Thursday, February 21, 2013

some kind of magic

A camera over the carriageway, recording, relaying, metering the moment into hours, minutes, seconds. You could speed it up if you wanted, make everything happen faster, or unhappen, slower. The pulse and fade of it all, the tidal traffic and sky; a ribbon of red to the left, a pulse of white to the right, as the sun flows west and the moon hurries over and shadows climb and fall around the tunnel mouth, the escarpment, the barriers and bushes and trees, dark to light to dark again, sunshine and gathering cloud, a twist of stars above the earth. And through it all, perched on its gantry, the camera, periodically wiping its lens, keeping watch. And as the seconds and minutes roll forwards, the framing of the precise moment the car swerves, clips the barrier, rolls through the air and lands on its roof. The still period after. Another car stopping. Flashes of blue, a fire truck into fend-off. Uniforms and scene lights. A police car. And at twenty-three thirty-one forty-nine: an ambulance.

I pull on my fluorescent jacket and approach the scene: Claudia, standing with her arms folded, giving her details to one of the traffic cops whilst the fire team examine the wreck behind her.
‘What happened?’
He nods and waves his notebook in the air.
‘I’ll leave with you with these guys for a moment and then carry on a bit later, okay?’
He steps away.
‘Like I just told him ...’ she carries on. ‘... I was driving along doing about eighty when something happened and I lost control. I think I must’ve blown a tire because the steering wheel kind of ripped round in my hands – and I tried to get it back – but the next thing I knew I clipped the barrier, flew up in the air, did a somersault and landed on the roof. I can’t believe I didn’t hit the tunnel wall. I mean – look at it.’
She’s right. This is a notorious spot. Given what happened she should’ve ploughed straight into the parapet.
‘Are you hurt?’
‘That’s the amazing thing! I was left hanging upside-down in my seatbelt for a minute or two. Then I thought maybe I’d better get out before it explodes or something. I managed to free myself from the belt, but neither door would open so I climbed over the seats and out the back. Someone stopped to help – where is he, by the way? – then the fire brigade arrived. It all happened so quickly. I still can’t believe it.’
She holds her long hair back from her face and surveys the wreck behind her.
‘I only got it last week,’ she says. ‘I suppose I’m just not destined to have nice cars.’
‘What was your last one?’
‘A crappy old two cee-vee.’
‘I don’t suppose that would’ve survived a landing on its roof quite so well.’
‘No, but then I wouldn’t have been doing eighty.’
‘Claudia – do you have any neck pain? Back pain? Pins and needles? Any other strange sensations?’
‘No. I’m good.’
‘What about if I press here? Or here? Anything at all?’
‘Nope. I think I’ve been lucky.’
‘Still – given the speed you were doing and what happened, we’re going to have to immobilise you. Just to be on the safe side. Sometimes the adrenaline of these things can hide an injury, so we have to be careful.’
‘I’m in your hands.’


‘I still can’t believe it happened,’ she says. ‘You couldn’t just blow my nose for me, could you? Thanks.’
She’s lying on the trolley in a collar, head blocks, vacuum mattress.
‘Now I know how Tutankhamen felt.’
The ambulance bounces along, heading for the hospital. I finish writing up the paperwork.
‘I rang Carl, so he should be waiting for me there.’
‘I just can’t believe it. I was going home from a night out with friends. And now this.’
She wets her lips and blinks rapidly.
‘I should’ve gone to the loo whilst I had the chance,’ she says. ‘How am I going to manage it trussed up like this?’
‘There are ways and means.’
‘Hm. Ways and means. I don’t like the sound of that.’
‘Don’t worry, Claudia. I’ll tell the nurses how desperate you are and they’ll sort something out.’
The ambulance shudders as it goes over a pothole.
‘Christ! These things aren’t built for comfort, are they?’
‘No. You’ve got to be sick to want a ride in one.’
‘How much longer?’
‘Almost there. So. How was your evening out with your friends? What did you get up to?’
‘Oh. The usual. We try to meet up once a month.’
‘That’s nice.’
‘Yeah – it is nice.’
She moves her eyes sideways to check me out, then looks back up at the ceiling again.
‘Actually, we meet up for a little erm ... ceremony. Every full moon, you know.’
‘What – like a pagan thing?’
‘Something like that.’
‘Wow! You’re the first witch I’ve had in the back. That I know of.’
‘It’s a lovely thing. We all meet up – eat food, drink wine, in the garden round a fire, or if the weather’s good, out in the woods and places. I mean – it’s just an excuse for a social, really. But it’s nice to have that extra focus, giving thanks to the Goddess or whatever you want to call her, for looking after us and keeping us well. I know it sounds a bit ho-hum, but it’s surprising how much it’s helped these past few years. And we’ve had some rough times in the group. It’s just – good, you know?’
She wriggles in the mattress, like an escapologist discreetly testing the straps for weakness.
‘And now look. I think the magic let me down.’
‘I don’t know, Claudia. Maybe the magic did work. Maybe it was the magic that kept you from getting badly hurt tonight – that, and the safety cage.’
‘Do you think?’ she says. ‘Hey – maybe you’re right!’
She closes her eyes for a moment, and we ride along in silence. I wonder if she’s thinking about the full moon shining down on us, or maybe replaying the moment she lost control, when the car clipped the barrier, spun in the air and landed on its roof.
Suddenly, she opens her eyes wide again.
‘It’ll take some even stronger magic explaining this to Carl,’ she says.


jacksofbuxton said...

