Friday, May 15

more on a diagnosis

Well I've been to the doctors & he confirmed 99% likely that it's latent TB, which means I'm not able to get others sick, which is a good thing. Next step is to have an xray. In the mean time I can continue my normal life & just have to be aware of coughing, fevers, night sweats, and other such flu like symptoms, which of course I have none of! The doctor did start to laugh when I had to list all the countries I've been to since moving here 4 years ago (about 20 countries) and all the nurses in the office came in to see my welt and take photos with their camera phone, since it is rare to see this sort of reaction on a non-vaccinated person (British people are vaccinated.)
So next is a chest xray, which can take up to 3 weeks to organise (National Health Services is free, but very very slow) unless of course any symptoms arise & then I can run straight to A&E (accident & emergency, UK's version of ER) and get a private room (aka isolation) & chest xray immediately!
Once the chest xray has been done, I will speak with the chest clinic experts about what course of action I want to take next. I need to research the pros & cons of the antibiotics as well since they do have rather sever side effects. I guess all I can say right now is that I feel fine & if anything changes I'll be sure to let you know, but for now it's pretty much a waiting game.

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Thursday, May 14

interesting test results back

So I'm not sure how many of you know what a Mantoux test is, but it's the UK name for what you probably remember as the "tine" or "heath" test, which looks for antibody responses to TB. This test is obviously useless to people who have been given the BCG vaccine, but American's aren't vaccinated.
The point of this is that, I'll be doing a bit of work in the TB lab, so rules are that you have a Mantoux test before starting work, to see if I have "immunity" which since I've never been vaccinated, I figured nothing to worry about, right? Well today is 48 hours post injection and I have a bump on my arm.

Before you ask, I feel fine, well minus this painful welt on my arm.

The next step is to have the injection site read by a doctor, that appointment is at 3.30pm today. After that it is more than likely the doctor will require that I have a chest xray done to look for "spots" in my lungs which would be signs of having TB. IF this is the case, I will be put on a long course of antibiotics, when I say long, I'm talking 6-12 months!

At this point there is nothing more I can tell you, aside from the normal things like: no I don't feel sick, I don't have a cough, I don't know anyone with TB, I feel fine! The most likely place I would have picked it up would have been during my travels. Let me also state, that there is nothing I could have done to prevent this - I have been offered the vaccine & always declined it.

I will be sure to give you an update as soon as I know more, might not be till early next week, since A) I'm dealing with the NHS and they can be verrrrrrry slow B) I had to cancel my Virgin Media service this morning cause they finally admitted that it will be months before they can sort the problem out and finally C) results of all of these tests can take some time.

Yes, I'm continuing my normal life just a few extra doctors appointments this week & no you don't have to be worried about me breathing near you & yes, I do cover my mouth when I cough or sneeze (just like my parents taught me to when I was little).

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Wednesday, May 13

Dislike of Virgin Media, but not Richard Branson

So I learned today thanks to Vicky, that Richard Branson took over for Mia Farrow's Fast for Darfur when she became ill & could not continue. I think that's very impressive of him to do. So today I'm not as upset with him about my 2+ months lack of services, cause obviously he has more important things on his mind at the moment, but I'm still rather pissed off with the VM company!
For those of you who have missed what's going on, here is a recap of Monday's call, after they were a big "no show" on Saturday after they called on Friday to remind me of the fact that they'd be coming & to tell me there is a problem further down the road so it might not completely fix it but that Nigel will be looking into it & getting back to me asap. I had called 3 times on Saturday when I worried they were not coming, first two times I got disconnected whilst being transferred & last time they said "the engineer should be there any minute" . . . wait for it, NO SHOW!
Monday I got a call from them asking how my appt on Saturday was - bet they now wish they'd never called - I laid into them & even read them a letter dated 31 May 2008 where they state they need to "repull the line under the carriage way & due to council regulations and restrictions this could take up to a month to repair" here we are a year later with the SAME exact problem - this implies they never actually fixed it in the first place . . . silence was all I heard for awhile, followed by, "well ma'am I don't know what to tell you aside from what I can see here on my computer screen which says Nigel is looking into it" I replied with, "okay I'd like to speak to him please". She said, "oh sorry ma'am he's not available at the moment, but I can pass you on to customer service" so over to CS I go (luckily no disconnection this time) and speak to someone who is equally unknowledgeable & that I cannot get any money back until the problem is resolved so they have a record of exactly how long this problem has been going on for - I explain they have 48 hours to come up with a solution & that I'll be calling Mr Nigel at 5pm on Wednesday evening and then I hung up! (thinking if nothing else at least you've got 48 hours to come up with a better excuse than "I'm not sure ma'am")

