Dying Matters

What a Dying Matters Awareness Week it has been! I can’t believe my part in it is over and I managed to cram in three Death Cafes which only got bigger and better as the week went on. The first event at King George Hospital was small but a cheery discussion, my favourite part was discussing cryogenics with people who were amazed you could just freeze your head. The second was our regular event and was very well attended with a new face which was really exciting! I love our regulars so much but having new people come and discover what we do is the best. The third event at Queen’s Hospital was standing room only with a lot of pauses while people gathered their thoughts but the discussions were very poignant and important. I thought the fact the language around death was discussed was hugely significant especially to those in the health professions.

Death Cafe at work! Hopefully becoming a regular thing… watch this space!

Alongside these I attended a talk at what I think must be my favourite museum now, The Old Operating Theatre nearby the Guy’s Hospital where I used to work. It was a hilarious talk by Professor Ellis about Royal surgery that I enjoyed so much I didn’t want it to end. I resisted buying all the giant microbe toys while I was there but did cheekily treat myself to a perfect piece of jewellery.

I happen to think I had the best seat in the house at The Old Operating Theatre!

Yesterday I had one of the best Mortuary Insight Visits for staff that I have ever conducted. I felt like people were really engaged and learnt a lot from their time with me. I still love doing these and feel like I get a lot out of them too. My confidence of talking in front of people has grown and grown in recent times thanks to these.

For many reasons, this week has been a challenging one mentally for both me and my fiancé. It seems appropriate to mention that this week also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Physically invisible illness is what I consider to be something we all are massively improving at being aware of but still has a lot of room for improvement. I see the effects at work, I feel them myself and I worry about them in other people.

People and socialising give me the worst anxiety sometimes, my cats are good at helping with that.

Lastly, I spent yesterday afternoon in absolute wonder at what the human body can do. I was given the opportunity to try and remember the names of all the bones of the skull that once upon a time I could reel off in seconds. Ten years ago, I knew them all and had my own cardboard skeleton I bought and made in my room with all the bones labelled. Yesterday I struggled and was asking everyone what that butterfly shaped bone in the middle of the skull was. I remembered as I was leaving work, it’s the sphenoid. It’s all still in there somewhere.

It kind of looks like a butterfly, if you squint.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the cemetery I see on the staff bus that I vow to visit one day. It’s near the hospital and I’m pretty sure I have family there. Have a great weekend everyone.

MG x

Back at the Old Operating Theatre

On Thursday night I had the pleasure of returning to one of my favourite places in London for a fabulous evening of wine and Victorian surgery. Rachel had asked me if, instead of exchanging Christmas presents last year, we bought tickets to an event she had found online through a friend. It was a great idea and I jumped at the chance to introduce her to a place I love.

The Herb Garrett is in the attic space around the Operating Theatre and is a lovely collection of objects and fascinating things.m

That’s how I ended up back at the Old Operating Theatre at the Herb Garrett site on St. Thomas’ Street. Another friend came with us who, due to an unfortunate injury, was able to try out the newly installed lift at the museum. Previously, the museum has only been accessible via a very small and unnervingly narrow spiral staircase that scares me somewhat. It’s handy to know, and I’m pleased to broadcast that in future, if you need disabled access to this museum it is available upon request with a valid reason.

The Operating Theatre with original operating table on the left and reproduction on the right

Another thing I’m pleased to say is that the museum have invested in some further cushions for the wooden steps! Previous visits had made me recommend to friends to take at least a rolled up jumper to sit on because after and hour sat on the wooden floor made for a very numb bum and achey hip joints. However, handy seat pads are now provided which is excellent!

Rachel did not appreciate the smell of the soap bars being passed around

I won’t spoil the content of the Victorian Surgery Demonstration talk for those who will be attending in future, it’s often on during normal museum opening hours and also some are available after hours. It is a fabulous talk and the speaker is very knowledgeable in the subject matter. Objects are passed around and you can really get a feel for what surgery would have been like in the past, particularly pre the introduction of anaesthetic.

In depth demonstrations upon a willing volunteer

Sadly I tore myself away at the end, partly because I needed to empty my bladder so badly but also because I always feel a huge spend up coming on when in their wonderful gift shop. I cannot recommend a visit to this delightful museum enough and think it is one of the best hidden sites in London. One thing I had been curious about was how this theatre had survived, the lady told me that the whole area had been boarded up and not accessed for a long time and almost been forgotten about. It makes me wonder how many roof spaces of old buildings are hiding little treasures like this!

MG x

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