Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What are we doing in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is all over the news at the moment, it is a big problem.
But what are we really doing there and why?
This is what puzzles the general public. And just try and get a straight answer to the question from any politician. Why are we in Afghanistan? You won't ever get an answer that makes the slightest bit of sense.

Does any politician really care about the people of Afghanistan, and if they do, then why Afghanistan above other countries where people were suffering much more (before they invaded it)? Does anyone honestly believe that we are in threat of the Taliban attacking the UK if we don't stamp them out in their own country?

We went into Afghanistan to catch Bin Laden, and we went to Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, didn't we?

Many people knew then, and still know now, that the real reason behind these wars is oil. It is just incredible that the news organisations never talk about this obvious fact.

America and its allies went into Iraq to get control of its oil, which it has now done.
America and its allies went into Afghanistan to try and stabilise (get control of) the country in order to build a crucial new pipeline to export oil from major reserves in Central Asia to the rest of the world (Afghanistan appeared to be the only route that was feasible).

As oil becomes increasingly short in supply, expect to see an increase of such wars under the pretext of fighting for human rights and liberties and the stamping out of Islamic fundamentalism (which we will of course see an increase in as differing powers use whatever means they can to control people in order to benefit their own means and in particular get a hold of the diminishing oil resources that make the world turn round).

I know this is stating the obvious, and many people have known this all along, but sometimes the obvious needs stating, many times, before people start to wake up to the truth.

Have a Google of 'Afghanistan oil pipeline' to find all the evidence you need.

Now I'm not saying we should leave Afghanistan in the mess we have got it into. I'm not saying that Al-Qaeda and growing Islamic fundamentalism isn't a huge problem, it is. I don't know what the solution is off the top of my head. But I think until we can stand on the truth and face the real reasons behind such wars, we aren't ever going come up with an enduring solution.

Just had to get that off my chest...

Monday, 16 November 2009

Saving the World

I love this song so much it is interfering with my work (keep playing it on You Tube and can't help but singing and bopping along), so thought to share it with you. The lyrics kind of tie in with several different aspects of my life right now.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

A supersized incinerator - coming to a site near you soon!

Anyone following my blog may have noticed the psychological journey I have been taking over the past few years, wanting to put something back into society and getting increasingly interested in social issues. You may also have read about my emotional crisis as I felt the reality of my own mortality during my fight with swine flu at the same time as I was questioning what my response to evil (ie, the massacre in Rwanda and the bombing of innocent children in Gaza) could and should be.

You may have spotted my moment of liberation when I came to understand that the evil in this world comes about from the indifference of the good, the lack of positive action and intervention by the strong, healthy, wealthy and free on behalf of the weak, sick, poor and persecuted people of this world.

This conviction gave me a renewed sense of purpose that I no longer have to ask myself 'why am I doing this?' when spending time addressing an issue of injustice or social need that may not directly have any benefit for myself. Life for me is one big test. I have been given a lot (health, intelligence, freedom, etc) - what am I going to do with that which I have been given? This is the game of life.

So with this renewed sense of purpose, following my brief encounter with the grim reaper, I started to make slightly different decisions. I started to to ask myself at every occasion whether I really was doing what I could and should do.

This started in the supermarket. I would have called myself an occasional conscious shopper - the odd Fairtrade packet of tea (especially when they were on offer!), mostly trying to avoid the caged eggs (especially when Happy Eggs were on their introductory price) and using reusable bags when I remembered (especially if they looked cool and had the 'Animal' logo on the side).

Now this has changed. Turned up to the supermarket without my bags, what did I do - not use any. I got a few funny looks wheeling a trolley out of the supermarket not in any bags and loading each individual item into my car - but at least my conscience was clear and I should remember my bags next time. I got a grilling from my husband after spending an extra 50p on eggs whilst we are having to borrow a huge amount of money to pay for an operation for a family member - this made me feel bad, so we have come to an agreement, if he wants eggs from caged hens then he'll have to buy them himself - I just can't bring myself to do that anymore.

Some guy had posted a suicide note on his blog that got indexed via MedWorm. I was emailed by one of the site visitors that was concerned about the issue and wondered if I could do anything to reach out to him. I did have his email so thought to send him one. Usually I would have left it at that, but my new conviction told me that wasn't enough, so I went out of my way to track down his details and tried to call him, as well as some people in his area that might be able to reach out to him. Last I hear he is still alive after a stay in hospital - don't know the exact details, or whether my small effort made the slightest bit of difference in the larger chain of events, but my conscience was clear that I had done everything I personally could when challenged to care.

I decided to take more of an interest in politics. I did not like politics, and had yet to meet a politician that I really liked or thought I could trust at all, so generally steered clear of them like many people do. I realised that this attitude is wrong. If I am to have a positive impact on this world then I must show more of an interest. Feeling motivated by Obama's victory, believing that there must be a few good people out there, I noticed a leaflet from a local guy running for a position as our local member of parliament (Luke Pollard) - thought he seemed quite a nice guy and contacted him to ask him some questions about politics and what motivates him. I figured that even if I couldn't quite bring myself to support a party, if I could at least find a single person in politics that I liked and could share some ideas with then that would be a start.

Luke brought to my attention the matter of a huge incinerator that is being proposed for less than 2 miles from where I live. I was horrified to learn that planning permission for it was due to be submitted in just a matter of weeks, and yet none of my neighbours knew about the matter.

So I met with Luke and a few other concerned residents, and next thing I'm building a website to raise awareness about the incinerator issue, giving out leaflets and knocking on doors. I was pretty open minded about the matter, the pros and cons of the proposal, but as I researched the issue I became more and more convinced that the issue of incineration is a huge one that urgently needs addressing by people worldwide.

Huge incinerators are proposed for the disposal of our waste all across the UK, and I understand in many other countries too. The accumulative effects of a large number of new incinerators, emitting dioxins that are persistent and bioaccumulative, as well as producing ash that is high in metals and other toxins that ends up in landfill anyway, have major implications for future generations for our entire planet.

So now my social action and conscience brings me back to the matter of health, which is what I am all about!

Will tell you more about my adventures shortly....(watch this space because I have a feeling that this is about to get very interesting)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Make a Prayer

Just finished posting my last blog item 'call to action' when I realised, as fate would have it, that the lyrics to the song that I happened to be listening to at that time were entirely relevant, so thought to share the song with you too.

A Call to Action

I have not blogged for a while. Reason being I have so many things going round my mind I wasn't sure which issue to write about first, and of course it all takes time, which is forever in short supply.

This post explains a fundamental belief that I have recently consolidated that underlies many of my motivations, and other posts that I wish to write, hence I decided this would be the best place to start.

This is my belief:

It is the inaction of the good that allows the bad to happen.

Put it another way:

'Minding your own business' or 'turning a blind eye' makes you guilty of the bad that occurs, that could have otherwise been avoided with your intervention.

When talking of all the bad things that happen in this world, many people conclude that there is no God, or at least not a loving God. My husband put it another way to me: It is not God who causes bad things to happen, but it is God's intervention that stops bad things happening. When you look at the chaos of matter, it is apparent that God intervened to bring about creation. Looking at the beginning of life, from the very start of conception, the forming of cells, the growth of the fetus to the delivery of the baby into this world - from the very beginning there are so many things that can go wrong, the fact that anyone can even get so far as to be born is evidence of God's intervention.

Bad things happen, all the time, chaos, and it is 'the good' that must intervene. Others would have it that the bad must be stopped. But my argument is that 'the good' must intervene, rather than the bad stopped, or chaos will reign.

It is not OK to be ambivalent. It is not OK to live your own good life, in your own little shell, when you have the power to do otherwise. Not if you believe in justice.

We all have varying degrees of ability and power. Our action in this world must take into consideration the resources available to us. We must make the most of what we have to intervene and with the purest of intentions, for if our core motivations are selfish rather than altruistic, or if we are dishonest with ourselves and fail to admit our own failings, we can easily fall into the trap of self-rightousness that could lead us to become part of an even bigger problem than that which we think we are trying to solve.

