Taking Some Time Out

Taking Some Time Out

After some time out from my blog, I feel I need to write about the current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting people in my local area.

Technical Issues With My Blog

I have been having some time out from my blog.  Basically I ghosted Midlifestylist.  There were several reasons for this, one of which is that I “broke” my website.  I have been trying to fix it but to no avail.  I put a new plugin on my website which does automatic backups.  One of the plugin’s features is that it tidies up your photo gallery.  I thought that would be a good idea because I know I have a few images on the website that I don’t use.  I thought it was going to delete 10 images but it deleted almost everything.  

Images are a vital part of my website because I use them to illustrate statistics and as part of my guides.  I have spent a lot of time creating them.  It is devastating to lose so much from my website.  I attempted to restore an older version of my website from a backup file but have not been able to do it.  The technical aspects of running a website have always been challenging for me because I am self taught and really have no idea what I’m doing half the time.  It was the last straw for me and I had to step away from it or I would have exploded!

Tough Subject Matter

Prior to that I had been writing and recording episodes for my podcast.  The subject material was always going to be tough because it is about my BRCA2 genetic mutation.  The last episode was about prostate cancer, which has impacted my family in a huge way.  Writing about the cancers that have affected my family, and the ones that I have a high risk of getting like melanoma and pancreatic cancer, caused a lot of emotion.  That also was a deciding factor for me taking a break from my blog.

Readjusting to Work

I increased my hours at work and have been struggling with fatigue from the shift work.  Because I still have frequent medical appointments to attend, and chronic health issues, I have struggled at times.  I love my job and I’m so glad to be back at work.  I feel very blessed to have such a supportive boss and I will never take my job for granted again.  I just know that I need to maintain a good work/life balance.  I am currently doing five shifts a fortnight and aim for six.  I know that getting back to seven shifts is almost definitely out of the question because I was struggling with that many prior to my time off last year.  I’m just happy to be back and I know it was a huge achievement to get there.

All of these factors combined lead me to taking a break from blogging.  I didn’t want to just churn out anything and I felt that at times that is what I was doing.  I wasn’t happy with what I was writing.  I would rather write less often and with passion for the subject matter.  Having a break has been good for me.  I won’t be writing as often as I did before as publishing a blog piece weekly is just too difficult for me.

Border Closures Due to the Pandemic

The thing that made me decide to write again today is the current situation with Covid-19.  There are some issues that I am not happy with that I would like to write about.  Australia is divided in a way I never thought I’d see happen.  I live in Queensland which is a lucky state to live in.  Our Covid-19 numbers have always been low compared to the rest of the country and any outbreaks are quickly staunched by short sharp lock-downs.  We have never seen the high numbers here, meanwhile New South Wales and Victoria to the south of us have struggled with high numbers and lengthy lock-downs.

As a result we are isolated behind an impenetrable border at the moment, not allowing anyone to enter our state at the current time.  The problem with this is that, in their effort to keep Covid-19 out, our leaders have created other issues.  The worst problem is that they now will not allow medical staff to cross the border.  Many of the staff in hospitals, nursing homes, medical centres etc. come from Northern New South Wales.  The Queensland government has deemed them to be non-essential so they are not allowing them through.  

Media Coverage Does Not Reflect The Truth

The media has not picked up on the fact that they are not allowing doctors and nurses who are fully immunised through, even with a letter from management to say they are essential.  The result of that is that staff are doing double shifts and overtime to cover them.  Meanwhile these perfectly capable Fully Immunised staff are on full pay at home.  You won’t see that on mainstream media because they are too busy covering protests and people sneaking through the border and getting caught.

I have a major issue with the media’s coverage of this pandemic.  They have been the cause of the distrust that the public has towards the Covid-19 vaccines.  If they hadn’t made such a big deal out of the small number of people getting reactions from the vaccines, there wouldn’t have been so much fear in the community and our vaccination rates would have been much higher.  The truth is that every vaccination causes side effects to a certain number of people.  The risk of getting a blood clot from the Covid-19 virus is much higher than from the vaccine.  The public is given a skewed picture of the risks. 

