Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas, and beyond ...

Back in India, my observance of Christmas was more a kind of lip-service and some innocent enjoyment of the festival that Christmas represents. In my lane, there were a few influential Christian families who got together during the last few weeks of each year, and created magic out of decorative items, conifer trees, paper stars and lights, etc. The house that is known in my lane as "Lion's Den" would come alive during those days. The Christians would deck up their large conifer, hang a large Merry X'mas lighted star between the branches of two trees that stood, one on each side of the road, play some kind of music, and so on. I would drive past their house as I proceeded to work (in the day) or to return home (in the night). 

On  Facebook, I would post a Merry Christmas greeting and later, a Happy New Year wish, to all my Christian friends in India and abroad. 

On New Year's Eve, my family and I would go out somewhere reasonable, and spend the evening having good food and a drink. 

And, on the night, we would join some of the kids in my housing society to burn effigies of the closing year. 

And that was it.

Now ... I am in a land where more than 90% of the people are Christians of some shade or the other. Christmas is their biggest festival. It is here, in Blackpool, that I am finally learning what the meanings of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, Christmas and New Year really are. Each of those days, my inbox was filled with emails from various shopping companies, advertising huge sales during the holidays. It was very tempting to spend "just 9.99 pounds" to get a voucher of 50% off on the next purchase - or buy something at throwaway prices - something that I would never, ever need or use. I have, so far, not entirely managed to stay away from those alluring deals. Although, Jesus knows I have tried to, and tried very hard indeed to resist temptation. 

The result is that my room is filled with cheap stuff bought at even cheaper prices. I have a complete drawer full of biscuits and chocolates - things that my diabetic body can certainly do without! And farsans, and chivda, and what not! 

I worked all the three days of the Christmas weekend, and into Monday. This prevented me from going out and splurging money. It did, however, in the absence of the consultants, give me a good chance to learn how to manage a Paediatric ward in a much better way. I kept trying to learn the ropes. Whether it was taking a successful history from a fretful and worried parent, or cannulating a vein in the presence of anxious parents, running to the emergency department in response to a crash call, or finding the time to rush to the doctors' room for a quick bite of the sandwich I had brought with me on duty, helping a colleague to undertake a blood collection, or searching the internet or the pharmacy book to find the correct doses of a rarely used medicine for a rarely seen illness, clerking a new patient (taking the basic history and examining the child), or coordinating with an outside hospital in the management of a complex patient, ordering investigations on an online platform and taking printouts from a printer inside the ward, or discharging a patient, dictating a letter on the online automated system to a consultant's secretary so that she could send the letter onward to the patient's G.P., or escaping the ward to go to Costa's for a coffee ... I guess you are getting the idea, right? I did all this, and more. 

In the process, I have left my footprint and initial impressions on all the people who work in our department. Whether these impressions have been favourable or not, only time will tell. However, it does look like even the junior doctors have realised that I have a very steep learning curve ahead of me, and they have so far been very kind and benevolent towards me. That does not mean, however, that they will do something only a registrar is supposed to do. Then, they mercilessly chase me and get me to see a patient or give my opinion, a task that I get absolutely scared to do. So far, I have managed not to paint myself into a corner, but that is thanks to the very efficient nurses and my colleagues - from my co-registrars to my consultants, who have been very, very understanding and have helped extricate me out of every tight spot.  

And that is how I celebrated my Christmas this year. How did you all do it? Do share your experiences with me. Thanks so much for reading this, and I wish you and your families a very, very Happy New Year (there I go!!!)                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A week gone by, II: A buffet meal at Michael's, an Indian restaurant, with my friend Michael

Okay, so it's just a co-incidence. The Michael I went out with is not THE Michael after whom the restaurant is named! I discovered this place during my visit to the Whitegate Drive Health Centre on Monday, the 21st of December. Let me back up a little, though. The diabetes nurse who saw me at the local GP's clinic about a fortnight or three weeks ago set up a routine visit to the aforementioned centre to get my retina checked as a part of diabetes care. I had gone for this. The Centre is located about half a kilometre from the gym I visit (Helio). It is a huge place indeed. There is a GP-led centre, a Children's Centre, a general area for community services, children with learning disabilities, and several others that I did not visit or see. 

The nurse who dealt with me explained everything beforehand, including the information connected to her use of dilator eye drops to be able to shoot photos of my retina. The actual photography took hardly two minutes. I was in and out of the centre in about half an hour. On the way back to the hospital, I came across many restaurants and eating places on Whotegate Drive. One of them was Michael's, which had an imposing facade and a lovely byline: Indian food. I sort of wondered if I'd ever be able to afford eating at such a grand-looking place. 

