Some of the things I hadn’t thought about before the op and nobody told me were:

you have to get out of bed the day after surgery, and move around, you may faint but that is nothing to worry about apparently (I fainted 3 times in a row and I confess I did not enjoy the experience, turned out one of the painkillers was to blame);
my feet were in compression bootees which work on a pump to stimulate circulation, that meant I was tethered in my bed and couldn’t change position, a great incentive to get mobile so you can get rid of the darn things;
I had to wear compression socks all the time, except in the shower, for 4 weeks ;
you can’t just hop out of bed to go to the loo;
I was on a drip for antibiotics for the first day;
I can’t wee on command or if people are watching and waiting, but you have to wee to avoid infection etc.,
it gets lonely in hospital.

Before the operation I had very much taken the view that I didn’t want to know too much about the actual operation. What I believed I needed to concentrate on was recovery. Especially as every member of the medical profession I had spoken to before the operation had said “Bi-lateral, ooh, you’re brave”. Which I am not, but I had taken the hint that recovery would take some work on my part, and more than if I only had one done at a time.

The physio had also prepared me for this. Not only would both legs be hugely bruised, but I wouldn’t gave a good leg to stand on so to speak. This meant I would not be able to bend either leg initially so everything between prone and upright required arm power. To see what that’s like, try lying down on a bed, then get up without bending your legs at all. Even worse, try sitting down on the loo without bending your legs, then try standing up. Fun times. I perfected a technique of gently sliding my legs out in front of me as I lowered myself down, then levering myself up with my forearms. As the physio said “push your backside out and your nose up and forward, like a baby bird taking flight”. I don’t think I looked as cute as a baby bird but I did squawk occasionally! I also got stuck a couple of times and had to ask for help.

The second day after the operation (or Day 3 as they called it) I was using a walking frame. I had a sit down shower, (my bandages had come off and the new dressings were waterproof), washed my hair and cleaned my teeth. I even managed to dress myself. I was able to sit in a chair and felt much better for it. The physio came and gave me my first set of exercises, including bending my knees and raising my legs a few times each. I knew that I had to get as much bend as possible as soon as I could, because the movement you get in the first few weeks or so is what you keep,it is really hard to improve after that. As everybody told me “do what the physio tells you, exercise is more important than walking because walking will come back naturally”. Good advice. The most frightening part of the day was having to go and have x-rays of both knees, standing with my knees pressed flat to the plate as well as sitting with them bent. We managed it without any more fainting though. The funniest was hearing the nurses telling male patients who wouldn’t even try to walk to stop whinging because “the lady in the side ward has had both knees done and she’s walking” then seeing some bloke hobbling past my door in a determined way.

Day 4 I lost the bootees at last, my exercises were increased, I moved on to crutches, and was able to get myself up to go to the loo in the night. I had to drink so much water I felt I was going to burst. The pain was pretty bad, but actually less than I feared and no worse than a really bad day had been before the operation. A couple of nurses seemed to think I should be able to go home, but to do that I had to prove I could do stairs ok. That was a very daunting thought as yet again I had no “good leg to heaven bad leg to hell” option for up and down the stairs. The physio said we would try that the next day. As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep well.

The next day arrived, as did the physio. I had expected a short flight of test stairs in the exercise room. No chance! The test is on the stairs from the ground floor to the first floor. They looked like the ones in Labyrinth to me! I considered just throwing myself down them but I managed them, by dint of putting my weight on the banister and my crutch. The physio said she was happy for me to go home the next day (Day 6 ). I was over the moon.

On Day 6 I asked when I could go home. The nurse checked my wounds and one of them was leaking. She said she wasn’t happy for me to go. I could discharge myself, but that meant I was going against advice. So I stayed. That was my lowest day. I had tried so hard and I still might have got an infection. I cried a lot that day. I didn’t want to, I just couldn’t help it.

The next morning the same nurse collared the registrar to check my wounds. He was happy and let me go home. Now came the next surprise. How to get into the car without bending my legs? We considered sliding me in through the hatchback like a plank of wood, but eventually I worked it out. I had to back up to the passenger door, lower myself onto the seat sideways on, then use the grab handle to manoeuvre myself back until I could swing my legs in with minimal bend. At the other end I “just” had to reverse the process. I was home.

I had been given some aids to help me, including raised toilet seats which were great for me, but not so good for my husband as they are very high and can’t be lifted up. Fortunately we have 2 loos so we went for His and Hers. Stairs, showering, a normal bed and coping with the dog frightened me a bit, changing the dressings scared us both. All unnecessary worries when it came down to it.

