Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category


A brief personal message

As you know, due to illness my last blog was posted on 3 September. That it was posted at all was due to a colleague who for a few weeks had been posting my blogs to help ensure my blog would continue.

The blog being published today has been written and posted personally and I will continue to write one as long as I am able. So thanks to all who, during the past weeks, have continued to read it. 

Let me end by saying you will find out more by Googling the following website:


My Death has been t suspended Temporarily)

Today that I am sitting in front of my computer at home writing this blog would have seemed inconceivable to me at around 2.30am, Sunday 8th September. That it was inconceivable is due to the fact that I was lying on bed being looked after by paramedics who in the dead of night had transported me by ambulance from my home to Canberra Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Station.  That I am alive and not a lump of dead meat was due to the care they exercised on the way from home to hospital. I have now reached the conclusion that, although the words of Dr Samuel Johnson’s were used in a slightly different context, I agree with him that the thought of imminent death concentrates the mind wonderfully.

In a sense I concentrated my mind so that it became my personal mental Google as it recalled my past life. Although unable to speak properly many thoughts reverberated in my mind and made decisions that would never be acted on. Then, mercifully, unconsciousness arrived.

Many hours later I awoke in a bed in the hospital’s acute coronary care unit where I was ministered to by a team of nurses who, as the rest of that day went by, helped encourage me to believe that my life wasn’t about to end immediately. Other people, Cardiologists and consultants led by Chief Cardiologist, Dr Ren Tan, also played a major role in reinforcing that assurance. Indeed no praise is too much for him, his staff or the nursing staff.

And let me also say thanks to my colleagues and friends who, when they visited, helped restore my confidence that life still had something to offer albeit that it was likely to be of limited duration. I say that because only a few weeks before when, less dramatically, I had been hospitalised with another heart attack.

In a non-medical sense, however, I reserve the greatest praise for my wife Valerie and daughter Elizabeth who, between them, make life worth living.

There are many other actors in this story of life and death such as the Community Nurses who every morning come to my home to administer a life sustaining injection.  Of the many others, too many to mention, my colleagues in ACTAADS Inc (the ACT Association for Advancing Disabled Sport and Recreation) particularly Chairman Jeff House, Deputy Chairman Luke Jansen, Committee Members Ian Meikle, Michael Mecham, Mark O’Neill, and Liberal MLA, Steve Doszpot.,all of whom deserve my thanks  for giving up valuable time to visit and help keep my spirits up

And let me not forget Chuck Lundquist who, during my time in hospital and since my return home, appointed himself chauffer to me and my wife. Other people who need thanking also are Merylanne and Peter Baxter, Dinny Killen and neighbours.

In part I have written this tribute to emphasise that becoming a patient at Canberra hospital is not to be feared, a fear that some people may have acquired after reading letters to the editor about difficulties faced by loved relatives and friends. It is true, no doubt, that mistakes have been made at Canberra Hospital but I suspect they occur due to inadequate management and administration procedures as well as staffing and resource shortages.

That said let me make the point that doctors and staff are not miracle workers but people dedicated to delivering the best care with the tools at their disposal. They do their best but clear they will do even better that if the tools and administrative procedures they work with and to, are improved.

Being frank, I think Canberra’s public would be happier if much of the money being spent on public art was spent on Canberra Hospital.

Comment welcome.

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Posted on: 15 May 2013

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Budget day observations and other matters

For some households Budget Day is every day of the week while for other households it falls on one day of the week. Most countries on the other have a Budget Day at least once a year.

Budgets also fall into two categories.  Category 1  budgets often spell doom to the hopes and aspirations of many voters while Category 2  budgets are like the curate’s egg, good in parts though which part is good and which is bad is good will keep Government and Opposition at each other’s throats every day until the next budget is due.

Yesterday was national budget day in Australia and after voters heard what the Australian treasurer said in his budget speech, many Australians will know what doom feels like, not that the Treasurer will agree with them. Nonetheless as his pre-budget flow of leaks had done much to prepare most Australians for disappointment, they were not surprised.

However, when the Treasurer reiterated the bad news in his budget speech, in his best a politician to his bootstraps role he laid the blame on others. He blamed the Opposition and suggested that had it been in Government, its budget would have been worse. Of course in places other than parliament this would be called lying but because in politics ‘All’s fair in love and war’ if the Opposition were the Government it would be doing the same.

As for the budget, items the Government was relying on to persuade voters that it was responsible were: ‘Disability Care’ (formerly the National Disability Insurance Scheme), its Education Plan and Income support for pensioners. However, a close examination of budget details revealed these positives were being achieved by robbing Peter to pay Paul through the imposition of swingeing cuts on current programmes.