Then, when I had reached the hospital, and was about to go to Costa for a cup of coffee, Michael called me up and asked me if I was free to join him for dinner the same evening. Originally, I had plans to have my coffee and go back to my room to change into my gym kit and go to the gym. However, Michael joined me within a few minutes at Costa. I agreed to go with him, and when he said he was willing to go anywhere, I, sort of half-heartedly, mentioned that we could go for an Indian dinner. He agreed immediately, and I then asked him his budget. When I realised that he was happy with spending up to 25 pounds between the two of us, I offered to go to Michael's. 

We walked all the way to the restaurant, and arrived there at half past seven. To our pleasant surprise, we discovered that they had a full Indian buffet dinner service with 15 varieties of starters, soup, main courses (rotis, nan, rice and about 8 different gravy preparations) and dessert (sadly, not Indian) - unlimited - all for just 12.50 British pounds per person! 

And thus. we had a stupendous dinner, chatting about each others' lives, sharing thoughts and generally getting to know each other better. 

Mike and I
Enjoying the food
The food plate
We finished at about half past nine, and then walked back together until at a certain point, we parted as he went towards where he stays with an Asian room-mate. I walked back from there, skirting Stanley Park, till I arrived at the point where there was a road that went on towards the hospital, from where I reached my home by half past ten.

This would be recorded as one of my favourite days since I came to Blackpool last month. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A week gone by, I: A visit to Blackpool zoo

Eventually, blogs have a way of going slow once a routine sets in. Even so, there are highlights in anyone's life that can brighten up not just the blogger themselves, but also the reader, who is their well-wisher and a "participant" in their life by virtue of being an avid follower. Hence, dear reader, fret not. I haven't found the time to write, but there have been events in my life that I wish to report here ... and so, here we go. 

On the last Saturday (the 19th), I went out in the morning to visit the local zoo. I took with me my old faithful - my Canon DSLR camera. The morning was chilly, but not overly so. There was a mild drizzle. I reached the zoo at about half-past nine, and had to wait for about 30 minutes before the zoo opened. I used the time to go through their leaflets, and to get myself a penny memento (for which you need to put a pound coin in a machine and press a particular handle to get an imprint of a zoo animal on to a penny coin template). 

The zoo is a good one, but it was almost empty as this is an off-season period for Blackpool. There is a big section where they have made plaster statues of dinosaurs. Their dinosaur walk is quite interesting. Statues are distributed on land masses as well as on to water bodies to depict the dinosaurs in their natural milieu. An audio recording of grunts and growls continues to charm the visitor from background speakers. A few non-dino animals such as a huge crocodile replica also hold the centre-stage, while the trip ends with a few large mammals such as the mammoth.

The big zoo begins a little ahead. Along the way, you encounter free-roaming peacocks and peahens. Then you are past the walking corridor and upon the various zoo sections. As there were no crowds of visitors, I was able to walk in peace, watch the animals in relative quiet, and meet with the zoo workers without any pressure. The zoo has a fair number of mammals, but I can't say the same for birds, of which there are not more than 30 species. Tropical birds are, of course, not there in the zoo at all, but even sea-birds (pelagic birds) are few and far between. I did see a lot of waders, especially the red ibis, the duck species, the greater flamingos and some others. However, there were few birds from among other water birds, and very less of the raptors. 

The best enclosures were those of the gorilla, the orang-utan, the giraffe, the Magellanic penguins, the sea-lions, the Bactrian camel, the reindeer, the reptile den, the Amazonia display and the small monkeys and related animal cages. In particular, I was enchanted by the common squirrel monkeys, which were a bit too friendly, the lemurs, the capybara rats, the wallabys, the mamosets and a few others that I cannot recall.

I had my lunch of rice and kheema in the cafe. It was pretty tasty. 

About photography: my camera screen misted over with fog after about an hour of taking good snaps. I continued to click photos in the "Auto" mode, and the result was all right, I guess, but, because the screen was not displaying anything, I was unable to see what I was clicking except through the viewer window. I decided to take photos with my phone camera as well, and the overall result was a collection of about a hundred odd photos, some of which look good, some, average, and some, spoiled, because I could not control their quality or adjust the various settings.

The sea-lion show: There was a twenty-minute show with three sea-lions. The trainers obviously spend thousands of man-hours training the sea-lions in various ways, and this is something one can tell just be watching the show. These cute animals needed little prompting other than a kind word and a promise of dried fish goodies thrown at their mouths to perform an amazing repertoire of activities that would put our parenting skills to shame! I shot a long video of the show, but I think it got erased before it could be saved. 

And now, the photos. I have chosen just a dozen here. However, I have posted some on my social media, and you might want to see them there by visiting me on FB.

Tyrannosaurus Rex
The penny memento I made from their memento machine
The red titi monkeys
The gorilla family
One of the female orang utans
The Magellanic penguins
Emperor tamarins
Common squirrel monkey
Red Ibis
That's all for now ... Thanks for reading.  More on the past week in my next post. 

P.S. All the photos are untouched, except for cropping.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Clinical work begins ...

