Music gives me a soul to the universe,
wings to the mind,
flight to the imagination
and life to everything.
The life of a hospital doctor can be tough. This applies particularly those working in specialities with high out of hours call out commitments. You know same old, same old, overworked and underpaid blah, blah, blah (apologies for sounding like Greta Thunberg) No one asked us to choose a career as a big chopper or a gasman. It was entirely our own choice.
When on duty for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) I invariably arrived between 0600-0700hrs. That time was used to find out about every inmate on the unit. The overnight trainee was not expected to attend They usually needed extra beauty sleep or maybe time for prayer. They knew a thorough academic grilling lay afore them.
It was important to me that even out of hours I was suitably attired in case there were relatives to speak with. At such a difficult time for any family the last thing they needed was a scruffy, unprofessional looking bugger turn up to converse with them.
The daytime trainee was expected to arrive at or before 0800hrs. If they were not there by that time, I would pace around the centre of the unit awaiting their arrival. I would have my pocket watch in my hand leashed to it’s golden chain. When the trainee did finally arrive, I would tap my watch and utter sarcastically the infamous words, “What time do you call this?” This would be accompanied by one eyebrow raised high back into my scalp for extra emphasis. Of course when I was trainee I was never late. My enthusiasm for the job was like a Group 1 racehorse. ‘Onest guv.
One Sunday morning I arrived on the unit at the usual time but something seemed amiss. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Anyway I got on with my pre-ward, ward round. The night staff seemed bright, bushy tailed and giggly. No matchsticks required that Sunday morning to keep their eyes open.
The day staff came in with unusual enthusiasm for a Sunday morning. Since men think of sex every seven seconds, all I could conclude was that they must all have had a very good night with their husband’s. What other reason could there be for the cheery, blushed day staff? With a deep sigh I retreated to a seat knowing that there would be no crumpet for me that week!
Finally the trainees arrived simultaneously. They were early and wearing broad grins on their dials. That was not supposed to happen. They should have been grimacing and quivering at the thought of me being on duty.
I had developed the sad habit of jumping onto the firm metallic bedside bins whilst conducting the formal ward round. Off I marched ahead of the team and jumped onto the bin. The waste disposal unit collapsed under me. There was raucous laughter all round. It was one of those jump up quickly, brush oneself down and pretend nothing had happened. In the meantime I was biting my tongue to hide my own laughter.
Keep calm and carry on.
No wonder everyone was cheery Charlie that morning.
The music played on.
These cheap and not so cheerful bins had been put there by the infection control lot. They consisted of a runt of a base, a feeble spine with some sort of thing called a lid. Underneath the lid was a rectangular thing on which a bag was held by some extendable plastic making it look like an enlarged scrotum. Someone must have had a backhander to purchase these piles of crap. It was fortunate that needles were put into a separate bin. Had there been needles in these things called a bin, it could have been very painful. Maybe even worse than strangulated haemorrhoids but not quite as smelly!
One bad habit often leads to another, even more eccentric than the bin job. This time I would find a wheelie chair and grab the bedside curtains to propel me from one bed to the next. I had been doing this for months, then disaster struck. One day the curtains and frame landed on my bonce! Once again everyone had a good laugh at my expense. For a guy that was frequently told that I had no sense of humour, I was certainly keeping the staff amused. Fortunately the bed was empty.
Once more ……. The music played on.
The curtain malfunction was not entirely my fault of course. It is always someone else’s fault. Whoever installed the rails had done a botch job. That day I was also invited to see my boss. He warned me about my eccentric behaviour. Any more damage and I would be banished to orthopaedic lists forever. This was definitely a case of, “Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir. Jazza be good boy sir”. But I’m not bending over for you mate. Oh, I also had to pay for the damage.
My eclectic collection of music was enjoyed very much in theatres.
In theatre I was the DJ, that is disc jockey.There were another group of people who also had the title DJ That was the management. The were known as the DESK JOCKEYS!!
I had two iPods and two docking stations Each iPod had about ten-thousand tracks on it. There was something for everyone. I would arrive about 0730hrs. Plug in both iPods. One was for the anaesthetic room, the other for theatre. I was usually ready for action before 0800hrs. There was only one pitfall, the WMD, the Weapons of Mass Delay could intervene at anytime to delay matters. That was most irritating!!
Normally the anaesthetic room would have quiet music. Occasionally people wanted some rock and roll. Bravo! So be it.
The music in theatre was much more varied and upbeat. There were collections from the 1960s to the noughties, reggae, Bhangra, Bollywood, classical music and Gregorian chants. You name it, I probably had it. Personally, my favourite was the three tenors nicknamed thirty quid. The jazz on the iPods was spectacular. The Jazz reminded of me of the many evenings spent in Ronnie Scott’s jazz clubs over many years. Great times were had by all.