Vaccination Rates 

In Australia the vaccination rollout started with nursing home patients and people who already had medical issues.  The rate of vaccination complications is always going to be higher in these people than in the rest of the community.  The media sensationalised the number of people having reactions which has negatively impacted the public’s view of it.  The Delta variant is a huge threat to our unvaccinated population.  It changed the whole picture of the pandemic.  If we want to control this pandemic we need to get at least 70% of the population vaccinated ASAP.

The Pandemic Has Caused Housing Shortages

Because of our low numbers in Queensland, we have seen a huge influx of people moving here.  This has impacted the supply of housing in a massive way.  It is now almost impossible to rent a property in Southeast Queensland and the value of housing has risen in line with the demand.  Locals are being pushed out of the market because we can’t compete with the amount that people from NSW and Victoria are able to pay.  My son is moving back home because it is almost impossible to rent a property in his price range.

Desperate people are offering six months’ rent in advance, or $50 more per week on the asking price, to be able to get a house.  My house has risen in value by about $300,000 in the last year.  People from interstate are buying houses sight unseen so that they can move here.  Lock-downs mean that people are unable to run their business – especially on the border between Queensland and New South Wales.  

The Effects of the Pandemic on Business

My brother lives in northern New South Wales and he is in strict lock-down.  He can’t run his business because he’s not able to travel more than 5km from home and customers can’t come to him.  The Government is propping up many businesses like his with funds but many of them will still go bust.  The most heartbreaking image we see on our nightly news is that of families forced to hug each other over the border barriers between our states.  

A Glimmer of Hope

We had some good news today, that Northern New South Wales is ending it’s lock-down which means that there will be more freedom to cross the border.  This is just for essential workers and students, which means that medical staff should be able to come to work.

There is light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.  We are seeing other countries getting back to normal once their vaccination rates are high enough.  Meanwhile, I hope all who are reading this are in good health.  I would love to hear what life looks like in your part of the world, so feel free to comment below.

Shared on #Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog

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Time for my Covid-19 Vaccine

Time for my Covid-19 vaccine

Why I’ll Be Happy to Have My Covid-19 Vaccine

I received the text message on my phone yesterday.   It’s my turn to have the Covid-19 vaccine.  I did a little happy dance as I have been eagerly waiting for this.  Because I’m a nurse I am in stage 1b of the Covid rollout.

Although Australia hasn’t had high numbers of cases, and Queensland has escaped the worst of the restrictions and lockdowns, I have been extremely worried about catching Covid-19.   I have several comorbidities and am already dealing with enough health issues as it is.  

I’ve become a bit of a hermit in the last year, social distancing to the extreme.  My trips to the grocery store, chemist and for medical appointments are my only outings, apart from visiting close friends and family. The opportunity to be vaccinated means I can return to life as I knew it pre-pandemic.  My elderly unwell parents-in-law can too.  

Image of a vaccine being injected into the upper arm.  Text: Time for my Covid-19 Vaccine.  Read to discover Why I am happy to have it
Time for my Covid-19 vaccine. Read to discover: Why I am happy to have it.

Worldwide Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Not everyone will agree with me. A number of people are concerned about the vaccine despite the education campaigns.  Being a new vaccine for a new disease, we don’t have all the answers yet.  There is so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of Covid-19,  and why some people have virtually no symptoms and some people become very sick or die.

A pandemic has never taken a toll on the worldwide population as this one has.  The numbers are staggering and the toll on life as we know it is unprecedented.   In over 30 years of nursing I’ve never seen anything like it.

This is Not the First New Vaccine for a Vaccine Preventable Disease

I have nursed people extremely unwell from vaccine preventable deaths.  We have occasional outbreaks of measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and other diseases.   Shingles caused by the varicella virus continues to make life miserable for elderly people.

