Tag Archives: flu

Daddy’s new toy

Somehow, and I’m not entirely certain how, we have limped our way through what has proved to be a tough 5-weeks and finally Term 3 has drawn to a close and half-term has arrived. M’s health was hit hard when he came down with Aussie ‘flu just into the New Year and the term has been turned topsy-turvy as he’s struggled with high temperatures, heavy head colds, aching joints, lethargy and low energy levels. He’s also been trying to cope with unbelievable bouts of insomnia since the end of last term, a problem that has taken its toll not only on M, but the rest of the household too as Mike and I have juggled home and work as well as the impact of the serial bed-hopping that has become an almost nightly occurrence. Except on Wednesdays. I’m not yet sure what makes Wednesdays so special, but over the last couple of weeks, M has achieved something that has been such a rare event that I can pretty much count the number of times it has happened in his lifetime on the fingers of one hand. In bed – his bed – fast asleep and then nearly 10 blissful hours of interrupted sleep for the rest of us!

One of the highlights of half-term has been opportunity to finally try out the new toy that Mike had for Christmas. A stove-top smoker. Following the discovery of what quickly became a new favourite with M when we were in Greece last summer, Mike has been exploring whether there was any way to replicate the delicate flavours of this smoked chicken at home. He talked a few times about the possibility of buying a smoker, but as so often happens in our household, the chat didn’t lead anyway and eventually the idea faded away into seeming obscurity. However, whilst all thoughts of a smoker had disappeared from Mike’s head, it had taken up permanent residence in my mind and I was undertaking some research of my own.

Finding the perfect Christmas present for my other half is always a challenge, particularly as his birthday is just 2 months before, but waiting until December gave me enough time to read around the subject and pick out what I hoped would be the perfect choice. It came as a complete surprise on Christmas day and a present that both Mike and M were looking forward to experimenting with in the New Year. Sadly ‘flu got in the way of any such trials in January, but Mike being at home with the children for half-term gave them the perfect opportunity to give the smoker and a variety of wood chips a whirl.

By the end of the week, it turns out that Mike’s worked hard to see just what flavours he can produce and M feels that there’s still some work to be done to perfect the chicken to his exacting standards. It appears it’s all too easy to over-smoke the meat and end up with a bitter dinner, rather than the aromatic flavours we were hoping to find. M has suggested adding lemon and herbs to help flavour the chicken and I’ve no doubt that Mike’s new toy will be a source of much fun and experimentation over the coming months.


Celebrating Christmas 2016

It may only be the second week of January, but Christmas already feels like a lifetime ago and the memories are already fading fast. December was yet again an interesting month for our family and whilst we had irrefutable success at keeping M out of hospital, we had enough other medical crises to more than meet our quota for the year. As I have already shared, December started with a huge scare about my remaining sight when I was incorrectly told that I needed urgent laser surgery to sort out the developing diabetic retinopathy in my right eye. The hugely positive outcome that in fact the diagnosis was wrong and no treatment was required was a massive relief, but those first 2 weeks of Christmas planning were overshadowed by the frightening threat of surgery that loomed over the household.

img_3185Our medical dramas didn’t stop there. Mike took a tumble from his bike back in October when he was cycling to our local train station on his way to work and has been complaining of severe pain in his left shoulder ever since. The initial thoughts were that he may have torn his rotator cuff and so was referred onto a physiotherapist who, as well as recommending a heady combination of co-codamol and naproxen to ease the inflammation and pain, made his own referral for an MRI to be done as soon as possible. Mike had that MRI at the start of December and by the middle of the month had received a letter stating that it looked like he had a possible “avulsion fracture of the greater tuberosity of the humerus“, but that it would need to be reviewed by a consultant to confirm diagnosis. That diagnosis has now been confirmed and further complicated by the onset of frozen shoulder, a common occurrence following this type of injury. Last week Mike was treated with a cortisone injection and is already beginning to feel some of the symptoms beginning to ease a little, though we have been told it could take a number of months for his shoulder to recover completely. He struggled with taking the co-codamol and a switch to Tramadol has helped massively there. Unfortunately, despite skipping a dose of the Tramadol so that he could enjoy a glass of something with Christmas lunch, the alcohol and painkiller combination didn’t really work and he spent a lot of Christmas Day asleep, which didn’t go down well with most of my family!

