Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Peggy's Cove: Charm & Complications!

What a charming place: Peggy's Cove of Halifax.

The Cockroach Catcher was finishing reading the book Complications and such charming old landscape reminds him of the old traditional medical training he received and how some doctors still do. Like the author of this book.

The book reads more like a collection of blog posts and in fact it was. Yet it was real and touching. Sometimes it was brunt and brutal. and after all doctors are as human as anyone. Complications includes those doctors themselves may suffer: mental illness and alcoholism as well as the serious cardiac condition of the author's young son.

We, doctors make mistakes and please we must be allowed to sort them out without affecting career or worst, future medical behaviour.

A great book for doctors in particular and when on holiday in a charming place.










All photos©2014 Am Ang Zhang  

 (Metropolitan Books, 288 pages, $24), a collection of 14 pieces, some of which were originally published in The New Yorker and Slate magazines, Gawande uses real-life scenarios – a burned-out doctor who refuses to quit; a terminal patient who opts for risky surgery, with fatal results – to explore the larger ethical issues that underlie medicine. He asks: How much input should a patient have? How can young doctors gain hands-on experience without endangering lives? And how responsible are these doctors for their mistakes?
While “Complications” is full of tragic errors and near misses, the book is not intended to be an expose. Rather, Gawande asserts, it is meant to deepen our understanding of the intricacies of medicine. “In most medical writing, the doctor is either a hero or a villain,” he says, with an edge in his voice. “What I am trying to do is push beyond that and show how ordinary doctors are – and at the same time show that what they can do is extraordinary.”
John Freeman, Copyright (c) 2002 The Denver Post.

Quotes

- ‘There have now been many studies of elite performers – international violinists, chess grand masters, professional ice-skaters, mathematicians, and so forth – and the biggest difference… is the cumulative amount of deliberate practice they’ve had.’

- ‘We have long faced a conflict between the imperative to give patients the best possible care and the need to provide novices with experience. Residencies attempt to mitigate potential harm through supervision and graduated responsibility. And there is reason to think patients actually benefit from teaching. Studies generally find teaching hospitals have better outcomes than non-teaching hospitals. Residents may be amateurs, but having them around checking on patients, asking questions, and keeping faculty on their toes seem to help. But there is still getting around those first few unsteady times a young physician tries to put in a central line, remove a breast cancer, or sew together two segments of a colon… the ward services and clinics where residents have the most responsibility are populated by the poor, the uninsured, the drunk, and the demented… By traditional ethics and public insistence (not to mention court rulings), a patient’s right to the best care possible must trump the objective of training novices. We want perfection without practice. Yet everyone is harmed if no one is trained for the future. So learning is hidden behind drapes and anesthesia and the elisions of language.’ 

- ‘There is one place, however, where doctors can talk candidly about their mistakes, if not with patients, then at least with one another. It is called the Morbidity and Mortality Conference – or, more simply, M+M – and it takes place, usually once a week, at nearly every academic hospital in the country. This institution survives because laws protecting its proceedings from legal discovery have stayed on the books in most states, despite frequent challenges.’ 


Anorexia Nervosa: Enmeshment! Entrenchment!

Enmeshment:This is a transactional style where family members are highly involved with one another. There is excessive togetherness, intrusion on other's thoughts, feelings and actions, lack of privacy, and weak family boundaries. Members often speak for one another, and perception of the self and other family members is poorly differentiated. A child growing up in this type of family learns that family loyalty is of primary importance. This pattern of interaction hinders separation and individuation later in life.       

Minuchin
 ©2013Am Ang Zhang  
From The Cockroach Catcher
Chapter 34  Failure?



I
t is not easy to admit to failures and harder still for doctors to do so especially if they did everything right and according to protocol. 


         Doing the “right” thing is not an indication of success.  

         Hardly.
         Yes. I am coming back to Anorexia Nervosa again and I do not apologise for it. I am apologising for our failures though.