The belief is a religious one, since without the fundamental belief of God, a unifying force of goodness, and also justice, it makes little sense. The justice part is important - those with ability, power, conscience, they are the ones that must act - but there has to come at the end of it all some kind of reckoning, some kind of judgement as to how well we have performed, some kind of reward for those who do well, some kind of punishment for those who do bad, some redistribution of the wealth, some recompense for those who have had their unfair share of suffering - or else justice has no meaning. But I think the principle is common to all religions - and even my friend 'the humanist' may share some of the same ideas.

As a child I learned how to share and how to care for my dolly. I learned how to forgive my brother for kicking me under the table and all those nasty 'Chinese burns' he liked to inflict on my arm, as I came to realise that the bullying he experienced at school and the punishment inflicted on him by my father were bound to result in him finding some outlet for his aggression - I just happened to be a convenient punch bag, he really didn't mean any harm. Early on I came to understand a little about chain reactions - memories of war resulted in my grandfather drinking to forget, which resulted in maltreatment of his family, which resulted in emotional instability in my father, which resulted in him coming down really hard on my brother, which resulted in him finding it hard to make friends, which resulted in him getting bullied, which resulted in my brother taking it out on me. None of it was really anyone's fault, so I learned a lot about forgiveness, which was a good lesson to learn. I made some special friends and took on board their feelings. I learnt that lying was a bad thing and that we should treat other people the way we would like to be treated ourselves. I enjoyed school, doing academically well without any major effort, found it easy to make friends, and also enjoyed doing things on my own and especially creating (all kinds of things) in my own little bubble.

As a young teenager I started to understand that there were some really awful things happening outside our relatively cosy environment. The issues with my brother and my father's quick temper were minor problems compared to the threat of nuclear war. The images of emaciated children in Ethiopia that found their way onto all our TV screens were a complete shock to me that I struggled to comprehend. Every morning I always picked up whatever was nearest to me to read over my breakfast; increasingly it happened to be a copy of the Amnesty International magazine that would hang around in my parent's post. Stories of electrical shock treatment and prisoners of conscience digested with my Weetabix.

I remember the moment when I decided not to read or watch that stuff any more. It was during the 6 o'clock news. I don't remember the story that was being recounted but I have a vague recollection of images of tanks and explosions. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed; my confusion and feeling of inability to do anything about such events led me to shut the door on my compassion. My reaction was to choose to block out such information. I would live my life, the best I could, and the rest of the world could get lost. What other option did I have?

And from that day on I left the room whenever the my father was watching the news. I stopped reading the newspapers. I concentrated on me and my future, and did everything that a rebel teenager could do to have a good time and fulfil my desires, utterly self-centred, sprinkled with self-indulging moments of empathy that served to excuse my selfishness. The only problem was that it was a road to no-where, and as I grew older, wisdom started to beckon; a void within started to ache; a voice of depression and despair emerged. Somewhere deep down there I lost everything, and was left really with nothing of my own except a small flicker of faith, which became my rock on which to build a future.

It was a long process to find the strength to face up to the dilemma of existence, good versus bad, the meaning of life, and only just these recent days that I have consolidated just what it is that I believe to be true regarding injustice and evil, and what my response can and should be.

The belief that it is my obligation to do the best I can to make a positive impact on society changes everything for me. It is not enough for me to 'live a good life' looking out for me and my family, minding my own business, ensuring I don't do any harm to anyone, for I have been given intellect, resources, freedom and health, and therefore the obligation to respond accordingly gives me purpose that changes my life. The consequence of doing anything other than my best, of keeping silent when I know something is wrong, is that one day I can expect to be held accountable for future atrocities - this is terrifying, to be considered in some way responsible for the horrors that exist is my call to action. Such a terrible thought is what actually gives me power.

This reasoning forms the basis of my future.

(If you just stepped into my blog here and like this post you may also like the 'Make a Prayer' video that I posted next.)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Little One Step

One of the benefits of being a working parent with a young child is that you have are constantly forced to stop and look at the basic teachings of life. Each evening I am obliged to read a little story to my young son (one of my nicest duties in life). Sometimes they are beautiful, sometimes funny stories, often with a little (or big) life message that I probably benefit more from than my son.

One of my favourite books that I happened across is 'Little One Step' by Simon James. It tells the story of a little duckling out for a walk with his bigger siblings. He has to walk through a wood to get home, and each time he stops and looks at the tall dark trees he is afraid, but his siblings teach him to just concentrate on taking a 'little one step', and then another, and then another. Before he knows it he is home, feeling very proud of himself!

When I look at my plans for MedWorm and the mountain of code I have yet to write I often feel overwhelmed, but then I just concentrate on a little one step, and then another. I guess like swimming The Channel, running a marathon, rowing The Atlantic, just concentrating on the 'little one steps', not worrying too much about what is to come, or looking for too long at where you have been, just taking 'little one step, little one step, little one step...'

Simon James also wrote 'Baby Brains', which I stumbled upon this week. Completely different, but very amusing!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Swine Flu Anxiety

Honestly today I am soooo much better. I can now say for sure that I am disease free - still weak, but today I can actually say the coughing has stopped and each day I am feeling stronger. But last week I had one of the worst nights of my life. No joke, I really thought I was dying!

As with most days over the past few weeks I woke feeling a little better, but in the afternoon my cough got worse and became very tiresome come the evening and into the night. This particular evening, feeling truly exhausted and in need of a good night's sleep, but unable to stop the coughing whenever I lay down, my husband gave me a sore throat sweet that included in it an anaesthetic to help relax my throat which he said had helped him.

Indeed my throat muscles did relax, but then I started to feel really anxious that there was mucous building up in my lungs that I was unable to cough up.

I gave up trying to sleep and instead decided to have a steam with some Vicks in hot water and a towel over my head. Whilst doing so I made the mistake of continuing with a read of 'An Imperfect Offering: Dispatches from the medical frontline'. It is the autobiography of James Orbinski, past president of Medicine Sans Frontieres. I was part way through the chapter which recounts his time spent in Rwanda during the genocide that took place in 1994, when an estimated 1 million men, women and children were butchered to death in a matter of just 12 weeks. I had reached a particularly harrowing scene which involved many orphaned children when I put down the book and realised I could read no more since I felt sick to my core. Empathy is one of my strengths and imagination is another; I had seen too much and was feeling traumatised by the scene which was now imprinted on my memory.

I then decided to try sleeping sitting up, since lying down triggered the coughing, so wrapped a quilt around me and tried to get comfortable on the couch. That is when I started to feel short of breath and my pulse increased. I also felt a little nauseous and started to panic that maybe I had overdosed on cough medicine - I had completely lost track of how much I had drunk. My husband came downstairs to find me in a traumatised state and unable to speak easily to explain how I felt.

My (doctor) husband, after running through all my symptoms (palpitations, high pulse, sweaty, dry mouth, nausea), started to draw to the conclusion that I was likely suffering from anxiety, that my symptoms where perhaps psychologically induced. I honestly believed him, everything fitted, but I still couldn't get rid of that feeling that I was fighting for my life, to the point where I suggested a few times that he call an ambulance (to which he replied 'what for? all you are going to do is sit in A&E for a few hours and then get sent home').

All night I felt sick, trying to control my breathing and slow down the palpitations, trying to get some sleep, but each time I shut my eyes I felt like I was fighting to get my breath and all I could see was horrific scenes in Rwanda that I would have liked to tell myself were just a bad dream, but which I knew had really happened. The anxiety continued throughout the night. I managed to snatch maybe 20 minutes sleep here and there come the end of the night.

The next morning I felt slightly better for a short while, and then the anxiety started to return. It was stronger than me and try as much as I wanted to control it I was struggling. After a few hours tossing and turning, and then a few hours pacing up and down like a crazy woman, I decided that I simply had to get a grip of myself or else face a life of complete hopelessness.

