Stop Disrespecting Your Home

The Earth is our home. A home is meant to be looked after and protected. Yet the Earth is not. We pollute it with harmful gases. Waste is dumped into the sea, killing countless innocent organisms, who fall victim to our actions. Trees are cut down at an alarming rate, the very organisms providing us with oxygen to breath. It is our duty as humans to care and protect it the Earth. We need to protect it for not only ourselves but for future generations. If we continue to mistreat this planet, eventually there will be nothing left to call home.

Global warming and climate change are already having a significant and costly effect on our communities and health. These effects will only continue to intensify unless we all take immediate action and improve the way in which we treat the planet.

The impacts of climate change include rising seas, changes in precipitation, higher temperatures and increases in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events. When it comes to heat waves and coastal flooding, the scientific evidence is clear – these extreme weather events are being caused by human-caused scientific events. Other forms of severe weather are also closely linked to climate change, this includes rises in extreme precipitation events in some regions and increasingly severe droughts in others. [1] [2]

The weather we experience, the food we consume, the water we drink and the air in which we breathe, are all affected by climate change, threatening our health. [2]

Climate change is providing longer and hotter summers.This may seem like a great thing but extreme heat can lead to heat stroke and dehydration as well as cardiovascular and respiratory problems. In extreme cases, elevated temperatures can kill, as the body is pushed beyond its limits. [3]

Extreme rainfall and flooding continue to rise in regions with rain or snow, negatively impacting the conditions people are living in. Extreme weather events such as flooding and drought can create challenges for the growth of food. [4] This can leave people without a source of income and/or hungry.

Changes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme events increase the geographic range of diseases spread by vectors, such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. This can also lead to the occurrence of illnesses earlier in the year. [4]

Climate change increases the risk of water-related illness due to increases temperature, more frequent heavy rains and the effects of storms. Gastrointestinal illness like diarrhoea, effects on the body’s nervous and respiratory systems, or liver and kidney damage can occur due to the consumption of unsafe water. Climate impacts can affect exposure to waterborne pathogens. Flooding resulting from increases in extreme precipitation may contaminate bodies of water such as beaches, lakes and sources of drinking water. [4] 

The quality of the air in which we breathe is decreasing as it becomes more polluted. This can lead to asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Wildfires, which are increasing in both intensity and frequency, also create harmful air pollutants, which further decreases the quality of air. [4]

The effects of climate change are slowly but surely destroying the planet. And as the planet deteriorates, so does our health. This is due to climate change affecting human health in two main ways: first, by changing the severity and frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate factors; and second, by creating unprecedented health problems or threats in places or times of the year where they have not previously occurred. [4]

Some populations are especially vulnerable to climate health risks due to sensitivities, high likelihood of exposure, low adaptive capacity, or combinations of these factors. People in society who are more likely to be at risk from the effects of climate change are the elderly children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. [4]

People living in developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change’s effects, compared to those living in wealthier countries. This is because they do not have the resources to properly prepare themselves for extreme weather conditions or rebuild their communities after the occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes. This is highly unfair considering that most pollution is created by these wealthier countries but people in developing countries experience climate change’s effects more heavily.

It doesn’t take much for you to help the planet. Little things like recycling more, having quicker showers and switching off light switches when you leave a room can help. If we all do a little bit to save the planet, it will mean a lot. But if we do nothing and continue to disrespect our planet, our future on Earth is at risk.

By Bernice Mangundu.

[1] https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/science-and-impacts/impacts/extreme-weather-climate-change.html#.Wt96S4jwbIU

[2] http://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-effects/health.html

[3] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/heat-wave-health/

[4] https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-human-health_.html

 

“You’re Such a Retard”

‘Oh, you retard! What did you do that for?’

‘You’re such a retard’

‘How did you manage that, retard’

As a sixteen-year-old, these are phrases I hear so often, not directed at me, but I hear it being said as a joke between friends, or as simple ‘banter’. I hate to be ‘that person’ – you know the one that complains even though its ‘an inside joke’ or ‘friendly banter’ – but I feel that the word ‘retard’ should stop being used and passed around in the way it is. People say it without knowing what it means: without knowing what the word truly entails; the complications that come with the mental issue; and the way in which life is different for someone who is actually ‘retarded’. What makes it worse is that some people use the word knowing what it means – it has just become so normal in our society, when it shouldn’t be! If you think that it isn’t a big deal, it’s just banter after all – think about the people who have intellectual disabilities. It’s gotten so bad that if you google the definition of retard, the oxford dictionary defines, as well as the verb (delay or hold back in terms of progress or development), the noun form of the word is defined as ‘a person who has a mental disability (often used as a general term of abuse)’₁. Imagine having an intellectual disability like autism and therefore not doing well in class with an IQ of below 70 to 75 (whilst the average is 100) making you classify as a ‘retard’ and then people around you saying it like it’s a joke, and it doesn’t affect you, or saying it to other people as a ‘form of abuse’ when they have no clue what it’s like to actually be in your shoes.

Today, mental retardation is known as intellectual disability. The term ‘retard’ has been tainted over the years and this is normal. According to ‘Questia’₂, it began simply being an account of IQ, however as time went along, this was largely abandoned – it is based on the support one needs in different areas in their life such as educational needs, housing, or daily necessities like feeding and bathing. A common misconception is that the disability means they are unable to learn, however, the actual case is that it takes longer for one with the disability to grasp things. Healthline tells us that there are four levels of intellectual disorder: mild, moderate, severe and profound₃. Severe cases are diagnosed at birth but almost all cases are diagnosed before the child turns 18. It is thought that intellectual disability affects only 1% of the population₅.