I took my second dose of the MMR vaccine and the first Chickenpox vaccine on the 15th of December. With this, I became eligible to join the wards to see patients and handle them in other care areas as well. This means a lot to me, since clinical experience is what I am looking for. Now that I am eligible to see patients, I was posted to the out-patient clinics on the 16th, i.e. today. I was quite worried, since I have no previous experience of working with patients in the NHS, and do not know exactly what protocols are to be followed, which forms need to be filled, and so on. However, it turned out far less complex than I had thought it to be. The presence of my consultant colleagues helped me to check with any issues that I felt needed to be addressed. Both of them, Dr. Raj Verma in the morning session, and Dr. Rabin Mohanty in the afternoon session, were extremely understanding and cooperative and helped me through all the difficulties. 

In addition to the clinics, I was in the hand-over sessions both in the morning and in the afternoon. This helped me to understand the patients as they are in the wards and in the Neonatal Unit. In some days, I guess, I would be seeing ward or newborn patients as well, so I should brush up on my day-to-day clinical knowledge. 

Which brings me to my studies ... well, this is not the study studies that formed a part of my life when I was in Saudi Arabia. These are studies that I can do at my own pace, for my own professional development. There are literally hundreds of things happening around someone who looks to take up studying in any form. I have begun walking on this path, and have already taken part in several activities, such as attending a leadership course, presenting a case in a meeting, and so on.

In other news, I have got used to the cold weather here, and am comfortable with the temperature hovering around 6-8 C as well as I was, in India, with a temperature of 18C. The other news is that I have begun to workout at the gym under the guidance of a personal trainer, who has reduced his charges to a level where I can feel easy enough to pay him. In the process, my exercising has increased, I feel sore in many muscles each evening after my return from the gym, and I have begun to lose weight. It isn't something really big - the weight loss, I mean - but it's a start, and I hope to go on with this until I am at a comfortable 75 kg or less ... even if that takes a year. In tandem with my exercising, I have also reduced my intake of carbs and have increased that of proteins and fat. This, the current recommendations say, will help not only to lose weight more scientifically, but also control that deadly disease that I have - diabetes, Type 2. 

And with that, I sign off today's entry. I hope you liked it. I would appreciate if you signed up to receive updates on your email whenever I wrote a new entry in this blog. Thanks once again, and BYE.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Completing the final steps needed to work

I have had a glorious first month here, and I am still awaiting being placed on the wards as my "occupational health clearance" has taken a little more time than I had anticipated. However, now the final few steps are due this week. Even as I write this on the evening of Monday the 14th, I am counting the hours before I get my second shot of MMR vaccine tomorrow; on the 17th, I am due to visit the National Insurance office to complete formalities for joining the governmental insurance scheme as per their mandatory requirements. 

Thus, within a few days, all formalities will get sorted out and I will be working with patients and in all the areas of the paediatric department. Currently, I am only working in non-clinical work, such as seeing files, completing paper work, etc. I have also begun to take online courses required for improving my C.V. Tomorrow, I would be presenting a case in the monthly morbidity and mortality meeting of the Ob-Gyn and Paediatric department. I took courses on self-development, and attended one event at the Royal College HQ in London some days back. Thus, on the whole, I am keeping myself busy. 

My colleagues are gradually getting comfortable with me and speak cordially with me. I hope they sustain this spirit of friendship once we begin to work together as a team. The head of our department, Dr. Peter Curtis, is a very understanding person, and tries to help me whenever there is a genuine need from my side. The other consultants are nice as well. We have two consultants who are of Indian origin, one Dr. Raj Verma and one Dr. Mohanty. While the former is one of the big guys on the Royal College's examination committee. Dr. Mohanty is an educational counsellor and has taken a keen interest in my professional development. The other consultants include Dr. Nigel, of whom I wrote in my previous post, Dr. Kate Goldberg, Dr. Chris Rawlingson, Dr. Wing, Dr. Rowlands, and a few others. We also have a few consultants who are community Paediatricians, and their duties mostly encompass their work in the clinic and in the community. 

Every Wednesday, we have an educational program in the educational centre, while Friday afternoons are designed for academic meets in the Meeting room of the Women and Children's wing of the hospital. In the latter, house officers and registrars present clinically relevant topics related to recently managed patients from the department. Attendance in such internal meetings is recorded and counts towards "continuous professional development" credit. 

I know today's blog post is a bit technical in nature, but I expect it will interest those of you who are already doctors in the NHS, doctors elsewhere, or those who understand how the NHS works. It might also interest non-medical readers who are my well-wishers and wondering what I am doing and who I work with. Well, this post might have helped them as well!

Thanks for reading, and as always, taking interest in my blog.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Paediatric Department Christmas party

The various stake-holders of the department of Paediatrics (mostly the Paediatric Ward) had pre-organised a Christmas party and I was fortunate to be a part of it. The venue was the Park House Hotel on the northern promenade of Blackpool, a road mostly dotted with hotels. From the ward, all of the nurses were there, and from among the staff, we were just the three of us - Dr. Nigel Laycock, one of the consultants, Dr. Letty Ene, my co-registrar, and myself. 