Vaccines have drastically reduced the death and morbidity toll of many diseases worldwide.  Numbers of almost fully vaccinated children are very high in Australia, because we have funding for most of them via the National Immunisation Program. 

Even in my children’s time there have been advances in the development of vaccines.  Rotavirus had my son hospitalised at 8 months.  Babies are vaccinated against it now.  Likewise HPV – a virus that leads to cervical cancer.  Hopefully my kids’ generation won’t have to go through that.  

Vaccines have almost completely eradicated some diseases.  I have only nursed two patients with tetanus in my career.  Both were extremely ill, requiring intensive care.  They call it “lockjaw” for a reason – it causes severe muscular spasms and can lead to death.  Complacency with being vaccinated has led to increasing rates of diseases such as measles.  This may be due to people not witnessing the diseases and believing that they have no chance of contracting them.

My Training as a Nurse Immuniser

I am currently doing an Immunisation Practitioner course.  As a Registered Nurse I have been able to give vaccines my whole career.  This course will allow me to administer vaccines independently in clinics or other healthcare settings.

The course is extensive and very thorough.  Most of it requires a 100% pass mark.  Following this I will need to do a separate course for the Covid vaccine which is just as comprehensive.   Be reassured: the staff administering the vaccine will be well trained.  

There was an unfortunate incident where a doctor administered four times the dose to residents of a nursing home.  If he had actually done the training he would have known that the vaccine comes in a multi-dose vial and needs to be diluted.  Swift action by a nurse brought it to the attention of health authorities. The patients were monitored in hospital and they suffered nil ill effects.  

This is a poster I designed for my Immunisation Course.  Pneumococcal Vaccines are now on the National Immunisation Schedule in Australia
This is a poster I designed for my Immunisation Course. Pneumococcal Vaccines are now on the National Immunisation Schedule in Australia

Ensuring the Vaccine Is Safe and Effective

The vaccine has been through clinical trials to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (similar to the FDA in the US).   Any side effects experienced by vaccine recipients will be reported to the TGA. The effectiveness of the vaccine will be closely monitored as well to ensure that it is not only safe, but has led to immunity from Covid-19.

Despite this, there will still be people concerned about getting the vaccine, and some will straight out refuse.  My suggestion would be to talk to your GP especially if you have health issues or have had reactions to other vaccines, medications or substances. 

Side Effects of Vaccines

Any vaccine (or medication) will have side effects.  The side effects are usually mild in most cases but there is always the potential for an anaphylactic reaction. 

A healthcare worker unfortunately had an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine yesterday.  She had a history of anaphylaxis after vaccines so she had this vaccine in the safest environment possible – in a tertiary hospital with the facilities to monitor and treat her.  She was almost certainly given adrenaline and monitored for four hours afterward, which is the standard procedure.  By last night she was back home.  

All immunisation services need to carry adrenaline and have protocols around monitoring people following vaccination.  There are strict requirements for the storage of vaccines, and this ensures the vaccine is not only safe, but is effective as well.

Do Your Research

Do your research, using trusted sources before you have the vaccine.  The Covid-19 vaccine is not compulsory in Australia.  It is free.  These are some links to reliable sources of information:

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This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. Please refer to the disclaimer.

Shared on Weekend Coffee Share Linkup on Natalie the Explorer’s Blog, and Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog

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2020 – My Unpredictable Year

2020 My Unpredictable Year

2020: The Year That Changed Everything

Who could have predicted how 2020 would pan out?  This has been my most unpredictable year to date, and that’s saying something.  It feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under me, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. It has been an unpredictable year for many reasons, both personal and external. Change and uncertainty can add to the emotional burden of the other world events such as the pandemic.

“Life is What Happens To Us When We’re Making Other Plans”

Allen Saunders, 1957

At the dawn of the New Year I wrote a post Don’t Hold Back.  Full of optimism and excitement for the year ahead, I planned to learn new skills and apply for positions that would take my career into a new direction.  My older son, inspired by my enthusiasm, planned to travel and push his music career to new levels.  We often talk about how our year has not panned out in the way we planned it.