Intellectual disability roots from before birth, during birth or in early childhood (as stated by the NHS) ₄. Brain development can be affected before birth for a variety of reasons: the child could be a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome if the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, they may develop certain genes (e.g. down syndrome), or even malnutrition₂. Brain development can be affected during childbirth for a variety of reasons: it may be that the baby is premature, underweight₂ or complications occurred during birth that stop enough oxygen from getting to the brain (the umbilical cord might wrap around the baby’s neck) ₄. Brain development can be affected during childhood for a variety of reasons: illnesses like meningitis (which Muskaan has written about previously on our blog), encephalitis, or injury during early childhood₂. The most common causes are fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome. Sometimes, the cause remains unknown₂.

In order for a doctor to measure a child’s adaptive behaviors (day to day life skills), they will observe the child’s skills and compare them to other children of the same age₅. Signs to look out for would include₃:

  • Inability to reach intellectual standards
  • Taking more time than other children to learn to talk or walk
  • Inability to understand consequences, right and wrong
  • Behavior inconsistent to the child’s age
  • Lack of curiosity
  • Learning difficulties
  • Difficulty to communicate, take care of themselves or interact with others.

In children with profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD), the child has more than one disability (the most significant being an intellectual disability). These can include seizures, mood disorders (anxiety, autism, etc.), and even problems with sight and hearing₅. Children or adults with PMLD need a carer or carers to help them with everyday life.

Diagnosing the child involves a three-part evaluation₃:

  • Interview with the parents
  • Observations of the child
  • Standard tests (e.g. blood tests, urine tests, imaging tests, EEG) ₅ – they may also go through an intelligence test

This may include visits to a psychologist, speech pathologist, social worker, pediatric neurologist etc.

Some doctors believe that the best way to prevent intellectual disorders are vaccinations. Ensuring a child does not undergo rubella, measles, meningitis etc. can help prevent intellectual disorder. For example, vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib), a cause of childhood meningitis, is expected to prevent 6000 cases of mental retardation according to ‘Questia’₂.

In terms of treatment, support is key. NHS offers annual health checks in which a general physical examination takes place and as well as this, a checkup for epilepsy, checks on prescribed medicines, and a review on any other arrangements with physiotherapists or speech therapists (to see more see website 6 in the bibliography) ₆. Treatment cannot just get rid of the disability, but it helps them reach their full potential. Although some may think this is barely treatment, it is the only thing that can be done (other than genetic modification which is a whole new topic in itself). When the child is ready to attend school, it is wise to put in place an Individualised Education Program₃. Schools provide this for free. Some choose to bring their children to special schools, however others choose to do the practice of ‘mainstreaming’ in which the child can attend classes in a standard classroom to help them feel more included and also help the people around them understand their special needs and capabilities₂.

People with intellectual disabilities may be going through a lot – be it the struggles of autism, seizures or simply the struggles of school – yet we still use the word ‘retard’ as a ‘term of abuse’. I believe it is wrong. To think that someone who has an intellectual disability is able to cope with the struggle of learning to get through their everyday life, yet someone like me can complain about school and everything being too hard. To think that someone who has an intellectual disability not only has to go through the struggles of their disability, but also the struggles of being bullied to the point that the ex-medical-term ‘mental retardness’ has simply just become a term of abuse. To think there are people out there who have no idea what it means to call someone a ‘retard’. I believe that is wrong.

By Antonia Jayme

 

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/retard

https://www.questia.com/library/science-and-technology/health-and-medicine/diseases-and-disorders/mental-retardation

https://www.healthline.com/symptom/mental-retardation#modal-close

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/learning-disabilities/

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/intellectual-disability-mental-retardation#1

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/learning-disabilities/annual-health-checks/

10 Questions: Someone with Alopecia Areata

Some time ago, my lovely (but annoying) 11-year-old sister, Khushbu, started rapidly losing hair from the top of her head. We were all pretty worried and went to the GP multiple times, but they just said every time that ‘it will grow back’—even though we were doubtful as the hair would not stop falling.

Anyway, it turns out that we finally found out that she has alopecia areata. After consulting Dr Google yet again, I found out that this is when ‘Hair is lost because it is affected by inflammation. The cause of this inflammation is unknown but it is thought that the immune system, the natural defence which normally protects the body from infections and other diseases, may attack the growing hair.’

Medical treatments and a multitude of home remedies given to us by friends in the UK failed to make any significant impact on the regrowth. When on holiday in India, we decided to try our luck by consulting our family GP, who also turns out to be a homoeopathic doctor, and she prescribed some homoeopathic tablets. These had some temporary effect in that the hair was re-growing, but it was falling out after a couple of weeks again.

Khushbu is now stuck in this frustrating cycle, where the hair re-grows, but then falls again at the same rate it is re-growing. Meanwhile, I am stuck in the frustrating position where I have to meticulously vacuum all the fallen hair which gets trapped in the carpet.

I thought it would be a nice idea if I could talk to Khushbu and find out how having alopecia truly makes her feel, so I interviewed her (while she was high on Lucozade so it seems). Here are 10 questions: someone with alopecia areata:

Q: What is alopecia?

A: I don’t know actually. Is it something in your immune system that affects your head? I’m not sure.

Q: How has having alopecia changed you?

A: I’m not sure really.  I guess It has made me feel more conscious about the way I look.

Q: How do you feel having alopecia?

A: I feel different to the others [at school] because I have shorter hair than others on the top of my head. It makes me feel worried when I see my hair falling out so much. I miss my old hair sometimes, but other times, I don’t bother about it. it frustrates me when my hair grows back then starts falling all out again.

Q: Have you ever been bullied for the way you look?

A: No, I haven’t. People in my school usually support me and are really supportive towards me. Sometimes though, I hear about people who have been talking about my hair behind my back, which makes me feel quite upset, but I have my friends who always make me feel better.

