Category Archives: Health
I Need Your Help With The Cancer Diaries
When I was told that I had cancer, I wondered if I might turn it into a moment. When you watch programs like American Idol, you hear of the hardship people went through, which motivated them to enter the competition.
One such ‘moment’ was that with my promotion of Relay For Life, I told my story about catching PROSTATE CANCER early, which motivated more than 20 men got themselves tested, which is awesome.
I started writing songs about my journey and decided to create an EP called THE CANCER Diaries and combine that with a music video, which would tell my stories of tough times and of hope. The final song, which is half-finished will culminate in a song called Dare to Dream, which needs the backing of a gospel choir for the emotionally inspiring (I hope) finale.
The intention was, and is, to donate the finished product to the cancer society. I am hopeful that it will help other people on their journeys with cancer or in support of people with cancer, as it did me in writing and playing the songs.
Anway, life got in the way.
Since COVID19, the good people at Boosted have set up a program for artists, especially musicians and songwriters to raise funds and koha because they are unable to perform live during the lockdown period. I told them about my idea and they said that it sounded like a great project for a Boosted campaign.
So I have set one up, which you can find here. I will be performing live on Sunday evening at 5 PM right there on that page. Hopefully, it will go well. It took me most of yesterday to get my sound gear working for streaming. It’s probably been a year since I was last on Twitch or YouTube live.
So the plan is to finish the songs, record them in a studio together with a few volunteer musos and create The Cancer Diaries EP and video. I’m also hoping for support from other people who can help with video and especially with a gospel choir. Do you have one hanging around somewhere?
I also need your help to spread the word about the campaign which runs for 30 days from today, in any way or form that you can.
Live Tracking Coronavirus on a Map
I wrote this 3 weeks ago. Since then almost 80,000 people have contracted the virus, 2,130 people have died from it and whilst some say it is reaching a plateau, the cruise ship in Yokohama and increasing spread in Asia is growing dramatically.
I continue to be most disappointed with the racist behaviour all over the world, including my home country of New Zealand. Most of us said that the mosque shooting in Christchurch had changed us and that we would call out inappropriate behaviour when we saw it.
Well, I’m calling it out. There is plenty of racism in this country and when we stand proud of what makes us Kiwis. We need to embrace the multiculturalism. Yes, this started in China. That does not make people of Chinese ethnicity bad people, or people to be afraid of. I’m sure many of them are far more afraid of each other, but not because of their ethnicity, simply because of where they have been.
Come on Kiwis, pull up your grown-ups pants and set the example! If and when we get Coronavirus, wouldn’t it be ironic if ‘patient one’ is of European or Polynesian ethnicity. Imagine if people were afraid of us?
I know if you read my blogs that you are not racist. I also know we have to call out this scourge when you see it. I’m horrified by news stories of people asking why Asians are allowed on buses, or in our swimming pools, yelling at school children! We need to be careful, sure, but we are damaging relationships with our own people here, which will take longer for some to recover from, than the virus.
Johns Hopkins CSSE has developed and published a GIS web map tool, whereby you can live track the spread of Coronavirus on a map. I feel the pedigree is important, because when I listen to my Alexa news brief each day, no two news broadcasters have the same numbers.
Like you I want to know how serious this is, especially now that WHO declared Coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and today as a Global Emergency.
You can view the map in detail, zooming into any part of the map and see the geographic spread inasmuch as ‘facts’ have been reported. I suspect given the pedigree and resources, this will be as good information as any.
Adding a glimmer of hope, it not only shows the number of deaths and where they occured, but also the number of people who have recovered and where…
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What Your GP or Physio Should Tell you if you Have an Accident in New Zealand.
As you may have seen from earlier posts, I had a back accident 15 months ago and after 4 visits to hospital, the most recent being of 7 days duration, I am still no nearer to getting the surgery my orthopedic spine specialist / surgeon recommended for me and requested ACC to fund.
What went wrong?
I’m going to tell you about 2 critical things. The first is about how I injured myself, by which I mean the primary cause and the second is about who I got referred to.
The Primary Cause
My latest accident didn’t seem like much. I was at my 6th Relay For Life in March last year and ready to walk a marathon distance (my goal, which I achieved) over 18 hours.
Setting up prior to the event and prior to heading for the survivors’ tent (I am in remission from prostate cancer), we had a 4 room tent to set up, and the poles and pegs were in a big bag in the trailer that was provided by the organisers to get our gear from the car park to our team site.
It was super heavy. No one seemed to want to get it out, including the guy driving the tractor. So I tried. Unfortunately, my back couldn’t take it and I ended up with a back strain injury that still has me off work today, 15 months later.
I managed to do the distance through the use of medications like Panadeine and I had booked a couple of days annual leave after the event to recover, based on previous years experience. I also had a float and massage the following day, so I didn’t feel too bad after that. A bit sore, but otherwise OK.
A few weeks later, on ANZAC Day, in fact; I remember because it occured on the weekend before the public holiday (a Wednesday) and my wife and I had taken the Thursday and Friday off to go away in the Corvette for a few days holiday.
It had been raining, and on the Sunday before our planned holiday, I mowed the lawn and using the catcher to collect the heavy wet grass. I had to twist on an awkward angle to detach the catcher from the mower, twisted my back again, and the rest as they say was history.
