Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Living the dream. D-blog.

Think I blew my HbA1c result. 

I've written about this before, but every three months or so I have this blood test.  It measures how well I've controlled my hard-to-control diabetes for the past 12 weeks.

As I've said, I exercise, diet and adjust insulin doses accordingly to try to achieve the impossible - an HbA1c of 6, or under.  Don't think it's ever happened.  Since I've been pumping insulin it's been around the 7.5 mark.  Still, better than it was on MDI - multiple daily injections.

And there are all those variables - stress - thanks for losing the passports, Al - heat, cold, mood, and the WTF x-factor.  Beats me if I know what it is.

My last blog was about my tendency to catch whatever's thrown my way infection wise.  (If only I'd had such skill on the basketball court - with the ball, but.)

So this is me the other night, perched on the edge of my bed, first at about 1 am.  Checked blood glucose.  15.  Seemed to match the way I was feeling: sore throat, runny nose, headache.  Bolused it down.  That is, I entered 15 into my insulin pump, which calculated the dose of insulin needed to bring the blood sugar back to the normal range.  Pressed GO.  That done, had a couple of paracetamol and fell back onto my pillow.

2 am. Same deal.  Except now my BG was 15.5.  Jeeze, I'm really sick, I thought, bolusing again.

4 am.  I woke with a sore tummy and aching calves, for some unknown reason.  And thirst. And razor blades in the back of my throat.  Checked my BG:  20.5.  Fark.  Bolused again; about 4 units of insulin.

Drank some more water to quell raging thirst.  Visited the loo.  Whilst enthroned, feeling sick and knowing this high BG was going to throw out my upcoming HbA1c - yes, I actually thought about that at 4 in the morning (another stressor) - I thought to check my 'set' - the sticky patch where the cannula is inserted into me.

Well, where it should have been inserted.  The patch was secure on my hip, but the little bit of tube had somehow popped out.  I had no idea how long I'd been squirting insulin onto my nightie instead of under my skin.

So.  Changed the set.  Bolused 4.3 units, despite my pump telling me I already had this much 'insulin on board'.  Cuppa.  Read for a bit - Nick Earls, The Fix, love it - slept for a couple more hours.

BG 9 when I finally got up. 

Time to get on with the day?  Nah.  Too sick.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A bit mental.

Home sick today.  Had about two days without illness. last week.  The cold I'd developed on the last day in Saigon was over.  The inevitable bronchial cough/no voice/sore throat thing had finally gone.  Friday arvo, last period, and I'm strolling around the year 10 class room, TGIF-ing in my head, when one dripping young man requests tissues, miss.

Now I have been known to spray around a toxic student with Glen-20 - kills 99 percent of airborne viruses - but thought it was a bit early in the year to pull that one. 

'You really shouldn't come to school when you're that sick, Jarrod,' say I, trying to hand him tissues whilst keeping out of the germ zone. 
'I wasn't sick this morning, miss,' he snuffles, eyes and nose simultaneously streaming.
'Well, you should go home instead of infecting us all.'

Sound callous, don't I? But it's all said in good humour and Jarrod returns to his seat with his soggy tissues.

'Anyway, I've gotta work after school,' he says.
'Where at?'

Great.  Infect the entire neighbourhood.

Come Sunday, I'm shaving my 83 year old dad's face, trimming his hair, as you do when you're that daughter, when I get that feeling in the back of my nose.  Avert my head to sneeze several times, razor in my right hand, left hand resting on dad's bald pate.  Jeeze, I think.  If dad gets this cold...

He's not a well man and he's just out of hospital after having surgery.  But it's been a couple of days now and he's not showing any symptoms. 

It's a bit of a bother that I seem to pick up everything that's going, given I'm a teacher.  I've resumed my OCD vitamin pill popping.  I'd let it go, given its alleged implications in early mortality in women of a certain age.  Something I read somewhere last year.

