Something Medical

Lactose Intolerance.

This post may come under the category of ‘too much information’ for some readers, but I have published it anyway, as it may be helpful to those experiencing the same symptoms.

During the peak of the heatwave this summer, when it reached 39.4 C (103F) in Beetley, I started to feel quite ill. I had a very upset stomach, and could keep nothing inside me for any length of time. That developed into almost permanent Diarrhoea, and could not be controlled by the usual medications like Immodium. I thought it was because of heatstroke, and expected it to go away when the weather cooled down. But it didn’t.

I still had my appetite, but became worried about eating anything as I could not risk being too far away from home, day or night. Following two weeks of this, I got an appointment with my doctor which resulted in tests on stool samples and urine. When they came back indicating nothing specifiic or worrying, my doctor confessed she had no idea what might be causing it.

It carried on for another few weeks, and it looked as if I might have to go into hospital for tests on my stomach and bowel. Then Julie suggested that it might be Lactose Intolerance, a reaction to eating and drinking dairy products. I was known to eat cheddar cheese on an almost daily basis, as well as being partial to drinking milk when I was thirsty. So rather than face the insertion of cameras and other unpleasant tests that might be necessary, I agreed to try cutting out dairy.

Out went my beloved cheese. Semi-skimmed milk was replaced by a non-dairy milk substitute for use in tea and on cereals. That tasted rather strange at first, but I got used to it in three days. After those same three days, the problem was gone. We concluded that Julie had been correct, and at this late stage in my life I had suddenly developed Lactose Intolerance.

Then I had to start looking carefully at what I was eating. A momentary lapse with a real cream cake had me up half the night, and I could no longer enjoy my one pizza a week, as the base was covered in cheese. Lasagna was no longer an option, and creamy sauces on Pasta Carbonara and similar meals were now a no-no. Recipes for home-cooked food had to be amended, and buying any pre-prepared meals involved looking at the ingredients label in fine detail.

Some months on, I am basically a non-dairy person. I have got used to that milk in my tea, and discovered Oat Milk, which is delicious on cereals or as a drink. (Not so good in tea, I would avoid using it for that.) There are Vegan cheeses that simulate the taste and experience of eating cheese, though they are best used with other ingredients, as they are not convicing eaten on their own. Some have a ‘oily’ constistency, others replicate the taste better but are still obviously ‘not cheese’. They are also considerably more expensive. (I also tried whole Soya Milk and Coconut Milk, but neither were acceptable to my taste.)

Whatever the cons of this dairy-free diet, it has to be better than the alternative. And there is also a ‘cheat’, though that is not to be used too often. Tablets are available online that can ‘pause’ the side effects of eating cheese, cream, or any dairy product. So if you want to enjoy a pizza, or eat out in a restaurant without worrying about what’s on the menu, just take one shortly before eating, and you will have no after-effects at all.

For anyone thinking they might have a similar problem, or if you just want to cut out dairy from your diet, here are some links. I am not promoting any brands or receiving anything to mention them. They are just to give you some idea what is available.

Ollie: Treatment Complete

Yesterday, Ollie had the last of the medication for the current round of treatment.

He has had a lot of tablets, both antibiotics and steroids, as well as daily ear drops for some time now.

We finally managed to get him to swallow the tablets with no fuss, by concealing them in a small chunk of Brie. He lets me give him the ear drops without resistance, though he flinches every time I insert the tube deep into his ear.

I would flinch too.

His fur is slowly growing back, but some of the bald patches are still clearly visible. The head shaking has stopped, and he has been sleeping and eating well.

Once the steroids are out of his system by the weekend, I can start to give him his Arthritis tablets again. Despite being stiff-legged now, he still manages his walks.

Earlier this week, he even chased a Muntjac deer into some reeds by the river, and the animal escaped Ollie by running through the water and leaping out onto Hoe Rough.

On the 12th of February, Ollie will be 10 years old. Around 80 in human years, for his breed.

You can bet he will get a birthday tribute!

Vitamin B: An Update

In June, I wrote this post about taking Vitamin B tablets to ward off biting insects.

Vitamin B, and Biting Insects

Three months later, and close to the end of ‘the biting season’, I have a very positive update.

Since publishing that post, I have had just FOUR insect bites, including the one mentioned in June. Compare this to the regular 3-4 bites I used to get almost every day, even when I was wearing some heavy-duty insect repellent.

Regular readers will know that I walk my dog Ollie every day without fail. Those walks include a long riverside path, as well as woodland areas in the shade. Both of those locations are favoured by the usual midges and mosquitoes that have always craved my blood.

