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Stethoscopes, Aeroplanes, Automobiles and a Triathlon

So, Dr Budd is back in action armed with a shiny new stethoscope, (in Caribbean Blue no less), power wheels, (which go like stink on the smooth hospital floors – mind your toes!), and a head full of dust and cobwebs that are slowly being blown off case by case. It is great to be back, and not just because I’ve had no income for 10 months, but because this is what I’ve wanted to do with my life since I was a dumpy school girl in those blue check dresses and white pull up socks – you know the ones that look like doilies for feet.

As jobs go, the only one I ever had outside of the health care industry was washing up at a local pub, age 15. This job – no this career – is my home. Hospitals have never daunted me. I can remember visiting my mum in work and drawing pictures, (usually of horses and rainbows), for her patients. Even when I’ve been the patient or relative they have never felt like anything but part of normal life. I’ve done placements in many, worked formally in at least 4 different centres, but the lay out is always somewhat familiar. Home. I truly believe it’s where I’m meant to be. I understand why people, outside the medical community, fear them though. If you are there it’s a good bet that something is wrong, (unless you’re having a baby; an important exception), for some they hold painful memories; I have those too don’t get me wrong, but for me the hospital is a constant in my life. Somewhere I have learnt and flourished, met amazing people, made life long friends and had a ring-side seat to, not just human loss and tragedy, but resilience and love. So yeah, being back is great. Cobwebs and all.

Those who follow me will know I’ve been back for a few months and this post is, in those terms a little delayed. When I first started writing this piece coincided with the 70th birthday of the NHS. This felt rather apt when I was feeling so blessed to be back on the job. Warning: I may temporarily get atop my soap-box just for a paragraph don’t worry I’m avoiding politics, bare with...

Naturally as an NHS employee I would be expected to be, at least partially ‘pro’ NHS, and yes, yes I am; but it’s because of so much more than my job. If you’ve been following along or have simply glanced at my page it’s pretty obvious that I have been on the receiving end of medical care at some point; those following since the beginning will appreciate just how much. However, even my most avid reader wont know the half of it. A simple breakdown of the help I’ve received in just the last 2 years includes… 2 x Antibiotic scripts for urinary infections plus 3 ultrasound scans and even a theatre procedure Multiple nerve-painkiller scripts for on-going back pain 1 specialist Musculoskeletal Physio Appointment 2 Ambulance crews 1 Heli-ambulance (and a boat load of the ‘good’ drugs) 1 A+E team 2 Pelvic XR 1 CT Trauma series 1 MRI spine 1 specialist 5+ hour operation, (theatre nurses, at least 2 surgeons, anaesthetist and team, recovery nurses). 1 morphine infusion for, (as my patchy memory believes), 48hrs Daily cocktail of painkillers, relaxants, laxitives, those awful suppositories and whatever else I was on then. 2 spinal XR 2+ nurses and nursing assistants to turn me every few hours, wash me, help me with bowl care… …You know what you get the point and that was BEFORE we get into the cost of an inpatient bed for 3 weeks, let alone the cost of a spinal rehab inpatient bed for 8 MONTHS!!! In that time I had at least 2 other ultrasounds, steroid injections, multiple Xrays and catheters, an hour of physio 5 days a week, occupational therapy, and too many pills, suppositories and enemas to count. I am just ONE person and that’s just a summary of a mere few months of my life. Since discharge I’ve needed 5 a+e visits, district nurse involvement, antibiotics, another MRI and multiple courses of antibiotics, catheter changes and in the next few months I will be having an operation to help with bladder complications. Okay Georgie! What’s your point?!?... Ask me what I paid for it? Nothing – well I paid my taxes, but at least nothing upfront.

Yet all those people’s salaries have to be paid, the equipment and the drugs have to be bought and responsibly disposed of. Every single thing has a price tag from the Xrays and MRIs to every disposable sick bowl, meds pot and gauze swab. Even those of us in the organisation can fail to comprehend just what we have here. We get bogged down with targets, bad press, politics… but there are very few countries that have such a system. Is it right or wrong? Is it sustainable? Who am I to say! But I know without the NHS my family would be crippled by debt by situations (mostly) beyond our control. I am proud to be a part of the NHS. I became a doctor for the privilege of helping those who NEED it. NOT just those who can afford it. I have fought to get back to my job, after being on the receiving end of care, because I want to give back and I want to fight for the institution I believe in. While being a patient made me more aware of the modern challenges, and in some areas the failings of today’s NHS, it also reinforced my faith in the wonderful staff who keep going despite the pressures. I will say it again (LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK!)...