         The British Daily Mail reported in March 2007:
         “It is thought there are between 60,000 and 90,000 adults being treated for eating disorders at any one time in the UK. The average age of diagnosis is between 16 and 18between 60,000 and 90,000 adults are estimated to be treated for eating disorders at any one time in the UK.
         Over a 13-month period from March 2005, 206 preteenage children across Britain and Ireland were newly diagnosed with serious disorders ranging from bulimia and anorexia to binge eating.
         Half were admitted to hospitals for in-patient treatment. Some were showing symptoms of starvation such as a low temperature and a slow heart rate, while 10 per cent had to be fed by tube.”
        
         In the same month, the British Independent reported:
         “Anorexia Nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric condition. In ten years 3% of these patients died, and although half were by suicide, the rest were related to the starvation process.
         Just this week in Rome a 27-year-old model identified only as Ilaria died of Anorexia after an illness lasting ten years. She weighed 35kg at her death. Luisel Ramos, 22-year-old Uruguayan model died at a fashion show in August, 2006 after suffering a fatal heart attack that was thought to be the result of Anorexia. Ana Carolina Reston Marcan, the Brazilian catwalk queen died only three months later in a Sao Paulo hospital.”
        
         When I took over the adolescent unit as its consultant in charge there were six Anorexia Nervosa patients in varying stages of emaciation or weight gain depending on from which side you want to look at it.  It is not always wise to have so many anorectic patients together as they do share tricks with each other and it is often more difficult to customise treatment.

         What needed my urgent attention was of course Sammy. Sammy had a very feminine name but preferred the nickname Sammy. Sammy’s Section was due to expire in less than 14 days and I had to compile a report for the Tribunal which would be sitting to decide on her fate.

         It was perhaps a sign of our failure as psychiatrists to effectively treat Anorexia Nervosa that eventually case law was established to regard food in Anorexia Nervosa as medicine.  Therefore food may be used forcibly to treat Anorexia Nervosa when the condition becomes life threatening. 

         The usual test of mental capacity no longer applies. Instead the law is used forcibly to feed a generally bright and intelligent person “over-doing” what most consider to be “good”.  They try to eat less and eat healthily by avoiding fat and the like and wham we have the law on them.

         I have to admit that I have not liked this aspect of Sectioning. Unfortunately it is used often, judging by the high numbers of tube fed patients.

         On the other hand not everybody is able to treat Anorexia Nervosa patients or, in reality, do battle with them. It requires experience, energy, time, wit, charisma and often impeccable timing. However, sometimes I do wonder if we are indeed doing a disservice when we take things out of parents’ hands by agreeing to take over.

         With hindsight and upon reflecting on a number of cases I have dealt with, I often wonder: if hospitalisation had not been an option at all, would improvement rate and, more importantly, mortality rate have been any different.

         We do not section people for smoking, drinking, or doing drugs, which all endanger life. Nor do we stop people running the Marathon or eating raw oysters when these activities regularly lead to mortalities.

         Society is coming round to do something about over-eating in children but it will take some time before they apply the Mental Health Acts. 

         To me, the moment a psychiatrist turns to the law he is admitting that he has failed. 

         At least that is my view and if I perpetuated the Compulsory Order with Sammy, I too would be part of that failure.

         There had been no weight gain in Sammy despite the tube feeding and the debate was: shall we increase the feed or shall we wait? Everybody just assumed that she would stay on as a compulsory patient.

         Despite bed rests and even more embarrassingly the use of bedpans, many Anorexia Nervosa patients managed not to gain weight whatever we pumped into them. The balanced feeds were in fact quite expensive. There was no secret that they were aware of the exercises they could perform even on bed rest and the determination not to put on weight had to be seen to be believed. If such determination was applied elsewhere I was sure these young girls could be very successful.

         I had to find an answer, an answer for Sammy and an answer for myself.

         Being forced to eat by the State remained the treatment of choice for everybody except for one stubborn consultant.

