Today is International Scoliosis Awareness Day. 2 years, 9 months and a day ago I went into surgery to correct my scoliosis. This year I once again haven’t been able to plan to do anything to raise awareness because of exams and the end of term and so this day has just sort of sprung up on me.

However I did paint my toenails last night, for the first time since my operation (although probably an even longer time). It’s not the best paint job but I am proud to have been able to paint them. Reaching your toes for any person is hard but with scoliosis or recovering from spinal fusion it is near impossible.

Nails for ISAD 2015

Nails for ISAD 2015

I used Essie Lacquered Up for the base and a gold nail art pen to do the lettering details and dots. You probably can’t see it but I wrote ISAD 2015 and then put dots in the shape of curved spines on the big toes.

So to raise awareness today I have painted my nails and worn sandals all day out and about. I doubt this will have impacted many people but at least I’ve done something small. I’ve been trying to raise the profile of scoliosis on campus over the last year so hopefully something I’ve done will have made a difference!!


Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to go into London to see the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, a live performance of many of Murray Gold’s fantastic compositions for the TV show. Putting aside the minor disappointment that my favourite oldies of Doomsday and Westminster Bridge did not make an appearance, it was truly a fantastic show and more than just an orchestral concert. It was focused predominantly on the music for the recent Series 8 and these are some of Gold’s finest works. The National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales were phenomenal in both sound and general performance, and it was great to see Ben Foster conducting too. Peter Davison’s hosting was extremely funny, packed with little jokes and reminiscent of the Five-ish Doctors Reboot. There were monsters involved and the choreography of these was truly superb, often mirroring what we could see on screen.

It was a fantastic introduction to classical music for anyone in the audience who was there solely for the association with the show, and I wanted to share my favourite piece, chosen mainly for its staging:


Response to Alton Towers Smiler crash

So, anyone in the UK will probably be aware by now that there was a crash on the Smiler ride at Alton Towers on Tuesday. It’s horrible to think these things happen and I am glad that my back gives me a bona fide excuse for not going on rollercoasters. But I wanted to say something quickly about a headline I read: Alton Towers Smiler crash: 999 call made 11 minutes afterwards. (You can read the article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-33011347.

The headline is there to point out the length of time between the incident being reported and the emergency services being called, the subtext being that 11 minutes was too long. Working as part of Twickenham security has given me some idea of how emergencies are dealt with and the protocols that go with them, and actually I would argue that this was not an action that should be particularly frowned upon. Yes, it is true that 11 minutes is a long time in an emergency situation, but it’s not that Alton Towers did not deal with the incident during that time.

I don’t want to go into detail on security and safety procedures because they are site-specific and also something that is best kept within the company so as to not worry people unduly. However, incidents are always called into event control first and especially with something like a rollercoaster, it is often hard to tell how severe injuries might be and how much external help is needed. Events and attractions legally require a specific ratio of staff to customers and I’m pretty sure also first aiders on site, with fairly rapid response times. Even last night at the Summer Ball there was an event ambulance, just in case anyone got really ill or injured. Anyway, it’s often suitable and appropriate for incidents to be dealt with by staff on site – minor injuries for instance that require first aid, administered by the professionals who are paid to respond to such incidents. Their response would probably take a minute or two from the incident being radioed in – you have to remember that these theme parks are large places so it’s perfectly normal for it to take a couple of minutes to gain first aid response. On arriving they would need to gain access to the incident site, probably the first people to be able to examine the incident because the other ride operators still need to be doing their jobs managing the queues and preventing further operation of the ride. Say the clock has now hit 7 minutes, taking into account the struggle to access the tracks where it took place. The first aiders now need to access the potential need for emergency services, maybe this can be done in 2 minutes, and they then relay the information to control, who have the authority to call 999.

In my depiction of the scenario I estimated a 10 minute response to the crash. Surely it’s not unreasonable for Alton Towers to try and resolve an incident using their own staff rather than calling for ambulances and the fire brigade for something that did not require them. Maybe you might say that they could have recognised that it was a serious incident before even sending a response team, but no-one can tell. Only the ride operators would have been aware of the number of people potentially involved and the fact that it occurred suggests that they did not know there was another car on the tracks so it must have been confusing and distressing for the team.

Yes, 11 minutes is a long time, but to take immediate action to ring the emergency services and then find they are not needed and therefore wasting time when they could be attending more serious incidents could be life threatening.

I promise I’ll get back to posting stuff on work and my course and such like soonish, I just was compelled to write in response to that article.


Twickenham Part 1: My first day, 14th March 2015

So, on Saturday I had my last day working at Twickenham for 2 and a half months. No rugby matches are taking place between now and mid-August so my last pay slip for this quarter will turn up in my inbox on Thursday and I’ll get paid on Friday (which is also the day of Summer Ball – convenient!). It’s been 2 and a half months since my first shift too, on 14th March, although I actually got the job 4 months ago at the very end of January. Due to the nature of casual stadium work, there wasn’t a match on until mid-February and I was otherwise engaged with orchestra rehearsals. However, I had a day of induction plus a two day course for my NVQ Level 2 in Spectator Safety so by the time I started work I had been to the stadium 4 times so I was kind of familiar with the area and some of the stadium, which made me feel slightly more at ease.

