Normally when I write my blog, I just hope that my readers take time to read my posts and enjoy them. Today’s a bit different, because today I’m asking you to do something. Please, please, please sign up to be a blood stem cell and/or bone marrow donor.
Why am I asking you?
This is Adeline
She’s nearly four years old and was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow failure almost two years ago. Ever since, Adeline has been waiting for a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. Recently, it seemed a donor match had been found, but her family have now heard that this has fallen through, and once again no matches are available.
This is what Adeline’s mum has to say:
“One 3 minute phone call, I expected to get a date for transplant but instead heard the words: ‘The donors we have are not an option any longer,’ and ‘there are currently no matches for Adeline.’ It felt like a dagger in the gut and in the heart. Back to the start, just with far less hope.”
“The only way of saving Adeline’s life is a bone marrow transplant. So we need all the help and all the sign ups we can get! Please register with DKMS, Anthony Nolan or any stem cell/bone marrow registry. All it takes is a few mouth swabs and you can save a life like Adeline’s.”
90% of blood stem cell donations are done by Peripheral Blood Stem Cell collection, a straightforward process similar to donating blood, although you will need injections in the days leading up to your donation. There’s no need for an overnight stay in hospital.
10% of donations are done via bone marrow transplant. This requires a general anaesthetic and a couple of nights in hospital. You can find out more about each method of donation here.
What if I can’t donate?
Not everyone is a suitable donor due to age and/or health conditions. Unfortunately, I’m not eligible to donate due to my pituitary tumour, which is why I’m trying to help out by spreading the word and encouraging others to become a blood stem cell donor if they can. If like me you can’t donate, please share the word on social media and in person to encourage others to sign up, and consider making a financial donation to the charities that run the donor registries.
Plus, remember to wear your masks, wash your hands, and social distance to limit the spread of coronavirus. A Covid infection could be the difference between life and death for someone waiting for a blood stem cell transplant.
Please, if you can, become a blood stem cell donor
So please do consider signing up to the donor registry today. You might just save a life.
Firstly, I want to make it totally clear that I’m not advocating that people shouldn’t use painkillers to manage pain. But thanks to the current coronavirus lockdown, I’ve had a couple of situations where I couldn’t use my normal painkillers, and it got me thinking about coping with pain when you can’t use painkillers.
Then I also have an issue with very bad sinus headaches, which is a hangover from two lots of brain surgery done via my nose (transsphenoidal surgery). They get so bad that they also have the fun side effect of making me very nauseous, to the point that I have actually thrown up from them several times. They are aggravated by pollen/hayfever, so tend to get worse at this time of year. Normally, I would take paracetamol because ibuprofen doesn’t work for them… But we don’t have much paracetamol in the house, and it’s been hard to get hold of lately with the coronavirus panic buying. So again, I’ve been trying to avoid taking painkillers.
And so, I thought I’d write a post about some of the ways that I find helpful for coping with pain (especially joint pain, because that’s my most common issue). They probably won’t work for everyone, or every type of pain, but I hope you might find it useful anyway.
Coping With Pain When You Can’t Use Painkillers
I find that heat is so great for managing my joint pain. Pre-baby, I would often try to have a bath or at least a hot shower if they were playing up, as it helps the pain so effectively that I often wouldn’t need to take painkillers at all. Now I have a three-month old baby, I can’t just run off for a bath at the drop of a hat (sadly). So I use a hot water bottle or (preferably) a microwaveable wheat bag. Extra layers also works, but while it’s easy to put extra pairs of thick socks on if my ankles or feet are hurting, it’s not so easy to layer up and warm up a hip joint.
Conversely, ice can also help certain types of pain, especially sports injuries.
2. Breathing Exercises
When I was pregnant, I did an online hypnobirthing course with The Positive Birth Company. Well, actually I did about 60% of the course, because I was totally caught out by Little Man arriving three weeks early. One of the big aspects of hypnobirthing is using breathing exercises to manage pain. I found this really useful when giving birth; I think it’s particularly good for pain which is severe but comes and goes – like, say, having a baby…
3. Distract, Distract, Distract
I always find my joint pain is worst at night, when I’m in bed and trying to sleep. But actually, chances are that it’s not any worse then than it is any other time; it’s just that there aren’t any distractions to take my mind off my poor sad joints. Even something as simple as listening to music or reading a book can help take your mind off ongoing low-level pain. For worse pain, something interactive and requiring concentration is better as it forces your attention away from what’s hurting – like playing a game or reading aloud.