There was no heavy metal. I gave up with that when my leather jacket got nicked. No pop music to curdle the ears. No Morrisey. He had been hard at work in Britain trying to persuade the masses to put a noose around their necks, There was no country music. That was simply depressing enough without having to listen to the realities of other peoples miserable lives. However there was one exception;
Last night I came in with a ten at two,
But at ten I woke up with a two.
But I ain’t gone to bed with an uglier woman
but I sure woke up with a few
Ten with two —- Willie Nelson
The majority of patients bought in their own music with earplugs to boot. Mostly they had spinal anaesthesia. This is performed with full aseptic technique. The skin in the middle of the back is numbed. A very fine needle is then inserted into the fluid around the spinal cord. Through this needle a small amount of local anaesthetic is injected. Similar to the stuff used by dentists. The needle is then removed. The patient becomes numb from the waist down. Shall we say …. Not so much wide eyed but definitely legless. The surgeons can get in with their Meccano game.
Once in theatre they would be given sedation. Most recalled nothing about the surgery.
Those who bought no music and wanted no sedation during the surgery were usually stoical older guys. Seriously, who would want to hear the drilling, chiselling and hammering. It would be like being in a metal workshop. It certainly takes a fool or someone thinking that they courageous to take their medicine in this fashion. My suspicion is that some anaesthetists insist on no sedation. That would be wrong. It is against every principle of patient empowerment. I would not do it. If that makes me a coward, so be it.
One morning I met a particularly grumpy old guy. It seemed to me that he would prefer to have a general anaesthetic. I offered him this choice. Nope, he was insistent on spinal with no sedation.
Once he was suitably numbed, he was positioned in theatre. I had lost track as to where we were with the music whilst teaching a trainee.
In theatre he was asked if he had any musical preference. His reply, Gregorian chant music as you had been playing in the other room.
Bugger, bugger, bugger! The theatre fell silent. The orthoplod poked his head from behind the massive drapes and winked at me. He had something to do. All I would be doing is drawing seagulls on an anaesthetic chart. Lord help the nurses on the ward when he escaped from us.
Somehow some erotic music had found it’s way onto my iPods. I wasn’t aware of it all until it played. I concluded it must have been the great unwashed, greasy haired yobs that were renting the flat above from us. The tamest of these songs was Je T’aime. That had enough going on to ensure some of the older guys wet their pants. It definitely was not a prostate problem.
The next one was only halfway to the worst. Lloyd Tyrell with Birth Control. The worst of the lot I found was Erotica by Man from the 1960s. The woman in that song did enough groaning and could easily have been donkey. Thankfully she omitted the hyena like squealing. The band must have been taking some serious psychedelic drugs when they recorded that monstrosity!
Since I was a straight laced bore who could make a worm seem more interesting than me, I thought such music was improper for elderly patients. On the other hand, when some of this disgusting, filthy stuff was written they might have been in their 20s or 30s. They might have heard it all before.
There was one certainty, this motley collection of filth would invariably play before the patient was sedated. Whilst everyone in theatre smiled, I felt like the spawn of the devil.
One old dear heard Erotica playing as she was rolled into theatre. She remarked with a perfect Kenneth Williams tone, “Ooh doctor that sounds naughty. I haven’t heard or made sounds like that for nearly fifty years”. She cackled so hard, her dentures fell out. That made her laugh even more, eventually we joined in.
Orthopaedics was the best theatre to work in for sounds. They put such mighty drapes up anything could be happening behind them. I would stand at the corner of the drapes so I could see the surgical action and the monitors. Some of the staff would practice their Showaddywaddy shuffle. I could never do that irrespective of the number of times I had been shown. Perhaps I was wearing the wrong type of clogs. When it came to Bollywood or Bhangra, now that was my speciality. I endlessly tried to teach the guys roll of the Indian head and the flickering of eyebrows. They could never manage it. I began to think they all had steel rods in their necks!
One particularly good surgeon at the end of a case would shout, “Music maestro please!” He would jump 180degrees in his wellies on a slippery floor.All sorts of “air instruments” were unleashed by the theatre squad.
At the end of a long, gruelling day, there was only one song that was apt before our departure home. That was “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by The Animals.
We used to have fun in those days. There was also a lot more work done too. Now we would probably get fired!!
We gotta get of this place
if it’s the last thing we ever do
we gotta get out of this place
girl, there’s a better life for me and you
believe me baby
I know it baby
you know it too
Sleeping with the Gasman
Thank you for reading this post.
Please note: If there was the slightest hint of the surgery not going to plan or any other issues the music was switched off immediately.