Despite this I still turned up on my first day at the wrong place – I went to the agency staff check in rather than RFU. It was made better by the fact that I had been chatting to a friend at the train station and mentioned that I was going to work at Twickenham and as I got on the train a girl asked if I was working at the stadium (my friend was waiting for a different one). Turns out she was working hospitality, just like my flatmate and another friend from CU, and also was a first year historian in my Gods, Men and Power unit! We’d never met before but it was good to have someone to chat to on the way. Because I was worried about being late my train got in at 11:10 and I was at the stadium by 11:30, even though my shift didn’t start until 12! I got someone else to sort out my clip on tie, donned my hi-vis, stopped off at a portaloo, and waited to be called by my supervisor.

I think I actually answered the call for Gate B by accident and then promptly lost the stream of people I was following and got very stressed and called on a man called Josh who was by Gate D to help me find out where to get my coat. I was almost in tears, but he was nice and put me at ease because he was working that gate and I knew that 1) he knew I was down at the coat room in case my supervisor was annoyed, and 2) I had a person to look out for when I got back. The coat room situation was a hassle for me and I am so glad that there is no longer a cloakroom component because the queue was so long. I’d brought a bag with food in just in case I couldn’t eat the free lunch but I decided it’d be fine so checked that in with my coat and got a medium Twickenham coat in return.

The loss of my coat was a mistake. Although it was mid-March, there are parts of the stadium which are very windy and don’t get much sun. I can’t remember how sunny it was that day, but that’s kind of a mute point. It was VERY cold and my Primark trousers were little use to me on the warmth front. My old school shoes with one pair of socks resulted in ice cubes for feet, as well as mild blisters that can still be seen 2 and a half months later. My top half was slightly warmer with a white shirt, blazer and coat, but I was glad of my slightly warming gloves and very warm hat! The next week I tried to rectify the situation, wearing thermal leggings under my trousers, a pair of 10 denier socks as well as the normal ones, and my own coat underneath a large Twickenham coat (plus hi-vis of course!). I may have looked like Michelin Man but at least I was fairly warm.

So yeah, this post has gone on for a very long time already, so I’ll end it here and continue tomorrow.


RHULSO Concert on Thursday

Today’s post is basically a plug for the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra concert on Thursday, as that is what has been consuming my days since Sunday. I posted before about my love for Dvorak Symphony 8, and this is the reason why – our repetoire for the Play Festival concert includes it. That post about it is here: https://afterscoliosis.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/dvorak-symphony-no-8/

But I’m sure I’ve said before that rehearsals are taxing on my back so I won’t go on, but it’s a lot of stress going from orchestra to start up lectures then back to orchestra and various other activities. However, I am enjoying it immensely so that’s good.

I’d hoped today’s post would be longer, more articulate and less rushed. But my day was turned upside down by a fire alarm if I’m honest and I’m being more spontaneous than usual. If I get time tonight or tomorrow I do need to blog about the situation, but right now I should probably head off to the Student Life Group pizza and film evening that I was originally ditching for an Orbital social but am now going to because I want to be with those people and not the ones I don’t know (which is slightly a shame because I do want to get to know the Orbital board!).


Some future fears

I was watching a film the other week, the title of which is unimportant, but within that film one of the characters had cancer. Cancer is a very poignant issue for everyone and unfortunately I have watched friends and family suffer because of it. It wasn’t something I expected in the film, but I digress. One day I will probably blog further about cancer but that is not the point of this post.

As part of her diagnosis, the character had to undergo an MRI. I’ve had an MRI and it was actually almost an enjoyable experience. (You can read about it here: https://afterscoliosis.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/mri-and-seeking-alternatives/) Anyway, in preparing for the scan, she was asked if she had any metal on her person, because if she did it would be ripped away by the magnet, or words to that effect. I think I visibly shuddered at that.

I shouldn’t have been surprised but I’m now pretty sure I would never be able to have an MRI again. But that’s fine, CT scans and X-rays I hope are sufficient for any scoliosis related scans, and should I need any kind of brain scan then there must be alternatives.

But this got me thinking. What about my children? This in itself is partly wishful thinking, but I do hope that I will have children in the future. With scoliosis having a genetic aspect to it, surely they are of greater risk of developing it. What if they have to go through the same process as me? I was lucky that I was 14 by the time I was referred to London and understood a lot more of what was going on, but many children are younger. I wouldn’t have got through it without my parents, and I dread to think how I would’ve coped with the MRI had my mum not been there in the room with me. The idea that I wouldn’t be able to do this for my own child saddens me, especially the idea of explaining that Mummy can’t be in there with them even though I know exactly how they feel. This is all hypothetical of course, and even if I do have children they aren’t guaranteed to need as much treatment as me, and even if they do then I hope that there will be a father able to take time off work to do a role that medically I’m too at risk to do. And I can be there providing a warm hug afterwards, just like my dad did (although not after the MRI because he did have to work!)