Q: What’s the best thing that’s happened to you because of your alopecia?

A: People want to talk to me more to find out more about alopecia or why my hair is like this. They are more interested in talking to me about it. Also, I am very grateful to my friend. She makes me feel happy about the way I look. She is also really funny, so we have a lot of fun with each other. My hairdresser is also really nice. She made me feel really happy—recommending more products and telling me that my hair is still beautiful.

Q: What’s the worst/most annoying thing that’s happened to you because of your alopecia?

A: People keep on thinking it’s a weird haircut and think that I wanted it to look like this on purpose.

Q: Do you miss the way you used to look?

A: I miss the way I used to look a lot, but not that much at the same time because I know my hair is going to grow back. If it doesn’t grow back, then I would change my whole hair [instead of only the top] to make me feel happier with the way I look. I really miss my old hair when I remember how silky it used to be and because it was all even out. Also, people never really bothered me that much i.e. they didn’t think that I was trying to do some strange styles with my hair.

Q: Do you feel that you receive enough help for your alopecia?

A: In the UK I got hair cream from the doctors and shampoo. When we went on holiday to India, I got a homoeopathic medicine from there.

Did any of them work? Not really.

Q: any friends give you advice?

A: Yeah. I received a lot of different home remedies from a lot of friends (and their parents). I found it very helpful and felt very supported, but none of them really worked. I appreciated it though.

Q: What’s something you would say to someone who is suffering from alopecia the way you are?

A: Think on the positive side. People that you didn’t really talk to would maybe be more supportive. Stay happy and comfortable with the way you are.

As you can see, Khushbu has been affected by alopecia in many ways, but she is very lucky to have quite minimal hair loss: only on the top of her hair. There are people out there who suffer from alopecia totalis, which is when there is a complete loss of hair on the scalp. Unfortunately, there is no cure as of yet, and if a lot of hair is lost initially, then even treatments that are available offer only a 1 in 10 chance of full recovery.

Khushbu’s story with alopecia areata has made me realise that even the seemingly smallest complications, like losing parts of your hair, can change one’s life in ways that we could never expect.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who spread positivity to people with alopecia—and any other body issues that cause low self-esteem. It is so important for us to remind each other that we are beautiful as we are!

By Muskaan Jonathan

Sources:

http://www.bad.org.uk/shared/get-file.ashx?id=68&itemtype=document

https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/613/alopecia-totalis

http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/patient-information-leaflets/alopecia-areata/?showmore=1#.WspXXojwZP

‘Just One More Drink’

Alcoholic beverages are consumed every day by countless amounts of people. Ethanol is a psychoactive substance which is present as the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and distilled spirits. It is one of the oldest and most commonly used recreational substances. In low doses, alcoholic drinks can reduce anxiety and increase sociability but in higher doses, it can cause intoxication and unconsciousness.

There are several reasons why people consume alcohol. People may drink to relieve the stresses of everyday life such as work, relationships or money. Some people, especially teenagers, may feel obligated to drink due to peer pressure, in order not to feel left out or ridiculed by others. The consumption of alcohol also tends to be fun for many people. Alcohol’s drunk effect makes people feel happy and drinking it with friends can be a fun experience. If a person is nervous in a social situation, drinking helps them to relax and have more fun. However, what happens when the use of alcohol is no longer beneficial?

This is Sophia’s story.

Alcohol had always been a part of my life. As I was growing up, my parents would occasionally drink a glass of wine. If they were feeling generous, they would let me have a sip or two. By high school, I was drinking with my friends at parties. I have a few embarrassing drunk stories from these parties, but then who doesn’t? As I got older I would still drink with my friends on a girl’s night out or night in. I would even drink a glass of wine on a stressful day.

But the glass of wine I would have in the evening of a stressful day was no longer enough. I would need a second glass to relax. Until it slowly became a third glass, leading to a fourth and eventually, the whole bottle. Soon every day became stressful. There were piles of paperwork all over my desk, bills to pay and rent to worry about. I was struggling to cope. So my solution was to drink a bottle of wine every evening.But the evening just couldn’t arrive quick enough, so I carried a small flask of vodka with me to work.  I needed a way to cope during the day.  Until I could no longer carry a small flask to work anymore because I’d been fired for being intoxicated one too many times.

The nice person my friends used to know was slowly replaced with someone distant, irritable and quick to anger. My friends voiced their concern about my drinking and tried to help, but I refused to believe I had a problem. I mean, it’s not like they didn’t drink either. It’s just that their ‘one more drink’ would always be just that, but mine never was. They eventually stopped inviting me to social situations. I guess it was in the fear that I would embarrass them in my drunken state. Soon my friends became strangers as they actively avoided me. So, strangers in the bars I would frequent became my friends. They didn’t judge me or my drinking. They didn’t judge me when I would say, ‘‘just one more drink’’ despite it never really being one more. Yet they were still just strangers. The only ‘friends’ I had left were the empty bottles of wine that littered my apartment. An apartment I could’ve lost due to an addiction. An addiction that cost me my job, friends even my health. Luckily it hadn’t cost me my home, but it could’ve if I had reached for help any later.

My use of alcohol started as a simple escape but slowly became my biggest problem.

There are many people with stories, like Sophia, of their battle with alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse can be a severe problem which can lead a person to lose their job, home and ruin relationships with friends and family. Regular heavy drinking may also lead to health problems such as fatigue, memory loss, liver diseases, heart problems, diabetes, mental illness and cancer.

