Tag Archives: healthcare staff

Tried And Tested

There are disadvantages to having a pacemaker and a history of a dropping heartbeat.

I do realise that as “well, duh” sentences go it’s pretty hard to beat the one above. It’s right up there with “if you stand in the rain you will get wet”, “the Pope is a Catholic”, and, of course, “Homo locum frustra ponitur in oratione Latina capito proiecto sit amet” (A man who puts a sentence in Latin into a post for no reason is just a big-headed twit).

It’s just that when you have a pacemaker, like I have, sometimes you’re not allowed to just be sick.

Suppose you’re at work on a Monday morning and you start to feel this strange catching sensation in your breath. You go home early but the sensation wears off. On Tuesday morning it’s back, so you don’t go to work at all, and on Tuesday night you suddenly, for no obvious reason and for the first time in about fifteen years, throw up.

On Wednesday you feel fine, and you decide that it was some sort of bug, and that the sickness of the night before was its last hurrah (actually, a pretty accurate description of the sound you made). You have, however, already made an appointment to see your doctor at ten. You tell him your story, he listens with his stethoscope, puts that strange wooden stick on your tongue, gives you a lollipop and a note to take the following day off, and sends you home.

That’s because you’re you. Because I’m me, and because of my heart, he gives me an ECG, which he says looks perfect. He calls in his colleague, she studies the printout and agrees that it looks perfect. So they do what any doctors presented with evidence of good health would do in the circumstances.

They send me to the Emergency Department of St Vincent’s Hospital.

I went there by train. This is rather like James Bond finding out where the baddies have planted the thermonuclear device, and conveying this information to M by second-class mail.

I arrived and presented my letter, and the printout of my ECG. They took this and gave me an ECG. They agreed that this matched the first one, ran tests on my pacemaker, took blood samples and checked my heart and lungs. Then sent me home.

I know it’s great that these wonderful people are taking so much care, are so willing to err on the side of caution, and put so much effort into making sure one person is well.

It’s just I feel like such a drama queen.

The Caring Profession

Last Wednesday’s Irish Times carried an article about a report from the Forum on End of Life in Ireland. The report covered everything from the cost of funerals to people’s preferred place of death to the need for better education and training for those dealing with the bereaved and dying.

The article, written by the Times‘ excellent Health Correspondent Eithne Donnellan, carried quotes from some bereaved people, many telling of insensitivity shown to them at a time when they were at their most emotionally frail. But in the middle of them all was this:

“Both our children died in hospital . . . when it came time for us to take our children home for the last time, the staff lined the corridors to say their final farewell. It was so touching and something we will never forget.” – Bereaved parents

Do you have tears in your eyes after reading that? I do.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so heartbreakingly sad, and yet so uplifting.

Bless the staff of that unnamed hospital. They are wonderful people.

Video Nasty

It’s a sign that we’re getting more like the US that a Mr John McAuley, who wanted to film “every precious moment of the first minutes of his baby’s life” sued the midwife at Mount Carmel Hospital for €38,000 damages for interrupting his video of the birth.

Thankfully, it a sign that we’re not quite there yet that the Judge Joseph Mathews threw the case out.


Reading the facts of the case is a jaw-dropping experience. McAuley admitted that “he and his partner had been given a perfectly healthy baby and he could not criticise the hospital in any way for its care of mother and child”. He also admitted that he had recorded 39 minutes of the birth “up to and during an emergency Caesarean delivery” (Jesus!), but said that he had five other 39-minute tapes with him.

The midwife, Iris Halbach, asked for a momentary stop in filming while she carried out emergency clearance of the baby’s airways. She said “Maybe we could hang on a little with the filming until the baby is all recovered, if you don’t mind”, and McAuley described these words as justifying his claim that Ms Halbach had at that moment become “irrational and agitated”.

Now, I have to say here that I am not a video type of person. I don’t have a film of the birth of any of the Tinkids, and never for one second thought of making one. Each of the births (and I have to be honest here and hope Tinson2 and Tingirl never read this, but especially the first one) is seared into my brain in such a way that if I let my mind drift back for a few seconds I can still feel the shock, wonder and joy of the whole thing as clearly as ever. I’ll never need a video for that.

