Saturday, 23 April 2011

A Different Viewpoint.

Warning - not for the squeamish. This blog-posting may contain controversial material.

I have always had something of a yearning for medical school, but in my days of 'O' and 'A' levels the choice between arts and sciences had to be made at a very early age. The old, and in so many ways admirable Grammar School system channelled its pupils into inflexible 'Arts' or 'Sciences'. Once in one of these channnels it was very difficult to change. I ended up as an 'Arts' pupil, with lots of English and Latin and Humanities and only 'General Science'. I should have been doing Biology and Physics, but I didn't and then, for 'A' level, I couldn't.

At several critical points in my life I explored the possibility of attending medical school, but it never quite worked out. There was another career, and marriage and parenthood, and a great many other good and satisfying things. But the leaning towards medicine has never completely left me.

At last, at 71 years of age, I have the opportunity.

My younger son was here a few weeks ago. He checked my application form for me, and countersigned to say I knew what I was doing.
'Go for it, Mum,' he said. 'If it's what you want, you go for it!'

My older son was told during a telephone conversation,
'Are you sure about this?' he said. 'Is this a fully rational decision? Have you thought it through, all the implications?'
I told him I had, that I was being quite grown-up and sensible, and he laughed.
'Good for you, Mum!' he said, just like his brother.

So now my application to attend the medical school of the nearest large teaching hospital is being processed.
I can't start just yet.
I have to wait until I'm dead.
Then, when I'm dead my body will go for anatomical study and dissection by medical students.

Medical schools need bodies. How else can student doctors learn the real and delicate intricacies of the human body? To me it seems the ultimate good sense to make proper use of something that would otherwise be burned or left to decompose in the ground. It seems the last act of generosity, the last thing I can give.

For anyone interested the information about body and organ donation in the UK may be found 'here'.

There are strings attached.
The Human Tissue Authority does not want flabby, saggy, fat-filled old bodies that are difficult to dissect, so I will have to become fitter.
The Authority does not want bodies that have been through a post-mortem examination and had essential bits removed, so I will try to die as neatly and predictably as possible.

I need to be a trim, relatively unscarred cadaver.
A great new ambition at 71!

The picture above is not for the faint-hearted, either. It's from the wonderful Xstrata Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens. It sways and is see-through.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Treading Water

It has felt like treading water for several weeks now, and yet a great deal has been happening.
For one of the very few times in my life I have found myself unable to communicate; not unwilling, but unable, because some experiences go so deep that they slip through the mesh of conventional speech and writing. They swim silently, like the little fish in this, the Waterlily House at Kew Gardens. They circle, and occasionally break the surface tension, and then they slip down again, into the dark water.

I have been touched to receive some kind comments on my blog, hoping I'm still around. Then, today, I was helped by fellow blogger 'Zhoen' , who is hoping to start a new project.
I have started something new, too. My own new work is within the 'Hospice Movement.'

Zhoen has had similar experience within her own career, and writes of Hospice work, '....experience beyond words to capture. Too profound to pin to a board. The kind of humour that just doesn't translate to anyone who hasn't been there.....'

Exactly, Zhoen, and thank you.

The giant waterlily is significant, too.
As a child I was captivated by a photograph of a little girl, sitting in the middle of a leaf of the giant Amazonian waterlily, being upheld by the leaf structure over deep water.
My parents took me to Kew Gardens to see the real thing, where, to my extreme disappointment, I was not allowed to sit on a leaf.
Yesterday I went to see it again. It's a bit smaller, as this is Victoria Cruziana, and I am considerably larger. There is no longer the faintest hope of sitting on a leaf.

So I watch the little fish, circling happily in the dark water, and wait for the words to return, for great experiences to be assimilated.
I wait, with a huge sense of gratitude for the ever growing awareness of the richness of life and death.