Friday, 28 September 2018

Getting Better?



This is my third piece from Barts hospital and I woke up without a fever. This increases the chances that I will not have to face a new operation. And the sun is shining!  If things are getting better for me it is largely due to the NHS staff here. I don’t get much sleep, with new drips, blood pressure and ECG’s arriving too regularly, but all delivered to me with humour and a “You’re welcome.” I have said it before, but I will say it again and … again. If this country closes down who will replace the Nigerian surgeon who did my brain operation, the Egyptian my heart valve replacement, the Sudanese checking my blood cells, the nurse who gets me a cup of tea after taking my ECG. Who? 

Here's the song ..  Getting Better

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Woncha Come Home




Yesterday I was fitted with a Power Picc, which allows for blood tests and samples without the need for renewing catheters in arm and / or wrist. Progress of sorts. You don't have to be in hospital for long to realise it is the dedication, long hours and humour of NHS staff which keeps it all going. I watched Jeremy Corbyn speech at LP conference. What the f—k are we waiting for? JC4PM and soon. Today's song. Thank you Ben for the memory from over 40 years ago!


Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Snap-off NHS pyjamas




I woke up at 3 am this morning and tried to go to the loo for a pee. Impossible. My pyjama trouser's one remaining snap-on had now joined 90% of the others on the pyjama top and could not be snapped back on. I tried to make it to the ward loo, one hand clutched to my trousers, the other to the electronic monitor which has to be with me at all times. My alarm went off and I sat back on the bed and waited for the nurse. She told me what had set it off was because my heart rate was too high. She then got me new pyjamas and reset the monitor. Now I have a urine bottle. We are supposed to keep mobile and be self-caring, but electronic alarms and 'snap-neither-on-nor-off' pyjamas conspire to keep us immobile. Just had my Serco breakfast (I have written about them earlier) and wonder if anyone can tell me who has the privatised contract for NHS pyjamas? I will never write about this or any other hospital without praising all hands-on NHS staff followed by my curse against this bankster government.

music for today - thanks Ben
 

Monday, 24 September 2018

(Ill)Health Blog



It seems I may be at Barts hopsital of a while so am starting  a regular  health blog. Not always political and will involve music. Please contribute if you have something to say from your own experiences. Later today.... 'Hospital Pyjamas'.

Oh and God Bless the NHS  but don't leave it all to her!

www davidwilson.org.uk

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Calabash Tree



from February 2018
It felt like The Last Supper. My wife and I had lunch at Apuglia, an Italian restaurant behind London's St Bartholomew's Hospital. I had tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and a glass of prosecco. There was a bicycle on the wall, for art not transport. I wasn't going to travel anywhere for some days and my body was about to be worked on with skills the equal of da Vinci.
 
We walked into the hospital past the chapel and Anne told me that she would light a candle there when I was having my operation.
 
It was now early evening and when my wife left for home I calmed my nerves by playing a Tibetan bowls recording through my earphones. I tried to meditate, but it was impossible. The last time I had had an operation, for subdural haematoma, I had been blasé about it all and remembered chatting to the others on my ward. But on that occasion most of my brain was on another planet. This time, at this hospital, I was definitely earthed. Super-conscious of all that was going on and about to happen.
 
There were some distractions; stethoscope on chest and back, blood tests and blood pressure and a visit from the anaesthetist, I was given two razors and asked to shave my chest, arms, legs and groin. It reminded me of plucking feathers from slaughtered chickens. Not a pleasant task but painless. The pain was to come later.
 
The next morning my chest was sawn open, my heart was stopped and blood flow was directed with a heart-lung machine. My body was cooled down and Anne tells me she was present in intensive care when they brought me back to consciousness by warming me up. She said that the nurse threw a switch and I started to twitch like Frankestein's monster. My eyes, she said, looked like the 'living dead' and she was afraid that I was about to sit up and pull out the many tubes and wires inserted into my body.
 
During the three-hour operation my aortic valve was replaced with cow tissue, leaving me ever grateful to my reluctant and gentle-grazing posthumous donor.
 