It is SURVIVING, DESPITE being underfunded, smeared in the media and overwhelmed by immense need.

Our elderly population are dwindling and with them the memories of a Britain without the NHS, such that we increasingly have a population that believe they are ‘entitled’ to healthcare because it’s always been there; without asking, ‘what happened before that?’ The answer is simple: if you couldn’t afford a doctor, or medicine, or clean bandages you usually died; often of completely treatable diseases. Call me an alarmist, but it’s true. TB is just one example. Have we gone too far the other way? Doing fancy treatments for rare problems, treating those who willingly put their health at risk, keeping people alive longer and longer… Sometimes I think maybe; but that depends on the circumstances, and again is for more qualified people than me to debate. However, what I do feel strongly about is that we shouldn’t be flippant about its existence, or we run into real danger of not knowing what we had until it’s too late.

Okay soap-box dismounted.

Being back feels right. That isn’t to say it’s gone off without a hitch. The people I work with have been so supportive, and this has confirmed why I wanted to come back to the specific hospital I work in. On days where I don’t feel like I’m doing that well, I have people around me that help me see that I’m holding my own. For the moment I work a day a week in a day unit with GP referred patients for problems we hope can be easily managed, and not require admission. I do what a doctor does – I talk to the patient, I learn their story, examine the relevant part, order tests to confirm my suspicions and then present my findings to a consultant to scrutinise. It’s a good unit to start in. I’m re-treading the basics of clinical life... BUT – and call me a pessimist, but really it’s just eagerness disguised as impatience – it’s hard not to compare where I am now, to where I was.

In my last post before the crash, I not only felt I’d found my place within the wide world of medical careers, but I was finally learning some new hands on skills and improving on those I had. In my final few weeks before the accident I’d sutured a scalp and an elbow, seen my first (partial) de-gloving injury – gnarly! – learnt how to block the femoral nerve for broken hips – which involves some gloriously big needles, (sorry if you are squeamish) – and I felt I was making a real difference to individual patients. Unless they are completely jaded by the politics and stark realities of the modern NHS, (or they just hate the job), most doctors will tell you that’s when the job feels best; when you make a difference. That’s what I’d like to believe anyway… So recently I have been incredibly frustrated because even though I know this is how it has to be, I’m currently on a ‘phased return’ in a ‘suitable post’. It’s like clawing my way back to where I was. Professionally, the accident not only set me back, but has made moving forward, and completing what is required to be fully certified, a painfully slow process. I’m seeing my class mates move up through the ranks, while I feel a mere breath off stagnation. Things will start moving in time but it’s hard when your ambition and enthusiasm is running circles around your current capability.

Once things are more settled at home I’ve got the green light to up my hours, and with the triathlon over I’ll be back to studying and (finally) teaching again; which will undoubtedly fuel my drive even more. I’ve just been struggling to curb the frustration. Still, there is only one direction to go – forward.

I think the funniest thing resuming the job has been the reaction of patients. I will never forget as long as I live, the first patient I saw when I returned. She was a lovely lady, but due to some mild hearing loss hadn’t heard me say ‘Dr Budd’ when I started asking why she’d been sent in, and instead asked if I was another patient. I chuckled nervously and said again that I’d be her Dr today. I was worried for a moment that she was going to object. Her face was a picture, and I dry swallowed and smiled politely while fearing she was trying to find a polite way to say ‘no thankyou’. Instead she was suddenly distracted from what brought her to me and started asking why I was in the chair? How was I finding it? And applauding my ‘bravery’. It wasn’t long until we were back on topic and I felt myself slip effortlessly into a role I didn’t feel I’d really ever left. Some days I can feel eyes on me while I do things around the unit; pulling the curtains closed with my chin, moving trolleys around etc. I never know what they really think, but I choose to believe they are impressed with the way I do things, rather than worried or sad for me. The first time I met a disabled colleague, (he had an arm defect from birth), I can remember being in awe of his resilience and skill, but I bet he even worries that some of those looks are more of pity than admiration. I hope we are both wrong there. Everyone has a different face when I approach, but it’s usually a glimmer of surprise followed by this strange acceptance or recognition of ‘why not?’ And that’s just it. Why not? There is nothing in my new situation that makes me any less of a doctor. I’ve been looking more into Doctors with disabilities and the stigma around them… Us. It all stems from the idea that disability is synonymous with illness, poor health, dependence - which is of course complete bull. It’s a matter of degrees and severity, it’s a sort of ‘don’t tar us all with the same brush’ situation. It’s an umbrella term that gathers all of us with physical and metal difficulties under one category, but it doesn’t define any of us completely, how could it? No two of us are alike, and not just in our disability but in our outlook, our reach, our lifestyle. A little mantra I took away from an article about Doctors with disabilities, is something I will scream till I’m blue in the face. DISABILITY NOT INABILITY.