Even though I have still been able to see and hear those insects over the past three months, I have been unaware of any bites whatsoever, while out in the countryside. In fact, I am sure the four bites I did receive were done at night in the bedroom, when I was asleep.

Whatever bit me must have been desperate, and ready to overcome the effect that Vitamin B has on my skin.

My conclusion is that the experiment has been a SUCCESS, and I will continue to keep taking my daily tablet of Vitamin B. Especially as a year’s supply only cost me £7.99.

Blogging on a Tablet

This is a blog post about nothing more than blogging, and having to do that on a small device after years of using a PC.
With decorating going on, using the small office room is not an option today.

So I have retreated into the living room, and for the first time, I am attempting to do my blog and emails using a Tablet, specifically the Amazon Kindle Fire.

Going from a bright 24-inch monitor to a so-so 10-inch screen is a big jump for me. And having to use the irritatingly sensitive keypad device instead of hammering a keyboard is very frustrating. I make endless mistakes, even more so as the device keeps using its own suggested words, instead of those I wanted to type.

Over the years, I have realised that many of my fellow bloggers are happy to use ‘pads’ to write their blogs on. Some even use mobile phones, which sounds incredible to me. The tiny print on Tablets and phones is at the limits of my failing eyesight, so I take off my metaphorical hat to those of you who manage this every day.

Until the painter is finished, this will be my only blog post today.

Then I will return to the PC, and count my blessings.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

When I got up this morning, I had to open a new packet of the anti-histamine tablets I take every day. Wrapped around them in the box was this tightly-folded information sheet, which I have unfolded. I didn’t bother to change the photo to portrait orientation, as I doubt anyone is actually going to read it. (But if you want to, you can enlarge the photos, and incline your head.)

The Front.

The Back.

Two pages of closely-typed words, containing charts, ingredients, side effects, contraindications, and warnings of all kinds, as well as a disclaimer. They are inserted into the tiny carton in such a way as to make it impossible to slide out the pills without revealing the sheet around them. This got me thinking of course. Every packet of tablets we have in the house comes with a similar sheet inside. Whether Paracetamol for headaches and fevers, or Ibuprofen for muscle and joint pains, whatever type of off-the-shelf drugs bought legally in a chemist’s, shop, or supermarket, they have to contain such a sheet, apparently.

Does anybody ever read them? If you have a headache or other pain, would you really be prepared to plough through all that small print before popping the pills into your mouth, in hope of relief? If you take something every day to combat an allergy, as I do, then do you need to read about all this stuff? So what if it tells you not to take all 30 tablets at once? I was never about to do that in the first place. And if I had been careless enough to let the box fall into the hands of anyone silly enough to do that, they probably wouldn’t be old enough to understand what it says anyway.

This is a monumental waste of time and expense, as well as paper and ink. No doubt driven by some obscure laws or regulations designed to absolve the seller, and the manufacturer, of any responsibility should you fail to observe any of these warnings and instructions. The packet of tablets cost less than three pounds, and will last me for a month. That’s good value, so I am not complaining about the price. But I do wonder how much of that includes the time and money spent preparing and adding those leaflets to the millions of packets of tablets sold every day.

So I am thinking aloud about why they just don’t type some simple text onto the boxes, and cut down on the images displayed on them. Then they could do away with the nonsense of these leaflets.

Ollie and his ears

Unfortunately for them, Shar-Pei dogs have a lot of problems. If it is not their eyes, then it is their skin, or both. If none of these, you can be sure that ear trouble will arrive one day. They have tiny ear-flaps, and much of the inside of the ear is exposed as a consequence. Not unlike us humans in some respects, though of course they cannot wash them, poke fingers into them, or clean them out properly. They also run through undergrowth, rub their heads in grass, and jump into muddy ponds and streams, none of which is conducive to good ear health. As a considerate owner, you have to check their ears on a regular basis, and be prepared to clean out the unpleasant residue that sometimes builds up. When all else fails, a trip to the Vet normally results in a prescription of medicinal ear drops.

Ollie has had a few ear problems in the past. He had to have them cleaned by the nurse, and you could see him wincing as she dug deep. They sold us ear drops with a long nozzle that has to be inserted quite far into the tightest part of the ear. This is not a nice thing to do, especially when you can plainly see that it is hurting your dog. He has been free of this particular irritation for some time now, but spent many weeks enduring an annoying skin condition instead. I wrote about this in the post ‘Ollie’s Crop Circles.’ Just as that seemed to have cleared up completely, and the fur had grown back over the bald spots by the end of last week, he began to shake his head. All dogs shake their heads of course, but this was not the normal sort of occasional shake. This was intense, and carried on constantly, unless he was fast asleep.

