Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Name Is Dana, and I Am A First Aid Attendant. Can I Help You?

Yesterday, I overcame a deep-seated dislike of blood and Little Anne dolls and managed to scrape by with my Level 1 First Aid training. It was only one day of learning, and yes, it's only Level 1, but I am proud to say I can now perform CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, artificial respiration, and the like. If I have to. But I hope I never will.

It all started when we realized at work that we were NOT AT ALL PREPARED in terms of safety. People seem to have a big fear of earthquakes here (I haven't yet been swayed to that mentality, but I guess I'll be the one who's sorry when the WHOLE OF VANCOUVER ISLAND sinks into the ocean by 15-20 metres because of some devastating earthquake. Or so I'm told.) We got to checking out our emergency earthquake kits in the office and discovered such delights as batteries that didn't work, dusty old blankets that gave me allergies, and a lack of things like shoes, whistles, and oh yeah- food supplies. So a safety committee was formed, and it was determined that, in addition to restocking the kits with fresh (and working!) supplies, a number of people on every floor should also be trained in first aid. Just in case. I volunteered.

Having first aid training is like donating blood, I figure: everybody urges you to do it, and everybody reminds you how many lives can be saved if and when you do it, and the nagging voice inside my head agrees with everything that is being argued in favour of doing it, but I never could bring myself to just go out and get first aid or to donate blood. Not donating blood was easy to rationalize: I have low iron, or I just had a piercing, or I was just in a foreign country, etc., etc. I could always find some reason to get out of donating blood. But first aid? The only reason why I secretly never learned before was because of those dreaded Annie dolls.

The last experience I had with an Annie doll was quite traumatic. Don't laugh-- it's true. I was participating in the P.A.R.T.Y. program with my Grade 9 class at the Foothills Hospital. For those of you not familiar with the program, it's basically designed to sway young people-- by any possible means-- not to drink and drive. You see graphic slide shows of car wrecks and detached feet or limbs, get heart wrenching presentations from people who have been affected personally by impaired driving or who have lost somebody to the same, see x-rays of broken bones and stab wounds from people who were injured by an impaired person, and even eat your lunch with a 'disability' caused by impaired driving (e.g. having to eat your lunch with oven mitts on to simulate the loss of fine motor skills). I was devastated by the PARTY program. I came home from it completely weeping, and a few years later, my sister had to leave the program early because she just couldn't tolerate the sadness and intensity of it all. Plus, there were those Annie dolls.

In the ER and ICU, they had Annie dolls hooked up to various machines to show us young people what might happen in the event of an impaired driving crash. I was fine looking at x-rays of actual injuries and real people's cracked skulls, but for some reason, I nearly fainted every time I came into contact with an Annie doll. Hearing the fake blood chorus through fake Annie's veins made me sick to my stomach, and upon seeing poor Annie hooked up to a respirator, I had to be escorted, fainting, out of the room by an alarmed nurse who kept shouting at me to "take my hands out of my pockets!" I positively could not handle those Annie dolls.

Long story short: volunteering to take First Aid training was kind of a big deal for me, because I KNEW we would be dealing with those Annie dolls and that I would have to face my nausea and feelings of faintness full-on. No wimping out here: 3 of my other coworkers would be training on the same day as well, and I didn't want them to have to report back to work that I failed the training because I fainted on sight of the Annie doll...

And? More than 15 years have passed since my first experience with Annie. I did okay yesterday. There were a few times when I feared I might throw up a little bit into Annie's mouth while I performed artificial respiration on her, but it never happened. I would just take a few seconds of rest, toughen up, and get back to saving her plastic life. On the flip side: I was really good at the whole communication part. I talked a mile a minute to Annie while trying to rescue her, and my instructor kept urging the rest of the students to be like me, "Keep talking to the casualty: let her know what you're doing!".

The funny thing is: I'm pretty sure I will be fine performing first aid on an actual, living person. (If I have to. But I hope I never will.) It's just those plastic creepy dolls that make me feel dizzy and sick. Curse you, Annie.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

There's Something You Should Know

After nearly 27 years of getting to know myself, I have come to the resounding conclusion that I am simply incapable of carrying on 'as usual' if I know I am being watched or observed. Positively, utterly incapable. Reams of data, yielded from informal studies conducted since 1981 reveal that I, in fact, am a prime example of what psychologists like to call the 'observer effect'.

