A change in season

This is a very important painting to me. It’s the first time someone has ever painted something and given it to me and it has a promise attached to it that has been very encouraging to me. 

My friend Tia painted it. She is a very talented designer (you can see some of her stuff here) and one day, she said she was feeling a bit down so she decided to start painting. The more she painted and created, the more she took her eyes of her circumstances and frustrations with life-as we all have- and thought about the beauty in the world. 

When Tia had finished the painting, God told her it was for me and the blossoms were Japanese sakura blossoms. Sakura blossoms bloom in March/April and that was the time that I was going to bloom as well. 

Today is the first of March, and I’m very much looking forward to my blossoming season. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the the painting during my own times of waiting and frustration and remembered that a new season is coming and how fortunate I am to have nice friends who do lovely things like paint thoughtful paintings. 

We all have tough days and frustrating seasons and I love how out of her own struggles, Tia motivated me to continue and stay positive in my own. If you are going through a tough or confusing season at the moment, can I encourage you to do something nice for someone else and take your focus off your own circumstances. Buy someone a coffee, say something to someone that builds them up or send someone a nice card. 

You can even borrow a look at my beautiful Sakura painting for inspiration and remember that everything has its season and today is a new one for everyone. 

My sweet as sugar fast

I decided to do a 21 day processed sugar fast that is generally related to the Daniel fast and was spurred on by Peter Fitzsimons' excellent column on his year off sugar and booze. 

I gave up booze about four years ago but the sugar monster has been visiting me a bit too frequently from my birthday through to Christmas so I decided to starve it off a bit.  

The full Daniel fast removes meat, dairy, bread and sweets but I didn’t want to get rid of the meat because I need the protein to keep growing my leg back to full strength after an injury. The fast starts on 3 January and I had a bit of a dilemma with the amount of sugary goodness still in my house in the forms of yoghurt, orange juice, cereals, ice cream and christmas chocs. I tipped the orange juice but felt a bit wasteful dumping the other stuff so I decided it could stay- I’ll return to this idea later. 

I drink a lot of coffee both at home and at cafes so my biggest weakness was having something ‘with’ the coffee like a muffin or a biscuit. Sugar in the coffee switched to sweetener so that was quite easy.  I just told myself ‘if you are hungry, have a sandwich or a proper meal -otherwise you don’t need anything’. I found by not denying myself food I could quickly decide if I was genuinely hungry or not and stop the snacky stuff. 

It’s a good time to do the fast with all the summer fruit around at the moment and I found buying a big watermelon and eating diced watermelon worked well in my danger zone times such as 3pm or after dinner. Prunes are also good and get yourself a container of mixed nuts so you aren’t going for sweet stuff all the time. Also, try not to go to extreme the other way and say ‘well I’m not having sugar so I’ll eat burger and chips’ -the more sustainable the better. 

There is also a spiritual side to the Daniel fast and in the first week I was thinking a lot about how sugar makes you more hungry and crave the more you have. It made me think about shopping and consumerism and how you can grab quick fix things to make you happy in the short term but ultimately, you will always just want to buy more stuff and end up with lots of excess (excess weight/excess stuff and clutter in your life).  Feeding on good quality whole foods and fruit and vegetables is a good investment in your health and how we can use money for junk purchases or for investing in good things that will last. 

In the second week I’ve been thinking about the difference between living in lack and living in abundance. At Christmas, we have an abundance of rich foods and we tend to overeat so we need to establish discipline to live an abundant life. It’s easy to ‘give up’ food if you don’t have it in the house but I’m quite glad now that I didn’t throw out all the nice Lindt chocolates and stuff because I’ve developed the discipline now to not eat them.  The other thing I’ve really learned is that 21 days goes really quick and I only have a week to go so I think I might continue the processed sugar fast through until Easter and maybe be like Peter Fitzsimons and go for a year (I wouldn’t mind a hot cross bun at easter). 

