What a Life

Decisions! Decisions!!


Life is 10% what happens to you,

and 90% how you react to it.

Charles Swindoll

It was always going to decide which speciality to follow after five years of grind at medical school. Initially we new graduates all dived in feet first with enthusiasm into our new careers. Our first pay were on the way!  Little were we aware that in the late 1980s we be working between 80-120hrs/week. That was our first lesson. Work was to be more arduous  than medical school. Social life? What social life?

I had sat in various lecture theatres listening to lecturers not so avidly as various lecturers plugged their mouths as recruitment devices.

The general surgeons offered blood and gore. If that was not enough, there was always the opportunity to one’s hands into the brown stuff! Yuck! Depending on their behaviour on any given day, I described as the big choppers or little choppers. This would translate to ”todgers” or “tidgers”.

I never really understood surgeons. They spend years studying for undergraduate and postgraduate exams. Once these are all passed, they demote themselves to “Mister” once more. It does appear they just cannot shed their historical image as barber surgeons, maybe they don’t want to? It does all remind me of a tale of woe. One young guy went for a surgical position. He didn’t get the job. He was told that he was too nice to be a surgeon.

Talking of which, I must have a haircut tomorrow. It might be best if I wear an upper body suit in case the barber surgeon decides to remove my appendix too. Of course he wouldn’t charge anymore. He probably needs the practice.

Willy plumbing was definitely not a very good option. Imagine holding other blokes sticky willies several times each day? As the day passed the operating wellies becoming increasingly filled with pee. The socks or bare feet squelching in the wellies. Then at the end of the day travelling home smelling like an un-cleaned male urinal in a bar. The smell being not dissimilar to cooking kidneys at home.On such culinary occasions opening the kitchen window to let the the neighbours enjoy the unpleasant waft too.

Orthopaedics also known a bone cracking. Snore! Snore! Bang! Bang! Chisel and scrape. Put it all back together again with screws and plates. Not dissimilar to a child playing with a Meccano set. Anyway, I had been useless at metalwork and carpentry at school. A big no, no thanks

There was fish farming. A no, no for those who didn’t like sushi. I definitely eat raw fish! Cooked fish was always preferable. There was also the possibility of being deterred from cauliflower cheese for life.

How about becoming a physicianly type of wand waver? The white coat merchants often claimed that medicine was mostly an art and partly a science? I often considered whether they had had fancy tattoos on their backs and on their “tidgers”. The latter bearing a tattoo inscribed with the letter “I” in a very small font size. It appeared they meant guesswork. Try a bit of this. Try a bit of that. if nothing works, tell you what guys lets give steroids a go. What made these medical speculators worse, whilst holding their chins in one hand pretending to look thoughtful, in case their head rolled off the shoulders, they prescribed dangerous drugs then sent patients home. Then the punter would be given another outpatient a few weeks henceforth. For those of us with logical, scientific minds, it made no sense at all. It seemed that they might have been at the races and blindly picking a three legged nag to win the race. In life there are swerves and there are swerves. General medicine was a hair pin bend swerve for me. It felt like being hit in the face with a cricket ball every thirty seconds. I personally  could find no good reason to practice necromancy of the living dead. Time to tell them to bugger off, stronger profanities did come mind but perhaps best avoided in a public forum.

There was always general practice. I was put off that possibility very quickly. At our first anatomy lecture, the lecturer told us about a GP entering a lightless block of flats. He was axed by a couple of junkies who wanted to steal his bag and nick any opiates in it. There were none. Therein ended any aspiration I might have had to become a GP.

When the facts change

I change my mind,

what do you do?

Maynard Keynes 

One day a scruffy bloke walked into the lecture theatre. There was a fleeting moment a couple of us thought we should leave by the rear exit of the theatre. After all if the bloke can’t even dress properly, what golden career nuggets could he possibly offer. No overhead projector. No slides. Just straightforward talking. It could easily have been a conversation between two blokes in a pub. He talked about anaesthesia and intensive care medicine. ’My ears pricked up like those of a border collie. Well I might as well  been a dog at that moment. My heart suddenly started pounding. At that moment of excitement it even missed a beat or two. That was a love at first sight moment. My future career was signed and sealed but yet to be delivered.

Sleeping with the Gasman is a sharp, witty and honest book It is a must read for all patients who will need to be put to sleep for surgery. All people should read to get an insight to what an anaesthetic involves. Education reduces anxiety. The book is written in straightforward language for the public. it will also serve to provide laughter for healthcare staff too.

The inspiration for Sleeping with the Gasman was threefold;

  1. To provide the reader with an insight into work of the anaesthetist in hospital medicine. Some hospital staff were clueless too.
  2. To provide the layperson an insight into the process of anaesthesia and gift them knowledge, confidence and empowerment.
  3. The text is written as a story. The story portrays the anaesthetist to be a human too.

A midwife once approached me asking who I  was and what I did? Me? I informed her that my job was that of a gasman. The midwife giggled, answering, you must have a very boring job. Why? Well all you ever do is to put in epidurals. All she ever did was deliver babies, not many too. She continued (an epidural involves putting a needle into the back. A fine tube is inserted via the needle into the back. The needle is removed. Through the tube drugs are given to provide pain relief during labour in pregnancy). Err …… no comment. If a health “professional” has no idea what an anaesthetist does, how can a member of the public be expected to?

It seemed a good opportunity to throw in a quick jest, ”What have pregnancy and Britain got in common?” She looked bemused, ”Labour, and its always painful”. Clearly she failed to understand the joke as she disappeared down the corridor.

The second incident occurred much more recently. A young nurse approached me and asked whether I had any medical qualifications at all? I responded, ”No none at all. Had I been working on a ward, I’d be on the lowest pay grade possible. It was time for a John Cleese moment. Lie on back. Wrap arms around knees and grab the ears with the hands and roll around in despair. What to say????

There are plenty such moments that could be recited. Perhaps best to remain to just those two.

I attribute my success to this –

I never gave or took any excuse.

Florence Nightingale 

Sleeping with the Gasman 



Thank you for reading this post.

Kindest regards 

Jazz Pal-Kerr 




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