Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Masks, a true story

A few decades ago, as rather a callow and idealistic young man, I made a career mis-step. Specifically working in the NHS, undergoing two years training out of the then three year SRN programme. I have worked my secondments doing medical procedures under supervision in Operating Theatre, Casualty (A&E or ‘Emergency’) male surgical and medical wards working on everything from delivering deep intramuscular and subcutaneous injections to being scrubbed for major surgical procedures like hip transplants and emptying bedpans and urine bottles. That and being trained for ICU and reverse barrier nursing. Why I ended up quitting is between me and my conscience. However, I have done my bit, so to speak, and a few people got their lives extended because Ma Sticker’s boy was heads up and on the ball. So, a no-score win there I think.

One of the things I learned working in hospitals was about the use of disposable surgical masks, why they are used where they are and why filter masks are not used instead. There are whole libraries of scientific studies available to back me up on this. Such was my basic training. Which includes the following anecdote;

I was in a hurry one morning, running a little late, having suffered a flat tyre on my way in to work. When I went to the operating theatre washroom to scrub up, the theatre’s normal stash of surgical masks wasn’t in their usual place. So after a quick hunt around I found a box of filter masks and put one on. Thirty seconds later as I was washing my hands and arms before going in to help set up theatre for the next patient, the Duty Sister blew out my eardrums with a stern “Sticker! Take that off!”
“Sorry Sister, but we’re out of standard masks.” I countered lamely.
“This way.” She beckoned me out of the washroom and gave me a severe wigging about the hows, whys and wherefores of wearing disposable surgical masks in operating theatre, before handing me a replacement box of new surgical masks to restock the washroom. Once suitably masked and re-scrubbed I was sent back, somewhat mollified but a little wiser, to go do.

What I had driven into my thick skull was this; operating theatre staff were not to wear filter masks as the sole purpose of a surgical mask is to stop us breathing pathogens over an open wound. Surgical operations open a wound cavity in someone’s body and not breathing the host of lurgis normally resident in your airways all over that gaping red maw is a jolly good thing as it massively reduces the amount of dead bodies in the mortuary.

If you’ve ever seen (and smelled) a really bad (and fortunately extremely rare) wound infection, they are pretty stomach turning affairs and occasionally even seasoned ward staff could be found chundering in the wards sluice.

The thing is with masks is that they have the potential to be both good and bad. Disposable surgical masks should only ever be worn once, as should N95’s, the clue being the word ‘disposable’, and they all have limited facility. Masks are only useful in reducing the radius of infection from you over other people. They cannot stop viral transmission, only reduce the area you, as a potentially infected person, can breathe potential infection out. If you’re infectious, was the rule, you were not allowed in theatre at all. Staph Aureus and E.Coli, to name but two, are nasty things to be avoided if at all possible.

A cloth mask is, as I have stated before, a one-time-only get-you-home affair and should never be worn twice without a thorough sanitising. A cloth mask must be thoroughly hot washed then heat treated to above boiling point with a hot iron and sealed in a new, unused plastic bag ready for use. Every time before use. Even then it will only offer very limited protection and will need a fresh paper tissue insert as a snot catcher as well. It is also not wise to wear a mask for protracted periods because it will increase your CO2 intake and rebreathing of pathogens from your snot laden sinuses and airways. Which may lead to near constant reinfection.

Now I’ve sat through hours of classroom time on this and allied ENT topics, albeit over thirty years ago, but it all boils down to this; you can’t wear a mask all day every day and expect it to give any level of protection after two and a half hours. Even if they’re part of a full NBC or Hazmat suit with activated charcoal filters, masks cannot completely stop viruses. Not even an N95 standard will do that. If you wanted to be absolutely sure of being virus-free you could try to purchase a total immersion suit with add on gas filtration or an ex-NASA or old Soviet era space suit and set up a decon chamber at your front door, providing your home is hermetically sealed, but that would be a bit extreme now, wouldn’t it?

Therefore the mandatory mask legislation currently being enacted in various jurisdictions has come as something of a surprise. Not to mention looking somewhat insane. The time for masks has come and gone. It went in late March and early April 2020. At the time of writing in August 2020, wearing a mask is purely symbolic and possibly bad for your health if not properly sanitised before each use.

Re sanitising; You can use your microwave like below, if you have a spare microwave oven you don’t mind throwing away…. But as the man says, this is only for emergencies. Do watch all the way through before attempting this at home. This blog accepts no responsibility for you getting it wrong and blowing up your kitchen and the neighbourhood power supply.

