Tag Archives: burns

Inside Skin…Ahn Do Paints Professor Fiona Wood.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”

― Aldous Huxley

So often, language is hopelessly inadequate. Last night, I found myself profoundly moved and yet despite all my years as a wordsmith and a thinker, I was left stammering unable to communicate.I guess that’s what happens when your doors of perception suddenly swing open, and you have a eureka moment.

I’d been watching a past episode of  Ahn’s Brush With Fame where he’d painted and interviewed Professor Fiona Wood, Australian plastic surgeon and burns specialist.  Professor Wood and scientist Marie Stoner developed a revolutionary spray-on skin to help burns survivors. This technology was a world-first and has been used on more than 1000 patients around the world. In 2005 they won the Clunies Ross Award (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering) for their contribution to medical science in Australia. In 2005, Professor Wood was named Australian of the Year.

So, let me bring you into the studio now where Fiona is sitting on Ahn’s distinctive yellow chair. While Ahn’s secretly painting away behind the canvas, Ahn and Fiona’s conversation criss-crossed through her professional and private lives, and there were so many pearls of wisdom. Fiona is such an amazing thinker, and Ahn has a way of drawing people out, although I also understand that painting someone’s portrait tends to do that. Ahn is also deep and profound himself.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

Leonardo Da Vinci.

However, as much as I was touched by much of the interview, there was a particular part of their conversation which stopped me dead in my tracks. Indeed, today I’ve paused and rewound this section many, many times trying to capture the exact wording. With these two kindred’s swept away into their own little skin paradise, pinning down their words wasn’t easy.

The conversation began when Fiona was admiring the other portraits in the studio, particularly their eyes,  and it flowed on from there and they started discussing skin, almost as an entity in its own right:

“When I’m trying to teach surgery, it’s like teaching shades of white (Yes) and some people just get white. That it’s a 3D  or 2D surface. It’s layered isn’t it? It’s the layers of the system.(Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s not just skin colour) It’s not skin colour. What colour is it? Skin Colour? I mean give me a break.

(As a kid, you get a packet of coloured pencils and there’s one skin colour.) Like nuh (It never works. No. That’s not how people look.)

“Round face, skin colour…Hmm probably not going to fly really.”

(Ahn’s comments are in brackets here. Please forgive my dodgy transcribing.)

As you could imagine, as a burns specialist, Dr Fiona Wood has an exceptionally intimate knowledge and understanding of skin, which flies right over the heads of us mere mortals, including myself. However, her appreciation was not lost on Ahn who has appreciated similar complexities of tone through the lens of an artist…a painter of portraits.

“All our knowledge has its origin in our preceptions.”

Leonardo Da Vinci.

Unfortunately, as much as I love the written word, these black and white words on the screen fail to convey the animated intensity of their conversation. That sense of not only seeing eye-to-eye but soul-to-soul. That rare synergy where you become lovers of the soul and that fusion is just as intense. As Dr Fiona Wood said at the conclusion of the show:

“My highlight today was actually talking about how images go from 2D to 3D and how the light reflects off the skin and how amazing skin is  and talking to someone who gets that. Cause skin is amazing.”

Professor Fiona Wood

As a writer or creative person, I’m naturally interested in how other people see and perceive the world, particularly when they re-frame something ordinary and present it   through a different lens. I’ve tried with all my might to try and walk in someone else’s shoes. Moreover, I’ve left my own shoes out, hoping someone else would try them on and gain more than just an inkling of the inner me. So, seeing how two people could get so animated and excited about skin and perceive it as more of a complex and detailed landscape than a continuous monotone, intrigued me. I also found it unusual to hear two people discussing skin tone, because it can be a real taboo.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

HARPER LEE, To Kill a Mockingbird

Not unsurprisingly, I’d never stopped and appreciated what an artist and plastic surgeon might have in common… a shared fascination with the human body and in this instance skin. Indeed, I’ve never even thought of skin in this way. That’s also interesting to me on a personal level as one of my uncles is a plastic surgeon and another is a dermatologist and this would be familiar territory for them. I also have my own take on skin because my autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis, also affects my skin. However, I’ve never had to think about reconstructing a severely burned body and all that entails. Moreover, when it comes to paint, abstract is my friend. Indeed, I’ve never even considered what goes through the mind of a surgeon who is wanting to reconstruct a severely burned or injured body and trying to get it as close as possible to its “before”. It’s a form of art and yet so much more because the patient’s life and contentment are in their hands. The more you can reduce the scarring, the better the outcome for the patient and Fiona has clearly devoted herself to that end.

