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A Google Author

A major blog interviewed me last month, and the key question that they asked me was how do I do my research?

The complex plots and subplots of my book Harvester, one person accused me of the phenomenon of the ‘google author’ concept and that the life experiences that I experienced weren’t possible. This kind of inflammatory comment would’ve sent me over the edge in younger years, but I let it wash over me like a tepid tide, but it got me a thinking.

I think I own the most varied CV in the world. The only thing I left school with as a Sixteen-year-old, was a packet of fags, and an ancient dog-eared copy of Razzle magazine and a worn pirate copy of The Alarms – Declaration. But I had a drive that was coming from somewhere and a burning desire to shoot people. I got one O’ level though, in Biology, which came into play in later life.

I then spent the next ten years in the army. The Infantry, shooting things and being shot at. I grew up quickly while on the streets of Northern Ireland; they were tough, mean and dangerous. It shaped the person I became in so many ways.After that, I joined the family firm and became a potter. These are the times I miss the most. They were idyllic and perfect. Working amongst the rolling hills of Dorset in the South West of England, nothing could be more amazing. The business grew to where we had to sell up. I became a full-time dad to our young children, again, some of the best days of my life. My relationship with my now grown-up kids is a close bond of which I do not take for granted. It was during this period; I realised that the wind blowing between my ears was in fact cognitive thought. What was weird, I was pretty good at it? I guess this was my search for meaning, and I just didn’t know what to do.                                                                                                                               So I searched what would be a suitable job for a thirty-something to do that had substance and came across a career as an Operating Department Practitioner. I stayed on at university for another four years and became a surgical first assistant and getting a whole heap of post-grad certificates, which I can’t find anymore. I’ve covered everything in surgery from orthopaedics, which I love, to cardio- thoracic, neuro, general surgery, ENT, MaxFax, urology, obs and gynae. I am dual qualified in assisting and anaesthetics, which makes me a rare commodity. I can slot anywhere within the surgical setting and be comfortable.

What has this got to do with researching books?

I have a broad knowledge of surgery, disease and trauma, drugs, the humanistic interaction between medical professionals and their patients, which are often complex along with trauma and the worst conditions that we as humans suffer with. I had coupled along with my military background with law enforcement in Northern Ireland, there’s not much I haven’t seen or done.                                                                                                                                           I know firsthand what it’s like to lose a patient, I cannot recall any of my patients that left the OR and made a full recovery from their treatment.                                                                The dead, though? I remember those. All of those, their names, what they looked like. They sit in a melange of emotions, which include high stress, guilt, anger and distress and sometimes, utter heartbreak. I’ve not done CPR on anyone and not broken most of their ribs; I had my hands, deep inside a patient, around their aorta, trying to stop a patient bleeding to death while helping a surgeon, likewise; I sat and held the hand of a dying father while he told his son how much he loved him on the phone, and how proud he was of him. Sadly, not being able to be by his father’s side in the last moments.                                                     The man looked at me square in the face with some form of clarity as he faced his own mortality; he thanked me for being there and that it meant everything to him, and it meant everything to me. I hope that I made up for his son’s absence. It’s these things that stay in my mind, that keeps me focussed, charged and driven to be the best person I can be.

I also can remember the first time that someone tried to kill me, the sound, the energy, the stones being flicked into my eye from the ricocheting bullets, the twenty litre can of water being tossed into the air as 7.62mm rounds slammed into the ground either side of me.

I remember I was about to be mortared, and when the first one came into my base, I saw glass almost bend concave slowly as the blast swept through until the glass surrendered and smashed to a thousand pieces. Why did I survive while others didn’t? I have no idea. Many friends who are not with me today, dead from enemy action, or even the biggest killer, the enemy within. These voices in my head, as does most of us that walk this path, I am not immune to the label of complex-PTSD, I won’t affirm to like it, but there it is.                        My body has spent most of its life in fight-or-flight mode, something that I am learning slowly to deal with, with the help of a therapist. Every day that my brother’s and I make it through another day is a day we can chalk up to success. I hope that this transcribes into the narrative of the books I write.

I am an educationalist by nature; I love learning and reading deeper into the psychology of people which easily turns me on. How people tick. We’re not all that unique. Humans are humans, and a large proportion are wonderful souls that want nothing but good from this life. The scum bags, villains, and psychos are these are the people I am keenest over, and this behaviour really inspires my writing.                                                                                     Take this current covid-19 pandemic, people are so predictable in how they behave, this fascinates me and use that core human interaction in my books. My protagonist Alex Brown is especially deft at dealing with human emotions on many levels, I love how she sees the lie coming, and heads the lie off at the pass, Alex is a character that has been through the mill. Psychologist’s would call hypersensitive, on a more spiritual level, you would call Alex an Empath. These are complex cognitive skills which learnt as an Empath myself. When you spend most of your life in the fight-or-flight mode, and living in what they describe as one of the 4F’s, your brain becomes like a sponge.

I hear the term Google Authors. That’s something that I definitely am not.

