This month’s haiku theme (Medical Terminology/Communication) has been proving challenging. I didn’t feel like anything I’d written was saying what I wanted it to, so, while supervising multiple summer-holiday sleepovers this week, I started putting together this “explosion book,” using actual medical information I’ve been given in recent months/years. There are lots of excerpts of letters and appointment notifications, plus some charity-produced patient leaflets and the information booklets you find inside boxes of tablets.
Obviously this cover is misleadingly cutesy and positive…
…while inside it’s all darkness and “necrotising fasciitis of the perineum” – the very rare (thankfully) side-effect I learned about recently while reading the information leaflet in my new tablets. Yikes.
I enjoyed making this book, believe it or not, and please don’t let it make you concerned for my sanity/existence – I’ve purposefully extracted phrases out of context and reassembled them in some of the worst ways I could BUT all these phrases were there in the leaflets and letters, all designed to inform and support. It’s all too easy to focus on the scary/negative, even without trying.
One of my lowest heart-failure lows was when I was discharged from hospital, sent home (without my new baby) with a massive tome called The Everyday Guide to Living with Heart Failure, published by the British Heart Foundation. One day, home alone, I steeled myself to read it. The advice about asking your grandchildren to climb onto your knee rather than lifting them, alongside pictures of smiling silver-haired people in gardening gloves, was pretty depressing to read as a 31-year-old new mum. Looking at the contents page, however, I saw a section called “The Future” and assumed it would be about medical developments and new treatments that might become available in my lifetime. When I turned to the relevant page, I found “The Future” contained nothing but advice on procuring a Do Not Resuscitate order and writing a will. This was ten years ago but, while I can and do laugh about the awfulness now, I am still tearing up at the memory.
I don’t know what the solution is really. Honest and practical information is so important and I wouldn’t want to be misled by sugar-coated half-truths, but being given “facts” in black and white, to read and interpret, to reread and obsess over, on your own, with nothing more reliable than Dr. “Death-Knell” Google to assist in your understanding… No matter how carefully organisations (and individuals) word things, I can’t see it ever ending well. Would I prefer not to know? No, but I would like the people who write these things to be aware of how hard it can be for patients (especially new patients) to absorb the information in the helpful way it was intended.
Anyway, these were the thoughts I had while messing about with my scissors and glue stick – messy thoughts, messy process.
Can I distill any of this into a haiku? We’ll see. Maybe you can? If anything in my explosion of thoughts has inspired you to write something about Medical Terminology or Medical Communication for the zine, you can do so by leaving a comment here, or on this post.
These explosion books are surprisingly easy to make. I followed this YouTube tutorial (aimed at those teaching children) which made the whole process even simpler. I’d love to see any explosion books you make, about your heart or about anything else. Here’s another one I made using an old Beano annual.