Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shingles -- My Experience!

Before actually experiencing Shingles, it was rather a meaningless word -- something that had affected a few other known people and they all said it was painful, but I never thought that I would become one of its victims.  Originally, I didn't intend to write about my experience, but have been prompted to do so in the hope that someone else who is going through the same thing, will find some consolation in my words.

Please note that I have no medical qualifications and this is purely an account of my own experiences and observations.  Obviously, each case would possibly be different.

This is how it happened.  On Thursday 10 January 2013, I woke at 4am with a pain in my right eyebrow.  Yes, a pain in the eyebrow sounds strange!  It was not a throb or an ache -- it was definitely pain!  This unexplained pain continued throughout the morning and showed no signs of going away, then during the afternoon the pain extended to the outer corner of my right eye, so I made an appointment to see my Doctor the following day.  By evening, the pain was also under the bottom of my eyelid.

My Doctor told me that unexplained pain was very often the onset of Shingles, and if his diagnosis was correct, I could expect the rash to appear the next morning (it takes about 48 hours from the onset of pain).  He gave me a prescription, but said to wait until the rash appeared before getting it made up at the Chemist.

Next morning, first thing I did was look in the mirror -- no rash!  Good, I haven't got Shingles!  So I loaded the pram and set off with the dogs to deliver catalogues.  It was a hot morning and I couldn't help but wonder what could be causing this pain in my eyebrow -- surely not a tumour or something sinister like that.....  About half an hour later, I put my hand to my forehead and felt the blisters -- oh... it was almost a relief to know that it was only Shingles after all....

Went to the Chemist as soon as possible and got my prescription made up -- Valaciclorir Tablets 500mg, 42 tablets to be taken at the rate of 2 tablets three times a day until finished.  Apparently it is essential to commence these antiviral tablets within 24 hours of the rash appearing.

Internet research revealed that Shingles (also known as herpes zoster), is caused by the Varicella zoster virus, which is also responsible for chickenpox. It occurs because of a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, which remains in the nerve cells of the body after an attack of chickenpox. People who contract chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles later in life, since the virus lies dormant in the body. Fortunately, it is rare to have more than one attack of shingles.  Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. However, people who have never had chickenpox can catch the virus from another person with shingles. A person who has never had chickenpox, but comes into contact with a case of shingles, could develop chickenpox (not shingles).  For further information...

As far as I can recall, I was 14 years old when I had Chicken Pox, so the virus has been laying dormant in my body for the past 62 years!  Why has it suddenly decided to re-activate now?

I have been stunned by the number of people who, as soon as they find out that I have Shingles, immediately say "Oh, that is caused by Stress!"  Well, to set the record straight, Shingles is not caused by Stress!  Shingles is caused by the reactivation Chicken Pox Virus.  Perhaps, and I say perhaps, the reactivation of the Chicken Pox Virus may be caused by Stress, but who isn't stressed at some time or other?

At least the medication relieved the pain, but my right eye became so sore and intolerant of light, that it became impossible to read, watch TV or use the computer.  Even the light coming in through the window irritated it and at night I found I had to turn off the tiny night light I usually leave on in the bathroom.  I just needed total darkness to sleep.

Returned to my Doctor on Tuesday and he now prescribed Diclocil 500mg capsules to be taken 30 minutes before meals 3 times per day, plus Chlorsig Eye Drops to be used four times per day.  It became a full-time job remembering what to take when, so I made a chart for times each medication had to be taken.  I did not feel like eating, but with capsules that had to be taken before meals, I had to make the effort to eat something 30 minutes after taking them.

It was great to be rid of the pain and I wondered why others said Shingles is so painful.  A lot of my time was spent sleeping, and the remainder sitting in my rocking chair.  I knew that rest was essential to hasten recovery, but life was pretty boring without being able to use my eyes to do the things that interest me.  Such a waste of my precious life which is passing me by all too quickly at the best of times.  Couldn't help but wish that it was anywhere else instead of in my eye!