 

On another thought, most of you know that they benched me from my day job. The consequences of sarcoidosis prevented me from being at the front end of the pandemic. Never walking away from a fight, but I had too. This caused a stir of emotions in me that made me reflect. I hope that we learn from the stay home, stay safe lockdown, and struggle to understand the thought process of some people about being ‘stuck at home.’ Clock the choice of words – safe at home – or stuck at home?

But after I had a conversation with a close friend of mine, I asked if I could narrate this conversation in a transcription on my blog. They agreed. They will, however, be anonymised as their location.

A snapshot of a critical care professional, in an acute hospital; UK.

The lead up to the Easter weekend, I had three days off, which I needed. I had been beasted for seven solid days. The patients were building in a level I had never seen before. This was on the back end of four tours in Afghan, three tours in Iraq and working in the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and the natural disaster of Haiti.

Three nights separated me and my Easter eggs from my wife and children.

I walked into the hospital thirty minutes before the shift started at 8PM. The atmosphere in the hospital had changed. We had seen a massive spike in admissions and a string of deaths. But the tone of the hospital was like DEFCON 1.

The critical care unit entrance, I counted fifteen gurneys, all with coarse breathing, blue tinged people, most in distress but weirdly, were still on their phones. All waiting for admission to my ward. I got into the unit which was the third ICU ward we had set up. The hand over was succinct, the day staff looked like they had been through the mill, most had no breaks and they had had their fill of coding patients with nothing that could be done. They needed to go home immediately and escape the madness.

The worst thing about all of this is the donning and doffing of PPE. It’s time consuming and exhausting. Your mind is constantly pushing you to take short cuts, but when you consider the viral load that was floating around the critical care units, short cuts meant you would be on the fast lane to a ventilator.

I had three patients to over see, buddying up and watching each others backs. The equipment was uncomfortable. The bridge of my nose at one point bled, my lips in a constant purse, trying to slowly draw air in so to not break the seal of the respirator. A habit I picked up in the fetid heat of Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis.

Every night at around 2AM, all the patients would spike their blood pressure and temperature. This was the witching hour. The patients were taken from us, it was as though the reaper came to visit at this time every day. Another call to a relative. It doesn’t matter what time you make that call, the phone rings only once, then to deliver news that they had been dreading. That Thursday night, we lost on our ward, eight patient’s. We had intubated, and placed on a ventilator’s another 22, an unprecedented number.

By the time that I sat down with my children on Easter Sunday at breakfast and eat my eggs. The best time in the year for me. The sun seems to always shine; the birds sing their hearts out while the flowers are exploding like silent fireworks.

But my body was numb, exhausted. I couldn’t even speak, I was so emotionally withdrawn; I didn’t know if these were flashbacks from my time in the army, or the last three nights. The crying didn’t come until the privacy of my bedroom, but my eyes were brimming all the way home, and while I sat at the table. My mouth would twitch and tremble to force a smile, all the while trying to hold it together, I felt my soul weep in a way I didn’t think possible.

My wife knew, a veteran in her own right with the military tours that I had done. She handled it in a way that I just can’t express. I had signed off on over forty dead. I saw them all die a horrible death. A slow drowning. There were no heroics jumping on the chest, no shocks, no pushing drugs. I noticed one person, young. They had just died while the phone was still open. Three messages from a friend, asking why they hadn’t replied to the comment above. I see this flashing cursor each time I close eyes.

Everything disconnected and while the body cooled, their space was occupied with another blue breather. Another patient that was part of the six percenters that would throw the dice of luck with this virus. We silently moved on to the next, with nodding winks, chest pat’s, fist bumps and a silent love that was growing in me for every person who worked that night.

Mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, black, white. It didn’t matter who you was. It was the cruelest of the cruel. It showed no prejudice. I was numb to even judge the people not socially distance on the way home. I stare with horror with what is happening in America. Those poor people.

We don’t call for a fly past, or rounds of applause, although appreciated. What we lack is better pay and better conditions.

You wouldn’t ask a firefighter to enter a burning building without a breathing device, or send a soldier to war without a weapon. Yet the government seems to think it’s okay to let medical staff wear bin bags and paper masks as a form of PPE.                                                          What terrifies me more, is that the government can chop and modify the policies to suit their agendas, while these inconsistencies are killing us.

That weekend over Easter we saw one of our own die on our ward. And we still can’t take breaks, not because of staffing, which is another issue, but because there was no PPE to change into once you had had your break.

We all hope, in the NHS, when this will be finally over, that the gratitude that is overflowing, continues. Because if not, what would this all been for?

Sobering thoughts. This is a snapshot of thousands of my colleagues from around the world doing the job they love for little pay and benefits. The one thing I hope is that our government seriously takes a step back and addresses the shocking pay conditions the health sector has experienced over the last twenty years.

Heres the links to my Amazon page for my list of books that are on sale.

 

And I will leave those thoughts with you, as always, love and light to you, and….                Stay Frosty out there.

Jb

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