I agreed not to finish the book and to instead read some light material for a change. Also to stop listening to the news and counting the swine flu death toll. I also shut down my computer and agreed to do nothing for a few days except spend time with my children. All this helped. I spent the day at the park, but as evening drew closer, and I knew that my husband had to work that night, I started to feel anxious again with the fear that the night would bring back the same terror of the night before, only this time my husband would not be there to help.

I know that many young and middle aged women become somewhat dependant on tranquillizers and sleeping tablets as a result of anxiety, and for the first time in my life I understood why and just how destructive this condition can be. Probably fortunately for me I was also anxious of what effect taking a tranquillizer could have on me, so was reluctant to take drugs and first wanted to try all possible natural methods before taking any medication. My fear was also that if I couldn't get a grip of my anxiety without drugs to calm my nerves, that I would always need them in the future.

I first looked for a lighter read and returned to the autobiography of Barack Obama. Then I remembered how the Psalms of David had helped me in previous life trials and thought to read a few verses. And then I remembered my guitar. It had been years since I had played, but it had been a trusty friend upon which I had come to rely during times of solitude in a previous life.

I was surprised to find that I had not forgotten how to play and within minutes of playing and singing a few lines (to my creator) I felt all the tension drain from me and I knew I was going to be fine. That night I shut my eyes with peace. I listened to a subtle voice telling me 'relax and I will heal you'. I knew then that I didn't have to make myself cough, I just had to relax and all the mucous would just work its way up on its own. That night I slept for the first time in four weeks (no joke - had actually been much longer before I had got a good nights sleep, since before I was ill my son had woken be every night for 3 weeks with his illness).

I was only woken by my husband who called me from his work at the hospital to check if I was able to get to sleep or in need of some medication. I told him I was just fine and wasn't going to have any more issues with anxiety.

I know now that whenever anxiety returns in my life all I need do is play my guitar. Of course relaxing music has always been used to help calm people down, but I would suggest that a much more effective remedy, rather than just listening to music, is playing music (and getting in touch with your soul). Maybe all those people suffering with a long term anxiety disorder would be well to take up playing a musical instrument?

I suspect I am not the only person who will be suffering anxiety as a result of the swine flu. It wasn't just the swine flu that left me in this state, it was a combination of things (extreme fatigue, overwork, locking my keys in the car, housework building up, worry for my children's health, a growing interest in and concern for human rights and past atrocities, etc...) but the swine flu pushed me over the edge, since it exhausted me physically and it also worried me mentally.

If you are worried about the swine flu, I'd encourage you to turn off the tv, stop reading the media, eat healthily, sleep well and relax! Do lots of fun things and then maybe you'll recover a lot quicker.

For those with an interest in anxiety, here's the MedWorm topic on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). For those stepping into my blog now interested in swine flu, make sure to check out my previous swine flu posts in the blog archive at the side, or you can start my swine flu experience here.

(Update: Now fighting fit physically, but the whole 'feeling close to death' thing has had a significant impact on me. Left me still struggling somewhat with anxiety and also revisiting some of my fundamental beliefs about life.)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

My Swine Flu Update

Just in case you were wondering what happened to me, another 6 days later and I am still coughing! The antibiotics have certainly taken the edge off the illness by putting a halt to the secondary bacterial infection that was starting, and took the pain away that was developing in my chest, but I was left I think with a lingering case of viral bronchitis that wasn't going anywhere fast.

Realising that modern medicine didn't have much to offer me I looked into some natural remedies and then went out and bough a big bag of licorice and a bottle of cinnamon leaf oil. Not sure how much effect the licorice has, but I have been surprised at the almost instant relief to my symptoms and also lift to my mood that I experienced from just a drop of cinnamon leaf oil (not to be placed on the skin or taken orally, but just inhaled, and not in large quantities either, just one drop seems very strong).

The day after (which was yesterday) I was feeling much better, but then in the afternoon and evening, and well into the night (2am) I did some more heavy duty coughing as whatever must have been lodged deep in my lungs from the now shifting illness started to make a move up.

Not nice to detail, but for medical purposes I will tell you that it was yellow and incredibly sticky stuff like I have never experienced before in my life. Even though I was feeling much better in myself, it was at times a little scary getting this stuff up as I started to wonder whether the sticky stuff might block my airway altogether, so did some steaming with Vicks in hot water and a towel over my head which I think helped, as did another drop of the cinnamon leaf oil.

Finally got to sleep at 2.30am, too exhausted (again) to cough any more. Hoping for further improvement in my condition today! (yes that doesn't sound like improvement, but all the while I have been feeling better in myself like the infection is diminishing).

The other symptom I forgot to mention was a white furry tongue with red spots - we've all had it. I was one of my first symptoms, nearly four weeks back now, and I noticed I still have it today. I think that when my tongue returns to normal I will know that I am finally better.

4 weeks ill with the swine flu: week 1 getting ill, week 2 definitely ill getting worse, week 3 getting better in the mornings then relapsing in the afternoons, week 4 fighting off the secondary bacterial infection and then starting to get better (I think/hope). Who said this thing would be gone in 7 to 10 days?

Let me make this clear, I am a fit and healthy women in mid 30s, my husband also (although not a woman!) suffering the same duration of illness, my father too, in his 60s, but also fit and healthy. My younger sister (in 20s) was also ill for weeks, but I think closer to 3 than 4 weeks. My son, aged 4 (also normally healthy), was ill a few days sooner than us, was more seriously ill at the beginning (very high temperature in particular) but seems to have recovered much quicker (although again this morning a touch warm and a little cough so I hope nothing is returning).

I can understand why pregnant women are at high risk since there is no way I could have managed the heavy duty coughing in my third trimester.

Lots of reports around that this is no more serious than seasonal flu. I have had seasonal flu a couple of times. Seasonal flu made me feel awful, very achy, heavy head cold, extremely week, but at no time concerned that what I had could be life threatening. With this I didn't feel as achy or wiped out, but the cough is the worst I have experienced (bar the whooping cough I had as a young child that I still remember) and at times when I was fighting to get the stuff out of my airways I was truly scared as to how much worse things were going to get and very aware of my mortality.

When my mother started to develop symptoms a few days ago she took no messing around - knowing that it is only effective if taken in the first few days of symptoms she insisted that the doctor prescribe her Tamiflu since she had seen how much my father had suffered and she was not prepared to go through the same. Good for her I say! Not normally very assertive, she was well informed and took her health into her own hands - she had strong evidence to suggest that we had the swine flu, that she was developing it, and knew that the Tamiflu had to be prescribed straight away if it was to be of any effect, and had the courage to call her GP and argue her case. I think this was sensible. The rest of us did not ask for Tamiflu since we knew it was too late for us. My father was prescribed it even though he had been ill for 3 weeks, and confirmed that it had no effect on him whatsoever, but my mother is feeling her condition improve rather than deteriorate, thanks to her own swift action.

Now finding a 'flu buddy' who would be prepared to visit my mother for her id and prescription, and then travel to the Tamiflu distribution centre to wait with other 'swine flu buddies' (risking their own contamination) - that's a different story (a strategy that has obviously not been clearly thought through and I have to tell you does not work for even those people that have lots of friends in the community - so how it should work for someone that is more isolated I don't know).

Now if you want more information on swine flu, I have to tell you that you won't find a better source than the MedWorm swine flu updates (every hour, compiled from nearly 7,000 sources):
- Swine flu official news
- Swine flu in the medical blogs
- Swine flu discussions (join in by commenting on any of the swine flu articles in MedWorm)

If you have just stepped into my blog here, make sure to also read my posts on when I first realised I had swine flu and also about my swine flu recuperation. There's also now one more post about my swine flu episode that comes after this one, which talks about a swine flu anxiety attack I experienced, to round off my experience.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Swine Flu Recuperation

Today I feel better. Yesterday after posting that I was on the mend I then seemed to take a turn for the worse - my temperature started to rise again, I developed pain across one side of my chest, started to sweat a lot and sensed my cough was changing into something maybe worse. So after 10 days of fighting this thing and feeling completely exhausted, I accepted it was about time to start antibiotics since my infection was likely turning bacterial. I started to read about pneumonia and decided I didn't want to take the risk.

