Home Again

July 28, 2008

My good friend Bendy Girl, who is also an EDS‘er, asked me to bring back some photos of my holiday. Thankfully, she didn’t specify that I had to take the pictures myself. I didn’t. All credit is due to my husband, Jaimie, who has me spoilt with his beautiful, professional photographs. We have just spent three fantastic days together in Connemara in the West of Ireland. I hope you enjoy these shots.

This was the view from my ‘hotel’ last night.

And the lovely view from my bedroom window.

My hotel for the night, with broadband connection.

A salmon jumping on the river at Ballynahinch Castle.

Galway hooker in Roundstone Bay.

Herbaceous border in restored Victorian gardens at Kylemore Abbey.

Cut turf drying out on Roundstone Bog.

Sea Holly growing on a Connemara beach.

We’ve had some very good times over the years camping in this location, especially when our children were young. On this occasion however, we only spent the last night of our holiday in a tent. The rest of the time we ‘cheated’ by staying in the luxury of the Ardagh Hotel, just outside Clifden on the Ballyconneely Road. This is a place we’ve also come to love in recent years as our bones grow older and wearier. Our two night stay this weekend included a 5-course gourmet dinner plus two superb breakfasts and the price was €149 per person sharing. To put this into perspective, it costs me at least €150 each time I have to see a specialist. I’ll leave you to guess which one leaves me feeling better.

I hope these pictures are enough to make Bendy Girl happy too!


I’m not here

July 25, 2008

I’m away. I’m off to the wilds of Connemara this morning for a few days of fresh air, walking the white beaches, eating seafood and drinking lots of Guinness. I may even dip my toes into the sea and while it’s pure agony to get into the cold, clear water of the Atlantic, the healthy feeling afterwards is magic!

Before I go, I want to wish a speedy recovery to the Distant Rambler who is stuck in hospital at the moment, following surgery. GET WELL SOON, LAURA! I’ll raise a pint to you.

Please feel free to leave me a comment as I shall check my blog while away. I couldn’t possibly leave my friends behind!


How Great Thou Art

July 24, 2008

Last night, I listened to RTE radio’s ‘Documentary on One‘ and was completely blown away by ‘The Long Goodbye’, a hugely moving documentary on Alzheimer’s disease. It was first broadcast in January 2007 and has since won a silver medal at this year’s New York Media Festival. The documentary follows the daily routine of a couple who have been married for 44 years but who’s lives have been changed dramatically in recent years, due to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Seven years ago May started mislaying her handbag and amounts of money and her husband Matt noticed that she would start to cry during the day. She was diagnosed with depression but after a year and a half, it finally emerged that May had Alzheimer’s disease.

On the verge of his retirement, Matt was now facing a new journey with his wife May, as her carer. The couple moved from their home in London back to her hometown in the midlands.

As May’s illness has progressed, the couple have swapped roles. Matt has taken over all domestic tasks, a world he never inhabited during the first few decades of their marriage. As her carer and husband, Matt acts as May’s voice and is her rock.

This documentary looks at the relationship between Matt and May, as May’s ability to communicate decreases with progression of the illness while Matt’s responsibilities for her care continue.”

Compiled and presented by Sarah Neville
Production Supervision Liam O’Brien

Click here to listen to the documentary.

RealPlayer is required to open. Fast forward to 2.23 minutes and prepare to be blown away by the power of love. And as Matt would say “play every day as it comes.” Who knows what the future holds?

With thanks to RTE Radio One.


Aychessee Sinking?

July 21, 2008

What’s that about? It took me a while before the penny dropped.

The “Aychessee” is a sinking ship according to Prof John Crown. “A suitable alternative needs to be launched before it sucks our health service and our economy down with it into Davy Jones’ Locker.”

You can read all about it here.

If you’re still confused as to what this is all about, it may be because you pronounce “H” as “Haych” in keeping with Irish ways.

Aychessee = HSE. Geddit?

It remains to be seen if Captain Harney and First Mate Drumm, will stay with the sinking ship.


Risk Equalisation

July 18, 2008

Does that affect me? The answer could be ‘”Yes”. ‘If you are old/suffering from a long-term medical condition then this week’s ruling in the Supreme Court could well end up costing you a great deal more for health insurance cover.