Despite these comments as someone with a severe disability I welcome the Disability Care initiative. However, while welcoming the initiative with open arms I long ago found out that when dealing with Government initiatives one must keep ones’ eyes open for possible faults. That said, it would thus seem churlish to complain about the time it will take to roll out Disability Care on a national basis because some people will die before the scheme becomes available to them.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the PR surrounding Disability Care which suggests that every person under 65 with a disability will receive money to cover every aspect of their care. This isn’t true but unless this issue is addressed promptly and before the preliminary rollouts take place, there’s no doubt some at the tail end of the rollout queue who harbour this false expectation could be even more seriously disadvantaged.

One might also question the new education initiative. Indeed, can education progress be measured?  I subscribe to the view that people receive the best education in the University of Life and so would hate to see schools and universities churning out robotic students with little life experience just to satisfy the ambition of certain politicians and academics. Should this happen, Australia will develop a culture of regression not progression.

This can happen when ideas are locked into long time frames without any idea of what will happen as time progresses. The advent of technology, not only in IT but in medicine and other aspects of life as new materials and new methods of doing things are created, requires constant monitoring of those ideas so that they can be adapted to the new technology.

Unfortunately, it seems me that too many politicians, academics, and social scientists plus others are attempting to create a womb to the tomb community that they and their successors can control. This has been tried in the past. The history of these failures make interesting reading.

Comment welcome.

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Dementia: a personal article

Often people writing about dementia conjure up images of a woman (or women) having to be treated as children or in some cases, as people beset by madness. Such images are better consigned to the fantasy genre because it is as far from the truth about people with dementia as the earth is from the sun. It must be said also that dementia is not a disease particular to women, men, too, are affected by this dreaded disease.

In some cases but fortunately not all, it is clear the writers are not speaking from experience although at times the writing could cause some impressionable people to get the idea that dementia is a contagious disease. Such writing does nothing to advance the cause of research into the disease although it may cause un-necessary distress to members of some families.

It is unfortunate that loss of memory often comes with the onset of age. Unfortunately and too often, family members adopt the role of psychologist and start treating the person exhibiting forgetfulness as having dementia. It is even more unfortunate if they miss the fact that a young member of the family is exhibiting signs which although they might indicate the onset of dementia in an older person they ascribe them to playground accidents or stress.

Of the more obvious signs of dementia are an almost permanent state of confusion, a change in personality, an apathetic attitude to life and the withdrawal and loss of ability to do everyday tasks. In a sense although these signs are not necessarily definitive of dementia but when they are the probability is that they are but the tip of the iceberg.

The internet has a list of signs common to dementia. Unfortunately it is enormous and if used by unqualified people to make their own diagnosis it is likely to do more harm than good. It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing which is a truism in the case of dementia because it can make unqualified people feel equipped to make a diagnosis and prescribe what they think the correct treatment. This is the pathway to danger particularly in such a sensitive area.

However a clearly defined pathway exists which helps people avoid that danger. For example, spouses who think husband or wife or children who think a parent is exhibiting the foregoing symptoms should make arrangements for their GP to see them as soon as possible.

If their GP thinks it necessary, they will refer them to a Clinical Specialist in the dementia field to make a diagnosis. If the Specialist’s diagnosis says dementia, a course of treatment can then be given. Although it won’t cure the condition it will help mitigate it and make life better for the affected person. It will also help reduce any stress being felt by the family referee.

I must stress that I not an expert in dementia and that this blog merely reflects my opinion based on family experience. Probably many others could write of their experiences in language more eloquent and elegant than mine. I wish they would.

No doubt many of them, like me, have experienced seeing a woman and mother still loved after fifty three years (or more)  of marriage, decline slowly to become but a pale shadow of the woman they once knew.

In this case, fortunately, due to early diagnosis and treatment the decline has as not been as rapid as that of others although it still causes pain within the circle of her family and friends. If you are in the same boat I can but recommend you treat yourself to the great memories of your life and hopefully that the recounting will still stir memories in the other’s mind.
Comments welcome.

Take the cure: start writing

More often than not when I sit down at the computer to write, I don’t have a topic in mind. As I sit there I’ll idle my time away write something such as: Mary had a little lamb it had a curly tail and everywhere that Mary went she hung it on a nail. Suddenly not just one topic but myriad topics will spring to mind which is what happened a few minutes ago. Indeed I now have so many topics the only worry I have is that the topic I choose is of interest to readers. I’ll soon know if it is because if it isn’t readers will tell me.