img_13241As for M, well he was looking forward to celebrating his big sister’s birthday at home with her for the first time in 3 years as well as taking part in all of the end-of-term Christmas activities being held at school. Unfortunately, once again his health took a nosedive as he came down with both ‘flu and tonsillitis during that last week and was really quite poorly for a few days. We knew he wasn’t well when he decided not to go to our local pantomime with us and instead stayed at home and in bed with my Mum for the evening. The necessary course of antibiotics took their toll on his system and we found ourselves taking a few steps back from our hard-won gains from the last few months. M has gone back to school recovered to generally good health and eager for the term ahead.

img_13361Despite these small hiccups to keep us on our toes, we celebrated the festive period in style. Christmas was spent with my family down in South Wales, where we were able to enjoy a refreshing walk around the nearby reservoir in fine Boxing Day tradition. Both children were thrilled with the presents they received and have been engrossed in listening to their new CDs – Olly Murs for G and Pentatonix for M – or reading their new books, as well as the inevitable time spent playing on the Wii U that was M’s main present. This last has proved to be a real opportunity for the children to work together and pool their resources as they were keen to buy a Disney Infinity starter pack with additional characters and spent a lot of time researching and budgeting before asking me to help them buy their final choices with their pocket-money. We’ve been ice-skating, saw New Year in with friends, managed a return visit to the pantomime so M could see it too, gone on walks and spent time together as a family. All in all, the perfect end to 2016.

Enjoying a little Olly Murs!

Enjoying a little Olly Murs!

Just when you thought it was going to be easy…

…something happens that shows you that it really doesn’t pay to be complacent, especially when it comes to children with complex medical needs.  The reason for my most recent angst? The whole ‘flu vaccination thing! Yes, you probably read my blog post over a month ago, where I discussed the decision process we were going through regarding M and the ‘flu jab, and almost definitely concluded by the end that everything was set firmly in place.  Having visited our new GP, I certainly felt that we had agreed what was best suited to M’s needs and was now just waiting for the confirmation phone-call and a date for my diary.

You’ll have guessed by now that it hasn’t been that easy and whilst that doesn’t come as any surprise to me when it concerns my youngest, the complexities of getting the situation sorted came at a time when, to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t need the added aggravation.  It all started when I phoned the surgery to book the appointment.  The receptionist needed to discuss which clinic to book M into because he was having the injection and not the nasal spray and so referred him on to the practice nurse, with a promise she’d call me back.  10 days and 3 phone-calls later, I was still waiting for the practice nurse to confirm which clinic M needed to attend.  Oh, and there was the added problem – or so I was told – that there wasn’t enough child vaccines in our health centre, so we would have to wait for those to arrive before I could make a definite appointment.

This is definitely a t-shirt us #EGID parents need!

This is definitely a t-shirt us #EGID parents need!

The string of events that followed are like the plot of a bad 1980s sitcom as we got bounced from one local medical establishment to the next.  The first problem was that the no egg vaccine is not licensed for use in under-18s and so the nurse wasn’t happy to give it to M, especially as he’s never had the vaccination before.  She was keen to discuss the situation further with one of our local hospitals and so I agreed to wait.  Next, I had a message telling me that the hospital would give M the injection, so that he could be monitored and could I confirm that I was happy for my contact details to be passed onto the appropriate administrator to arrange that appointment.  Needless to say, I confirmed as soon as I could and then sat waiting for the next installment in this latest saga.

Three days later, a copy letter arrived in the post from the community paediatrician, who has met M once, knows very little about him and just confirmed that he could have the ‘flu vaccination unless Mike and I knew of any reasons why he shouldn’t have it.  Er, no – after all, we’re the ones requesting he be given the damned thing.  A week after that, another phone-call from our local health centre, advising me that the local hospital won’t give M the injection because his 2009 blood tests didn’t show any sign of an egg allergy.  WHAT?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, M does not suffer an anaphylactic reaction to egg, rather a delayed non-IGE one, so I can understand that they don’t think it necessary to be monitoring him on the ward; but blood tests from 5 years ago are hardly a good basis for any medical decisions made in my opinion.  In the 5 years since those blood tests were carried out, he has been treated by GOSH, had a diagnosis of EGID and we have established that he struggles with several food allergies that, because of the very nature of his reactions, will never show up in the standard blood tests.

The next part of the conversation however, really took the biscuit for me, though I don’t blame the poor receptionist tasked with phoning me to make the relevant arrangements:


As his blood tests were negative, the hospital have said he can have the ‘flu vaccine here, so I can book him into this Saturday’s clinic for the nasal spray.”

