Home Life Medical Rants

October update

You people are never satisfed. You complain that I don’t update this journal as often as you’d like but when I ask you if you’ve seen my latest update, you admit that you haven’t been reading it that often. Make your minds up.

Any road up, things have been ticking along slowly here apart from the obligatory busy weeks at work.

Sam, according to the medical profession, still has TB. We went to see the director of Disease Control at the local hospital last week to get some information. Both doctors we have see so far have been presenting this as if Sam was a ticking timebomb of TB germs ready to explode at any given moment and infect the whole planet with disease. All because the skin test comes up positive. The X-Ray is clear, the blood results are clear, all her vital signs show that she’s healthy. If she hadn’t have wanted to volunteer at the school, she wouldn’t have had to go through all of the tests and would have gone through the next few decades never even wondering about TB.

According to the medical guidelines, the next step is to put Sam on a 9-month course of drugs called INH. According to the medical guidelines, this drug has been proven to prevent the development of TB in mice (and a few of hundred human subjects). But, the effectiveness of this drug wasn’t tested by taking a skin test before the drugs and then one after. Oh no…the effectiveness was deduced by the fact that none of the test subjects developed TB symptoms after taking the drug. So, Sam will go on the course (did I mention that they have a potentially hepatoxic side-effect ?) and that’s it. No test afterwards. Any skin test will always come up positive because of the BCG. For crying out loud, make the connection. Think about it. We’ve come from a country where the occurrence of TB is considerably lower than, say, Asia where a lot of immigrants into the Bay Area come from. We’ve come from a country where they regularly vaccinate children during their school years with the BCG vaccine. One fact that they keep coming back to is that the skin test came up larger than usual. We put this down to the simple fact that although the test guidelines state that the skin should not be covered with a plaster, the nurse did it anyway. Rachel and Joanna, when they had their tests, were told that they shouldn’t have a plaster.

My brother mailed me the following link from the BBC News website which states that a new study has shown that the BCG vaccine may actually be more effective than previously thought.

The doctor has said that, because Sam doesn’t fit into any of the categories that would normally mean a strong need to go on INH and she is perfectly healthy, he will support us if we decide not to take the medicine.

OK, enough about TB.

As I said, work has been busy. Sam continues to volunteer at the school and has had a bit of a shock about the state of the education system. Both Rachel and Joanna are covering work that they have already done in the UK and we’re starting to get concerned about whether it’s enough to keep Rachel occupied. Joanna’s teacher doesn’t seem to have the time to cover much during the lessons and both Rachel and Joanna’s teachers are in their first year of teaching. It’s not filling us with a great deal of confidence. Still, we’re getting the education system we’ve paid for. In the meantime, Rachel and Joanna are making friends and it’s good to get them into the routine. It’s great that they’ve settled in easily ( as we thought they would ).

A minor note of interest…regular readers of this blog may remember the dancing lady at the Social Security Office. I had the good fortune to see her in our local supermarket the other day. She was harassing one of the assistants about the quality of the watermelons. Again, I avoided all eye contact and backed away slowly.

We went to see Wallace and Gromit last weekend. A good time was had by all. Even the Americans were laughing at it. I found out that the only thing they had to change was the word “marrow” and replace it with the word “melon” because nobody here knows what a marrow is.

This weekend was the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin festival.

Halloween is celebrated big time here. All of a sudden, you’ll find shops festooned with spiders, Freddy Krueger and costumes. We’ve been invited to a fancy dress party. Rachel is going as a vampire, Joanna is going as a pumpkin, Sam is going as a mediaeval serving girl. I’ll probably go as an out-of-luck, depressed support engineer. All the supermarkets have been stocking bags of sweets ready to give to kids who are trick-or-treating. Apparently, the standard practice is that you leave your porch light on if you want visitors. I may be taking the bulb out.

Half Moon Bay is on the coast. There seems to be only three ways to get into the town. The whole of the Bay Area was using them. It took about 90 minutes to go 10 miles.

Along the same road to get into Half Moon Bay, there are a couple of pumpkin farms which have pony rides and celebrations. We stopped there for an hour and played. The girls had a ride on the ponies and we all got a hay ride in the back of some 1950s truck. It was an interesting experience because we were sharing the truck with a Mexican family. It felt like a border crossing but without US Immigration waiting at the other side with rifles.

Finally, an amusing misunderstanding ( based on our accent ) while we were waiting for the pony rides…

There was a lady standing close to the queue but we weren’t sure. “Are you queing ?” we asked.

“I’m not Cuban. I’m Columbian”.