Of course I have no memories of my time under anaesthetic except to confirm these words from Diogenes: 'Where there is life there is no death. Where there is death there is no life.'
All I can remember from my time in intensive care is the button I was told to press when I needed a morphine shot to ease the pain.
 
Two days later and in the High Dependency Unit I was now conscious and taking note of my surroundings. Not very pleasant as I seemed to be connected to multiple monitors as well as tubes inserted into my stomach, neck and groin and with wires connected to my heart.
 
I spent two nights in HDU and it was exhausting. Any attempts to sleep were stopped by the constant checks; temperature, blood pressure, blood sampling and medication administered, as I remember, though the tube in my neck At one point the patient beside me went into a cardiac crisis and with great speed the 'crash' team arrived. I wasn't in a fit state to count precisely, but was told later that there would have been fifteen in attendance. Strangely comforting to witness such positive pandemonium in the service of continued life.
 
I can remember telling a nurse I hadn't had a pee for ages. She laughed and invited me to look below my pyjama trousers. My God, there was a tube inserted into my penis. I remembered a friend of mine who had once suffered terrible pain when this was removed after an operation who told me, 'my cock never gave me so much pleasure as it gave me pain when the catheter was removed.' I decided I wouldn't rush this procedure.
 
On the evening before surgery I was interviewed by a Filipino nurse who, when told about my earlier brain surgery, said she had once worked in neurology, but had decided to switch to cardiology. When I asked her why, she answered, 'The heart, I love the heart.'
 
Then there was the nurse pushing my bed down a corridor when moving me to a new ward. On hearing I was a writer, he brought my bed to a stop and quoted verbatim from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'Love in the Time of Cholera': “Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
 
Also a Filipino, (The NHS seems to be dependent on this nation), Brian Piniera, has now become a friend
 
'Breath in deeply', instructed a nurse when replacing my chest bandage. 'Puff out your chest,' she said, 'like a Robin Redbreast.'
 
Back on the post-op ward I got to know my fellow patients. Barry had already had three heart operations when he arrived at Barts for his fourth. His operation lasted 28 hours and they 'lost' him three times. He told me of his out of body experiences which had traumatised him and made him scared of going to sleep.
 
He and Erroll, a Trinidadian bus driver from West London, would chat about youthful memories of their island homes and their love of the calabash tree, its soft brown bark home to multi-coloured orchids. They told me that these trees, pollinated by bats, grow on hillside pastures, along roadsides and wherever there are human beings.
 
After five days I was ready to go home, but the final task was to remove two 'pacing' wires wrapped around my ventricles and connected to a monitor I had to carry round with me. I had thought that the two plasters on my stomach were stitches, but a nurse told me they were the entry points for these wires and that I must remain in hospital for twelve hours after their removal. If pulled out incorrectly I could die.
 
Brian works in stem cell research at the hospital but, from time to time, turns up on his old ward to help out as a volunteer. He is well known and well liked throughout the hospital. He was visiting me when I was given this information and offered to undertake the procedure. I was happy to have him do this tricky task.
 
It wasn't painful but it was frightening as I watched him start to draw them out. They were each 20 cm in length and have to be removed slowly and with a steady hand. Brian is an incessant talker, but I urged him into silence and shut my eyes.
 
Here I am writing this. Still alive and conscious that every breath I take is a gift of life and time. My cow and the skills of my surgical team have given me ten to fifteen years, but I have been told one of my two carotid arteries is 50% furred up. So who knows what I have left to me.
 
It's quality I must go for now. A friend of mine helps run an organisation called 'The 'Long Now'. They have constructed a clock which ticks once every 100 years. I used to be a bit cynical about the project, but now I understand that perspective much better.
 
Whatever life is left to me I owe it to myself, to my loved ones and family, to not let it go to waste. I will try to put back together my dysfunctional family. I will write more and have written four articles for social media sites since returning home from hospital. As a political activist they are, of course, aimed at achieving a better world, if not for myself, for the future.
 