So, now I’d like to encourage you to watch this episode for yourself. Even if their discussion on skin doesn’t appeal to you, the are plenty of other pearls to treasure.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

The Only One Out- Flash Fiction.

The historic terrace house was gone. Firemen unable to extinguish the blaze, the neighbours were all out in the street in their undies, nighties and nothing at all. Desperate to help, a naked man was using his garden hose. Absolutely impotent, it needed more than a strong dose of Viagra. Another was screaming, his hands and feet burnt. They all knew the family. Their kids all went to the local school.

“Anyone get out?” Reporters asked.

“Just one. Wife and kids didn’t make it. Poor bugger.”

“I’d rather be dead, mate.”

“Yeah but sometimes, you don’t get a choice.”

 Rowena Newton

March 16, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the idea of “just one.” If all it takes is just one, what is the story? Explore what comes to mind and go where the prompt takes you. Bonus challenge: eat cake while you write, or include cake in your flash.

……..

While this flash is fiction, it is was inspired by a true story.

On Boxing Day 2011, Australian Celebrity Chef Matt Golinski lost his wife and three daughters in a devastating house fire. I doubt there was anyone who heard about his plight who didn’t feel incredible compassion and horror for what he had been through. Love poured out to this man we may or may not have seen on TV but that didn’t matter. We cared. We loved him. It was truly hard to imagine how someone could go through anything much worse. We just didn’t know how anyone could survive the loss of his family plus his own horrific burns…or even if he should. As a teenager, I thought breaking up with someone I’d dated for 6 weeks was anguish. This was off the Richter Scale. I followed his progress for several weeks as he fought against the odds to survive, supported by his medical team.

Here’s a newspaper excerpt about when he woke up:

Speaking at a charity breakfast, Golinski has revealed he struggled to understand why doctors kept him alive.

Seven News reports he had lost 22kg, had 17 operations and survived lung infections and kidney and liver failure before he came to.

“I clearly remember the very first thing when I was able to communicate with my dad… I asked if he wouldn’t mind giving me a mobile phone so I could ring my wife, Rachael,” Golinski said.

“(Dad) didn’t hesitate to tell me that Rachael and my girls had passed away.

“From that moment, I found it pretty impossible to comprehend why those doctors and all the medical staff had bothered to keep me alive…

“I wanted to ask them ‘why on earth would you think that I would want to live now?’

“Before too long, I started to feel more sorry for (dad) than I did for myself because I realised I wasn’t the only one suffering.”

Seven News reports that during his 13-minute speech, Golinski acknowledged the community support he received after the tragedy which he believes kept him alive.

“As I said, I had hit a point where I really didn’t want to live but it was hearing (stories of public support) from my dad, and there was that outpouring of generosity and love that actually got me through that time and made me want to survive,” he said.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/entertainment/a/17594254/chef-matt-golinski-tells-of-learning-of-familys-death-in-fire/

Matt Golinski is making a heroic recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

For the fallen by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943)

ANZAC Day commemorates not only the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops or ANZACS at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli on the 25th April 1914 but also honours service people who have served in all of our wars.

I didn’t really grow up with this sense that my family had served in the war even though my Great Uncle Jack had served in New Guinea in World War II and my grandfather had served as an Army Captain within Australia. Geoff, on the other hand, grew up with two uncles who had served in New Guinea and another who had served in Darwin and his Nanna who had lost a brother in France during World War I. Last year, we also found out that his father’s uncle had served at Gallipoli and went on to be part of the charge at Beersheba. So when it comes to ANZAC Day, our family has something personal and close to home to honour and respect. We have also seen the longer term impact of war on wives and children who experienced alcoholism, violence and depression. Not because they were bad men but because they had seen and experienced horrors that no one should experience and then they were simply sent home.

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Geoff and I have been into the ANZAC Day march in the city only once but every year since I can remember, I have always watched the march on TV. In some respects, it is a solemn occasion where we remember and honour the dead but there is also so much to look at and I have always felt such a love and a fondness for the old men marching with their medals pinned to their hearts. I remember when these old men had been to WWI and slowly and surely they became the faces of World War II veterans and now even the Vietnam Veterans are looking well…old…and the WWI diggers have gone and WWII ones are thinning out.