On a more positive note, I was at the gym last night & was told, "out of all of my clients, you've improved the most in the past 2 months" . . . how's that for a compliment???? I'm not running a 5K yet, but I can do the dead lifts with 20kg bar (44lbs), lunges with 6kg weight in each hand on a BOSU ball, squats on the BOSU ball as seen here with 15kg bar (33lbs), each exercise I do for 3 sets of 15 reps, along with a whole range of other exercises which I won't bore you with now.

Thursday, May 7

Sofia, Bulgaria

Sorry it's taken me so long to update you about my trip to Sofia this past weekend, but work has been a bit crazy & I'm still waiting to get the internet at home fixed - supposedly this Saturday (fingers & toes crossed)

The alarm went off at 02.47 and I slowly got up & into the shower, when I was done Kaylie got up & into the shower, around 03.20, Kaylie realised she'd forgotten her passport at home, LUCKILY she lives just round the corner so when the taxi driver picked us up at 03.40 we were able to swing by her place and get it. Off to Gatwick we went, arriving just in time to walk to our gate (we'd checked in online & had one hand luggage each) and board the plane. 3 hours later we safely arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria, country # 28 for me :)

I passed through immigration shortly after 12.00 and after a rather lengthy peruse through all of my passport pages, but I'm use to that now so I just smile & remain calm. We hit the loos first before leaving the airport since the public bus was said to take at least 30 minutes to get to the city centre. Kaylie was horrified at the state of the public toilets, obviously never having travelled outside of western parts of the world (or big cities such as Bangkok which are up to her normal standards). This made me giggle as I was impressed it wasn't a squat toilet (lol).

We proceeded out to the bus stop, where we boarded the bus & attempted to get the driver to sell us a ticket (as the Lonely Planet guide says to do) after knocking on the window to no avail, we got off & went back into the terminal to find out how else to purchase a ticket. A few minutes later we had 2 tickets and as we headed back out to the bus it pulled away (sod's law, ah?) 25 minutes later another bus showed up, we got on & off we headed to the city centre. From what I could see from my seat, the city sorta reminded me of St Petersberg, Russia, maybe because all the signs where in the Cyrillic alphabet.

At what seemed like the last stop (since the bus runs in a continual loop) we got off, looked at our map & decided we knew where we were & headed off in the direction of the hostel. A few streets later I started to fear we weren't where we thought we were & so Kaylie got out the LP Cyrillic-roman alphabet translator. We learned we were a few streets off, but in the general correct direction, so we turned back the way we wanted to go & started off again, until Kaylie spotted a cake shop. Having only eaten cheerios at 3am, I was rather hungry (Kaylie eat a bacon baguette on the flight over). We popped into the shop and with the universal language of pointing & calculators showing us the price, we got a chocolate Snickers like cake and a strawberry shortcake like cake both for less than £2 (gotta love the Bulgarian Lev to GBP exchange rate!)

After cakes were gone, we started out again in search of our hostel. We navigated the streets and followed the excellent directions (look for casino, see statue of cowboy, Smokin Pig hostel is between pharmacy & paint shop, #33). We found casino, found cowboy, found pharmacy & paint shop but did not see a #33 nor a sign for the hostel. After a few minutes I decided to walk down the alley way where #33 should be and I asked a man standing by the door, "hostel?" and he smiled & pointed up the stairs, so I figured we were on the right track. Up 3 flights of stairs following stickers on the floor & walls for Smokin Pig hostel. The door had no sign, but I pressed the buzzer & a man with white hair answered, again I said, "hostel?" to which he replied, "use to be . . . long pause . . . come on in" My heart sank as I realised the inside looked just like the photos I'd seen on the website and he started to explain that the owner (a Scottish lad) was in Singapore and he was co-running it, but they're closed for construction & quite possibly it will be up for sale soon. Having no clue what else to say, I sputtered, "what about our reservation?"
LONG PAUSE, where his head fell into his hands
Back & forth for a bit explaining we're only staying for 2 nights, etc etc and he showed us to a room with 3 bunk beds. We dropped our ruck sacs and grabbed our maps ready to explore the city.