I arrived there by bus, having to walk about a km before reaching the hotel. It was an extremely windy evening with intermittent rain and, at a few points, the walk through the extreme wind was so difficult I almost turned back! However, once I had reached the warm interiors of the hotel, and had been escorted to the Pavillion, a sort of basement restaurant, my mood improved considerably as I found both the doctors and a clutch of nurses already present, and all (except Dr. Nigel - who was presentable, but not formal) dressed formally and looking great. Dr. Nigel brought me a drink, and as we sat there, I thought to myself - hey, the party is on!

After some time, we were all taken to our tables. Three 8-seater tables were booked for us out of the nine that were set up. The waiters then began to serve us as we sat there, admiring the arrangements and I getting to know the others. 

Dr. Nigel and Dr. Letty
The first course_ a prawns starter
Christmas mood
The room filled up gradually, and we were then served a vegetable soup as the second course, a turkey breast roast with sides as the main course, a chocolate with cream cake as the dessert and a cup of tea to round off the meal. In the mean-time, a DJ took over the music arrangements, and presently, yielded the stage to a young singer who began to entertain us with his voice and the digital paraphernalia at his disposal. He used clever combinations of synthetic music, karaoke and his own vocals to create a beautiful medley of songs from the present and from the past. As guests began to dance to his songs on a well-designed illuminated floor, I watched Dr. Nigel groove with the nurses in a state of gay abandon, and decided to also step up and dance a bit. 

The main course of turkey and sides (potato, brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce)
The chocolate cake, which none of us could really finish as the portion was too large
The central decor at the round table ... each table had different arrangements
The ceiling over the dance area 
For the rest of the evening, we danced, we sat and enjoyed, had conversations with each other, and had fun. Dr. Nigel and I left together in a cab, and he dropped me off at the hospital before proceeding to his own place. All in all, a very enjoyable evening was had by me. 

Here is a video of the dance floor happenings that I shot with my mobile camera.

I also tried a selfie video ... which isn't so good, but here it is. 

And that's about it. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How the job goes on

Since I last wrote in this blog, I have had a somewhat busy schedule. Sunday was easy-peasy. There was no work to be done. I relaxed, visited the town centre, even did a bit of gymming in the morning and mostly slept. I haven't cooked much since the past several days, as I have yet to finish some of my previously cooked food.

Monday and Tuesday were hectic, as I had to attend the full-day Trust induction program. This meant attending several sessions in the close confines of a meeting room with about 30 other new employees working either in the hospital itself or in one of the outdoor clinics in the community. The only thing that kept these sessions interesting was the chance to make new friends, which I did. I also used the induction days to gain insight into the way the NHS works. A few sessions were actually entertaining, such as the theory session on "Moving and Handling" things and people while working in the hospital, and the session on "Fire Safety" which enabled us to understand how to behave if you see a fire incident in the hospital or any of the Trust properties. 

On Monday evening, I went to the gym and attended a free training session conducted by Jamie Evill, one of the personal trainers who work in Helio Fitness. I thoroughly enjoyed the session and am considering hiring his services for getting back into shape. 

On Tuesday evening, I visited the home of one of the registrars I am working with - the very pretty Romanian Letty Ene. She had invited all the co-workers to her place for a party. Expecting a bohemian atmosphere, I was quite surprised to meet a bunch of sober young people who sipped on fruit juice and partook of some delicious ethnic baked stuff such as spinach pouches and cheese tacos made by Letty herself. Letty stays at Lytham St. Anne's, a suburb that is over 16 km away from the hospital, and I was fortunate to get a ride with my colleague Ms. Evelyn Chia on the way to the party, and another colleague Ms. Jessica on the way back. The others who attended included a Pakistani girl Fatima Hayat, a Ghanaian girl Akua, Englishmen Joe and Michael and a Canadian girl Sherin. Some of the invitees brought their own food as well to share with the others. I felt awkward initially because a) I had not taken anything to the party b) I was the newest resident joining the hospital and they don't know me as well and c) I am almost or, in some cases, over twice their age, However, we all gelled well with each other. After dinner, we all sat to view some videos on You Tube beamed on the smart TV (Panasonic - maybe Viera) that Letty has. Each of the invitee was asked to share a video from their own choice and culture. In the event, I shared the song "Ek Do Teen ..." from Tezaab, and it was enjoyed by the attendees to some extent. After this round of watching videos, we all sat down to a group board game called "Articulate" where players form teams and each one draws a card from a pile, and then articulates a word using ideas from among the words listed on that card. A spinning arrow provides the "articulator" with the word he/she has to articulate. The other team members must guess what the word is. A timer shaped like a sand-clock runs while the articulator tries and gets as many word guesses as possible until the sand has run out. We had great fun with this game. I returned home with Jess and Sherin around half past ten.

