Heart 2 ♥

Yesterday I happened to pick up the Australian Magazine from the Weeken Australian, something I only really do when I am visiting Mum and Dad, simply because I personally do not buy the paper. I was flicking through it when I discovered an article entitled “Switching: Can you really die of a broken heart?” The topic intrigued me, so I read it.

I guess it interested me because of my previous blog on euthanasia, and I have always held a belief that it is possible to die of a broken heart, because I have heard of it happening. But, I have also seen palliative patients hold off death, until that final moment when they have been able to say good-bye to family and friends. But is this to do with the mind or with the heart, or is it both?

What role does the heart play? We all know the biological function of the heart, it is basically a lump of muscle that pumps that red stuff round our bodies too keep us alive. A simplified definition I know, but there it is. That is all it is, a lump of muscle, or is it?

The Ancient Egyptians believed that it was more than that. They believed that the heart was the source of wisdom, emotion, memory and personality. They even held the belief that final judgment involved the heart. They believed that the heart was weighed against a symbol of universal truth, harmony and balance, the feather of Ma’at.

The Judge was Anubis and in order to pass into the underworld, the heart had to equal the weight of this feather. Should the heart be heavier, it would be fed to Ammit, and the soul would be destroyed.

In 1535 Andreas Laguna identified the heart as the seat of all emotions, and Aristotle in the 14th Century believed it to be the body’s primary organ, believing it to control emotion, motion and sensation, and that it was the centre of vitality.

Most scientists today would scoff at this, but I am not 100% convinced myself that this is not part true. The article I mentioned earlier discussed the idea of death as a result of heartbreak. The author, Jane Wheatley, discusses examples of people who having been through periods of great distress, and as a result having similar symptoms to that of a heart attack. She mentions research done in Japan in the 90’s of a syndrome known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, which reported cases of patients with heart failure, all of whom had no history of risk factors, recovered independently in days with no interventions. All of these patients had recently been through an emotional crisis.

The evidence seems to support the link between the heart and emotion. Further to this, I have heard report of patients post heart transplant taking on characteristics of the heart donor. These stories were part of a documentary I saw a few years ago, and the idea came about that the heart may have memory cells. A logical next step I suppose, and not an idea I am willing to dismiss.

It is hard to deny the idea that the heart is more than a ‘lump of muscle.’ History and lexicography both seem to deny this idea. As far back as we can go, there has been the idea that the heart is more than just a pump. If it is why do we feel an ache in the heart with loss or sadness, why does it hurt so much? If it is why does poetry link the heart and soul. Why is the heart even now seen as the centre of our beings?

Some of you may see this as ‘hippy nonsense,’ but even religion says other wise. Genesis 6 : 5 puts the thoughts of evil men in their hearts, and in Exodus 5 through 12 there is the quote:

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his Officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them.”

It seems that time again, both literature, and science prove to us that the heart is much more than it appears. I am certainly willing to believe it, are you?

Dating Disaster!

A medieval page presumably from a Book of Hour...

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I think I am realising more and more that dating is a minefield of potential disasters. Why so late? Late bloomer? Ignorance? Too many romantic notions?

I was watching Emma last night, rather wistfully, thinking, why can’t dating be as simple as then? When women were just expected to sit and wait until the men came along and swept them off their feet, and 90% of the time, if a guy was interested it would not just be for sex!

Today there are far too many faux pas. Men expect women to make all the moves, yet when we do we are too enthusiastic! You have to play it just right, not interested enough and you get no where, too interested and you have the object of your affections running for the hills. And the rules?! I never heard of anything with so many rules!

You can’t contact someone for at least 4 days after the first date. If he goes away, don’t contact him, let him contact you; but if he does not contact you after one week he is not interested. Don’t sleep with someone for a month….. and the list goes on! Is it any wonder so many people prescribe to dating sites?

I started reading ‘Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars,’ and now I am being told men are like elastic bands, you have to give them room to move away and they will come back, but push them too far and they don’t. It is all so confusing!

I know the idea of Jane Austen style dating is so anti-feminist that I should, as a modern-day women, be mortified to even entertain the idea. But what woman would not dearly love to be swept off her feet and bought diamonds and other expensive gifts as a declaration of love?