You can read previous blogs but the key point was that whilst an MRI showed damage, ACC weren’t satisfied with the injury having been caused by the incident, they said it was age based degenerative disc disease. They said they would try to see if a previous injury could be relevant that they could tie it to which would convince them to cover the cost of the surgery and herein lies the problem.
A Skydiving Accident
Many years ago I had a skydiving accident. It was a tandem jump and if you have ever experienced one, you know that the customer is at the bottom and the Jumpmaster is on top. When she tried to flare at about 30 feet we got into an air pocket and instead of opening up, the parachute closed down. Instead of gliding to a running stop, we dropped and I took her weight on top of my own, on my tailbone.
It hurt like mad, but I was also flying high on adrenaline from the jump, so I didn’t really feel the pain that much. That night it was very sore, but we went to a big neighbourhood party and I found that bourbon acted as a great pain killer, so I managed pretty well and enjoyed the festivities as long as I didn’t make any sudden moves.
That night there was a bit of a storm and one of our trees was blown over.
The following morning, I was trying to clear branches in our yard, bent down and found I couldn’t straighten up again.
I went to physio who asked what happened and I told my story, the ACC record said “bent down and hurt back while picking up branches in garden”. I had 26 physio visits, was referred to Pilates and was assigned a personal trainer.
I did talk to them all about the sky diving, but it never made it to the ACC records. It therefore registered as a strain.
I was racing my land yacht in a 180 km enduro on 90 mile beach. I crashed at the northern end of the beach, picked myself up and raced back again and had to endure racing through snapper holes around Ahipara Beach, which is like racing on sheets of corrugated iron. Lots of pain, but again lots of adrenaline. For much of the race, I was going at speeds of up to 100 kph on a thin cushion as you can see on the video above, and with my feet sitting on a steering rod so all of my weight was on the lumbar area of my back.
At the end of the weekend it was a 5 hour drive back home to Auckland and a couple of days later, guess what? I was in the garden again, bending over and suffered intense back pain.
Guess what went on my ACC record?
Lots of physio for an injury sustained doing gardening.
So, when the specialist looking for reasons to not approve surgery (me having had every other treatment they could think of, for over seven months), they looked at what I had been referred for (back strain), looked at old injuries sustained in the garden, so probably not significant, all because I didn’t understand the importance of mentioning the crash or the sky diving on the initial ACC form. After all I was getting treatment. That was all I was concerned with at the time.
I might have got a very different response to my request for surgery if the primary causes of injuries had been clearly recorded, instead of lost to obscurity. Now I am chasing a Review of ACC’s decision not to fund the surgery which is going to be time consuming and expensive.
So if you are injured and covered by ACC, make sure that, irrespective of which straw broke the patient’s back, that the primary cause of injury is documented, even if you are happy that the treatment will fix the problem.
I’m now in a situation after many back injuries, that ACC are claiming age based disc degeneration disease and I am going to have to prove that I did in fact sustain some major injuries and that it was the cumulative impact of those injuries that has me now needing expensive surgery.
If I had made sure they had all the information correctly recorded, it would probably have been plain sailing for me now, instead of 15 months off work, the possibility of losing my job, and a long, expensive and stressful battle to get my back repaired so I can get back to work.
2. If Referred to a Specialist, Make Sure it is one who Operates in Your Local Public Hospital.
I was referred to a very good surgeon by my GP, largely because he is one of the category of trying everything else before getting the scalpel out and doing major surgery, which in my case will involve 2 surgeons for 4-5 hours and a 5-day stay in hospital.
Because of all the drama with ACC (New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Commission), in April I asked my GP (at the recommendation of my surgeon) to refer me to the public hospital. Whilst I have other medical insurance, it only pays (up to) 80% of the costs, which means I would personally be up for around $18,000 that I have to find myself. It could even be more because they won’t know exactly what they have to do until they cut me open.
So I was referred as ‘URGENT’ to North Shore Hospital on the 4th of April this year. I told them I was not working and that I could come at short notice and asked if they would put me on the cancellation list and they said “Yes, we have a cancellation list, is there anything else?”
I rang a few times, mostly talked to voicemail and the first time I spoke to someone they said “It’s only been a month!” To which I responded, “yes but I was referred as urgent.”
This month I had a flare up and spent 7 days in the Orthopedic Ward at North Shore Hospital. They did an MRI, hooked me up with a pain team and eventually once the pain was under control with drugs, they let me go home.
They told me that the stay would not be seen as my First Specialist Assessment (FSA) for which there is an expectation that you will be seen within 4 months of referral. They said that the Orthopedics Team knew about me and I would probably now be seen within 2 weeks. So they scripted 2 weeks of pain medication for me. They said I would get a confirmation letter from the hospital.
So I got out of hospital on the Sunday, waited until Wednesday and rang to find out when my appointment would be. I had to leave a message on their voicemail. I rang again on Friday and again left voicemail.
On Monday this week I got a phone call telling me that they did in fact have a date for me in late August. Today is the 17th of July.
So much for my 2 weeks of pain medication. I should have got the message when the doctor who checked me out of hospital laughed when I said I was expecting to be seen in 2 weeks.
If my GP had originally referred me to a specialist who also worked on the public health at North Shore Hospital, there is every likelihood that I would have been referred for surgery at the hospital in November last year, and could well have been back at work by the beginning of this year.