“Um, no he can’t have the nasal spray because of his egg allergy and the nature of his underlying chronic illness.”

“Oh, well the hospital said he could have it as he doesn’t suffer an anaphylactic reaction, so they want him to have the nasal spray here.”

“Well,” – (a somewhat hysterical tone starts to creep into my voice) – “Great Ormond Street have said he needs to have the injection, so I think we’ll follow their advice as they understand his medical needs.”

“Right, so you want him to have the injection?” – (she’s now slightly perplexed) – “Well, I’ll have to check which clinic I need to book him into.  I’ll call you back.”



Have you ever felt like you’re going in circles?  Five weeks on from my original GP appointment and I was right back where I started and M still hadn’t had the ‘flu vaccine. I was even beginning to question just how important it is for him to have it, given he hasn’t had it before, but GOSH had recommended it as a good idea for him and I wasn’t prepared to give up at the first hurdle.  Fortunately, the receptionist was as good as her word, has booked him in for appointment after school one day next week and has left a note on the system for the nurse at that clinic to review his medical history before he has the injection.  Of course, I’m trying not to panic that she might take one look at his notes and refuse to give it to him, but at least we’re making steps in the right direction at long last.

The Great ‘Flu Vaccination Debate

fluIt’s that time of year once again, when the NHS starts talking about ‘flu vaccinations and those of us with chronic illnesses – or who fall into one of the other qualifying categories – attempt to book our appointment before winter’s half over and we’ve already been laid low by the ‘flu.  Somewhat astonishingly this year, both my GP’s surgery and I were quick off the mark in being organised and by mid-September, not only had my appointment been booked, but I’d also had the injection itself.  They had checked my medical records and found that it didn’t appear that I’d ever had the pneumo-vac, which led to the unexpected double whammy of a needle in each arm during my 5-minute appointment.  The only years I’ve not had the ‘flu jab in the past 29 years of my T1D life were those when I was pregnant and that was down to personal choice.  My one experience of the ‘flu, caused by an inability to get an appointment before November, saw me laid low for the best part of 2 weeks by a bad bout of the ‘flu and Mike and my Mum were let to rally the troops on a daily basis.  For me, the ‘flu jab is not an option – its a necessity.

Since having M’s diagnosis with EGID and learning more about the long-term nature of his condition as well as knowing firsthand all about life with a chronic illness, I started to investigate whether he should also be having an annual ‘flu vaccination to help keep him healthy.  Our GP offered no opinion on whether he should have it or not, though he was more than happy to agree if we wanted to go ahead, and our GOSH consultant thought it a good idea, but something that needed to be actioned by our GP.  It quickly became evident that Mike and I would be the ones making the final decision and so the hard work began.  I started researching the pros and cons of the vaccination for M, but with one thing and another, including his admission to GOSH for more scopes, last year just passed us by and as we had survived the onslaught of winter colds and bugs reasonably well, I shelved the idea for another time.

Courtesy of blog.fromyouflowers.com

Courtesy of blog.fromyouflowers.com

This autumn has sneakily crept up on me and with its arrival has come the need to revisit that discussion and make our decision.  One of my main concerns was M’s egg allergy as the vaccines given are grown in hens eggs, which can cause an allergic reaction and that is something we need to avoid given M’s delicately balanced state of health right now.  However, reading more on the subject (and trust me there’s a lot of information out there), the fact that M does not suffer with anaphylaxis, but rather a delayed reaction to egg combined with the availability of ‘flu vaccines with low or no egg content, I was reassured that it would be safe to give it to him.

Next I needed to consider whether to insist he has the traditional injected vaccine or if we should try the new nasal spray vaccinations, which are currently being rolled out across the UK for all children under 4.  Whilst the nasal spray would certainly be easier to administer, the current NHS recommendations are that this is not given to children with a known egg allergy as there is simply not enough evidence to conclude whether it is safe or not.  Much as I feel M needs to be protected against the ‘flu, I am not yet prepared to take an unnecessary risk whilst there are still alternatives available.  We are struggling with his EGID at the moment anyway and adding an unknown to the mix could lead to repercussions that could affect us all for months.

dateSo, it would appear that the debate has been settled.  I have requested with our new GP that M is given the ‘flu vac and am waiting for the phone-call back to confirm that a low/no egg vaccine has been delivered to the surgery.  Fortunately, M is astonishingly stoic about having injections, so I’m confident that he will take it with the minimum of fuss – it would be a whole other story if the child in question was G, but luckily we don’t feel she needs to have it too for the time being.