Ten days after the operation I had to go to our GP surgery so the nurse could remove my staples. This stung a bit but was ok, she was brilliant and very calming. One dressing was removed at this point as the wound was doing really well. The problem wound was still leaking a bit, so she checked with one of the GPs who prescribed massive doses of antibiotics to be on the safe side. Within 2 days I had a horrible heat rash, or it could have been a reaction to the penicillin. I was prescribed a cream and antihistamine tablets which helped a lot.

Two weeks after the operation I had my first physio appointment. He couldn’t do anything because that dratted leaking hadn’t stopped. Swabs were taken just in case of infection, but they were clear. So I just had to wait. I did carry on with the exercises I was given in hospital though. After another four days the nurse and I held our breath as she removed my dressing. Then we both cheered because everything was healing at last.

This meant I could go back to physio. I had my crutches replaced by sticks and a new set of tougher exercises. After a week the physio assessed how I was doing. He said to reduce my reliance on the sticks gradually, to carry on with the exercises and go back in another week. That week saw the improvements really start. I could walk unaided in the house, including up and down stairs, I was sleeping better, and I was reducing my painkillers, and the rash had gone. At my next appointment the physio asked me to kick his hand. I did. It hurt him. He said “well! I asked for that” then sent me away to carry on as I had been until after my 6 week check up with the consultant.

I was very nervous before my 6 week appointment, and I didn’t know what to expect. As it turned out, I saw the registrar. He was really pleased, especially when he realised the bend in my knees through 125degrees. He told me I could start driving again, should wean myself off my stick, keep up the exercises, go for walks and consider a phased return to work after another week. Then he said he will see me in a year. By which time he said I will be feeling the benefit.

I know there is still a long way to go. I get aches, pains and twinges in muscles and tendons, I don’t sleep brilliantly, the outside of my knees will always be numb, and I don’t yet walk “fluidly”. But I can use the stairs now, stand up and sit down unaided, have got rid of that high loo seat and rarely take painkillers. So in some ways I am already feeling the benefit. I just have to get back on the motorbike ….


This is not a medical post, it is just my experience and not necessarily the same as anybody else’s.

About 15 years ago I was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis in my right knee. My excellent and caring GP referred me to a consultant who suggested an arthroscopy to tidy up the joint and assess the damage. The procedure was done as day surgery. I confess my confidence in the hospital and consultant was somewhat damaged because:

they forgot to call me through for my pre-med until I eventually asked why I was still in the waiting room after everybody else had gone, then I was rushed through as if it was my fault;
after surgery the consultant came to the ward, walked up to the lady in the next bed with a heavily bandaged elbow and said “I am sorry Mrs. Wrathall, there is nothing we can do for your knee”, she suggested he speak to me, the one with the heavily bandaged knee;
I was sent home with painkillers which are unsuitable for asthmatics, despite them being aware I had asthma and I had specifically asked if they were ok.

I went to my follow up appointment and was told I would have to have a full knee replacement. By then I had done research of my own and asked for a second opinion. The second consultant was great. He was frank, clear and interested. His advice was to wait as long as possible because replacements eventually need replacing, and techniques etc. were improving all the time. The fewer surgeries I had the better. He also said I would know when the time was right.

Then a few years ago my left knee started to deteriorate. I reached the stage where I couldn’t climb stairs, I needed a stick, I couldn’t stand for any length of time and, worst of all, I couldn’t get on the motorbike. I believed the time had come.

I now live in a completely different area, so a new hospital, consultants and GP. My GP was brilliant. He immediately asked which hospital I wanted. I had already done some research using http://njrsurgeonhospitalprofile.org.uk/ so I was able to make the choice. I was surprised to be referred and given an appointment there and then.

The first consultant I met discussed all the options with me, including having both knees done at the same time (bi-lateral knee replacement). I was very impressed when he said he thought that, as I might be suitable for bi-lateral, he wanted to refer me to a colleague who was more experienced in knee surgery. I got back onto http://njrsurgeonhospitalprofile.org.uk/ and found out the new consultant had his own website all about knee replacement. My librarian side took over and I found myself evaluating it for relevance, currency etc. It gave me more confidence going into my consultation.