For exmple the topics in this piece will be a gallimaufry of brief comments about Australian parliaments; the Pope’s resignation; politicians; the Oscar’s; the firstitis syndrome; status disease; the state of Australian education; and the state of Australia’s hospitals and health system.

Parliaments, as you know,  are gatherings of politicians most of whom credit themselves as the originators of ideas created by other people. Another distinguishing feature of politicians is that many have brass necks which , depending on wind direction can swivel in an arc of 3600. Sadly too, they have a limpet like quality which enables them to hang on to seats in parliament that voters should have pulled from under them a long time ago.

As for the Pope’s resignation, well may he have been infallible but he was not invincible. Like other mortals who, as they age, find their physical and mental capacities often distorted by pain, his decision to cast aside involvement in activities that require a clear mind and strong body at all times, seems wise.

The Oscar’s are a different kettle of fish.  I use that analogy because many of the winners seem to have been arrived at in fishy fashion. The winners also have much in common with people afflicted by the Firstitis Syndrome: a need to be first.

You would be surprised at how many people are afflicted by this syndrome. For example: athletes who have a need to be seen as number one in a particular sporting activity so that they can then spend the rest of their life boasting about it.

Despite its alleged egalitarianism Australia is a country filled with people for whom status matters more than happiness. This lack of status makes some people ill with depression. It also destroys the idea that egalitarian societies can be created by legislation.

As for education, when I read various articles and hear Education Ministers mouthing off about how their new education system will illuminate minds that seem resistant to education,  I wonder. The truth is some of these ministers and their supporters are so dim they should be sent back to school for arithmetic lessons while lessons in logic and philosophy might not go astray.

I would love to say Australian hospitals are a wonder of the world and that Australia’s health system is also in that category. I will concede that many of our hospitals are first class but unfortunately many are far from being places in which a stay ensures wellness. And as far as the health system is concerned while the free national health system has some benefits at the same time it has created a new class of people in an allegedly egalitarian society

Stuck for something to write about? Why not try my cure?

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web:;    

NB.  It’s pleasing to see the US Federal Court agrees with me that the Sea Shepherd is a pirate ship, as suggested in yesterday’s post: About Smart Aleck Bloggers, political plagiarists and Green Pirates

Tomorrow, 25th January is Burns’ Day, a day that Scots around the world hold in reverence. As an Australian Scot to show what I mean let me quote the Roman Poet Horace, who said: “Coelum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt: they change their skies and not their souls who voyage across the sea.”

However, in any tribute to Burns it would only be too easy to concentrate on his sex life rather than his poetry. Indeed, one could be tempted to say, as no doubt some worthies of his time did that, due to his dalliances with ladies too numerous to mention, it was surprising he lived for 37 years. I suspect they were jealous

So what kind of man was Burns?

He said of himself that he had “a strong appetite for sociability as well as from native hilarity as from a pride of observation and remark, a reputation for bookish knowledge, a certain wild, logical talent and a strength of thought something like the rudiments of good sense, made me a generally welcome guest.” Being endowed with the same kind of vanity, I hope that at the end of the blog you say the same of me.

Burns would also be at home in today’s world – but disappointed that the social issues he wrote about 250 years ago are still with us. Not drawing too long a bow I think Burns had an anarchist streak and that this showed in his attack on the English/Scottish parliamentary union with his poem a “parcel of rogues in a nation.”

As a reminder I give you the middle verse:

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English stell we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Unfortunately despite many attempts since to dissolve that union it has remained
Indeed were Burns alive today I think he would be would be in the vanguard of Scots trying to achieve Independence.

At another level the more I study the poems of Burns and his letters the more I feel that Burns was schizophrenic or bipolar and that he suffered from depression. I am also of the view also that had Burns been exposed to examination by today’s psychiatrics or psychologists Burns Day might never have eventuated

He certainly lived a life of contradictions: at one and the same time he was a Jacobite and a Scottish Nationalist. Indeed, many think his condemnation of class inequality and his social ideas were the building blocks of the eighteenth century socialism that later influenced the Russian Revolution which perhaps accounts for Burns being held in high regard by the Russians. As for myself, while sympathetic to his anti-clericalism I doubt he was either atheist or agnostic.

I am also inclined to the view that Burns drank to excess in an effort to cure his depression that In today’s world would have been treated by drugs which, in all likelihood would have prevent him from expressing his thoughts. So credit to John Wilson and his 350 Kilmarnock Freemasons whose generosity stopped Burns from emigrating to Jamaica.

On the other hand, perhaps had he gone to Jamaica perhaps on Burns’ day a steel band would lead in a dish of Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish and wash it down with tots of rum, instead of piping in the Haggis,

Finally, let me end with a verse from one of Burns most famous songs.

