Health Notes

Thoughts On My Brother’s Last Illness

black and white photo of two siblings holding hands in warm clothes outside on a lawn

When the father of a dear friend died some years back, we talked about the words we use – ‘death’, ‘dying’, ‘passing on’ and so on – and how they made us feel. Which was at best passive, but more a sense of being disconnected – totally cut off from people who had been with us all our lives.

I talked to others including the father of a small boy killed in a coach crash far from home. To help his mourning sister, they designated a particular star as his so she could look up on clear nights and see her brother’s star sparkling. The notion that the people we love go star travelling still comforts me – fanciful perhaps but a way of keeping some connection with the person who’s died and their place in the universe.

My younger brother Simon died very recently after months of pain and suffering from cancer and Parkinson’s disease with other complications. He was at home and we watched as this intensely strong vibrant person declined. It was very distressing, and increasingly took over our minds every hour of the day and often night. Now his children – they’re grown ups in their thirties but he always called them ‘the kids’ – and I are in that strange state swinging between relief that his suffering has ended and unruly emotions of all kinds, laced with deep tiredness both in our bodies and minds. Read More…

You Need To Know About Blood Clots

DVT Deep Vein Thrombosis vector graphic written on a post it note in multicolours and on blue background

This week’s headlines shouted about the increased risk of abnormal blood clotting – venous thromboembolism (VTE) – in the lungs of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. A key trigger seems to be the cytokine storm where the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body. Widespread inflammation ensues which damages veins leading to clots. So COVID-19 patients in ICU are now routinely given an anticoagulant to thin the blood (low molecular weight heparin or LMWH). Together with much decreased use of mechanical ventilators in favour of less invasive Cpap machines (which blow air into the airways to help breathing), this appears to have significantly reduced the death rate.

In fact, all patients in ICU and in hospitals generally are known to be at risk for clots: deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which usually occurs in the calf or thigh, and pulmonary embolism (PE), in the lungs. Underlying causes include physical trauma, surgery and prolonged immobility. Read More…

Helping Hands With Gloves In A Bottle

Gloves in a bottle

When repeated intensive hand washing became mandatory in March, a friend phoned me in distress about her very dry hands, which had become red, chapped and sore. It wasn’t just her but also her grown-up children – she thought there might be a genetic component in their sensitive parched skin. My instant response was: ‘get Gloves In A Bottle – now!’ She ordered supplies from Victoria Health and a week or so later reported that this barrier hand cream had ‘worked miracles’ for all of them.

I was glad but not surprised. Over the years, I have distributed ‘Gloves’ to lots of people including farmers in the West Country with weeping swollen red knuckles and hands.  More recently, I gave some to the team of wonderful district nurses looking after my very ill brother at home in Somerset. They were amazed that I knew about it – ‘we thought it was just nurses who used it,’ one told me – and delighted to have supplies to supplement their solo precious bottle, kept at HQ. Importantly for nurses and other healthcare workers (and many of us now), research shows that, correctly applied, using Gloves doesn’t suppress the activity of a hand sanitizer. Read More…

Cancer Charity Look Good Feel Better Launches Virtual Workshops

yellow background with a simple vector smile and the word smile below it

Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is the beauty and fragrance industry’s flagship initiative, organising free workshops in over 140 hospitals and cancer centres nationwide to help people with cancer overcome the visible side effects of treatments, such as skin issues and the loss of eye brows and lashes. It’s been one of our favourite charities since it started 25 years ago, about the same time as Beauty Bible.

I know from friends who have been through the gruelling regime of cancer treatment just how important it is to be able to look more like themselves. One of the most touching stories I heard was from a husband who dropped his (initially reluctant) wife off at a LGFB workshop to learn make up techniques. When she came out looking stunning he was so delighted that he wept. “I’ve got my wife back,” he told one of the organisers. Read More…

The Clever Medicinal Plants That Go Where They’re Needed

Close up angle shot of a sunflower head

There’s a family of medicinal herbs called adaptogens, a name that gives you a clue to what they do. Extracts from these plants support your body’s resilience and ability to adapt to physical and mental stress. They act on multiple parts of the body at the same time, raising what is low – eg energy – and lowering what’s high – eg stress.

For millennia, adaptogens have been part of the natural pharmacopeia in traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda – where they are still much used in the present day. Apparently, these herbal pharmaceuticals were first studied in the West during World War II when scientists were looking for a superhero supplement to help pilots fly better, faster, longer. The term ‘adaptogen’ was first used in scientific literature in 1957 by Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev.

According to Master Herbsmith Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs, adaptogens are more than ever relevant to help us cope with the pressures bearing down on us at the moment. He explains that ‘adaptogenic herbs are said to have a normalising effect on the body and mind, reducing the negative changes that can happen in your body in response to stress.’ Read More…

Hayfever Alert

Close up angle shot of a sunflower head

Pollen is flying around right now and many of us are suffering symptoms of hayfever, an allergic reaction to pollen. But with Covid-19 on everyone’s minds, there can be confusion in distinguishing the underlying cause of respiratory symptoms.

Read More…