And I can still remember our affection and gratitude for the staff, who were patient, hard-working and caring. After Tinson1 was born, when the nurse who’d sat with us through the whole thing was leaving Mrs Tin hugged her as if she was the best friend she’d ever had, and at that moment she was.

The idea of suing any of the people involved in helping us through these wonderful events just because of a bloody video is just appalling. If McAuley had felt any of the emotions we felt he’d be grateful to Iris forever, instead of trying to make money from her.

Anyway, he lost, and I’m delighted.

Though not, I suspect, as delighted as his friends.

Six 39-minute tapes of his child’s birth?

Now that’s a dinner party you don’t want to be invited to.

The Tinman Cometh – the Birth of Tinman, Part 7 (and Last)

first-birthdaySo. Today is January 22nd, and my pacemaker is one year old.

no wonder my heart stopped

Compared to all the crap that had gone before, my 8-day stay in Vincents was fairly uneventful. The staff were friendly, hard-working and knowledgable. The nurses were cute and, to my surprise and delight, some of the doctors were even cuter. I had the heart monitor removed, they waited a bit for that wound to heal, and then they put in the pacemaker. During my stay in Cardiac Care I got to be the youngest in a group for once, since most of the others were in their seventies, so I was the ward gofer, trekking off each morning to buy newspapers in the hospital shop. One morning NiceNurseNicola (one of the Russells from Skerries, as she used to describe herself) gave me an explanatory booklet about my pacemaker, and the patient on the front was also in his seventies. I think this was the only time I got down during my whole stay. “Look at him,” I said to NNN, pointing to the cover,  “is that not the age I should be to be going through all this?”

Most of the time I was fine, though. I was visited each day by Mrs Tin and an ever-changing selection of Tinkids, my dad came in a lot, and I was also visited by some of the workmates who regularly appear in these annals, including GoldenEyes, Blondiebird, TallNeuroticGirl and even The Overlord himself. I sent and received almost two hundred texts to and from various others. One guy from my local asked would I get to see the United game on the Saturday, and when I said no he offered to text me whenever there was a goal. That was one of the most dread-filled afternoons of my life (and I’m speaking here as a man who’s had blackouts and heart operations, and who once set fire to his kitchen) as all conversation gradually dried up and the Tinsons and I just stared at the still silent phone as the time ticked nearer and nearer to ten to five. With about eight minutes to go my phone finally beeped, and I fell upon it. “One-nil – Rooney,” read the text. “About fucking time,” I texted back, “do they not know I have a heart condition?” (I later discovered that one of the guys had suggested texting me that they were losing, but the general consensus in the pub had been that this might have killed me).

sacred-heartOne evening at the end of visiting time I was walking the family out to the front door. There is a statue of Jesus very like this picture in the front hall, with him pointing to his Sacred Heart as he always seems to be doing. “Look,” I said to the Tinkids, “Jesus had a pacemaker too.” Mrs Tin gave me a look of horror as if she reckoned I was now doomed to hell for all eternity, but I think that even if I am it will be worth it, just to have heard them all laugh during what must have been a really scary time for them.

At half-eight on the morning of the 22nd a guy arrived into the ward with a trolley to collect me. I climbed up onto it while he went off to sign some paperwork. After a couple of minutes I started calling out “I say? Driver?”. The man in the bed opposite said “I’ve been watching you this morning. I’ve been in here lots of times, and I’ve never seen anyone who’s about to go upstairs for an operation looked as relaxed as you.”

“Listen, ” I said, “I’ve been through eight months of not knowing when this will all end. All that time I was hoping for a day like this. I can’t wait to get upstairs.”

mended-heartTwo hours later I was back in bed and I sent out a group text saying “Am now part-man, part-machine”. The people at work were always giving out about how little time I’d taken off during all this (what was the point, I used to blackout at home too, with the difference being that at home I was doing it in front of my children) so HR Fireball texted “I suppose I’ll see you here in work tomorrow.” “Why?” I texted back, “will you not be there this afternoon?” (“Not in the least bit funny” was her reply).