If you are feeling a bit chubby or unhealthy after Christmas I definitely recommend knocking out your ‘weak area’ for 21 days and thinking about what it represents to you e.g. I know my coffee and a biscuit behaviour is a time out/comfort thing so by just having the coffee I can still have a breather but not have the calories. If you’re grabbing sugary/carby things all the time it can also be a sign that you are tired so be a big Nana and go to bed an hour earlier.  21 days goes quickly so don't scare yourself and think 'I'm never having chocolate or beer or potato chips' ever again. Just do something sustainable that you can stick to and the weeks fly by. 

Sweet as. 

Further reading:

Daniel Fast = Jentezen Franklin has the best resources

Peter Fitzsimons year off sugar and booze

I got hit by a taxi part three: the long hobble to freedom

vlog: marking my first day weight bearing

I started physio yesterday. I’m having it twice a week; one session for the ankle and one for the knee. We started with ankle yesterday and I can’t really walk today. The physio got me to lie face down on the bed massage table thing and he grabbed my foot and tried to twist it off the bottom of my leg. Now that it’s all titanium, you can’t break anything it’s just the pain thing so I told him to go hard out because I could handle the pain and I just want to get going again. He warned me that the ‘safe word’ is STOP and not ARGgGGGHHWDHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh because it was going to be a bit of a hard restart so I got through it with lot of ARGgGGGHHWDHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Needless to say, my pain threshold has gone up considerably over the last few months. 

this is pretty much how I walk

Your body adjusts really fast and you end up with your ‘good leg’ really strong from hopping around and the damaged leg all floppy and without muscle tone.

first steps weight bearing- feels like walking on marbles- kermit the frog styles

I was surprised how much of the physio is on your quads and your gluts and hips but I guess it’s getting all the scaffolding and balance back to normal. Without the crutch, or one crutch which I use to take the weight off the damaged leg, it feels like you are going to flip backwards like being on a snowboard. 

6-week x ray of my leg. knee to ankle tibial nail that will stay there forever
It takes about six months for the bone to grow back and 18 months for all the tissue and muscles and stuff to get back to normal. The tibial nail will stay in forever so it’s a life-long injury. Insurance companies love it when you tell them that and you can hear the team of ‘Rehab Services’ people, which is insurance company code for ‘lawyers’, go really quiet when you say ‘life-long injury’.  Keeping it simple works really well with them too. I’ve found that by ending every sentence with ‘…because your client drove a car into my leg’ makes them super happy and they just want to rush off the phone and go outside to celebrate or something- they just can’t contain their joy. 

surgeons ooo and aaahh and take photos and say this is a really good graft
We still have to watch the skin grafts on the front of the leg and make sure that the open wound from the reconstruction is healed up properly. A community nurse from St Vincent’s hospital comes and visits me and changes the wound dressing which is pretty ace. Wound care technology is pretty sensational. 

wound care technology is awesome
I have a hydrogel called Flaminal Forte that goes on the wound out of a big toothpaste tube and that gets covered with this cool silicon gauze stuff called Adaptic (some surgeons like Adaptic, some like JeloNet or this other dressing called Mepitel but Adaptic has smaller holes so less bacteria gets in and the silicon stops it sticking to the wound) and then a big nappy thing called Zetuvit that protects everything and then a compression stocking to hold it all together. The swelling stays around for a really long time so I have to try and elevate it but the reconstruction is happy and the circulation seems to be working and it’s not all purple like it was a few weeks ago. 

So tomorrow, it's the knee's turn at the physio- ARGgGGGHHWDHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Isaiah 35:3-6
3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.

Related: Part I: How the accident happened
               Part II: Hospital things and what they did to me

I got hit by a taxi - let's see what they did to me

I’ve got a plastic surgery clinic on Thursday and I’m going to pack a few things because the last time I went in for a clinic I got readmitted to hospital for two weeks.

When they took the plaster off from the first surgery, there was a big hematoma which is a big swollen blood clot that was from the impact of the taxi bonnet, or the brick wall maybe but that was where it took the biggest bash anyway. 