A quick inspection of the ears showed them to be a little congested with a waxy substance, and we cleaned this out, deciding to apply some ear drops, in the same way we did it last year. It didn’t appear to help a great deal, and he continued to shake. By Wednesday, we could even hear him at night, constantly shaking as he lay on his bed. He had also ‘dropped’ one side of his head too, carrying one ear lower. A sure indication that he was feeling pain, were his constant attempts at getting attention, and rubbing his face and head around our legs. We continued with the drops, but by Thursday, one ear felt hot to touch, and was red and inflamed on inspection. An appointment was made with the Vet, for Friday afternoon.

I took him out for a walk earlier than usual, to make sure that we would be back in good time for the twelve-mile drive to Swaffham. We had left off the drops, so as not to inflame his ear further before the Vet examined him. When he saw me getting the bed that fits into the back of the car, he was beside himself with excitement, spinning in circles, and skidding on the stone tiles of the kitchen floor. He was no doubt anticipating going somewhere nice in the car, a different place to explore, and the chance to meet other dogs that he had never previously encountered. I felt very guilty, as he jumped into the vehicle enthusiastically. The Friday afternoon traffic was exacerbated by emergency roadworks on the A47, causing an unusual delay. We made it to the Vet with one minute to spare before the time of the appointment, and as he jumped out, I could see a definite look of disappointment on his wrinkly face.

Once inside, he became agitated; panting, and red around the mouth. He pressed hard into my legs, probably concerned that he would be abandoned there, to be pulled and prodded at will. He does behave well though, never venturing far from my side, and no muzzle has ever been required, so well does he tolerate the worst possible probings of the animal medics. The Vet produced an auroscope, which he pushed deep into Ollie’s ears in turn. He declared one to be free of blockage or problem, but could soon see that the other was a different story. There was a definite infection, together with an inflammation of the surrounding tissue, not helped by the constant shaking. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were prescribed, with the Vet confident that it should clear up in about a week. I paid for the treatment, and Ollie couldn’t wait to get back into the car, relieved to be departing with me, and not staying overnight in a cage.

When we got home, he ate his dinner happily, and also took his tablets from Julie, with the promise of a biscuit treat for afterwards. He soon slowed down the head shaking, and as I type this, I can hear him snoring on his bed in the kitchen. Once again he trusted us, and we didn’t let him down.

Internet Dependency

If that sounds like a disease, then maybe it should be classified as one.

I didn’t even have a computer until 2002. I took the plunge, and bought a Dell laptop, with the best specification I could afford at the time. I paid more for an upgrade from a 10gb hard drive, to a 20gb, for 256kb of memory instead of 128kb, and for a Pentium processor, supposedly maximized for laptops. It had a CD drive, but no DVD, and no wireless card, as that would have pushed it past my budget. Even that package cost me an eye-watering £1,500 then, and today I could not even give it away free.

Once I had it set up, I connected it to the dial-up Internet in my flat. That offered the not exactly head-spinning speed of 56kb/s. No option then of broadband, or any faster connection, at prices I could reasonably contemplate; I had to stay wired up, to a very long cable connector. So much for the freedom of a laptop. I started sending e mails, and surfing the ‘net, and it worked fine. Then somebody sent me an e mail with a photo attachment, and I watched as it started to download. After a full fifteen minutes, only the top inch of the large picture was visible, and it was another ten minutes before I could see what it was. If anyone sent more photos, I didn’t even bother to open them. After looking up a hotel, or holiday destination, woe betide I would like to download the brochure, pictures of the resort, or even the price list. Not unless I had a lot of time to spare.

A few painful years passed, and mobile companies introduced the broadband dongle. This small device fitted into a USB port, and replaced the tortoise-like dial-up, with an amazingly fast 3mb/s speed, based on a mobile phone contract, that surprisingly, was reasonably priced. I could hardly believe the difference. E mails flew off in the blink of an eye, photos appeared almost immediately, and web surfing became a pleasurable experience. The laptop, once only used as a last resort, had become invaluable. And even better, with the mobile dongle, I could take it anywhere. Trouble was, the specification was not capable of keeping up with advances in computing. The hard drive wasn’t even full, as I didn’t download music or films, and had never stored that many photos. But the 1.8 MHz processor, and 256kb memory could no longer cut the mustard. No You Tube, forget games, though I didn’t really play them, and before too long, even basic e mail programmes were full of spinning graphics, films clips, and zany advertisements. It was taking so long to load my e mails, I stopped bothering to look at them. I resolved to change it; even though I had paid so much a few years earlier, better ones were selling for less than £500, one third of what it had set me back.