Once again, he was very frank. He said bi-lateral was definitely an option because I am young and fit enough (much to my surprise) to do well, but it is not an easy option. I know how scared I am of hospital, so I doubted I would go back for a second surgery after the first. After discussing the pros and cons with myself and my husband the consultant said he was happy to go ahead. I asked him the best way to prepare and he suggested I have a physio appointment to discuss options.

I really recommend this, as he gave me a clear understanding of the difficulties I would face with no “good” leg to rely on. He gave me exercises to strengthen my legs and my upper body as I would rely on my arms to move around. I am very glad I listened to him and did my exercises twice a day.

I had two outpatient appointments prior to surgery. The first was to take bloods, swab for MRSA etc., take blood pressure readings and discuss any existing health problems. The second was to do final blood checks and type my blood “in case”. All the staff were happy to answer questions and talked me through what to expect. I was given literature as well so I could check anything I forgot. I was also told I could ring at any time if there was anything I wanted to ask.

The day of the surgery I was admitted at 07:30, and very quickly seen by the registrar and anaesthetist who again told me what to expect. I am terrified of hospitals and surgery so I was given a mild sedative to relax me. The surgery was done under sedative and spinal anaesthetic rather than a full anaesthetic. Be assured, this is not like it sounds, I had no idea of what was happening, or how much time was passing, just a lovely drowsy happy feeling. You know, unicorns, fairy dust and rainbows. After a short stay in recovery I was back on the ward being checked, given a drink and told to rest. The good thing about the spinal anaesthetic is that the effects wear off much more quickly and you very quickly feel better.

Like nearly everybody I know I have been seeing lots of tweets and blogs about Terry Deary, his views and his articles about public libraries, e readers and his finances. I have no intention of linking to any of them here and feeding his apparently insatiable appetite for self promotion. If you want to read an excellent riposte then see what Voices for the Library have to say or Alan Gibbons, among many others. It all got me thinking.

Many years ago, when I was going through one of those crises we all do during our Library School training, and finding myself completely blocked trying to write about childrens’ libraries, I did a search of the web and found Terry Pratchett’s page and contact details. That site doesn’t exist any more, it was, as I said, a long time ago and contacting people was more easy. Anyway, I contacted the email address and asked “Was the Unseen University librarian ever a childrens’ librarian?”. That question seemed to break the block and I forgot all about the email. Some days later, I got a reply. Apparently the UU librarian did not like children as they got chewing gum in his coat. It was signed Terry Pratchett. I printed out the email and kept it for many years.  It was a great response to a student who said they were struggling and asked a pretty stupid question. It indicated the same humanity and engagement in the world that I had found in his books.

During the same course we had to do a group presentation on the proliferation of information and the librarian’s role in enabling access. The lecturer was not my favourite and again we hit that horrible mental block. Then one of us said librarians are like the Babel fish of Douglas Adams’ Hitchikers’ Guide series. We wanted to use it to illustrate our presentation. So we emailed him for permission. He emailed us back and told us how important he thought libraries and librarians are, and giving us permission. He even said if he hadn’t already been booked to speak at a writers’ conference he would have loved to come and present with us! We were thrilled and enthused. I am not sure it was a great presentation but we could at least show we had permission to use the Babel Fish! Again, a hugely successful and influential author had shown an engagement and kindness which brought him no recognition, publicity or sales.

I, for one, will always remember those two authors as not only great entertainers and writers who have brought pleasure to huge numbers of people, but also as caring individuals who were happy to give support when it was needed to people they would never know and who couldn’t forward their careers.

Then there is Mr. Deary, who has demonstrated he would rather attack the institutions and individuals who have helped create his success (because, be honest, how many children would have found his books without a library whether school or public and the people who work in them) to create a few moments of sensationalism and publicity. He will be remembered for that, if he is remembered at all, long after his books have been pulped, or wiped from the e readers. Personally, I doubt he will be remembered at all. He certainly won’t have a day in his honour or be respected for his campaigns on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. I doubt he cares, which is a part of his tragedy.

I recently resigned from the National Trust due to an article which stated that they had voted to support the badger cull in England. I have now received this response which explains the Trust’s views and actions. I wanted to share it with you and have received permission from David Andrews. This is the unedited email I received.

“”Dear Mr & Mrs Wrathall

Thank you for getting in touch. I am very sory to hear you have decied not to continue with you membership, but thought I would explain our position in a little more detail.

At the National Trust Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 26 October members voted not to support a resolution to introduce an immediate and widespread badger vaccination programme on our own land. The resolution was suggested by a group of members to help tackle bovine TB and prevent National Trust land being involved in a cull of badgers if one is rolled out by the Government next year.