Arranged for someone else to do my deliveries for a week and the dogs missed their walks and outings, but they also got plenty of rest, either beside me on the bed, or in my lap on the chair. They were certainly not lacking in cuddles!

My eye was not improving, so I went back to my Doctor on Thursday 24 January, he said I had a severe case of Shingles and was also concerned about my eye, so arranged an emergency appointment for me to see my Ophthalmologist that afternoon.  Unfortunately, the Specialist confirmed that the Shingles in my cranial nerve had also affected my eye and caused my vision to deteriorate.  After having two successful cataract operations to improve my sight, it was not good news to find that I could now read one less line on the chart with my right eye.  The lost vision may return, but most probably not.  He prescribed new drops and ointment for my eye -- FML-Liquiflim Eye Drops and Zovirax Eye Ointment -- even the first application brought relief...

With my eye finally improving, I felt as though there would be light at the end of the tunnel.  The scabs on the blisters were starting to heal and the pain had gone as soon as I started taking the medication, so I was starting to feel as though these Shingles were not as painful as people would make me believe.  Little did I know what was yet to come!

Woke at 7am on Sunday 27 January to feel the nerves twitching in my right eyebrow.  It got worse as the day passed and by Monday my whole skull was terribly painful, sore and tender.  I never imagined that just washing my hair could be so painful.  Returned to my Doctor on Tuesday because I thought that perhaps I needed another course of antiviral medication, but there was no second dosage for me.  He explained that the nerve endings had been damaged by the Shingles and that the pain I was now experiencing was caused by the healing of the nerve endings, then told me that it would get better in time.  

Apparently, the more severe the attack of Shingles, the worse the damage to the nerve endings, and the older the person is, the longer they take to heal.  Well, age is against me there!

Out of curiosity, I Googled "duration of shingles" and it was only then that I discovered that it could take years!  How daunting!  Almost wished that I hadn't discovered that information, so immediately resolved to be patient and let fate take its course.

It was 21 February before all the scabs had eventually gone from my scalp and I could finally go to the hairdresser to have a long overdue haircut.  That felt good...  and I felt as though I was finally on track to start returning to normal.  Energy levels slowly improved and I gradually tried to get back into normal routine, but at the same time being conscious of not overdoing it.  

Improvement continued during March and It was good to be able to cope without the painkillers at last, but those "worms" wriggling in my head kept reminding me of their presence.  Time has moved on and it is now over 12 weeks since the rash first appeared, but it is still not completely gone.  There is a patch of rash on my forehead that keeps resurfacing, my right eyebrow is still slightly swollen and those annoying wriggling "worms" still come back to haunt me (usually late afternoon or evening), but I can live with that for how ever long it takes...

I have an appointment to revisit my Ophthalmologist in June so my vision can be re-assessed. Meanwhile, I just take each day as it comes and hope that one day I will finally be rid of the final remnants of my severe dose of Shingles.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Junk Mail

Junk Mail -- People either love their Junk Mail, or they hate it!

The majority of people have no idea of the work involved in distributing those bundles.  Because I am one of those delivery people who walks from letterbox to letterbox, I thought that the Junk Mail Lovers might be interested in discovering some of the unseen work involved in the job.

If you are a Junk Mail Hater, please spare a thought for all the efforts involved in delivering to your box before you throw it in the Rubbish Bin without even glancing through the contents.

I do both mid-week and weekend deliveries, and with Christmas quickly approaching, my loads have vastly increased -- guess you have also noticed that the bundles are bigger than ever!  This is a sample of my latest mid-week bundle which weighed in at 710 grams.  No wonder I was feeling exhausted by the time I delivered 300 bundles @ 710 grams!  i.e. over 200 Kilos of paper!
One 710 gram bundle ready for distribution

Last Monday, the driver brought two deliveries which had to be brought inside, collated and folded in readiness to be loaded into the pram for distribution to individual letterboxes.  These photos show the two deliveries.
Monday 3rd December, the first load arrived in the Morning
Monday 3rd December, the second load arrived late afternoon
The contents of those two loads had to be combined into 300 x 710 gram bundles, 16 items per bundle, to be distributed to individual letterboxes -- all that folding is very time-consuming.  Hopefully all this weightlifting will help to maintain my bone density!