As for waiting for some nebulous ‘miracle’ vaccine; I’m no ‘Anti-vaxxer’ but would encourage everyone to resist having one of these shots until proper double blind clinical trials are completed and the results made public in the next 18 months. Because that’s how long it takes to properly test vaccines. You can’t rush biology. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Especially Government sponsored media. That should always be viewed with your bullshit detector on it’s highest setting.

Best Christmas message ever

Got a letter today. An old fashioned honest to goodness handwritten letter on ten pages of paper written in real pen from one of my two surviving Aunts. It absolutely has made my entire Christmas because it’s helped me reconnect with people who I didn’t think cared I still existed. My extended family. The pages repeatedly scanned today could not have been more precious if they were written in diamond on 24 carat solid platinum sheets. All right, my Aunt hand wrote the letter because her printer ran out of ink and my cousins won’t be visiting until next weekend to buy and fit a new cartridge for her, but as I read my crusty old eyes were almost moved to sentimental tears. Even if she hadn’t sent a Christmas card, this was far better.

I say better because all the sentiment within was genuine, not forced or the grisly secondhand saccharine sloppiness or ghastly lame humour of the usual run of Christmas cards. The letter was chock full of the dark humour typical of my clan, stuffed with information on a branch of the family who I thought had forgotten all about yours truly decades ago. Some of the news was sad, about a distant aunt and uncle who have left this world, but more was happy because people I used to love and trust, and think I still do, are still around and sinning despite all life’s vicissitudes. No, none of us do ‘Social media’, we have real lives. We connect in four dimensions not the two of Farcebook or Twatter.

Which gladdens my scabby blackened old heart. As my good lady wife observed having noticed my smile; “Well, something undid a twist in your soul Bill.” With which I agree, because I feel part of my own special river of humanity again. Connected. No longer as distant or excluded. And you know what? It feels good and it’s the best Christmas present I’ve had for decades. Possibly the best seasonal missive I’ve ever had.

Honestly, I’ve come over all North Brummagem.

I’ve been told that some of our lot are visiting Oz at the same time Mrs S and I are. It would be interesting to run into them and see what they’re really like, or if we’ll even recognise each other after so much time estranged. Family, eh? Who knew?

Routine shizzle

Not much happening chez Maison Sticker apart from hanging around for Mrs S’s appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon. She needs to talk to one to get a proper referral for rehab. Because she broke her arm out of country, she needs to follow procedure to get into the BC system. Which means a BC Orthopod has to give her busted wing the once over before she can get any physio. No matter our health insurance is paid up to date, and we’ve got cover coming out of her ears, the niceties must be observed. It’s a pain, but it’s slack season as far as work is concerned, so it’s not like we’re having to juggle two dozen other items at the same time. Just a case of hurry up and wait. So long as we can make our conference next week, we can easily shift arrangements. There’s also a little road trip dahn sarf to see how the folks across the border are faring and take a pootle along the Oregon and Washington scenic coastlines.

As for the Greek business, our investments aren’t going to be hit as we’ve no real exposure in the affected markets. The whole schemozzle, at least from this side of the pond and the FT’s pages, looks like it’s devolved into some kind of bizarre economic winking contest. No-one is actually dumb enough to take the last support from under their respective houses of cards, but it does look like the financial penny is dropping regarding the Euro. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ top down financial philosophy is showing a pair of Achilles heels which anyone with any real financial acumen could see a mile off. Real life economies are subject to the financial whims of populaces, politicians, banks and corporations, which tend, at least in Europe, to be a bit more locally focussed. The financial systems of the USA evolved from a roughly common culture with the same basic language. Europe can’t be like the USA, no matter how much the federalists would like it to be, because Europe doesn’t have the basis of that roughly common culture. It’s too, well, Balkan if you catch my drift. Not literally, but kind of. While the Common Market wasn’t a bad idea as far as promoting free trade was concerned, trying to shoehorn all the splendid diversities of mainland Europe into a centrally governed Federal republic was always a step too far. Various empire builders have had a go by assimilation and even military invasion, but in the end the locals always end up having their say.

And the centralisers wanted to bring Turkey and the Ukraine into their hegemony? Oh dearie me. Soo not a good idea.

What else? Various mini sagas over property etcetera grumble on. As far as that’s concerned I’m just biding my time. New neighbours downstairs. Some sociable, others not so much. Landlady is looking after a yappy little Yorkshire Terrier with a habit of shitting on doorsteps. Which can make walking through the back yard a very eyes down affair. Its owners will return next week, so by the time we come back from our conference and road trip, the little bastard will be gone. You can’t even make friends with the territorial little sod, it just runs away and yaps at you, as it it were his territory alone. Then when you turn away, tries to sneak after your ankles.

