My superpower (a talk I gave about being ill)

So this post is nothing to do with R, or Linux, or statistics, or any of the usual stuff. It’s about me. It’s more than possible that you’re not very interested in that so consider yourself warned.

Long time readers will know I’ve had some pretty serious health problems over the years. I haven’t really talked about it much on here. To be honest I was frightened that people might be put off working with me if they thought I would be off sick a lot and I was also frightened at one point that I might actually be permanently unable to work if the liver disease wasn’t treatable. So I avoided talking about it with the wider world, although the people I directly work with know all about it (it’s hard to miss, really, when someone comes to work with end stage liver disease).

Anyway, I’ve since realised that I’m not really helping other people in the same situation being quiet about it, and actually I needn’t have worried and I don’t think my illnesses have put anybody off working with me at all. I’ve missed a few months here and there having surgery, and I was quite unproductive while I waited for my liver transplant, but my employer and others were very understanding and it all worked out in the finish.

So this is my story, condensed. Now seems like a good time to add that actually my new liver is not working very well. I was pretty ill a few months back and have been in hospital twice this year with it, and it looks certain that I will at some point in the medium term need another liver transplant. I’m not going to hide it away like I did last time, I’m going to be open about it and hopefully other people who might be going through something similar for the first time might feel better about their own situation if they see me doing it.

Someone I work with did an absolutely wonderful post about working and being ill, and perhaps I’ll do one at some point, but this will do for now. Actually now I think about it I probably need to stand up and be counted as one of the many people all over the world who have a stoma because I know some people find it very stigmatising when they get one and they hide it away, so perhaps I’ll talk about that another time too. Mine is very often hanging out the bottom of my jumper and stoma bags are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I’m actually rather proud of mine since getting it nearly killed me, but that’s a story for another time.

Sorry about the sound quality, I have made a start on subtitles but it takes absolutely ages, I have turned on community uploads if anybody feels like giving me a hand with it.

NHS-R conference

So I recently just got back from the NHS-R community conference, which was amazing of course, and it’s got me in the mood to share, so I’m writing a few blog posts. I’ve got some more in depth stuff to say about where I think NHS-R is/ should be going, but this is the “feels” one.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I love the NHS and I love R so I’m obviously going to enjoy the NHS-R conference. It was really good and the standard of talks and workshops was really high. Much bigger and better than last year.

It was so inspiring to be there. To be honest I get a bit depressed about the state of analytics in the NHS (as you’ll see from my Twitter) but you would never guess it for those two days. The big feeling that I got while I was there is that I need to up my game. There were people with huge, fully functioning packages, multiple academic publications from their R work, all sorts of complicated machine learning that was beyond my ken, big complicated statistical models, you name it really.

It’s such a wonderful feeling, to escape the inane drudgery of idiotic performance reporting and looking at my seven millionth SPC and being asked if three points of increase is a trend, and to be in the company of people who had done truly remarkable things with R. Remarkable things, I should add, even with the dead hand of bureaucracy and idiotic IT security systems, and all the stuff that I have to do. When Google do cool things, it’s easy to just think “Well, that’s Google. I couldn’t do that where I am”. These people had done stuff inside the NHS and they had the scars to prove it!

I think probably I will do a Shiny workshop at the NHS-R conference every year until I die, but I might try to sneak a paper in there as well actually next time. More on this subject once the work flowers a bit, I hope.