The following photos show the size of loads received in previous weeks --
Monday 26 November, the first load delivered in the morning
Monday 26 November, the second load delivered mid afternoon
Monday 12 November, the first load delivered in the morning
Monday 12 November, the second load delivered in afternoon
After folding all these bundles, distribution has to be done on Tuesday and Wednesday, rain, hail or shine!!  My two dogs accompany me and enjoy riding in the pram on top of the loads.  
A fully loaded twin pram!
Normally, I can do the complete round in four loads, but the pram does have a breaking strain and the larger bundles of recent weeks, means that I have to return home to re-load and this means extra walking. Because of the weight involved, this last delivery required eight pram loads.

The dogs know the route and look forward to approaching houses where people are likely to come out and give them a friendly pat, or even a small treat! It is certainly one way of getting to know the neighbourhood.

The weekend load is usually smaller and arrives on a Friday in time for preparation for distribution on Saturday and Sunday.  Consequently, Thursday is my only truly "Catalogue Free" day of the week!

The Rewards???  Considering the amount of time involved, it certainly is not a viable proposition, however, the meagre pittance that I get paid does help to buy the groceries and that little pay packet would be missed if I were to give it up.  Greater reward is in knowing that the exercise helps to keep me fit and healthy, the dogs love their outings, and I look on it as a Community Service to all those who love their Junk Mail...  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fresh from my Garden

With a forecast temperature of 37 Celsius for today, it was important to pick my produce early while it was still in peak condition after the night air.  The following photo shows the fruit and vegetables that I picked this morning --

Fresh from my Garden -- 4 December 2012
This assortment contains Beetroot, Silver Beet, Zucchini, Tomatoes, PawPaw, Dwarf French Beans, Parsley, Mixed Combo Lettuce, and Mulberries.

The Zucchini are the first this season.  The PawPaw is only small, but I lost the bulk of the crop, including all the big ones, when the trees got stripped in an earlier winter storm.  

Another view of my home-grown produce
The Mulberries did not last long as I enjoyed them with cereal and yoghurt for my Breakfast.  Some of the Beetroot were a nice addition to the Tomato and Lettuce in my Salad Sandwich for Lunch.

It is very rewarding to enjoy eating the produce from my garden, while at the same time reducing the cost of the grocery bill.  I could not get it any fresher!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

National Wattle Day

The abundance of wattle in full bloom, magnificently displaying the green and gold colours of Australia, has prompted me to write a little about National Wattle Day which is celebrated annually on the first day of September. Acacia pycnantha, commonly known as Golden Wattle, is the national floral emblem of Australia.  
Wattle species growing on slopes of Mt Eliza, Perth, Western Australia.
There are more than 760 different types of wattle across Australia, but Acacia pycnantha is an evergreen spreading shrub or small tree which grows in the under storey of open forest, woodland and in open scrub in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. When in flower, the golden wattle displays the national colours of green and gold.
Wattle in Bushland of Kings Park, Perth.
Because Acacia pycnantha is not a native of Western Australia, I have photographed a few of our local Wattles which are equally as impressive with their golden blooms.
Sandpaper Wattle (Acacia denticulosa)

Flat-leaved Wattle (Acacia glaucoptera)
Prickly Moses (Acacia pulchella)
As one species of a large genus of flora growing across Australia, the golden wattle is a symbol of unity. Wattle is ideally suited to withstand Australia’s droughts, winds and bushfires. The resilience of wattle represents the spirit of the Australian people.

