SWIMMINGPOD – SWIMMING, LEPTOSPIROSIS AND ME – A ‘NIGHT AT THE OPERA’, BY STANLEY ULIJASZEK

Updated: Oct 16


I am back in the water, not without anxiety I have to say. The experience of leptospirosis was a bit of a drama for me, and I don’t think I am a drama queen. This took me to some strange places in my head as I was losing my mind during treatment and before it. Music and opera featured large, and well as Alice in Wonderland, as I was asked repeatedly ‘Who is the Prime Minister?’ during my time as a leptospirosis cannula-puppet at the University of Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. I fought with the serpent of Mozart’s opera ‘The Magic Flute’ and more. I have sur-titled this podcast “A Night at the Opera”. There is a fine history of disease themed operas, usually with moral tales or love and tragedy, which usually do not end well. Think Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’, and Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’. ‘Rent’, the AIDS musical, riffs off of La Boheme. Along this theme, artist Marina Abramovic has two linked gallery shows in London right now, ‘Seven Deaths’ based on seven operatic deaths. I have seen both shows, and the work ‘Fire’, depicting Bellini’s Norma dying by walking into the fire, has resonance – the fire of intense leptospirosis fever for me on intensive care. So not all opera ends well, and on the night, in the middle of the drama you don't know how it will go, if you haven’t read the programme notes. My opera ends well, but I was told I was lucky to get away with some limited kidney injury. In the final act, in the day clinic after discharge from hospital, I look at the epidemiology of the disease and offer some thoughts about risk and infection associated with open water swimming. I asked at the clinic when I might be able to get back into open water, and was told, “When you are ready”. I hope you can enjoy this drama-with-music podcast, knowing that it ends well.


Listen to the podcast here


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