CuteAccountantGirl, who has now left but with whom we still go on the beer sometimes, texted back “Congratulations Tinman!” and so is indirectly responsible for the name I took when I started all this blog stuff three months later.

And the following morning the doctors said I could go home. I texted “FREE AT LAST! FREE AT LAST! THANK GOD I’M FREE AT LAST! Er, can I have a lift?” to Mrs Tin, said my goodbyes, and headed off to a slightly different life.

And in general this life is fine. I do feel the pacemaker turning on every so often, and occasionally it will irritate muscles around it, so that they keep pinging and spasming for a while after it had stopped. I can’t go through the X-Ray machine at airports (not, as I’d always thought, because the pacemaker would set off the machine, but rather because the machine would turn off the pacemaker). Getting to skip the queue is as not as much fun as it sounds, since it just means that I have to get patted down every time, and that’s not as much fun as it sounds either, since they always call a bloke to do it.

And look at my muscles!

And look at my muscles!

When swimming last summer I decided to wear a Rafael Nadal type t-shirt, since I didn’t want my kids or my nieces (or indeed, any of my in-laws) to see my chest with it’s three scars (monitor in, monitor out, pacemaker in) and the visible lump where the pacemaker is. My last lingering hopes of being a male stripper have vanished.

But at least now I can swim, without fear of blacking out and drowning. I can drive again, though the seven months without it has made me realise that I actually don’t like driving anymore. I can do almost everything that I used to do before, and also have an excuse for not doing things I don’t want to do (there’s a guy at work who arranges paint-balling every year, and he’s so young and sweet that I’ve never had the heart (sorry) to tell him that I didn’t want to go, so I’ve twice gone and had a really miserable and painful time, but this year I just was able to say I’m not allowed).

In other words, I’ve adapted. Very occasionally I feel it’s a bit unfair that a bloke my age should have gone through all this shit, but most of the time I’m amazed and thrilled that it all finally got sorted.

I am Tinman, and very content with that.


That’s it finished, right? You’ll be back to slagging the Government and talking about your kids or the cute girls at work from tomorrow? Promise?

I Promise.

One last thing. If you ever have to get circumcised or anything like that we don’t need a 7-post series about it. Understand?


The Gift of Timing – The Birth of Tinman, Part 6

We’ve all had cars, TVs and other things which stopped working, yet when a ServicePerson turned up to fix them they worked perfectly, but then they’d pack up again as soon as said ServicePerson had left (fifty quid richer). In my case I’ve also had the experience of wearing a heart monitor for 48 hours and having my heart behave perfectly for all of that time. Still, my luck was about to change.

I turned up in St Vincents Hospital on December 18th to get a loop monitor inserted in my chest. The Cardiologist had explained that this might be in place for up to 18 months, and that they would take readings from it every three months or so to see  if my heartbeat was irregular or not.

operating-roomIn due course I was brought into a room and three doctors and a nurse set to work, wiring me up and then spreading a local anaesthetic on my chest, all the time chatting happily away like any group of professionals performing a routine task. But just as they started to make the incision I began to feel the by now familiar sinking sensation.

It was astonishing – I was blacking out in front of four medical people who were investigating my blacking out. Has anyone ever shown a better sense of timing?

If my blackouts used to cause panic among my workmates, it was nothing compared to the effect one had in a hospital. When I came round again I had an oxygen mask strapped to my face and the doctors were pressing buttons and turning knobs, all the time yelling at me to try and wake me up. When they saw I was ok one of them gave such a big sigh of relief that his mask inflated briefly in front of him like bubblegum. I think they thought they’d killed me, and I’d imagine their paperwork would be fairly onerous in such an event. Anyway, the four of them had seen my heart rate drop so low that it stopped briefly, so instead of three months I was told to return in four weeks to have the monitor read. “We reckon you need a pacemaker,” one of them said, “we just need some readings to show to a consultant.”