The resilience of Wattle is demonstrated in this regrowth after Kings Park Bushfires.
Uses of the Golden Wattle: The Indigenous people of Australia soaked the gum of the golden wattle in water and honey to produce a sweet, toffee-like substance.  The tannin from the bark was known for its antiseptic properties. Colonial settlers cultivated the golden wattle using the bark in the tanning industry, the gum for glues and the blossom for its honey. In recent times, the golden wattle has been used as a symbol of remembrance and reflection. On national days of mourning, for example, Australians are invited to wear a sprig of wattle.
Acacia anthochaera
Wattle species
Acacia pycnantha enjoyed popular acceptance as Australia’s national flower for much of this century but it was not proclaimed as the national floral emblem until 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary. Four years later in 1992, the first day of September was formally declared National Wattle Day.
A tall species of Wattle growing between the Gum Trees.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Castaways Sculpture Awards 2012

The fifth annual Castaways Sculpture Exhibition was held under cloudy skies on the Rockingham foreshore in May 2012 and attracted large crowds who came to view the various artistic creations on display.  This event highlights the importance of recycling and sustainability as all artworks in this outdoor exhibition must have a recycled component.  The photos below are just a few examples of the way various artists have expressed their message about recycling and concern for the environment.

Made from recycled metal.  The rustic medium utilised in these sculptures arises from the artists love of all things old and antique, together with his inspiration from the bush which has enabled the transformation of scrap metal into these works of art. Winner of the 'People's Choice' award and my personal favourite because I love Grasstrees and would be more than happy to have this sculpture in my garden.
Made from recycled plate steel. Through the use of hard edges, straight lines and organised components, this work demonstrates the structural imposition created by our expanding world of industry and commerce on the fragile and delicate system that is the natural world. It is a metaphor for a modern way of life. Take a step back however and 3990 identical individuals work together in a free flowing and natural form.
Fish... and it was THIS big!
Made from copper and aluminium, the artist's inspiration was from the sea and the enjoyment received from it, together with the wish that our coast remains unspoilt for future generations.
Sprung Trap
Made from steel, aluminium, plastic and stainless steel.
Years of over-fishing saw the demise of crabs in Cockburn Sound. Stocks have now recovered.
This recycled crab trap will ensure the survival of the species by not catching any crabs.
It's all about the View
Made from recycled steel, this work represents Man's need to have the best views of the coast,  building large apartments as close to the ocean as possible. Ironically the construction of these towers impacts heavily on the environment and changes the natural beauty of the coastline forever. At what environmental cost to everyone does the views of the lucky few come with? Have we neglected to realise we are slowly destroying what we are setting out to embrace?
A Snail with Tales
Made from Aluminium, litho plate from 'The West Australian', rubber inner tube, and drink cans,
the snail writes a  message about recycling with its tail.
Cause for Concern
Made from discarded plastic packaging and aluminium items attached to steel wire frames,
to convey the way our world is being polluted by packaging and discarded items that overwhelm life particles.
Made from recycled woollen blankets, the life-size figures have been modeled on two students in the sculpture class, patterns made, then blankets cut and sewn to size as casings representing body forms
for this life-size figurative sculpture.

This is just a sample of the photos I took at the Castaways Sculptures Awards and it is not possible to display them all here, however the full album of my photos can be viewed at:--
Hope you find them interesting. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Success -- Just what does it mean?

Recently I saw a sign in a shop window -- the message was simple -- "Success is doing the best you can with whatever you have".

Success means different things to different people, and each will have their own interpretation of its meaning, but I reckon that message on the sign board sums it up pretty well...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Personal Record!

I always enjoy a good cup of tea and for many years I have been accustomed to having an average of four cups per day.

That enjoyable cup of tea no longer became palatable when I was struck by a recent virus. Although I consumed endless glasses of water, I had no desire at all for my good old cup of tea. My family concluded that I really must be sick to go 'cold turkey' without my addictive cup of tea.  It surprised me too and finally after a full five days, my desire for tea returned and I knew I was on the road to recovery.  Five full days without a cup of tea is certainly a personal record for me!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When the Earth Trembles!