Seems I'm going from one upper respiratory thing to another.  Bit worrisome.

But perhaps more concerning is the idea that I'm writing about this, and if you've got this far, that you're reading it?

(Press publish? Yeah, why not?)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"This test is easy to perform."

At the risk of alienating all three of my readers:

When you get to a certain age in Australia, you get this special invitation from the government.  It's not dinner with whoever works out to be the Prime Minister after all the wrangling.  Nothing like that.  No, it's an invite to participate in a national bowel cancer screening program.  Are you with me?

A large, flat box arrived in the mail yesterday.  Contents: two sophisticated looking little plastic 'toothpicks' for want of a better description, two plastic tubes to pack them in and two large squares of some sort of paper, sorry, 'specimen collection sheets'.

Read the instructions before bed last night, because I can't resist a test, and I was between novels.

So this morning, on my day off, I was on a mission.  (Quite nice to have a sense of purpose.)  There's no way I can say this without sounding either twee using euphemisms, or crude, being myself, so I'll quote briefly from the 'instructions for sample collection'.  Makes it sounds so worthwhile and productive.

"1.  Empty your bladder [who else's?], then flush the toilet." Too easy.
"2.  Place the collection sheet, printed side up, on the surface of the water in the toilet bowl.  The collection sheet will dissolve within five minutes of being in contact with the liquid.
 3.  Pass the bowel movement onto the sheet - do not worry if it sinks below the water - it will not affect the test."

Okay, couldn't be simpler for a regular kind of gal.  One, two, three.  Done.

Stood up and adjusted myself, grabbed the blue ended toothpick out of the zip-lock bag and turned to survey the contents.

Lo and behold!  The 'specimen collection sheet' was clearly a dud.  Mr Whippy, presumably in a bid for freedom, had plopped straight through the sheet and was sitting way below the water line.  Did I just imagine Mr Whippy was smirking at me, mocking me, saying 'you're not sticking that thing in me' as I stood, mouth open, toothpick held aloft between thumb and index finger?
Collection sheet will dissolve within five minutes?  Collection sheet dissolves on contact!

Now I'm going to have to call the 1300 number to get another kit. 

And given the penetrative-power of Mr Whippy, perhaps I'll need to pop by Chemist Warehouse and get a bed-pan.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Domestics in Melbourne

My cousin's visiting me tomorrow.  Big deal, you may think.  But it is a big deal.  She's my dad's niece, is ten years older than me and as far as I'm concerned, I've only met her once, being a migrant and having left England when I was just eight.  She remembers visiting our family in Sheffield, but I have no memory of meeting her, nor her brother.  Given that age difference, she would have been off my radar, just another adult.

She's lived most of her life, since she was twenty-one, in Holland.  After retiring, she and her husband moved to France, to the Loire Valley.  We decided to look her up a couple of years ago when we were in Europe.  I'm fascinated by my distant - far away, that is - relatives.  We discovered on that trip that there are two Loire Rivers, and my cousin didn't live in the environs of the one that the tourists visit.

Anyway, she's visiting tomorrow and we're going for a winery lunch somewhere near Nagambie.

But this isn't about my cousin's visit.  It's about my toilet.  Or rather, my toilet seat.

My daughter just came to visit.  'Ugh, mum, get a new toilet seat!  It's disgusting.  You can't let your cousin see that!'

It is.  It looked good new about eight years ago, but there's a sort of skid proof laminate on the seat, cos god knows it could be dangerous otherwise and we wouldn't want to slip off.  Anyway, the laminate has yellowed with wear, perished and flaked off a bit around the edges.  Gets cleaned regularly, but it looks manky.

Thought I'd tackle it today with a bit of Jif - creme cleaner - and a scouring pad.  After about half an hour, hugging the toilet bowl and scrubbing, I'd made it worse; more flaked off around the edges and more conspicuously worn.  (And might I say it's the first time I've hugged the old porcelain for the purposes of cleaning? Hmm.)

