Category Archives: Woman in a White Coat

CHEERS – WE MADE IT TO AGE 90 AND INTO 2022

 

Our four children1968 – Louise not looking too happy

In 1999, approaching the Millennium with all sorts of stories floating around about computers crashing as the date changed to 2000, I was wondering whether I would I make it into the next century at all. Now here we are, 22 years later. Josh and I are nonagenarians and still around.

Our grandson, Luke, who’d been staying with our elder son Simon, tested positive for Covid just before Simon was about to drive to London. It was sad not having Simon and his wife here to see in the New Year with us. However, Louise and her husband, are over here until the weekend from the Basque Country, and our younger son, Bernard joined us. Like many other families this holiday season, we learned once again that ‘Man proposes, God disposes’!!!

Traditions quickly take hold in families. After I retired, we bought a small terraced house in Nerja in the South of Spain with my retirement fund, and our elder daughter and her Basque family would join us for Christmas and the New Year. They introduced us to the custom of eating a grape on each of the twelve strokes that ring out from the Plaza del Sol in Madrid. It’s important not to buy large grapes or after the first six or so, your mouth feels too full to stuff any more in.

While we missed not having all four children with us, with Simon quarantining and Jane still finding her feet after her operation for stomach cancer, at least Bernard, Louise and her husband were with us as we watched Jools Holland and then the fireworks over Greenwich on TV – an unexpected treat.

Among my New Year Resolutions is above all to persuade Jane to come and visit us in the Spring. After having her stomach removed, eating is slow and sometimes painful, so at the moment it is hard for her to make the trip. I’m going to try to finish the sequel to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’, shed the extra pounds all the cooking and baking during lockdown has put on, and carry out my new physiotherapist-directed exercises every day.

Happy New Year to you all!!

Woman in a White Coat

BLAST FROM THE PAST

A colleague showed me what my cancer samples looked like under the electron microscope

I was surprised to receive an email from a doctor I met at a Cancer Conference some 40 odd years ago. We had briefly discussed a joint project, but nothing came of it, especially as he was based on the other side of the Atlantic. Apparently, bored during a Ways and Means Committee meeting on Zoom, he entered the names of a few researchers in our field into his favourite platform, and came up with an Abby whose CV matched mine. I expect his image of me is as a sprightly 45-year-old with raven black hair, rather than as a little white haired 90-year-old with a limp. And I guess I should revise my image of him to that of a white-haired, or maybe bald, 75-year-old man, walking with a stick.

That’s a great advantage of communicating by email. You can still be unwashed and in your pyjamas and your respondent has your official image in their mind. I suggested that he read my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ to find out what I’ve been up to in the interim.

And of course, Social Media are good for catching up with old friends and making new ones. I now have several Facebook friends in the literal sense of Friends, men and women I shall never now meet in person.

I am a voracious reader of whodunits and I have learned from them how important a Social Media presence is necessary for those going into Witness Protection, and that the absence of someone’s presence on any of the popular platforms is highly suspicious – or is that all just fiction???

 

MY DISHY CARDIOLOGIST

From Wikipedia

You don’t have to be tall, dark and handsome to get on in life, but in most professions, including medicine, it certainly helps. The cardiologist who put two stents in my coronary arteries that had been blocked by atheroma, so causing a chunk of the left ventricle of my heart to be starved of blood, was all that and more – compassionate and caring.

At my school, Central Foundation School for Girls, not only was there no careers mistress but the little advice we were given was often plain wrong. It was considered that we East End girls should be satisfied with being nurses or short-hand typists. Later a very good looking pathologist friend told me she had been warned by a teacher at her school to dress down and not wear makeup at her interview for Medical School. The men on the interview panel – and in those days they were almost always men – would hold her good looks against her, assuming she would get married and leave to have a family as soon as she qualified, wasting an education that should have been given to a man!! Maybe it’s only good for men to be tall, dark and handsome!!

Since 2016, when my heart attack occurred, I have been followed up, with my medication being adjusted when I had a spate of angina attacks. During lockdown, I would contact the cardiologist by email but now we are triple vaccinated I had an in-person appointment. Fortunately another patient had cancelled and I had an unscheduled Echocardiogram. It showed that the leaky mitral valve on the left side of my heart had actually improved. With my panoply of medications designed to help with remodelling my heart, this aged pathologist seems to have healed herself, at least to some extent (TG)!!