Part of that better world is here today in the form of the NHS, a health system based in Aneurin Bevan's words on the principle that, “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
 
I am lucky to be a citizen of a country that can still offer me free medical procedures that have kept me alive. (A note to zenophobes. The NHS is run by people like my Filipino nurses, my cardiac surgeon, an Egyptian, while my earlier neurological surgeon was Nigerian).
 
I was very aware of this after both my operations and what needs to be done to save our medical services from the privatising predators who are creeping in through the cracks in our defences.
 
As recently as five months before I was admitted, Barts were responsible for their own catering. Brian told me what pride he took in serving food to his patients and how this was a central part of nursing care. Today this has been handed to Serco, who run our prisons and whose annual revenue from healthcare is over £1.4 billion. Breakfast was tepid tea or coffee, cereal or porridge and toast. As I bit into the cold, spongy “toast” I could imagine Serco executives meeting to discuss how to cut back their costs to increase their profits. “Let's start with breakfast”.
 
Back to the Calabash tree. Barry told me that the pulp of the fruit has medicinal properties and acts as a remedy for asthma, dysentry and blood pressure and can be used to treat haematomas and tumours.
 
The NHS is our Calabash tree.
 
I wrote this poem soon after the operation.
 
My blood pump was stopped
while a machine took over
the job my heart had done
for almost 73 years.
A cow's pericardium replaced
my narrowed, furred valve
that no longer moved like
a sea anemone's fronds.
This valve was given without
agreement or consent
so I made a vow to my dead donor
to never eat beef again.
Last time it was a subdural haematoma.
I escaped with my brain intact.
That involved an earlier pact,
made with myself, to act wisely
with attention to my herd.
My plan of action now
begins with breaking through the fence
to arrive, together, in greener pastures.


David Wilson

Friday, 21 September 2018

`The Calabash tree 2






“For four hours I was away and out of my body, made to die then jerked back to the world.” (from a poem by Robin Robertson, who had same operation as me).

from: Feb 2018



I recently had open heart surgery at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. A traumatic experience, but one which has left me deeply grateful for the NHS – massively complex and intricate surgery and after-care – carried out with extraordinary skill, care and attention and FREE.
In my recent article for The London Economic I wrote about the creeping privatisation of the NHS. Here I want to highlight the NHS at it best. A health system based in Aneurin Bevan's words on the principle that “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
I am lucky to be a citizen of a country that can offer me the medical procedures I underwent that have kept me alive. For me, it is second time lucky. Three years ago I had brain surgery that would not have been possible in the past and remains, as does the heart procedure, an impossibility for much of the world's population.
We need to bear this in mind as we fight for our NHS against the privatisers. They are creeping in through the cracks in our defences. As recentlyl as five months ago, Barts were responsible for their own catering. One nurse told me what pride he took in serving food to his patients and how this was a central part of nursing care. Today this has been handed to Serco, who run our prisons and whose annual revenue from healthcare is over £1.4 billion. Breakfast was tepid tea or coffee, cereal or porridge and toast. As I bit into the cold, spongy “toast” I could imagine Serco executives meeting to discuss how to cut back their costs to increase their profits. “Let's start with breakfast”.
I got to know my fellow patients, some with more problems than mine. Barry had already had three heart operations when he arrived at Barts in January for his fourth. His operation lasted 28 hours and they “lost” him three times. He told me of his out of body experiences which had traumatised him and made him scared of going to sleep. He badly needed psychological care, but with the present level of cuts in NHS funding, this is not available.
Just as food is important to getting better, so is after care.There was a time when post-operative patients would spend time in convalescent hospitals. No more. In Germany and even in the countries of Eastern Europe where I used to live, all operations included a minimum of one month's post-op stay in a health spa.
We not only have to fight for our NHS, but have to claw back what has already been scalpelled away and hived off to the Richard Bransons of this world.
What memories do I take away from the time I spent at Barts? Not the operation and its after-effects of pain and worry, but the nursing care I received with such commitment and humour. The nurse pushing my bed down a corridor who I got chatting to. On hearing I was a writer, he brought my bed to a halt and with a wonderful smile quoted verbatim from Gabriel García Márquez's 'Love in the Time of Cholera:' Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
Then there was the nurse replacing my chest bandage who wanted me to breath in deeply. “Puff out your chest”, she said, 'like a Robin Redbreast.'
Barry, a Jamaican living in Finsbury Park, would chat to the patient beside him, a Trinidadian from West London, about their youthful memories of their island homes and their love of the calabash tree, its soft brown bark home to multi-coloured orchids. They told me that these trees, pollinated by bats, grow on hillside pastures, along roadsides and wherever there are human beings.
The pulp of the fruit has medicinal properties and acts as a remedy for respiratory problems such as asthma, a cure for dysentry, reduces blood pressure, disinfects wounds and is used to treat haematomas and tumours.