When you see a disabled person instead of thinking ‘surely they can’t’, instead think ‘why couldn’t they’? Yes things are more difficult for me sometimes but it doesn’t mean I can’t master a certain task in my own way, and sometimes just as well as an able bodied person. My disability doesn’t affect my ambition or desires. If anything it has enhanced my ambition, it’s given me more and new ambitions. It’s made me more determined. And in terms of being a doctor it has given me more than it has taken. In the past few weeks I have been able to really empathise and understand patient choices, because I’m going through or have gone through similar. So that’s not something I can teach, but it is something I can challenge other Doctors to consider. Maybe that’s a new reason for me to be here in this job.

Next milestone please.

The next thing on my hit list of ‘firsts in the chair’ was travelling… out of the country. Travel has always been my other true love. I would rather spend money on travelling and making memories, than any worldly possessions. One of the most devastating realisations post-crash, is how travelling was going to be so much more difficult and different now. Gone were the days of grabbing my rucksack and just taking off. My heart would sink further thinking of the equipment I needed to take, plus the destinations I always burned to see which could now be off limits. Looking further into it just made it seem harder, especially because I used to travel a lot solo. I still haven’t really conquered this obstacle. Each time I look I get frustrated and sad. However, I took my first step. I flew on a plane to Amsterdam for my brother’s birthday. I’m a pretty fearless person but I’ll admit to being nervous. Disabled people fly all the time I know, but it’s the unknown I guess. What are they gonna need me to do? What if I can’t? Will they have a hoist? What if I don’t fit on their wheelchairs? When will I have to get out my wheelchair? Needless to say it all went fine in the end. A few hiccoughs. Confusion over whether my power wheels could go in the hold, (a few moments of inner panic as it turned out they couldn’t due to the lithium batteries and conversations were had with the captain, who kindly agreed to have them up front with him), and nearly falling off the absolutely tiny aisle chair, (which was less than a bum-cheek wide) but all in all I could do it again tomorrow. I’ll admit I wasn’t the best person to be around that day. The anxiety makes me snappy and uptight. I’m hoping now I’ve done it my mood will be better next time. Each milestone at a time. I’m looking forward to future trips and a hope to make them more and more adventurous. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get back to travelling solo.

The final big change that I know you’ve all been waiting to hear about is the Car. Yes I am back on the road. And it’s liberating. Terrifying, but liberating. Not having to rely on anybody to get me where I want to go, being able to just pick up and go for a drive to clear my head, it’s invaluable. Not to mention being able to go to therapy on my own terms. It’s freedom, it’s independence. That far outweighs any reservations I had about being back in control of a vehicle. Still those moments of panic and fear still rear their heads on occasion. The day I picked the car up I got lost and I panicked and I hit a curb, all because it was just a bit too much all at once. I had to talk myself down. If anyone had been in the car with me I think they would have had good cause to doubt my sanity. ‘Come on George, you can do this! Not too fast, f**k the w**ker that’s up your ass, he has no idea what you’ve been through so who cares what he thinks! Fucksake that car just pulled in front and slammed it’s break on, don’t panic just break. Is it my right of way? Ahhh don’t beep at me you dick! OMG this corner was sharper than I thought! What speed am I doing? Sat Nav what the f**k are you on?!?’ Literally narrating my every thought just to keep me calm. It was like just having passed my test.

