Killer toothache

My grandad was a dentist. My cousin is also a dentist. I study medicine. And yet I’m on NHS Choices frantically working out why my tooth hurts. (and getting horrified by photos of terrible teeth)

We know very little about our teeth. I don’t know when teeth and gums divorced themselves from the rest of the organs and went off on their separate ways but it is a shame because the last time I had any official teaching on my teeth was back when I was 7 years old and in primary school. I think dentists and the field of dentistry is great. But isn’t the glorious oral cavity – the entry to the human GI system, still part of well – the human? Why is this not part of being a doctor? Why is dentistry its own vocation? Why did we draw the line with teeth?

Perhaps its because I have a toothache and am suddenly very aware of my aching teeth but I’m now trying to do all the things the dentists always tried to tell us to do. Here’s a reminder incase you also forgot:

  • Brush teeth twice a day
  • limit the sugary foods (this includes fruit, chocolates, juice and even bread!)
  • floss!!
  • go see the dentist regularly (last time I went was years ago)

Thing is in most countries healthcare is free. Take the NHS for example…if you have any kind of pain all you have to do is get yourself to the doctor and everything is fine. But for dental care you have to pay. You have to actually find a dentist and it’s a bit like looking for the perfect cake – you’re never satisfied because you paid for a particular type of cake and its not there. The point I’m trying to make is that dentistry is privatised and with it the sense of entitlement goes. And perhaps the state’s vested interest. If the government has to pay for our health then it is in the interest of the government to keep people healthy. Not so much the case with dentistry.

The second reason why I think the general public is so ignorant (like me) is because everyone for some reason seems to emphasise the importance of having ‘good looking teeth’. Now lets get real. Teeth are not meant to make you attractive. They’re purpose isn’t to bag you a marriage but to help you chew foods and remain healthy. So the idea that your teeth should be pearly white and straight is great; but also a bit misleading. They should also be cavity free, not have plaque on them, not be infested with bacteria and not developing gum disease.

Teeth are much more interesting than just providing you with a good smile. Look after them – they’re just as important as your heart, lungs or brain!

Click here  for a dentist’s parody of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ And Click here for Ed’s original song.

Peace

-Vitzy-

That one there

That one there has a cold

That one there is crying.

That one there is old…

…and dying

That one there has cancer

That one there needs surgery

That one there was a dancer…

…but after the stoke she can only count to three

That one there is infected

That one there is in pain

That one there is addicted..

…to cocaine

That one there can’t see

That one there can’t hear

That one there is me

That one there is someone dear

 

Transcending the role

A week ago I met with a patient who was staying in hospital for a few days after having had bowel surgery. He was upbeat. Telling me about plans for when he would go home. Telling me about various events in his life. I took a history. In medicine, ‘taking a history’ basically means finding out as much as you can about a patient, as efficiently as you can, so that you can plan their treatment and hospital stay optimally. It requires practice and there is a technique so I thought I’d get some practice in. I was feeling quite happy by the end of the chat. The patient was jovial and I had done my duty. I got up to leave, smiled briefly and he went back to reading his newspaper. I went home that night, narrated my experience to my family and thought nothing more of it.  Continue reading

And when our brains just don’t want to cooperate…

I write when I’m excited. I write when I’m sad. I write when I cry. I pretty much write with the easiest of triggers. And yet I came here today to write about my surgical placement and found that I just didn’t want to. I actually came to my blog as a way of trying to get myself in the mood for studying. But I’m in this strange limbo where I want to work and I just can’t convince myself to actually open my books. I want to become a doctor and yet I just don’t have the energy to look at yet another x-ray, another blood result, another exam question. I feel as if my life is a video and somebody has turned the speed down to 1/2 speed. And the weird thing is I don’t feel particularly sad, happy or anything really. I’m sort of in an apathy. This is certainly not the first time this has happened. In fact I struggle with this pretty much all the time.

