I am waiting to depart from Heathrow to Adelaide, Southern Australia. The purpose of my trip is to use my medical elective placement to gather experiences: of a hospital, a people, a city and a culture all different to my own. Or similar to my own, as we may see. The Royal Adelaide Hospital is one of the largest in Southern Australia. It is also a major trauma centre, receiving emergency calls of all shapes and sizes from a vast catchment area. I will be studying at the RAH within the Orthopaedics and Trauma team; to see and learn valuable lessons from the acute side of medicine.
After a stint at the RAH I will move onto a placement in Sports Medicine, another specialty that piques/peaks my interest. I aim to experience different settings, from medical clinics or pitchside treatment, to sports-medicine focused surgeries. Packing Clinical Sports Medicine into my bag had me teetering over the baggage check-in limit.
I’m very much looking forward to exploring these avenues of medicine. I am also excited to observe a culture.
Heathrow Terminal 2 is a dynamic building. In the Baggage Check-In area, the roof is formed by twisted spirals of concrete flying high above. These spirals mirror the thick powerful blades of an airplane’s engine preparing to lift upwards, and they propelled me through the security gates. I waved bye to mum.
Security was as security is. Big brother looks on. Reflective one-way vision windows are surreptitious and clumsy. This environment of paranoia is toxic! Questions abound; who is behind the screen? Who walks beside me in the reflective glass? Which reflected individual am I? A security mastiff; uniformed, muscular and barking adds noise into the mix. This additional sensory assault overwhelms some. A little girl clutches her mother’s leg.
I walk through into Departures. Normality is restored as I enter the atrium; people wheel their trollies laden with duty-free like the M4 juggernauts, whilst schools of adolescents swim in small herds between Boots and WHSmith. A calm ebb and flow occurs as people transition to their departure gates, rolling along the scenic routes via the Boss, the Baker and the Mulberry and Burberrys.
The Departures hall has a design that matches the simmering excitement hidden within of the people it houses. Screens flash rhythmically, alternating between golden advertisements and white lines of stacked numbers, places and codes set onto black fields. People hold one eye open to watch these screens at all times of day; both adverts and flight data sharing desirable destinations. We are not near the centre of London, but the quintessential black cab is here in sculpted orange neon spirit. Other sculptures sit to placate the masses; A black metal tornado with pulsating white lights looms over blinded crowd.
I am writing at a glass-topped unit that stands one hundred and fifty centimetres tall, two metres wide and four metres long. There are many of them laid out regularly across the central lounge area. It is plain and clean, with no added details or clues to its function: no power plugs, warning signs, vendors or advertisements. Not a table, not a ventilatory unit, just one clone of many purposeful chunks. I can only assume they are a gift to the public to do what they will. One lady has her papers scattered everywhere. One man leans backwards into his phone, chattering away whilst admiring his new shoes. I use mine as a standing desk, observing.
Time to head to the gate! 13 hours of transit awaits!