The NHS is our Calabash tree

To my dead Donor:
Dedicated to Dr Wael Awad, his surgical team, anaesthetist & all nursing / ancillary staff at Barts Ward 4B - in respect for their care & skills 
My blood pump was stopped
while a machine took over 
the job my heart had done 
for almost 73 years. 
A cow's pericardium replaced 
my narrowed, furred valve
that no longer moved like 
a sea anemone's fronds. 
This valve was given without 
agreement or consent
so I made a vow to my dead donor
to never eat beef again.

Last time it was a subdural haematoma.
I escaped with my brain intact. 
That involved an earlier pact, 
made with myself, to act wisely
with attention to my herd.
My plan of action now 
begins with breaking through the fence 
to arrive, together, in greener pastures.
(David Wilson & Anne Aylor)

Left Field  

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Rough Music and Europe






Rough Musik is one of the many names for an ancient act of popular justice, which occurred across Europe in similar, if not identical forms. Coined in the late 17th century, the phrase is the British equivalent of the French charivari, the Italian scampanate and the German haberfeld-treiben, thierjagen and katzenmusik.   

According to E. P. Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class, rough music involved a wide variety of popular rituals in which an embarrassing punishment (we might call it "naming and shaming") was meted out in public to an individual or group of people who had offended the community. British performances of rough music were, at times, quite elaborate. Thompson notes that the ritual "might include the riding of the victim (or a proxy) upon a pole or a donkey; masking and dancing; elaborate recitatives; rough mime or street drama upon a cart or platform; the miming of a ritual hunt; or the parading and burning of effigies; or, indeed, various combinations of all these." But, "beneath all the elaborations of ritual," Thompson writes, "certain basic properties can be found: raucous, ear-shattering noise, unpitying laughter, and the mimicking of obscenities." To generate noise, all kinds of instruments were used: pots and pans, marrow bones and cleavers, tongs, tambourines, chains, ram's horns, empty or stone-filled kettles, whistles, rattles, bells, guns and, of course, the human voice, used to yell, scream, howl, grunt, hiss, boo and chant.
 
EP Thompson was the retiring professor the year I arrived at Warwick University's Department of Social History and, under his influence, I remember taking part in rough musicing outside the residence of the Bishop of Coventry. (Sorry but have forgotten what it was about!) Forty years later, and when Press Officer at the Stop the War Coalition, I helped organise a 'rough musicing' outside Westminster Cathedral while Tony Blair was delivering one if his 'faith' lectures inside. When Peter Mandelson tried to leave and walk along Victoria Street I pursued him, clanging a cow bell to his ear and repeating the two words, 'murderer, murderer'.
I tell you all this for two reasons. As my homage to EPT, a great man whose writings and political actions have influenced my life and to emphasise the European roots of his and my politics. They emerge from charivari. 