What was good about having a heart attack was that the actual event and the weird hallucinations I experienced while in Intensive Care made a suitable last chapter and gave me the incentive to complete my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ before it was too late.

Cardiac stents were first inserted into a patient’s coronary arteries  by Jacques Puel in 1986, but when I retired as a pathologist in 1991 I had still never yet seen one. They are incredible tiny metal mesh tubes coated with an anticoagulant so they don’t block up again. We now realise that some remodelling of the heart can occur. We were taught as medical students that once you had a heart attack and part of the heart muscle died, it would be replaced by scar tissue and that was that. How medicine has advanced since that time!!

I complained to the cardiologist that some days I find it hard to get out of my nice warm bed and prefer to stay there and read. He chided me, without mentioning the fact that I was an elderly lady of 90.

‘The range of powerful drugs you are taking could make anyone feel that way’, he said’!!

Woman in a White Coat

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

Spitalfileds market gentrified

I often look back over my 90 odd years, and think about ‘The good old days’ – but were they all good? Yes, you could borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbour if you ran out, or cadge a couple of shillings for the gas meter if you were short, but what about the downside? What about the yearly epidemics of polio before the Polio Vaccine started to save our children from years of misery or death? And being plagued by flies all summer, uselessly attacked with those awful yellow flypapers because there were always more flies being hatched? Or in the absence of fridges, the milk going sour by the end of the day and the butter always swimming in its dish?

My middle sister missed having a place at the local grammar school, Central Foundation School for Girls (CFS), because the Junior County scholarship she won at 11 didn’t come with a grant for the compulsory uniform my parents were too poor to buy. Then when she won a supplementary scholarship with a grant for uniform in 1939, WW2 broke out. Our evacuation billet was awful and we came home at Christmas to find there were no grammar schools in London. She left school to become a shorthand typist instead of the doctor she’d hoped to become.

And was it OK for the porters in Spitalfields market as I walked through on my way to CFS carrying my cello to make crude remarks about where I might place it? And have to thread my way between piles of rotting vegetables and horse droppings while they whistled and catcalled?

Lots of good things – the wonderful Whitechapel library, free entrance to the National Gallery, weekly visits to the cinema whatever was showing.Spitalfields Market is now tarted up with lots of different stalls and eateries. Just a Sculpture of a pear and a fig to remind you there was once a thriving Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable market there.

But its swings and roundabouts – ain’t it?

Many thanks to all of you who wished me Many Happy Returns on my 90th birthday on October 8th and wrote saying they were enjoying my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. You’ll pleased to hear that I’m steaming ahead with my sequel ’25 Houses’.

Woman in a White Coat

 

ON BEING A COLLECTOR BUT NOT A HOARDER

A few of our kitchen gadgets

I was at Central Foundation School for Girls in Spital Square 1942-49 and although it was wartime and food and clothing were rationed, we had sewing and cookery classes in the lower forms. My mother never wore an apron when she cooked her rather plain food and nor do I, unless it’s a fried fish and chips day. I don’t think I ever finished the apron we had to make and I certainly don’t remember taking one home. I’m pretty sure that I had cookery classes at CFS but any recollection of them has completely gone., although I took several cookery courses at Further Education Colleges after I retired.

I’m not a collector in the sense of being an expert on Ming vases or Staffordshire china or anything like that, but I just love collecting ‘things’, including lots of kitchen gadgets. Besides the fact that they are gorgeous and I adore them, having four children and four grandchildren means I can buy the latest design and pass on the previous model to one of them. So, I have the latest model of bread maker and I bought a new little laptop on which to try out Windows 11 – my previous laptop was of too low specification. Our elder son Simon wanted to know why I want to try the latest version before the bugs have been ironed out, but that’s just me. I do like to have the latest and newest. I’m quite happy to be a guinea pig and I’m enjoying using Windows 11.

Before Covid, we would visit out daughter Louise in San Sebastian, our daughter Jane in Zurich and various European capitals for long weekends with shopping as an important part of our trip – even higher on our list than visiting museums and art galleries. Fortunately Josh enjoys looking around interesting shops as much as I do. I particularly miss our regular pilgrimages to Carrefour, just over the border from San Sebastian. Various ingredients I couldn’t get here in London became part of my repertoire and I miss them, though now our borders have been opened Louise is able to bring non-perishables so I can restock.