Some of you might be thinking how do I drive? So I’ll explain the multiple gizmos that I have. After unlocking the car, like any VW, (meaning twice because… well great engine, electrics less so), I press a separate button, which opens the boot and lowers a wheelchair ramp. I roll in, with some difficulty if my power wheels aren’t working, (don’t get me started on that right now; there’s an upcoming blog focusing on such little, but supremely annoying daily frustrations), at which point the nut that hangs from my chair, via an appendage I have just this moment christened ball-bar, (oh I’m witty!) locks into a vice. I’ve just giggled to myself imagining my male readers cringing at the idea of nuts coming anywhere near vices! Anyway, this holds my chair in place. The drivers chair then has 3 different knobs that I can use to position it next to my wheelchair ready for mounting! (Okay can we tell that I’m a little sexually frustrated? Hahaha again that’s for a future blog or the book). I then do the paraplegic equivalent of a pole volt into the seat, and use the knobs to get in a ‘optimal driving position’ and I’m ready to drive… only I drive using my hands. I recently took my mate to London, (only a week after getting the car, so I guess I’m still fearless), and it blew her mind! So on the steering front I have a ball at about 10 o’clock which I grasp with my left hand, and a lever, (PULL THE LEVER KRONK!), just under the window wiper do-hickey. It’s attached via some fairly complex pulleys – that I still can’t figure out – to the pedals so that, when I pull back I accelerate, and when I push forward I break. I know that seems backwards but hear me out. I’ve actually, (thanks to Neurokinex), got a pretty good core and don’t tend to overbalance much anymore – that being said it doesn’t take much – but other disabled drivers have less core, so if forward was accelerate and you’re hit from behind or needed to break forcefully, the momentum could a disabled driver to fall forward and actually accelerate further. It’s clever thinking right? If I did fall heavily forward, rather than accelerate, I’d simply, (and abruptly), stop. So that’s how. It’s also automatic so no gears and no handbrake, just ‘park’ mode, (although that isn’t a great feeling parking on any of the multiple hills we have here in Wales).

So back to my maiden drive. I got to my destination in one piece without any deaths, scratches, and mercifully no tearful breakdowns. I parked up and spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out why my engine was still revving when I was parked and not touching anything?! I ended up just taking the key out and burying my head, bright red with embarrassment until my Mum, (who by rights should have been completely grey), got to me and we figure out that my knee was resting on the accelerator cable. That’s one issue when you can’t feel your legs, you forget to troubleshoot things involving them because technically they shouldn’t have moved, I guess I’d readjusted after the initial relived slump when I parked. Actually, lack of feeling in the car has been a bigger issue than I thought, not in ways that would impede my driving you’ll be glad to hear, but when I’m transferring from seat to seat. I’m much less gun-ho about throwing myself around since I got out the car one day and found that my left foot appeared to have been staring in a horror movie. Oh the blood! Seeing that and not knowing what you’ve done is a really weird and almost sickening feeling. There’s no pain to alert you to where the situation is, or how bad, or how long it’s even been an issue… so you play a game called hunt the boo-boo… and I found I’d taken a decent chunk out of my leg on the metal handle under my chair – you know the one that lets you slide the chair forward and back. It’s scabbed over now and I’m keeping an eye on it, but safe to say I’ve started treating them less like dolls legs and more as things that are actually attached to my circulatory system!

I’ve been driving about a month or more now, and I’m getting used to it. Although I still put myself in check every now and then. It’s remarkable how easy it is to feel safe in a vehicle, even me who is living proof that just isn’t the case. I have to tread a thin line though, because I don’t want to be a panicky hesitant driver. It is hard though. I find myself some days creeping up to the 70 mark on the motorway and thinking ‘shit, if this is what happened at 50, if I crashed now I’m dead’, or other such thoughts of just how easy it is to make one mistake, or how truly vulnerable us squidgy mortals are, travelling at speeds we were not made for, in glorified tin-cans on wheels. As I said, driving again is terrifying, but I just can’t let that stop me.

Sometimes I’ll take an unfamiliar corner and find myself back in my citreon losing control on that bend. But the road I was on that day I did know. I will never be completely blameless, as I was the driver, but it wasn’t so much a fault in my driving but a freak accident of circumstance... So after I’ve fished my heart out of my stomach and reminded myself that I’m okay, I’m not back there, I promise to be more cautious so that I’m never a contributing factor in another RTA. The thing is if it’s possible for me to relax and feel safe in a car again, it’s scary to think how complacent we all can be. People in my own family drive like idiots and I’ve not been above shouting at them before – ‘did this, (gesturing to chair), not show you anything? How easy it is?’ And that’s the take home here I guess. I’m back out in a car not because it isn’t scary, (f**k me some people’s driving is straight out of a nightmare), but because to be as independent as I want to be it’s a necessary evil. Still speed kills. Split concentration kills. Tiredness kills. Texting kills. Being an impatient tosser kills. What is so important in your life you need to drive at 90? Or can’t stop for a Coffee and a power nap? Or leave replying till later? It doesn’t matter how good of a driver you think you are, it can happen to anyone! Don’t stack the odds in the Grim Reapers Favour. Enough said.

