Monday, 21 September 2020

I'd like a Golden Week

 Every year, China (and Japan - maybe others too) have a Golden Week. In China, this is a 7-8 day public holiday that was created in 2000. It turns out that there were three of them during the year: one before the Chinese New Year in Jan/Feb, one at the beginning of May and another at the beginning of October. It seems like the May one has been dropped and it just a one-day public holiday.

Three or four days of paid holiday are given, and the surrounding weekends are re-arranged so that workers in Chinese companies always have seven or eight continuous days of holiday. These national holidays were first started by the government for the PRC's National Day in 1999 and are primarily intended to help expand the domestic tourism market and improve the national standard of living, as well as allowing people to make long-distance family visits. The Golden Weeks are consequently periods of greatly heightened travel activity.
What a great idea!

Instead of itsy-bitsy public holidays and long weekends, how good would it be if everyone took a week off.

Of course, we have the experience now from the five weeks of Level 5 lockdown where email and phones went quiet.

For work, we interact with China and we know to make our plans to fit in with Chinese New Year, when the country almost closes down for a month, and then again like with this Golden Week.

What I most enjoyed about the lockdown was that I could take a break and not be in an anxious sweat during this time about answering emails and getting back to people. This is what I absolutely hate about being away even for a day - I just can't keep up and then I'm behind. Being away for a few days has nme feverish on return. But, if everyone is on holiday and everyone else knows that the business is closed for a week, well, no emails, and no during and post-holiday stress.

The only downside to the Golden Week, which has created some controversy, is potential for overcrowding at much-visited locations. The other downside is that you get two main holiday periods for everyone instead of shorter breaks throughout the year.

Personally, I'd like a balance with one Golden Week and then a smattering of public holidays to achieve a fine balance.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Medical Magic

For the past two-and-a-half weeks, I have been staying with my mom as she begins her post-hip replacement recovery. Rusty and I are now back at our home but we'll be with my mom daily to assist with household stuff, cooking and taking Rosy out for runs.

This past Tuesday we went to see her doc for her 'week 2' check up and he is delighted with her healing and progress. The wound is healing beautifully with not a sign of any inflammation. She was allowed to remove the bandage and he promoted her to using one crutch, from two. 

On Thursday she went for her first physio session and has homework to do regularly each day for the next few weeks. A lot of her focus when walking, using the one crutch, is to walk evenly, without the penguin waddle that goes hand-in-hand with pre-operative hip issues. She is doing good.

My mom had her left hip resurfaced (similar to replacement but not the same) 15 years ago. Her recovery and progress after this op is far faster even though she was 15 years younger then. The technology has advanced in how they execute the operation, like by using robotic 'extensions' - manipulated by the surgeon - instead of hands, to do the operation. It really is quite magical.

Her doggy Rosy has been going with me to adult dog classes for the past two weeks. She is a good girl, and a clever girl, but she can be a hooligan on a lead when out for walks. She enjoys the stimulation of learning and has been a star. We're working on lead walking and also stay. This excitable doggy is doing so very well. Now that mom is up and about more, she'll join us at tomorrow morning's class.

On Friday we babysat my mom's neighbour's dog Bella, a white, fluffy maltese poodle.

Bella loves my mom and Rosy and is often over to play. I took Bella out with 'the big dogs' to Kopjeskraal Country lodge for an evening outing. This tiny doggy just loves running and chasing after Rosy. 

All too often, little dogs like Bella are not treated as dogs - more like lap warmers - and thought is not given to taking them walking or out on trails. And yet they are dogs and as fluffy and white as they may be, they love running off-road on trails and through the bush. Bella loves coming to play here and going out with the big dogs to the farm is her favourite thing. 

Three amigos. Rosy (black), Rusty (brown-and-white) and Bella (white)

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Hospitals should not allow visitors

My mom has just been in hospital for two full days, two nights and a morning for a hip replacement operation. As a result of covid, visitors were not permitted. And I'm glad!

Post-op, my mom spent most of her time in hospital sleeping off the anaesthetic, resting, seeing the physio and being monitored by the nursing staff - the usual regular blood pressure checks, drip maintenance, catheter check and removal, meds at set intervals, meals. It can be a busy time being a patient.

I was quite happy to let her rest and then have whatsapp contact with her when she was awake and I was there to pick her up on release.

My mom, Liz. Back from the hospital after two days and two nights there for a hip replacement.

From her side, she appreciated not having visitors too. She could drift in and out of sleep, not worry about how she looked and she didn't have to smile at other people's visitors either. Less noise too.

She spoke to some of her attending nursing staff about how they felt about the ban on visitors and they all appreciated that there were no visitors so that they could get on with their jobs of caring for patients and not attending to visitor whims and enquiries, which really disrupts their work.