In most parts of the world, alcohol is legal for adults to purchase and consume. As a result, alcoholic beverages are widely available. Since use is so common, it might seem hard to determine who is drinking alcohol in an appropriate manner and who is drinking in a manner that could lead to alcohol abuse or alcoholism, especially because alcoholics can be secretive about it. Alcohol abuse is one of the oldest problem’s in humanity, with alcoholism being the most severe form of alcohol abuse as it involves being unable to control drinking habits. When alcohol consumption becomes out of control it can be detrimental to a person’s life. If someone close to you is showing any of the following signs, it may be that they’re suffering from alcoholism:

  • A lack of interest in previously normal activities
  • Appearing intoxicated more regularly
  • Needing to drink more to achieve the same effects
  • Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
  • An inability to say no to alcohol
  • Anxiety, depression or other mental health problems
  • Becoming secretive or dishonest

If a person seems to be experiencing some of these symptoms, they may require help. The first step of treating alcoholism is acknowledging that there is a problem. As with many health problems the second step is to seek help from a healthcare professional, like a local GP who can refer you to a specialist. If this is not the route a person wants to take, other options are available such as trying the many alcohol support services accessible to them.

There needs to be less stigma around alcoholism because it’s a problem that affects many people, whether it is personally or someone they know. It is something that can happen to anyone at any time.

By Bernice Mangundu.

https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcoholism/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/157163.php

https://sobernation.com/seven-common-reasons-why-people-drink-alcohol/

‘Lose Some Weight.’

‘She’s so fat! What’s wrong with her thighs? They jiggle like jelly! What’s wrong with her stomach? It’s bigger than her head! What’s wrong with her body? What did she do to get that big!’ she cried as she looked back at the girl staring at her in the mirror.
‘How did I get so big?’

But she wasn’t. She was completely fine. She was a healthy weight. I just wish she could see that. That was the state I was in during year 9. ‘Skinny’ was the only word I wanted to embody and thus began the journey of skipping meals, compulsive exercise and horribly low self-esteem: the journey of anorexia.

Of course, I’m okay now, I’m (definitely) no longer underweight nor skipping meals and have regular amounts of exercise! However, looking back and remembering the thoughts that played in my head and how the journey finally came to a halt, I know there’s a lot of things about anorexia people don’t understand, especially about how to help someone who is affected by it…

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. One who has it strives for the lowest possible weight and has body dysmorphia (they look at themselves in the mirror and see something that they’re not). In order to achieve their goal, the victim will miss meals, eat very little or nothing at all; take medications to reduce their appetite, or even weight loss pills; as well as this they may fall into purging (compulsive exercise, vomiting, fasting). Even once they reach their original goal, it will never be enough. Anorexia is often confused with a similar eating disorder: bulimia – this is an eating disorder in which, rather than limiting calorie intake, the affected will binge eat and then immediately purge in a constant cycle. One other thing to remember is that, whilst this article focuses on anorexia, eating disorders also include binge eating disorder – this leads to obesity rather than loss of weight.

There are many symptoms that come with anorexia. Emotional behaviours that come with anorexia include:

  • not eating properly
  • body dysmorphia
  • obsession with body image
  • loss of focus and interest in things
  • Irritability

However, anorexia nervosa also comes with horrible physical symptoms:

  • brittle hair – which can eventually lead to hair loss
  • lanugo may begin to grow – this is fine body hair that is often referred to as ‘peach fuzz’
  • body temperature drops
  • constipation
  • kidney damage
  • osteoporosis – brittle bones
  • slowed thyroid function – causes an imbalance in hormones – this is bad for both boys and girls as it can affect their fertility as it can cause girls to stop menstruating and boys to have erectile dysfunction

Anorexia nervosa is a mental health condition and it is important to speak to your GP for proper diagnosis.

What to do about someone who has it?

One of the biggest things when trying to help someone with an eating disorder is letting go of all the stereotypical beliefs and myths about anorexia. As someone who experienced it, one of the biggest barriers for improvement and healing were the people around me who made uninformed comments, even if they were trying to help, it simply lowered my self-esteem further.

Common Misconceptions: (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/helping-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.htm)

‘You can’t be anorexic – you’re not even skinny!
You don’t need to be skinny to be anorexic – usually people of an average weight or who are overweight or of an average weight become anorexic trying to become skinnier.
‘You’re mean to be a man – snap out of it!’
Just because someone is male, it doesn’t mean they can’t have anorexia – anorexia is a mental health issue – all of us have brains and therefore all of us are susceptible to mental health issues!

 

‘You’re so self-absorbed. Get over yourself!’

It isn’t often that vanity leads to eating disorders – the behaviours that come with the disorder tends to become a coping mechanism to deal with something happening in their lives. Even so, they could be so self-conscious due to events in life such as bullying or just simply needing attention and a cry for help that they have been driven to the eating disorder.

 

‘It’s not serious anyway.’

As you saw from all the symptoms I listed earlier, yes, it is very serious. In case you need a reminder: brittle bones, kidney disease, infertility, drop in body temperature and many more.

 

Now that you have that out of the way – communication is key. Find a time where you and the person you are concerned for are free from distractions and in an environment where they feel safe and secure. Once you’ve got the right setting and are comfortable – just speak to them. Explain why it is you feel the way you feel without putting them down. Don’t force them into something they don’t want to do as this can lead to secretive behaviour from the affected person as a way to escape the situation again. Don’t comment on their weight the way you would with other people – you’re speaking to someone who is already obsessed with body image! Telling them ‘you’re not even fat’ can do more damage than good as they may take it the wrong way and think it justifies them staying away from being fat – your being negative about the possibility of them being fat! Rather than doing this, try to ask ‘why are you afraid gaining weight?’. Don’t make them feel ashamed of themselves by putting all the blame on them: ‘why can’t you just eat something’ – tell them that you are worried for them; show them they aren’t alone and that there are people that care for them! If it were as easy as to ‘just eat’, the person wouldn’t be suffering.