Four weeks passed with no real activity apart from the night of January 11th, when I awoke knowing I’d just had a pretty bad one, so on the 15th I went to work till eleven, then said “I’m off to get this thing read, I’ll be back around two”, left my computer running and my rucksack beside my desk, and headed off to Vincents. The lovely Áinle in Cardiology hooked me up, read the printouts, frowned and then said “I just want to show this to someone”, which I didn’t like the sound of, then practically ran out of the room, which I didn’t like the look of even more. She returned with four doctors, which is probably rarely a good sign. One of them showed me the printouts and pointed to a long black line which went on for page after page. “See that?” she said, “that’s your heart stopped for eighteen seconds last Friday night.” Even I was awestruck into silence by this.

“Anyway,” she continued, “we gave you the monitor to see if you needed a pacemaker, and now we know you do. We’re going to admit you, take out the monitor, and put the pacemaker in”.

“When?” I asked. She stared at me. “Now,” she said, “eighteen seconds is a very long time.” (She didn’t add “like, hello?” but the phrase hung unspoken in the air between us).

hospital-gown1So that was it. I rang Mrs Tin to tell her, and to ask her to bring in pyjamas and a dressing gown (well actually, to buy pyjamas and a dressing gown, because the comfy old t-shirts that you wear in your own bed seem decidedly shabby when you realise that the general public are going to see them). Then I rang GoldenEyes at work to tell her I wouldn’t be back, and to turn off my computer, then rang her again to tell her that I had a sandwich in my rucksack that she should either eat or throw away. After that I was dressed in a fetching hospital gown, complete with the kind of super-low neckline at the back that goes right down to your arse, and was brought off to meet the people in Cardiac Care who were to be my roommates for the next eight days.


Will Tinman survive the operation? Er, well, yes, I’m the one telling the story. Oh, right, there won’t be much suspense so. Still, if you’ve stuck with it this far you might as well read the end of the saga in Part 7  – “The Tinman Cometh” .

Bedless in Bedlam – The Birth of Tinman, Part 4

So, I was put into an ambulance in front of the entire staff of the entire five floors of our building. Just to really rub it in, the one way system around Abbey Street meant that the ambulance had to drive round the building and then, nee-naring happily away, drive past them all again.

I was fairly groggy, having hit my head pretty hard, but when I looked over at GoldenEyes I was shocked.  I’ve never seen anyone so pale in all my life, and I realised that she (and probably the rest of the office) thought I was dying.a-and-eThe ambulance girl was testing me all this time, and it was she who was the first person ever to mention that my heart rate was very low, though she did say it might be because of shock. By then we had arrived at the Mater, and got the chance to experience A&E, Irish style.

I hadn’t rung Mrs Tin yet, since I decided that I’d wait till I had more info on what was wrong with me. I knew she’d have to give a reason why she was leaving to the Tinkids, and reckoned having her say “I’m going to see your Dad in the Hospital, I don’t know how bad he is” before driving off  would not go well. I also wanted to be able to tell her what ward I was staying in. It was only many hours later that I began to suspect that in fact they weren’t going to keep me in at all.

By then I’d had heart tests, chest and head x-rays, and numerous other tests, all of which seemed to involve having yet another needle stuck into my arm and yet more blood drawn out. I’d been to the loo, but just as I got there I was asked to wait outside while four Gardai, with a fifth one who was handcuffed to a guy in a wheelchair, who was also handcuffed to the chair, went in instead (A&E in the Mater is directly across the road from Mountjoy Prison). At one stage GE and I were just sitting, saying nothing, when an orderly came over with an empty glass jar. “Urine sample”, was all he said. “Is it? It’s very clear,” I answered (I was starting to feel better). “No, I want one,” he said. I looked at GE and sighed. “You can’t say I don’t know how to give a girl a good day out,” I said, standing to head off to the loo again.

When I returned GE had been joined by the HR Fireball, a mad Nordy woman who has since left to work nearer to home and her four young kids (and who I really miss). When I said that it looked as if I might in fact not be admitted HRF was horrified, and kept pointing out my head wound to anyone passing by, and suggesting in a loud Ballymena voice that I might have concussion.

doctor1Around this time a  young doctor brought me into a room, while the two girls sat outside, one either side of the door. The doctor gave me a 48-hour heart monitor, which had wires taped to my chest that led down to a box that I had to carry around for, well, 48 hours. He then told me I could go home. “What about going back to work?” I asked. And although I had two black eyes, a big bloody (no, literally) bump on my forehead and – by his own admission in giving me the monitor – a possible heart problem, he said “I don’t see why you can’t go back tomorrow”.

punch-up2Often in films a man will be cut or have blood poured on him before being dropped into a tank of pirhana or sharks, who will then devour him. I achieved much the same effect on the poor doctor (well, I was pissed off by then) by walking out the door and saying to the two girls “he says I can go back to work tomorrow”. I often wonder did he have to get therapy afterwards, after the verbal devouring they gave him.