Flow gently, sweet Afton,
amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee
a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep
by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton,
disturb not her dream.

And, now, join me in a toast to the immortal memory of Scotland’s and one of the world’s greatest poets: “Robert Burns.”

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web:;

When the winning stops

And so the Olympic merry go round keeps turning in a whirl of excitement that puts pressure on the athletes to please the nation’s desire for gold medals. Unfortunately, if the gold medals do not come the fickleness of the nation comes to the fore, and because we cannot bask in the reflected glory a host of gold medals would bring us, we start looking for people to blame.

This effect is not particular to Australia; it can be seen in most nations only because people have false expectations of their athletes’ capacity. Many politicians, managers and coaches, aided and abetted by the media increase these expectations, the politicians as they seek to justify increased sporting expenditure, the managers to justify them being retained as managers; and coaches to justify their asking for more money to set up training and talent identification programmes.

After events, and only when they see an egregious difference between athletes, do commentators say that perhaps our athletes didn’t win medals because the other competitors were better. No; generally the excuse for not winning medals is that Australia had been outspent by its competitors.

Sadly, too, there is a dark side to the winning of medals which, in the main, does not become noticeable until the winning stops. It is only too easy to become depressed when the adulation stops at which time some successful athletes subconsciously decide to engage in behaviour that will keep them in the limelight.

I write this not to excuse their behaviour but simply to say that it’s about time we decided to treat athletes in the same way as we treat other performers whose capacity to perform at a higher level is longer than the athlete. We should initiate programmes that will bring them down to earth. That way, not only will their future be better but Australia’s image will be enhanced.

Shorty version published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 16/5/12

While some economists might welcome last week’s budget, battlers will remember it as the horror budget that included the unwelcome carbon tax that will make them poorer and their battles to escape poverty even harder. And no doubt Treasurer Swan will be glad to lay claim to the dubious fame of having achieved a surplus albeit that it was achieved at the expense of battlers.

Having said that no doubt you will accuse me of cynicism when I say I welcome the Federal Budget not, I hasten to add, because I agree with the economists and Treasurer Swan and other budget measures I think disagreeable but, because just as every dark cloud has a silver lining, the budget announcement of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is this budget’s silver lining.

That it is a silver lining is due to it being one of the most, if not most significant pieces of legislation because it brings hope of new life to many people with a disability and carers. Thousands of carers will welcome the NDIS, as will health professionals whose lives have been devoted to helping improve the lifestyle of people with a disability. These people will welcome the NDIS with a huge sigh of relief because it is an initiative that has been a long time coming even if it will take time to be fully implemented.

Although it has come too late for me my enthusiasm for the NDIS is because it will help many people with a disability join the wider community and become part of what erroneously is called ‘normal’ society. Speaking for myself and also as a member of a family that had two physically disabled members, neither was ever thought of as anything but normal.

And I am still connected with disability. Within my large extended family, I have a niece and nephew each with a different disability. A twenty one years old nephew is autistic and a forty three years old niece has a mental disability. However, having been encouraged to be proud of their disability they have not allowed it to hinder them in life. They are productive members of society, my nephew stacking shelves in a supermarket and my niece working in childcare.

However, I find it unfortunate that in today’s allegedly tolerant society there are still people who use the word disability as a pejorative. If you are one of them I say to you: people who use disability as a pejorative are people whose disability is even greater that the people they are trying to disparage.

As for the NDIS, it will be a boon for family members because for many years many in authority exploited their humanity by taking it for granted that it was their duty to care for disabled family members. It is not before time that their humanity is being recognised. Carers will also be pleased the community at large supports that recognition.

Importantly too, for many of them, the NDIS will help ease the financial burden they face in caring for a disabled family member.
Apart from family members, thousands of volunteer carers will also gain recognition for helping the disabled. These special people have no thought of reward other than the joy they get when, with their help, they see people with a disability for whom they care, join in activities with members of the wider community.

At the same time, family carers and volunteer carers all of whom are a special breed of human being beings recognise that, although the NDIS has been a long time coming, it will be some time before every person with a disability and every carer will receive a benefit.

Ironically the idea of the NDIS was as one of the great ideas raised at the forum staged five years ago in the early days of Kevin Rudd’s Prime Ministership. That apart, it is pleasing to note that the legislation was passed without being affected by partisan politics, perhaps encouraged by the words of Victor Hugo: “a stand can be made against an army; no stand can be made against the invasion of a good idea.”

I only wish such political co-operation happened more often.
The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news now online. Published eevery Wednesday


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