This morning the Heavy Earthmoving Equipment and big Roller re-commenced work for the next phase of the construction of the nearby carpark.  Sure enough, Dusty sensed the earth trembling and started to stress.  I quickly got his Thundershirt and put it on firmly to comfort him (actually it is a very firm fit now because he badly needs clipping and it is surprising how much tighter the Thundershirt is now with the longer wool underneath).
Once again I was very satisfied with the results as he quickly calmed down and relaxed back into being his normal self.
The poor little fellow has been so patient over the past four days and has literally spent hours and hours on the bed beside me as I fought off some virus, so now it is my turn to give him whatever comfort I can.  Dogs are such loyal and faithful companions and sense when we are not well, so I am very appreciative of my Dog and his Thundershirt.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thundershirt passes Fireworks Test!

Time for an update on the results achieved using a Thundershirt to quell Dusty's anxiety, as mentioned previously in an earlier Post.  Now that the heavy earthmoving equipment has ceased working for the time being, Dusty has been calm and relaxed without having to wear his Thundershirt.  

Dusty wearing his Thundershirt to calm his anxiety

When I read that we were to have three consecutive night's of local Fireworks, I made a mental note to be prepared and put his Thundershirt on in readiness.  Friday night arrived and I forgot!  I was sitting at the computer when the first "Bangs" went off.  Dusty jumped up and was scared and frightened, so I quickly put his Thundershirt on, making sure it was fitted snuggly, and he soon calmed down then got back into his chair and went to sleep.

On the following two nights, I was prepared and got his Thundershirt on before the Fireworks commenced.  He stayed calm and didn't even take any notice of them, so I was pleased with the results and feel that the Thundershirt was a good investment.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Illyarrie or Red-capped Flowering Gum (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

The Illyarrie or Red-capped Flowering Gum is one of the prettiest of the flowering trees and is highly worthy of a mention in this blog. This Eucalyptus erythrocorys which is a native of Western Australia is currently in flower, the bright red-capped buds and brilliant yellow blossoms are spectacular, as shown in these photos.

Illyarrie (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

The tree is of medium height (3 - 8 metres) with generally smooth cream bark, and grows on sandy soil with limestone ridges or outcrops.  The foliage is dark green with typical eucalyptus shaped leaves. 

General view of Illyarrie Tree (sorry I am unable to rotate it)

The flowers are preceded by large squarish red-capped buds. These caps fall off as the yellow flower emerges.       
(Please keep scrolling down after photos because I am unable to remove the blank spaces).
Red-capped buds of llyarrie (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

Red-capped buds of llyarrie (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

The flowers are usually in groups of three and each may be 7 cm in diameter with four tufts of golden stamens  at the corners.  Bees are attracted to these flowers.

Flowers and Buds of llyarrie (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

Bees love flowers of llyarrie (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

After the flowers, come the fruit -- these are very large woody seed capsules and are so heavy that the tree is often boughed down with weight and prone to breakage in windy conditions. 

Large woody Fruits of llyarrie (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

Propagation of this stunning tree is from the seed which germinates readily.

Flowers and Buds of Illyarrie (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Exotic Night Perfume

Queen of the Night Cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

The slightly humid night air was filled with exotic perfume from the amazing Queen of the Night Cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) last night.  These spectacular flowers only last one night and are fully opened after 10:00 pm which is the best time for viewing.  On this occasion a dozen blooms were open and waiting to be enjoyed.  I expect to have another eight blooms out tonight. These are some of the photos taken last night as I savoured the perfume.

Queen of the Night Cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

Queen of the Night Cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) 

As dawn breaks next morning, the majestic flowers hang limp and exhausted as they wither away after their night of glory.

Also flowering in my garden last night and adding their own perfume to the night air were the Spathiphyllum Sensation (Giant Peace Lily) and the two Frangipani pictured below.

Tropical Frangipani

Pink Frangipani