On Wednesday, I resumed work in the department, filling e-discharges. These are online statements that you need to fill for each patient that was kept in any part of the Paediatric department. The statements become part of the patient's record and can be accessed by any healthcare worker with the NHS who looks after the patient any time in the future. Earlier, in the morning, I went for a long walk-cum-run of just over 5 km; in the evening, I visited the gym and did a little workout, with intermittent cardio on the cross trainer and some upper-limb free exercises. 

All in all, I spent a busy three days, as I had mentioned earlier in this entry. Do leave your comments and be part of the interaction on this blog. Thank you, dear reader.  

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Some observations, all my own work

On this, my fourth Sunday in the UK, I have decided to collect a few small bits of news and observations and combine them into this one "masala" post. Readers please do read it and enjoy.

One of the things that immediately got my attention is that all stores, big and medium-sized, have loyalty cards and schemes. This is through a plastic card, but you have to register online, and once that is done, points accrue to you whenever you visit the store or franchisee and buy something. The amazing thing is, I have already got 5 such franchisee cards with me, and they are all earning points for me. At Sainsburys (a large department store), for example, every pound of purchase earns you 1 point; once you have points, they can be redeemed against a future purchase. Every point is worth 1/2 a pence. Effectively, therefore, you are getting about 0.5% per purchase as cash back. It isn't much, but it adds up for someone shopping there regularly for groceries and other provisions. 

Secondly, most stores have their own websites, and you can do online purchases from the comfort of your home. Above a certain value, delivery is free, but for usual purchases, you may either pay a delivery charge (which can be rather steep), or go to the store later on and pick up your purchases. This is called "click and collect". 

Thirdly, many stores run online surveys and when you take them, they enrol you into some kind of lottery where a random winner every month or so gets a huge bounty. For example, Pizza Hut is running a daily lottery of UK 1000 pounds! Of course, you are required to fill up a survey, but that should be all right, isn't it? 

Fourthly, pork is the main source of animal protein here in the UK, as I suspect it is in almost every Christian country in Europe and in the US too. The ready availability of pork is not a personal problem with me; rather, the unavailability of lamb or other, alternative meats, is. One can find chicken and sea-food readily, but even more than that, beef is universal. On the vegetarian side, legumes and pulses are not so readily available, and one has to hunt in many stores. For tur dal, for example, I had to go to Worldwide Foods in Manchester!

Let me now turn to securing your items and properties in the UK. There are many companies that enable you to register your stuff online and secure it with a tag and a certificate. I registered with IMMOBILISE and have secured my small electrical purchases like a bread toaster and a blender with them online. I bought some of their tags, which I have stuck on to my appliances, so that there is proof that my items are registered with them. It is not an insurance against theft, but it may discourage thieves as they will be aware that the items can be tracked with the tags. This is particularly useful to deter house-breaking thieves who will find their immobilise stickers even on the windows and doors of the house in addition to all household appliances such as the refrigerator, the TV, and so on.

Finally, I am going to talk about my own last few days here except for my 5 km run, about which I wrote yesterday. I was quite tired yesterday, but I went to the gym yesterday. The walk to the gym itself is 1.5 km, so I would add that to my workout, which was basically upper limbs today. I must have lifted weights after a long gap of two or three years, so my muscles did not take too much strain. Even so, I worked for nearly 45 minutes on free weights as well as machines and afterwards, walked all the way to the Town center (another 2 km) to spend a few hours at a more leisurely pace. I ended up ordering a pizza at the Pizza Hut, but all I could eat were 2 pieces out of the eight that are normally cut out of one pizza. I also had a salad bowl with unlimited refills, so I enjoyed having the fresh greens and some other stuff like bell-peppers, beet, bread-crumbs, etc. ... the salad bowl costing just 50p when you buy the pizza (which was 8.45). My return was again through a walk of about 920m and then a bus ride to the hospital. All in all, therefore, not counting some other walking, I did almost walk about 4 km today!

That's it for the day. Do subscribe to my blog through RSS or Atom feeds and please, please do interact with me. Thank you very much. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Took part in my first ever 5 km run

This was a red-letter day in my life. As you are aware, I have been gymming - a bit irregularly, though, since the past 8 days. Today, I went to my first-in-lifetime long distance run. This was the 5 km "Fun Run" organised by the Blackpool Trust Hospital. Proceeds from the entry charges (GBP 5 per person) would go to a charity called "Blue Skies" that operates from our hospital. The run was organised at the Stanley Park, where I reached after a near-2 km walk from the hospital. I had registered earlier, but I had to receive my shirt number (I was given # 23) and pay my fees. The organisers were pretty encouraging when I told them of my complete inexperience in running such long distances. 

