ChatterLog November 2011


Scorpio, The Scorpion (could have fooled me, what is that thing?)

Greetings everyone and welcome to the November bulletin and the secretive, seductive and scientific sign of Scorpio. Indeed there are many famous Scorpios who fall into the scientific pool, including Polish-French physicist-chemist Marie Curie (we’ll hear from her later), a Scorpio born November 7th, 1867 and American astronomer & astrophysicist Carl Sagan, born November 9th, 1934. And while we’re on the subject of astronomers, we find a number of Scorpio astrologers and occultists, such as the Irish-born Cheiro, born November 1st, 1866, known for his startlingly accurate predictions based on palmistry, astrology & numerology. Then there were astrologers John Thomas (known professionally as Charubel), born in Wales November 9th, 1826, French astrologer & psychologist Michel Gauquelin, born November 13th, 1928 and American Philip Sedgwick, born November 8th, 1950, who interestingly commenced his study of astrology while serving in the U.S. Navy. From his bio it says, “He studied copiously while deployed in two far eastern tours… This time opened the doors of realizing the value astrology offered and the many ways it could play out… A researcher by nature, Mr. Sedgwick investigated the astrological signatures of aviation disasters… Currently, he continues research relating to planetary cycles affecting commercial aviation and aerospace.” Notice that not only is he an astrologer, he is a “researcher” – another significant Scorpio trait. These people like to get to the bottom of things.

Nowadays, the word “occult” has acquired derogatory associations that have diminished the importance and relevance of these esoteric studies, including that of astrology, alchemy & magic. The word “occult” comes from the Latin word occultus meaning hidden or secret, and refers to the “knowledge of the hidden” when these studies were hidden from the layman, and became secret. In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, such as “an occult bleed.” Not surprisingly the word secret is also associated with Scorpio – need I say more? Also interesting is that Scorpio is the sign of the surgeon, and a couple of those notables are James Syme, born November 7th, 1799, a leading Scottish surgeon back in the 1800’s, and South-African cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard, born November 8th, 1922, who performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant (I remember it, I was 13 years old).

Christiaan Neethling Barnard, 1922-2001

So what is this month’s theme, you must be asking yourself? Is it astrology or science? This month, I decided to go with Scorpio’s relationship to doctors, surgeons and “Health.” What does good health mean to you? For years my mother would say, “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” And she was right. You can live in a beautiful home, have a ton of money in the bank, but if you have poor heath, none of that matters. Except in this country, you’d better have plenty of money in the bank if you do get sick. Being sick is big business over here. I remember when I first came to America I was astonished that there was no socialized heath program, available to everyone. Health Insurance was and still is prohibitively expensive to a large sector of the population, including myself. I grew up in England, and where it might not always have been perfect, we never had to worry about going to the doctor if we were sick. Here, the elderly and the infirm without sufficient funds to live on, literally have to choose between buying either their food or their medication.

Being a doctor back when I was growing up was quite different from today. Our G.P. (General Practitioner) was very eccentric and would rather talk about the cricket than do his job. Back then, doctors performed their rounds and made house calls as well as having surgeries for you to attend if you were well enough to leave your house. When my sister was born, the midwife had called the doctor because she and my mother thought the baby was coming. After a brief inspection, he decided the baby wasn’t coming quite yet, so he decided to go home for breakfast, or to watch the cricket, or perhaps both. And naturally, right after he had left, my sister arrived and they had to deliver her at home without him. Back then, it wasn’t as if you could call him up on his mobile phone so he could turn right around and come back. Knowing our doctor, he would have been pissed off at having to come back again anyway! Another time shortly after my parents had separated and my mother was living in a new place, I managed to contract Chicken Pox, as a teenager. Very nasty! I was covered in spots and itching like crazy. He came over to see me, muttered something briefly about not scratching the spots (right, like that advice worked, I still have the scars today to prove it!) and then he proceeded to climb onto the cottage roof because he had seen a couple of loose tiles. I could have been dying, but for him, the roof (and my mother’s safety) was clearly his priority that day.

Coincidentally, or not, when my parents had split up and my mother went back to work, she ended up working for doctors, and continued to do so until the day she retired. She began by working for a pair of very old-school doctors who ran their practice out of a private house in a neighboring town. As the years went by and they subsequently retired, the town built a fancy new medical center that housed even more doctors and my mother moved over there, where she stayed until she retired. She worked hard and saw many sad and funny moments. She always said the dirtiest jokes came from the drug reps that came to visit them. And it’s true. In any profession where you have to deal with very difficult or tragic situations, we often have to use humor to make it through. When it came to taking care of herself mind you, my mother drank and smoked and she enjoyed herself until it all caught up with her in her 70’s. She had been lucky in many ways, but once she did get sick, it was difficult to see her in so much pain and gradually declining. She hung on into her 80’s, but once she was in the Nursing Home and the penny finally dropped that she would never return to her own home, she pretty much made up her mind to go at that point, and she didn’t hang around for that much longer.

Walking conference with Dr. + 2 nurse/assists at Armour Academic Medical Center, IL

© Mark Segal

My father had a few narrow escapes on the health front over the years, but perhaps his finest and most dramatic moment was when he went into anaphylactic shock a couple of summers ago. He was already in poor health by then, and in a wheelchair, but it hadn’t deterred him from attending the annual Ellingham Show where he liked to sponsor some of the events, in particular, the heavy horses. So there he was in the members’ tent, gratefully sipping on his first glass of lager, and he managed to ingest a bee, which promptly stung him. His tongue started to swell, and he fell out of the chair onto the ground and stopped breathing. As luck would have it, there was a doctor in the member’s tent, (you can’t make this stuff up, and I think he might even have been a heart surgeon, but whatever he was, he knew what he was doing) who promptly started performing CPR on my father and thumping his chest. My father spoke afterwards of how bruised he was, but the guy had saved his life so he couldn’t complain too much.

Now, as they were in a tent in the middle of a muddy field in the Hampshire countryside, it would have taken the ambulance a long time to reach him by road, so instead, they flew in a rescue helicopter from the Air Ambulance and whisked him off to hospital that way. He told me later that the helicopter was quite small and they loaded him in through the back end, much like being stuffed up a smartie tube, he said. For those of you that don’t know what smarties are, they’re the English equivalent to M&M’s and they come in cardboard tubes instead of bags! The tubes are quite small, so even in the height of my father’s medical emergency, he was well aware of his confinement in said rescue helicopter. There’s lots of great information and photos on the Air Ambulance website, but when I found this next image from their 2010 “Bag a Bra” day I couldn’t resist showing it (what that has to do with air rescue, I’m not too sure but on closer reading, I discovered they were collecting discarded bras to be recycled and sent to Africa.) Now if they’d dressed the helicopter like that on the day they rescued my dad, I bet he’d have been well pleased and forgotten all about the smartie tube!

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance “Bag a Bra” Day

May 27th, 2010

And another funny anecdote to this story is that earlier this year, my sister attended a meeting to find out about volunteering at the local hospital, and the speaker that evening was from none other than the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. And not only did the gentleman recall my father’s case very clearly, he had also met him in the pub some weeks afterwards when he was dropping off the charity’s collection box. The Air Ambulance receives no funding from central government – it relies solely on voluntary donations. The publican knew of my father’s rescue (naturally!) so as my father was there that day, he introduced them to one another and once again, my father expressed his extreme gratitude for the Air Ambulance having helped to save his life. Knowing my father, he probably bought the guy a pint while he was at it!

And wishing all you Scorpios out there a very Happy Birthday!