4. Movement and Massage
Probably depends on what’s causing your pain, but for my joint pain, gentle movement is really helpful to take the pressure off my joints. The other day, I was holding Little Man, who was finally sleeping after a very grumpy day (he didn’t poop for three days! Enough to make anyone grumpy I’m sure), and my hips were playing up so badly but I didn’t want to move him! When he eventually woke up, I went to do some chores in the kitchen and the pain in my joints improved significantly just from the movement.
Linked to this, massage can be really great for pain – although obviously some pain locations are more accessible than others.
Following on from the above, in the longer term, physio can help with some forms of chronic pain. I always assumed physiotherapy wasn’t really very effective, because I’d known a lot of people complain that it didn’t work for them. But when I was pregnant with Little Man, I actually tried physiotherapy for the first time, and I found it incredibly effective.
My hip pain got a lot worse very early on, from the pregnancy hormones (which make your joints looser) and extra weight. It was so bad that I was waking up constantly throughout the night in huge amounts of pain from my hip partially dislocating in my sleep. Then I would swap sides and sleep on the other side for a bit, until that one started hurting and woke me up to swap sides again. It wasn’t fun, although I guess it was great practice for waking up constantly at night with the baby once he arrived! In fact, even on bad nights when he was teeny tiny, Little Man woke me up significantly less frequently than my hips had done throughout my pregnancy.
It took a number of weeks to get an appointment with a physio, but I got there, did a full assessment and got several exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles around my hips, to hold the joint in place better. It was about six weeks of religiously doing the exercises before I noticed results, but the improvement was really noticeable and made such a huge difference to the rest of my pregnancy. So, if you haven’t already – I recommend giving physio a try.
6. Check Skeletal Alignment and Muscle Tension
If this one sounds super hippy-dippy, bear with me. A few years ago, I realised that my headaches (normal headaches, as opposed to sinus headaches where the pain is in the front of my face around the nose and eyes) are often either caused or at least aggravated by tension in my neck and shoulders. It could be from sleeping funny, being crouched over a laptop, or just being stressed and tensing up. Making a conscious effort to relax my neck and shoulders (maybe coupled with a gentle massage) can really help relieve those headaches.
Similarly, with my joints, I’ve realised that when I’m experiencing joint pain the first thing to do is check the alignment of the joint, i.e. are the bones lined up straight or am I sitting, moving or tensing in a way that sends pressure though my joints in an unnatural way. Because I have hypermobility, it’s easy for my joints to partially dislocate or just misalign without me actually noticing, and that can unsurprisingly cause pain.
7. Keep Active
When I was first diagnosed with hypermobility spectrum disorder (as it’s now known), the rheumatologist told me that the most important thing to keep pain at bay was to keep active and build up muscle to support my joints. At the moment, on lockdown, I’m doing yoga pretty much every day with my husband and it’s great exercise that’s very low-impact and thus kind on your joints. I definitely recommend it, and you can find specific yoga flows online that are tailored to particular issues, such as lower back pain or crappy hips (technical term).
Your top tips for coping with pain when you can’t use painkillers:
Do you have any tips or techniques for pain management/coping with pain without medication that work for you? Let me know in the comments below!
Did China have a moral responsibility to warn the international community sooner about the threat of the emerging coronavirus? Well, some people think so. But China disagrees. Perhaps because they were ON A BREAK.
Like that time where Ross decided not to tell Rachel they were still married, China kept Covid 19 on the down low, presumably hoping that the problem would somehow just go away of its own accord. And, just like Ross and his history of unwise marital choices, China too has previous for this kind of behaviour (cough cough SARS cover-up, 2002).
2. South Korea – Monica Geller
China’s little sister used to be much bigger, but lost a bunch of weight landmass to the Communists at the end of the Second World War.
South Korea has kept its coronavirus death toll low through a rigorous programme of testing, treating and tracing contacts, plus social distancing measures. This is exactly the kind of country that’s obsessed with hygiene and has 11 categories of towels.
If only the pandemic had taken place during a later season of Friends, the UK might have benefited more from the shining example of Monica/South Korea. Unfortunately, we’re still in the early seasons, with the UK in a co-dependent relationship with Joey…
4. United States – Joey Tribbiani
The USA’s response to coronavirus can best be described as… confused. Like the time that Joey got fired from Days Of Our Lives for claiming that he wrote all his own lines, Donald Trump has been called out for spreading fake news about coronavirus, such as saying that it’s a hoax and that one day the virus will just disappear “like a miracle”.
