What does a medication switch mean for a thyroid patient?

25 years ago I got the diagnosis Graves’ disease. I’d been having problems with weight loss (22KG in 2 weeks), terrible headaches, palpitations, fatigue and psychological problems. After the initial diagnosis I’ve been taking Thyrax. The pharmacy tried to switch me to different antithyroid drugs twice. Twice it nearly got me into hospital.

So, now Aspen Pharmaceutical has stopped all production of Thyrax for a so-called “move”. They basically said they won’t be producing any Thyrax for the next 6 to 9 months. What does this mean for me?

It means fluctuating thyroid levels. This will make me very ill. It’ll mean psychological problems, it’ll means heart problems, it’ll mean bowel problems, it’ll mean eye problems, it’ll mean pain, it’ll mean fatigue, it’ll mean regular blood work to be done, it’ll mean weight loss, it’ll mean weight gain, it’ll mean skin problems, it’ll mean hyperventilation, it’ll mean headaches.

Is there anyone who cares? Basically, no. The GP says he can’t do anything, the pharmacy say they can’t do anything, the government say they can’t do anything. It certainly looks like they are trying to kill off the first group of chronically ill people…


Pyelonephritis or Kidney Infection

For the last week I’ve had a terrible back pain. On Monday night we’ve been to the out-of-hours GP after the pain just wouldn’t go away. I had a sharp pain behind the bottom part of my right lung. I’ve been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism in the past, so when I call I need to come in so they can check me over.

I was very glad to hear it wasn’t a pulmonary embolism this time around. The GP did some tests, including hitting me in the kidneys to see if that made the pain worse. It didn’t feel great, but it didn’t hurt all that much. I also had to provide a urine sample so they could rule out any urinary tract infection or kidney infection. The test came back negative (which is positive, as it means there’s no indication of an infection).

I provided another urine sample to my GP on Tuesday, but the results were the same. He thought I might have strained a muscle inside my ribcage, so he sent me home with painkillers.
Those didn’t work good enough or long enough. So on friday I called my GP again asking for better painkillers. He didn’t want to prescribe me any, but asked to bring him another urine sample. I did, but didn’t think it would bring out a positive result.

I was very surprised when the test came back positive. I did have a kidney infection. Just not with the normal symptoms. I don’t have vomiting, high fever, pain on passing urine, and abdominal pain that radiates along the flank towards the back. Only a bad case of back pain.

My GP prescribed me antibiotics to kill the bacteria and kept me going on the painkillers. hopefully they will kick in within the next few hours, as my back still hurts. Just not as much as last week.

Why am I sharing this? To make sure people understand you don’t have to have all the symptoms described normally with a kidney infection. You can have one without knowing it. Even I didn’t see it. I’m a nurse, I should know the symptoms, but I didn’t see it coming. You can have a kidney infection without the vomiting or the fever. You can have a bladder infection without the pain when you pee. Keep that in mind. A urine test is a very simple way of finding out. Ask for it if you are unsure!

Dementia is a bitch

After reading this post by ChickenRuby, I felt I have something to contribute to the discussion.
Not about children with special needs, but about elders who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Like ChickenRuby, I’ve been bitten, pinched, hit, spat on, kicked and called names (being called a Nazi really hurt my feelings and made me cry). Most of the times by the person suffering from dementia, sometimes by a family member of the client.

Family members tend to think they know their relative better than we do. But we see their relative every day, for hours. We see that they are getting worse, that they forget more and more. Most clients have a tendency to act better when their relatives are around. But when they leave, the clients gets back to its normal self. The one that (in many cases) can’t perform even simple tasks.


For families this is very hard to understand. I once cared for a woman who, physically, was fine. But mentally she knew nothing. Yet she wanted to go out, walk around the village, go to the harbour. Her daughter thought that was fine and was very angry when I told her I couldn’t let her mother go out unless someone was with her.
Mind you, she’d got lost quite a few times before. Luckily, in a small community everyone knew her and brought her back, but the ordeal made her get worse every time.