But I knew that I would be moving the following year, and retiring from work. Might as well wait, and get the best one I could afford, in 2012. Not long after the move, I was pleased to have enough room for a desktop system. I prefer a real keyboard, and the tower systems offer better value for money for the newer high-spec computers these days. I went with Windows 7, and got a 500gb hard drive, DVD drive, i3 processor, and 4gb of memory. With a monitor donated by a friend, the whole deal came in at under £475 from Hewlett Packard. This illustrated how much cheaper computing had become, in just ten years. I signed up with BT Broadband, which I connected to the PC by cable, with a wireless option for the mobile phone and for visitors to use; and it came in handy when I got Julie a tablet. Even in rural Norfolk, I get a regular speed of 6-7mb/s, and after two years, I still marvel at the lack of delay, and the ability to use different tabs. I can listen to a song on You Tube, while I am writing about it on my blog, and at the same time, my e mails are updating. To those of you brought up with computers, this all sounds like ‘So what’, but to me, it is as miraculous as the first moving pictures, or that original light bulb.

I started writing the blog, because the computer was so easy to use, and I buy things online for the same reason. I still have lots to learn. I can never seem to be able to ‘find’ files, and have trouble locating downloads. I have stored my photos on Dropbox, but don’t seem to be able to move them anywhere else. Attaching anything to an e mail is still a major undertaking, and familiarity with the equipment has not seemed to increase my knowledge of how to use it effectively. Nonetheless, I can now enjoy computing, at least at the level of my capabilities; blogging, sending reviews to other sites, retrieving information, and being basically computer literate. The Internet has become my friend, and no longer something to avoid, or to be fearful of.

This morning, I went to check my e mails, and have a look at my blog, as I do almost every day now. Firefox took forever to appear. I suspected ‘updates’, but none were notified. When it finally loaded, I typed in the search for my Yahoo mail, and the spinning began. After almost ten minutes, there was no sign of the login page. I asked Julie if her tablet was experiencing similar problems, and she told me that she had uploaded a photo to Facebook, but it had taken a long time. I shut the tab, and typed in my blog address. Another ten minutes, and the blog appeared, minus the header photo and graphics. The computer broadband information declared a ‘very strong’ signal, so I suspected hardware or software malfunction. I did what I always do, shut it down, and walked away. I was confident that it would all be fine when I went back later to check.

It wasn’t. It was the same as before. I had uncomfortable flashbacks to the bad old days of dial-up. I couldn’t check my e mails, because the page is so graphic-heavy, and the ads are all videos, it just would not load correctly. I tried using Microsoft Explorer, in case it was a Firefox fault. I scanned the computer with the anti-virus, worried that some malicious software was attacking. I de-fragged and cleaned up files, but nothing helped. I shut it down again, and gave it one more try, resolving that it would be three goes and out. When it didn’t work, I went into the kitchen and made a late breakfast. I got ready after that, and took Ollie for a very long walk, wondering how I was going to keep in touch with everyone, update my blog, and check my online orders. I had already decided that it couldn’t be my PC, as Julie’s tablet was having the same problem, and both our smartphones were not responding either. I reasoned that I would have to spend ages on the ‘phone to BT tomorrow, trying to get them to sort out my Internet.

Across by the plum orchards, the stumpy trees were full of delicate white blossom. From a distance, they looked like small clouds, hovering six feet above the ground. The fields across Holt Road were shimmering a fluorescent yellow, as far as the eye could see; rape seed in flower. In one prepared field near the pig farm, I spotted at least a dozen rabbits scampering around. Ollie spotted them too, and gave chase enthusiastically. Hearing some squealing, I turned and saw a group of tiny piglets rushing around, playing joyously in the mud, oblivious to their fate. Somehow, the computer problems didn’t seem so important anymore. Life would go on, and it would be like it was before we had laptops and tablets. The world was becoming Internet dependent, and I was not about to let that happen to me.

I didn’t get back until after 5pm. It had been a good walk, over three hours. Before starting dinner, I checked the computer again. It was back to normal. It just needed me to take that walk.