Risk equalisation is a scheme to ensure that community rating is implemented whereby everyone, young and old, sick or healthy, pays the same premium. It is a scheme that provides for insurance companies with fewer elderly subscribers to compensate other companies who have higher numbers of medically vulnerable subscribers. This week, the Supreme Court struck down legislation which our government had in place to ensure that risk equalisation was enforced. Up until now, this legislation placed restrictions on other insurers thereby restricting competition within the private health insurance market. The VHI is the longest serving health insurance provider and carries the largest number of elderly customers. It currently holds a monopoly with 70 percent of the health insurance market and as the state insurer, was protected up until now by risk equalisation. This week’s decision is without doubt, an embarrassment for the government and it may have serious consequences for the VHI and it’s subscribers. A more detailed explanation of the situation can be found here in this week’s online edition of The Irish Medical Times.

Competition is good but a balance has to be found whereby those most vulnerable in our society are not squeezed out of the private health insurance market. This latest development potentially represents a big upset to our Minister for Health’s plans to privatise the health service. Her future in the Department of Health, is looking more than a little bleak.


An Itchy Business

July 16, 2008

I have a problem that has me scratching my head big time. Ever heard of psoriasis? It’s an unpleasant skin condition that people tend not to talk about. Why? Because there’s nothing sexy about it and yet it has the potential to have a serious impact on people’s lives. I’ve no problem talking about psoriasis, I’ve no reason to be ashamed of it and I’m dying to find someone else who’s been down the same road.

Last January, I started to develop what looked like dandruff on my scalp. I consulted my hairdresser who recommended a dandruff treatment shampoo which she promised would be highly effective. It was useless and the scaling on my scalp continued to gradually worsen. After I’d exhausted every avenue with over-the-counter treatment shampoos, I consulted my GP for advice. He prescribed several lotions and potions but none of them had any lasting effect. Soon afterwards, I noticed that I’d developed a rash in both armpits so I went back to the doctor and came away with yet more prescriptions. When these failed to halt the rapidly deteriorating condition of my skin, I was referred on to a dermatologist. She confirmed that the skin problem is an unusual form of psoriasis, called inverse psoriasis. My sore and flaking scalp is also a form of psoriasis. Apparently, I’m in the target age bracket and with a strong family history of psoriasis, I was a sitting duck waiting for this to happen. Psoriasis is thought to be an auto-immune condition and there is also a definite genetic link to it. Frankly, my medical history is already so long, I could have done without this bolt-on extra but having said that, I’m all too aware that things could be much, much worse.

I now follow a twice daily regime of baths, treatment ointments and moisturising creams. It’s terribly tedious and time-consuming but it’s effective and as long as I follow the regime, I can keep my skin under control. The scalp condition has been another story however. It has failed to respond to the multiple treatments prescribed and at this stage, I’m getting desperate to find a remedy. So far, the dermatologist has recommended the following shampoos: Nizoral, Capasal, Elave, T-Gel sensitive and Oilatum scalp. I’ve also been prescribed Cocoid (coal tar ointment), Bettamousse (steroid mousse), and Dovenex (calcium solution) treatments. My scalp initially responds positively to every new treatment and my hopes sore only to be dashed again when it relapses shortly afterwards, no matter how long I persist with the treatment. I’m nearly driven mad at this stage with the persistent itching, dryness, flaking and soreness of my scalp. I’ve tried rubbing pure coconut oil into my scalp but again, the relief is very short-lived. I recently found an over-the-counter scalp moisturiser called Exorex. It’s an expensive product but it has calmed my scalp more than anything else so far.

At this stage, the psoriasis is having a significant impact on my life and I need to get some control over it. You could say, I’m itching to find a solution! Do you know of anyone who has suffered from psoriasis of the scalp and can you recommend a treatment that has really worked? I’ve done everything within my power to reverse the process but at the moment I’m not winning the battle. I know that a holiday in the sunshine would probably work wonders but I think what I’d really appreciate more than anything, is a long holiday from doctors.


Saving the HSE

July 12, 2008

The Health Service Exexutive (HSE) was established on January 1st, 2005, a few months after Mary Harney took over as Minister for Health. At the time she promised that the HSE would bring about a more integrated, effective and accountable health service. Three and a half years have passed and none of the promised reforms have happened. Harney is now setting out to save the HSE, from itself, by doing an about turn with it’s organisational structure. For an excellent overview of the whole situation, I highly recommend that you read this article courtesy of The Irish Times online.

With thanks to Sara Burke, journalist and health policy analyst for her superb analysis of Mary Harney’s tenure in office. It’s the best explanation I’ve seen of the so-called reform of our health service. Hats off to Sara.