Sunday, 14 September 2014

For The Good of My Health: Part Two...

Last Thursday, I visited the Dublin Neurological Institute as what I hoped would be the final part of my investigations into the health-related episodes I encountered earlier this year.

My appointment was for 3:15pm, which gave me time to take a guided tour of my home city, to see what the tourists see (more of which later).

Arriving at the DNI's premises on Eccles Street, opposite the Mater Hospital (Best Care Anywhere - trust me on this), I checked in and was shown to a well-lit, brightly decorated waiting room that contained, unbelieveably, a baby grand piano. Although not in use while I was there, I was assured that occasionally a volunteer or member of staff would play, and that most patients appeared to like it. Fair enough, although I doubt I would have been one of them.

The room was full; about a dozen people, some by themselves, others with a friend or family member, all waiting to be seen by a neurological specialist. For myself, I wasn't worried: I had already learned that my CT and MRI scans had come back clear, and that blood pressure and cholesterol were my immediate issues. But the subject of neurology covers a wide field, and so it was possible that my fellow patients were awaiting diagnoses of other, potentially more serious conditions.

A lady, perhaps in her seventies, sat by the window. Accompanied by her daughter, she displayed a slight tremor that I mistook for nervousness, but upon reflection could have been Parkinson's.

A couple in their late sixties; the husband, asleep on one of the large leather sofas along the opposite wall; his wife, evidently troubled by back pain, unable to get comfortable on either the sofa or any of the hard wooden chairs. When they were called, I couldn't tell which of them was the patient.

A young couple, he Irish, she Polish, sat quietly at one end of the room. They were called shortly before I was, and I met them halfway down the stairs as I was being led to my meeting. They embraced quietly, and I can only hope that it was due to having received good news.

I was called by a young woman who introduced herself as Adrianna, and who led me to a small examination room in the basement. After taking my blood pressure to compare it with other readings, we discussed my case and an action plan.

Firstly, Adrianna confirmed what I already knew - that my scans showed no irregularities, other than what she termed "normal wear and tear" - not an expression I ever expected to be used in conjunction with my brain. And while she were satisfied that what had sent me to A&E in the first place may well have been stress-related, Adrianna felt that my chances of a stroke or heart attack were not high. It was up to me, however, to keep things that way.

So I have to work on my general fitness and diet, and keep taking the meds prescribed for me - they, apparently, are for life, not just for birthdays...

We also discussed the possibility that the pressure in my head, combined with loss of feeling, blurred vision, etc., might be due to migraine. I had seen a poster in the waiting room which described the symptoms of migraine, many of which tallied with what I had been feeling, and indeed what prompted me to seek further investigation.

Migraine does not necessarily involve a piercing, blinding headache, which previously I had believed, but can also produce effects as shown in this video produced by the Mayo Clinic:

While my symptoms don't include the visual element, I have experienced many of the other effects, so it was a relief to learn that it isn't all in my head after all - sorry, that it is all in my head... you get the picture.

Joking aside, though, this diagnosis will in itself help to reduce my stress levels. Now that I know what's happening to me, I can start taking steps towards taking control of the situations in which stress can become a factor. Chief among these will be in work, where a reassessment and reorganization of my responsibilities will be among the first tasks I begin following my return from vacation, the week after next.

Shouldn't be too difficult - I am, after all, The Mightiest of Men...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Doctor Who - Robot of Sherwood...

Tonight's episode saw The Doctor and Clara travel back to 1190-ish Nottingham in an effort to meet Robin Hood, Clara's childhood hero, someone whom the Time Lord claims is 'made up'.

Arriving in a leafy forest, they indeed meet the legendary Outlaw of Sherwood Forest (Tom Riley) and his, ah, 'Merry Men', much to Clara's delight.

But if there is a Robin Hood, there must also be an evil Sheriff of Nottingham, in this instance played by a suitably-bearded Ben Miller (Death in Paradise), there to subdue the peasants in the name of Prince John (not appearing in this picture). With an army of robot knights.

The episode covers many of the elements of the legend, with Riley's Robin played very much in the Errol Flynn mode, and Miller's Sheriff reminiscent of Alan Rickman in Prince of Thieves. There's an archery tournament, a castle rescue, a duel or two, and a lot of laughter and thigh-slapping. To say any more would be to spoil it for those who have yet to see it, so I'll simply share this image:


Plenty of laughs, a lot of running around, and Clara as a Saxon Princess - what more could anyone want?

Next week: Something under the bed is...?

At Last...

Yesterday, I finished what has been one of the most action-packed weeks of my recent career in preparation for a two-week vacation that will hopefully cure my stress levels, if only for a short time.

I've also taken myself off of the on-call rota for a while, if not indefinitely. It means a pay cut, but I think the tradeoff for a proper night's sleep is worth it.

How on-call works is that, one week in four, I have to be available 24/7, Friday to Friday, for any IT-related emergencies that might arise. Fair enough, you say, how many calls are you likely to get in a given period, and surely it's money for (practically) nothing?

There's that, of course, and I'd be lying if I said that being on call hasn't, in the past, provided me with a reason to avoid the occasional social event I might have felt uncomfortable attending. And in the earlier years, this was very much the case.

But now, as I've gotten older, I appreciate social contact and cherish my free time, so I've grown to resist anything that might interrupt my so-called life.

My health has also taken a hit, however, mostly from stress, something I don't deal well with (It's one thing being an interplanetary hero with powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals, but when you have to hold down a day job and deal with politics and personalities as well...).And since when I'm on call I don't sleep much, well, something had to change.

I had a chat with Dave, my team leader, a while back - he noticed that I was having trougle dealing with something and wanted to make sure things were okay.we discussed what was going on, my health concerns and the stresses I felt I was under, and he said something to me that I hadn't considered:

"You put too much of yourself into your work, Bob."

Dave's a good guy; I've worked with him for nearly twenty years at this stage and consider him a friend, and value his opinion.

And maybe he's right.

I used to enjoy my work. Data backup and recovery might'nt sound the most interesting of subjects, but I think of it in terms of a logistics exercise; I have x amount of data to be written to y number of tapedrives in z hours. The schedule is ever-changing as clients are added or removed, and resources are limited, so it's a challenge; and I'd think nothing of staying back in the evening to finish something or going in for an hour or two at weekends. I still do, but not so much.

Storage administration is my secondary speciality, one I have less time than I would like to spend suitable time on.

But I do my best with it, and I'm good at what I do.

What I don't enjoy is work that I'm not good at, don't have training or background in, or being in a position where someone might have to depend on me to solve a problem in one of those areas, something that's happening on a more-frequent basis than before.

So I guess I've been internalizing a lot of frustration lately, because the cracks have been starting to show, and I may well have been headed for some sort of episode, which hopefully will not now be the case.

So I'm going to relax and chill, maybe blog a bit, see if I can't start to write that book I've been tallking about, that sort of thing.

Let's see how I get on...