'Al!' I yelled through the house.  'Help me get this toilet seat off!'  He was doing something domestic, like preparing chicken, but he took his apron off and scooted through.  He had a bit of a play with the sprung lugs at the sides of the toilet seat and tried to lift it off, as I had, but to no avail.  Off he went and got a couple of alen keys - not sure of spelling - and tried to prise the lid off whilst depressing both lugs.  No luck.  I'm leaning on the window sill watching the sweat soak through the back of his tee-shirt. 

'I've got no idea,' he said, throwing down the towel he'd been kneeling on.

'Built-in obsolescence,' said I, ' They probably make them like that so you have to replace the whole toilet.  I'll have to get a plumber.'  Yeah, dollar signs exploded in speech bubbles around my head.

I resigned myself to getting back on my knees and scrubbing the flaking laminate for a couple more hours.  And then I had an idea.  Check the internet.

Googled 'remove Caroma toilet seat' and bingo.  There's a YouTube video, called, logically,  Removing the Caroma Quick Release Seat.  And it couldn't be easier.  We should have pulled, not lifted, after we'd depressed the side lugs.

I'd rather not describe the eight years' build up under the seat, but suffice it to say, I've still got a bit of a grimace on my face.

Meanwhile, the toilet seat is soaking in bleach and I'm having a reviving chardy.  Don't think I'll be able to get that perishing laminate off, but I might be able to freshen it up a bit for my cuz tomorrow.

And Al and I had a laugh.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam

Wrote this before it all went pear-shaped when we lost our passports and cash.

Interminable waiting for bus to Hoi An. Time seems to drag. It's 7.45 and the bus supposedly picks us up at 8.30, but no doubt it'll be late.  (If we'd known what was going to happen at the end of that bus journey, we wouldn't have been so keen to embark on it.)

Have had a good stay at Ninh Binh. Quite spectacular, but the town itself has nothing to offer the tourist.

Booked a tour today around a few local attractions. They take us to see more bleeding pagodas but we're more interested in watching a man and his wife with a buffalo, ploughing a field in a rudimentary three field system way. Loved the goats in the mountains and the occasional herd of buffalo crossing the road.

Apart from that, it's all good. Vietnam makes me appreciate what I take for granted at home - like not having to work 29 days out of 30; being allowed an education, despite being female. Living in a comparatively pristine environment.

Young woman today rowed us around the caves. She's 28 and very pregnant with her third child. She did five years of schooling but wasn't allowed to continue, despite her obvious intelligence and facility with several different languages. She had to row the tourists around the caves. When she's not doing that, she's embroidering - much of which she tried to hawk to me, when I was captive on her little boat. Felt rotten for not buying, but we'd already been scammed into buying her and her husband - rowing with his feet - soft drinks and snacks. BTW, Al and I shared the rowing to assuage the guilt of being rowed around by someone ready to give birth any minute.

The Chilean chardonnay is going down well and we're looking forward to warmer weather in Hoi An. And more of a night life. Here, there is the hotel and not much else. The streets are for the locals and not really tourist friendly. Perhaps that will change, as long as people want to see monolithic mountains and glide through river caves - an almost spiritual experience.

Nearly scammed in Hanoi. The second sign?

Wrote this on arrival in Hanoi, early January. Bit more backtracking.

Caught taxi at airport. Agreed on $20 US. Gave address of the hotel we'd booked. No worries.
Half-way along the hair-raising ride into Hanoi the driver gets a call on his mobile. It's the guy who'd touted us at the airport. He has brief exchange with Al, who's not happy. Now we have to pay $40 US. What are we going to do? Babes in the woods.

So Al agrees to the new fee.

We're taken to a different hotel. Another tout assures us that this is the hotel we'd paid for. 'My family has many hotels.' He's nodding and solicitous; obsequious. We are shown a hotel well away from the old town, as far as we can remember. Led up a flight of dingy stairs and shown an okay room. But it's not right.