Many thanks to those who wished me Happy Birthday on my 90th birthday on October 8th and wrote to say they were enjoying my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Visit my blog at https://abbyjw.com

Woman in a White Coat

25 HOUSES – A SEQUEL TO ‘WOMAN IN A WHITE COAT’

The Goulston Street entrance of Wentworth Dwellings, now shuttered. Our flat was on the third floor right

I started writing the sequel to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ several times, but Covid has been my excuse for setting it side. Our writing group has been meeting once a fortnight on Zoom. It’s a good substitute, but there’s nothing like talking and laughing over cafetière coffee and homemade muffins to get the juices flowing.

I’ve got no excuse now. Things have eased up a bit, and though at 90 I still have to be cautious, we are starting to meet up with friends, though our writing group will go on Zooming, now that one member has moved out of London and another now lives in Glasgow.

The title ’25 Houses’ relates to the number of houses, flats and hospital residents’ quarters I have lived in. When Josh and I got married in 1956, we first lived in a basement flat near the hospital where I was a medical student. Thereafter we moved every five or so years. We moved that often because I’m one of those people who loves change – even if it’s for the worse!!

However, we have been in our apartment in Westminster for the last 15 years, since 2006. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t live to see the new century. Who’d have thought I’d still be here in 2021?. I guess our next move will be the permanent one.

I was born in Mother Levy’s Maternity Hospital in Whitechapel in 1931 and then it was off to a cold water tenement in Wentworth Dwellings, in what was known at Petticoat Lane in London’s East End. With the outbreak of WW2 on September 1939, when I was not quite eight years old, my wanderings began.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

ON BEING 90 YEARS OLD

Image from Teal Burrell. Wake up World

So what’s it like reaching the grand old age of 90? Well actually it’s much like being 89, but it has a certain extra cachet. ‘I’m a 90 year old retired consultant pathologist’ definitely sounds more impressive than ‘I’m an 89 year old….’

In 2017, I submitted  my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ for publication a little late so that I could truthfully say ‘I’m an 85-year old….’. It sounded so much better than ‘I’m an 84 year old…’.

Seriously though – things aren’t too bad. I’ve been triple vaccinated and had my ‘flu jab and although I’m a bit rheumaticky and get breathless on exertion, I get around. I have been taking a couple of online Further Education classes – isn’t Zoom fantastic? – and I have started practising the piano again. I’ve even got out my Ancient Greek workbooks and I try to do one exercise every day.

But there’s no doubt I am missing a few neurons. Well more than a few. When I had a CT scan some years ago, after a recurrence of my childhood migraine, it showed a missing area on the left side of my brain. Imagine what I could have achieved if I’d had a whole brain!!

I know it’s ‘schadenfreude’ – pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune – but I can’t help being pleased when like me younger people can’t think of the exact name or word we are looking for. And I definitely find multi-tasking more difficult. If I think of something to do, I have to do it there and then, or I’m likely to forget it.

I have a terrible medical history – several major conditions including cancer and osteoporosis with sequential fractures of hip, wrist and ankle, and collapsed vertebrae. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!!’ (Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich starker). My cardiologist said that battling through all that stuff is probably why I survived my near-fatal heart attack in 2016. They’ve never let me read my hospital notes, but I guess that somewhere someone – maybe an overworked underpaid junior doctor – has pencilled in ‘Tough old bird!! Can be difficult!!’

Functional MRIs of resting brain activity have been used to test human intelligence. I reckon my brain would show lots of gaps and fewer connections!! (Image above  from Teal Burrell. Wake up World)

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Visit my blog at https://abbyjw.com

Woman in a White Coat

 

 

FAKES AND FORGERIES

Portrait of Franz Wouters 1645

It’s fantastic finally to have Art Galleries and Museums opening again in London  – though you do have to book just to visit, as well as having to book for the wonderful exhibitions now on.

I’ve been attending an excellent Further Education course of Forgeries and Fakes on Zoom, as well as a talk on the same subject by Dr David Bellingham, Programme Director at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. He spoke about the many copies made of paintings by Franz Hals (1582-1666) because his work was so popular and mentioned the exhibition of his male portraits at the Wallace Collection, in Manchester Square.