The "manager" (Irish bloke) gave me a key & showed me how to use it (not as straight forward as one might think) and then gave us a quick landmarks tour of the city centre. He also proceeded to explain to us about how much he dislikes the country & the people. He showed us the construction site & how the gypsies who live next door had stolen 50,000Euro worth of tools not to long ago by climbing through a window which was unlocked. He told us about the mafia, the local stabbings, a bit about politics & his views of how the country is moving backwards. His last bit of advice before he headed to the pub to watch the football was that when the bill comes, if you need change do not say "thank you" if you do, they assume all the money you're giving them is for food plus service. Following his advice we set out to find some lunch. After the meal was done & we'd sorted out the bill plus service charge, we walked basically the whole city centre - seeing all the highlights from the outside (museums with Bulgarian only written explanations were skipped). That evening we had dinner & then back to the hostel for bed since we'd been up for a rather looooong time.

Sunday we got up, had breakfast and headed to see a monastery on top of a local mountain, just outside the city limits (according to Kaylie, who'd read about it online) We got the 64 bus, followed it along our map, got off at the stop specified, waited around for the 93 bus, got on, and 5 minutes later we were back in the city centre, having learned we started off at the wrong end of the bus loop. Wondered around trying to find a place selling bus tickets, but not finding one we finally just got back onto a 93 in the other direction. After about 20 minutes it came to a stop on top of a hill & we could see a chair lift, which Kaylie had mentioned so we figured this must be where we need to be. We hiked over to the chair lift, bough 2 round trip tickets for 14 Levas (£7) we hopped on the chairlift & 20 minutes later got off at the halfway point. Got on the second chair lift and about 5 minutes into the ride the ground started to become covered in snow, another 10 minutes later & we were at the top, where the snow was up to our knees. I followed footsteps of others who were trekking up the mountain and we went looking for the monastery. After awhile of not seeing it, I pulled out the LP guide & looked to see if it said anything about it . . . low & behold, it does exists, just not at the top of the mountain, but rather 500m from the bottom of the first chair lift - OOOPS (lol) so back down the mountain we go.

Rather hungry at this point we have lunch at a nice restaurant near the chair lift before setting off on search 2 of the monastery. A rather long 500m up a steep switchback trail we found the monastery, took the necessary photos and decided it was a good idea to head back into town as it was getting rather late. Back at the bus stop, we waited just over an hour for the bus (apparently one of the buses had died trying to make it up the hill which meant nobody could come up the hill as the roads are rather narrow & twisty).

Once back in town, we then took a tram over to where we wanted to eat, had dinner and went back to the hostel for bed. Monday morning we got up, showered & walked to the bus stop, got the bus back to the airport & onto our flight back to London.

All in all it was a great mini-holiday. The city is pretty and interesting, but if you're not use to squat toilets and non-bilingual signs you might want to miss this city out.

If you're still reading this far down, please pop over here and check out the great things Vicky's doing for Darfur. For those who don't already know Darfur is in the country of Sudan, which is part Eastern Africa.

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Friday, May 1

Swine flu fears Part 2

In annoyance of misinformation I keep seeing about cancelled flights and so on here is what the World Health Organisation said:

"The situation continues to evolve rapidly. As of 06:00 GMT, 1 May 2009, 11 countries have officially reported 331 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection.

The United States Government has reported 109 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Mexico has reported 156 confirmed human cases of infection, including nine deaths.

The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Austria (1), Canada (34), Germany (3), Israel (2), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (3), Spain (13), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (8)."

I might regret saying this, but at this point I'd be more scared of TB which kills over a million people each year than of swine flu which has killed 10!!

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Being a healthy weight is better for the environment!

Being a healthy weight is better for the environment . . . who knew? I can honestly say, I'd never thought about it, but after reading this blurb I suddenly realised it made a lot of sense. In case you don't want to read what they said, I'll try to summarise it for you:

According to a study in the International Journal of Epidemiology they pointed out that food production is a large contributor to global warming, therefore keeping a healthy body weight means that people would eat about 20% less food, which would lead to lower greenhouse gas production, than our current population does where about 40% are obese. They also point out that transport related emissions would be lower because it requires less energy to move a slim person from point A to point B than it does an obese one. Makes sense no?

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