I then started to worry about my father who seemed worse than myself and not really getting better either. I called my mother and insisted that she call the doctor the next morning whether he agreed or not. My father, in the typical British manner, prefers to struggle on without medical intervention. We are all now so conditioned by GPs telling us that what we have is a virus and there is nothing they can do for us, that many are now scared of calling a doctor unnecessarily. Recognising when one has deteriorated enough to make that call is tricky. I believe that often when ill and gradually deteriorating you are not able to take the right decision yourself, and the call is often made far too late.

Now 24 hours and 4 doses of antibiotics later I can safely say I am now feeling better. For the first time in days I was able to lie down and have a nap without coughing almost continuously. And my father now has his antibiotics too so I can relax I think. Phew!

Let me tell you, swine flu is no 'walk in the park'. Of course one shouldn't panic, but at the same time it should be taken seriously. I am fit and healthy without any underlying conditions, but I have to tell you there were a few moments when I really struggled and started to wonder how much worse the cough was going to get. It must really be a concern for the many people that do have underlying conditions.

Here's my swine flu tip: If you start to feel a little tired and unwell, take time out then, sleep a lot, eat really well, get lots of fluids, take some vitamins. Do everything you can to get shut of it in its early days. I instead carried on about my business. Although I felt very tired I did nothing to get more rest and I think that is partly why it hit me so hard the following week. My daughter, when she felt tired, slept, and slept, and slept, and then she was fine. Maybe that helped her?

Isn't it nice when we feel illness on the retreat and normal health start to return? Isn't good health such a wonderful thing?

Yesterday I watched a lady on the TV who had been awaiting a lung transplant for the last 2 years. She had cystic fibrosis. Everyone at the hospital talked about how wonderful she was and what a positive outlook she had. But without a lung transplant soon she will not have much future.

I asked my husband about cystic fibrosis. He said to think of the annoying secretions that I had experienced on my lungs over the past few weeks, and to imagine experiencing that all my life. I can't.

I wondered whether with new lungs she would be cured, or whether she would always suffer from this terrible condition.

Here's the MedWorm section on cystic fibrosis and here's the one on swine flu. You can read what happened next in my swine flu story here or read more about when I first realised I had the swine flu in my previous post.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

I've got the swine flu.... probably

GPs aren't testing for the swine flu in the UK anymore, and the WHO is about to advise that countries with widespread cases stop testing, since 95% or more cases of flu are now caused by H1N1, so there is no way to prove that I have the swine flu.

But I am sure that is what it is, as is my husband (who is a doctor). My sister's friend, who is Argentinian and was living in Spain flew to visit her and then got ill - next to follow was my sister, who was visited by parents just before she presented with symptoms. My parents then came to stop at our household for a few days, and then my sister also paid us a visit. Shortly after my sister getting ill, my mother started to feel like she was developing something (although she seemed to fight it off), and then myself, my husband, my son and my father (who does not live with us) all fell ill at the same time.

My none-scientific calculations, if our source of illness is correct, tell me that the incubation period is quite long, something closer to the early suggestions of around about 8 days between coming into contact with the virus and developing symptoms. Now my son's (4 year old) friends are also starting to develop suspect symptoms, and if they caught it from him then the 8 days would also fit. However, I read that recent reports suggest a shorter incubation period that could even be as short as 1 - 4 days. Personally I think that this may be due to the virus being so widespread at the moment - when you go down with the flu, maybe your friends are too, but doesn't mean that's who you caught it from - it could well be that you and your friends were in contact with someone else at the same time, who may have had the illness that you don't even know about. After all, who wants to advertise the fact that they think they may have the swine flu? I certainly didn't want to be the one that got my children's schools shut down! I am relieved now that our government are no long taking this cause of action, since the disruption to everyone when this happens is huge, and I figure everyone is going to come into contact with this now sooner or later.

So how we feel? Why are we convinced we got the swine flu? And what treatment did we receive?

I first started to feel a little 'odd' like I was going down with a strange cold that I thought was suspicious. Felt a little unlike other colds although I wasn't sure why. I was quite tired and I remember had absolutely no energy in my aerobics class and being very out of breath. I had a slight saw throat and developed a very 'sticky' cough that came on very quickly, which I found unusual since I am not prone to catch many coughs, and certainly not so quickly. I found it 'stickier' than anything I had experienced before, but I wasn't very unwell. A slight temperature. I had started taking Sambucol (black elderberry extract) which I had researched on Pubmed and seemed to be effective in boosting immunity against flu viruses. I then seemed to be getting better and shifting whatever it was, before it came back and hit me a second time. This time the cough was much worse. It is a deep chesty cough that seems to hit you in waves - sometimes you think it is getting better, and then all of a sudden you feel really bad - and then you pick up again. The cough goes on and on and keeps you up at night. Mine didn't have any yellow secretions, although my husband's did a little (so he took some antibiotics to fight any secondary bacterial infection). Sounds like we have TB. I've been coughing badly now for 9 days, but today I would say I am definitely feeling better and can say now I think is is subsiding. My sister tells me she was really ill but is now 100% better with no symptoms at all - which is reassuring.

I did not visit the doctor. I took lots of Sambucol, which I believe took the edge off things (I would always feel better a few hours after taking it) as well as chesty cough medicine containing Guaifenesin, which I could not have done without, as well as bronchial balsam mixture, and lots of Vicks almost permanently on my chest (which I think may have helped relax me slightly). I haven't taken any paracetamol, instead preferring to let myself run with a very slight temperature, since my own theory is that helps me fight the infection better. We have also been drinking lots of red berry juice - which tastes very good to me at the moment! Have been tired and worn out, which is no surprise due to the disrupted sleep and heavy duty coughing. Now I am quite pleased I have had this and am on the mend since I figure I can relax a little come the Winter without any major concerns for the flu. One thing I would say is that this flu has seemed different to any other. The main thing has been the cough. I have felt maybe a little achy at times, and have had a slight 'sniffle', but nothing like the aches and head colds of previous flu - but that may have been due to the Sambucol which I believe is effective in fighting such symptoms.

My 4 year old son was also hit by two waves - first off he got a high temperature round about 39 degrees (under the arm) that responded after a few hours to Calpol and Calprofen - followed by a sudden cold that seemed to be clearing after a few days - but then 4 to 5 days later had a sudden temperature that rose above 40 degrees - not sure exactly how hot, since after that we were so busy trying to get the temperature down we didn't have time to take it again (well maybe we were too scared to) until it had dropped a little. After that he developed the same cough as us. He has on the whole however slept better than us, after his initial temperature, his cough hasn't been quite as bad and I think been getting well quicker (at least I hope so, although it is obviously much more worrying seeing him ill than experiencing this ourselves).

We initially called NHS Direct regarding our son, who gave us general advice on treating the flu. Later in the night we called our out of hours doctor who told us to take him to our nearest treatment centre - which was quite a drive actually to the hospital, so we didn't bother since his temperature was starting to come down. The next time his temperature flared up we took him to the GP the next day who thought it was probably a virus but saw that his throat was sore, so prescribed antibiotics as a precaution. Swine flu was not mentioned since there were not many known cases in the area at that time. However, just a few weeks later when my friend took her children to the doctor with the same symptoms they have said it is quite possibly swine flu, although they cannot confirm this. She was not offered Tamiflu, which I found was surprising since both her children are asthmatic, but told to go back if it got much worse.

Worth noting is that my mother felt she was going down with something, so on my recommendation took Sambucol and then felt fine, as did my 14 year old daughter (who we have been coughing all over the past few weeks, and after just a dry throat and slight temperature one night, and several doses of Samucol, has also stayed well).

