Fighting the Pain

Thursday, October 27, 2016 by Anna Leida

The pain is gone. Tjohoo! Well, not gone, but the pain in the left foot is now starting to bother me, and that must mean that the hip-pain, which used to outweigh the footpain by about a factor 10, must be diminishing. Yesterday I walked around pretty much all day without feeling more than slight cause of annoyance. Great! The foot is definitely stress fracture though, considering where it is and how long its been going on, so lets keep walking on hands for yet some time...

For the Health of Current Generations

Thursday, October 13, 2016 by Anna Leida

Two years ago I was hired for my dream job. It nearly killed me. And the prospect of dying that was not the worst - I also had to quit. After two years of ups-and-downs in depression alternatingly thinking "Oh, my god I am going to die" and "Crap, that sort of chance only comes around once in a lifetime" - I am there again. I got hired for my dream job. Again. Same country, same city, same employer, same type of work. Just a different project. And now I am alternating thinking "Am I REALLY doing this again?" and "There HAS to be some way of doing it better this time".

I don't want to die because of a job.

I would prefer not dying at all, but if that's not an option, I'll go for dying from something I can not avoid by being just a little bit smarter. So what's the story?

In 2014 I was working the last year of my doctoral thesis on remote from another country. The commute was a bit of a nuisance. So I started applying for a side job. And got the best job you could ever imagine - building computer systems for the largest biobank project in the world. Patient privacy, top level data security, the very highest demands for accuracy and a great vision. Enough to make a Life Science Computer Nerd drool. Granted, all the money in the project went to the voluntary participants and the data analysis, so the work environment for personel was not exactly top notch. The IT team worked out of a bunker with no windows and more or less antique furniture. But the computers where the latest model, and for a computer nerd, that's what counts. So I limited myself to pointing out the dangers of ill fitting desks and chairs in writing upon employment, thinking I would carefully raise the subject later, when I had established my position as a brilliant yet engaged and approachable programmer. I never got the chance.

Three weeks into the employment I went home from work one day and found myself unusually tired and having trouble breathing, as if after a cold. In the middle of a hot summer with high humudity this didn't really raise an alarm at first. But after a few days I started realizing that something was wrong. After a few days more I tracked down an infirmary.
- Hi, I seem to be having trouble breathing, I said, covering up the panic.
- Mhm, said the nurse. Are you registered here?
- No, I said.
- Ok, she said. Then fill out this form and return it.
- And then can I see a doctor?
- No, she said. When we receive the filled out form we will shedule you for an appointemnt with a nurse who will take your details and discuss you general health with you. After that we can make an appointment to see a doctor.
- How long will that take, I asked.
- It will probably take about a week to get the appointment with the nurse, she said. After that there's no tell. There's a lot of people now.
- But this not being able to breath thing is really starting to become a nuissance, I tried.
- Mhm, she said, looking down at her papers.

I never had time to go see the nurse. A couple of days later I was rushed to the infirmary by a family member. A both side pulmonary embolism was detected, grown into 3/4 of both lungs during the long wait before treatment. I was on blood thinners for a year, continuous examinations of various kinds for almost as long, and the panic attacks induced by the slightest cold or change in the air still linguers. The most common reason for an embolism is long haul flights, injury or surgery and genetics. I had none. The explanation was simple: Sitting still for too long at work, wrapped up in one or another fascinating computing task. I had been on the way to work myself to death, helped along by the ill fitting work equipment of a project whose slogan is "For the Health of Future Generations". The irony mixed very well with my blackened sense of humour during the first few months groveling in bed and swimming in an ocean of uncertainty and insecurity. And a nagging question of how much my employers actually knew of the risks they were exposing us to. A question I have not yet received an answer to, because I have yet been to afraid to ask the question.

I survived it. No more medicine, but for the rest of my life a higher risk of having another one. And now I am back again. The doctoral thesis is again coming to an end, and I started applying for work again, thinking I will never get the same chance again. And so I did. But this time, I do things differently:

- I will no longer spend all my energy at work, thinking I can live life later. There will be no later, and Now is all we have.
- I will no longer spend even a day at a job in which I can find no meaning. Begging in the street of your own choice and under your own conditions is better than dying knowing you spent all your time achieving nothing. Remember that time is the currency of life - not the shiny kind.
- I will never work a full day without a break anymore, and I will go exercising in my beloved swimming pool as many days of the week as I can spare.
- If presented with a working space where I cannot adjust the equipment to allow for a decent working position, I will be sure to raise the issue immiditately - even if it gets me fired on the spot.
- Whenever I can I will ask the question: Elevatable tables is standard equipment in close to every country by now. Why should the UK be any different? An easy, relatively cheap way to reduce the risk not only of lethal conditions such as embolisms, but also of cardiac conditions, back pain and repetitive strain injury. How much can it cost to make a difference - for the Health of Current Generations?

The Airport

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 by Anna Leida

An airport is a great allegory for life. You land somewhere unfamiliar, unknown and try to follow some signs around which may or may not lead you in the right direction. at last you end up in what you think is the right place and you settle down to wait. Wati to take off to another unknown. The rest of the time you spend trying to figure out how to pass the time while you wait.