         “At least we did all we could,” my staff constantly reminded me.
         “And she is the most determined of all the Anorectics we have right now.”
         More reason to show the others that this new psychiatrist had some other means than brute force, I thought to myself. 

         Yes, I could be as determined as they were.

         The hours of family therapy only brought about accusations and counter accusations with hardly any resolution. Middle class families have certain ways of dealing with things where some branches of family therapy are not particularly good at all.

         The modern trend is certainly moving away from blaming families.  Or that is the rhetoric of most who write publicly about it.

         Whatever the official line, families cannot help feeling blamed.

         “If we are not to blame, why do we need family therapy?”

         “There are so many other families like ours.  Why do they not have the same problem?”

         We may reassure them that there are and that is the truth, but the truth is that there are also Anorexia-free families.

         Yes, it might help if they do find a gene like they did with obesity.  Yet that cannot explain why there are more extremely obese people in say the U.S. which collects gene pools from across the globe.

         So Sammy’s family had the full benefit of eight sessions of family therapy by two very experienced therapists. In the end, there was just a lot of recrimination between all parties including the therapists and all agreed it would not be the way forward. That was when tube-feeding started.

         Minuchin dealt with over-involvement, over-protectiveness and conflict avoidance in these families with no special apology on whether he blamed the family or not. He used to start with a meal session with the family. His success, like many such methods, probably had more to do with his charisma than his method and is thus difficult to replicate.

         For Sammy and her family the message was simple and clear enough, no matter how hard we lied.

         The family had failed and the hospital had to take over.

         That was the blunt truth. 

         But the hospital had failed too and we had to resort to the Mental Health Act on one of society’s most sensible and decent and safest citizens. 

         I decided enough was enough. I could no longer perpetuate the no-blame approach. I could no longer continue to hide behind the power conferred onto me by the law. 

         In short, I had to reverse just about everything that had gone on before, and more.

         Just two weeks before the tribunal sat we had the big review meeting. To most at the unit, the review was fairly routine as there was hardly any choice – a full Section for Hospital Treatment primarily intended for difficult to treat Schizophrenics and difficult to control Bipolars in the acute manic phase. Sammy would be “detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure”, and classed with the likes of the few psychotics who had committed the most heinous murders. To save Sammy’s life, it would be natural to continue with the Mental Health Act.

         Yes there would be weeks of tube feeding and bed rest, but the State had to take over the complete care of this bright young thing for her own sake.

         I could not see any other way either.

         Unless …….I could reverse everything that had gone on before.  

         If our work is to be therapeutic then a sort of therapeutic alliance is important, even if tentative.  Some people do not realise that you can fight with your patient and still have a sort of therapeutic alliance.

         I had a plan.

         These meetings were attended by just about everybody who had anything to do with the patient.  They were held at school times so that most of the teaching staff could be present as well. These meetings also had a tendency to drag on as everybody seemed to have a lot to say about very little, a trait not just limited to psychiatrists but also seen in social workers, therapists, nurses, junior grade doctors, teachers and visiting professionals. People always seemed to have a lot to say on cases where there was the least progress. 

         My personal view is that this was a sure sign of anarchy which had unfortunately drifted into our Health Service, encouraged in part by the numerous re-organisations that had gradually eroded the authority of the doctor. 

         Saul Wurman[4], an architect by training but also an author of business and tour books, famously wrote that meetings really do not always need to be an hour long. Why can it not be ten or twenty minutes?

         Could I achieve that?

         After briefly explaining to all the purpose of the meeting, I turned to Sammy, who still had the nasal feeding tube “Micropore’d[5]” securely and said, “What do you think?”

         “It is so unfair.  Now I shall not be able to go to Harvard.”

         It is generally perceived as a given that a U.K. citizen who has been Sectioned will not be able to use the Visa Waiver to visit the U.S. If that person then has to apply for a Visa, having been detained under the Mental Health Act must be a major hindrance, although I have never seen this applied in practice. One of my patients did have to cancel a horse trial trip to Kentucky because she was sectioned at the height of a manic episode.

