Wednesday 24 January 2018

Rude health: Jogger's paradise

Dad's Army have been ruling this country for far too long, says Maurice Gueret, but he won't be running himself

Jogging is great for getting the body's happy chemicals circulating.
Jogging is great for getting the body's happy chemicals circulating.
Maurice Gueret

Maurice Gueret

Recent elections to the 32nd Dail were profoundly depressing. I felt no pride in forlornly scanning my ballot paper for logos of the Troika, the Defence Forces, or even Her Majesty's Government. It's no crime to look for a bout of leadership or a bit of a change.

The focus groups and PR grandees that run the status quo gave us a choice of four tired and discredited leaders, one from each knackered province of Ireland. Their TV debates were like local anaesthetics - positively numbing in all the important areas. The big old parties got the big old coverage. Minnows and embryos were eaten up, refused crumbs at senior table or presented with legal bills. If North Korea decided to do democracy, they could learn a lot from us little Irelanders. This State doesn't look after the old. It looks after the old guard. Young or new pretenders have to keep quiet and pay their bills. When they show signs of tiring and having nothing fresh to contribute, they are then allowed to join the old guard. Perhaps you read those interviews with two young politicians who lost their seats last month? One was worried about how her young family might pay this month's rent. The other looked forward to getting a proper job that might allow him to apply for a mortgage. He was turned down for one by the bank because his membership of our parliament was not a permanent position. Dad's Army and Dev's Army have been in power here since the foundation of the State. Each party promises just two dreams for their young. They can grow old, or grow wings.

Putting my own Misery Hill to one side, one could take up jogging, which is great for getting the body's happy chemicals circulating. I did jog once, as a young fellow. Half-marathons and 10k road races were all the rage when my banks of youth were being burgled. I would run both at the same pace. If we hit a wall in half-marathons, we would shelter behind it for a cigarette break. Exercise was a simpler affair then. You donned a singlet, shorts and runners, and the road would rise to greet you. My god, it's a complicated pastime now. The latest brochure from Lidl has me feeling that my track-and-field days are over. I need an adjustable phone device holder, a sports armband with a hook-and-loop fastener, multi-layered running insoles, a cordless Bluetooth heart-rate monitor with pulse display, a BMI calculator with calorie-consumption and fat-burning data, kinesiology tapes to increase stability of tense muscles, hot and cold compress pain-relieving bandages, a lightweight back-padded running rucksack complete with hydration pocket and headphone cable opening, socks with space-compensating cushions, energy bars, isotonic berry drink, energy gels, IsoGels, and the all-important protein recovery beverage bottle. The saner folk are those who run for the pub.

My reader in the midlands has been in touch about an interesting hospital experience. She found herself in an emergency department following a heavy fall, and has a useful observation as to how these places might become more efficient. During her 22-hour stay, she was interviewed by seven doctors. Each one asked her what happened, and hand-wrote her reply each time onto a foolscap page. By the time she was discharged, there were seven identical accounts of the exact same story of the exact same injury on seven different foolscap pages. On another occasion, my correspondent went in for day-care and was interviewed by four different nurses in a 20-minute period. Again, they all recorded, by hand, the exact same story as each other. She wonders if hospitals in Ireland have ever heard of these newfangled information devices called laptops, or even tablets. Apparently, one person can use these portable gadgets to record data in a most readable form and this information is then available to other members of the same species without having to interrogate the patient time after time after time. The users can even sign and edit their submissions using another new contraption called a keypad. I believe politicians have been installing them in huge numbers at Leinster House for the past two decades. Might they release one to the HSE for a pilot study in their hospitals?

If time is saved recording patient data in a more modern fashion, it could be spent on issues like consent. A well-briefed correspondent tells me that informed consent has become a major casualty of the high-speed processing of bodies through hospital departments. She was once handed a form of small print to be signed when she was on the operating table! She has no problem with fast turnaround at Ryanair terminals and McDonald's outlets, but is aghast that patients are being handed forms they simply have no time to read or digest, by doctors who are tapping their pens against the guard rails in anticipation of a quick signature. She can multitask as well as the next woman, but the indecent speed with which consent rules are being applied would make her as likely to confess to sinking the Titanic, as to give accurate answers to medical history. In 40 years of business, she has never signed an unread document and wonders why she should be less cautious with her health. She suggests that medical histories and consents, including that for the anaesthetic procedure, should ideally be taken before entering theatre. Communications are the real issue here. But this is Ireland. We have to pass a quota of scandals before we change.

Dr Maurice Gueret is editor of the 'Irish Medical Directory'

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