The first four days after the accident were a lifetimes worth of hospital for me so being told I had to go back in for two weeks felt like I was being sucked out to sea.  Then I decided to be like the chill-ass orangutan and surrender to the whole process so Christmas and New Year's in hospital for me it was. There are starving children in Africa and people in the ward with lifetime, genetic muscle-wasting illness and stuff like that who needed four people to move them in bed. My leg seemed very minor and temporary in comparison. I've been pretty healthy for the last three years or so. I stopped drinking booze altogether and got a lot more active and tuned into managing stress and just generally realising that I wasn't bulletproof and had to listen to my body more. It made a big difference to my physical healing and just being able to push your body to relearn things. It also meant that I was thumped by all the medicines being pumped into me so I was pretty quick to start refusing pain meds and wanting all the chemicals to stop. I took my last antibiotic tablet yesterday and I'm not on any medication now- fingers crossed that's the end of it. 

Of course, you can't just sprinkle some Chia seeds over your leg and have some fish oil tablets when you're having open surgery on your leg. They have to knock you out which involves wheeling you into a cupboard and putting a rubber mask on your face and shoving a pipe down your throat which triggered a reptilian 'do not want' response from me apparently- I don't remember any of that but a traumatic frightened cat hit by a car response seemed pretty understandable. Well done me. 

I've finally read the discharge letter and can see what they did now: 

Surgery one

Tibial nail insertion and open reduction internal fixation of left medial malleolus 11/12/2014

Titanium rod thing from knee to ankle, inner ankle screws and something to my knee that isn’t a knee replacement but when people say they are having their knees done that’s what I had. Washout is cleaning up all the mess. 

Surgery two
Washout left leg wound 23/12/14
Then I had to go in for a second surgery which is a Washout to clean up all the hematoma blood clot stuff and get it back to a point where it could be stitched up. 

Surgery three
Washout and application of vac dressing to left leg wound 25/12/14 <<< Christmas Day

plastic surgeon checking the donor muscle -hole left from the hematoma- yes the white part is bone
Turns out the skin had all died above the hematoma so I had to go for surgery number three to have all the skin cut off. Then you get a left with a big hole in the front of your leg. Having a huge hole is a totally bad idea at the best of times but when you’ve just had a metal rod put in your munted leg it’s an even worse idea because you can get a bone infection and if that gets into the metal work then you can’t get it out so you have to amputate the leg.  Yes amputate. So as much as everyone reassured me that wasn’t going to happen my brief stint in public health was enough to make me know that there are all sort sorts of ebola-cousins lurking in hospitals and the only places more germy than hospitals are those floating petri dishes called Cruise Ships (seriously: Google cruise ships + norovirus, it’s not just an evening show you’re catching on the Emerald Princess). 

vac dressing sucking out all the bad stuff and circulating air and moisture to fast track healing
Then I had a vac dressing put on to prepare for the fourth surgery which means you have a plastic pipe stuck in your leg-hole to suck all the bad stuff out and speed up healing. It also means that you are plumbed to the bed and if you want to go to the toilet, you have to take a big tube and wrap gauze around it with medical tape so you get to do some craft. Then you go to the toilet and hold the pipe that is attached to your leg and are quite convinced that salmonella is setting up shop in your leg and pouring down the pipe like a bacteria hydroslide at Wet n Wild. 

Surgery four
Local flap reconstruction of left lower leg wound + skin graft repair

Covering up the hole required plastic surgery and some skin grafts. It’s called Local Flap so they cut a piece of good skin off the side of your leg where it’s just muscle and tissue, and move it around the front to cover the exposed bone. I also had some skin taken from my upper thigh and used to patch up the parts that weren’t covered by the Local Flap. Skin is the most amazing thing in the universe I think (name a man-made thing that can self-heal? exactly…) so the side of my leg skin has covered up the bone and no more Oscar Pistorious for me. OK, technically there is still a risk because when you get a crushing injury, stuff can get left behind and it could go feral but I got doused with IV antibiotics for a week or so to blast all the Cruise Ship germs. 