Germany reacted furiously when 200,000 American-made protective masks destined for Berlin mysteriously disappeared en route, and there are suspicions that the US government redirected them for its own purposes. I guess the United States DOESN’T SHARE FOOD PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT.
Could the US have done a better job addressing the pandemic? Well, at this juncture, it’s a moo point.
Phoebe cares a lot. That’s why she’s a vegetarian and shops at flea markets. And that’s why she’s New Zealand, which has pursued a highly-praised policy of eliminating Covid 19 transmission completely within its borders. Plus, Prime Minister Jacinda Adern gave a very Phoebe-esque speech assuring children that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are considered key workers and thus would not be affected by the lockdown. And she finished up by singing a song about a foul-smelling cat… Or so I’ve heard.
7. The World Health Organisation – Mr Heckles
No-one wants to engage with Mr Heckles, the crazy downstairs neighbour who keeps banging on the floor with a broom and shouting “Test for cases! Trace and isolate contacts! Use adequate personal protective equipment!”
Ugh, the WHO. Such a pain.
8. The Novel Coronavirus – Janice
Much like coronavirus, I’m pretty sure that Janice doesn’t have a surname.* They both seem to have the ability to pop up literally anywhere, no matter how much they’re not wanted. And once you’ve been involved with Covid 19, it seems like it’s pretty difficult to break up.
So my awesome husband came across this great recipe for an awesome chilled coffee drink you can make at home. It’s called Dalgona coffee, it’s Korean, you can make it with ingredients you already have, and it feels like something super fancy you need to go to a coffee shop for!
He got the recipe from this website and I’ll direct you there as well for the full details. Essentially you make a meringue-style coffee foam by whisking equal quantities of good-quality instant coffee and sugar with a little bit of water, until it forms stiff peaks just like a meringue. Then you dollop it into cold milk. You can either mix it in with the milk or leave the foam on top and drink the milk through the coffee foam – I recommend the latter option because not only does it taste great, but the velvety texture is very satisfying.
It’s very quick and easy, and you can make a large amount of coffee foam and refrigerate it for a couple of days to use later. We made dalgona coffee over lunch one day and it was a great afternoon treat and something a bit different to do during quarantine.
So lockdown is boring (have I mentioned that?), and we have to find ways to make it more fun. My awesome husband came up with the idea of inventing a cocktail with just ingredients we already have in the house (although, fair warning, we do have two shelves of booze in the pantry, so it’s not a particularly heavy restriction). Clearly this would be named… The Quarantini.
I suggested we should each separately come up with a recipe and swap. Originally we were both going to make our drinks on Sunday evening, but after Martin made his drinks, it rapidly became clear that having another cocktail each would result in a much higher level of inebriation than intended or appropriate for a Sunday night. So I made mine on Monday instead.
Read on for the recipes…
Martin’s Quarantini: The Dirty Artini
Named after Dirty Arty, a video game character notorious for eating tinned peaches and leaving the cans behind (among other things). Martin went with the base of a classic Martini, and a quarantine twist straight from our cupboard of canned goods. His recipe:
50ml gin (he used Roku gin, a Japanese brand)
10ml Marsala wine
10ml peach liqueur (or umeshu)
15ml tinned peach juice
The above to be stirred over ice, strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a slice of tinned peach (lockdown bonus: you get to eat the rest of the tin afterwards).
My Quarantini: The Jumbletini
Named because it was made of a total mish-mash of random booze from the store cupboard, I proudly present my recipe for a quarantini:
25ml spiced dark rum (I used Kraken rum, our favourite)
25ml lemon gin (Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle)
10ml pink grapefruit gin (from the Ely Gin Company)
10ml umeshu (Japanese plum wine which I’m obsessed with, I used The Choya Single Year)
lemonade to taste
mint leaves from the garden
I smushed up the mint leaves (technical term) and served the above over ice in our favourite sparkley whiskey glasses.
The Quarantini Challenge: Who Won?
Obviously it pains me to admit it, but Martin’s quarantini was better! My cocktail was pretty nice actually, and I would drink it again, but Martin’s was delicious, plus you got to eat the boozey peach slice at the end, which was awesome.
Have you made a quarantini? What was your recipe? I’d love to try other people’s store cupboard cocktails too!
Hi guys! I thought today I would share some of my best tips for cooking and stocking your kitchen during lockdown.
My husband is the chef in our household, while I do the baking. As I’m on maternity leave though, I’ve done most of the organising of food shops and storage.