My son had to put his music on hold while we were in lockdown – he couldn’t drive to Brisbane to practice with his band, and gigs were cancelled for months while venues were closed.  He was extremely frustrated – musicians need to perform.  When their creativity is put on hold a major part of themselves is affected.  Travel is also out of the question.

"Life is What Happens to Us When We're Making Other Plans" Allen Saunders.  Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.
“Life is What Happens to Us When We’re Making Other Plans” Allen Saunders. Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.

Changes in the Family Home

The first shock of the year came when my other son decided to move out.  The Half Empty Nest is the post I wrote at the time when I was going through a grieving process as I came to terms with it.  As it turns out, I’ve coped very well with my son moving out and very soon my other son is leaving too, then I’ll be an empty nester for the first time in 28 years!  It’s wonderful to see my sons “adulting” – they need to move out for their own personal growth.

BRCA2 and its Impact on my Health

The next shock, in February, was my diagnosis of a genetic mutation, BRCA2, which increases my risk of cancer.  At the beginning of this year I would not have believed that I would have four operations, two of them to fix complications from the other two, and that I would have most of this year off work.  My recovery has been prolonged, and at this stage I’m looking at even more time off work. 

 As a Registered Nurse in a busy surgical ward, I am unable to return until I can complete my role 100%, including performing CPR and patient handling.  The loss of that role has been extremely upsetting to me.  I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years and it’s part of my identity.  It’s taking me a while to come to terms with that.  The impact of the surgeries and complications has also taken a toll.  My body is different now, and I have new issues to deal with that will remain with me for life.

Pandemic Pandemonium

March saw the Pandemic drive us all into lockdown.  I doubt if anyone in the world has not been affected in some way from Covid-19.  I’ve been isolated from some of my family since then, and unable to spend time with some of my closest loved ones.  Not being able to travel to be with family during life-changing events like a death in the family, has taken its toll on many of us.  

I’ve now been at home recovering since mid-May, and had time off prior to that for my first operation.  The only positive is that I’ve been able to spend time on my blog, and work on my website to get it the way I want.  I really don’t know how I would have coped without this to do.  I would have gone crazy with boredom!

New Home for Midlifestylist

In the last two weeks I have moved my website from WordPress.com to a different platform.  I’ve been busy trying to get my website back up and functioning.  In the transfer process the last seven blog posts did not migrate to the new host, so I’ve been republishing them.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.  

I am so glad I took the plunge and transferred my website.  The potential is amazing – I have lots of ideas on which direction I want to take Midlifestylist, so watch this space!

Ongoing Health Issues and the Emotional Toll 

In order to cope with massive life changing events and my health issues, my ability to cope emotionally has been under strain.  I’m not coping as well as I was a few weeks ago when I thought that my life would be back to normal by now.  I reached out and I’m going to talk to a counselor to help me to adjust.

I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that you need counseling.  When your sleep is getting affected, and you’re crying at the drop of a hat, it’s time.  I’ll be looking into other ways to assist as well, like meditation and mindfulness.  Being proactive with your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I hope this resonates with some of my readers, and they find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in feeling stressed by the unpredictable events of this year.  Our ability to cope with all that 2020 has given us has been pushed to the limit.  Seek help if you’re not coping.  Don’t struggle through on your own.

I need to follow my own advice and take time for self care.  Read my two articles If you’re feeling stressed – Prioritising Self Care and Journalling as a Self Care Activity.

Please share – someone may need to read this today.

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Being a patient in the midst of a pandemic

As I wrote in my previous post, I have been in and out of hospital since March, pretty much the whole time Australia has been in lockdown. Going through health issues during this time has been challenging to say the least. Being a patient in a pandemic has increased the stressful experience a massive amount. I was lucky to have my surgeries at all. Elective surgeries were put on hold to make way for an influx of Covid-19 patients.

Getting through the door of a hospital is like running the gauntlet. As you enter the building you are met by staff who screen you for signs of a fever and ask questions about your recent exposure risks. Visitors are limited which is difficult when you’re going through surgery.

