O'Really?

March 22, 2021

Thank you NHS 🙏

During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times. Amazing that it works at all, frankly. Computer generated cross section 3D model of the human heart via Wikimedia Commons by DrJanaOfficial at w.wiki/36zc

So what happened was, I’d been having some chest pains for a while and sleeping badly but didn’t think too much of it. Like many parents, we were struggling to balance the competing demands of two full-time jobs with an extra one called homeschooling small children. [1] It was stressful but we were trying, as you do in a pandemic, to get through it one day at a time. My wearable technology reckoned my resting heart rate was higher than it normally was. Not surprising really. I’m no athlete but try to look after my physical and mental health. Thanks to parkrun, I’ve rediscovered running and have continued to run 5km or 10km every other day in order to stay fit, sane and get out of the house during lockdown. I never expected my heart would give me problems.

One night as I was getting ready for bed, I started having palpatations and my heart rate accelerated like Usain Bolt hearing a cardiac starting pistol. As I lay down, I felt short of breath and dizzy and watched my heart rate soar. So I phoned the National Health Service support line (NHS 111) who quickly told me to get down to my local Accident and Emergency (A&E) sharpish.

As a passenger on the drive to hospital I wondered if I was having (or had I had) some kind of heart attack? WTF? I seriously wondered if my time was up. OMG. On arriving at the hospital, a well organised team of people dealt with me efficiently and with a minimum of fuss:

  • The A&E receptionist took my details, told me to sit the in big red chair labelled emergency electrocardiogram / elektro kardiogramm (ECG)
  • The nurses did an electrocardiogram, before my bottom even had a chance to park itself on the big red chair
  • The A&E nurses plastered me with electrodes and hooked me up to one of those beeping heart rate monitors like they have on hospital dramas. Beep beep beep…
  • The X-ray operator zapped me with high energy electromagnetic radiation
  • The nurse swabbed me for viral infections (ouch!) – “Your heart is swollen and its probably caused by a virus”… you mean coronavirus? … “we’re trying to find out”
  • The nurses took samples of blood, monitored my blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation levels through the night and day
  • The hospital porters ferried me around between destinations on a wheelie-bed
  • The medical staff ran the Acute Medical Unit (AMU) where I was transferred to for the rest of the night (which was long, dark and sleepless) and the following day
  • The stream of junior and senior doctors came to examine, question and diagnose me
  • The catering staff served me breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • The nurses re-assured and comforted me through the night
  • The cardiologist interrogated me, outlined the prognosis and discharged me
  • The pharmacist gave me a big bag of drugs to enjoy from the comfort of my own home 💊💊💊

Hospitals can be scary places. What makes them even scarier at the moment is that you’re not allowed visitors because of social distancing. This means when you arrive at A&E you wave goodbye to your family wondering if you’ll see them again. You can phone them thankfully, but they aren’t allowed in the hospital.

Making the hospital less scary was an expert team of dedicated professionals. It was a barrage of names. I can only remember one of them: Theresa. Thanks Theresa and the rest of the team to Stepping Hill hospital. It is reassuring to know that medical staff like you are doing their jobs under challenging circumstances, despite the risks of infecting yourselves and your families.

It’s reassuring that when so many things in society feel like they need reinventing or fixing, that hospitals keep functioning normally. While education, high street retail, the internet, politics, the performing arts, culture and pretty much everything in society struggles with the pandemic, there is one thing that’s working well without any fuss or fanfare. A&E departments. Possibly the only thing I’ve interacted with in the last year that hasn’t felt a bit broken, compromised or vulnerable.

It was a sobering experience in the Acute Medical Unit. People in my part of the AMU had all experienced “cardiac events” of some kind or other. Some people didn’t make it through that long night to see the light of day. So:

  • I’m glad to be here
  • I’m glad to be alive
  • I’m glad the NHS works

Thank you NHS! 🙏

References

  1. Anon (2021) Covid home-schooling: Parents’ ‘nightmare’ juggling work and teaching BBC News, London

June 18, 2012

An Open Letter to David Rutley MP on the Geek Manifesto

The Geek Manifesto by Mark Henderson

Mr David Rutley MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear David,

The “Geek Manifesto” and the importance of science in politics

Please find enclosed a copy of a new book by Mark Henderson, titled “The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters”. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

According to the Financial Times:

The Geek Manifesto is the most compelling, engaging and entertaining account I’ve read of the relationship between science and politics. ” —James Wilsdon

The book laments the undervalued role of science in politics on pressing issues such as the global economy, healthcare, education, justice and the environment. For many politicians, science is a tool to be exploited when it supports an existing policy position, and an inconvenience to be discarded when it does not. As Henderson puts it, the cynical quest for policy-based evidence has trumped the desperate need for evidence-based policy. This is not surprising since only 1 in 650 British MPs has a Science qualification and his name is Julian Huppert. Your conservative colleague Adam Afriyie is proposing compulsory science literacy lessons for MPs in order to tackle this serious problem, but there is still a long way to go before science becomes integral to political decision making.