Skin grafts have to be untouched for about five days so you have to lie in the bed and do the worst thing in the world —nothing. You would think that lying in bed watching TV all day and being brought food would be like an awesome long-haul flight but it’s actually terrible because you have to pee in a bed pan which is the most revolting thing I have ever experienced because you are horizontal and you marinade your butt in your pee and have to balance until the nurse comes to take it out or it spills everywhere. After two goes I refused any further bedpan action and opted for the high-tech toilet seat chair option although the nurses would get a bit angry with me because it’s more work for them getting you up and down but the bedpan decision was final.

mobile sanitation device connect to your regular toilet and minimises ebola in your leg

One especially tricky nurse tried to convince me that she had to ‘measure my urine volume’ but I was on to her and her tricky schemes and I had to get my terse voice out, and then she threatened to put a catheter into me, nurses really do have a strong escalation game. So I got the doctors to put on my notes that it was infection control issue and i had to be taken to the toilet, i.e. no bedpans. Touche. 

During this time, a lot of attention is paid to your plumbing actually and you soon surrender to the morning ‘have you opened your bowels today’ questioning and it’s all recorded and charted and they give you potions to ensure the question is answered in the affirmative. I was provided with ‘treats for my bowels’ aka Coloxyl and sometimes they just wheel you to the bathroom and leave you there for a while to see if anything happens so you feel like a puppy being left on the lawn to go number twos. When you do go, you get a big pat on the head and tick in your chart so it’s a great shared achievement. The old guy in the room next to me was on Day 15 and refusing treats for his bowels which you’d have to think was a seriously bad life decision. Protip: take the treats. 

Local flap 'dusky' due to blood vessels venous congestion -wiring not all connected up yet
The skin is your skin so that part is happy but all the blood vessels have to reconnect. Blood goes in but doesn't come back out so that's when the leeches were brought in to try and save the bottom part of the Local Flap that was looking a bit -according to the discharge letter- Dusky. 

Harvard Medical School highly trained specialist surgical leech- likes blood and warm places

The leeches are proper medical ones and you prick the skin like a diabetes person does and get it to attach. The leech has natural anti-coagulant in its saliva so a good one can sit there for a couple of hours and hoover away at the wound. The leech created much excitement- it feels like a normal garden worm on your leg and doesn't hurt. 

Leech doing his/her thing on the Local Flap

The only thing is when they bloat up and are full, they wander off really quickly and head for the warm parts of your body so I had one full bloated one travelling at speed up toward my warm parts which was suboptimal so I decided to stop the overnight treatment because nightmares. 

The good news is the fracture is all zipped up now. There is a big wound on the side of my leg where the surgeon took the Local Flap from and it looks bad but people in the know assure me that it's all muscle and tissue so meh.


I couldn't care less about scars and how it looks as long as my leg works I'll be beyond happy. A quick journey through disability has been a huge eye-opener for me and I'm beyond blessed that my journey has been relatively short and successful -some people have to live everyday with chronic pain, unhappy outcomes and far worse limitations. 

The wound specialist came and visited me yesterday and we put this cool hydrogel stuff on the wound and it soaked up all the bacteria and it's all looking nice and pink and healthy now. 

So yes, Plastics clinic on Thursday so I can remove the big dressing on my upper thigh from the skin graft donor site hopefully, and then the big date is Monday 19 January with an orthopaedic clinic and x-ray to see if my leg can bear weight so I don't have to ski around on crutches. Then I can test-drive my new titanium leg- good times :)

7-10 How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger bringing good news,
Breaking the news that all’s well,
    proclaiming good times, announcing salvation

Related: See how the accident happened - I got in the paper and everything

Wikileaks and where I stand on government data

I’m not a big fan of government documents being dumped online and I think governments should be able to keep information back. I’ve written about this before with Wikileaks and my primary concern remains the same: governments are made up of people and citizens get caught in the crossfire with a data war the same way they do with a guns and tanks war. In a democracy, individuals such as Assange shouldn't be able to make the decision about what gets released and what doesn't. 

I support the Open Web and I went to the Tim Berners-Lee thing in Sydney and clapped and nodded. I am concerned about privacy and a surveillance society and I want individuals to be more empowered to control their information and identity. 

But I have also worked on cases as a government employee where private citizens have had their human rights threatened because of the public’s desire for information. Sensible, intelligent and ethical government employees are a real thing and I have worked with some of them. 