I finally rang Mrs Tin and she set off to come & drive us all home, & we went back to the waiting room to (obviously) wait for her. By now it was after six, and A&E was full of drunks. One guy was lying across three seats and, when no-one came near him, rolled off onto the floor. One of the attendants walked over. “Come on, Peter,” he said, poking him with a biro, “you know you can’t stay here”. Unfortunately he said this in a Polish accent, and straight away one of the Real Dubs sitting waiting was up in arms, defending a fellow Irishman against this blow-in (who was taking all our jobs – after all, if he wasn’t here Real Dub could have been the one dealing with drunks & mopping up vomit). “You can’t try & move him like that. For all you know he has a serious injury”, said Real Dub, suddenly a health expert. I personally reckoned that the fact that the Polish guy knew Peter’s name probably meant that Peter tried to get a bed this way most evenings (which I later had confirmed to me, they either get admitted or the cops take them & put them in a cell – either way they get to sleep in a warm room), but Real Dub continued to harangue the attendant, demanding immediate treatment for poor afflicted Peter.

Peter somewhat spoiled his argument then by getting up, going out for a cigarette, then coming back in and lying down again.

It was almost worth the whole traumatic day just to see the look on Real Dub’s face.


Will the heart monitor reveal anything? Will Tinman realise that there are only 2 days left till  his Pacemaker Birthday and that he has 3 parts left in this series? Find out in Part 5 – “Testing Times”.

Ticker-ty Boo

Though she seems to like me..

Though she seems to like me..

I got my pacemaker checked this morning.

The fact that I have a pacemaker will come as a surprise to any of you who thought I picked the name “Tinman” because of some July Garland fetish, but there you go.

Someday, perhaps on the first anniversary, I’ll tell the whole story of the seven scary months it took from first being part-man, part-conscious to finally being part-man, part machine, but for the moment it is still a Tale for Which the World is Not Yet Prepared (or, I’m not, anyway).

I got it checked after six weeks, and from then on it’s twice a year, so it hasn’t been checked since February. When they put it in they said (a) that because I’m thin, it might be visible (and it is – if I hadn’t picked Tinman18 I could have gone for The Man With Three Moobs), and (b) that I might be able to feel it turning on – no kidding there, it blips so hard it stings sometimes. Because I can feel it, I know how often it comes on, and have been quietly alarmed at how often that seems to be.

So I was a teeny bit worried when I went back to Cardiology in Vincent’s this morning (the guy at the desk said “do you know the way?”. “God, yes,” I answered). There I met the lovely Áinle, who greeted me by name. (By the way, when I do write about all this I will be full of praise for the doctors, nurses and other healthcare people I met during the whole experience, they were absolutely wonderful).

They fixed me up

They fixed me up

Áinle was the one who had checked my heart monitor last January, and who had read the print-out and then uttered those words you never want to hear in a hospital – “I just want to show these to someone”. It would be exaggerating to say she’d then run out of the room, but she certainly hadn’t slouched out, & she’d then returned with four doctors.

Anyway, this time was much more comforting. She hooked me up, turned on the machine, and then played with the settings to test the workings, so that I blipped, stopped and then blipped again at her command. I couldn’t really complain – after all, it’s been a long time since an attractive young blonde has toyed with my heart.

And she said I was fine. I asked about the number of times it seemed to be on, and she told me my own

Well, it works..

Well, it works..

heart was doing 99 percent of the beating (back at work, my glass-half-empty boss said “so the pacemaker’s doing one percent? That’s a lot of beats”, but I was too pleased to rise to that).

So that’s my day. I’m still ticking over. Everything is ticker-ty boo.