Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Fair experience

On Saturday Staci and I did our first crochet stall at a fair and it was a pretty good experience. The Vaaloewer River and Country Market is a new, annual fair in the village of Vaaloewer, just upstream of Parys.

The market didn't have a lot of traffic but nonetheless we had a some sales. Not a lot, but some. Our friend had the stall next to us and she didn't have that many sales either.

Of the people who did come past... they were generally really sweet and delighted to have a wide range of headband colours and flowers to choose from. A few stood out: like the one lady we noticed some time later walking around the market wearing her navy headband with its white daisy and she looked amazing. Another lady bought a flower to pin on to her hat; another bought a mint green headband and pink rose-like flowers and she put it on immediately.

Another lady bought a large flower as a brooch for herself and she wanted another in autumn colours for her daughter, who lives overseas. So we whipped one up there and then for her - she chose the colours and came to fetch it some time later. She was delighted.

We received a number of compliments too on our work, especially from women who crochet too. That's always nice.

For the rest, we so enjoyed parking off on our camp chairs, chatting to each other, other people and friends who stopped past.

That night both Staci and I enjoyed watching dvds at our own homes with nothing in our hands - for the first time in two months!

I'd do this again but definitely not with any regularity. It's a huge amount of fun but time-consuming work.

We've still got stock so we're looking at other fair options and may also have an open day for friends and relations as we'd put them off getting flowers and headbands until after the market.

What is meningitis?

Adventure racer Rika Viljoen is currently in hospital with bacterial meningitis and like the rest of the the AR community, I've been reading up on this illness. This piece that I've written should answer your questions around how Rika got bacterial mengitis.

You've probably heard of meningitis and know that it has something to do with an infection and the brain and that it generally is not a good thing to have. You're right. And that's essentially what it is - an infection of the brain.

The most common symptom is a headache and a stiff neck; those affected can't tip their head forward to touch their chin to their chest.

Fever (increased body temperature caused when the body sends out the artillery to deal with the invaders), confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises are also symptoms.

There are two common agents that cause infection - viruses and bacteria. And it isn't any one specific virus or bug (bug is lingo for bacteria); a variety of each are responsible. Parasites, funguses and non-infectious agents (like cancer, cysts and certain drugs) can also be responsible.

On the virus front, enteroviruses (responsible for a range of diseases including polio, chronic fatigue syndrome and non-specific illnesses where fever, headache, sore tummy, sore throat and muscle pain are symptoms), herpes simplex 2 (genital herpes), the chicken pox and shingles virus, mumps virus, HIV and a virus carried by rats that literally goes straight to the head of the infected person.

In adults, the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (also known as meningococcus) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as pneumococcus) together cause 80% of bacterial meningitis cases.

Meningococcus live in the nose and throat of 5-15% of adults as part of the normal flora, causing no trouble.
Pneumococcus also just hangs around and you can have it and not be ill. It's the fellow responsible for causing pneumonia and when you're susceptible (lowered immunity, elderly, children) then it takes advantage of the situation to cause a range of illness from a snotty nose to a sinus infection, middle-ear infection, pink eye to pneumonia.

It's important to diagnose what has caused the meningeal infection because treatment needs to be specific for the organism. First treatment line is antibiotics (for meningitis caused by bacteria) and antiviral medications (for meningitis caused by viruses).

We're invaded by a multitude of viruses and bugs all the time and just because you have flu or a sinus infection it doesn't mean that you'll develop meningitis.

There are three membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. These are called the meninges.

So looking at the three layers there's a soft, form-fitting base layer (against the brain - capillaries penetrate this layer), a light-weight, loose-fitting waterproof shell and a storm-weather, thick and durable waterproof jacket (below the skull). Fluid (Cerebrospinal Fluid - CFS) flows in the space (subarachnoid space) between the loose-fitting shell and the base layer.

And then there's this wonderful mechanism called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). More than 100 years ago it was found that if a blue dye was injected into the bloodstream of an animal, if showed up in tissues of the whole body except the brain and spinal cord.

Infectious agents have to get through the meninges or BBB into the CFS to cause meningitis, which is an infection specifically of the loose-fitting shell (arachnoid mater) and the form-fitting base layer (pia mater) of these layers as well as the actual brain tissue, which become inflammed.

With is being not-so-easy for bacteria to get into the meninges and CFS, how do they do so?

They gain access either through the bloodstream or by direct contact with the CSF and meninges via the nasal cavity or skin. Invasion of the bloodstream is most common. You need to have head trauma (injury / skull fracture) or an infection of the throat or sinuses that has made contact with the subarachnoid space.

On Friday, while at work (she's a school teacher), the first sign for Rika that something was wrong was that she had a really bad headache and her vision was affected to the extent that she couldn't see properly. She was taken straight to casualty by a colleague. The hospital sent her home having diagnosed a sinus infection. On Friday night she was in pain and not doing well. Richard too her back to the hospital.

I think meningitis was confirmed on Saturday (lumbar puncture is performed to extract CSF) and treatment initiated.

And this is the key element here: sinuses are one way for bacteria to get into the CFS.

Sinuses are air-filled spaces around the nasal cavity. There are four of them. Many major blood vessels, supplying blood to the brain, lie next to the sinuses - and that's how infection is transferred.

You could have a sinus infection every season and never get meningitis. It's really a combination of factors (severe infection in just the wrong place) that results in the conditions that lead to meningitis.

Treatment is specifically geared towards fighting the infection (intravenous antibiotics) and probably also corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and swelling of the meninges and resulting pressure on the brain. Sedation is common practice.

Bacterial meningitis is a very serious illness and Rika has a battle on her hands. Being young, fit and healthy is a big positive in her arsenal in her fight against this infection.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flower Power

OK, so I got a little excited last night about the crochet stall tomorrow... I took some photos of my flowers and headbands. I figured that I'd take photos to have a record. I'll take photos of Staci's colourful creations tomorrow morning.

Here are some of them...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Crochet crazy - my first fair

About two months ago I had my arm twisted into taking a stall at the Vaaloewer River and Country Market. It's an annual market/fair in the town of Vaaloewer, which is a little town on the Vaal River, a little upstream of Parys. Not wanting to go it alone, I roped in my friend Staci to partner me on this project. She's also a crochet whiz.

As it is Spring and we love flowers, we decided to go with making headbands and flowers; the flowers can attach to the headbands or be worn independently as brooches. We've gone with 100% cotton yarn (feels great and nice and cool) and have a load of colours.

We've been methodically working through balls and balls - turning yarn into things.

The fair is this Saturday! It's one thing to make stuff for friends and family and babies... and another to make products for sale. A little daunting.

Our brand is Loops & Stitches.

We're especially proud of our wooden buttons. I did the designs (inspired by buttons I saw online) and Staci's colleague laser-cut them for us.

It's hard to price crafts because if you set a fee at an hourly rate that one commands for other work the products are too pricey for people to buy. There are loads of suggestions online like cost of materials multiplied by a factor, like by three. We've taken these into consideration but mostly we're winging it because it's our first time and by interacting with people at the fair we can gauge their response to our products and will be better informed for next year. The challenge too has been how much stuff to make. Big learning experience on Saturday for us.

Here are some early photos I took for the market's FB page about a month ago. I'll take more on Saturday to show you our creations. Since we took these photos we've created headbands in a variety of stitch patterns and piles of flowers. Staci and I have each made a string of crocheted bunting and Staci has also made really sweet and colourful characters -  a bird and an owl.