As our dear Wikipedia points out, "the effect refers to how people change their behaviour when aware of being watched". Yes, my friends, if I know I am being watched, or more importantly if I suspect I am being monitored or evaluated, I will transform into the best possible version of myself, so as to score the most points, 'A' grades, kudos, or whatever it is that is being handed out. I can't help it. I fear failing at something like I fear being mauled by bears in the remote Alaskan wilderness. It's genetic.

The problem is that this observer-effect thing easily turns into a vicious circle, in which I-- by default and unfortunate human conditioning-- instantly change my behaviour but am simultaneously aware that I am changing my behaviour because of this thing called the observer effect. Then the academic side of me tells myself not to change my behaviour even though I am being observed, and then I become hypervigilant about my behaviour and change it anyway, and then whoever is observing me thinks 'wow, that Dana L. sure is neurotic and sketchy', and then I become even more neurotic and sketchy and wonder just how I used to behave before I knew I was being watched. It's exhausting.

On the flip side, though, the observer effect can also lead to great things in my life. If I know I'm going to be watched or evaluated, and I know I'm going to modify my behaviour because of it, I can use the opportunity to change for the better. So when my (wonderful) doctor told me to keep a diet and exercise diary for two weeks, and to 'not modify anything' just for the sake of looking good in my diary, I decided that since me not changing anything was about as likely as me going hiking in the remote Alaskan wilderness with an outfit made of raw meat and juicy berries, I was going to take full advantage of the observer effect and become Super Fabulous Dana L.

Before starting my diet diary, I was eating rather well during the week but letting everything fall apart on the weekends. Since I started writing things down, though, unnecessary sweets and treats (and other things like coffee and cheese) have simply been eliminated from my diet. Likewise, before making notes of the exercise I was doing, sure I was walking to and from work everyday, but I was also taking an unfortunate (and extended) break from the gym and felt my lungs burn every time I had to ride my bike. Lo and behold, since starting my diet and exercise diary, I have made it to the gym 3 times each week (and liked it!), plus I've also taken to the outdoors with Marty much more than usual. Just yesterday, we cycled 40 km on the Galloping Goose trail! (The sunshine helps. A lot.)

These images are both part of a mural that is found along the Galloping Goose trail. Incredible.

I don't omit things in my diary or lie about what I've eaten or the exercise I've done. So if I have to eat out or if I skip a workout, that will get noted in my diary. However, the odds of me eating something crappy or deciding I just don't feel like a workout now are much, much slimmer. This is a good thing, no?

I figure my doctor is an educated man who knows all about the observer effect and that I will change my behaviour even though he has told me not to. I also figure that even if I miraculously managed to keep everything exactly the same, my doctor would look at my diary and tell me to omit things like coffee and cheese and to exercise more, anyway. By modifying my behaviour, I figure, I'm actually jumping ahead a step and making it unnecessary for him to waste an appointment by pointing out the obvious. So it's like I'm doing us both a favour.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Scent of a Woman, Revisited

A while back, I had wondered aloud how I must smell to other people. I'm pretty much a soap and water kind of girl, save for my Tom's of Maine deodorant, but how was I to know how that smell got translated in the nostrils of others-- others who were heavily laden with perfumes and colognes?

Well, the other day, I was given a clue.

It happened in a laundromat-- our laundry room is closed for renovations this week (sucks), so I was rockin' it, bachelor-suite style, at our nearest laundromat. I had our Borax all ready to go, and then another woman stepped up to the machine beside me.

Her: Oh, you smell so good! Like a vegetarian! Are you a vegetarian?
Me: (perturbed and a little taken aback) Um, yes?
Her: I knew it! I can always smell a vegetarian! (blathers on about her bionic nose and how she hates working out next to meat eaters)
Me: (still perturbed and taken aback, but also a little bit... relieved.) Mm-hmm.

So there you have it-- bionic nose woman says so: I smell like a vegetarian. And apparently, that smells good.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I Betcha Our New Doctor Can Levitate

Well, you'll be pleased to know that Marty and I both 'passed' the compatibility test during our first appointments with our new doctor. With flying colours. That doctor is completely on the same page as us, health philosophy-wise, it just makes me want to sing and dance with sheer joy!