Along with watching the march on TV, I have another time honoured tradition…making ANZAC Biscuits. Mothers, wives, girlfriends and anyone who cared, baked ANZAC Biscuits at home and sent them overseas to the men at the front. Such packages and letters from home were treasured, providing a much needed connection with their loved ones at home as well as breaking the monotony of military food.

Not unsurprisingly, making ANZAC Biscuits on ANZAC Day is as tradtional as the official Dawn Service and the march.

ANZAC Biscuits are really just an oatmeal biscuit and by modern standards are pretty plain. You can jazz them up with chopped nuts, ginger or even choc chips but for ANZAC Day, I always keep them plain and authentic. Their simplicity also serves to remind us of simpler times when austerity measures had been implemented, rationing had been in place and there wasn’t our modern over-abundance of just about everything. Things were scarce…even the basics like eggs.

Despite their simplicity, ANZAC Biscuits with their dose of thick, sticky, sugary golden syrup are scrumptious.

If you are a connoisseur of ANZAC Biscuits and as strange as it may seem, these people do exist, you need to specify whether you like your ANZACS soft or hard, very much the same way people get quite picky about having their fried egg: “sunny side up”.

Personally, I have had great difficulty mastering the perfect ANZAC. Most of the time, I find the mixture doesn’t come together well and I’ve needed to add extra butter to bind it together. Moreover, as I only really make ANZACS once maybe twice a year, I haven’t managed to perfect the process and work out quite what makes them crunchy or chewy. We just get what we get and usually because I’m baking them with the kids, I’m just thankful for that.

If you have read my blog before, you will know that most of my cooking efforts with the kids have their dramas and I must admit that I’ve had a good think about why we have the kitchen of chaos instead of something approaching the scientific wonder of the Australian Women’s Weekly Test Kitchen. I mean, you can be sure that most of our antics could never be replicated by anybody anywhere no matter how hard they tried.

As usual, baking ANZAC Biscuits failed to disappoint and we had our usual range of hiccups.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The first thing that you have to keep in mind when baking ANZAC Biscuits, especially if you like me want to bake them while watching the march, is that you need to check that you have all your ingredients the day before because the shops are shut on ANZAC Day until after lunch. This is a very important word of warning and despite my best efforts, I keep getting caught. This year, we are staying at my parents’ house at the beach and it is not very well stocked so I brought everything with me including the metal biscuit tray. However, I’d brought everything except the main ingredient…the oats…because I’d bought this wonderful metal tin put out by Uncle Toby’s specifically to house your big box of oats and to keep the nasties out. Thinking I had about a 12 month supply, much to my horror, I didn’t check my supplies. The tin was completely empty without so much as a single oat left inside. Some horrific porridge-guzzling Goldilocks and her three bears had been guzzling my oats.  I scoured the cupboards optimistically.  Dad has his very healthy whole grain oat porridge “stuff” which looks like oats on the outside but also has other grains mixed in and as tempted as I was to use this instead, Geoff and I both agreed it was a bit of a gamble. We were all looking forward to our annual ANZAC Day indulgence and we didn’t want a “fail”. We had to wait.

 

So we watched the march and while waiting for the shops to open, we took the dog off for a walk along the mud flats and the kids and I squirted Neptune’s Beads at each other and at ourselves and had a bit of fun. It had rained heavily overnight and it was still overcast so not terribly pretty but it was fun sloshing through the mud even if we didn’t see any crabs. Miss, I must say was thrilled about that. She doesn’t like crabs. She doesn’t like them at all and the mud flats down here start crawling as thousands of them emerge out of their holes at certain times of day which as yet I haven’t managed to pin down.

By the time Geoff returned from the shops and I’d had a bit of a nap, it was late afternoon by the time we were making the ANZACS and beforehand we quickly whizzed up our pizza dough for dinner and set it aside to rise.

It is always gets tricking making anything with the kids after making the pizza dough. The kids love getting their hands into the dough, squishing it through their fingers and really giving it a good workout. They can’t resist! However, dough is dough and I wasn’t happy seeing Miss with her hands in the bowl mixing the oats with the other dry ingredients. “Get your fingers out of there! That’s what spoons are for!!”