         I did not know she had aspirations to get to Harvard but I was not surprised given what I already knew about mother.

         “Before I say anything else, can I ask you a few things?”
         “What? Sure!”
         “Do you smoke, drink, take Ecstasy or go out clubbing?”
         “No.  Why?”
         “Do you have piercings and tattoos on you?”
         “Tattoos—yuk!  Yes, I having my ears pierced. That is all.”
         “Do you like Pop music?”
         “No way. I play the violin and I like Bach and Bartok!”
         Everybody was attentive now.
         “Do you shoot heroin or smoke Cannabis?”
         “No way!”
         She was getting annoyed.
         “What about boys and sex?” I felt bad even to ask especially in front of her mother, who I thought would faint if we knew something she did not.
         “How can you even ask and in front of my parents? You know I don’t do things like that!”

         I can remember my own adolescence. I did not do any of those things either and I did not even have pierced ears.

         I then turned to the parents.  Mother was a history teacher at a famous private school in one of England’s most middle class town. She also spent a year at Harvard, hence Sammy’s ambition to follow her. Father was a prominent city lawyer.

         “You have always provided well for her, a good education, European and U.S. holidays, a comfortable home and expensive music lessons.”

         “We are fortunate enough to be able to do that. She is our only child.” Mother replied in a tone implying, “what’s wrong with that?”

         “And she has always been a bright child, strong willed and single minded. She passed her Grade 8 violin with distinction at 14 and could have become a musician. But she wanted to do International Studies.” Mother added.

         “So she always had her way.”
         “She has always got on with everything, studying and practising the violin. And she keeps a tidy bedroom!”
         A tidy bedroom! My goodness, everything was falling into place.
         “Sammy……”
         “Yes……”

         “You know what? You are the first adolescent I know that keeps a tidy bedroom, do not do drugs, do not drink, do not smoke and you do not do a load of other things I asked you about. You are by modern standards a FAILED adolescent!”
         Then I turned to the parents.
         “And you, FAILED parents!”
         “And we FAILED you. We failed you because we had to hide behind the law and force feed you.”
         Sammy said, “I can’t do all those things even if you make me.”
         Ah, the turning point.
         “No, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to either.”
         I then told her that I would like to take the tube off her despite lack of progress, or because of it.
         It simply had not worked.
         I wanted her to take over, do what she needed to do and I would decide in about ten days if I had to extend the Treatment Order.
         Forty five minutes. The meeting took forty five minutes as people had to present summaries of different reports, the details of which were irrelevant here.
         The battle was over. Sammy looked relaxed. Nobody was fighting her now. She was back in control.
         I took her off the Section as she started to put on weight and before long she was discharged. 

         We forget how easy it is to entrench. To entrench is a sure way to perpetuate a problem.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Away on Vacation: Anne of Green Gables Country.

Heading towards Anne of Green Gables country. In the meantime, perhaps you would like to catch up with some of my past postings or even read my book: The Cockroach Catcher

 Young Hawksbill Turtle©2010 Am Ang Zhang


Latest Views on the book:


5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-read for Students of Psychiatry August 10, 2014
Format:Paperback
We all have stories to tell with regard to our experiences as physicians. Zhang is one of our medical school classmates who took it to a different level by writing and publishing a book. The book details how it all started, from the time his family moved to Hong Kong from China, to his years in medical school, to his experience as a child psychiatrist in the UK. The book is full of interesting case studies of actual patients he saw and the challenges he faced dealing with them.
I was captivated by many of the interesting stories in the book. It’s a must-read for all students of psychiatry. It also makes for good reading material for anyone during their leisure moments.

From another doctor friend:

The Cockroach Catcher has evoked many images, memories, emotions from my own family circumstances and clinical experience.