Stay patient and supportive for the person you are worried about. What you need is for them to admit they have a problem, to understand that they need help. They need to make themselves to go through treatment (therapy), otherwise it can lead to worse things. They may refuse to listen to what you say, but you have to be there to continue to help and support them so that they can see past their morphed reflection in the mirror.

By Antonia Jayme

This website has a list of websites you can contact for help:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/helping-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.htm

 

Links used:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/helping-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.htm

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anorexia/

https://www.everydayhealth.com/eating-disorders/can-an-eating-disorder-affect-your-fertility.aspx

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/conditions/anorexia/

It was a Happy Birthday indeed!

Saturday 24th March was a very special day for me! Firstly, it was my birthday, and I am now officially 17. I can learn how to drive (although I probably shouldn’t be trusted with a car). However, that is not the point of this article.

What was really special about Saturday, was that I was given the opportunity to present at Medic Mentor’s national Insight into Medicine conference! It is the very place that I decided I wanted to do medicine, and I felt so privileged and honoured to be able to inspire some people!

I was really excited to give the presentation, until the actual day, as I realised the large scale of the conference! Having never spoken in front of 100+ people at one time, believe me when I say that my legs were jelly. I thought I would mess it up completely, but the very encouraging mentors and even some the parents and their children assured me that it was apparently a very good presentation.

I really enjoyed helping to co-ordinate the conference too. I saw things from ‘the other side’ I guess. I met up with some of my fellow school ambassadors, Chloe and Ellie, and we had a great time together! We sat through a lot of the talks, laughing with each other when the (wonderful) speakers went over time and completely ignored the time notices we were waving around in front of their faces.

But I was reminded of why I want to do medicine yet again. I left inspired and uplifted, yet again; excited for the future instead of fearful of the unknown. I would be satisfied to know if I inspired even 1 person to think about doing medicine as a career and will remain thankful to the wonderful organisation that is Medic Mentor, for allowing me to make use of such a humbling opportunity, and for just being all-round amazing, genuine people!

By Muskaan Jonathan

The Silent Beast that makes all the Noise

The 20th of March marks the international day of happiness. All around the world, many people work together to try and ‘make the world a happier place’. This year, the theme is sharing happiness with others.

In a recent RE lesson, we were watching a documentary about the Amish. A group of British teenagers had travelled to America to spend 4 weeks or so with different Amish families and see their way of life. In one episode, a British teenager asks the father of the Armish family: ‘How many bad days would you say you have?’. The Amish man replies ‘in a year, I’d say around 10 days’.

10 bad days in a year. Imagine that! How many bad days do you have? Perhaps you may have to think of an answer per week? The British teenager said that he had two bad days a week. If we calculate that, then he has roughly 104 bad days in a year—just over 10 times more than the Amish man.

According to this article in The Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-people-depression-west-mental-health-uk-oecd-europe-scandinavia-women-more-men-a7945321.html, British people rank amongst the most depressed in the Western World—and the statistics don’t include people below the age of 25, which I believe is a range of ages where emotion and stress levels can be running high enough to cause many other mental health issues. By no means am I confirming a common misconception that depression only means being sad all the time, but depression, the chemical imbalance in the brain, definitely affects peoples’ happiness.

I am fortunate enough to be one of the people who can say that I have never (yet) had depression, or any similar mental health problem which may affect my happiness—at least I don’t think so. I often wonder—why do we hear so much about depression so frequently? It seems like the term ‘mental health issues’ has blown up all of a sudden. Is it because of the technology we are surrounded with? Most of the more traditional Amish do not have mobile phones, but one family did leave the Amish church and their children were now allowed to have mobile phones. They said that it definitely sped up their lives. Maybe that’s what it is. Do you ever get that feeling that life is going too fast for you to keep up with? Or it could be the depressing stories we see on the news. Brexit, terrorist attacks, lack of funding, murders etc. etc. And of course, last but definitely not least everyone has their own personal issues. Whether it be bereavement, financial issues, all of these things may affect our happiness and even push us into the dark, endless abyss which is depression.

So, what is depression?

I found this question tough to answer. It is long periods of sadness, feeling down or fed up etc., but it is so much more than that. I guess only a person with depression would be able to give us a true perspective of what depression is. However, medically speaking, it is ‘An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that affects the way a person eats, sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things’. It is easier to say what depression is not. It is not a trivial matter that you can just ‘get over’ or ‘snap out of’. Let me use the infamous ‘broken leg analogy’. If you had broken your leg, you wouldn’t be told to just ‘walk it off’. You would be given proper treatment; time to recover. Similarly, depression requires these things. Time, patience, and teams of dedicated healthcare professionals who work hard for the best of their patient. I imagine depression to be like a beast in our minds. On the surface it is silent; invisible. But beneath the surface it is causing a ruckus. Pulling our minds: pulling us deeper and deeper until all we can hear now is chaos, and nothing else—leaving behind a sort of empty shell. Over time, our ears become numb to all the silence, then to all the chaos.

No matter what the cause of one’s depression may be, we must learn to recognise when to get help—whether that help may be for ourselves or for others. It starts by talking. Talking to someone who you feel might understand, even a little bit. Whether you are depressed or not, I feel that the worst thing anyone could do for themselves is to keep their feelings bottled up inside. I must admit, even I am guilty of this, but for someone else who already may be depressed, I can only imagine doing so would eat away at them from inside.

GPs can help too of course. Often, patients are referred to other allied healthcare professionals such as psychologists, counsellors, therapists. Sometimes, patients may even be prescribed antidepressants.

There is a multitude of ways in which we can help ourselves, but it starts with us helping each other. Just for a minute, let us adopt the mindset of a public health doctor. They are concerned with populations and focus on health promotion and illness prevention.