In any case, we assembled in the open area outside the registration office for a warm-up and pre-run instructions. Today was an extremely wet and windy morning, and we were all commended for even turning up (nearly 40% of those who had registered did not turn up). Before the run started, I got someone to click a few pictures of mine. 

I began my run at a slow pace, and stayed behind most runners, as the professionals ran quickly while I lagged behind. On the way, I had to slow down to a walk quite frequently, but, to their credit, the race marshals who manned the entire route were extremely encouraging and even clapped as I hobbled past them. My companions were a couple whose wife seemed a bit fit, but whose husband, like me, or a little worse than me, could not cope with the run just like me. In the end, we all were the last 3 people to finish the race, but finish we did. At one point, we almost stopped to admire the water body and look at the row of cormorants that sat on a wooden stile. Here, the hubby from the couple obliged me by taking a "running photo" of me. 

I clocked 45 minutes, and was welcomed by the entire organising team with a salvo of claps and cheering as I reached the finish line. It felt very good. One of the organisers came forward to shake hands with me, and pretty soon, almost all the people there were shaking hands and congratulating me. I was met by an organiser who put a medal around me neck. I requested the guy who had taken my earlier pictures to shoot a few more, and these were the photos he shot: 

Here is a snapshot of the certificate I received and the medal that was put around me. 

My certificate and the medal
It was, all in all, a very satisfying morning, although the inclement weather tried its best to derail my plans. I walked back another nearly 2 km to my home in the hospital. Thus, I actually walked nearly 9 km in the course of the long morning. 

Just before I left the park, I visited the Park Cafe, a somewhat expensive cafe located in the park itself. Here, I had a "sea-food bucket" and a cappuccino. Both items were delicious!

A view of the Park Cafe

Both the tartar and the sweet sauce were delectable!
Prawns and fish
After reaching home, I simply rested for the rest of the day as the wind continued to howl outside my glass windows ...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sharing lots of news

Since I last wrote a post on the 27th of November, a lot of water has flown under the bridge. My appointment became formal from the 1st of December, and hopefully, my first salary should come in a few days before Christmas. That is one good news. The next one is that I have completed my health assessment and I should start my routine duties from the 15th of this month. That will definitely help me to start working with real patients, hands on. The third good news is that I have registered myself with the NHS (National Health Service) for my own health, and was able to get my medicines free of cost for the next entire month. This means that I will no longer have to lug a huge stock of medicines with me from India. 

I have also occupied myself with attending interesting talks. Yesterday, I went all the way to London, to the HQ of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, to hear the Annual Christmas Lecture by  Sir Micheal Marmot from the London College Hospital's Epidemiology Department. His talk was on "The Health Gap: Addressing inequalities in the delivery of Health care, and the Importance of Community Health care". It was a brilliant lecture indeed. However, more than the lecture, I enjoyed my one-afternoon trip to London very much. I met one Dr. Pradeep Sahare of Nagpur, who works as a Community Pediatrician in the UK. During my return journey, I met with and befriended a British woman, a struggling actor by profession, one Ms. Julie H.. as we were sitting across from each other on the long journey back from London. She turned out to be a very jovial and interesting woman indeed. As we parted at Warrington, a few stops before my own destination at Preston (where I would change to another train to take me back to my home town), we exchanged our contacts and promised to be in touch. You could say she is my first British acquaintance outside the setting of the Hospital.

Today, I attended one more interesting talk. It was a half-day workshop on Being Resilient. It was conducted by one Ms. Bec Howard, a life-style coach, and it was just super! The main message of the entire 3+ hours of learning was to dig in there, despite the ups and downs of life around you, and to retain your fresh attitude and persist in doing the right thing so as to emerge a winner and a leader that others around you can look up to. 

I am also due to appear for an interview before the Job centre in Preston in connection with my enrollment for a National Insurance number. This interview is scheduled for later this month. 

I am actually beginning to like my accommodation inside the hospital. I have made myself home here, and have organised my two rooms and the available storage in the kitchen to reflect my own needs. As I share the flat with another doctor (an Iraqui resident in Medicine), I have to respect his needs and space as well. On the whole, though, he and I live in quite different ways. He does not cook much, and gets all his food from the shops outside - but mostly from within the hospital, where we have two big brand shops, viz. M & S and W H Smith. Whereas I, with my genuine liking of cooking and self-cooked food, have expanded my larder by making lots of purchases from different places, supermarkets, malls and so on within Blackpool and from Preston, and even Manchester. I have all my needs met insofar as my kitchen is concerned. 

My family has couriered a lot of additional stuff, though, and pretty soon, when these things arrive, I will have no difficulty in living normally. 

Finally, My gymming and exercising has taken off in a good way. I am maintaining a record of the activities I do, with dates, calories burned (wherever I know it) and so on. It's too early to feel and weigh any different, but I am sure results will come soon. I am hoping to lose at least 3 kg by the year end. Let us see what happens.