I’m currently sat in our living room with my three month old son, who is busy doing a poo. This is a rather involved process requiring a lot of concentration, so I guess we could be here a while. I might as well do something useful with the time…
1. You Can Freeze Milk
I was surprised how many people don’t know this! But you can totally freeze fresh milk. My mum has been doing this for years to ensure the house never runs out. I currently have four spare bottles of milk in the freezer for the times when we can’t get hold of it at the supermarket. Obviously if you’re going to do this, be considerate – don’t buy up loads of milk at once, as that’s what leads to shortages. Buy a little extra and set it aside over several shopping trips. Also, fair warning: frozen milk does turn yellow, which looks slightly horrifying, but it goes white again when you defrost it.
Bonus tip: you can also freeze butter.
2. You can make bread without yeast.
I know a lot of places are experiencing shortages of baker’s yeast, but you can make delicious flatbread without yeast, such as Indian naan bread (click for the recipe) or, if you prefer something that’s a more traditional loaf, you can make Irish soda bread.
However, in actual fact you can make a lot more kinds of bread because…
3. You don’t need yeast to make yeast
You can make your own yeast with just flour and water, by capturing natural yeast from the air to make a sourdough starter. Once your sourdough starter is going, you can bake all kinds of yeasted breads and cakes from it. Plus, if you’re homeschooling kids, it makes for a great home science project!
Speaking of which…
4. You don’t need eggs (or flour) to make cake
Obviously a lot of cake recipes require egg, and there seem to be a lot of shortages of eggs at the moment. Local farm shops/veg box delivery companies are a good alternative source to the supermarket, if you live somewhere a bit more rural.
However, if you can’t get eggs there’s still plenty of easy bakes you can do without them (and if you have kids, they’ll enjoy making them too). Try making scones,* or flapjacks are a great bake if you can’t get hold of eggs or flour. You can even make meringue without egg whites. There are also lots of vegan recipes online that are egg free, so get a’googling!
5. Green lentils bulk out meat dishes
If you are trying to ration what’s in your freezer, but want to make dishes such as cottage pie or spaghetti bolognese (really anything involving minced meat), you can make your mince go further by bulking out with green lentils. Cook your ragu or sauce, add the lentils about fifteen minutes before the end, and your meal will go much further, still taste deliciously meaty, and actually be healthier as well. Triple win! Plus, kids will not notice that you’re secretly feeding them veg. Quadruple win?
6. Freeze freeze freeze
Obviously you want to be making best use of your freezer right now, and minimising the number of trips to the supermarket wherever possible. There’s a lot of stuff that you can’t just freeze – lots of fresh vegetables need blanching before freezing, which is a total pain. On the other hand, I hear that scurvy is worse.
If you’re lazy like me, you can straight-up freeze onions and peppers (chop them first) without blanching, which is handy for making fajitas and stir fries etc. Then put other veg in sauces, soups, ragu etc. which can be frozen once cooked and make for an easy ready meal for your future self.
…And that’s me pretty much done on the top tips front, so let’s finish up with a few wise words from Ryan Gosling.
* The recipe I’ve linked to suggests using egg to glaze, but you can substitute milk, or just not bother glazing!
“Well, darling, mostly I sat around the house wiping your vomit off things.”
It’s been three weeks now and I’ve left the house once for a walk and once to take Little Man to the doctor’s for his second set of vaccinations. It’s not really how I envisaged my maternity leave going. After two months, I’d just got to the point where taking Little Man out no longer felt like a huge undertaking, and I could predict how much time I would need to get us ready before leaving the house. I was just starting to think of doing some more adventurous trips out with him on my own, when coronavirus really hit and we had to stay in the house.
It’s hard not to be a bit gutted when I think of all the plans we had for maternity leave which probably won’t happen now. We were planning to take him for a couple of weeks in Ireland, drive down to Devon, we had family planning to visit from Japan in the summer, I was hoping to arrange some kind of ‘welcome to the world’ party for him… The list of cancellations goes on.
Equally, we have to get through this by staying positive and there are some positives. His dad is working from home which means he gets to spend so much more time with us, and that’s lovely for everyone (although he may not agree when he’s on a conference call and Little Man is kicking off downstairs). Plus, financially things aren’t so tight as expected with my maternity pay reduction, because we’re not going out and spending money.
Sometimes it feels a bit useless to be sat indoors, so I have to keep reminding myself that we’re at least doing our bit to try to avoid spreading this horrible virus around. We’re so grateful to all the keyworkers who make it possible for us to stay at home, from the delivery men who bring our shopping, to the medical staff on the front line who probably would like nothing more than to be sat at home with their kids every day, wiping vomit off things.