Another thing I keep getting told is it comes along when you least expect it. The more I keep getting told that the more I expect it!!!!!! You think, right now I am happy and content being single, surely the man of my dreams will show up now?! I some times wonder if being an old spinster is perhaps the easiest option?

A Weighty issue.

Weightloss pyramid.

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I was reading the paper yesterday afternoon, and noted a story about a woman who wanted to reach 600kg in weight. She is thirty two and is already something like 325kg. When asked why, she stated that she wanted to see if it was possible to get that heavy and stay healthy, further stating that the bigger she got the sexier and more confident she felt.

My question is, does she not realise that at the weight she currently is, there is no way she is ‘healthy’?! Her body is a ticking time bomb! She has two kids, and it is highly unlikely that she is able to do anything for herself, so my question is, who does all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and other tasks that is the job of a parent? What kind of example is she setting for her kids? Does she not realise that unless hse changes her habits she will leave her kids motherless?

I am not anti fat people, but I am anti people who do not take responsability for themselves and their famillies. This woman has an entirely selfish goal. Where does this sort of ideology come from? What makes someone develop this kind of goal?

Is the past absorbed into the present and future?

Title: Personal photographs of the Hon. C L A ...

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This post is prompted by a recent blog I read on Racism. It is an assignment written by myself whilst studying, and in some ways gives a perspective on how past racism can affect the actions and thoughts of the present and future.

Sir Willian Dean (Couzos & Murray 1999.) said that ‘The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and future’. Discuss this in relation to the state of Indigenous Health in the 21st Century and include the implications for nursing and midwifery practice.

The state of Indigenous health in the 21st century is undoubtedly influenced by the events of the past. This paper will discuss those events in our history that are pertinent to the current status of Aboriginal Health. Moreover, from this historical perspective there will inevitably be implications on the nursing and midwifery practices of today.

The atrocities faced by Indigenous Australians in the past have almost certainly had some influence on the 17 year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and Non-indigenous people, but steps are being made in the fact that we can recognise that things need to be done to change this.

However, there is no denying that the causes of this inequality are complex and almost definitely linked to the historical actions during the late 19th and 20th century. It is hard to deny that had there been no European influences on modern Aboriginal lifestyle, Indigenous people would not have been exposed to risks that they were simply not prepared for. The risks Indigenous people were exposed to were European diseases, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and even diet, and were things that our culture had adapted to over time, but caused depopulation and social disruption amongst the Indigenous population (Mitchell, 2007.)

Since 1788 when Australia was first colonised, there has been a deep misunderstanding between the Indigenous people of Australia and the Colonialists. In the first instance, the Colonials held the egocentric belief that Indigenous Australians were not worthy of the land upon which they lived (Eckermann et al, 2006.) This view was based on the belief that Aboriginal Australians had failed to make effective use of the land in a manner consistent with European ideals (Eckermann et al, 2006.) As such the land was declared ‘Terra Nullis’, which conveniently made it acceptable for Western settlement and lawful possession (Eckermann et al, 2006.)

Furthermore, Aboriginal people were regarded as the lowest state of social existence and to be genetically inferior (Grant et al, 2008.) An article in 1888 stated that because of their perceived neo-lithic status that it would in fact not be detrimental if their race disappeared and as such all that could be expected of Colonials was to free them from misery for the duration of their ‘last days’ (Grant et al, 2008.)

It was not until the 1940s that attention was actually paid to the health status of Indigenous Australians, and it is considered that this only occurred because White soldiers became concerned that they would become ill if the health of Indigenous soldiers they were fighting alongside was not maintained (Eckermann et al, 2006.)

The first policies from the new European Government were based on the Western belief that Aboriginal people had no morality or humanity, which resulted in the loss of their land and genocide in the form of hunting and poisoning and was centred on humanizing the savages (Anderson, 2002.) This meant the construction of missions and reserves, and was the beginning of the separation of many children from their parents (Eckermann et al, 2004.)