Thank you for reading this entry and for your enthusiasm and for the encouragement you give me. I hope you are enjoying reading my blog entries as much as I am enjoying writing them. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

New activities and developments

I have several things to share with my readers. Let me first take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you who is reading my blogs. It is a shame, though, that my write-ups are not interesting or engaging enough for you all to post a few lines in the comments section and interact with me! My humble request to you to please join me in the conversation!

First of all, in addition to exploring Blackpool town from with-out, I am also exploring it from with-in, This means understanding its residents and its way of functioning. I have already detailed some of these things in an earlier post on my other blog, but I wish to say here that the more I discover, I feel as if I have only peeled a layer, and more lies under it. Blackpool Town Centre is one example. It is so amazing. The only other area of Blackpool that rivals it in joie-de-vivre is the sea-face. Both the town centre and the sea face thrum with activity. There are shops, entertainment centres, restaurants and bars, casinos, and a few large malls too. On the sea-front, there are bigger entertainment centres such as Sea Life. I am just doing window shopping for now, but I am sure to do all the things tourists to this town do. One way or the other, I intend to see and to show what the town is all about.

The Hospital is really big! I used to think that it might be big, but not as big as, say, the KEM hospital in Mumbai. Well, KEM is certainly bigger in terms of the bed strength, but this one is big in size for sure! It has only 800 beds, give or take, certainly not the 1300+ beds that KEM has, but it compensates for this in terms of the excellent services it provides. Our cardiac centre is Level 4, which means it does everything the best of the best cardiac centers do anywhere in the world. The long hospital corridors are really long! It takes over a minute to reach the other end from one side. The architecture of the hospital is such that sometimes things do get confusing. However, the signage is clear enough, and there are helpers at all places, who will often guide patients accurately. They even have a separate May I Help You counter in the hospital, and a few of them are ever present in the main lobby of the hospital.

Here is the main lobby, and those three people are the hospital's guide volunteers

The main lobby of the hospital
Let me now turn to some of the developments in my own life. I am still waiting to be on the payroll, as my occupational health department "clearance" is not yet due. However, the good news is that in consultation with the recruitment department of our hospital, my line manager, also the Head of the Department of Paediatrics and Family Division has agreed to start my employment from the next month, which is about 3 days away. I would therefore expect my first salary to arrive just before Christmas. 

Secondly, I am due for a 2-day induction course on the 7th of the next month. As part of the induction, or rather, in preparation for it, I was to complete several small e-courses on the ethical and confidentiality aspects of Healthcare, and I am happy to report to you that I have completed those. 

Thirdly, I have begun to exercise - since the past few days, that is. I go out on walks-jogging, and have begun to already feel better. However, my legs ARE aching, as they have been unused to running for a very long time.

Fourthly, I have registered myself for Health Care with a G.P. and was checked and evaluated by a Health Nurse, who ordered some tests on me. I got these tests done. Although my diabetes is still not normal, the tests reveal that all my other parameters are absolutely fine. 

Finally, I have joined a local gym, and plan to begin visiting it from next week onwards. 

That is basically the most recent stuff that is going on in my life. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My home

I promised to write about the place where I am currently staying in my last but previous post, so here I am. I moved to my current lodgings on the same evening as my arrival to the UK via Manchester. I was carrying luggage worth over 45 kg, so I was quite tired and frazzled when I checked in with the switchboard operators within the Blackpool Victoria Hospital on the evening of 14th November. She asked to see my ID and when she was satisfied, she handed me a medium-sized envelope and a key. The envelope had all the necessary items for a new-comer. There were legal documents including an agreement between me and the Accommodations team of the Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Also enclosed were my new key, which opened not only my room's main door, but also the inside door to my rooms. Finally, there was a mini map of the hospital and its various departments, and a user name and password to access the entire home area's free WiFi for residents. 

It seemed like the perfect beginning for a weary, knackered but optimistic soul that I am. It was a bit difficult to find the home where I was supposed to go to live. Being a Saturday evening, there was not a soul in sight to help me. Add to that the dreariness of an English evening, rain and wind, and the amount of luggage I was hauling with me, and you might begin to understand what I felt like inside of me. Eventually, though, I found my way to the home, which was set behind the main hospital buildings. It was one among 15 two-storey buldings set near each other, and unlike many of the others, which had hospital offices on the ground floor, or even upper floors, my home (# 11) was all residential. My own flat (# 3) was on the first floor, and inside, I would occupy one of two rooms (Room # 2) - a suite of two rooms. Shared between both the residents of our flat were the common bath, toilet and kitchen. 

My rooms includes a small bed area with a study table and a wash basin with a wardrobe in one room and 4 seating chairs and a drop-leaf table with an open-access large shelf-stand on the other side. Both rooms have plenty of drawers for storage. The kitchen is well-equipped with a cooking range, an electric chimney, a large collection of modular-style cupboards and shelves, a sink, a plate tray, many plates, bowls and cutlery, a tea-pot and a micro-wave oven. The bathroom has a full bath, while the toilet is the usual Western style with no spouts or running water that Indians generally love. An ironing board and an iron are present in the corridor that the flat has, A small refrigerator and a small freezer complete the kitchen, while a washing machine and a drying machine are located on another floor and are common to all flats. 

