he’s trying to be manly and not cry and in the same breath wondering why it’s okay to cry in public at the movies but not in public, for your wife?  But he can’t cry anyway, he can’t stop saying these things happen and desperately thanking us for trying and he should go because we must be busy.  He has no family and no friends.  We offer to call people for him, anyone, but he declines and again says we must be busy and leaves.  My heart breaks in half but I keep on working, keep on having Serious Conversations about antibiotic doses and yes I got that consult, I ordered those tests, I rang that person who knows what you need about patients x, y, and z.

I go home, I eat a lot of chocolate, and try to get her out of my head.  I lie awake all night thinking about her, about him, and their faces don’t go away that night.  Later it all fades and here I am at the end of internship and for the first time I think I know what it means to be a doctor.  It’s not about memorizing facts that may help you pass future exams and impress bosses with your so-called genius.  It’s about knowing what to do.  It’s about knowing how to fix you, how to use the best of what the scientific community has to offer to find a way to keep us all going.

I still don’t know where I’m headed.  I don’t really know what this all means.  Or how I’m supposed to feel about half the things I do and see.

At any rate, internship is over.  I have to take another breath in, because tomorrow it’s a whole new game.  Resident-only rotations, resident-only after hours shifts.  The really sick patient wards.  And for the first time, I don’t feel afraid.