Now instead, I am still waiting for a First Assessment, and they will want to decide for themselves what treatment I should have. So while the logic behind my original referral was sound, the end result is that it set me back anything up to a year.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the point I am making is that you, dear reader, may have a back injury like me, or perhaps a knee or shoulder injury from playing sport.
By learning from my experience, you might be able to have a better experience, receiving treatment within the same year of your injury and not jeopardising your employment and having double the stress.
Being in severe chronic pain for over a year is horrific. The potential consequences can be many including
- losing your job,
- becoming addicted to pain medications,
- sleep deprivation with all that comes with that,
- becoming stressed to the point of depression,
- having no social life or family life,
- which also results in relationship stress.
Here are two ways you can reduce the risk of experiencing what I’m going through.
- If you injure yourself doing something major and then aggravate it with a lesser injury. Insist that the cause on the ACC form is the major impact and the secondary injury is clearly shown as secondary. It might not matter now, but in 10 or 20 years it could save you from the horrible 15 months I’ve endured so far.
- If you need to be referred to a surgeon, even if you have medical insurance, get referred to one who operates from your local public hospital. You may not end up needing to go public, but at least you have viable options and it could save you many months in getting treated.
The Backstory on My Back
Hi, I’m ACC 18 Number 201905123684, I’ve swapped the numbers a little, although it probably doesn’t make any difference. I’m fairly well known.
My back story consists largely of digital files and probably a few manila folders and other storage media in several Accident Compensation Commission, medical, physio, specialist, hospital, surgeon, Occupational Therapist, Pain Specialist offices around New Zealand. They get shuffled from time to time.
Having said that, everyone on my journey has been friendly, thoughtful and most have tried to help me. A few, who I haven’t met, somewhere in the system have the job of helping ACC to not have to pay for my surgery, with considered justification. I’ll talk about that too.
In March 2018, I hurt my back getting ready to set up for the Auckland Cancer Society’s North Shore Relay for Life event. The annual 18-hour relay, raising funds for cancer services which I have completed 6 times. I started with my family in honor of family members who have died from cancer, including my late father-in-law.
Then I got cancer myself, and during the fund-raising process I’m proud to say that over 30 men got tested for Prostate cancer because of my story, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I was given the honour of speaking at the opening, having refreshments in the survivors’ tent and carrying one of the flags in the first survivors’ lap. A humbling and emotional experience.
Trying, unsuccessfully, to awkwardly pick up a bag of tent poles out of a trailer provided at the venue by the organizers, for a 4 room tent, would set off a chain of events that has opened my eyes to the plight of many New Zealanders, who desperately want to work, but can’t, because the health system is underfunded, under resourced and inefficient.I became one of them.
I have a job. I hold a management role at the NZTA, a job I love with an awesome team of people who provide mostly Real Time Travel Information to motorists and travelers around the country.
It’s been 14 months since my injury.
My Occupational Therapist, GP, Pain Specialist and my Manager have agreed that I can work 2 three-hour days a week. ACC funds taxis to get me there as I could be a danger to myself and others, under the daily pain medication regime I’m on. That allows me to do something productive as well as socialize with my colleagues and not feel totally divorced from my work.
It was part of my back to work program, which has stalled since the Orthopedic Surgeon advised me that we had ‘painted our backs into a corner, having tried every alternative to fusion and discectomy surgery.’
I am incredibly grateful that the NZTA hasn’t dropped me under the bus and that I still have a job, although I am not currently able to perform my normal duties.
Over the next while, along with other activities, I’m going to talk about my life, one shared with my family and friends, colleagues and the health system.
I’m going to talk about what happened, about why I still can’t go back to work, why I am still waiting for surgery after 14 months. How ACC don’t want to pay for the surgery, how I can’t afford to pay for the excess if I went private, and my current experience with the Auckland District Health Board and North Shore Hospital, where I was referred as an Urgent Patient on the 9th of April.
I have not yet been able to connect with the person who makes appointments. When I rang them at the end of April, the hospital representative at the Patient Service Centre said they must see me within 4 months, and it was too early to ring. I was told it wasn’t worth ringing before the end of May and even then, not to get my hopes up. I rang today and left a message on their voicemail.
I have Prostate Cancer.
During the dark days of 8 weeks of radiation treatment, followed by chemicals, I think I had less than a week off work, on the odd day when I was so fatigued that I couldn’t function.
I arranged my radiation sessions to be around 7AM every morning so that I could go straight on to work afterwards, and still be on time. That’s how I roll.
I am now fortunately in remission, and my latest blood test last week showed a good result. The irony is that Cancer is fatal and there is every possibility that one day, hopefully decades away, it will kill me.
On the other hand, chances are very good that after back surgery, I will be a little sore from time to time, manageable with over the counter pain relief. Yet, for cancer I had less than a week off work and with a back injury it has now been over a year!
Mine is a common story, but one with which for the first 40 years of my working life I had no personal experience. I’d heard stories, mostly about people who allegedly don’t want to work, and enjoy living off the taxpayer’s dollar, but there are so many more people like me, who desperately want to work and contribute to society. If you have a look at my profile on LinkedIn you will read that my goal in life has always been to help people.
I consider my work important, a contribution to reducing the pain of traveling on our ever more congested road network by offering information about planned and unplanned events, about expected delays, alternative routes, alternate modes of transport, helping people plan for holiday road trips and much more.