Our Trustees stressed that their recommendation not to adopt the resolution did not mean that the Trust is in favour of culling badgers. And they will, of course, take on board the views expressed by many members as part of the AGM debate.

We advocate an evidence based approach to tackling bovine TB which covers an integrated package of measures, including those to improve biosecurity and prevent cattle-to-cattle transmission. We are in favour of doing what works to solve the problem that is affecting so many of our tenants and farmers across the country.

Vaccination is our long term preference, both of badgers and cattle. We are currently carrying out our own badger vaccination trial at our estate at Killerton in Devon. But this is only half way through. In the meantime we have deep concerns about how useful the Government’s pilot badger culls will now prove, and have sought assurances from them that they remain committed to upholding high standards of scientific rigour in the conduct and analysis of the culling pilots. Changes to the original design has shaken our confidence and we have written to the Secretary of State at Defra expressing our concerns.

It remains our position that we will judge the outcomes of the pilots, and the Government’s subsequent approach, against the criteria for success set out by Professor Bourne in his review of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial that was carried out some years ago.

Going back to the recent AGM, members do often ask the voting works, particularly the voting arrangements for resolutions such as the one I’ve mentioned above. In fact the voting process we follow is clearly specified in the legal framework in which we operate. Also the detailed arrangements for voting at each year’s AGM are set out online and in the voting forms we send to all members.

Members can vote on resolutions in two ways:

1) At the meeting in person if the member is attending the AGM.

2) Before the meeting by proxy. This means if the member is not attending the AGM they can appoint someone else (a “proxy”) who will be at the meeting to vote on their behalf. This person can be either a named individual or the chairman of the meeting. Further they can use the voting forms or online voting system to do this in one of two ways: either to direct the proxy how to vote (a “specified” vote) or leave it to the proxy to vote how they think fit (a “discretionary” vote).

We publish the results of voting on resolutions in a way that makes it clear the totals number of both specified and discretionary votes that have been cast for or against any resolution, as well as the total number of abstaining votes. The results go on to indicate whether a resolution has been carried or not.

We publicise the AGM beforehand both on our website and in our Autumn magazine which we send to all members. We encourage all our members to participate, attend and vote on any resolutions and in any elections.

When all the specified and discretionary votes were taken into account at the recent AGM the resolution to introduce a widespread badger vaccination programme on our land was not carried. All our voting management services are handled by independent, external scrutineers, Electoral Reform Services.

Again, I am sorry to hear you have decided to end your membership, but would like to thank you for your previous support.

Kind regards

David Andrews
Member Services Assistant
Whole Trust
National Trust (Heelis)
01793 817568”

Recently I have been thinking about how I ended up where I am now, and the things that people have said and done that changed my life. These are 10 that shaped my working life. I am grateful to them all because without them I wouldn’t have had such a varied career, or got so much from it.

1) “You will never be any good at anything technical because you are worse than useless at mathematics”

My mathematics teacher when I was 15. She was the reason I decided not to do anything technical or number related.

2) “I hope you are good at making tea, you will be doing a lot of that in the library”

One of the interview panel when I applied for a job in public libraries at 20. She was the reason I joined the Civil Service.

3) “The great thing about programming is you don’t need to be some sort of maths genius”

My line manager when she suggested I try for a promotion into the IT Department and I said I was rubbish at mathematics. She was the reason I got into IT. Oh, and yes, I did meet that maths teacher again and took enormous delight in telling her I worked in IT and was loving it.

4) “I am very glad to see you back at work, there is a job we need doing and you are best suited for it. X has been off sick for two weeks, buy them a suitable card on your lunch break, girls always know the right thing to get”

My Senior Executive Officer when I came back to work after extended bereavement leave. He was the reason I decided to get into management.

5) “I  am so grateful that you helped me move out of your team, I thought I was a failure, but now I know I am just not good at that, but I am good at this”

A team member who was really not performing well, so we sat and worked out what he really wanted to be doing, and got him transferred to that team instead, where he blossomed. He was the reason I realised there is more to management than just getting the job done and that other part is the most rewarding of all.

6) “I just wanted to see if you had any balls”

My Director in a Government agency where I was a consultant when I asked him for a pay rise, as all the male consultants had been given a raise but not me (the only female on that team). He was the reason I decided I wanted to stop that rubbish happening to other people for whatever reason.