So that's our 'probably swine flu' story, for those that are wondering whether they have it too and what the symptoms might be. Good luck with your dose! Read what happened next in my swine flu story here.

Don't forget to check out MedWorm for all the very latest swine flu news.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Learning in the Right Order

Everything is easy to learn when you learn it in the right order.

The is what I realised last night. I was about to jump into O'Reilly's DNS & BIND Cookbook, in preparation for a major MedWorm migration (yes a shiny new server is on its way that will resolve all or its performance issues!) when I read in the preface 'This book expressly doesn't concentrate on DNS theory. For that, I'd (not surprisingly) recommend DNS and BIND. Without an understanding of the theory behind DNS, you're like the Southeast Asian Scrabble players who memorize the spelling -- but not the meaning or pronunciation -- of tens of thousands of English words: all syntax, no semantics.'

Now usually I think I would just ignore such information and carry on regardless, but this time for some reason I realised the importance of really getting to grips with the theory behind DNS before I learnt the details of how to configure it. So I put down the book and instead got myself a copy of DNS and BIND. Glad I did, since I began to realise how simple DNS actually is if you learn it in the right order. Just a question of laying a few foundations and then putting the bricks one on top of the other. It is important to put those bricks in the right order though. Like the little toddler learning to build a pyramid style tower, when they have to place the largest bricks at the bottom and then choose the right brick to place next in order to reach the top.

A lot of people think I.T. is difficult, and that you have to be really clever to understand it. My self-belief that I could program came from reading the first few chapters of the basic manual as a child - I did nothing much with computing after that until I had reached adulthood, but I had the confidence to enroll on a softwear engineering course because I had written a little basic program adding a couple of numbers together when I was aged about 10; I knew that I understood the basic principal of programming and that the rest would just be adding pieces of that understanding together.

This is also why children start with the alphabet when they learn to read, why my first chemistry lesson started with the atom, and why my first biology lesson began with the cell (as far as I can recall).

Everything in I.T. is easy if you learn it in the right order. Next time I am reading something that seems difficult, it is just a question of identifying which area of knowledge I am missing and then going back and learning a few basics in that area, and then building on that basic information to find my way through to the destination - a bit of patience, starting at the beginning rather than jumping straight to the end. I can however 'fast-track' my way to the end, because I know where I want to go and can take a straight route there.

I was pleased with my moment of revelation and shared my new understanding with my husband, who just said 'Of course, it is the same with everything. Didn't you know that?', with the tone of voice that made me think that this is something everyone else already knew, and it was just me that was taking a long time to recognise this fact. Next time I am proof reading his medical publications, wondering where he gets his knowledge from, I'll just remind myself that he too just started at the beginning, and then carried on putting one brick on top of another, in the right order.

But just in case you hadn't realised this yet, thought I might share my moment revelation with you:

Everything is easy to learn when you learn it in the right order.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Swine Flu - Better to live in the UK than the USA

Once again the NHS is proving its worth in the UK. Swine flu cases have now reached 122 here in the UK, but the rate at which it is spreading I find somewhat reassuring. I live in the South West where 3 cases evolved weeks ago. A family returning from a holiday in Mexico brought it back with them. The girl's school was shut and all her class mates given Tamiflu. I anticipated as a result that spread in the South West was inevitable, but weeks later still no further cases have been reported.

In the UK, I understand that people presenting with even mild symptoms of suspected swine flu are being tested and are prescribed with Tamiflu, and even close contacts who are not presenting with symptoms are offered Tamiflu as a precaution. Reason being, according to the NHS guidelines, 'Testing has shown that the swine flu can be treated with the antiviral medicines oseltamavir (brand name Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). However, the drugs must be administered at an early stage to be effective'.

If you develop flu like symptoms in the UK, the advice is not to visit your GP, but to call a help line, to avoid spreading the virus.

In the USA, however, the guidelines are completely different. The CDC says that treatment is available for those that are seriously ill (therefore no treatment is available for those who are not seriously ill?), even though it also goes on to admit that antiviral drugs work best if given within 2 days of becoming ill. The CDC advice if you develop the flu:

'It is expected that most people will recover without needing medical care.
If you have severe illness or you are at high risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider or seek medical care. Your health care provider will determine whether flu testing or treatment is needed. Be aware that if the flu becomes wide spread, there will be little need to continue testing people, so your health care provider may decide not to test for the flu virus.'

Wow, I would have to wait until I am seriously ill before seeking medical treatment in the USA? And even then no clear direction on how to get treatment, just that I should 'seek medical care' - so I guess I would turn up at the emergency room and contaminate everyone there right?

Of course I understand why this course of inaction - money. But surely the savings in not treating people early with antivirals are going to cost the economy a whole lot more in the long run?

So no surprise that further deaths are anticipated. Also inevitable that it is just a matter of time before the swine flu becomes widespread throughout the USA. Glad I don't live there. And I figure not a good idea to visit the USA either, at least not for the next 12 months!

The only useful tip I picked up from the CDC is that aspirin should not be given to children 18 or under with the swine flu, due to the increased risk in Reye's syndrome - something I knew nothing about (although I know in general is it not a good idea to give children aspirin).

Here's the MedWorm swine flu page with RSS feed, updated every hour, for all the very latest information from offical sources.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Innocent Man in Guantanamo

I'm currently reading Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo, by Murat Kurnaz. I pick up random books to read from my local library, but almost always true stories, preferably autobiographies. Reason being I realised as a teenager that life was short, and interesting, and I had a lot to learn. Since time was limited, I had better learn about truth rather than spend my days dreaming about fiction - I had read plenty of fiction as a child; I then took the decision to try to spend every minute of my life as effectively as I could, learning from others who had succeeded in life as much as I could.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book since I knew it would be pretty grim and depressing. But since the guy had come out the other end and had found the strength to write about his ordeal, I thought that I could probably learn something from him about endurance under difficult times.

As a young adult I once had a vivid dream about Hell. It was like I actually went there and had a look around. It made a lasting impression on me that I will never forget. I think up until then deep down I didn't really believe in Hell; I did believe in a loving and forgiving God and the concept of Hell seemed somewhat in contradiction to this understanding. However, my journey that night, and what I saw, although in a dream, was so vivid that I will always remember. Such images I could not have conjured up myself, having always avoided watching scary movies, the shock of this terrible vision altered my view on life. Now I know that Hell exists, and that it is of man's making. It is a product of the very opposite of love and compassion. It is the ultimate destination of selfishness, a place where a combination of self-indulgence and fear removes all feeling towards others; however, place into that terror just one person who puts another person's needs above their own, where compassion brings one to care for another, at the cost of pain and great danger to oneself, then those bonds of Hell are broken.

Reading this book, about this innocent man in Guantanamo (who I believe was just one of many innocent men), it suddenly dawned on me, 'this is it, this is what I saw, this place was Hell, Hell on Earth'. The constant abuse and torture, the inhumanity displayed by the soldiers towards the prisoners, day after day, year after year, is at times too much to comprehend. I can only read this book in small chunks, since it weighs too heavy on my heart. But I am glad I chose to read it and would recommend all people that believe in facing up to truth to have the courage to do the same. This is a story that needs telling to the World.

Let me tell you what I find the most appalling: the way in which so called 'doctors' were instrumental in the abuse. I have read how doctors were often brought in to determine whether an inmate could withstand any further torture; Murat was strung up in chains left hanging from his handcuffs for days on end; every so often a man with the label 'doctor' on his uniform would come in and check his pulse to see if he was still alive and to decide whether he could withstand any more - the answer for Murat was always that he could. Seems the doctor got it wrong with the man in the room next to him who appeared to be left hanging dead.

