Monthly Archives: March 2015

Work experience update

I’m really enjoying my weekly work at my local nursing home. It has a great environment and everyone is welcoming.
After a CRB check I’m now allowed to interact with residents in their rooms. Talking to them is very educational and inspiring; it’s amazing to hear stories about the various things they have achieved in their long lifetime.
This week I met Dorothy who is nearly 100 years old but still intelligent- she constantly won in our game of triangle dominoes which is actually quite complex! Meeting her also taught me about the fragility of life; I had to help Dorothy walk a few meters to sit at the table and it took her a good minute or so.

Nevertheless being active does not necessarily make the resident healthy. For example Pat who I see every week is always walking around, however due to short term memory she can never remember who I am; I have the same conversation with her every week! At first I was a bit confused, but as I have built up my experience I have grown to take things like this as a pinch of salt.

I’m so glad I took up this work experience; it has been a real insight so far as it has enabled me to develop into a well-rounded person. I’ll keep you up to date with what I’m up to. In the meantime I would definitely recommend this type of experience to anyone intending to study medicine as it allows you to mature and emphasize with others around you.

Appendicitis Awareness

Tummy ache? It could be serious.

The appendix is a small, thin pouch, connected to the large intestine. It has no function in humans, although evolutionary ancestors used their appendixes to digest food that we no longer eat, such as tree bark. Therefore, removing the appendix is not harmful.

Where the appendix is located in the body
Where the appendix is located in the body

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis develops when the appendix swells causing pain to the abdomen. Initially it starts with a pain in the middle of the abdomen which comes and goes. Then, after a few hours the pain starts to travel to the lower right-hand side of the abdomen where the appendix lies. This pain then becomes severe and constant. Other symptoms include losing your appetite, feeling sick, and pressing on the area will make the pain worse.

How is it treated?

If you have these symptoms, visit your GP, your appendix will need to be surgically removed. This is called appendectomy and is performed easily by ‘keyhole’ surgery, also known as laparoscopy. Nevertheless, if the appendix has burst, ‘open’ surgery is required where a single cut is made in the abdomen to remove it.

Don’t worry; most people make a quick and full recovery, although strenuous activity has to be avoided for 6 weeks.

However, it is vital that the appendix is removed as quickly as possible as if the appendix does burst then a condition called peritonitis occurs. This is where bacteria are released from the appendix into the body and the infection spreads to the peritoneum; the thin layer of tissue which lines the abdomen. Hence, if it is not treated immediately it will cause long-term problems, which may be fatal.

How I became aware of appendicitis

Last summer my sister Emily had to have her appendix removed after months of complaining of a tummy ache. Having 4 children to take care of, my Mum thought it was hormonal as Emily was nearly 12 years of age. However one day she woke up with a fever, she went to school but by the evening she was sick and had severe tummy ache. As a keen student at school, Emily was determined to still go the next day, however her health deteriorated extremely quickly and so she was swiftly taken to the doctors. A urine test and a physical examination confirmed that Emily was suffering from appendicitis.

The scar left from having the appendix removed
The scar left from having the appendix removed

She was rushed to hospital for an operation to remove her appendix; however the procedure was delayed because of her diabetes. Doctors struggled to maintain a steady glucose level, Emily was administered with insulin via a sliding scale pump, however it was not until the following morning that she went in for her operation.

The operation was successful as her appendix was removed just before it was about to burst. It took 6 weeks for Emily to recover from the operation and now she is fit and healthy, coping well with her diabetes.

Nevertheless, more people need to be aware of appendicitis, to ensure quick diagnosis and treatment. Emily could have suffered fatal consequences if her appendix had burst, and so be sure to let others know of the symptoms of appendicitis, to avoid long term consequences.

For more information on appendicitis visit: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/appendicitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Discovering Diabetes – My EPQ (Extended Project Qualification)

Diabetes occurs when the body fails to maintain glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream. This is usually controlled by the pancreas, an organ which produces the hormone insulin. Insulin is like a key; it unlocks the door to cells so that sugar consumed can get in the cells and be converted into energy. Most food when consumed is broken down into glucose via digestion in the intestines. It is absorbed into the bloodstream where it can be circulated around the body. This rise in glucose triggers the pancreas to release insulin.

Insulin produced in the pancreas controls glucose levels in the bloodstream
Insulin produced in the pancreas controls glucose levels in the bloodstream

Hence with no insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream and so cells cannot function properly, thus the body is less active. The four main symptoms of this condition are urinating frequently, feeling thirsty regularly, feeling tired frequently and unexplained weight loss. If the condition is not treated quickly, there is danger of organ failure; seeing any of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, ensures early diagnose with a simple blood test.

These were the symptoms my sister Emily had 3 years ago. After going for a blood test her blood glucose level was shown to be very high, revealing her body was not producing insulin to manage her sugar level. Emily was rushed into hospital, my Mum was unsure of the situation as doctors panicked to control Emily’s condition; it was so serious her life was on hand.

Emily’s life turned into a nightmare overnight. She was only 9 years of age yet had to cope with having an injection before every meal- a dose of insulin, so the sugars she ate were converted to energy. The facts were too hard to take in for the entire family- Emily was going to be on medication for the rest of her life. There was no doubt about it, diabetes has no cure and no amount of money could buy Emily’s normal life back.

After Emily’s diagnosis, I realised the fragility of life. Even with insulin, Emily’s blood sugar levels still fluctuate. A normal person’s sugar level is supposed to be between 6 and 8. However Emily’s glucose level can become too high if she eats too many sweets, this is called being hyper. If she was to be hyper for a prolonged time her blood can become crystallized which can cause consequences such as organ failure, she could lose her eyesight for example. On the other hand her sugar may become too low if she doesn’t have enough to eat or eat on time, this is called hypo. This can have a very rapid negative effect on Emily; normally she becomes hot, weak and dizzy- like she has no energy to move. A hypo is a serious situation and if it’s not treated immediately she could go into a diabetic coma- in this event it is most likely to affect her internal organs which could result in death.

Living with a diabetic sister has made me extremely passionate about campaigning for research into diabetes to find a cure. That’s why I decided to take my interest further with an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) which includes writing a 6000 word essay, in which I could argue how more government funding needs to go towards research into type 1 diabetes.

Me and Emily
Me and Emily

Research into my project was shocking as I discovered that the NHS is currently spending, £1.056 billion on diabetes, but £0.712 billion is towards treatment on Type 2 diabetes. Emily has type 1 which means that her pancreas failing was due to genetic faults, whereas type 2 is mainly caused by poor diet and lifestyle; 80% of type 2 patients could be prevented from needing treatment in the UK if they had a healthier lifestyle.

Fortunately charities such as JDFR and Diabetes UK have been successfully campaigning for diabetes, and have made progress with government funding increasing. Our family always donate money to these charities as their work is a potential lifeline for Emily. We are lucky to live nearby the Paula Carr Clinic, founded by the Paula Carr Trust, a charity vital in the future of diabetes. The clinic has a range of facilities to help maintain Emily’s health and offers diagnosis of the other consequences that having diabetes may cause such as eye disease.

As for Emily’s future, at the moment she has recently been given an insulin pump, which means she does not have to inject insulin with every meal. IMG_20150308_125306Instead she wears the pump which involves a needle being semi-permanently inserted into her body, and so when she eats she types in the amount of carbohydrates in the food and the correct amount of insulin will be delivered to the body. Of course this is a huge improvement from injections; however she still has to change the pump herself every 2 days which involves injecting the needle and refilling the pump. And other difficulties have arisen; she cannot wear dresses and has to take the pump off when swimming and doing PE at school. Still Emily is one of the lucky 7% of type 1 diabetics in Britain with a pump, whereas in other countries this percentage is much higher; for example in the US 40% of sufferers has a pump.

To conclude for now the government funding towards type 1 diabetes definitely needs to be increased to ensure that a greater number of sufferers can have a good quality of life. Ultimately, Emily would not be alive if it was not for the technology with have today keeping her well. For that the whole family is thankful, however, her life will always be a struggle and frustrating until a cure is found.

I’ll keep you up-to-date with Emily’s progress, and any discoveries with diabetes research. However, if you want to find out more about the condition go to: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Diabetes-type1/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Or, if you want to find out about the work of charities and how you can help accelerate research visit the JDRF website: http://www.jdrf.org.uk/campaigns/countmein or

Diabetes UK: http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Get_involved/Campaigning/Our-campaigns/4-Ts-campaign/