This loss of land had a devastating effect on the Aboriginal population due to the spiritual significance it holds, causing a loss of a core entity in Aboriginal culture. This gave birth to a sense of hopelessness and insecurity, leaving them living in a world they did not and do not understand, creating a limbo in which they can no longer move forwards or back (Randall, 2004.)

This also left Aboriginal people homeless and pushed into missions and reserves in which the environment left much to be desired (Grant et al, 2008.) These environments fostered the spread of diseases because of proximity, unsanitary conditions and relocation stress.

Mental health issues in the Indigenous population also have roots in the past policies. The policy of removing children from the families in order to assimilate them into White society had detrimental psychological effects (Zeldenryk and Yalmambirra, 2006.) Family and community are a valuable aspect of Indigenous culture, and the removal of children from these environments promoted loss of security, and as a result caused significant pain, and in some cases post traumatic stress disorders (Zeldenryk and Yalmambirra, 2006.) In situations like this it is no surprise that Indigenous people have turned to substance abuse, perhaps as a form of escape.

The National Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strain Islander Children from their families (1997) illustrated that the removal of children from their families and communities had serious effects on them (Eckermann et al, 2006.) This action resulted in identity problems, the inability to form strong attachments, lack of trust, resentment, and externalization of blame, alcohol abuse and depression (Hunter, 2003.)

This then causes a vicious cycle of familial abuse, as many children were unable to become good parents as they had no role models to learn from. The abuse and neglect that occurred in missions and children’s homes nurtured distrust and the inability to be open and loving (Eckermann et al, 2006.)

In addition, this removal of children was not only ripping families and communities apart, but it was destroying core values of Aboriginal culture. These included kinship, their fundamental links to the land, culture, beliefs and language (Van Holst Pellekaan & Clague, 2005.)

The banned ability to speak their own language prevented communication amongst families and communities, and also impacted on the loss of culture, kinship, an emphasised the degradation that Aboriginal people were subjected to. This had a significant bearing on mental health, emphasising any stressors and isolation, but it also aggravated the feelings of distrust and loneliness, making the ability to escape through alcohol and substance abuse eve more attractive (Brown, 2001.)

Such losses that Aboriginal people experienced also mean that they had become dependant on Europeans, this included their diet and welfare system (Burns and Irvine, 2003.) The Aboriginal lifestyle was that of hunter-gatherer and relied on natural plant life and animal life, and also encouraged a nomadic lifestyle, whereby groups of Indigenous people moved where there was enough food and water to provide sustenance (Burns and Irvine, 2003.)

The traditional diet was high in protein, had very little sugar and a lot of complex carbohydrates and micronutrients (Burns and Irvine, 2003.) However, when the Europeans arrived they brought with them alcohol and foods never before seen and this hunter-gatherer lifestyle began to disappear, along with its nutrition (Burns and Irvine, 2003.) This diet was highly processed in order to make them edible having travelled vast distances, leaving little of the kind of nutrition that Indigenous people were used to (Burns and Irvine, 2003.)

The reliance on western foods not only led to illnesses such as diabetes due to high sugar content, but also led to increased inability of women to manage foods economically and thus feed their children causing malnutrition, and decreased physical activity because there was no longer the need to hunt and forage for food (Burns and Irvine, 2003.) This rapid change in diet made Indigenous Australians much more vulnerable to obesity and diet-related diseases (Burns and Irvine, 2003.)

Poverty also became a major risk factor for Indigenous health (Water and Saggers, 2007.) The poverty cycle commenced when Indigenous Australians were evicted from their land, but was also influenced by being forced to accept hand outs from the Government, and to adapt to a system they could not understand (Randall, 2008.)

Between 1900 and 1970 many Aboriginal people were forced to pay millions of dollars into Government trust funds, but this money was never returned (Nicholls, 2004, 2006.) It is occurences like this that have caused such a vicious cycle of poverty experienced by many Aboriginal people, which can impair health through poor nutrition, poor sanitary conditions, increased levels of stress and inability to access health services because of the cost (Nelson, Allison and Copely, 2007.)