My first visit lasted nearly an hour (with a doctor!), and we covered everything from past health history, to current health issues, to health goals, relationships, spiritual beliefs and practices, exercise and diet. It was a thorough visit in all the right ways, and such a refreshing change from medical practice as I've known it for... my whole life. (Disclaimer: I did love my sweet doctor in Calgary, but there were definitely some times when his diagnoses or prescriptions would just make me cringe. Like the time I had spotting between periods, and my doctor recommended doing an intra-uterine scope to see if I had a dysfunctional uterus. My naturopath prescribed B-Complex vitamins instead, and that was the end of that. Le sigh.)

Anyway, for the first time:

- We've found a doctor who practices a vegan lifestyle and who therefore will be highly unlikely to tell us to eat meat. (I'd be a little shocked if he did. And by 'little', I mean my jaw would drop so low it would cause me to tip forward and collapse on the floor.)

- I've mentioned that I practice Fertility Awareness Methods of birth control and have not been scolded about its infamous (but mostly alleged) unreliability. (His response was "It sounds like you've found a method that works for you and that helps keep you aware about the goings-on in your body") I LOVE IT!!

- We've discovered a doctor who is willing to work on the foundations of health -- sleep, diet, exercise, and stress -- before he'll even consider moving on to any sort of pharmaceutical. (Actually, he'll help balance the foundations of health, and then move on to herbs/homeopathy/acupuncture if there's still imbalance. If imbalance remains after THAT, then he might reluctantly prescribe a drug. That's perfect for us!)

- I walked out of a doctor's appointment with a prescription that looked like this:

Yep- he recommended a book I should read to learn more about Ayurvedic Medicine, and he also wants me to take a diet diary for two weeks. What a wonderful world!

All in all, I'm completely impressed. Even though Dr. S. might not be right for everybody (i.e. some people just want the codeine, and that's it), he is completely perfect for Marty and I. Soon, we will be fully conversant in matters of doshas, yogic practices, and qi meridians, and oh yeah-- we'll be vibrant and healthy to boot!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Return to Blogging: In Which I Say "Screw Physio" and Decide to Listen to My Own Body

I used to work at a sexual health clinic back in Calgary. Every day, no matter what, we would inevitably remind one of our clients that 'she knew her own body best', and that 'she also knew what was best for her'. It was true. There was no way any of us could decide for another person what method of birth control should be used or what course of action should be taken in the face of an unplanned pregnancy. 'You know your body best': Sage advice from the mouths of babes.

Well, in the spirit of knowing my own body best, I've said NUTS to physiotherapy and gone back to see my wonder acupuncturist. Screw the splinting for 24 hours a day. Screw thinking I have nerve damage all of a sudden. Screw the idea of taking extra strength Advils 3 times a day for a whole week, when I only ever use regular strength Advil a few times a year, and even then it's only if I'm pretty convinced I'm going to die of pain unless I take a painkiller/anti-inflammatory. Screw not knitting or blogging but working on an effin' computer for 8 whole hours a day at work! Just screw it all (I know, so jaded).

After feeling extremely sorry for myself and dutifully following my physio's instructions for a few days, it suddenly hit me: "I know my own body best, and I also know what's best for me.' And seriously-- physio only seemed to be making things worse for my forearms, not better. So off came the splints and in went the needles.

It's not that I don't think my physiotherapist is skilled and knowledgeable or that physiotherapy in general is a bloody waste of time-- not at all. It's just that acupuncture seems to work in harmony with my body and mind, whereas physio seems to work against it. For me.

What this all means is that I'm tentatively taking up blogging again (after a whole week and some hiatus-- I know my absence was hard on all of us) and that in a few weeks' time (I have it all planned out), I'm even more tentatively going to resume knitting again. I'm certainly not throwing caution to the wind or working my arms so hard that they only get worse. I'm just starting to listen to my body again. And my body, in borderline masochistic fashion, seems to be saying 'no thanks' to massage, heat packs, and gentle ultrasound therapy; and 'yes, please' to needles in my forehead, forearms, shoulders, back, hands, knees, and feet (in between my toes, even!)