It started, as such stories do, far, far away.
In this case twenty thousand kilometers away.
The flight from London, England to Wellington, New Zealand had been a long one.
I won't go into why I had had to travel as far away from home as physically possible* - go on pedant, Google it - and no I wasn't trying to escape an especially noxious fart - but let's just say that it had taken a bloody long time to get there and soon enough I set off home again.
Like the journey there, the trip back took us in a 180 degree arc. But for reasons probably best understood by flight experts and migratory birds, we didn't take the obvious route on the map but flew closer to the North Pole, flying over Greenland's capital (which must have been named by a catarrhal Batman fan, 'cos it's name is Godthab City) and into Heathrow from the North.
By the end of the thirty-one hour journey back (if you include the Tube home from Heathrow, which of course was worse than the 1 + 12 + 11-hour plane rides) I was exhausted.
The relief I felt, finally staggering up to the door of my flat and finding it was open was short-lived as I realised that I'd been burgled. It did take me a few seconds to cotton on because I had done all my packing for the trip in a bit of a last-minute frenzy and there was stuff everywhere. Well, almost everywhere - there was, for example, a suspiciously TV-shaped space.
So I spent ages on the phone to the police, insurers, etc. Before finally falling into the deep coma I had been looking forward to all week...
It is no secret that Anaesthetists are the ninjas of the hospital. But even we need to be taught our skills. The ability to numb & paralyse selective parts of the human body requires training (especially for it to be done on purpose.. ahem...)
So not long after I had gone to bed, I had to drag my very sorry ass out of bed again and haul myself over to the other side of London for the Nerve Block course I had cleverly booked myself onto for the day after I arrived back.
Luckily it started out very gradually with a few lectures.
(Yes, even ninjas have to suffer Powerpoint sometimes)
This was followed by needling practice. With deft skill and an ultrasound probe, we manouevred our needle-tips into very precise places - first practicing on a big lump of gel with a few fake nerves & blood vessels hidden within, then into pieces of meat - a raw chicken, a leg of beef.
And then came a buffet lunch. Mostly chicken & beef.
After lunch (and this was foresight at it's greatest) we were led to the dissection room.
If you are a non-medic, your formal anatomy education will probably have come from school books, Professor von Haagens' TV show & the internet. If you are a medical student, you will have also have seen a few prosected specimens and have undergone "Living Anatomy", ie the chance for you to "study" the fit girl/guy in your class that, in normal circumstances, you would never have had a hope of seeing in just their underwear, let alone drawing over their half-naked body.
However, if you are a doctor reading this, you will probably have spent several hours a week in the dissection room. You will have been given a body at the start of the year and, as term progressed, you will have
And you will understand that dissection stinks. Not necessarily as a practice but the preservative the bodies/body parts are kept in - formalin. The smell is indescribable (thankfully, so I won't bother). But it's strong, chemical and unshakeable. Despite wearing gloves & full body aprons as we examined different nerves & landmarks on these bodies, we each went home with clothes impregnated with this horrid smell.
Which on the plus side at least got me a seat on the tube home.
I hadn't studied the timetable - so I was quite surprised when I turned up for day two because the entrance hall looked like it could be the waiting room for a Page 3 shoot.
The course organiser had arranged (presumably through a mate-of-a-mate) for us all to practice on a bunch of models.
Actual female models.
Models, one would assume, of the tits-out, "glamour" variety. I assume this because none of them appeared to have the demeanour you'd expect of clothes/fashion show models. Less delicately put - none of them had the face for proper modelling. (Stereotypical I know, but you weren't there.)
Anyway, in his genius, the course director provided 15 models between 60 of us to practice our ultrasound skills on. The fact that they were far slimmer than any patient we would ever encounter was irrelevant - probably balanced out by the fact that there was hardly any subcutaneous fat to deal with so it was actually much easier to see the different nerve groups and to learn how to find all the nerves properly.
Because of course we were all concentrating. Not at all distracted by the undressed blonde with translucent ultrasound gel slowly dripping down her lower back (epidural placement) or, reclining, wiping goo from her groin (femoral nerve block).
No, there's nothing titillating at all about seeing a half-naked woman wiping sticky mess off her belly (transversus abdominal plane block) or gunk off her chin (er... supraclavicular block but someone had been a bit over-enthusiastic with the gel).
You just don't get teaching like this on the NHS...
* short of stowing away aboard a space shuttle
** alternative approches are to never show up or to become vegetarian