My Recovery From Bilateral Prophylactic Mastectomies

On the 13th of May I had bilateral prophylactic mastectomies because my risk of getting breast cancer was 60-80% due to having the BRCA2 gene mutation. The surgery went well. The following morning I developed severe swelling in the left breast. My haemoglobin dropped very low due to bleeding.

I experience a post operative complication after my bilateral prophylactic mastectomy.  In this photo I am severely anaemic.  I had a haemorrhage in my left breast.  The swelling is visible in this photo.
Post-operative complications: My Hb was 63 (normally 120) so I’m extremely pale. My left upper chest is swollen up to my shoulder, compared to my right shoulder where you can clearly see my clavicle. The surgeon operated again to drain 600ml of blood. Not the prettiest photo of myself but it’s true to life

I had emergency surgery to drain the haematoma but continued to bleed into the drain. I lost over 1.2 litres of blood and needed 4 units of blood transfusion. It was extremely scary to go through, and I felt like I’d made a huge mistake to have the mastectomies done.

A Prolonged Recovery Due to Complications

My recovery has been slow because of this setback. I was in hospital for 6 days, waiting for my blood count to get high enough to be discharged. I’ve had some really low periods during the last couple of weeks, days where I’ve been really emotional and cried many times. I guess many women undergoing mastectomies would be emotional. My own low mood is affected by the fact that my surgeries have had complications.

I have been extremely lucky to be in the position where I can have surgery during the pandemic. If I was a public patient my operations wouldn’t have gone ahead at all. I’ve always had private insurance, but that doesn’t cover all the costs. I’m lucky I had funds set aside for emergency as I am thousands of dollars out of pocket.

The Cancellation of Elective Surgeries

Hospitals have been very quiet in Australia because of elective surgery being cancelled. This has worked in my favour because I have been able to have a nice quiet atmosphere to recover. As a nurse I am well aware of how busy hospitals usually are so it was nice to see the nurses looking relaxed and not stressed.

I received outstanding care from the nurses and doctors during my admissions to hospital. I felt very well looked after especially when I had the post-operative bleed. If the nurses hadn’t been so on-the-ball my outcome might not have been so great.

Limited Movement Post Mastectomy

I’m now recuperating at home, which will take time because of the complications. I am very limited in what I can do and need to rest as much as I can. I’m typing this on my mobile phone because I need to limit my arm movements. I’ve never been so reliant on other people for my needs

I have deep appreciation for my husband who has been taking very good care of me. He’s had to shower me and wash and dry my hair and do all the household tasks. My heart swells with gratitude for how he has cared for me and I feel more in love with him for the way he does everything for me so lovingly. He has been my rock through so many things in the past.

Emotional Support For Mastectomy Patients

I have felt loved and supported by so many people in the last few months. Even though we’ve had social distancing laws and can’t always be together, I’ve had many messages of support which have uplifted me when I need it the most. Social distancing hasn’t prevented them from caring.

My boss has been incredibly supportive as well, allowing me to have time off to have these operations and medical appointments. I am really grateful to her for caring and empathising with my situation. It has made a huge impact on my morale going through all my health issues to know my job is secure.

Looking Forward To My Recovery

I’m through all my surgeries now, and on the way to recovery. I am looking forward to gaining some independence back because it’s hard relying on other people. I’m very bruised and I still have drains in. I can’t do much except rest as I’m not able to raise my arms above my shoulders or even go for a walk. I’m really looking forward to the day I can walk the dog.

This year has made me aware of what truly matters in life. It’s not possessions or expensive holidays that count. The things I value now are my health, my loved ones and my independence. I feel very loved by many people and that is the ultimate outcome of a year which has brought unprecedented change to everyone worldwide.

Being a Patient in the Midst of a Pandemic.  How the pandemic impacts your experience of healthcare.  I had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy in May 2020.  This is an account of how my surgery was impacted due to being a patient in the midst of a pandemic.

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