Light at the end of the tunnel

King-Size_Homer_(Promo_Picture)_2Well I made it. Four weeks post operation and I am finally back home on the boat. Its been some journey. The first couple of weeks in St Georges were, to be frank, hell. And as for the ICU – as Prof Touquet told me – its best enjoyed unconscious. It’s all hyper-vigilant nursing in association with every machine that could possibly go ‘bing’. Sadly I was awake for most of the the time, where they fed me a heady mix of morphine and saline to dull the pain and keep up the blood pressure – by the time I was released into the general ward (three days later) I looked like Homer Simpson in a Mumu, having gained 10 Kilos, all of it water. I couldn’t even move my toes for fear my feet might explode. Fortunately a short course of diuretics later, and I went down to 68 Kg. Low, even by my standard.

For the uninitiated, there are only two things that recovery after a major operation is all about. Sitting in the corner, and breathing. This is what you will do, all day, every day, until your breathing becomes easier and you can actually get up out of the corner and start to move about. No one told me that, and through a fog of oral morph I didn’t really get it for a few days. Once you do get that, it becomes a lot easier. The routine becomes bearable. The morning medicine, the breakfast order, the coffee, the BP / temp / pulse readings, the afternoon medicines, the lunch order, the readings, the dinner order, the evening meds and readings and then sleep. Its all routine – always starting in the same bay, and always ending with me. No changes allowed. That’s the way it had to be done. I was in there for nearly two weeks thanks to complications (chest infection, inability to swallow easily).

My top tip – try to avoid hospital at the weekend – not only are they short of staff, but also limited in quality. For example, one nurse in charge of the ward gave me some one elses’ medicine, then hid the evidence in a locked bedside cabinet. On another occasion I had asked for soluble paracetamol (due to swallowing issue) – they still gave it to me in tablet form – when asked why, they just said “I don’t know why I did that, I just did” they then shrugged and walked away. However, these incidents pale into insignificance when compared to the top quality care that I received for the rest of the time; seriously I cant thank the staff enough – they all did a brilliant job. After two weeks I was more than ready to leave, and I did.




This is my last post, before the next one


Twelve hours to go. How do I feel? A little anxious. A little reflective. A lot grateful that we are here sooner rather than later. I could say a lot, but I just don’t have the words.

Some thoughts for the day:

Trust your instincts. Don’t ignore your heart. Live.

Thanks to all of you that have shown me love and support over the last week. I’ll be back.

A quick note on heart friendly hospital food

imageThis piece was inspired by my good friend and birthday brother , Mehi, who made these observations a while ago after his angiogram. Given that heart health is the primary focus, it seems a little churlish that after an angiogram, patients are offered a sandwich lunch , as far as I can make out this is always served with crisps and often the filling is based on mayonnaise, and served on white bread…

Ok – it’s a lunch after a procedure, and perhaps folk might need to seek comfort in food, but what about if ( as has happened to me) you are admitted to the cardio ward…

I’ve been on a couple of these now,  and a similar tale is unfolding. Tonight’s dinner presented a choice between sausages, a cheese pasty and chilli con carne. Yesterday it was between quorn (good) in sweet/sour sauce (bad) or beef with suet dumplings… Of course a white bread sandwich option was also available with the inevitable crisps and a nod towards a salad. Ice cream deserts were always an option, but to be fair so were fat free yoghurts, can you guess what was the popular choice…. With double helpings for the recently myocardialy infarced…and don’t get me started on the ‘large portion’ option

I am not one to preach, but considering the circumstances, you would have thought this was a ‘teachable moment’ – perhaps we should engage Jamie Oliver to spearhead a me campaign, or maybe not.



Been here in the Ben Weir ward a few days, and the food is decidedly better than the other place – always a vegetarian option and on the whole healthier – having said that I’ve just had fish and chips, followed by cheese and biscuits – can’t do my 10000 steps a day on here so better watch the waistline – I’ve dropped a kilo in a week, so BMI almost the right side of 25. And the very nice gentleman in the bay next door has given me a jar of marmite  – I am now the envy of my peers, at least the ones who don’t hate it… With all those heart friendly b vitamins you would of thought it to be a permanent fixity on the menu



Always expect the unexpected – The story so far

So this is going to be a bit of an experience – blogging my way through heart surgery – well it gives me something to do….

To begin at the beginning , back up 365 days or so to when I started to get the idea that something was not quite right… Fleeting chest discomfort, lasting less than a second, not brought on by exertion (I have witnesses) or stress, occouring from time to time.

Consultation with the GP resulted in blood tests revealing a slightly high cholesterol level of six and a bit. I was challenged to reduce it or get on the statins. I took up the challenge and via plant sterols took it down to five.