We could start by educating ourselves. Have a read of the NHS symptoms section for clinical depression. If you recognise any of the signs in a person, put them in contact with someone who might help. Talk to them. Don’t let them be alone. Prevent their depression from escalating.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/

Next, promotion! Promote happiness everywhere you can! In your children, in your school, on your social media, in your local community—the list is endless and the need is limitless! Sign up to be a part of the International Day of Happiness here to start spreading joy:

http://www.dayofhappiness.net/#join

We need to work together to defeat this beast and make it silent…truly silent.

By Muskaan Jonathan

Sources I used:

http://www.dayofhappiness.net/#join

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2947

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/

http://www.channel4.com/info/press/programme-information/living-with-the-amish

 

The Journey of Women in Medicine

In honour of celebrating all the strong and powerful women in the world, on international women’s day on the 8th of March, I will be exploring the battle women have faced becoming respected in the medical field.

In the face of adversity, women have always been resilient and strong, pushing for change in the way they are treated and the prejudice they are faced with. They have fought and struggled to prove their strength and intelligence. In the late nineteenth century, women were finally accepted as medical practitioners, but it was not an easy journey.

Women have always been intimately involved in medical matters, from the ancient to the modern world. There have been several roles women have played. Women have worked as midwives, nurses, apothecaries and bone-setters. But as the study of medicine became formalised, women were increasingly being excluded from the narrative. In the 14th century, King Henry VIII was quoted as saying “No carpenter, smith, weaver or women shall practise surgery.”  When governments declared that only those trained at universities could practise as doctors, women were forbidden from this training.

In her pursuit to break into the medical profession, Margaret Ann Bulkley went to the lengths of adopting a male persona to be accepted. She successfully pulled it off and she became fully qualified as Dr James Barry in 1812 from Edinburgh University. From there this ‘’beardless lad’’ went on to have a distinguished career as a skilful British army surgeon for more than 40 years. Barry developed a reputation for her surgical prowess and commitment to improving conditions for soldiers and the local population. Barry was so successful at maintaining her deception that it was only when she died of dysentery in 1865 that her secret was discovered. Despite her skill, her gender made her an embarrassment to both the war department and medical association. Therefore, these findings were kept hidden and Dr Barry was officially buried as a man.

By the mid-19th century, more women were demanding entry to medical school. At the time, women were still considered intellectually inferior and weaker than men. Men expressed concerns that exposure to gore might pose a risk to, what they considered, delicate female health. However, women were exasperated with the prejudice they faced and started to fight back, such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson or Elizabeth Blackwell.

Dr Elizabeth Blackwell was the first female physician in the United States. Blackwell applied, and was rejected, by many schools. Yet she persisted, until she eventually gained admission to the Geneva College of Medicine, by a mere accident. To show his liberalism, the dean had presented the application directly to his students, asking whether a woman should be allowed to attend the classes. Much to the dean’s surprise, the students, thinking it a great joke, voted unanimously to admit her. She managed to gain a medical degree in 1849 and set up the New York Infirmary for Poor Women before returning to England, where she was accepted into the Medical Register in 1858. Despite a flood of protests within the medical community, other women soon followed suit, notably among them Elizabeth’s younger sister, Emily Blackwell, as well as Maria Zakrzewska, Mary Putnam Jacobi and Ann Preston.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first English woman to qualify as a doctor. Not a single British medical school, that she applied to, would accept her. Through determination and perseverance, she managed to practice medicine by exploiting a loophole and sat exams for the Society of Apothecaries in 1865, going on to set up the Dispensary for Women. She was the last woman to study medicine through this method as the following year it was blocked. This is due to male doctors’ opposition to female doctors and each time a loophole was found that allowed them to progress in the medical profession, the rules would be changed to prevent it from happening again.

Anderson went on to campaign about women’s involvement in medicine, contributing to the 1876 “Enabling Act” that allowed the licensing of both male and female doctors. Unfortunately, this did not change the antagonistic attitudes of most British medical schools towards women. But did that stop women? Of course not, they just opened their own doors, setting up their own schools and hospitals. In 1874, a group of determined and pioneering women, including Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Sophia Jex Blake, established the first medical school in Britain to allow women to graduate and practise medicine. This was the London School of Medicine for Women. The coming decades saw more and more medical schools accepting women, and in 1892 the British Medical Association finally accepted female doctors.

Today, female medical students outnumber their male colleagues and there are numerous qualified female doctors practising in the UK, America and all over the world. Although the progress made to get to this point has been outstanding, women still have more progress to make before equality is reached. Female doctors, on average earn 1/3 less than their male counterparts, are significantly under-represented in some specialities, particularly surgery, and there are very few women in senior clinical academic positions.

The journey is not yet over.

Women’s involvement in medicine has been accompanied with disapproval and at times, outright antagonism. This has meant that the medical profession has been dominated by men for most of its history. But throughout, women have persisted and found the strength within them to fight for their right to practice medicine.

By Bernice Mangundu

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/26/no-scrubs-how-women-had-to-fight-to-become-doctors

http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/jamesbarry       

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724816/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/shp/modern/indrevdoctorsrev2.shtml

http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/6355/1/Medical-History–Women-in-Medicine.html

https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/114/1/5/246075

http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/practisingmedicine/women

https://www.mommd.com/lookingback.shtml

March into Knowledge about DVT

March has begun and thus begins deep vein thrombosis awareness month – and so here I am, raising awareness.
As stated by the NHS website ‘DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg’. If you want to impress your friends you can say ‘deep vein thrombosis is a venous thrombus that develops within a deep vein’. Most commonly, deep vein thrombosis occurs in the deep leg vein, however it can occur elsewhere such as the arms, so forgive me if my focus through this article is mainly on the legs.