I lead a team of awesome people who really care about you, their customers. It matters to me, but I’m being kept from it.
It’s funny, we talk about the cost to society of people who are needlessly killed on our roads. The cost takes into consideration the contribution they will make to the country’s GDP over their lives. Yet, the cost to taxpayers to get me back to work by providing me with back surgery, is far less than the cost of keeping me away from work.
As I said, mine is a common story, but it’s not one that people like you and I can easily relate to, unless we are directly affected.
Of course, in each instance, it’s not just the patient, it’s our partners, our family, our friends, our colleagues and of course the workload that must be done by someone else, or perhaps not at all.
I’ll try to make the story interesting, maybe even have the odd laugh. But let me tell you, this is no joke. I have gone from being super positive and highly motivated, with a bucket list of things I want to do which I prepared when I found out I have cancer, to being virtually trapped in my home, on the border of depression, not being able to stand, sit or lie down for any length of time without significant pain.
I’ll share an email I sent to ACC after having read a report prepared for them by a specialist, who said that “The patient appears to be doing reasonably well”.
Interestingly, this person who was paid by ACC to investigate my case did not once speak to myself, my GP, my Orthopedic Specialist, my Case Manager, my Pain Manager or my Physio.
I guess ‘reasonably well’ is a relative expression. I’m not dying.
The email is quite personal, but that’s really the point. I am a person.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m hoping to hear back from the hospital today and am getting on with other things in the meantime.
You may find my story interesting; you may be in a similar situation yourself. I know I’m not alone. I understand it was stated in Parliament Question Time last week that the number of elective surgeries completed last year was 10,000 ‘elective’ surgeries less than the year before. Reasons included strikes and funding. It’s little wonder it could take months for me to just be able to speak to someone.
Feel free to comment or ask questions. I know I’m not alone here and you may be in a similar situation to mine. I grew up as a fan of New Zealand’s welfare state. I learned that we are the system and that if we don’t stand up for something, no one else will either. I just didn’t know how bad it was.
So, you there. Have you had any experiences like mine? How do you get some action without ruffling people’s feathers and having your manila folder dropped down the list a little? Of course, that wouldn’t happen would it?
I welcome your comments.
My Injured Back Loves Float Culture AND my 4th Float in 1987
If you have been following these blogs, you will know that I have been off work with 3 bulging discs in my back. On Monday the surgeon told me we have now tried all non-invasive treatments and he has sent an application to ACC, our national insurer for accident injuries, for fusion surgery. The good news is that after the surgery has been completed it will simply be a matter of recovering and a 99% likelihood of getting back to normal work. Believe me when I say I am eager to get back.
Meanwhile, I’ve been going to Float Culture a bit more often and I have to tell you it is having results. Yesterday I felt the least pain over a complete day since I injured myself back in April. I was down to pretty much zero inside the tank and about 3/10 when I got home after the massage from Kim. When I went to bed it was about 5/10, normally 7/10 and today the following morning, after my exercises, it is about 4/10. I didn’t have to get up in the night, although I did wake at 4.
I believe this is the cumulative effect of previous floats, which is amazing, because even with the drugs, this is the best I have been. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts. If you suffer from chronic back pain or other limbs, I strongly recommend you try floating together with massage after the float.
I don’t get anything for this, I’m not an affiliate or anything, I pay the same as anyone else, but tell them Luigi sent you:)
So back to the future and my 4th ever float from my journal in 1987
I fell into a relaxed state very easily this time. Nothing very interesting. I felt tension in various muscles that had been used in the last few days.
Several times I noticed that I was floating deeper in the water than previously. I take that to indicate deeper relaxation and less oxygen in my system. I.e. I was breathing more shallow.
I had a number of violent muscle spasms, some causing minor splashes. Not painful, but sharp and sudden.
A highlight was a sensation that I was a speck floating in a black void, with vivid white streaks of light like miniature comets racing in two opposing directions. It was like a 3 dimensional hallucination. I was in the middle, but simultaneously watching from the outside looking in.
One other strange experience, another hallucination which was particularly vivid. I felt sudden euphoria after imagining I heard 3 musical notes, 2 of the same tone and one a major third higher, in an even tempo.
Getting out, I felt reluctant and disappointed at leaving my comfortable cocoon. I felt reasonably normal, though very relaxed as I climbed out and had a shower.
I was thinking that this float had hardly had any effect on me, as I buttoned up my shirt. It was only then that I realised I had put it on inside out. I then started feeling a little light headed.
I started feeling mildly euphoric and experienced something like tunnel vision. I found myself highly amused by the red dye which infused from a herbal tea bag in my cup. It appeared as though the tea bag was bleeding.
There was a guy sitting opposite me in the lounge, where I rested after the float. He grinned and laughed quietly to himself, arose and walked out. I grokked him.
Coming home I felt an abnormal burst of energy and engulfed myself in gardening; hedges and lawns. I did not want to sit down and read, even though I had the house to myself. This is highly unusual for me as I am a bookworm and generally read 2-3 books and a magazine or two, more or less concurrently.
Just as a footnote, regrettably after my cancer treatment, I no longer seem to produce much in the way of endorphins or adrenaline. So whilst I feel very relaxed after a float, I no longer feel the flush of natural opiates that most people enjoy after a float. The reduced pain I’m feeling right now though is more than enough reward. Perhaps I am now producing more encaphelins than normal. These are the body’s natural pain killers. That’s a plus. My back has now though, after writing this gone up to about 5/10, but for the first day in 7 months, yesterday I felt very little pain for an entire day.