What really made me change my mind on the public’s right to government data at all costs was the public health case of Glen Mills, an HIV positive man in Auckland who was under suspicion (and later charged) with purposeful infection. I’ll stick to the information that has been reported in public domain, you can have a Google around for yourself. 

I call it a public health case because that was the part I worked on but it was much more complicated than that. Glen Mills was a very good looking young train driver who met both men and women on online dating sites and the case brought was that he intentionally infected them with HIV. 

The news of his suspicious activity was broken on the blog GayNZ and Mills was arrested. 

So now we have

-a criminal case and an individual who has the right to a fair trial and justice

-a patient who has the right to seek treatment

-victims or potential victims who may or may not know they are HIV positive

-a possible virus outbreak

-public who need to be warned not to have contact with Glen Mills

-a very exciting news story

Public health officials carry out contact tracing of HIV in a similar way they do Ebola or flu- who have you had contact with?

As you can imagine, when this is sexual contact and possibly same-sex sexual contact, people are reluctant to provide information and are very nervous about who has access to that information. How would you like a list of all the people you have had sex with made public on a server?  Public health officials needed to control the spread of the virus in the Auckland population and make sure that other people weren’t infected and that patients / victims could receive treatment. There was also the criminal case and evidence needed to be collected for that. 

The media came back with the standard “could government agencies have done more to make sure this didn’t happen?” and wanted timelines on when agencies were first aware that Glen Mills was HIV positive and/ or when he posed a threat to the public. 

Officials were asked questions like “when did Glen Mills first visit a sexual health clinic- what date?" I don’t think that type of information should be made available to the public and I have a huge amount of respect for the people I worked with who protected their patients even when being accused of their own failings or incompetence. These were the same government officials who had to sit with (often very young, university-aged men and women) and tell them they may be HIV positive and have to testify in a court trial. 

Glen Mills was charged with purposefully infecting 14 people, seven tested HIV positive. Mills committed suicide on remand at the end of 2009. 

It’s very easy to demonise The Government and Government Officials and think that everything is massive cover up but sometimes it’s not that simple. Military records may not be the same as health records, or are they? Risks around stringing together data points to form and unfair assessment of a person can be achieved by government spy agencies or by regular citizens reading the news on their phones.  Recklessly dumping public data on servers can have collateral damage of its own. 

How do you get to live to 92?

For the last about 20 years we’ve been told to call Nana on her birthday because, you know, it might be the last one. Well Agnes has gone around the clock again and has hit 92 -I think I said she was 93 in another post but I forget how old I am sometimes so creative rounding is allowed. 

My Mum went for a visit and sent through these pictures of her kitchen and fridge. This is the weekly fruit ration for a now 92 year old woman who lives on her own and didn’t know anyone was coming to visit. She eats stupid amounts of fruit. I guess when you come from a time where your Christmas present was an orange in a sock, a weekly frolic through the fruit and veg section must be pretty great. She’s super frugal but not when it comes to fruit “it’s an investment in your health, don’t look at the price just buy whatever you want”. 

Lots of plain food- that’s her secret. Put butter on everything not funny sauces where you don’t know what’s in it. Not too much meat (even though she has ham and cheese on toast every day for breakfast). She never drinks glasses of water, non-stop Earl Grey tea all the way. She has an ice-cream every night after dinner and likes a gin and tonic. Never smoked, goes to the doctor for everything and trusts them to make her better. It’s mainly blood pressure and arthritis things nowadays. Her Mum (my great grandmother) was Julia Ann Ryan, an Irish Catholic woman who lived to 91 after having 13 kids and a pretty hard, poor-assed life and not taking any medication so the genes are looking good all in all. Her older sister Barbara Cruickshank is 98. 

Agnes Halloran was born in 1922 and she has never seen the Internet. 