Al's happy enough to stay there, being desperate for the facilities - the bathroom. But I'm not.

'I want hotel we saw on internet,' say I, in assertive, but hesitant English, dropping direct and indirect articles, as you do.

'This is hotel, but different one. No room in other hotel. My family have many hotels.'

'No. We have been in Vietnam four times.' Somehow this hits the spot. Okay, now we're descending in the lift, and a taxi is summoned. The tout goes his own separate way and we're driven some distance to the heart of the old town, and this hotel, where I'm now typing.

It's okay. Not as good as the photos on the net, but it suffices. The room's warm; the bed sheets are clean. The mattress and pillows are firm but friendly. I've already tried them, being exhausted after the flight. I had an hour's kip. Funny how a four hour time difference after a plane flight can totally throw out your system. I'm working on avoiding hypos by reducing basal rates. Seems okay so far, but we've bought, after lots of searching, some carb supplies should the need arise.

Good to get off the streets of Hanoi for now. Frenetic and grotty. Looks better at night, cos the dirt's not so conspicuous.

And feel quite proud of having foiled the scammers.

Melbourne to Singapore, with 'extras'.

Little bit of back-tracking here.  This is something I wrote en route to Vietnam.  Should have seen it as a sign of things to come, perhaps?

I'm only writing this because we're in the middle of a four hour stop over at Changi airport and this kills time. Gets a bit tedious dawdling up and down. I've had 500 ml of Earl Grey tea from Starbucks - well, half an hour ago. But I've just had another to stave off boredom, and flush the system, I suppose.

We're due to catch our flight in 75 minutes. Should be in Hanoi noonish.

So, the flight.

Al booked two seats together on our flights to avoid the third wheel clambering over one. As a result, we were practically sitting in the loo - only a wall and the backs of our seats protecting us from the constant flushing. Glad about earplugs. But that was okay, really.

What was terrible was the vomiting woman - 20 or 30 something and travelling solo. Probably because no one will travel with her. She started retching, immediately after take off. I turned to see what the noise, immediately across the aisle, was, and saw this ET type, hunched looking straight at me, poking two fingers down her throat and holding her mouth over her 'hot towel'. She'd considerately turned away from the passenger immediately next to her. At least we had a half metre aisle between us. But I got the full force of it. My gorge rose, of course, given I'm a sympathy vomiter. Perhaps worse than her very public retching was the accompanying loud braying that punctuated the entire 7 hour flight. And being ill, every time food was served she started up again, so all of us sitting around her had to try to eat with that going on.

Look, poor thing. There's nothing worse than travel sickness. But couldn't she use the sick bag? Or the toilet, immediately next to her? And what's with the need to make that noise?

So that was the first part of our $1700 flight over.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Brief update.

Finally picked up our passports with visas attached at 3pm on January 31.

(Have I ever felt such relief in my life?  Maybe.  There were those two instances during two C-section births, when I was lying on my back, ready to be delivered of my babies, and the obstetrician started the op and released the amniotic fluid!  That felt good.  Oh yeah.  And the babies were healthy.)

All right.  I suppose the healthy babies were a bigger relief.  But I digress - and use a cliched expression at the same time.

After we'd got our documents sorted, everything went smoothly, even the six hour stopover during which we watched,and enjoyed, some animated film starring a Kung Fu panda.  It tilled in a few units of time.

The air at Melbourne Airport smelled sweet, and I breathed in great lungfuls of it while we waited, in perfect Melbourne morning weather, for our son to pick us up.

My vitreous floater - the eye prob - seems stable and the ophthalmologist has reassured me that it'll be okay for now.

Yesterday I wore my voice out teaching a full load of year 8s and 10s and telling the other staff of my intrepid travels.  Nothing like getting straight back on the bike.

So now I'm back, did all that trauma really happen?

Next stop, Munich in May.  Can't cancel.  Already locked in.  Think I'll carry the passports.