Anyone with a major injury, or perhaps a condition like polymyalgia will appreciate what that means. Again, if you suffer from any form of chronic pain, I strongly recommend taking not one, but a series of floats. Constant pain 24/7 sucks, I can tell you. If that is you, what have you got to lose?
There are ways to make this economical. I pay a monthly subscription that not only gives me cheaper floats, but every couple of months they give me a couple of vouchers. There will be two first time floaters heading to Grafton some time in the next couple of weeks, one of whom is claustrophobic. She will try one of the rooms and can leave a door open.
A Few Hours of Bliss at Float Culture
I arrived in an addled state this morning at 11AM for my 10AM appointment for a float and massage at Float Culture. It was in my diary for 10AM, but somehow that’s when I had booked my taxi to pick me up. I only got a few hours sleep last night, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
When I got there, they told me they had cancelled my appointment because I hadn’t turned up, even though I had confirmed this morning. I just tapped the button, not even reading it, or I would have realised and called for an earlier cab. How often do you do that with EFTPOS or paywave, just hit accept without looking at the price?
Anyway, after my heart dropped, it turned out I was in luck and despite messing everyone around, they were able to fit me in. They asked if a Pod was OK rather than one of the newer ‘rooms’. When I’m floating on Epsom Salts laden water in the quiet and dark it could be a farm water trough for all I care.
I keep a pain diary so that I can discuss my physio treatment, exercises etc for my back injury with the team of people assigned to restoring my health and getting me back to work. (3 bulging disks pushing against nerves which has kept me off work for 6 months) The injury has me at a pain level of 6-7/10 most of the time and that’s with some hard hitting pain medications. This morning I was up at 2AM (6/10) 3-4AM (7/10) and up again at 6AM with 6/10.
Once I was in the pod, for some reason I struggled to keep my mind quiet and even using breathing techniques, my brain would be off on some tangent before I could count 5 breathes in and out and the hour was over all too soon, BUT I could barely feel my back when I got out of the tank for a shower and I still had a massage to come.
Now I’m no biochemist and my understanding was that endorphins are what used to give me the bright colours and the grin that wouldn’t stop, back before I had radiation therapy, and enkephalins are the body’s natural painkillers, but it seems they both come from the same part part of your brain. I didn’t have the buzz, but I also didn’t have the pain!
Anyway I went straight from the tank to the massage room for an hour of total relaxation.
At the end Kim said to take as long as I needed. I could have quite happily gone to sleep at that point. Well when I did get up from there, I was pain free, I was able to stand up and with a bright red rosy face, I felt the way you probably take for granted. I was able to put my track pants and shoes on without grunting and groaning. I was even able to stand up, leaning on a counter to look out the window watching for the cab to arrive without any pain.
Now to be fair, after the taxi ride home I was up to 3/10 and now I’m now at 4/10 but that’s still a lot less than 6-7. It will go back to 6-7, but I can’t describe how good it felt to be pain free without the use of drugs. No other treatment other than morphine has been able to do that for me in the last 6 months.
If you have any sort of chronic pain injury, I strongly recommend not just having the float, but combining the two. If you think how relaxed you feel after a massage, imagine having the massage when you are already totally relaxed. I pay a membership subscription and occasionally I get given a voucher for someone to get a free float (does not include a massage).
If you live in Auckland, leave a comment and I’ll use some random method to let someone try it for FREE. Find out more about floating on their website. I’ll pick one person on 1 December. Think of it as an early Christmas present. That’s worth $100, but I’m sure you’ll agree the outcome is worth much more. Do remember it is sensory deprivation so if you get claustrophobic, this is not for you.
Meanwhile if you’re still here, I’m going to get into the Delorean and zip back to 4 October 1987 for my 3rd float. You can go back to my previous blog for the 2nd one.
Now just to set the scene, I was working for a company that was bleeding money for no obvious reason (yet). I was making sales for 6 figure sums of money, delivering cheques in some instances, but somehow even though they had been cashed, they never seemed to reach the company bank account. It got worse from there when not long later I arrived at work on my way to a sailing weekend on the family yacht, to find out why my pay hadn’t been deposited. I met the receivers who were in the processing of padlocking the office door. To make matters worse, a certain person (not me) had taken a first class family world trip on my company credit card (note, if you get one of those, you are jointly and severally liable for any debt) and the bank took me for the money. I ended up losing just under $40,000 and I was just an employee and had to refinance our home. Take it that I was a little stressed.
So, off to the Belleview Clinic in Mt Eden on 4 October. This is what I wrote:
“My third float. Nothing spectacular. I didn’t feel any more relaxed, or different. The float itself was unremarkable, anticlimactic. Yet as I sat down to relax afterward, I felt a vibration throughout my body and a general sense of well-being. Not euphoric, but content.
I concentrated some energy on relaxing my jaw, probably the last place where I still felt stress from clenching my teeth.
Driving home I felt rag-doll relaxed, although I still felt fragile in the face of pressure, real or imagined. (Note at this stage I wasn’t aware the company I worked for was being embezzled, I just knew something was seriously amiss), It is difficult going from a cocoon to a demanding environment. I felt like I didn’t want to let go of the comfort of zero responsibility that I enjoyed in the tank.
