Beware of This !

tick-1 0Most dog and cat owners are familiar with this creature. It is, of course, a tick but it as partial to humans as it is animals. I have lived in one of our National Parks for the last 30 years and during that time I have run across most of the heathland and woodland within a radius of 15 miles. There was a time when I used to run fast enough to avoid having flies gather around my head as I went but these days they not only keep up but frequently decide to hitch a ride. During these years I have had dozens of tick bites from the little critters that I picked up on my run. I am told that I am one of those unfortunate people who seems to hold a great attraction to mosquitoes and ticks. They home in on me with unerring accuracy so it is usual for me to end the season with at least one tick bite. 15 years ago having taken a short cut through ferns after having badly twisting my ankle on a run I took no less than 11 ticks from my legs a couple of days later. I usually discover them when they start to itch. 

What a lot of people fail to realise is, not only are they absolutely everywhere in the UK but some carry a particularly nasty disease called Lyme disease. I have manged to avoid infection over the years but my wife has not been so lucky. Lyme disease can be fatal or permanently paralyze you if it is not recognised and treated quickly. We were on holiday in Spain some years ago when my wife complained of an irritation at the back of her knee. It was a tick bite and by this time the tick was quite large. I removed it carefully with tweezers. I usually smother the tick in toothpaste first to make it loosen its grasp. You have to be careful so as not to leave the head in which would go septic. I kept an eye on my wife's bite. She began to feel a bit feverish after a few days and I noticed that an increasingly large purple/red ring was spreading from the the bite area, a sure sign of Lyme disease. We immediately got her to the doctor and she was treated with anti-biotics. My wife had picked up the tick in our garden just before leaving for our holiday, she believes, when putting out the washing. The conventional advice is to ensure that when you go into fields of long grass, heath lands, or wooded areas you should tuck your trousers into your socks. I don't do that but I am well aware of any unusual itch on my skin and immediately inspect it for bites.  I


Irregular heartbeat

heart beatSince writing the article below I have  come across quite a lot of people that seem to have a similar condition to me but have done nothing about it. Clearly I have advised them to get checked out. Who knows, I might have saved them from the consequences of ignoring the effects of this dangerous condition. Apart from the treatment of the heartbeat itself, either through medical intervention or medication, there is the issue of ensuring that the blood is conditioned to prevent clotting. The tradition way of doing this is by the use of warfarin, a therapy that I have been on for several years. It is not ideal as you have to have regular bloods tests to ensure that you are within the prescribed range. Your INR ( as it called) can be affected by diet so you have to be careful over sudden changes in food. Furthermore you have the risk of bleeds through incorrectly conditioned blood. a problem which in itself can be very dangerous. I was pleased to read that a couple of new drugs have been licenced and are about to appear on the prescription lists. These do not require blood tests and nor are they affected by diet. In short they have very few side effects. The two drugs are: Pradaxa, which has to be taken twice a day and Rivaroxaban which only has to be taken once. At the moment as my warfarin therapy is very stable I am going to remain on it. I generally only have to be tested every 4 months. However, I will be asking my doctor for Rivaroxaban once it has had a period of being used widely. I understand that Predaxa cannot be prescribed for those that have a leaky heart valve.

Quite recently I read about a new device called the Watchman. This device is inserted into the heart to cover a small pocket called the left atrial appendage (LAA). It appears this small blind alley in the heart is where blood will pool if the heart beats irregularly and from which small clots can break off causing a stroke. More details on this can be found by clicking the folowing link   (Watchman Device - click here.) 

Also of interest to me was an article that I discovered in Athletics Weekly which firmly indicated that people who, as young endurance athletes, trained a high intensity heart rate stood a high risk of contracting Atrial Fibrillation later in life. That is exactly my circumstances and I have always suspected that my athletics career ( modest though it was ) had something to do with it. Those of you interested in the whole article can access it by clicking on this link.


In recent years I have found myself in notable company. People who have an irregular heart beat. Tony Blair, Bill Beaumont, the former England Rugby captain to name just a couple that have been troubled by this very common complaint.


Hospital Health Care.

red cross24 years ago on Good Friday my father had a heart attack and was taken into hospital. He died a few days later leaving me with the strong feeling that he was failed by the NHS because it was holiday time and the hospital was not staffed the way it would have been during a normal week. Instead there seemed to be a large number of young inexperienced doctors and no Consultant.

Naturally it has left me with a feeling of inadequacy. I was unable to influence things at the time and that when my father needed me most I was unable to look after him. Such thoughts are futile of course but understandable. I didn’t ask all the right questions nor push hard for the things that might have made a difference. Back then most of us were just not used to making a fuss. At such times we put our complete trust in the nurses and doctors and did not question their judgement. Knowledge and experience are valuable commodities at such times and I like to think I am better equipped now.

It seems I am far from alone in these concerns and feelings. It was not too long ago that businessman Gerry Robinson made a series of programmes on trouble shooting big organisations. He looked at the way hospitals are run and at the time made a number of insightful suggestions about the particular hospital that he was using as his test case. I seem to recall that he had considerable trouble trying to get the operating theatres fully used throughout the night time and weekends, despite the long waiting lists. The causes were largely administrative and the arrogance and lack of cooperation from the professionals.

Much of our world today runs on a 24/7 basis supermarkets, banking, online shopping, services which we don’t often need to access immediately but do so for our own convenience. Hospital health care is very different. Sometimes we need it immediately and it is not always through the route of A&E.

Recently I read of one case where an elderly lady, admitted as an in-patient for a relatively minor operation, declined rapidly in the ensuing 24 hours. The junior doctor at the time explained that her underlying cancer was almost certainly the cause and that she would be unlikely to live throughout the next 36 hours. It was a Sunday and the Consultant was not in the hospital but on holiday. The junior doctor displayed a “shrug of the shoulders” attitude, seemingly preferring to let a patient die than disturb the holiday of a Consultant. Dogged persistence with help from some of the similarly concerned nursing staff led to the Consultant, who was on call, returning to the hospital. He immediately realised that the essential medication normally taken by the patient had been stopped for the operation and not re-started again. The elderly lady, I am assured, would certainly have died over the next few hours. She lived to tell the tale.

I wish I had shown similar dogged determination 24 years ago. If a similar thing happened again then I like to think I would. However, I also like to think that 24 years later it wouldn’t be necessary but something tells me it might.


Cardio Risk Calcultor

meRAjPEAre you at risk of a heart attack or stroke? Try this risk calculator devised by the University of Nottingham. Like all these things they are merely to be used as a guide and not as a definitive indication. It will merely tell you if you should have an informed discussion with your doctor on ways to minimise your risk. CLICK HERE FOR CALCULATOR

Please login to make comments.