When it came to mixing the dry ingredients, which I’d thought was relatively simple, even this proved challenging to the kids and I could feel my patience getting very thin, very thin indeed. When you are pouring a cup full of flour as an adult, or at least an adult who has been cooking all of your life, you just know where that magic, unwritten line is on a cup that measures a cup full of something. It’s not ¾ of a cup and it’s not a cup full with some kind of mountain peak stuck on top of it either. It’s a full cup with something like a finger space left empty at the top so your supposedly full cup of whatever, doesn’t spill. I’m sure it is actually possible to pour a cup full of something without spilling it on the bench too but I’m not sure if I’ve even pulled this one off. We’re all a bit careless around here.

Besides getting pedantic about measurements which may or not matter in the overall scheme of things, kitchen safety became a serious issue when the kids were mucking around in the kitchen today. Consequently, we gave them more than a serious talking to especially about burns but also about knives. We told them that the kitchen is a workshop with dangerous tools and it needs to be respected. It is not a playground. The message wasn’t really sinking in so I opted for a bit of tough love and we looked up kids burns in Google went to images and showed them what some of these burns can look like. We also watched an educational presentation which you can link through to here: http://www.chw.edu.au/prof/services/burns_unit/burns_prevention/

I think that sank in although with kids you never know. I’d swear they have what my grandfather used to call “good forgettery” before his Alzheimer’s set in.

So after that very lengthy preamble, here is the recipe for ANZAC Biscuits. When we made it today, it produced a chewy, rather than crunchy biscuit and it was truly delicious!

Xx Ro

ANZAC Biscuits

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

2/3 cup castor sugar

¾ cup coconut

1/3 cup Golden Syrup (5.5 metric tablespoons- easier to measure!!)

125g butter

1 teas bicarb soda

2 tablespoons hot water.

 

Directions

1)      Preheat oven to 160° C (325° F)

2)      Place the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a medium-sized bowl and mix together with a large wooden or stirring spoon (ie not fingers!!!)

3)      Take a small to medium saucepan. Measure out golden syrup using either a cup of measuring spoons. I actually have a series of cup measures and that’s ideal for measuring out the golden syrup. Being so thick and sticky, it’s not the easiest to measure out. Add butter. We always buy the 250g packets of butter for cooking and I have noticed that even when the kids do a relatively simple thing like cutting the butter in half, they usually push the knife through at a not insignificant angle which can significantly alter the quantity of butter. Of course, you can take more of a laissez-faire approach with the kids and have fun and it doesn’t matter how it turns out but that’s not teaching your kids how to cook. I do quite a lot of ad hoc cooking myself and rarely follow a recipe to a T but I have enough experience and instinct to be able to cook by feel. I generally know what the mixture is supposed to look like despite what the recipe says and will jiggle ingredients around until it looks right. That sounds like I am contradicting myself but it does make sense.

4)      Place saucepan on the hotplate at a medium to high heat stirring occasionally. It doesn’t need to be watched closely but don’t walk away either. Depending on the age and capabilities of your kids, decide yourself whether to let them manage the hot aspects of the recipe.

5)      While the butter and golden syrup are melting, you need to prepare the bicarb soda and water mix, which is what enables the biscuits to rise and I’ve always felt the way the melted butter and golden syrup mix rushes up like a volcano provides great entertainment. I remember my Mum introducing me to this mystery as a kid and I was in awe. It was absolutely fabulous.

6)      Remove golden syrup and butter mix from the stove. Have the bowl of dry ingredients nearby and add the bi-carb soda and add water mix to the saucepan. This can really froth up and get quite excited so you might have to move quickly to avoid spills. This is a job for big hands or kids aged 12+ considering the hot, sugary fat involved.

7)      Mix well. You might need to add extra butter to get the ingredients to mix together well. You don’t want the biscuits to be too greasy but the mixture also needs to hold together well without crumbling. We ended up grabbing handfuls of mixture and squishing it together a few times to shape flattened balls which stayed together. I don’t think I’ve had to do that with recipes I’ve made in the past but they had been more of a crunchy consistency where these biscuits were more chewy.

8)      Cover a metal biscuit tray in non-stick baking paper. In the past I’ve placed spoonfuls of mixture onto the tray but with this recipe, I needed to squish the mixture together a bit for it to hold together. You need to leave a bit of space between each biscuit to allow for expansion.

9)      Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden. Remove from oven. Leave on tray to cool down for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Simple and scrumptious and we can remember our fallen heroes as well!

Love & Blessings,

Ro xxoo

Mixing.

Mixing.

 

 

My two little mini chefs.

My two little mini chefs.