If you search up ‘deep vein thrombosis’ on Google images, the photos you will find are of legs but one leg is swollen, red and blotchy. Naturally, this swollen leg comes with pain – tenderness, aching and warmth within the affected leg, and yes, bending it would be difficult and very painful. These are the most common symptoms for a DVT patient. On the other hand, there are cases of DVT where no symptoms are detected at all. Whilst that seems like a good thing (I mean: no pain, why would that be bad?), it’s really not. In my opinion, the fact that some people can have no symptoms at all is extremely worrying. This is because if DVT is left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening complications…

One of the less serious (but don’t get me wrong, still serious) complications of DVT is post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). This develops in nearly half of all patients who experience DVT. PTS causes chronic leg pain, swelling, redness and ulcers that may be expensive to treat and cause lots of discomfort.
However, the most serious complication happens to those who are left untreated. Around 1 in 10 people with DVT who go untreated develop a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is caused when a part of the blood clot from the DVT breaks off from the deep leg vein and enters the bloodstream into a major blood vessel: the arteries in the lungs. This is potentially fatal if the blood clot is large as it can cause the lungs to collapse resulting in heart failure. If you have DVT, the warning signs of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, chest pain (especially when trying to take a deep breath in or when you cough), nausea, a rapid pulse and even coughing up blood.

So what causes DVT? Many, many, many different things. Some people actually inherit a blood-clotting disorder from their family that cause it to be easier for their blood to clot – whilst this isn’t the cause of DVT by itself, it increases the risk for them developing DVT. Another factor that can cause DVT is prolonged lack of movement (e.g. paralysis, bed rest etc.) as muscles need to contract in order to help blood circulate – in the leg, the calf muscle needs to contract. Even simply being pregnant puts you under risk consequently to an increase in pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs. Other factors include smoking, obesity and age.

Not many people know about DVT – neither did I until I came across it on NHS Choice’ Facebook page. The treatment for DVT is as simple as pills – anticoagulant medicines. The prevention of DVT is as simple as a healthy lifestyle. Yet when people get it and don’t know what DVT is, it could potentially lead to their death. It is important people know about DVT, and now that you do, you know all the symptoms and if it happens to you, seek immediate medical attention before complications occur.

Make sure you spread awareness with me; let all your friends know about DVT.

By Antonia Jayme

Make sure you read the sources from which all my information comes from to learn more about DVT, including its diagnosis:
https://www.webmd.com/lung/tc/pulmonary-embolism-topic-overview
http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/121/8/e217
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis-dvt/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352557

The fight against bacteria and why we are losing

Pneumonia. Cholera. Tetanus. Gonorrhoea. Syphilis. Salmonella. Sepsis. Chlamydia. Meningitis. Typhoid fever. Tuberculosis. Anthrax. Leprosy.

This is just a very short compilation of bacterial diseases existing in the present-day, the majority of which have fatal consequences if left untreated.

However, all thanks to the miracle of modern medicine we are able to control and prevent the spread of these diseases. We can also treat the infected, reducing their symptoms or even providing cures.

Drugs are prescribed to the patient that kills the bacteria or prevents them from reproducing, whilst having little to no effect on the patient’s own cells.

So what is the issue? Why are we losing this fight against these microscopic single-celled beings? The answer is antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is all about evolution. The World Health Organisation defines it as when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics. This occurs due to a mutation in the DNA of some bacteria so they become resistant to the drugs. The non-resistant bacteria are killed by the drug, whereas the resistant versions survive and reproduce, passing the resistant genes on to the next generation. Eventually, the whole population becomes resistant to the drug, so it is no longer effective.

This process of natural selection, which occurs in all species worldwide, is accelerated by the rapid reproductive cycle of bacteria, some strains dividing every 20 minutes.

Microorganisms that develop this resistance are referred to as ‘superbugs’ and threaten to cause devastating pandemics, especially in underdeveloped regions where sanitation is poor.

This very real issue is catching up with us at an astronomical rate; a rate that we have been struggling to keep up with since the discovery of penicillin, the first antibiotic, in 1928. This astounding new drug completely reshaped modern medicine: an infection no longer meant a death sentence. However by 1945, just two years after mass production began in 1943, many strains of bacteria had become resistant to penicillin. And so the endless game of cat and mouse began.

Tetracycline, introduced in 1950, was rendered useless by 1959. Methicillin only lasted two years from 1960 to 1962. Gentamicin, first produced in 1967, was effective only until 1979. This process of new drug, resistance continued up until a more recent discovery of ceftaroline in 2010. However, it only took one year for bacteria to develop resistance.

As a result of this ceaseless cycle, pharmaceutical companies are pulling out of developing antibiotics. New drugs that take many years and immense expenses to produce are being rendered useless within just a year. There is simply no money to be made in the industry.

Why is resistance emerging at such a rapid rate?

This is largely due to unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. Many infections, like flu, are caused by viruses and not bacteria, so antibiotics have no effect. Also, it is often the case that the wrong antibiotic is prescribed or a patient does not finish the full course of the antibiotic.

Another major issue is the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Factory farm animals are given antibiotics to protect them against illness caused by their confined and overcrowded conditions. In the USA 80% of antibiotics sold are given to farm animals.

As a result of our excessive overuse of antibiotics, we are handing bacteria a detailed instruction manual to overcoming our one and only defence again them.

What impact will this have on our everyday lives?

Firstly a large number of surgeries will become much more risky, for example, eye surgery. These routine procedures could lead to fatal outcomes due to post-operative infections.

In addition, the 8 out of 100 babies born prematurely will be unlikely to survive as without a functioning immune system they are very vulnerable to infection.

Also, life expectancy will plummet as the elderly falling victim to bacterial flu- or worse, pneumonia- will be helpless without antibiotic treatment.