As well as the serious issues the book raises, it is also very positive and inspiring. The state of affairs it describes can not be blamed politicians alone. It is also the fault of people who value science and evidence based decision making – the “geeks”. We geeks must engage in the political process, not stand on the sidelines and moan – this is the geek manifesto.

This thinking led me to join a campaign for people to buy a copy of this book and send it to every MP in the UK set up by Dave Watts. The book you now have is a direct result of this campaign, which you and 649 other members of parliament now have a copy of. Despite the recession and challenging economic circumstances, over 300 ordinary voters like me have spent their own time and money in order to send you these books.

Please take the time to read your copy of the book. If politicians can learn from geeks, and geeks can learn from politicians, we will all get wiser and decision making can only improve. I would be especially interested to hear if and how this book has changed your decision making and will post any of your replies here on my blog.

Yours Sincerely

Dr. Duncan Hull

School of Computer Science
University of Manchester

P.S. A copy of this letter has been sent by post accompanied by a hardback copy of the Geek Manifesto. Another copy of this letter has been emailed to david.rutley.mp@parliament.uk. Some of the content of this post has been adapted from letters authored by Dave Watts and Chris Chambers.

Update, David Rutley sent a written reply (below) dated the 22nd June 2012, which didn’t reach me until the middle of July:


Dear Dr. Hull

Re: The Geek Manifesto

Thank you for your email of 18th June and letter enclosing a copy of the Geek Manifesto.

It was very thoughtful of you to think of me and I appreciate you sending me a copy of the book.

Like you, I believe it is important that science subjects are well represented in the House of Commons and society as a whole. It is important that young people are encouraged to study STEM subjects, so that the UK can compete on the international stage and our universities can continue to be world leaders in scientific research.

I will be sure to bear the views put forward in the Geek Manifesto in mind during my work in the House of Commons and in my conversations with Ministers.

Thank you once again for taking the time to send me a copy of the Geek Manifesto. I look forward to reading my copy.

With best wishes,

David Rutley MP

September 4, 2009

XML training in Oxford

XML Summer School 2009The XML Summer School returns this year at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford from 20th-25th September 2009. As always, it’s packed with high quality technical training for every level of expertise, from the Hands-on Introduction for beginners through to special classes devoted to XQuery and XSLT, Semantic Technologies, Open Source Applications, Web 2.0, Web Services and Identity. The Summer School is also a rare opportunity to experience what life is like as a student in one of the world’s oldest university cities while enjoying a range of social events that are a part of the unique summer school experience.

This year, classes and sessions are taught and chaired by:

W3C XML 10th anniversaryThe Extensible Markup Language (XML) has been around for just over ten years, quickly and quietly finding its niche in many different areas of science and technology. It has been used in everything from modelling biochemical networks in systems biology [1], to electronic health records [2], scientific publishing, the provision of the PubMed service (which talks XML) [3] and many other areas. As a crude measure of its importance in biomedical science, PubMed currently has no fewer than 800 peer-reviewed publications on XML. It’s hard to imagine life without it. So whether you’re a complete novice looking to learn more about XML or a seasoned veteran wanting to improve your knowledge, register your place and find out more by visiting xmlsummerschool.com. I hope to see you there…

References

  1. Hucka, M. (2003). The systems biology markup language (SBML): a medium for representation and exchange of biochemical network models Bioinformatics, 19 (4), 524-531 DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btg015
  2. Bunduchi R, Williams R, Graham I, & Smart A (2006). XML-based clinical data standardisation in the National Health Service Scotland. Informatics in primary care, 14 (4) PMID: 17504574
  3. Sayers, E., Barrett, T., Benson, D., Bryant, S., Canese, K., Chetvernin, V., Church, D., DiCuccio, M., Edgar, R., Federhen, S., Feolo, M., Geer, L., Helmberg, W., Kapustin, Y., Landsman, D., Lipman, D., Madden, T., Maglott, D., Miller, V., Mizrachi, I., Ostell, J., Pruitt, K., Schuler, G., Sequeira, E., Sherry, S., Shumway, M., Sirotkin, K., Souvorov, A., Starchenko, G., Tatusova, T., Wagner, L., Yaschenko, E., & Ye, J. (2009). Database resources of the National Center for Biotechnology Information Nucleic Acids Research, 37 (Database) DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkn741

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