Another Public Service Announcement from the Little Man at this difficult time… Not all vomit is coronavirus vomit.
He is honestly such a comity baby, it is unreal! I had expected my baby to throw up to some extent, but he really does seem to have a very sensitive tummy because the vomiting is more or less constant – we even took him to the doctor’s and hospital when he was smaller to get him checked over because of it (at the time he was routinely projectile vomiting as well, which has fortunately reduced in frequency!). They checked him out for various things including cow’s milk protein allergy, and concluded all was well… He’s just very comity.
It’s amazing how being a parent changes your hygiene standards. Before, if got vomit on my clothes, I would of course immediately go change. But now, I know that the fresh clothes will just get covered in sick within about ten minutes anyway, so I have to admit I take a much more relaxed approach!
Today’s blog post was going to be about a totally different subject, but I’ve just seen this petition and I think it’s so important that I want to share and write about it now.
Due to Covid 19, many hospitals (not just in the UK) are restricting the presence of birth partners on wards before and after births, only allowing their presence for women in active labor. However, there is now concern that some hospitals may be considering stopping birth partners from attending at all, and requiring women to labor in hospital alone.
This is a serious cause for concern. Continuous support from a birth partner is associated with improved outcomes for women and babies, including a reduction in the requirement for interventions. Unsurprisingly, it can be difficult for women to advocate for themselves while they are in the middle of giving birth, and they need to have a supportive, trusted person on hand who can do that for them.
One of the reasons I feel strongly about this is my personal experience. When I gave birth, I was induced and I dilated extremely quickly, much faster than the midwife expected. I had been told they would check on my dilation after four hours, and they were expecting progress of about half a centimetre per hour. Until I reached 4cm dilated I was not going to be allowed gas and air, all I could have was paracetamol or an epidural. After 2 hours I was in so much pain that I asked for an epidural as I couldn’t see how I could cope with twelve hours or more of it, but no anaesthetist was available. Shortly after that, I felt my body starting to push, and told the midwife, but she didn’t believe I could be that far along. It was only because my husband was there and was insistent that they check what was going on, that the midwife looked, at which point she realised that I was fully dilated and in the process of pushing the baby out! Cue a massive panic because she was not ready for that stage of labor (and for some reason this seemed to require a lot of online paperwork) but at least I finally got the gas and air. If my husband hadn’t been there to advocate for me, god knows at what point they would have realised the baby was on its way, because I was in no position to have a debate and in the absence of any real pain relief could barely talk.
For some women, the presence of a birth partner and advocate is even more important. Black women are five times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth when compared to white women in the UK. Mixed race and Asian women also suffer a higher risk of death. These women are being let down by our health system and the professionals who attend them. They need to have the support of a trusted partner when giving birth, and are likely to be disproportionately badly affected by any ban on attending birth partners.
The irony is that in the US, the bans were enacted after asymptomatic pregnant women, who were carrying the virus without knowing, infected hospital workers during labour. But restricting the presence of birth partners obviously does nothing to reduce the risk of labouring mothers transmitting the virus – they still have to be in hospital. Instead, we would protect both women, babies and health workers far better by ensuring that UK midwives, doctors and nurses are provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect them from the risk of transmission from women or birth partners during labour. So far the government and Public Health England have been absolutely woeful at ensuring staff are protected with sufficient PPE in line with WHO guidelines. We’ve heard a lot about companies being drafted in to supply more ventilators – but PPE is just as important.
Please sign the petition here: change.orgMe and Little Man
We usually get our shopping delivered by Sainsbury’s, as doing a big food shop with a tiny baby is really a two-man job. When Sainsbury’s announced they were restricting delivery slots to priority customers only just over a week ago, this created a bit of a problem. Given that Little Man is not even three months old yet, and given my exciting litany of health conditions including reasonably bad asthma (which has conveniently started early this year, thanks pollen), we are really trying to avoid leaving the house at all.
So I went online and tried to find a local vegetable box delivery company that wasn’t completely booked up. We live in a very agricultural area, so it seems logical that you should be able to get hold of fresh eggs and vegetables without going to the supermarket. It took a while but I finally found a company that were still taking orders and put in for a box. I had actually totally forgotten about it by the time the box arrived yesterday, because we had managed to get a delivery slot with Sainsbury’s. So it was an awesome surprise! The vegetables look amazing and we got a dozen eggs as well. If you’re struggling to get food delivered, it’s definitely worth looking for veg box companies near you.