My general bearing and outlook was positive and I could see many parallels to other relaxation methods like meditation. I felt as though I was taking a short cut. It was interesting that subsequently I read similar comments in ‘The Book of Floating‘. It has been compared to many ‘laboristic’ relaxation methods including Yoga and acupuncture.
There is a notebook of floater’s comments, a visitors book in the lounge at the clinic. Every comment is positive. Most people are there to solve personal problems and seem to want to apply mystical meaning to the amazing results. That’s not surprising off course when their bloodstreams are getting a rush of natural brain produced opiates.
I found myself holding back from conclusions, but was keenly looking forward to moving beyond release of tension and balancing myself, to getting creative with the tank and finding new ways to benefit from sensory deprivation.
I subsequently did that and had all sorts of experiences and experiments that you can read about in future blogs about these awesome tanks. Bookmark or subscribe to this blog to find out more. If it’s boring you to tears, sorry, this is my personal soapbox and like the woman who was offended by the 2 minute song, based on the doppler effect, that I performed in one of my sets at the Parnell Rose Festival many years ago, called What I Like About Reefton. She stood up and said ‘That’s not very nice” and left her seat in the audience. If you want other types of blogs feel free to visit one of my other blogs like The Future Diaries , Location Is Everywhere , First Home Buyers Training or SoLoMo Consulting.
@Orcon, Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Life used to be so easy when it was just Telecom who looked after landlines. Now when something goes wrong it’s all like, “your call is really important to us and is there anything else we can do for you?” BUT:
Our connection, which is unbundled, (so there is no dial tone and if the Internet is down, so is the phone) started playing up on Friday. Saturday it was on and off intermittently. I rang the nice man at Orcon who said that they would put a monitor on the line and he could see that it had disconnected about 9 times so far that day. So there was definitely a problem.
He said they would monitor it for 24 hours and see if they could find the problem. I was OK with that. I’m not an unreasonable person.
But I never heard back from them and it continued to be on and off all weekend until this morning, as I was trying to sort out emails and confirm my hydrotherapy for midday for my back injury, it all died. No phone, no internet.
So I rang them again and told them I suspected it could have been something to do with the company who looks after our water who had done some repairs for a neighbour and I asked if anyone else had any problems. “No” they assured me, Chorus had not advised of any other problems.
So they said they would try to get someone on to it today BUT:
- If it was on our property, it would cost us $130 for them to locate it.
- If they had to come inside and fix something it would be $230; and
- If I wasn’t home when they had to come in to check it out, and they therefore couldn’t come in, they would charge me $130.
So I had to cancel my hydrotherapy which I had been looking forward to. If you’ve ever had a serious back injury, you know how good it is to be in water and not have gravity pressing down on those bulging disks. The therapy is very important and I am doing it to either avoid serious surgery, or at worst be strong for a speedy recovery if I need it. I don’t need the stress on top of the pain.
I went up to the end of the driveway to see if there was anything obvious and found an engineer who was working on a fault for my next door neighbour who apparently had reported problems since Friday and also had no Internet or phone!
The problem is that her account is with Vodafone and it seems that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. With so many companies busy clipping the ticket of old copper wires, you have to wonder what happened to the ‘Kiwi Share’.
Given that I couldn’t go and do my physio, I got my daughter to stick around so I could at least go for a walk around the block and not get ‘fined’ if Chorus needed to get into the house.
When I got back I learned that yet another neighbour also had no phone. He didn’t report it because he knew that Chorus were working ‘on the line’. But he was with Spark, who don’t share information with Vodafone, who don’t share information with Orcon. It seems that internally Chorus don’t escalate things unless they are widespread, so they treat each call from the various ‘providers’ as isolated events. My third neighbour didn’t realise that if he didn’t report it, nobody would know he had no phone or Internet and it wouldn’t get sorted.
So he is now ringing Spark and between us we don’t know if there are any other neighbours with a problem.
I did get a nice email from Orcon saying “We’ve Got This’ and suggesting that I might want to reboot my modem as this often solves ‘problems’. I was thinking more that the telecommunications systems of virtual telecommunications providers might need solving.
I replied to the email from Orcon telling them how annoyed and frustrated I was with all the advice of what everything could cost me, when I know the problem is not on my side of the network. I then got a nice automated response telling me that they usually deal with issues within one working day and there were a couple of websites with “loads of answers for some of the most common questions”.
Next thing you know, as I am writing this, a Chorus wagon comes down my drive with another engineer who apparently knew nothing about the first engineer that had the plinth off, working on my neighbour’s line. No wonder they need so many lots of $130. I can’t imagine the overhead this all takes.
What I also don’t understand is why so many people have to be manually engaged in help-desks (at least one for each brand), manual testing and logging calls whilst not communicating with each other. Why doesn’t the network have some sort of intelligence that monitors lines and reports faults and outages?
I’m not being silly here. My first job was as a Technical Service Officer and I was the guy on the other end of ‘Faults Service’. I was highly trained and given a very thorough knowledge of all aspects of telecommunications. Now that was a long time ago and the systems were already reasonably sophisticated.
It was very easy to run ‘line tests’ and if there was a fault, we could usually see what type of fault it was from the ‘Test Room’ and what type of person (faultman, lineman, cable jointer etc) we would need to send out to check on the problem. The types of tests they do today are not dissimilar because much of the country still uses those same copper cables that haven’t been replaced in many decades.
