fMRI used to communicate with man in presumed vegetative state.

BBC News – Vegetative patient Scott Routley says ‘I’m not in pain’.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is fascinating. And tonight, it will be on Panorama here in the UK.

fMRI has been used to further investigate just how ‘vegetative’ patients are. One man who was presumed unaware and unresponsive for twelve years has communicated with doctors to say that he’s not in pain. fMRI isn’t anything new, really, but the applications for it are numerous. This particular use is quite important to me, as my first placement was working with people in minimally conscious or vegetative state, and I always wondered whether the people could hear and understand me when I spoke to them.

In fact, I was at the hospital featuring in tonight’s programme, which, by the way, was amazing. It was where I first encountered assistive technology and highly customised wheelchairs, and all the staff were wonderful at their jobs, and to me!

So tune in tonight if you can, or watch it on the BBC iPlayer when you have time. And, if you’re feeling generous, you can even support the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney by donating, buying Christmas cards and/or sponsoring someone’s time in the computer room so they can find ways to communicate.

November, this is going to be intense.

I’m pushing myself this month.

I’m attempting NaNoWriMo, DigiWriMo and NaBloPoMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month, Digital Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month. (Although, I don’t know if the ‘National’s apply, given that these are coordinated in the States, and I’m not there.)

For NaNoWriMo, I need to write 50,000 words in novel form. The same number of words needs to be written in digital form for DigiWriMo. Finally, for NaBloPoMo, I need to blog daily. So hopefully I can tackle the last two in the same way.

On top of that, I’m keeping up with my Coursera courses.

November is also exciting because I’ve just applied for a paediatric post within a growing service. I’ll hopefully find out if I’ve been shortlisted by the end of next week, and then interviews will be in the third week.

Also, Flan and I celebrate our third anniversary on the 29th. I’ll have to cram a few more words and a blog post in on the morning of the 30th, as we’ll be going away for the weekend to a cottage up north! Ignore me while I get all romantic and mushy…

Finally, as a follow-up to the knit-a-thon, I’ll be helping to run a two-hour workshop tomorrow at Restore. So far, my knitting group has raised just over £2000, but you can help that number grow by donating through my page.

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Many of you are probably wondering why I’m doing this to myself. Honestly, I don’t expect to achieve all of these, but I like having goals. I like pushing myself. I’m tired just thinking about it, but I’m also happy and excited. Also, if I do get that job (*crosses fingers*), I probably won’t have as much time as I do now to push myself in non-OT ways. If I get that job, from December, I’ll be working hard to prepare myself for the big start of my new career. Then I’ll be hitting the ground running right at the start of the new year. (The OT lead I spoke to over the phone told me they’d want their new OTs to start around the 2nd or 3rd!)

So wish me luck, and I’ll wish the rest of you luck as well in your endeavours this month. I know a few people trying their hand at NaNoWriMo, so at least I’m not alone!

A look at culture through Greek mythology.

As part of the Coursera course I’m taking on Greek & Roman Mythology, I had to read Homer’s The Odyssey and Hesiod’s Theogony. I would really recommend that people read these, just to understand a bit more about the lives of humans millennia ago, and how some things haven’t actually changed. However, I would recommend reading with a group or doing a course like Coursera so that you can really get into the story and understand the different elements.

Anyway, I’d just like to briefly talk about a few thoughts that came to me through reading The Odyssey.

An appreciation of cultural differences

Odysseus is part of a culture that has certain beliefs and practices, including xenia, which is the practice of extreme hospitality. Through his journeys, he encounters other cultures, some of which are similar to his own, while some are very different (practicing cannibalism, for instance). However, he expects everyone to act like him when he encounters them. I’m sure that these people he met also expected him to act the same way as they did. Through Odysseus’ (and Homer’s) eyes, these differences make these people lesser.

Relating to the modern, globalised world we live in now, these kinds of expectations are still prevalent  though they really shouldn’t be. Ideally, people would tolerate each other’s differences, even welcome them (aside from cannibalism and anything else of the sort though). I, as an occupational therapist, can’t really expect someone from, say, a Catholic family to have the same values and behaviour as myself. In fact, I cannot expect an atheist British person (yes, this still embodies a number of different populations, but bear with me) to act like myself. It is simply not logical or moral to think – or worse, treat – someone as lesser because they don’t come from the same culture as you do.

Some things simply don’t change

One thing that I can’t really say too much on critically, but that amused me, was that even back then, mellenia ago, the ‘common’ people gossiped about the ‘nobles’. There are several instances in The Odyssey where nobles were afraid of what the “meaner” people would say about them. This lead me to thinking that, yes, this was written a long time ago, and we tend to think that we’ve changed so much over the ages, that we’ve evolved and developed. But this and other scenarios made me realise that, actually, we’re not that different from the people who lived thousands of years ago. Our technologies have developed and we’ve made incredible advances in science and knowledge, but we, as human beings, have not actually, fundamentally, changed all that much. People still talk about the royal family and celebrities today.

So there are my two little thoughts. I hope they spark some interesting introspection, and I repeat my recommendation to delve into some ancient literature!