Or the gentleman who thought he could still drive his car around. One time, when I went home, I got stuck behind him. I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green when he suddenly overtook me (wrong side of the road) and drove through the red light, almost hitting a few cyclists. I got stuck behind him for 10 kilometers. Couldn’t get past him at all. He swerved from one side to the other, breaking randomly and going 50 KM/H instead of 80. It was dangerous.
I talked about this with my manager and coworkers and the advice was given to his children that they’d sell off the car. One agreed, the other one didn’t. So the car stayed. We called it in with the police, they came around and talked to the man, but he flat-out refused to give up his car or his driver’s license. In the end we had to call the police whenever we saw him leave and hope that he wouldn’t cause an accident.

Of course it’s hard acknowledge that your relative can’t do what they used to do. They slowly travel back in time further and further. Until, finally, their body gives up and they die. And that’s hard. But don’t ignore the signs, don’t ignore the people who care for them. They know what they’re talking about, they know your relative better than you do, really.

Dealing with dementia is like dealing with a child with special needs. They don’t see what consequences their behaviour might have. They simply don’t know. They tend to think they can do whatever they always did, but that time has passed.
And that’s hard. On the client and on the family.

Cartoon by TeddyTietz

The girl in the photograph

Annie was one half of identical twins. Her mother didn’t know she was carrying twins. Annie was born on the first day of spring, early 1950s.  Her sister had died weeks before, her body poisoning the amniotic fluid. After she was born Annie’s mother was told Annie wouldn’t live very long. It may be days, may be weeks, but she was told not to expect her daughter making it through the first year.

After the twins birth the hospital chaplain came to christen Annie, for she may not survive very long. Despite church (and hospital) policies the chaplain christened the stillborn as well. So they could be together in death. This meant the stillborn girl could be buried in the family grave.

Despite what the doctors had said, Annie turned out to be stronger than anyone thought. She survived her first few days, weeks and even months. She lived to celebrate her first and second birthday. On her third birthday she was in hospital.
The photograph shows a tiny little girl in a hospital bed way too big for her. On the bedside table is a piece of cake with three candles burning. Annie is looking into the camera with a laugh on her face. Her heart-shaped face, surrounded by blonde curly hair is glowing with excitement. But her body lies stiff, she’s unable to move anything but her head.

About five months after the photograph was taken Annie’s tiny body gave up. Her mother held her in her arms when she died. Annie’s body was buried in the same grave as her sisters four days later.

The photograph clearly shows a little angel. An angel too beautiful and too good to ever stay long on this earth.

This story is a mixture of facts and fiction. The photograph exists, the girl in it died very young. She really was an angel, the photographs show that very clearly. But her name is not Annie.
I wrote this post for the Daily Post Writing Challenge.

2 Little Known Syndromes Regarding Cars

Today I thought I’d tell you about two syndromes that affect drivers on our roads. We all seen the symptoms, but the underlying syndromes are less known.

Firstly I’d like to discuss the “small penis syndrome”. Sufferers of this syndrome are male. despite the name it affects more areas of the body then just the nether region.
The first symptom is a very heavy right foot. This results in high speeds, mainly in urban areas.
The second symptom is short sightedness. This results in the patient driving very close behind you, giving you the feeling he’s on your backseat.
The third symptom is partial blindness. The patient thinks he’s making beautiful adjustments to their car, but in fact it’s looking like crap. it also affects the view that they might have on their speedometer.
The fourth symptom is aggression. The patient will become aggressive if there’s someone in front of him who doesn’t suffer from the partial blindness and the very heavy right foot. This can result in road rage.
The fifth symptom is trouble with understanding symbols. This can be anything from unable to read road signs to the inability to proper lighting on their car. You can spot them from miles as they mainly are driving with their foglights on, even when it’s not foggy.
The sixth and final symptom is a small penis. This might not be obvious at first, but just take a good look at their car. There are a few car brands that are popular with patients that suffer this illness. The most obvious brands are the Hummer and BMW. Of course there are more brands that patients can drive whilst suffering this illness.