It could be magic....

Or it could be the massive improvements made in car safety.

Who could say?

Did you let her black cat ride with you as well Spence?

Spence Kennedy said...

An older car wouldn't have withstood a landing like that, so I think car safety has really come on. Having said that, if she'd gone head-first into the parapet, I'm not so sure it would've ended quite so well!

No sign of the black cat, though. (Probably ran off after she swerved to avoid it)

Kirby Obsidian said...

Hello Spence - I'm a fan and follower of your blog. I loved the descriptive flourish you began this particular entry with.
Best of all - and what keeps me coming back - is the elegance, warmth and insight of your portraits.
I note your disclaimer about protecting the confidentiality of your subjects, and wonder if I might pick your brain on that. I keep a blog as well, and it occassionally touches on my experiences with my own clients, who are homeless youth in Toronto. I generally change the name and any descriptors, but otherwise stick pretty close to the reality of whatever encounter I'm writing about. It's occured to me to let clients know that I've written about them (as I think the depictions are positive acknowledgments, as are your own), or even to seek their consent, but I've done neither.
Have you ever had an issue about your writing, either from subjects or your employer? Any thoughts you can share with me? I haven't explored the legalities of any of this, and just wonder if I'm setting myself up for a problem down the line.
I hope this isn't asking too much.
If you're interested in a couple of instances or my portraiture: ; .
Thanks, Spence!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, Kirby

I've worried about this quite a lot over the last few years. So many times I've been on the verge of telling my employers, but each time I figure it could only lead one way - to me being asked to close the blog. Not because it carries anything offensive or endangers anyone's confidentiality, but because my employers would be uneasy at the precedent it set.

I've come to rely on the blog so much, as writing practice, as a diary of what I've done and seen, as a platform to promote other stuff I've written (expedient, I know, but I can't resist it), and as a way of helping me deal with the stresses of the job. And even though it sounds a bit grandiose, I like the feeling that I'm writing truthfully about the jobs we're dealing with, good and bad, and not tidying it up for any reason. Which in the current political climate here, feels like a useful thing to do. I just feel like I've got too much to lose to risk 'coming out' now. Especially given the fact that my time in the ambulance is limited. I only see myself working in it another couple of years or so. (No idea what I'll do next. Something useful, that gives me time to write. Any ideas?)

So I'll more than likely just carry on writing under a pseudonym, changing identifying details and wrapping the whole thing up in a 'semi-fiction' coverall. I'm not necessarily recommending this as the way to go. In fact it's probably not. But it does seem to me that so long as you're writing the truth as far as you can, and not using the blog as a platform to slag anyone off, or score points of one kind or another, than really why should anyone have a problem?

Probably worth asking around, though!

Thanks for the comment, Kirby - and for the link, which I'll def check out.


Kirby Obsidian said...

Thanks for that most thoughtful reply, Spence. Yes, I have the very same thoughts about coming out to my employers - though a handful of my colleagues read and support me.

And yes, I thrive from the blogging for the same and similar reasons you cite: practice, release, calling attention to issues that matter, etc. never occured to me that you are writing under a pseudonym. That's a reflection of my own naivete, but I guess it's also an indicator of how most of us read - generously using our imaginations to flesh out the words and content of the author, as the words occur to us.

I too see an end to this work. I hold on to the dream that I might someday support myself by stringing words together. And I admire you for having moved substantially further in that direction than me.

Thanks, again. I haven't gotten to your books yet, but I will. And I'm wishing you the greatest possible success, in your current and future endeavors!


Spence Kennedy said...

Cheers Kirby

I think most of my colleagues know about the blog now, and quite a few have downloaded the book. Sometimes they'll say 'I suppose you're going to write this job up, then, are you?' - which is weird, because for so long I was the 'secret' writer leading a kind of double life. And the name 'Spence Kennedy' really did seem to belong to someone else - someone more capable than me. So now another reason not to drop the facade is the thought that if I use my own name I'll lose the capability.

Anyway - good luck with the writing, Kirby. It's a long haul, but really worth it.

Anonymous said...

There was the 'Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics'. Can't find decent link at the moment, but here's a flavour.