“you don’t want to look at that because there are people acting like animals on there” 

She doesn’t use a microwave because “it will give you cancer”

She doesn’t use a dishwasher because “it takes the patterns off your plates”

Her husband, William Halloran (my mum’s Dad) was a third generation New Zealander which was quite rare back then. He died at 37, leaving her on a farm in Southland with four girls. The only boy Christopher died at 13 months. She’s quite good at dealing with death my Nana “don’t dwell on it. It’s a bugger death and getting old”.  She prays every morning and takes a Lotto ticket every week assured that she’s going to win it and buy all the grandchildren a car. She often asks me what car I want when she wins Lotto with a very serious face. She does crosswords every day because “you don’t want to lose your marbles-that’s how old people have it put over them”. She’s made a funeral plan “so that’s all paid for— it’s one less thing to think about” and various cabinets full of china and trinkets have gradually been replaced with jewellery over the years, partially because she likes wearing it and partially because it’s easier to pass down to her now five daughters. I’ve noticed the jewellery collections all seem to manifest in sets of five.

My grandmother claims her middle name is Therese but my Mum said that’s her sister Irene’s middle name and she always wanted it and she doesn’t have a middle name. She hates her name because she used to get called Ag or Aggie so most people call her Nan which is a bit weird because I call her Nana so it sort of makes her everyone’s Nana. 

She started off as Agnes Manson which was changed from the German Munsen but nobody liked Germans after the war so her father's father changed it. Her father Henry Hunt Manson was in the merchant navy and he was born in New Zealand. 

Technically she was born in Smith Street West Derby, Liverpool. She arrived in Port Chalmers Dunedin at nine months old.  There are various versions of that story but that’s the one I’m going with. I’m still trying to figure out the rumours of the Lambert changed from Lambeth thing that may or may not have been linked to convicts in Newcastle Australia on the other, coal-miner side of the family. Names are hard. 

It’s a very different generation where the criteria for a husband is “so long as he doesn’t belt you and go to the pub every night” and I’m pretty sure the “women are seen and not heard” thing just wouldn’t have worked out for me very well at all. Any glorification of the 50’s housewife is lost on me and it certainly wasn’t the reality for both my mother or her mother as they both worked and raised children while still expected to keep an immaculate house and have baking in the tins and dinner on the table at 5pm. It makes me pleased that women get to live a bit longer so they can have a cup of tea and a sit down after all that running around after everyone else for most of their life. Nana asked me if I was going to put her photo on the Internet and I changed the subject to how great her pants are in the photo (Postie catalogue) so don’t tell her because she’ll have some weird theory she learned on talkback radio about it all.  There aren’t many documented stories in my family and only people like the royal family are worthy of a read in Nana's generation. Commoners like me never told their own stories which is the part of the Internet talkback radio probably won't tell her about while they are busy freaking out about The Facebook ruining children and The Google watching everyone. So don't tell her I wrote this, it's probably easier and maybe someone in another 180 years time might find it useful. And eat more fruit. 

Dealing with difficult people on wheels

I’ve been up at Rotorua Hospital for the last few days with my Mum. She has quite a rare condition which has made her a bit of a rockstar as gaggles of student doctors and nurses turn up at the foot of her bed to witness her weirdness first hand and to ask if they can use her case in their final year projects. I think she’s in about five of them now. 

While her groupies poked and prodded I was eaves dropping on a shift change. One of the nurses had a very demanding patient in a room on his own. She was concerned because his family were also demanding and she wasn’t liking the whole vibe of the thing both for his treatment and her sanity. 

The woman in charge of the whole place where we were (ward?-I don’t know much about hospitals) said to move him into a four-patient room. Having the other patients around him would regulate his behaviour and not make him so demanding. With some protest, the nurses immediately wheeled him into a shared room and left him to complain for a bit until one of the other men in the room told him to shut up because he wanted to sleep.  It made me think of how many demanding people I’ve worked with-at all levels- who needed someone to grab their office chair and wheel them out into a shared workspace so they could be told to shut up and stop being difficult by their colleagues. We tend toward closed office doors and pandering to difficult people rather than shoving them back into the community and letting the community self-regulate the behaviour. Of course there is a time when people have to be segregated for their own privacy, anonymity, safety, and the safety of others but I thought this swift wheelie correction strategy was quite clever, and it seemed to be working. Next time you get someone refusing to engage or being fussy and difficult, grab the back of their office chair and wheel them into the middle of the floor.*

*results may vary please consult with your registered health professional