Thursday, 26 November 2009

In The Waiting Room

The waiting game goes on. I write this blog knowing that I should be soundly anaesthetised at the moment while my misbehaving mitral valve is reassembled with gore-tex threads. But again more pressing cases have displaced me, and I was phoned yesterday by the surgeon who very apologetically told me that the operation is now tentatively scheduled for next Thursday.

For those unfamiliar with the symptoms of a regurgitating mitral valve, these are, at least in my case, relatively mild. My daily cycle to work and back, which totals 12 miles and extends from one end of Islington to the other, has become a little more testing in recent months, but this is not a debilitating heart condition (yet) which means I can safely be deferred. However, NHS policy states 'no more than two postponements', which means that the next appointment will likely go ahead.

Although the worst aspect of this is the need to go through the mental preparation all over again, there are a few positives. I was able to attend a great talk yesterday on lens development in the zebra fish, today is my son's 12th birthday, I will be able to go to a party this Saturday, and I'll be able to use my ticket for the Blue Skies debate at the Wellcome Trust on Monday (#sciblue on Twitter). The announcement today that the Chief Executive of the MRC, Leszek Borysiewicz is to stand down, will I hope give the MRC the opportunity to appoint a basic scientist. Translational and applied research has swept blue skies research aside in recent years, and it would be timely for the MRC to demonstrate their commitment to basic science in the appointment of Sir Les' successor.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The English Patient

I've now been informed that my heart surgery is to be slightly delayed again. But this time the reason is not to make way for more urgent cases, but because it turns out that I am a suitable candidate for 'minimally invasive mitral surgery' or MIMS, or keyhole. It amazes me that this complex structure in one of the most inaccessible parts of the body can be surgically manipulated via a 5 cm port between the ribs. Needless to say, avoiding going through the sternum means a much faster recovery and less pain, both of which sound very appealing.

The delay is because the process requires a special MIMS team and equipment in theatre, so the plan now is that I will be admitted on Wednesday (25th), op the next day, and then home just three days later! Apparently I could even return to work within a couple of weeks, and be lifting sacks of coal and shot-putting anvils by three weeks. However, much more likely that I'll restrict my physical exertions to raising the occasional glass of wine, and contemplate a return to work in January.

In the meantime, I will unfortunately miss the 'Blue Skies' debate with Lord Drayson at the Wellcome Collection on the 30th (#sciblue on Twitter), for which I managed to get a ticket. My good friend and colleague, John Greenwood, will go in my place. But hats off to the THE who will be live streaming the event on their website.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The first post

I've recently added a twibbon to my twitter avatar, indicating support for the NHS. This is a good thing to do anyway, but I have a particular reason to do so now. On Monday (23rd November) I'll be having heart valve surgery at the London Heart Hospital, quite a big deal so some serious loin girding required.

In fact, I was originally due to have the op last Monday, but more urgent cases led to the postponement. There is a view that blogging about these things can be helpful in dealing with anxiety, though I can honestly say that I'm feeling confident and looking forward to getting this bothersome valve repaired. I've had a leaky valve for several decades and the cardiologists have decided that now is the time to get it fixed.

This is my first blog, and I'm not sure if I'll become a regular, but my real bugbears are in the areas of science funding and policy - much more on these topics once I'm in the recovery position (comfy chair with gin and tonic).