I explained to the new Chorus representative what had happened. He went and had a look and eventually came back and told me that there was a problem in the neighborhood and that he would report it to Chorus so they could send the right kind of engineer, probably tomorrow.
He also said that for a small monthly fee I could have a service agreement maintaining the telecommunications system on the inside of my property and house. I have never had a single problem in my house except for faulty Orcon routers! With today’s systems I don’t need to use the slick Cat 5 cable system my house was wired with, everything is wireless. I don’t use any of the other jack points. They are now redundant.
So now, he has told me they will hopefully send someone else out tomorrow!
So what do you think? Should I stay or Should I Go Now. Isn’t it ironic that this song is by The Clash.
I just got a text message saying the first available technician will be booked to look at my problem tomorrow. They had better come before my dentist appointment. They charge a lot more than $130 if you cancel on them.
Am I being unreasonable? Can one of the other Telcos do better? They know how to charge and threaten with additional costs, but what about compensation for me, including mobile data and lost time?
My Latest Float at Float Culture and my Second Ever Float in 1987
So yesterday I had another float and massage at Float Culture. My back pain from my injury back in April is still hovering around 6-7/10 most of the time and I was so looking forward to the zero gravity and a great massage from Kim.
I had booked the Cosmic Room, which is a newer float tank, which instead of being a pod like the one I showed a photo of in my last blog, which was also cool, this one is more like an Alice in Wonderland meets Dr Who.
What is really cool about it is that while it is still a floating tank, you enter through a door and it is high enough to stand in, which is great when your time is up and you want to stretch out. I can’t say one is better than the other, when you are in the dark in total silence, floating on a silky nothing, it is really irrelevant. It’s also easier if you have a physical injury in regards to getting in and out.
When you come out after your float, the atmosphere is pretty cool. Bright colours and a picture of a galaxy awaits your heightened senses, especially if your body produces endorphins, which mine isn’t good at since my cancer treatment, along with low cortisol and virtually no adrenaline, I don’t experience the mental natural high that you will, but there are so many benefits from floating that it’s no longer an issue for me. A lot of cancer patients float. Relaxing when life is tough isn’t easy, but here you have no choice.
I think I’ll turn this into two blogs because the next one is going to be quite long and possibly boring unless you really want to know more about the floating experience in detail. Being a geek, I did.
When you have been in chronic pain for 6 months and any time you are awake, gravity wants to push your vertebrae together and you are constantly dopy from pain medications, being in an environment like this is bliss. I was pain free for most of the day yesterday and what you might take for granted (just feeling physically normal) was wonderful for me.
I met, Anton the owner of Float Culture and we had a great chat with him and one of his team about how there is a resurgence of interest in floating and sensory deprivation, some of the history of the origin of sensory deprivation tanks. More of that perhaps in another blog, but for now I just want to say:
- Whether you are physically or emotionally stressed, injured, tired or just want to try something new, I strongly recommend going for a float at Float Culture in Grafton.
- If you are totally relaxed, life is great, and you just want to try something new, refer to 1. You don’t have to be suffering in any way to get a benefit from it. The experience will still be amazing.
- Go with a friend, they have several floating rooms. But you might need to book a few days ahead. They have an app and you can also pay a subscription and get better pricing if you go regularly and even free passes for friends. One or two lucky people who talk to me nicely, might be able to get one of those.
- Have a float followed by a massage. Imagine having a great massage when you are already totally relaxed. If you’re thinking about a day spa and want to try something new. Do this.
- Tell them Luigi sent you. I want them to know that I am recommending them because I want them to do well. There have been some years where there hasn’t been a float centre in Auckland, which was frustrating.
- 6. Just do it. Make a booking today. If you’re not totally convinced, read some of these testimonials from other floaters.
My First Ever Sensory Deprivation Float – I’m Sold
Warning – Longish Blog, but if you want to know what the first time floating experience is like, you will find it interesting IMHO.
As promised in my previous blog, I am going to post a series of blogs about some of my experiences in float tanks.
I was badly in need of relaxation and decided that the time was right. I had heard about floating previously and found a brochure at the Tourist Information Centre in Auckland’s Aotea Square.
I was very tense, there were some suspect things going on at my work (it looked like the company was being embezzled) and I was suffering from heartburn and chronic indigestion and had been constipated for three days. I feared I was becoming a candidate for an ulcer.
For some reason I felt very positive about the concept and that it could be good for me. My confidence was boosted by the fact that major sporting organizations including the Dallas Cowboys and AFL Teams owned their own tanks, for rehab of their elite athletes, recognizing the benefits of sensory deprivation. The Cowboys apparently had TV screens in some of their tanks where players could relax on watch strategic videos.
On entering the Belleview Clinic in Eden Terrace, I was welcomed by a quietly spoken man who took one look at me and said “You haven’t floated before have you?” My disposition was obvious.
He gave me a leaflet containing initial instructions. These were essentially:
- Empty your bladder and bowels
- Take a hot shower paying particular attention to your face so that you have no itches while you are in the tank. You don’t want to get salt water in your eyes, while scratching your face.
- Put Vaseline (provided) on your private or sensitive parts to protect against the salt
- Fit the supplied earplugs
- Open the hatch in the tank, get in and close the rolling door.