The thing that always gets me going is that I’m scared to fall down a path of darkness and despair. I feel like an ex-smoker who desperately wants another cigarette but knows damn well the consequences of cancer and COPD and that’s their single motivator to not do it. And my motivations are that I want to be a doctor. I love being with patients, talking to them, finding out about their life. I’m well aware that I’m not at all an unfortunate person. I have a roof over my head, a family, food and education. Not everyone is as lucky.

Rationally, I know all this. And yet I still feel this way and I can’t explain it. I’m sure in a little while I’ll be fine. It’s just a passing mood but what if one day this mood is here to stay and its staying becomes a permanent part of my life? It’s strange because all this is in my head and it is my own mind that scares me the most.

-vitzy-

Hitler was actually just an ignorant man

Adolf Hitler became a household name in the 1930s and has stayed at that level of notoriety throughout the twentieth century, spilling into the twenty-first. The atrocities conducted under his name are such that even imagining them sends shivers down most people’s spines. As it should. He was a cold, ruthless murderer who genuinely believed that his cleansing of the world of Jews, gays, ‘genetically defective’ and basically anyone he didn’t like would make Germany and the rest of Earth a brilliant place to live. Continue reading

“When Breath Becomes Air”

Paul Kalanithi was an American neurosurgeon who, in his dying moments, wrote a sort of autobiography of his personal and professional life. This book took two parts. One in which he was the doctor. Treating complex brain pathologies with a fervour of success. Aspiring towards pioneering research, at the brink of stepping into a life-long dream. Only to be diagnosed with lung cancer which would eventually kill him. Forcing him to turn his 20 year life plan into more of a 20 month plan. The second part is about his journey from diagnosis onwards. The courage and persistence he must have shown in the face of death isn’t something I can possibly even begin to imagine. And yet as a future doctor it is something that I will not only have to begin to imagine but see daily. Emotions are always running high in medicine. There’s always something going wrong and death is inevitable.

Many doctors I know have told me that in light of so much pain and misery the only way to escape is by becoming resistent. Putting up a wall. A front. So that every time you see a mother crying for her unborn baby, you don’t too break down and cry. When you see a sister’s tears for a brother who will never speak to her again, you do not also think of your own sibling and feel dizzy at the thought of loosing them. Death is part of life. But when you are a doctor, you’re the one who must hold in the tears and emotion and offer solutions and maybe even hope. Or at the very least clarity and the truth. It’s not your sorrow to share. Emotional blunting some call it but I think it is a form of survival. How else would you be able to get through day after day of telling people they have incurable cancers and disorders that no medicine will help them survive?

My issue though is that I’m not just a future doctor. I am also a human being. I’ve also been granddaughter who has lost a granddad, a niece whose lost an uncle. And that excruciating pain of sorrow never dulls. Its terrifying. Its not unique. My issue is that I know I should be able to separate my own pain and that of the patient’s but how can I? Empathy and sorrow seeing other people’s pain is what makes us human and yet it is that very quality that can run away with you and turn a perfectly good doctor into an emotional, distraught mess.

This book explores the journey of a doctor as he becomes a patient to his own disease. It is a very difficult book to read. But one that reaches into your heart and pulls it right out. It explores death from a different perspective – from a person who has experienced it both for his patients and for himself. As said in the book: ‘dying in their fourth decade is unusual now, but dying is not’

Dying is part of life. Death surrounds us. But it isn’t always dark, depressing and terrible. Sometimes, some people only start living when death is in sight.

That’s all for now.

-Vitzy-

A case of a girl with stomach pain…

Stomach pain -or as they are medically known – abdominal pain is a very common complaint and one that almost all of us must have had at some point in our lives. There are many kinds of stomach pains. We can categorise them based on how they feel: eg. dull, sharp, burning, crampy. We can do one better and categorise them on location: upper abdominal, lower abdominal, right upper, left lower. We can even categorise them based on how long the pain has been there for: seconds? Minutes? Days? Years!? By doing this we can already start to form what sorts of things are probably going wrong in the abdominal area. This is called a focussed history taking of a patient. Not that I’m an expert but I’m going to attempt to discuss a particular case of a woman with abdominal pain and through that case, hopefully highlight to you how important a good history is.

Continue reading