I read about a young man who had had his legs amputated due to frostbite, with just stubs left for fingers. He was thrown into one of Camp X-Ray's cages with wounds full of puss. His bandages were never changed, rather he was often beaten and was not even permitted to pull himself up on the cage to use the toilet bucket. A man with frostbite in one finger, the rest all ok, was told that they would amputate his finger; instead they took off all his fingers leaving just his thumbs. A man with toothache in one tooth was taken to a dentist, who took out all his teeth. Terrible fractures that were left to heal on their own. A blind man over 90 interrogated, beaten and tortured with the rest.

Murat says that he had many toothaches and health problems, but that he avoided seeing the doctor at all costs since he wanted to keep his teeth, fingers and legs.

I ask myself what these doctors are doing now. Have they maybe returned from service, maybe to practice medicine in a top medical hospital in America somewhere, maybe with some kind of honours? I think of the Nazis living undercover lives in society. Will these men one day have to face up to their participation in such crimes?

But even under inhumane circumstances, a compassionate spirit is shown impossible to break in some of these men. The guy with his legs and fingers removed never cried when he was beaten, but cried loudly when he saw other men being beaten. Murat writes that he was a really nice guy. Had been married shortly before being arrested. Enjoyed playing soccer, before he lost his legs. Murat later learnt that this man had survived his injuries, had gained weight and was trying to keep in shape, had even learned to do push ups. As of 2007 he was still being held captive at Guantanamo. His name is Abdul Rahman. I look forward to the day when all these men are released and they get their chance to tell their own stories to the World .

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Healthcare in Need of a Global Solution

I have this maybe childlike notion that the solutions to many of the World's problems will become apparent when pieces of knowledge from across the globe, from all walks of life, are pieced together. No more so than in the field of health care and medicine.

The Internet provides us, for the first time in history, the ability to start putting those pieces together. Making new connections, different people with different beliefs, but with shared purposes, uniting like never before behind common objectives. It is unity, the sharing of information and the willingness to work openly and together that will see major steps forward in science and medicine for the common good like never before.

To say that I am excited about the role MedWorm can play in this facilitation of shared knowledge and communication is an understatement.

This is my vision, this is my dream.

I am currently in the process of contacting medical and health charities to see if I can find some ways of working together with them, since we share the same social objectives: we both want to see improvements in communication, the raising of awareness and ultimately the advance of knowledge and improved treatments and cures for illnesses.

Here's my offer: any medical or health related charity can sponsor any of the topics on MedWorm for free for a two week period. They get their message and hyperlink under the title of every page on MedWorm within that topic area, and also at the bottom of every fifth item within their topic's associated RSS feed. At the end of the two week period, if they want to keep their message there they can, at a monthly price that they name. There's really no catch involved here. At this stage I'm not looking to raise lots of cash, rather just raise awareness for the site and also some token of financial support (I would even accept a cent, and that's the truth). I've lots more ideas of how MedWorm might be able to help them in the future, but this is just a start.

There is an issue however in that I am not at this time planning on splitting up the message targeting by country, so if you put your message on MedWorm, everyone gets to see it in all countries. Some charities might then decide that this is not something which they want, which I think is a shame. Surely any charity could benefit in some way from some global exposure and would be somewhat foolish to close off the outside world.

One charity that I spoke to was very small with only one full time employee. She was very excited to talk to me and wanted to know if I had come across any other such charities in other countries focusing on the same medical condition as they were, since their charity was the only one in the US, and she was keen to hear of any similar work being done in a different country. What a fantastically forward thinking lady - I am sure that her charity will make great advances with such an approach!

At the other end of the scale was a large US charity that was initially very enthusiastic about the offer, but then decided not to go ahead since I was 'based' in the UK, not in the US. I had made it clear that the majority of MedWorm's users are from the US, as is much of the data, and to be completely honest most of its supporters and probably future employees. In fact, even the MedWorm server is hosted in the US. So close is my involvement with the US market that I was at one time considering setting up MedWorm as a US entity without any UK presence at all! But it appears that the MedWorm traffic wasn't actually the issue - the problem appears not to be in relation to MedWorm's audience, but rather that MedWorm was 'based' in the UK.

This is a puzzle to me. I am therefore asking the question as to whether this was honestly the real issue, or whether this insular way of thinking is possibly a form of protectionism that has come about as a byproduct of the recession.

Whatever the case, I am genuinely saddened, since I think it only when such barriers come down that my vision of a healthy Utopia can ever give us real hope.

In the meantime, I'll approach instead the UK equivalent of the charity who I am sure will welcome some global exposure to their cause.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Excitement and Fear

I was interested to read Theo Paphitis talking about the combined feelings of excitement and fear in his autobiography, which I can relate to. I remember experiencing an overwhelming combination of these two emotions throughout my life, even from early childhood, and still now in my mid thirties as a mother of two.

It is the exact same feeling, and I both love it because it makes me feel alive and I hate it because it petrifies me. As an older teenager I wondered whether it would be best just to avoid it, to live a safe life within my comfort zone, and almost straight away drew to the conclusion that the minute I do that I would start to get old, I would start to die. So instead I choose every time to walk through those fires, but the feeling never gets any easier. No sooner do I get comfortable with one new situation I am faced with another, bigger, more exciting and more terrifying challenge to match the bigger braver me.

It was in researching Julie Myer from Ariadne Capital that I came across a famous quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I also came across this talk by Marianne which I particularly enjoyed, where she speaks about the power of love, in particular that within a woman, the protection of children worldwide, the importance of depression and the need for nationwide remorse in response to war. Moved me to tears.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


One of my favourite TV programs is Dragons' Den, for many reasons. It is the BBC version of the show where entrepreneurs pitch before a group of 'dragons' for their investment, up to a total amount of £250,000.

I've often thought of applying to pitch for MedWorm, but I'm not sure any of the dragons actually have the background I would be looking for in an investor.

I recently decided to read the autobiographies of the dragons to see what I could learn from these self-made multi-millionaires. Just finished Duncan Bannatyne's and now working my way through Theo Paphitis's. Both guys started with nothing, no money and no education. Both always had lots of self-belief, put in a lot of hard work to get to where they are now, were great at spotting opportunities (and acting on them) and were out to prove to all the people that ever doubted in them that they were wrong.

Theo says that one of his biggest motivators came from his ex-manager who begrudged Theo leaving his work and setting up his own enterprise. He told him 'you could end up selling matchsticks at Victoria Station'. Theo says 'It was all the motivation I needed. It was my driving force - I simply wasn't going to be selling matchsticks at Victoria Station and this guy had got it all wrong'. He wrote down his comment about matchsticks on a big piece of paper and stuck it on the office wall, where it remained for the rest of the time he spent there.

I have one such great motivator in my life - my husband. Whenever I tell him about my latest achievement, he just says to me 'show me the money'. He tells me frequently that I am a dreamer and is quick to point out my weaknesses (of which I am only too aware). It's really quite comical and completely infuriating. Is this why so few women make a life for themselves as an entrepreneur I wonder? He certainly had confidence in my ability to climb the ranks in a corporate environment, and I think that is where part of the problem lies - there was a time when I was earning a very good salary and had an extremely bright corporate future. But I was never satisfied and much happier chasing my own dreams, all be it without any pay. I started my working life as an entrepreneur before trying out life as an employee, but I always said to myself 'once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur' and knew it was a destiny to which I would have to return.

The other motivating people in my life are probably all my siblings and my mother, who have never outright said that they think I am a dreamer, but I have always understood that glazed look that comes over them whenever I start to share with them my vision. My father, however, although maybe the biggest cynic in my family, is the one that gave me my self belief. I always remember how infuriated with him I was as a child coming home from school when I told him I had received 98% in a test, and he asked me what happened to the 2%, or when I told him that I came second and he asked me why I didn't come first. The day I realised I could draw, having sketched the house that I could see from my bedroom window - he told me that I had got the perspective a little wrong - at that age I didn't even know what perspective was. When I decided at a young age that I was going to be an artist (probably partly in rebellion against my father, who was a scientist, I wanted to make it very clear I did not want to do anything scientific with my life), he told me that if I was to be an artist, I should decide in what profession, and make sure that I was the best.