It seems that wards at the hospital have been better arranged to group similar patients together. My mom was in a ward dedicated solely to orthopaedic patients. They're in-and-out in a few days and aside from needing some kind of bodywork, they are not ill and they are fully conscious and functional.

Of course, not all patients are as 'straight forward' as orthopaedic. There are patients with major illnesses, strokes, accident victims, terminal patients, unconscious patients and the like who spend not just two days in hospital. Adults and children can be in hospital for weeks (or months!).

So this is where I will add a disclaimer to the title of this post that says 'hospitals should not allow visitors'. Patients that have routine, elective surgery, and any other kinds of patients that are in-and-out in a few days and nights, do not need visitors. For their own healing and recovery, and for distraction-free, improved effectiveness of the nursing staff. And diminished spread of illness (from the visitors!). Mobile phones and wifi are a blessing and the patient can choose when to communicate - between sleeps.

We selfishly want to visit loved ones to satisfy our own need to see them, when what they really need is a whole lot of rest with no demand on their focus or conversational skills. They have enough disruptions with the nursing activities around them.

For critically ill patients, those rushed to hospital in an emergency and long-term patients, limited visitors would be beneficial (for the patient and the worried family). I'm not sure how many visitors maternity patients would welcome during their first days with their baby? I'm sure most would be happy for just the company of their partner and brief, limited visits from parents / sibling / in-laws (if any - they could just wait for her to go home)?

The flip side of not permitting visitors, is that there are always stories (true stories!) of patients left unattended for hours, drips that run dry, incorrect medication dosages that are given, meds that are not administered... And these errors are picked up by visitors. Do visitors keep nursing staff more accountable when the patient is unable to check themselves?

Optimistically, I reckon that with no visitors and minimised distractions in regular wards, nursing staff will be better able to do their jobs (less errors and neglect) and that patients can recover, rest and return home faster.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Do you know about Covid Toe?

 A couple of weeks ago my mom read an article in the New York Times about COVID Toe, one of many other Covid-19 symptoms. She sent it to me because I had chilblains for the very first time ever in my life in June. A chilblain is a painful, red inflammation on one or more toes that is usually associated with exposure to cold.

I've always been one of those people that rarely gets cold feet and I'll happily walk around inside in winter in just a pair of socks or crocs.

At first, I thought the red irritation on the second toe of my left foot was due to one of those pricky grass seeds that can penetrate your skin. We get them out here, I'm always on trails and they do try to burrow in through the front of my running shoes. I've had this before but it goes away in a day or three. This time, the inflammation persisted and got worse and more red over the next few days. I checked for seeds and splinters but couldn't find a cause for the irritation. My toe was sore - not agony or even very painful - but kind of a pricky itch that I could feel all the time. What was weird too is that it 'progressed' to the side and underside of the next-door toe too.

My mom first mentioned the possibility of a chilblain - something completely outside my scope of reference. I looked it up, checked some pictures and sure enough, this looked like exactly what I had. 

I became more conscientious, wearing thicker socks - or even two layers of socks - while working at my desk as well as slippers and making sure that my feet didn't get cold. It took a few weeks to clear. The skin on the worse toe was discoloured for a while and it is still shows signs from the swelling but is totally healed otherwise.

And then she read the article by chance and sent it with a note saying, "Maybe this is what you had?".

The one dermatologist mentioned in the article used to see four or five cases a year. Now they're seeing dozens of cases of people, like me, who have never had chilblains before. And in summer too!

Apparently most cases have been in children, teens and young adults and it is thought that chilblains 'may reflect a healthy immune response to the virus'.

I searched for more articles on Covid toes and enjoyed this one, also in the New York Times, on 'The Many Symptoms of Covid-19'. 

Did I have chilblains caused by letting my feet get too cold in my very, very cold home office or did I have Covid Toes that developed as a result of a healthy immune response to the virus in the absence of any other symptoms?

In the second article, a whole bunch of seemingly random symptoms are mentioned - things that can be passed off as a bad day on a training run or tiredness for some unknown reason. 

These past months I've had the following at intervals: tight hip flexors while running - first time in my life (for a few days), slight rash (tiny bumps only, not itchy or red - went away in a day or two) above my knees, sore knee, a run of mild headaches, and slightly upset stomach. No fever, no coughing, no sore throat.

These can be easily explained (respectively) by: sitting too long and too cold at my deck, constant wearing of tights / pants in winter, as a result of some misstep on a run, spending too long on my computer, not drinking enough and stress, and something I ate / from the awful water in our town. These are all highly likely.

Rapid antibody tests are still to become readily available here and they are not necessarily conclusive but I'm keen to take one.

This is one test that I hope would be positive because it is more pleasant to pin these anomalies on Covid rather than stress, working too much and getting older.