7) “If you could do anything at all when your contract ends what would it be?”

My husband. He was the reason I plucked up courage to apply for HE courses, give up work and become a full time student.

8) “You have a very unusual mind”

My personal tutor at Manchester Metropolitan University. He was the reason I decided thinking differently is not necessarily a bad thing and librarianship was definitely what I wanted to do.

9) “Maybe you are in the wrong job, and you aren’t suited to being a librarian”

An employee of a chartered professional organisation when I asked for advice dealing with bullying from senior management in my workplace. She was the reason  decided I wanted to change that organisation.

10) “You are the reason I stuck out my Access to HE course. Your help with referencing and research made me realise what I could achieve. I have started my Masters now and I wanted to say thank you”

A mature student I met after I had left my job and was wondering if perhaps the professional organisation employee was right. He was the reason I stayed in librarianship, but changed jobs to somewhere I felt I could make more of those differences.

Thank you all.

There has been a lot of healthy and not so healthy debate about the latest attempt by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’ to engage with its membership. This time it was about a rebranding exercise the Institute is undertaking. It wasn’t to ask if there should be such an exercise at all, it was to answer a survey on the vision, values and name. The rather unfortunate options for a name have dominated the debate, but I think it is about so much more than the name.
We join organisations for various reasons, because we support its aims and objectives, because we want to help but feel unable to do so as an individual, and sometimes because we have to in order to get the job we want.

I joined the old Library Association because I had to in order to get my qualification and a job in the sector in which I wished to work. I remained a member of the LA and latterly CILIP because I believed in its professed aims, felt I couldn’t make a difference as an individual and needed to be a member in order to get the jobs I wanted. I am no longer a member but I was still asked to complete the survey about the rebranding exercise.

The trouble is I got the feeling it wasn’t so much a survey that wanted an honest response, it felt more like a survey trying to push me to respond in a certain way. The names are the least of it. (Actually I think the alternatives were so bad in order to make us realise that the name Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is pretty accurate, although the acronym is unfortunate). These are the questions that really worried me.

“*4. Please rate the following statement on how well it captures what CILIP does:
Very well Well OK Not well Not at all
Inspiring, developing and promoting the information professions
Tell us the reasons for your rating

*5. Please tell us how highly you rate the following statement as an expression of our ambition:
Very highly Highly OK Not highly Not at all
For everyone to have access to the essential power of information to help change lives and create a fairer and more prosperous society
Tell us the reasons for your rating

*6. The following statement expresses how CILIP would like to be seen. Please rate how well it captures our status.
Very well Well OK Not well Not at all
The leading voice for the UK’s information community

*7. How well does the following statement capture the principles or beliefs that should drive our actions?
Very well Well OK Not well Not at all
We believe in enabling personal progress and driving professional excellence

*8. Please rate how strongly you feel this statement sums up the lasting impression we should leave with anyone who comes into contact with us?
Very strongly Strongly OK Weakly Very Weakly
Bringing the information world together”

How could anybody disagree with those? Yet is that what CILIP does? My concern is that whilst these statements are what we would all aspire for our professional organisation to be, we are not being given the opportunity to say whether we believe this to be the case. Oh, we can comment away in the appropriate boxes, but when it comes down to it most respondents will have stated that they believe these statements reflect what CILIP should be etc. and those are the responses that will be counted.

I am probably not very clear about what I am trying to say, but I have a deep gut feeling that in getting bogged down over a name we are missing the elephant in the room ( thanks Johanna). CILIP the organisation is asking for endorsement of what it should be, not for opinions on what it is.

A few weeks ago somebody said they wished I worked in their University. They had their chance, as this post shows, but it’s good to know when they finally met me they thought I was worth a job. As it turns out, I would have missed out on a lot if I had got the job originally.

Thoughts from the Window

Many years ago Sugar Puffs ran a competition. The first prize was a pony, and the consolation prizes were cocker spaniel puppies as I remember. Setting aside the dubious ethics of giving living animals as prizes in a competition, which I was too young to recognise, it was an amazingly successful marketing move. Thousands of children who would never normally be able to aspire to owning a pony must have entered. I know I did. The difference was I was going to win that pony. Whatever pep talks I was given about probability, cynical marketing by global corporations and the unsuitability of our council house as a long term home for a pony, let alone the cost of upkeep I was going to win. My pony and I would instantly build a rapport that would overcome all obstacles, including my inability to ride, and gallop off into the sunset. We…

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