And that leads us to the final instalment of this long ass post, which is… I DID A F**KING TRIATHLON BITCHES! First and foremost, thankyou to anyone and everyone that sponsored me and spread my story. We’ve covered roughly half of the money needed to keep my therapy going into next year, which is amazing so Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou! Obviously, I couldn’t have done it without my sidekicks and support team so a big thankyou to them too, and last but not least the incredible staff of Neurokinex that got me involved and kept me pumped for it through some trying times. You’ve heard this all before…but how actually was it? In all honesty… absolutely… frickin’… awesome! It was a great day filled with fun and laughter, friends and family. One who was a massive surprise, my dear friend Nicki from Sydney who I hadn’t seen properly since 09! She has been a force of constant support and seems to believe I can do anything, so maybe I can! Anyway, Yes it was tough, but it was so bloody rewarding. I had to keep saying to myself out-loud ‘I’m doing a blooming triathlon!’ It wasn’t something that ever sunk in because, well those that know me will testify I wasn’t exactly a gym bunny. I’d try. Go through the usual phases of, ‘God I have to get fit’, but I never saw myself taking part in any serious sporting event. The idea was just crazy. But since the accident my outlook on such things is just so different. Again it’s asking ‘why can’t I?’ and not being able to come up with a legitimate answer. From the moment I said ‘Sure, yeah I’d be interested,’ I was kind of in this perpetual state of…

F**k, so yeah, we’re doing this!

Are we really doing this?

Can’t back down now


Of course it helped that it gave me a platform to raise the money needed to keep me in therapy. What better incentive to train hard than to get more therapy as an end result? But yeah the whole way round the course I just kept thinking, I’m doing this. Holy sh*t I’m doing it! And I did. A triathlon! Not even 2 years from my accident. I have to be proud of that. I guess for once my stubborn streak paid off.

People keep asking me which part was the hardest, but it’s difficult to say. I mean the swim was awesome, almost relaxing, but slow going. That’s cause I did the whole thing on my back, flapping like some half-broken pond skater. Why you ask? Well I am abnormally buoyant, especially my badonkadonk, so if I try swimming on my front I end up either face-down ass-up or my back curved to the point my metal rods protest. So pond skater style it was – 400m in 22mins was good going I think. Actually, the hardest part came after the swim. Getting into the water was cake – ice-cream cake, aka it wasn’t warm; my aussie mate was like ‘dude that is not swim worthy water!’ – but yeah pretty easy… Sploosh. Getting out however was frustrating. They had people to lift us, but it wasn’t very well organised and after the third time of putting me down to get a better grip, (on the soaking wet, wet suit clad, paraplegic on a slippery rubber carry board!), I insisted my brother and other ass-kicking sidekick lift me how I’d taught them earlier that day. Hmm actually you know what I retract that. The hardest part of the day hands down was getting a paraplegic into a wet suit in the first place! It should be an Olympic sport – talcum powder at the ready!

The bike was the hardest endurance wise; it was probably the section in which I asked myself the most time, ‘what the actual f**k do I think I’m playing at?’, but once I’d done one 5k loop, well it’s like anything you’ve done, if you’ve done it once you know you can do it again. So I did. Hand bikes aren’t easy though and hand bikes and hills are not friends; they aren’t even civil. The motion on my rented model, rather than hand after hand, was both hands together in a push pull motion, and to change gear you need a third hand; which, as your average human I lack. But I did it and had a bloody hilarious time too.

The final stretch was the 2.5k push, which was comparatively easy, but as the final bit, felt a lot longer, and I think I could have pushed it a bit harder. Still, crossing that finish line was sweet. I was absolutely pumped and I’m sure you have all seen the photos. It was amazing to finish in under 2 hours as well. A big achievement considering everything. A big achievement regardless. And SO much fun! Again, I’m so grateful for the sponsor ship, my helpers and those that encouraged me to get involved. It goes to show, no matter your set backs, if you are determined you can achieve!

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