My 80 year old Mum has a long-standing habit of collecting old newspaper and gossip magazines. Stacks of paper garbage filled every room of her apartment, which became a fire hazard. My siblings tricked her into a prolonged holiday, emptied the flat and refurbished the whole place ten years ago. ……My eldest son was very pretty as a child and experienced severe OCD symptoms, necessitating consultations with a psychiatrist at an age of 7 years. The doctor shocked us by advising an abrupt change of school or we would "lose" him, so he opined. He was described as being aloft and detached as a child. He seldom smiled after arrival of a younger brother. He was good at numbers and got a First in Maths from a top college later on. My wife and I always have the diagnosis of autism in the back of our mind. Fortunately, he developed good social skills and did well at his college. He is a good leader and co-ordinator at the workplace. We feel relieved now and the years of sacrifice (including me giving up private practice and my wife giving up a promising administrative career ) paid off.

Your pragmatic approach to problem solving and treatment plans is commendable in the era of micro-managed NHS and education system. I must admit that I learn a great deal about the running of NHS psychiatric services and the school system.

Objectively, a reader outside of the UK would find some chapters in the book intriguing because a lot of space was devoted to explaining the jargons (statementing, section, grammar schools) and the NHS administrative systems. Of course, your need to clarify the peculiar UK background of your clinical practice is understandable.

Your sensitivity and constant reference to the feelings, background and learning curves of your sub-ordinates and other members of the team are rare attributes of psychiatric bosses, whom I usually found lacking in affect! If more medical students have access to your book, I'm sure many more will choose psychiatry as a career. The Cockroach Catcher promotes the human side of clinical psychiatric practice in simple language that an outsider can appreciate. An extremely outstanding piece of work indeed.

From Australia:

I have finished reading The Cockroach Catcher and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Zhang, I particularly liked the juxtaposition and paralleling of your travel stories and observations with your case studies, Of course, I could appreciate it even more, knowing the author and hearing your voice in the text. Because I’m dealing with anorexia, ADD and ADHD students I was very interested in your experiences with patients and parents and your treatment. Amazing how many parents are the underlying causes of their offspring’s angst. It was an eminently readable text for the medically uninitiated like me. Keep writing, Zhang
 Squid ©2010 Am Ang Zhang
From another doctor:

Absolutely riveting! Brings me back to working (in NHS psychiatry) when work was really interesting! The tone is quite conversational; it is like hearing you telling stories. I ordered more copies for my family and friends.

I knew it would be very special and it sure is. To us your trainees it is like going back on the rotation to have the joy of working with you again. The difference is that l can now learn at leisure from this book. Congratulations.
The book is very well written and makes very easy and interesting reading even for the laymen. You learn a lot about the Health System, a lot about child psychiatry and a lot about the growing up and development of the author.

Fascinating account of child psychiatry cases, including some creative yet effective treatments. Anyone who is a parent or around children or really anyone at all actually will find the book surprising, entertaining, thought-provoking, funny and moving.

The book makes me realize the difficult decisions with which a doctor is so often faced, the need for him to have faith in himself and, coupled with that, the need for continued idealism and enthusiasm. These don't, of course, apply only to doctors but are particularly important for them.
Great book. I have bought one to give to my son on his birthday.




From the LUL
U.com website, where you can preview the chapter Seven Minute Cure and if you so wish, order a copy of the book (after creating your own account):