 I am also now able to recommend that you read EP Thompson on what we now call an alternative Europe, holding with him to the belief that through struggle 'another Europe is possible.' This is an argument that will need some rough musicing to be heard and perhaps that will be soon when we go to the polls in support of JC4PM. Here is his 'Going into Europe' written more than forty years ago.
“As British capitalism dies above and about us, one can glimpse, as an outside chance, the possibility that we could effect here a peaceful transition – for the first time in the world– to a democratic socialist society.”

some rough music

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

David Wilson articles, 2000 - 2018




Corbyn must stand strong against attacks on Israel, The People's News, 28 August 108


Palestinians have Right to Return and Live, The People's News, 20 May 2018

Israel's Act of Terror, The People's News, 14 May 2018

Giving the Finger to the DWP, The Canary, 11 May 2018  

Disabled Tribunal Victory, The London Economic, 10 May 2018

Disabled victory in courts: The People's News 9 May 2018  

Labour Party Remains on the Up, The People's News, 4 May 2018 

Theresa May + husband + war = profit, The People's News, 26 April 2018  

Criticising Israel is not anti-semitic, The People's News, 23 April 2018

The Pornography of War, The People's News, 12 April 2018

The Overton  Window, The People's News, 6 April 2018

The Overton Window,  The Internattional Times, 19 April 2018

Corbyn is no Anti-Semite, The People's News, 26 March 2018 

Corbyn Wise not to Spoil for Fight , The People's News, 15 March 2018

Disabled Man Taken off Disability Allowance, The People's News, 14 March 2018

The Calabash Tree, having a heart operation, 17 Feb 2018

NHS Privateers, The London Economic, 2 Feb 2018

Why Boris Johnson, a Face to be Punched, Public Reading Rooms review

My Disabled Son Stripped of Benefits, The London Economic, 24 Aug 2017

The Fool is for the Many, Jaroslav Hašek's novel The Good Soldier Schwejk, 14 July 2017

Music of the Spheres, Heathcote Williams play, 18 June 2017

Them or Us in the Election, The London Economic, 7 June 2017

Exposing Corruption in Charities, Guardian article about charity corruption, 16 April 2017,

Abandoning Refugee Children, The London Economic, 11 Feb 2017

In The Living Years, for Stand Alone under pseudonym, 16 Sep 2016

Who Speaks for the Refugee Children, Counterpunch after visit to Calais, 20 May 2016

Planet Zembar, Subdural Haematoma article in Huffington Post, 17 March 2015

Famous anti-Zionist Jews, Stop the War Coalition, 12 Aug 2014

What a Strange Way to Protect Civilians, article for US antiwar website about depleted uranium weapons, 16 April 2011 

Bush in London, Counterpunch, 18 June 2008 

The Collapse of Iraq's Health Services, Counterpunch article about collapse of Iraq's health services, 14 Oct 2006

Depleted Uranium Weapons, Future Trust, 2006

Gloucester Weapons Inspectors, Counterpunch, 30 Jan 2003

Music and War, as published by the European Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol 10, issue 3, 1999 and in The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, University of Kansas, Fall 2000, Vol. XV, No. 8 & re-written for a chapter in Left Field

Books

Left Field,a memoir,




+44 (0)7951 579 064


Monday, 10 September 2018

The Spitz - music for wellbeing




The Spitz Charitable Trust brings music workshops to nursing homes, day centres, hospices and other places of potential isolation in disadvantaged London boroughs. Set up by Jane Glitre, the charity draws on some of London’s finest musicians from a reservoir of talent who performed in the original Spitz, a wonderful live music venue that once beat out its rhythm at the heart of Spitalfields market.  
The Spitz Charitable Trust participatory music sessions ease anxiety, encourage interaction and improve wellbeing and memory through mental and physical participation. You can catch some of this in this video. I have known Jane since my time in War Child and as director of the Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar, when she was a great supporter of our music work with children in conflict. Great that today she is proving that the power of music is a healer across all generations.

spitz.org.uk

Friday, 7 September 2018

"Money screams". War Child and the Evening Standard

Money doesn't talk - it screams.” As a co-founder of War Child I reluctantly have to step up to the line on this one. George Osborne voted against saying that the case for war against Iraq had not been established. And on 18 Mar 2003 he voted that the Government should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction leading to the UK joining the US invasion of Iraq two days later. His support for Western 'intervention' in Libya and Syria was to follow. Now he supports War Child?