Still concerned about the chest issue I insisted on a referral to Kingston Hospital, and in due time was seen in the Rapid Access Chest Clinic, and after an ECG was told there was nothing Amis. I pushed again and got an appointment for a CT angio, and this is where it gets complicated…

At the CT scan they mentioned calcium, they would consult and be in touch if needed. That’s where I should have paid more attention, but in a gown, with a cannula, inside the X-ray doughnut, flat on my back, I suppose I was just relieved they weren’t saying ‘bad news Dr Bob’

Fast forward three months, it’s just gone Christmas, and that sense of unease is still with me, unlike the results of the scan. Encouraged by those close to me (in particular the lovely Dr P) to follow up on this I started, via the GP to track down the results. After a month or so they track them down, and a couple of weeks later I get a call to inform me of the outcome…. Calcium score of 1058, that’s pretty high – 90% likely that one artery is blocked, 25% chance of a heart attack in the next 12 months. In other words, “bad news, Dr Bob”

I made some calls, pointed out a few uncomfortable truths about “duty of care” and “timely delivery of results”. Profuse apologies were followed by an emergency appointment to the next available angiogram.

The angio revealed the truth – the statistics didn’t lie – one total occlusion, and three worrying narrowings on the other artery. They looked me in the eye and gave me a choice, out patient or immediate admission- it wasn’t a real choice, something needed to be done, and fast.

That was two days ago – since then I’ve been scanned, X-rayed, blood let on a daily basis, admitted to a cardiac ward in Kingston and then transferred to a specialist unit at St George’s. I’ve transitioned from running up the stairs to being run around on trolleys and in an ambulance. To say it’s surreal is an understatement. I’m all wired up to the machine that goes “Beep” and while I did meet the ED medical director at Kingston, the hospital administrator is yet to visit.

Ive been inundated with messages of love, hope and positivity from friends and family. Thanks to all of them, it’s a much needed boost at a time of uncertainly.

I’m waiting for an update as to when I’ll be under the knife. Watch this space…






And another thing…

Just a quick update regarding MOOCs – massive on-line open courses. I was a MOOC early adopter back in 20014, part of the teaching and leaning team handling the 15000 or so participants who had signed up for FutureLearns “Understanding drugs and addiction” (now in its third itteration, also available in Mandarin – click here for details) produced by my former employers, King’s College London. Apart from the mind boggling attrition rates (mabye three quarters never made it past the 1st week of the six week course), those that remained were engaged and very enthusiastic. We had a few folk posting ‘ill-informed’ comments, and it was my job to try an deal with misinformation – a bit like the internet I suppose…

MOOCs are expensive to produce, but do now seem to be generating their own income streams via a ‘moderated’ remote end of course exam, and/or the opportunity the buy vibrant university endorsed certificates of attendance. They always look good on the office door.

In the real world though, MOOCs also offer an opportunity to showcase talent and teaching / research excellence, and this can translate into folk signing up to self funded masters courses, and other accredited on-line masters programmes – and that’s where the real money is.

Social networking for academics

As part of the 23 things programme we are now tasked to blog about our experiences of the academic network / promotional site – and ResearchGate… Having used both portals I can confidently state that my preference lies with the latter. Reasons are as follows:

  1. Its super easy to use, to edit, link to URLs , upload files and see who has been interacting with my research
  2. The ability to track papers and topics
  3. The potential to develop collaborations

With regard to point 3, a casual exchange of messages has led to the development of a collaborative partnership between UoS, KCL and a US based venture capitalist.

Conversely, insist that I am the author of several papers that I have nothing to do with, and I cannot work out how to dissociate myself from them.

For me there is no contest.

What do you think?



Thing 1 & Thing 2

thing1thing2 This is the first entry in my “23 Things” project. I’ve been asked to write about my experience of Social Media. So, here’s the thing – be careful what you wish for – social media can be a great way of helping to spread the word about what you’ve been up to, and as an academic, that means getting your name, rank and serial number out to the masses in the hope that someone might just listen to what you say.

I’ve been tweeting for about a year now with varying degrees of success, but I thought I would share my latest experience… I was recently asked by on-line magazine TheDebrief to talk about reasons why folk might have difficulty achieving orgasm after they’ve been drinking. Interview went well, article was published and I tweeted a link, and contacted our department twitter organiser to do the same – and this is where it gets a little awkward – their tweet presented the following “Why is it more difficult to come when you’ve been drinking?  An interview with DrBob”… now I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds a little bit like a personal account rather than a professional opinion…. still I guess there is really is no such thing as bad publicity, or is there… like I said, be careful what you wish for.