Arranging my things haphazardly on the first night was to be expected! Over the ensuing week, however, I began to sort out my stuff and put it properly in different areas. I am, as I write this, still not comfortable with the arrangements and am continually moving things around to suit my living style!

The rooms are cleaned every afternoon by Betty, a middle-aged lady who comes in with her equipment and cleans the common areas, removes the garbage and so on. At our request, she will supply towels, bed-sheets etc. I am not yet sure if she will clean our inside rooms or not, but so far, it looks as though she won't do it without my say-so. The accommodations manager sits in an office on the ground floor of Home 6, and it is a pleasure to interact with this person, who, sort of without any provocation, goes out of the way to help you to withstand the system and even enjoy yourself in this accommodation. Her name is Karen, and she is always positive with us.

And that brings to a close this post. I will post photos as soon as possible. Meanwhile, have fun reading this post.          

Monday, November 23, 2015

How the Department of Paediatrics is

In this post, I am going to describe whatever I have learned so far about the department of Paediatrics in Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Every day, I reach the department's doctor's room within the ward at half past eight in the morning. All the doctors who have either completed the night duty, or are coming in for the morning shift are there, along with senior staff, the ward nurse(s) and other liaising personnel. 

Our department has over half a dozen consultants. The head of the department is Dr. Peter Curtis, with whom I have been conversing all these days. The consultants do the hand-over sessions in the doctors' room, then go to the wards (either the paediatric, newborn or post-delivery) or the out-patients' department (OPD), while the residents distribute themselves according to their schedules between each of these departments. The hand-over (where the night doctors discuss the cases and how they managed them during their shift) takes about 15-30 minutes. All patient data is documented on A4 sheets, which everyone gets a copy of, while the "incoming" doctors note down the things they need to do or follow-up on. The outgoing residents also hand over their "bleepers" (pagers - yes, they still use them here) to the incoming ones. The atmosphere is very informal and congenial, and everyone addresses each other by their first (or whatever names they would like to be addressed with) names. Some even continue to eat their breakfasts from their boxes, or sip their tea or coffee while the hand-over is taking place!

After the hand-over, I have generally gone to the OPD, where I join one of the consultants or the staff to observe while they see patients who are there by prior appointment. These sessions are very educative, as I get the chance to see how the consultants communicate with the patients and their care-takers (usually parents). The OPD nurse usually brings a cup of tea or coffee for both, the consultant and me, but usually after the initial rush of patients is over. Patients are quite happy to be in the OPD as it has a very colourful look, with hundreds of toys, books and activity stations both in the waiting area as well as inside the rooms. My previous post would give you a glimpse of the way the OPD looks. 

I have yet to see the functioning of the wards and the high-risk areas, but all in all, the work here is very systematic. Consultants must, after they have finished seeing the patients in the OPD, use a dictaphone to electronically write up letters to the G.P. who has sent each patient. The secretary would type out letters afterwards and send them to the respective general practitioner. 

Every Wednesday afternoon, there are grand rounds in the education department of the hospital, where all the staff and residents meet to discuss patients of the past week that went by. In addition to these, there are other teaching and learning activities which are usually going on here and there, but I have yet to understand all these things fully. 

All in all, I am waiting to be cleared by the health department of the hospital (the so-called Occupational Health Department) to begin working with patients. This may take a while yet, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it happens sooner than later. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Just a quick post

... to let you know of a new, UK related post by me on my other blog, Seriously Joking. This post explores some of the things I have seen and experienced in this new place of stay and work that challenged me and my beliefs:

Click this to read:

Thank you for visiting.

Sharing some photos of my first week in Blackpool

This post is all about telling a photo-story and I am going to place all the good photos of Blackpool, its hospital, its Town center, its beach and sea-side piers, and whatever else I have had the pleasure of visiting, observing and recording on my cell-phone camera, which, by the way, is one of the better mobile cameras available (I have a One Plus Two cell phone).

Evening time view of the Emergency department of Blackpool Victoria Hosp
Newly purchased public buses of Blackpool Transport with free WiFi inside
Meadows around Blackpool
Spanish cultural centre in Preston
Wish they had such a column in all Indian newspapers!
Nurses' station in Paediatric OPD
Games and TV station in OPD
Activity centre in the Paeds OPD - find gold coins!
Another activity centre in the OPD
Sensory stimulation centre in the OPD
Long ground floor corridor in the BVH
Caring for one's pets - an example
No colours are disallowed on the hair
Blackpool Tower building
Selfie for posterity
Trams on the promenade
Commercial area at the Blackpool Town centre
An example of a pre-packaged meal: many cuisines are available to try