Haiku time!

A black and white cartoon style image of a man in glasses with slicked back hair, leaning over a very thick book. He peers intently at the open pages, his mouth in a small O of concentration, while his finger points at something on the page.
Grab your dictionaries, folks!

The Twitter poll is closed, the votes are in and we have a clear winner! This month, as you may have guessed from the image above, we are going to be writing haiku on the theme of…

MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY!

I did not expect that this would be the people’s choice, but it took the lead immediately and stayed there throughout, ending up with 50% of the four-way vote.

So, Medical Terminology… This topic occurred to me after receiving the usual copy of my cardiologist’s letter to my GP. In theory there’s nothing new in these letters, a summing up of an appointment and conversation I was part of, but sometimes they don’t exactly reflect my memory of the event. Things are communicated differently when they’re intended for another person with a medical background. I find myself googling terms and test results to see what they actually mean and sometimes I’m surprised or confused by what I find.

Maybe you’ve educated yourself (or come from a medical background) and prefer to have your condition communicated in formal, precise language? Maybe you don’t understand the jargon (sorry, rather a loaded word) and wish your cardiologist would talk in layman’s (another loaded word) terms? Do you consider yourself speechless, proficient, fluent or a native speaker of the language of your heart condition? Is your own medical vocabulary expanding? How do you use medical terminology to communicate your condition to others?

Maybe there are medical terms that frustrate you, terms that bring stigma or summon stereotypes, or terms you wish weren’t so widely misunderstood. I have to bite my tongue (or try to) whenever people say Christian Eriksen had a “heart attack” on the pitch. (See the BHF’s explanation of the differences between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest here.) Some believe the diagnostic term “heart failure” is problematic in the fear and misunderstanding it tends to provoke. Even “heart disease” as a term makes me a little uneasy.

And what about all those unpronouncable medication names?!

Certainly medical terminology has its pros and its cons, but it’s something all of us with a heart condition have to navigate somehow. However medical terminology impacts on your experience of living with heart disease, we want to hear about it, so hit us with your haiku! And feel free to interpret this topic in whatever way you like – don’t let my blurb limit your responses.

Screengrab of a tweet, with poster's name obscured, in reply to @hearty_tales. Text: "I've never liked the idea that poems are 'about' something. What is The Ancient Mariner 'about'? What is Hamlet 'about'? I've been reading Shakespeare's sonnets. What are they 'about'? Sorry! Bit of a high horse, there."

This morning I got this reply in response to the poll on Twitter. It actually came from my secondary school English teacher. I love him dearly, though he drove me crazy as a teenager and he really drives me crazy now! Just to be clear, I’m not looking for the next Shakespeare. What I am looking for is your words ABOUT medical terminology and how that impacts on your lived experience as someone with a heart condition. Never written before? Don’t worry! Can’t spell? Don’t worry! You’re a professional poet? Don’t worry! Whether you take a month or a minute to write your haiku, I will be glad to receive it and the insight it gives others into your experience. Heart Haiku is a place for poems that are ‘about’, no matter what my former teacher tells us. “Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!” Ha!


The fine print

A haiku has 17 syllables in all: 5 in the first line, 7 in the second, 5 in the third. For our purposes, that’s really all you need to know – just don’t tell the haiku police I said so! Some contributors have said they find identifying the number of syllables in a word tricky. I do not mind if your “haiku” has the “wrong” number of syllables entirely, or even if you make no attempt to adhere to syllable count or three lines or whatever. You’ll notice previous editions of the zine feature contributions that are not haiku. If you respond creatively to the monthly prompt, I will be delighted to read it and consider it for inclusion in the zine, haiku or not.

As ever, please don’t identify specific hospitals or medical professionals in your responses and be mindful of protecting your own identity. In the zine, I’ll attribute the haiku I publish to whatever name you use when you leave your comment. A pseudonym is fine if that’s what you’d prefer.


Can’t wait to read what you come up with!

If you’ve ever been frustrated by a medical letter about you, you might enjoy Dear GP, a website and zine where patients write in response to letters about them written by mental-health professionals – equal parts amusing and impactful.

19 comments

  1. DCM for me
    ICD for SVT
    Healthy food for tea

    David Reynolds

    Couldn’t quite make a Two Ronnies sketch. You know, “F U N E M?” “S I F M “

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, yes! There’s got to be something using RT for hearty, right? I am wracking my brains!

      Here’s what I’ve come up with this morning, inspired by your acronym focus.

      EF, ICD,
      VO2 max, ProBNP…
      We ❤️ acronyms!

      Can’t help hearing the Only Fools and Horses theme tune when I read it though – ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Blimey, Laura, stop asking the twitterers to choose! 🙂

    Here are a couple of odd ones to start:

    Stemi/Nstemi
    Do you know the difference?
    All just heart attacks!

    Heart Monitor? What?
    Oh, the machine that goes “beep”.
    A much better name.

    I’ll see what else can come up with…

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is a tough one, isn’t it? I really thought it would be the least likely option to win. I don’t think anyone who voted for it has contributed a haiku yet though, so maybe it’s evil observers just wanting to make us sweat over the challenge! Ha!

      Thanks for your contributions so far. Feel free to submit as many as you like over the month 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pleasure to see this
    woman of a certain age
    in clinic today.

    This one was inspired by a friend’s experience. I was suggesting displeasure/discomfort at the (accurate!) description of me, in the consultant’s letter, as a “41-year-old woman” when my friend told me her cardiologist had recently written a letter referring to her as a “woman of a certain age”! Yikes! There’s something so depersonalising about the wording of these letters (this is really what’s at the centre of Dear GP – link in post) and, personally, I get quite anxious at the prospect of no longer being viewed as YOUNG.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A blood thinner or
    Anticoagulation
    Pedantry decides

    This is penned for the AF association site that is being forever outraged by the use of simple language.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Hi Laura, Long time no speak – I hope you are well. Here’s my first effort …

    Terminology – words of hope at the heart of cardiology

    Handy having two five syllable words!

    Best wishes David (CABG July 2019)

    Liked by 1 person

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