The Wallace Collection is one of my favourite galleries – I always very much enjoyed the Sunday morning tours by curators who made even porcelain snuff boxes interesting.

It’s a small exhibition of his male portraits including the famous ‘Laughing Cavalier’. The curator assured me that the paintings on show were all bona fide and not copies.

I’ll have to remember to read the labels of paintings in future and see if they say by xxx or from the School of ….

The ‘Laughing Cavalier’ painted in 1624, is always fun to see – you feel he is smiling at you personally. But what I found most interesting was that his painting of François Wouters, painted in 1645, with his plain collar and cuffs just peeping out of his cloak, looks impressionistic and so modern. The others, with their elaborate lace collars, are very much in the precise detailed style we’ve come to  associate with his work.

Many thanks to all of you who wished me Many Happy Returns on October 8th – my 90th birthday –  and wrote saying you were enjoying my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.

Read more of my stories in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Visit my blog at https://abbyjw.com

Woman in a White Coat

90 years – THURSDAY OCTOBER 8TH 1931 – FRIDAY OCTOBER 8TH 2021

Me 1934

Today I reached the incredible age of 90 – incredible for lots of reasons, including the facts that I lived in London during the worst of the blitz and survived both breast cancer and a near fatal heart attack.

Born in the Jewish Maternity Hospital in Underwood Street, off Whitechapel, I was raised in a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane, in London’s East End. I am therefore a real Cockney – someone born within the sound of Bow Bells. Those are the bells of St Mary Le Bow in Cheapside, bells that, before the present roar of London’s traffic, could be heard as far away as Hackney Marshes. I don’t have a Cockney accent nor do I know many Cockney rhyming slang expressions. Instead, I have just the faintest hint of a Russian accent from listening to my mother – a Russian emigree.

1931 wasn’t a good time to be born, the third of three daughters in a family that desperately wanted a son. It was the height of the Great Depression and my father was out of work. When WW2 broke out I was evacuated to three different places, coming back to London in 1942, when Hitler was bombing London nightly, and my family slept in an underground shelter in Middlesex Street.

In spite of my background, I became a dentist, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a consultant pathologist in a major London Teaching Hospital, the Director of a Cancer Research Laboratory and, after I retired, a writer and memoirist. I am fortunate also to be a wife, the mother of four children and grandmother of four.

Although my research was at the sharp end, I could never have dreamt of the enormous power of the Internet, nor of my sports watch that not only tells me how far I’ve walked and how many calories I have used, but what was the quality of my sleep and where I have left my ever disappearing mobile. My biggest regrets are that I won’t live to travel to Mars, nor will I see where AI is going to take us.

But I mustn’t complain. No-one else in my family has ever lived beyond 75. I must be thankful for small mercies!!

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Visit my blog at https://abbyjw.com

Woman in a White Coat

 

 

BOOSTER DOSE – 3RD TIME LUCKY

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid  Secretary of State for Health and Social Care emailed me:

I am writing to you because you were previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. This means you were thought to be at high risk of becoming very ill if you caught the virus.

and I had a text from the local Hospital Trust:

We are inviting you to have your booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as our records show you are eligible

So I had my ‘flu vaccine and then my third, booster dose of Covid vaccine, a week later. Now, just over a week short of my 90th birthday, if I do get the dreaded virus, it should only be a mild attack, not requiring hospitalisation and a spell in ICU. I was on a ventilator when I had a near-fatal heart attack in 2016 and I really don’t want to go there again. At my age, it’s not a question of if, but when. However, dying of Covid, gasping for breath, is not a great way to go.

The COVID-19 vaccines were developed so quickly because we now have gene sequencing and all the fantastic technology that went into formulating them. Worldwide, over 6 billion doses have been administered. Not one of the several powerful medications that I, and other patients with long term medical conditions, take every day was ever tested on so many people before being approved. It’s horrible to think about the nearly 5 million people who died from this dreadful pandemic but fantastic that help is finally at hand.

I usually get a sore arm after the ‘flu vaccine but this time I had a sore area for a couple of days after the Covid vaccine instead. Luckily, I’ve had no general side effects from any of the vaccine doses.

We are so lucky to have a brilliant National Health Service!!

15 minute post accination waiting area

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat