Why We Should All Learn British Sign Language

Throughout my time completing work experience at the local nursing home, I was exposed to how many reasons which isolate people from the world around them and from society. One of the residents who I became quite friendly with very rarely left her room because she was quite hard of hearing and only ever really wanted to be by herself. For these reasons she isolated herself from the activities that were organised and coordinated at the care home, and this was very sad to witness because once she got chatting, you could tell that she loved having company and had so many amazing stories to tell.
This experience got me thinking about how excluded from society it must feel to be deaf or blind, especially when not everyone around you could speak your language, for most dead people the way that they communicate. When you go to a foreign speaking country, it’s often very isolating if you speak none of the language.
I began to learn British sign language, and I am still not good enough to have a fluent conversation, but I think through time and effort I will get there. I believe this skill is very important, and for the 50,000 deaf people living in UK who use BSL as their main language, i’m positive it would make a massive difference to their everyday lives.

My Psychiatry Work Experience Placement

I applied through the NHS to do a psychiatry work experience placement and very luckily got one at a hospital very close to home! On the Monday, all of the work experience students met and we had a day full of talks to kick off the week. We had talks mainly introducing us to psychiatry and helping to bust some mental health myths and remove the stigma that exists around mental health which this week opened my eyes to. We were talked to about individual illnesses such as dementias, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. We did workshops including CPR, choking and sim men. A patient came in and very bravely answered any questions we had about his bipolar disorder. It was inspiring and eye-opening for me to meet him, as he was so well spoken and had a very good quality of life yet was obviously suffering a very difficult internal battle.
Throughout the week I was shadowing a psychiatrist who worked three and a half days the week practicing psychology and the other one and a half doing a research project on dementia with levy bodies. She was very intelligent, lovely and easy to get along with. On the first day I experienced an MDT meeting, which really highlighted to me how these specialised teams work, the different roles of the team, the delegation and working together that has to occur for the team to be successful. There were consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, receptionists and psychology nurses. The psychiatrist did home visits as well as visiting hospital wards and nursing homes. Throughout the week I experienced heart-renching cases and stories. There was one man who’s story really stuck with me. We read his file before going into the nursing home and it explained that he had a form of schizophrenia, but was also being very overly sexual and violent to the staff, who weren’t sure how they were going to deal with his behaviour any longer and were requesting for him to be moved to another home. Before the assessment I was a little scared to go in and see this man because of what I had read in his file. Mid way through his assessment, he began crying about the delusions and hallucinations he was having and began to have one, getting very frightened. The man who i’d been scared to meet was just really very vulnerable and scared, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to see. I found it very difficult to contain my emotions and to hold back my tears. This is just one example of the very many upsetting assessments I experienced.
Throughout the week, the psychiatrist didn’t fail to amaze me. Her communication skills really were at the centre of every assessment. Despite the staff often saying things like “you won’t get a word out of him” and such remarks, the psychiatrist always managed to calm the patient and completed the assessments to the absolute best of her ability, often encouraging me to ask the patients questions. This helped me to confront questions we usually avoid in everyday life such as questions to dow with suicide and self harm.
Pharmaceuticals were a massive part of her job. Prescribing drugs at the right dose and altering dosages etc.
The placement demonstrated to me the emotional challenges of working within medicine, but I feel gave me the experience I needed to think about the challenges and learn a little about how to overcome them.
The importance of mental health and the obvious stigma that still exists around it, I used my position as head girl to open up a mental health campaign in our school, encouraging people to talk about mental health, information about what help they can get and aiming to remove the stigma in the school environment.

Pre-Med Society

Me and a friend decided to found a pre-medical society in our school, as we felt not only would this be a great way to learn more about different professions and medicine as a whole, but it would be an opportunity for younger students to being thinking about career paths and possibly been inspired to do a career in medicine!
We firstly invited in a medical student who was doing her second year at Liverpool. She spoke about how to choose a medical school, the application process, how much she was enjoying university, what kind of things she was learning, etc. This was very helpful to find out a bit more about how to choose which medical schools I was going to apply to, and also made me really really excited to hopefully study medicine!
We then asked a psychologist and life coach to come in, who spoke about mental health and how important this is in the necessary holistic approach to a patient. She spoke about how to help people who have depression and anxiety, speaking about depression using the metaphor of a bin. She works part-time for the NHS as a psychologist, but was starting a life coaching business outside of the NHS, called Adventurous Coaching, helping people get back into jobs and to play an active part in their everyday lives.
We’ve also had an eye doctor come in. He spoke about why he chose that profession; reasons such as it fitting around a family life, there being a little number of deaths, and the fact that people can see the results and reward him with their gratitude. He specialised in paediatric ophthalmology, and spoke about his love for children, always brightening up his day and a reason for him to be silly. This really inspired me to consider a career in paediatrics.
We hope to invite in more health-care professionals in the future, and I hope this post has encouraged you to consider setting one up at your school!

My World Challenge Expedition

This summer, I went on expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with the company World Challenge. My experience was absolutely life changing, and safe to say one i will never ever forget.
Sixteenth of July 2017, immediately, we were thrown into the deep end, having to change money and organise taxis and accommodation without the help of our leaders (which in a new country that speaks little English is quite intimidating!) I was shocked at the amount of responsibility and trust given to us, our leaders never had a back up plan in place if we messed up, we were expected to learn how to do it by ourselves.
For the first week, we had our project phase at San Rafael school in Santa Maria de Dota, Costa Rica. We were involved in building a gym, our work involving shovelling soil and rocks in order to lay the foundations, and transporting this via wheelbarrow to be dumped. This was physically very challenging, made harder by the forty degree heat. This required massive amounts of teamwork and self-determination. For the next week we all ached, but we were so proud to have worked that hard that we didn’t mind! On the 25th of July it’s a public holiday in Costa Rica, known as Guanacaste Day. The school asked us to run a sports day for the kids which was just fantastic and so rewarding. In Costa Rica, the phrase ‘Pura Vida’ meaning ‘pure life’ is used by everyone, but this is seen as more than just a phase, but a way of life. It reminds them that life is pure and good, and that there is always reason to be happy. These children were of no exception to this. Their constant smiles, laughter and enthusiasm shone through, despite their obvious poverty and limited education. I became especially close with a little girl called Diana who, despite the language barrier between us managed to communicate so much to me about herself and eagerly played with me every single day. A member of staff at the school invited us to the local festival where minutes in we found ourselves dancing with the locals. We also went to his local Zumba class and found by the end of the week our connection to the school and the small town’s community was unbelievable. We would be honked and waved at everywhere we went, and even asked for pictures! It was so sad to leave but we were all so proud of ourselves to have made such a difference and to have built such strong relationships with people who live halfway across the world.
The next phase of our expedition was our main trekking phase. We chose the Osa Peninsula, a beautiful jungle which contains 95% of the world’s biodiversity. The trek lasted for five days and at times was extremely difficult, however there was always a hand in front of you helping you up or an encouraging, positive voice behind you, which is what got us all through it. This experience just proved to me how teamwork and positive attitudes really can get you through any challenge. At the campsites we were lucky if we got a shower or a toilet which was character building!
Throughout the expedition, we all took turns at being the leader for a few days which allowed me the opportunity to make difficult decisions that affect a big group and how to face the consequences of these.
Overall, this experience really was life changing and I feel greater prepared me for the many challenges ahead.

My first time at the nursing home

This week I had my first time volunteering at my local nursing home for a few hours, I am going back today and am very excited!
I arrived midway through a karaoke activity and was given a microphone and told to start singing! Fair to say I was thrown in at the deep end, but after a few minutes I got into it and was really enjoying myself! It was a wonderful experience to see I was making these strangers smile, and they would give me requests to put on and join in themselves!
Once the residents went for their dinners, the activities co-ordiator and I sat down and went through fact files on all of the residents, the fire drill etc and the importance of confidentiality. This was a taster into the confidentiality of working in a hospital environment and the importance in this setting of knowing what is important to the patients, what makes them happy.
I was then taken round the rooms and introduced to everyone. The top floor was for the residents with severe dementia, and the second floor was for the rest of the residents. It was really lovely to be able to put names to faces, and made me very excited to get to know everyone a bit better on a more personal level, and hopefully really be able to make a difference to they lives.
It was quite difficult and emotional to see lots of poorly patients, although it was happy too that they had a good quality of life and lots of effort was made by the care team to ensure their happiness.
When I go back I will be helping the activities co-ordinator to put on lots of activities for the residents, and I will be allowed to just sit and chat with the patients. I am excited to learn about their lives, opinions and wisdom, as they have lived many years more than me and will have lots of good stories to tell! I am quite excited to develop patient relationships, and hopefully learn to be relied on, really making a difference to the residents lives and making them happier.
Please leave any comments,
Thank you for reading 🙂

Antibiotic Apocalypse?

Recently, a woman died due to her bacterial infection which proved resistant to ALL available antibiotics. She had an infected swelling in her right hip after a stay in India. By the time she reached a US hospital, her immune system had gone into overdrive causing inflammation through her body. This escalated, and ultimately, she died from septic shock. She was infected with Klebsiella penumoniae, normally living in the gut and causing no harm, yet the research showed it was resistant to all 26 antibiotics available, including the drug of ‘last resort’ colistin. Some medics argue that in these life-threatening conditions, doctors should have access to antibiotics licensed in other countries as a final attempt.
Antibiotic resistance is a current global issue. There are many causes such as overprescription, patients not completing the duration of their prescription, horizontal gene transfer from bacteria, the too frequent prescription of “broad-spectrum antibiotics” and the extensive use of antibiotics in farming. Bacteria have the ability to transfer certain genes to one another, so do not only gain resistance by natural selection, but also by transferring the resistance genes horizontally. In farming, farmers use many antibiotics in cattle for example because if they get infected, the famer will loose business. The meat is then eaten by humans and so the antibiotic resistance is passed on, without us having to take the drugs ourselves.
Resistance is such a big issue because there is not any simple solution. If we just develop new antibiotics, then they will become resistant and so more will be made and we have created a cycle. If we prevent use in farming then farmers will loose lots of money, and there is no easy way to monitor or prevent over-prescription.
If you are interested, here you can read the plan of action being taken by the American government to try and tackle this issue. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/national_action_plan_for_combating_antibotic-resistant_bacteria.pdf
Thank you for reading 🙂

NHS Crisis?

Taking over the health section of the news currently is talk of an NHS ‘crisis’. Videos of overcrowded hospital chaos along with talk of double the A&E waiting times and funding cuts for GP’s.

Are staff shortages causing this? The Royal College of Nursing says England is short of at >20000 nursing staff, and the Royal College of Midwives says the country needs 3500 more midwives. GP leaders and he Royal College of Emergency Medicine say the UK urgently needs greater numbers of general practitioners and emergency doctors, just a few of the medical specialities struggling with recruitment and retention right now. Could Brexit make this problem even worse? One of the reasons for these struggles may be an ageing population, with often complex health needs which add higher demands. The government has announced there will be an extra 1500 medical school place each year from 2018.

General Practitioners have been warned that they will lose the extra funding they are being given by the government if they fail to keep their surgeries open for longer. This is because A&E departments are under a lot of pressure, with waiting times extended dramatically. The thinking is, if patents seek help from their GP’s, this will reduce strain on A&E departments. A study has found that approximately 30% of patients who find themselves at A&E could be better cared for somewhere else.
Officials from the BMA have accused the government of scapegoating GP’s rather than addressing the NHS funding crisis. Currently GP surgeries are open Weekdays, 8:00 until 18:30. The Government have stated that they want surgeries to be open for all 7 days of the week from 8:00 until 20:00 and unless GP’s can prove that there would be no benefit to this, the plan to cut funding shall go through.

In my opinion, the government should make an effort to increase A&E department staff, by doing things such as making A&E training free, or increasing pay. I think that the funding cuts for GP surgeries are a bad idea, and the government should be aiming to keep their workers as happy as possible, whilst also pushing more students towards becoming GP’s.
Thank you for reading, please comment and share your opinions 🙂

Overview of medicine in 2016

As we celebrate the new year, we naturally reflect on the past year of our lives. I thought I would write a quick blog post on the medical journey the world has experienced in 2016, and finally, give you some reasons to end 2016 on a high!

I’m gong to begin with the negatives. There was unfortunately a breakthrough in a range of deadly diseases. A year ago, the Zika virus (spread by mosquitos) was barely even heard of. Sadly, now, the birth of babies with microcephaly (underdeveloped brains) is all too familiar. The concern initially was centred on Brazil, before spreading to 75 countries after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a public health emergency. Huge effort was put into controlling the outbreak, but there remains no vaccine for the disease.

Onto a brighter note, the money raised by the ALS ‘ice-bucket challenge’ led to an important scientific discovery. The viral videos raised £88m for the ALS association, set up to raise funds for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease. Research funded by this challenge uncovered a new gene that contributes to the disease, called NEK1.

Secondly, in Mexico (or more specifically in the New Hope Fertility centre) the first three-parent any was born, from two women and a man. The baby boy has a about 0.1% of his DNA from the second woman, working in order to prevent the baby from life threatening mitochondrial disease being passed from mother to child. This medical revolution has been given approval over here in the UK, and the first British three-parent baby could be born within the year!

A new laser has been developed, which could be transformative for the treatment of early stages of prostate cancer. Photodynamic therapy uses a drug has been made from bacteria that live in total darkness, and become toxic when exposed to light. This is injected into the prostate, before ten lasers are inserted into the tumour to activate the drug. This kills the cancer whilst having no side effects and preserving the rest of the prostate.

In similar news, the team at St Mary’s Hospital in London have successfully used sound waves to operate deep inside the brain, without using any knives, to destroy tissue in the brain of Mr Lucas, which was causing a tremor. Mr Lucas can now hold his hand steady and said he feels “fantastic”. 🙂

A new therapy for cystic fibrosis has been developed. This disabling disease allows only half of people afflicted to live beyond heir 40s, and required an enormous amount of medication to be taken daily. A new drug called Orkambu corrects the underlying genetic defect that causes this disease, helping symptoms to disappear completely, and truly transforming lives.

And finally;

Scientists have grown embryos for longer than ever before
A video game has been developed to aid dementia diagnosis
A robot has been used to operate on a bind man’s eye for the first time.
Drugs developed using artificial intelligence can slow cancerous growth
Living body parts have been 3D printed, a possible huge advancement for regenerative medicine.

This article I think highlights why medicine is so enticing, new discoveries and ideas being developed all the time, always allowing room for improvement. Thanks for reading!

Medicine in the 21st Century

Technology is rapidly improving. This means, we are presented with the opportunity to use new technological advancements in a clinical setting. This will help us as medics help to increase diagnosis, improve medical knowledge worldwide, and even aid the performance of surgery. Before we know it, our operations may be performed by robots! It is increasingly important that medics are technologically competent, as they may be running some of these machines and systems.
I am going to discuss some technologies that are already in place, and some which will be a possibility in the future.

Recently, the technology has been developed to sequence a human genome. In 2000, scientists in with the International Human Genome Project released a rough draft of the human genome to the public. For the first time the world could read the complete set of human genetic information and begin to discover what our roughly 23,000 genes do. If find a quick, cheap way to sequence every human genome, not only will we develop a much greater understanding of human genes and all of the surrounding fields, but we will be able to identify cures for many “incurable” diseases, such as cancers and HIV, saving millions of lives in the process. By understanding the genetic causes and links to disease we can spend more and more attention on preventing disease, for example, doctors have developed a genetic test for a gene associated with prostate cancer, and there is a drug available that greatly lowers the risk for prostate cancer in the future.

Technology can be used for real-time diagnosis. The recently invented intelligent surgical knife (iKnife) was developed by Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London and works by using an old technology where an electrical current heats tissue to make incisions with minimal blood loss. With the iKnife, the vaporized smoke is analysed by a mass spectrometer to detect the chemicals in the biological sample. This means it can identify whether the tissue is malignant real-time, diagnosing tumours.

The digital contact lens patented by Google aims to change the course of diabetes management by measuring blood glucose levels from tears. This is a much less invasive method of permanently managing glucose levels in the blood, and will much more rapidly show signs of hyperglycemia, which can damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems.

Another recent technological phenomenon is virtual reality. This is already being used in a medical setting, to aid the training of young medics and other health professionals, allowing them to complete virtual ward rounds. This is an ideal training method because it allows students to interact with the environment around them, as if they were a real doctor on a real ward. They can interact with patients, other healthcare professionals (which may be other students also in virtual reality), helping them to learn teamwork skills, and allows them to prescribe doses and solve problems. This technology is connected to ‘Watson’, the most advanced artificial intelligence globally, who can read twenty million scientific papers in eight minutes, and even diagnose tumours! Overall, this experience i believe cannot be underestimated. Nothing else allows training as alike to the realities of being a medic as this.

As for technologies that could be used globally in the future, here are a couple ideas!
We could use sensors that allow statistical analysis to prevent illness in the first place! Firstly, we could distribute heart rate monitors to everybody across the country. These would record heart rates, sending off to a database where they could be analysed for identification of any developing health problems. This could predict cardiovascular health (and therefore cardiovascular disease, being at the minute the umber one killer of men and women), atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Arrhythmia, diabetes, an under or over active thyroid, or dehydration. The data that these monitors collect could be sent off to a database where someone (or a robot) could analyse the data to decide if anybody needed to be called in to see a doctor due to abnormal cardiovascular activity, therefore people may even be called in before anything serious develops, meaning something will be done to prevent worsening of the problem. This technology would reduce serious cardiovascular issues, reduce diagnosis time, and increase overall general health.
A similar idea would be to install monitors on everybody’s toilets in their home. This would measure the waste produced by us, the amount, the colour, the shape, and similarly, send off this data to help diagnose problems more quickly. This will aid diagnosis of many problems, including (but not limited to); stomach or ileum bleeds, pancreatic cancer, hepatitis, cancer of the bile ducts, cirrhosis, gallstones, chronic pancreatitis, diet issues, IBS or Crohn’s disease. These faster diagnosis and treatment will lead to a much more efficient, quicker and more accurate health service. However, there may be some problems with this, such as: someone may not use the same toilet all the time, it may be seen as an invasion of privacy and different people may use the same toilet.

There are endless ways that technology can help the enhance healthcare system. Simply, social media is a tool that we cannot underestimate. We could use this as a way to spread important information instantly, such as the importance of washing your hands, the importance of exercise or a balanced diet. Also, robotic techniques have been developed to to improve the accuracy of procedures, and to minemalise surgical invasion, subsequently shortening recovery time. All of the technological medical improvements are revolutionary, and if we take full advantage of the technology that is available to us, I really believe we will do amazing things, and change the face of healthcare in the future!

Please comment below any ideas you might have! Thank you for reading!

Henry Heimlich’s death

This post is just a small tribute to Henry Heimlich, who very sadly died this week.

This man was the inventor of the Heimlich manoeuvre, a technique of abdominal thrusts for preventing choking, described in Emergency Medicine in 1974. Performing abdominal thrusts involves a rescuer standing behind an upright patient and using their hands to exert pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm. This compresses the lungs and exerts pressure on any object lodged in the trachea, hopefully expelling it. This amounts to an artificially induced cough.

He claimed that back slaps (the technique at that time for prevention of chocking) were proven to cause death, by lodging foreign objects into the windpipe. The 1982 Yale study that persuaded the American Heart Association to stop recommending back blows for dealing with choking was partially funded by Heimlich’s own foundation. Heimlich also promoted the use of these abdominal thrusts for drowning and asthma attacks.

Heimlich’s medical invention made a huge impact to us all, saving millions of lives all over the world, and for his work he deserves to be remembered.