The fact that he believed I could be the best, could be first, could get 100% in an exam and draw a building with completely accurate perspective, I think was key in the self-belief that was somehow installed in me as a child and remains with me to this day. It does not matter how many people doubt my ability to succeed - the more doubters, the greater the motivation. Of course it is also great when I meet people that have complete confidence in what I am doing and conviction that I will succeed - those moments give a great boost to my moral. The two kind of balance themselves like a carrot and a stick.

I do see I might be turning a little corner with my husband however, and just maybe he is starting to believe in my ability to succeed on my own, particularly since he is now starting to admit that MedWorm really is a useful resource for his own work, and one that he should use more often. I have always promised him that I will dedicate my first award to him - the one person who never believed in me and constantly put me down!(hey you know I'm only joking - not!)

However, he does pay all the bills right now and gives me the freedom to work for little very little pay, often neglecting the housework and making the dinner very late, so I guess I can't complain too much.

Monday, 26 January 2009

DEC Appeal for Gaza

I'm looking forward to viewing the DEC appeal for the innocent civilian victims in Gaza, that is to be shown today by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Shame on the BBC for deciding not to view it - just goes to show how much the BBC media really is controlled. I encourage you to make a complaint here:

You can always trust Tony Benn to tell it like it is:

What a guy!

There seems to be a lot of talk around now about people not paying their license fees in protest. Will be interesting to see if we have a sudden increase in unpaid TV license court cases in the coming year.

Sunday, 18 January 2009


Wikipedia has a good definition of hypocrisy:
'the act of preaching a certain belief, religion or way of life, but not, in fact, holding these same virtues oneself'.

In French a hypocrite is apparently slightly different:
'one who hides his intentions and true personality'.

Almost Funny

Some of these opinions would be amusing, if it wasn't against the backdrop of suffering, the hundreds of children lying in morgues, or under the rubble, hundreds more suffering terrible injuries, and the thousands left traumatised.

3 Life Truths from Steve Jobs

Reading this blog recently you could be forgiven for thinking that my life consists of nothing other than a struggle against the injustices in this world. In actual fact, I do have other interests. In particular I am interested in life fulfilment and personal success. Thanks to my husband for sending me a link to this inspirational speech from Steve Jobs, given a few years ago at Stanford. I'm posting it here as a reminder to myself.

In it he talks about:

- Joining the dots in life. Sometimes the path we follow in life, the skills and life experiences that we pick up, make little sense, until later on in life when we look back. Follow your heart and have faith.
- Loss and love. Sometimes we have to face loss to understand what it is that we really love. Don't settle for less, keep searching for that which you love. You'll know when you have found it.
- Living each day as if it is your last. If you live each day as if it is your last, then one day you will be right! Steve recounts the day on which he was told he had just 3-6 months left to live.

Final message: Stay hungry, stay foolish!

Collecting the Bodies

I've posted this slide show before, but the photos are constantly being updated, so I thought to post it again. Does frequently seeing such images desensitize ourselves to the reality of the horror? Maybe there is something so terrible about seeing a baby or child blown to pieces that it will always have an effect. It is important that everyone faces reality, however gruesome, and doesn't forget what has been happening, until there is some accountability and justice found. I think it is only when some kind of legal justice is found for these atrocities that people can ever begin to lay such terror to rest and that the cycle of violence can ever be expected to come to an end.

Find more photos like this on Palestinian Mothers

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Health or Peace and Justice?

In case you were wondering, this blog is usually related to health, but right now I just can't get past what is happening in Gaza - everything else at the moment seems somewhat trivial. Similar to the fact that we can't really begin to think about personal fulfilment, satisfaction and development if we don't have the basic necessities in life, food and drink, a roof over our heads and our illnesses treated; how can we think about good health and cures for the sick, when in the middle of such mass human destruction?

Now over 1,000 dead, more than 300 of them children, more than 4,800 injured, and there is no end to this ongoing massacre in site.

A couple of days ago I turned on the TV in the morning to watch an interview with a 16 year old survivor of an attack on their home. They were bombed repeatedly. He remembered the third missile in particular. The first two killed his brother and injured family members, the third one killed them all. He watched his brother bleed to death in front of him. He too was injured. He lay there for 4 days, amongst the bodies, before he was rescued. Also found in the house was a 6 year old who had been lying there next to dead uncles and brothers with just tomatoes to eat. He is now very ill himself with infected wounds and cries all the time.

The paramedics were not allowed to access that area for days. Even when they were allowed, they had to walk 1 km from the ambulance to reach them. They feared that there may be more injured lying amidst the rubble that they could not yet reach. Can you imagine your own children, lying injured, next to dead family members, for days on end?

This is Hell on Earth. I cannot imagine any greater misery, any greater sin, than to inflict such injury and terror on innocent children and then to leave them in such a state of torment for so long. This is pure evil and anyone with the slightest bit of faith that supports such actions should consider very carefully the consequence of such support to their own soul.

I feel sick to the core.

Realising that my own mental health was being effected with a poorly son that needed attention, my husband leaving the country urgently to attend to his sick mother, housework neglected and business to run, I turned the TV off for a few days and returned to a life or normality (or pretense?)

Tuned back in to the events today hoping to see some relief, some kind of progress on the political front, some kind of reduction in the level of violence. No such luck.

On the contrary, today I learn that the onslaught has moved in to the centre of the extremely highly populated Gaza city. A UN compound, a hospital and a media building have been under attack, hit by white phosphorous. Thousands of tonnes of food, medical supplies and other emergency assistance is now burning. Apparently horrific accounts of people trapped in buildings are now coming in.

I ask you to choose which of the 3 possibilities are the case when Israeli politicians apologise for such increasingly frequent events (and others previously reported, such as UN schools being hit, UN convoys and paramedics deliberately shot at):
1. They are lying and such actions are deliberate to keep out humanitarian aid and media coverage.
2. The army is out of control.
3. Israeli intelligence is unintelligent.
4. Weapons used are not accurate in hitting their targets.
I can't think of any other option - can you? I'm not sure what the truth is. I'm leaning towards the first option.

Two medics in a hospital in Gaza give a report to the BBC and put out a plea 'We are asking for the help of all physicians across the world - what type of weapons cause these injuries and how do you deal with them?'

It came as some respite to receive an email of support in response to my blog from a dear Jewish friend and also to see some evidence of disapproval to the assault from within Israel itself when thousands took to the streets in protest in Tel Aviv.

Professor Mark Levine from the University of California asks 'Who will save Israel from itself?'

Saturday, 10 January 2009

White Phosphorous

Please just go and have a look at some videos on white phosphorous. Have a search on Google video and You Tube, there's plenty of footage. It burns through to the bone and it will burn through anything, including buildings and bomb shelters. Now there is evidence to suggest that the Israelis are using it over Gaza. It is true that the American army used it to devastating effect on Fallujah in Iraq. There is evidence from medics that it was also used previously by the Israeli army against civilians in Lebanon.

Listening to the Israeli spokesperson this evening he did not deny its use in Gaza, but justified their choice of weapons saying that they only use the same weapons that are used by other armies in the world. Last week I heard the same spokesperson talking about the Israeli army being the most ethical army in the world. Says a lot for ethics.

Please, can anyone explain to me what would be unethical in this so called war against Gaza, if using phosphorous bombs over a densely populated area is acceptable?

This evening I sat down to watch some entertainment on TV to take my mind off things. Final Destination 3 was on. I'm not one for horror/thrillers, but unfortunately my dear husband is, so I decided to watch a little in amusement. I watched two girls getting fried alive on sunbeds - would have been amusing, but all I could see in my head were images of children, right now, getting fried for real.