Five minutes before the float ends, the underwater stereo system will pipe in quiet relaxing music. When the music ends, sit up whilst leaning your head back to avoid getting salt in your eyes, then exit and shower again to rinse of the residue Epsom Salts.
Next I got a guided tour. The tank itself (a bit less modern than this one at Float Culture today) is an 8 foot by 6 foot by 4 foot fibreglass enclosure resembling a ship’s liferaft container before it is dropped in the water and opened up. It featured a rolling door through which you enter the inner spaceship which had 10-12 inches of water almost saturated with a solution of Epsom Salts.
So I had my shower, inserted the earplugs, applied the vaseline and climbed in.
The water felt warm, thick and sort of silky, almost sensuous. I closed the hatch and was suddenly in almost total darkness. I slid the hatch open again so that I wouldn’t forget where the knob was if I needed it…..
I tried to partially close the hatch but that didn’t work, so I closed it again and lay down. Then I sat up again, opened the hatch a little and closed it again just to reassure and orient myself.
Finally I lay down and tried to relax. I had been warned that my shoulder and neck muscles might start to hurt a little as they start to unknot and release their tension. The man told me to either breathe with the pain or rest my hands behind my head, flexing the muscles a little.
I tried both, but decided that a hands down version of the yoga nidra corpse position offered the most relaxing attitude for my body.
So I relaxed. As my eyes adjusted there was a little light in the tank through the little indent patterns in the fibreglass.
My mind found it hard to cope with the fact that I was totally safe from external influences which might disturb the water or distract me. I kept slipping to one side as though I was balancing on a beam and for 3-4 minutes I found it hard to maintain my balance.
Eventually I achieved a level of equilibrium. I tried to keep my eyes open but found that I was easily distracted by light, sound and even nonexistent stimuli. I closed my eyes again achieving better results, however for the next 5-10 minutes I opened and closed my eyes a number of times, just to reassure myself.
Then I started to relax physically, but my mind was racing, very much the same as when I would go to sleep at night. When you are not experienced in relaxing, you can try too hard.
I felt a spinning sensation. I was hardly moving more than a cm per second and only for a tiny distance and then I’d stop by gently touching the wall with a foot or hand, but it felt like I had turned 90 degrees. This continued on and off for about 20 minutes. My sense of time was distorted.
Yes indeed, my shoulders were getting heavy and tired. Good, it seemed I was doing something right.
Now I moved into a conscious REM State. It was exactly like the first stages of sleep in which dreams that actually take microseconds appear to take much longer. Yet I was conscious and could feel my eyeballs darting all over the place under my eyelids. It was an interesting feeling but the more I tried to analyse it, the more my consciousness started to return.
I knew that I was reaping rewards physically but mentally, because I was constantly analysing the experience, I wondered if I was wasting the opportunity.
Next thing I knew, time had passed and I was being gently roused by music from the underwater speakers which reminded me of the whale sounds on Pink Floyd’s Meddle album. It was soft and repetitious but relaxing. It only seemed to last about 20 seconds but it was actually 5 minutes.
I leaned my head back, protecting my eyes from the salt and opened the sliding door, then eased my way out and onto a wooden platform.
My shoulders and neck felt heavy and I was a little light headed but otherwise I felt normal enough.
I busied myself in the shower, washed and shampooed my hair (yes I still had hair then), making sure that all the Epsom Salts were rinsed off. Having dried myself off, I dressed and went into the pastel colored lounge, which had comfy chairs, a booktable and a selection of drinks including many herbal teas.
Although I only felt slightly light headed, things seemed to take an awfully long time. My time sense was distorted. I sat down, which felt better and picked up a book entitled “The Book of Floating” by Michael Hutchison.
I then decided that I should have a drink to replace lost fluid and selected a Peruvian Lemon Tea which sounded refreshing.
I tried to fill the jug, which was not only full, it had a ‘cup number indicator’ on the side which said it was full. I emptied a bit out again and looked down at the floor. The opiate-like action of my natural endorphins induced an unusual effect. I was getting two independant impressions.
The left hemisphere was telling me that it was about five feet from my eyes to the ground. The right hemisphere said “I know it is only about 5 feet to the ground, but my perception tells me it is nearer to 10 feet.” Talk about a well balanced split personality!
I enjoyed a mild dose of euphoria, enhanced by the monochrome pastel room. I finished my tea and had a chat with the owner who said he could see by my eyes that the float had been beneficial.
I went to pay and found that they did not accept credit cards. I got the impression that this was a bit of a tacit protest against new technology. I found it hard to accept that they took me on trust for the cost of the float and the book which I had decided to buy.
Driving away I felt very relaxed and couldn’t stop my face from smiling. I felt a time distortion at traffic lights, it seemed they had stayed on red for too long.
That night I felt I had to waste some of the beneficial effects as I had to attend a business dinner. This was Wednesday night.
Yet, when I wrote these notes on a plane from Wellington to Auckland 2 nights later, I still felt better than I should after a very tiring day. I looked forward to greater effects from passive floating more often in the short term, and experimenting with Super Learning (now used by Navy SEALS) which I read about in the book, and other possibilities in the future.
In short, I was sold!
The floating experience is different for each person, but this should give you a bit of an idea of what to expect first time. Please remember I wrote this 31 years ago and the technology has improved dramatically although the principal’s are the same.