Fascinat
ing! What a great read. Just reading the one chapter made me want to read the whole book. Thank you!
A beautiful opening! A piece written with of all that wit, intelligence and sarcasm! The author has managed to illustrate a boring NHS subject in the most interesting of ways. He has convinced me to read on. The NHS should urgently seek help and advice from this doctor!
Thank goodness for doctors like these!! If the rest of the book is as good as the preview chapter then it will be a fantastic resource for practitioners and the public. 
Fascinating preview chapter. I can't wait to read more.
Horrah for the doctor. Chapter 1: The Seven Minute Cure. The doctor overcame the obstacles faced from the establishment and freed a young child from her prison. Great read.
Other reviews and feedback:
Absolutely riveting! Brings me back to working (in NHS psychiatry) when work was really interesting! The tone is quite conversational; it is like hearing you telling stories. I ordered more copies for my family and friends.
I knew it would be very special and it sure is. To us your trainees it is like going back on the rotation to have the joy of working with you again. The difference is that l can now learn at leisure from this book. Congratulations.
The book is very well written and makes very easy and interesting reading even for thelaymen. You learn a lot about the Health System, a lot about child psychiatry and a lot about the growing up and development of the author.
Fascinating account of child psychiatry cases, including some creative yet effectivetreatments. Anyone who is a parent or around children or really anyone at all actually will find the book surprising, entertaining, thought-provoking, funny and moving.
The book makes me realize the difficult decisions with which a doctor is so often faced, theneed for him to have faith in himself and, coupled with that, the need for continued idealism and enthusiasm. These don't, of course, apply only to doctors but are particularly important for them.
Great book. I have bought one to give to my son on his birthday.
(Note: both father and son are doctors.)




I was in Special Education for many years. I just love the way you dealt with the girl who was bullied, and the boy with Behaviour Disorder. I am buying two more copies, one for my friend who is a psychologist and one for a colleague in Special Education.

I wish I had read your book when I was headmistress. I would have had so much more insight into why some of the pupils behaved the way they did.
I have been a school counsellor for 15 years and we have had regular recommendations on books to read. None of them taught us as much as your book, which would have been very useful for our weekly screening meeting discussions.
Reading the book and his blog, you cannot help admiring the author's width and depth of knowledge, the light-heartedness, the humility, the humane and the human side of people.
You learn a lot about the Health System, a lot about child psychiatry and a lot about the growing up and development of the author. 
What a book! I cried a little. I laughed a little. I know I should not. 
Your stories are amazing. I really enjoy reading it. 
My wife cannot put your book down and I shall not be able to get my hands on it until she has finished.
I was horrified by some of the gruesome cases and agonised at the suffering of some of your patients. But there are moments of laughter and smile at Dr Zhang's wit in handling the cases and patients.
Am Ang, thank you for a wonderful book. You know I could not put it down. My husband is now reading it and he said it is such an easy read as he thought it was all going to be heavy and clinical.
You have such a way with the little ones. What about the 12 year old pretending to be three and a half! My goodness.
Just the village life can fill a book. (Seriously an in-depth version will be much welcome!) Book two can be Life at HKU. And so on... Fascinating!
Having grown up in farming country, I love the Chapter on The Village. I know it is different but so much about village life just clicked with me. Makes me wants to go home to have a look. I would like you to write more about yourself. Just all the little details you are so good with.
I wish I had your book when I was bringing up my kids. I am giving each of my two children a copy. I decided to put down Pillars of The Earth for a while and start your book on a flight. I could not put it down to go to sleep. Wow: it makes so much sense.
I did expect the cover photo to be one of yours – after all, the creative mind needs full exposure, artistic and otherwise. I was just recommending it to some friends.
I never imagine I can have so much fun and gain so much knowledge by reading a book of this sort by, of course, an author with a sense of humour and a deep understanding of human nature. I really enjoyed reading it. Life could be so much easier if we had the chance to do what we like, to let our thoughts be shared by someone we trust, to make sugar pills of nasty encounters and so on and so forth for bearing more positive thinking. Just by a mere short conversation, which hit exactly at the 'dead pit' of the hiccup boy, the hiccup was over. Human nature is just like that. After reading the author's accounts of his cases, I wish I could also be endowed with such wit and wisdom, not so much for curing others, but to let my own body and soul remain healthy and sound always.
Love it. I read it in three days flat. Not only should parents read it; I think all those in the medical profession should read it. There is so much common sense. I am recommending it to my book club. Will you come and talk to them about it?



Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me - Would we? Could we?
                                                                      The Way We Were