In my more evil moments, most of them between waking up and going to bed, I’m minded to remember a small rural adventure from my younger days regarding stupid dogs that have no off switch; a mate was shagging his girlfriend. Both of them a little shy of their sixteenth birthday, but this was in the 70’s and everyone involved but me is no longer around. No injury, no foul – right Officer? In the way of hormonally charged youth everywhere, he begged me as his best friend to keep his intrusive twelve year old brother out of the way. In my youthful lack of judgement I agreed, providing we could go rough shooting the following day with his Dads then-legal pump action shotgun. The lovers arranged their horizontal jogging, I baby sat younger brother downstairs and out of the lovers tryst. His and her lust was satisfied and all was well. Up until we were exiting the house. As we did, next doors Jack Russell broached the fence and began having a go at my friends ankles as we made our way out of said girlfriends back garden gate (That is not a euphemism BTW). I still have to work hard not to collapse in fits of giggles as I recall the rapidly dopplering ‘Yap-yap-yap-yap-yeellpppp!’ as my friend perfectly drop kicked the noisy little tyke back over the garden fence to where it belonged.

The temptation to do likewise to Landladies friends’ Yorkie is sometimes quite hard to resist.

In praise of rain

What is it? Just condensed water vapour, falling from the clouds. Yet there is a poetry in it; a soft lilting cadence in even the most torrid downpour. Even when raindrops are coming down so hard they splash and meet themselves coming back up a foot above the ground, forming a sparkling fairy carpet of silver. When even trees provide scant cover against an aqueous bombardment rattling their leaves. Must be the Irish in me that sees such beauty in torrential rain.

Back in my foot patrol days, I liked being out in the rain. Unlike so many of my contemporaries, for whom the mere occlusion of a cloud over the sun was cause to stay close to base. Days when I’d go out bang on time, spending my day under trees and lurking in doorways, and having done my stint, get back to base only to find I was the last man out there. Not that I minded. Even when the rest of our crew said it made them ‘look bad’. As if I cared. Being paid to take a walk, which was my definition of the job, was my idea of heaven. In any weather. The authoritarian part of it was an inconvenience, but I was never the most enthusiastic enforcer, only resorting to that part of the job when contravention was so blatant that even the most liberal would cry “Oh FFS, Bill! Book him!” in frustration. The general dyslexic still kept me busy. Was it that long ago? Well I never.

Today I’m watching rain fall from our tiny Parisian apartment as the skies dump a cleansing dollop of airborne water over our little Arondissement. The Plane trees in the centre courtyard occasionally thrashing like manic dancers under periodic downdraughts. Cafe owners glowering up at the leaden grey and counting the Euros lost. Locals and smokers lurking under their umbrellas or in cafe’s until the pleut passes.

Then the clouds, having divested their skirts of so much water vapour, will sail sedately on like fat women after liposuction and the sun will bless the world again. Umbrellas will be returned to their stands, cafe proprietors will lay out their tables, people will stop by on their way back from work and a cleaner world will turn once more. Then there will be the warm, clean smell of wet earth replacing the odd ammoniac whiff of Eau de Tramp, garbage, traffic fumes and spilt diesel. At least for a while.

That’s interesting

A quick pre-flight shopping jaunt out to get Mrs S a new iPad cover for our trip to gay paree. We doglegged onto the Patricia Bay Highway and saw something I personally haven’t witnessed since November 1982. A full on convoy of Hells Angels (Not imitations, the real deal – I’d know that patch anywhere) with Police both local and RCMP up and down the road trailing about twenty six, maybe as many as thirty Harleys riding in a highly disciplined two line pack, swinging down the off ramp that leads to Highway One northbound.

I almost had an attack of nostalgia on the spot.

An old satellite and a song

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Telstar, the first proper TV relay satellite. This song is also from that time. As is the one below. Slightly weird, but fun. In a geeky sort of way.

Elder sibling bought a copy, or had it bought for him, and I found it in his old record collection. Honest guv. I used to play it on his old record deck, a mahogany cased monster of a thing. Good grief, the memories flood back. 405 line TV sets (The ones you had to hit to get a half decent picture), hiding behind the sofa during Doctor Who (William Hartnell era), and when Ford Zodiac Mark II’s were thought to be the bees articular interfaces.