Transplants will become a thing of the past as the immune system needs to be suppressed in order to prevent the body rejecting the new tissue. This will increase the risk of infection to such a degree that bacteria will be likely to kill you faster than the organ in question would take to fail.

Skin infections will lead to amputation. 1 in 100 women will die after childbirth.  Even a small cut could have extreme adverse effects.

 

What can we possibly do to stop or even slow down this catastrophic issue?

The scientific community needs to devote more time and funding into developing new antibiotics. It will be of paramount importance that technology is the main point of call for this research. For instance, technology is being introduced that can predict how bacteria will evolve and hence new drugs can be created prior to that bacteria becoming active.

Antibiotics must only be prescribed when wholly necessary and care must be taken to ensure that the right antibiotic is being used.

However these actions are far beyond an individual’s power to influence. Instead you can follow these simple steps to minimise your role in causing antibiotic resistance:

  • If you are ever prescribed antibiotics ensure you follow through with the full course as detailed by your prescription.
  • Research where your meat is coming from and try not to buy from companies that are known to use vast amounts of antibiotics. From personal research I have found that as a general rule fast food chains tend to use meat from animals that are given a lot of antibiotics, whereas locally sourced meat use less or none.
  • Where possible try to reduce your risk of needing antibiotics. If you cut yourself or sustain a minor injury that results in broken skin, ensure you keep the wound clean and sterile. This will greatly reduce risk of infection.

To conclude I would like to leave you with a telling quote from Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered the first antibiotic in 1928:

“The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of a man who succumbs to infection with a penicillin-resistant organism. I hope this evil can be averted.”

By Sophie Maddock

Related links:

https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/ARC/Pages/AboutARC.aspx

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/antimicrobial-resistance-amr-information-and-resources

https://www.ted.com/talks/maryn_mckenna_what_do_we_do_when_antibiotics_don_t_work_any_more

 

 

 

 

 

The Meningitis Monster nearly got us

On the 16th of January, my aunty and uncle in India blessed us with yet another beautiful baby girl. It was a really exciting time because our family group chat was absolutely flooded with pictures of this radiant little angel that had entered our lives. But the excitement ended very abruptly.

One Sunday, my parents and sister, all of us engrossed in our own busy lives, had a moment to spare to look at each other’s’ faces and hear each other speak. We had just finished watching a movie, and were on our way to step back in our chaotic lives when we got a phone call from India. Now bear in mind, that at this time, it was around 9 pm in the UK, which means it was roughly 2:30 am in India. We don’t usually get phone calls that late from them. We all sat down, a sort of eerie silence settling around us, and my dad answered the phone.

My grandmother was weeping. She was bawling her eyes out on the other end of the phone. Apparently, the little baby had fallen unconscious. Her eyes rolled back in her head, she was unresponsive and had a bad nose block. It was difficult to understand her through her sobbing. Wanting to get more information, my dad just told her not to worry and pray lots and lots. On calling my uncle, we found out all that had happened. The little baby wasn’t eating, wasn’t feeling well, had something which looked like a convulsion/seizure, and seemed very stiff.

Immediately, I consulted Dr Google. What could be wrong with her? I came across epilepsy. Nope. Wrong symptoms. A seizure? Nope. Not enough information to deduce that. This went on for about 30 minutes—my mum asking me every 2 minutes: did you find anything? When my uncle called us back, I found out more information. The baby had taken a feed before this episode and hadn’t fed again or woken up. My mind immediately went back to when my own sister was little and she used to bring up her milk. Maybe this baby was having an acid reflux? Maybe she nearly choked on her own vomit due to lying down? I wasn’t sure. The only thing I could think of was ‘when I become a doctor, I might not feel so helpless’.

A couple of days later, after the situation had calmed down a bit more and we knew some of the symptoms better, the doctors in India had told my family that the baby has an infection in the brain. My mum looked at me worriedly and mouthed ‘meningitis’. She had had a lumbar puncture, and her poor little hands were being invaded by needles sucking away at her blood.

I looked it up and was terrified at what I saw. I really hope this baby doesn’t have meningitis. Here’s what I found out that scared me so much:

The first line on the NHS website read like this: Most people make a full recovery from meningitis, but it can sometimes cause serious, long-term problems and can be life-threatening. My fearful mind only read the last few words. What were these life-threatening complications?

  • Partial or total hearing loss
  • Epilepsy
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • Co-ordination and movement problems
  • Learning difficulties and behaviour issues
  • Total or partial vision loss
  • Loss of limbs via amputation to stop the spreading of the infection
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Kidney problems

The thought that anyone, particularly a baby and their family may have to deal with this stuff, scared me immensely. Luckily, in our case, the little baby’s symptoms were recognised at a very early stage, so everything is fine now, but my heart goes out to those who are suffering the consequences of this monster, for want of a better word. The consequences really are life-changing. There is only limited treatment, such as counselling, prosthetic limbs and cochlear implants, and I hope that one day, medicine can progress far enough to find ways to reduce the risk of meningitis. Something as simple as reducing the time taken to detect meningitis (which you can read more about here: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/scientists-developing-hour-test-for-meningitis-1.682985) could have enormous advantages to a lot of people.

The little baby in India is doing fine now. It seems that there was no major problem, but it was just one of those scary and random moments that seemingly have no explanation. She is happy and healthy now, but still doesn’t have a name. There has been a huge family debate going on for the last 3 weeks and we are choosing between Adeera and Maira. Hopefully, this strong little girl doesn’t have to be nameless anymore!

By Muskaan Jonathan

Sources I used:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/complications/#treatment-and-support

https://www.meningitisnow.org/meningitis-explained/signs-and-symptoms/signs-and-symptoms-babies-and-toddlers/

Baby Adeera/Maira (?) hanging out with her older sister Dilara, who seems to have found a new toy

These are some common symptoms of meningitis that I came across when doing research