The second syndrome is more common in female drivers. There’s still no good name for it, so I’ll call it the “thinking your car is twice as long and twice as wide as it really is syndrome”.
This illness has much fewer symptoms.
The main symptom is unable to park your car properly. Most patients will have huge difficulties parking their car. Even when a parking spot is three times the size of their car they simply can’t get their car in. We all know at least one patient that is suffering from this.
Patients will simply think their car is huge, even though it’s small. Like a chihuahua who thinks he’s an Irish Wolfhound.
They also have trouble overtaking other cars. They’ll go to the other lane miles before they’ve caught up with the car in front of them and they’ll stay in that lane for miles, long after they’ve left the other car behind them.


Both syndromes have symptoms in common. But they least known symptom they have in common is one that I refer to as the “Go step on a Lego” symptom. Whenever a patient is on the road, other road users, many of whom are not suffering these syndromes, are irritated by patients. They’ll get this last symptom and shout out “Go step on a Lego!” whenever a patient crosses their path. A second phrase that can be heard regularly (and is more harsh than the first) is: “I hope they use Comic Sans on your gravestone!”

I sincerely hope that next time, when you are on the road and you’re coming across a patient, you’ll take a deep breath and think about how much the patient is suffering under his illness. Don’t be too harsh on him or her. Try to help them by talking to them and telling them you understand their problems. Tell them help is out there. They should seek help. There are lots of driving schools that are happy to take on problem cases like this. Even if they already have their driving license. A few more lessons wouldn’t hurt them…

This is a rare sighting of a person who suffers from both syndromes. Picture by pokeweed.

Wood burning stoves and Asthma

Some of my neighbours have a wood burner in their home, some have a multifuel stove. It looks so cosy, so lovely and warm. It really does. And I do understand the people who want one for their home. I really do! But I don’t like them. At all!

Why? I hear you ask. Well, this is why. From the time I was 9 months old I’ve been suffering with Asthma. My childhood revolved around inhalers, asthma attacks, antibiotics, not being able to do what my classmates were doing, not competing in sports and being ill. In the village where we lived until I was 6 we had a neighbour who had a multifuel burner. Which was perfect for him as he burned everything in it. Dirty nappies, painted wood, you name it. And every time he put that bloody thing on I got another asthma attack.

When we moved house we luckily had nobody in the area with either a wood burner or a multifuel burner, but my asthma didn’t go away.

These days wood burners are very popular. A few of my neighbours have one. And now that winter is upon us they light the stove. But what they don’t know is that every time they do that, they make me ill. If you think I’m overreacting, I would suggest you read this article.

Not Just Your Household’s Health at Risk

If you don’t have a fireplace or wood-burning stove at home, don’t feel at ease just yet. You’re heath still may be at risk … from your neighbor’s fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.

Because wood smoke contains such tiny particles, the smoke is not stopped by closed doors and windows, and seeps into nearby neighbors’ houses. In fact, during winter months, wood smoke does not rise and often hangs close to the ground, entering yards, houses, schools, and hospitals. Subsequently, areas with valley locations and poor air circulation are affected most.

A recent University of Washington study in Seattle and an EPA study in Boise, Idaho neighborhoods found that indoor PM10 levels (particulate matter – one of six major air pollutants for which there is a national air quality standard) from wood smoke in homes without wood stoves reach an astonishing 50% to 70% of outdoor levels when burning wood. Neighbors to wood fires may unwillingly be breathing smoky air, even if they are not wood burners.

I’ve been sick at home for more than a week now. My neighbours lit their wood burner for the first time this season about two weeks ago. Coincidence?? I think not.