I kissed my son goodnight like every night this evening, tucked him into bed, just 4 years old, an angel. He has fair skin and dark eyes, chubby cheeks and red lips. He is adorable, and it is all the more apparent when he sleeps. Every night I look at him and thank God for this little miracle before me. Only now, every night I give him a kiss, I think of the poor father I saw giving his child his last kiss before they take him away forever. When I kiss my son's cheek is is warm and soft against my skin. How would I feel if it was cold? And what if that cosy blanket I wrap around him was actually a shroud? These are the things playing on my mind.

Tell me I shouldn't watch so much TV, that I shouldn't let myself get so effected by these things. I could turn a blind eye, as so many do, but then wouldn't I be just as guilty? I choose to feel this pain. It is the pain that gives me the courage to speak out against this evil. There is no other word for inflicting should suffering on innocent children, no justification. It is evil, dress it up however you want, spin it round as much as you like, I know what my conscience tells me, it is evil.

The US government is moving to send 3,000 tonnes of ammunition to Israel. As the other countries of the world call for an immediate cease fire, let us be clear about who is really in control of events here. American people, are you for terror or against?

A Holy Day

Humanitarian aid is not allowed through the border of Gaza today, because it is a holy day of rest. The bombing, however, continues. 13 Israelis and over 800 Palestinians are dead now. Over 400 of them women and children. A further 3,500 injured, 400 seriously (you know, life threatening burns and dismembered limbs, that kind of thing). Now I hear that war tourists are gathering on the borders of Israel, over watching the terror through binoculars, laughing and cheering on the dropping of bombs - please someone correct me and tell me that isn't true.

Very few of the dead have been identified as militants. How many innocent people can one justify killing in order to kill a militant I ask myself? Let us imagine one hundred people lined up. Let us say that 35 of them are children, 20 are women, 45 men. Of the 45 men, lets say that 10 of them are militants. Let us line them up and shoot them all....is that ok? Let's now say that if you don't shoot those 100 people, then one of those militants might just find a way to kill one other innocent person - maybe that makes it ok to kill the 100? What if half of the innocent people were in some way related to the militants - is that ok now? Well, if not shooting, how about putting them in a building and dropping a bomb on them, and some of them might live, but will be badly injured, with memories of other family members that they have lost. Is that ok? Or what about dropping bombs around them for 2 weeks, completely terrorising them, then kindly dropping leaflets on their home telling them to get out before their house is bombed - but they have nowhere to go. They go to bed awaiting their fate. Can you imagine, little children, not knowing what will come in the night? Is that ok?

I hear that 91% of the Israeli population are in favour of this bombardment. I am really struggling to understand this. I simply cannot condemn a whole nation as being supportive of such violence. Please I would love to hear from any Jewish people that are against these acts. I know there are some, I would like to think many. I understand that being under threat yourself from missiles must be very difficult to live with, but I like to think that whatever the circumstances I would never support a war that uses such an armour of artillery against a civilian population. Surely there are many Israelis who are against this?

I also hear that if America decided that this had to stop, it would stop, but not until then. And yet it appears that the American public are either oblivious of what is going on, or don't care, or are in support of this violence. A recent vote in by the US House of Representatives voted to back the offensive by 390 votes to 5.

I believe that any politician that votes in such a manner is directly responsible for this massacre, and anyone that prefers to turn a blind eye is also guilty. I think there is one day that all 3 religions here believe in, and that is the Day of Judgement, when everyone will have to answer for their own actions. I also understand that all 3 religions have some strong words to say about the consequences of harming an innocent child. If you are a religious person, and have forgotten what humanity is, and have lost all compassion, and feel nothing but hatred for Hamas which clouds any feeling for anyone else caught up in this war, maybe you still have some fear of God? Better start preparing your argument now.

Here's the latest video footage, especially for any American reading, since I understand news channels are not giving America the full picture (word of warning, these images are very distressing):

I have been warned that by voicing my opinion and concerns here that I risk loosing the support from the Jewish population with my work on MedWorm. Of course I really hope that is not the case. I have seen great integrity from and have huge respect for my Jewish friends, and would love to see Israel living in peace next to its Palestinian brothers. I can understand what leads people to violence, but I would never support it, on either side of the fence.

What I am trying to do here is help people to remember what war and bombs are really all about - they are about killing, and terrible suffering, and right now children are very much the victims.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Gaza and Popcorn

Awoke feeling extremely 'groggy' this morning. The situation in Gaza has really got to me and I can't get out of my head images of the darling little angels I have seen lying on the floor as if peacefully asleep, but actually dead. Going to bed way too late after watching endless news reports from around the globe. Not sleeping well as I ask myself question after question. I have been shocked by what I have seen, but such images are not new to me as I have for a long time had an interest in human rights and have often sort out such information. But the scale of this ongoing tragedy, and the live images of suffering that I know is ongoing whilst I lie on my very comfortable memory foam mattress, now with a newly added luxurious furry blanket, are of particular torment.

Tried to concentrate on my work, have so much to keep me occupied right now as I work out how to get the funding to take MedWorm to the next level, but my head was pounding. Was it morbid curiosity that led me to seek out yet more images and film footage of grieving parents saying goodbye to their infants? Finding it hard to stop my tears.

And then the postman arrives with a package from a colleague (and I think already a friend) from America. A big tub of Jody's popcorn and fudge, sent to me from a shop in Virginia Beach. Wow this stuff is so scrumptious! You really should try some. You can buy it online too. Doesn't make me forget, fudge and popcorn, but certainly lifts my spirits that someone took the effort to send me this most delicious package.

Feeling re-energized now, back to work!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

More on Gaza

Let me be clear. I don't care for politics or politicians. They have failed, abysmally. What I care about is innocent people, and especially children, living in such terror, danger, and often real pain, both physically and psychologically.

The official death toll in the Gaza war now stands at over 600 Palestinians, and round about 10 Israelis (apologies if I have made a mistake on the latter number, it seems very low, please feel free to correct me anyone if I have got that wrong). Many of the dead are children, and thousands more are injured.

This evening I watched on the news video footage of paramedics coming under repeated fire as they tried to retrieve a dead body. The paramedic leaving the ambulance was clearly identified by his uniform. 13 shots were fired, one through the dead man's head, which then struck into the paramedic's leg. Apparently over 20 medical personnel have so far been killed in this tragedy.

I also watched the funeral of over 40 people, many children, killed in the recent school bombing, and an old lady being treated in hospital who had been rescued during the 3 hour cease fire. She told how 6 houses had been set alight in her neighbourhood, so the families had all been forced to take refuge in another building, which was then in turn bombed and all the 6 families were killed.

I hope all people of conscience, from all faiths, especially all those within the field of medicine, whose profession it is to treat suffering and save life wherever possible, might rise above the politics and speak out against such terrible violence. Surely every life is of equal value? Can violence ever bring about anything other than further hatred and violence?

Here's a BBC article written about the psychological consequence of the bombing on children on both sides of the conflict. The article mentions research that 30% of children from Sderot were showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and 1/3 of children from Gaza were suffering from psychological symptoms that needed intervention. Imagine how many that must be now? What does the future hold for such children? Can we expect them to grow up as stable people? Let us remember 20 years from now where we bred the next generation of terror.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Real Death Toll

According to a (foreign) doctor at the Al-Shifa hospital, the total number of women and children injured as of today was 801, the total number of children killed 101. Thanks to the BBC for getting a reporter inside Gaza. Be warned that these clips are distressing, the second one in particular I found, as it shows a close up shot of a father saying goodbye to his dead child. Sometimes though it really does seem that the only way to get a message across is to show people in graphic detail what is going on - and even that is often not enough.



I'm told that these clips may not work outside the UK, so apologies if that is the case.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Slaughter of the Innocents

Such a terrible night. I am so sad in particular for the thousands of innocent children trembling in their beds tonight, some of whom will be killed and others maimed. I feel so powerless. If I was very rich would I hold some kind of influence? .

Find more photos like this on Palestinian Mothers