When providing care to Indigenous people we need to accept that their culture and beliefs are very different from our own, and thus a lot of aspects of their life need to be looked at and dealt with differently – health included. The question is have we opened our minds and learnt enough from our past mistakes to do this?

Van Holst Pellekaan and Clague (2007) have suggested that the MBS and PBS figures spent on Indigenous people illustrate that perhaps not, since in comparison to the $601 spent per Non-indigenous person in 1998-9, only $224 was spent on each Indigenous individual. However, surely the fact that such research exists alone suggests that we are acknowledging the mistakes we have made, and trying to make amends.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council are trying to encourage the incorporation of Indigenous studies into the training of more nurses and midwives in Australia (Dragon, 2007.) This suggestion was supported by Turale and Miller (2007), who state that the past abuse suffered by Indigenous Australians has had a detrimental effect on the current health status, and that in order to improve our nurses need to work in a more culturally safe environment. But, a culturally safe environment, whilst making health care more accessible does not negate the damage done by the past.

However, it is not only indirect influences on health that have guaranteed the inequality seen today, but also direct factors. The past events have had massive implications for Indigenous health, and as such have massive implications on nursing and midwifery practice. It is reasonable to expect a lot of suspicion about the Western Health Care system on the part of Indigenous people, after all, how did White culture help them in the past? In order to try to counter act this we need to acknowledge that Indigenous people have values, beliefs and health practices that are different from our own. We need to validate them, acknowledging them as equal to our own, and showing that just because Indigenous people don’t hold our beliefs and practices, it does not make them ‘savages’.

In order to alleviate  suspicion and distrust that can only afford greater inequalities in health, both nurses and midwives, need to work in a culturally safe and non judgemental fashion, and acknowledging that the concerns of Indigenous people around out health system are just and valid.

As Keating said in his apology in 1993:

“It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossesing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion.”

It is important to recognise the damage done by past actions and to begin to make Indigenous patients feel accepted and that their concerns and beliefs are valid. That they are citizens in their own country.

What is love?

Romeo and Juliet.

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Love is a very complex thing, and something that is very difficult to understand. I don’t think you can define it or pigeon-hole it. There is love for family, then there is love for friends, and love at first sight, and true love.

But, one thing that gets me about love when talk about that which is between a man and a woman, love that is required to make a relationship work. Love is perceived as being all-encompassing, as being able to last against all odds. I think what most people now perceive as love is simply passion.

Love to me is an entity that encompasses everything in a successful long lasting relationship. That is: trust, friendship, passion. Once the passion has died there needs to be something to fall back on to make a relationship work. Love does not last forever, and can not withstand all tempests.

My Nan used to tell me that when you love someone, when you are truly in love with someone you can think about cleaning their dirty underwear without blanching. A unique philosophy, but when broken down, really all she was saying is you truly love someone when you can deal with the really bad shit as well as the good stuff. When you don’t want to change those irritating little habits, and you accept them because that is part of the person you love.

Is the human race trully civilised?

Indian family in Brazil posed in front of hut ...
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Humanity and people’s perceptions of humanity are very different. I have just read some comments on whether it is ok to kill, and it is strange how differently people perceive what is ok and what is not. Some say that yes it is ok as long as it is to preserve the human race, but since when did the human race have the right to live over all others?

The human race as a rule, is not such a awe-inspiring creation! We are greedy, selfish, violent, fickle and incredibly vain! We perceive our race to be the most important on this planet, one that other species must sacrifice themselves to for our survival.

If we look at our history there is rarely a time when one aspect of the human race has not perceived itself to be more ‘civilised’ than another. If this was not the case we would not have had the slave trade between Africa and America, or the stolen generations in Australia.

“The  plundering of indigenous land, exploitation of its mineral wealth and other raw materials, confinement of its people to specific areas, and the restriction of their movement have, with notable exceptions, been the cornerstones of colonialism throughout the land.” Nelson Mandela.

I do find it sad that we as a supposed ‘civilised’ species can not allow that we have our faults, just as we have our assets; and that we can not make allowances for these in each other.

I find it sad that we can not allow for each others differences, be it culture, skin colour, religion or beliefs; and welcome these differences as a way of bettering ourselves and expanding our horizons.