In May 2007 discussion of the need for an oath or a code evolved into The Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics. The code has five essential points:

Perspective – that your readers understand your professional perspective. While we usually argue that this type of classification is usually unnecessary to the public it’s important to identify whether you are you an EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, EMT-Paramedic, Registered Nurse or Medical Doctor for your readers who do understand the differences to know your professional perspective

Confidentiality – Bloggers must understand and maintain the importance of confidentiality when blogging about patients. All blogging about patients must be done so that their identity cannot be inferred

Disclosure – Bloggers must disclose any commercial ties that may exist between a company and themselves. You can read more about disclosures here

Reliability – It is important to cite sources of information accurately and correctly. Additionally it is important to correct inaccuracies where they are discovered

Courtesy – Attack the idea, not the person. This is a simple directive to maintain a professional demeanor and practice good netiquette."

I'm sure there is some good stuff out there somewhere.

Hope you have got your spam infestation under control SK. Though migrating to WP might be safer, in case Google get bored with running the Blogger platform.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, Anon. I wasn't aware of that blogging protocol. I'm guessing it's a US initiative - but very welcome to have some guidance like that. Reading through, I'm pretty sure I follow it already (although the really sticky point is the ability of a patient to infer their identity - sometimes I think they probably could, despite changing lots of details. Often the most interesting jobs are interesting because of the specifics of the situation. But on the whole, I think Siren Voices remains pretty anonymous. If you ever do find the link, it'd be good to see.

The spam thing is still a problem. I get loads in the folder each day, and it's a pain trawling through it to find what's genuine or not. A bit worrying to hear that Google might not carry on with Blogger, though. I think I might do a little more research about WP...

Cheers Anon!

Anonymous said...

Firstly the demise of Blogger is just my opinion, sorry if I gave you a start. WP hosts 51% of all blogs and is still rising, Blogger is in a sort of terminal decline, there will come a point when Google will reconsider the cost of running the service and may decide to drop it.

The HCBE stuff was more offered as info for Kirby as she has to be aware of HIPPA, I've never felt your writings ever crossed any lines.

I had a scout about for more info on HBCE, it seemed to appear in 2007, get thrashed out by a lot of very clever people right from the start. And emerged fully formed a few months later, it was very widely adopted and seems to have set the gold standard for blogs. Having noting else to do the people behind it drifted back to what they were doing before, and it sort of exists as unspoken rule for MedBlogs.

I found some of the original discussion, [a cached copy, how nerdtastic am I!] but it isn't very illuminating.

Here's a clip that gets a bit overly specific.

"identifies what a doctor should not mention about a patient online. Names; All geographical subdivisions smaller than a State, including street address, city, county, precinct, zip code, and their equivalent geocodes, except for the initial three digits of a zip code, if according to the current publicly available data from the Bureau of the Census: (1) The geographic unit formed by combining all zip codes with the same three initial digits contains more than 20,000 people; and (2) The initial three digits of a zip code for all such geographic units containing 20,000 or fewer people is changed to 000. All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death; and all ages over 89 and all elements of dates (including year) indicative of such age, except that such ages and elements may be aggregated into a single category of age 90 or older; Phone numbers; Fax numbers; Electronic mail addresses; Social Security numbers; Medical record numbers; Health plan beneficiary numbers; Account numbers; Certificate/license numbers; Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers; Device identifiers and serial numbers; Web Universal Resource Locators (URLs); Internet Protocol (IP) address numbers; Biometric identifiers, including finger and voice prints; Full face photographic images and any comparable images; Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code"

But in the UK context the LAS "Social Media Policy" might be of more use, there a links at the end that might flesh it out a bit.

[I did have a short root about [while waiting for dinner to cook] to see if there is a way to not accept comments that the address tag, letter a in angle brackets. But nothing pops up, I'm not familiar enough with Blogger to know where it hides the list of allowable HTML in order to edit it.]

Spence Kennedy said...

That's very interesting about Blogger vs WP. I'll def bear it in mind - but my usual inertia about these things probably means I'll do nothing about it until I really have to.

I'm glad you think my writing doesn't cross any lines. Sometimes I worry it sails a bit close, but I do try to keep it the right side of discreet. It's interesting reading that little extract from the HCBE guidelines. It seems like a pretty thorough treatment of the whole process, which is a good thing.

It'd be great if you could disallow comments with address tags. I'll look into that, too. That'd be one way of cutting down on all the spambot junk that comes my way, every piece of which ends with a 'visit my site' link. I suppose a drawback though would be people who send genuine links to interesting sites - they might get their comments diverted to the spam folder (so I'd still end up having to double check there to make sure I don't inadvertently delete anything).

Thanks for the comment / info, Anon. :)

Kirby Obsidian said...

Thanks for posting this exchange of information about blogging standards, Spence. And thank you too, Anon. for the protocols. They've provided helpful guidelines that I'm sure will have me more at ease about my subjects' anonymity.