Personal Health, Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall

I’ve been kind of silent on this blog recently for quite a few reasons.

First my Kickstarter failed on its second attempt so I’ve been busy trying to organise a bit of research I can do without funding but also researching and planning other avenues of funding I can look at.

 

Secondly, I’ve been dealing with health issues which have been pressing on me for a while now and I felt I needed time away from my blog process to deal with them. Also, life has really just gotten in the way of doing many things, such as updating my blog or creating new items or listings for etsy.


After events of the last few days I decided that I needed to do a bit of blogging.


First off, I have mentioned before in this blog that I have dealt with a continuing disability since birth which needed various forms of physiotherapy and orthotics. Essentially I was born with a form of cerebral palsy known as hemiparesis due to a pre-natal stroke. It left me with a weakness on my right side, more specifically my right leg. You may have seen a previous post where I showed off my most recent orthotic and my discussion of hospital shoes. Anyway a few months ago I ended up in hospital briefly regarding an episode that the doctors were not sure whether it was related to my existing condition.


This has led to going for various tests such as an MRI, CT scan and blood tests. Right now I’m being described as a work in progress, with more tests and monitoring to come until they can really work out what happened and why. I chose not to share this with many people at the time as it was and still is a very personal thing; however I felt I needed to discuss certain things relating to my experiences.


While I have been visiting hospitals and medical professionals fairly regularly since I was tiny, I never really look forward to yet another round of tests or doctor’s appointments. But  as I was sitting in the waiting room for my appointment yesterday I started thinking how truly lucky I am to live somewhere that I have such ready access to such healthcare and support. I don’t want to turn this into a lecture or a political debate but I do feel the need to connect my experiences with the current political situation in the United Kingdom, but also in relation to other health care situations such as America.


As people in the United Kingdom and many others outside of the UK will know there is going to be a referendum held in September to decide whether Scotland will become an independent country and leave the United Kingdom.


 Firstly I am going to be voting Yes for numerous reasons, some political but all personal.  One of the biggest things that swayed my decision is the state of the NHS currently.


As it stands Scotland has control over the NHS in Scotland, which right now protects it from ongoing privatisation of the NHS in the rest of the UK. However if Scotland votes no in the referendum we risk losing the control we currently have as with so much more.


I think of the NHS, and while many people enjoy complaining about the long waiting lists and focusing on targets, I think of all the nurses, doctors and other professionals who have treated and my family over the years and I’m grateful.


I think of the fact that while I was in a treatment room for blood tests yesterday the nurse treating me had to keep leaving me, either to check on the person in the bed next to me or to check with other nurse and departments. The nurse was lovely and friendly but she was also rushed off her feet and faced with being extremely short staffed and a waiting room full of people needed treatment.


I can’t stand to think that while she was rushing around treating at least 3 people at a time, she is still getting pressured about long waiting lists and not meeting certain practically unattainable targets set by managers and officials that probably have not experience of what working in a busy hospital is like.


I think of the fact that while she and others are working in such pressured environments they are getting paid a fraction of what they are worth.


What I really want to talk about is that, while we don’t have the perfect system of healthcare it is so, so much better than any privatised system. When I ended up in hospital a few months ago, I didn’t have to make a choice, about going. When I was discharged I didn’t have to worry about paying for being there, or for the MRI I was to later receive.


When, a decade ago my brother was involved in a car accident and he ended up in intensive care, my parents didn’t have to consider selling our house in order to pay for his treatment.


Since free prescriptions were introduced in Scotland, no one has had to make the choice between buying food and getting their necessary prescriptions.


When, last year it was decided that I needed to start wearing orthotics again I started googling a bit more about them. I came across a blog by one woman in the US who was discussing the process and cost of getting orthotics for both her children. In the end it was costing her upwards of $1600 per orthotic.


I wore orthotics constantly from the age of 3 until I was 16. I also had regular physiotherapy treatment during that time, many times with my physio visiting me at my school. I also attended check up every 6 months or so at a hospital.  I can’t imagine the cost of that treatment, had my parents had to cover it personally. Essentially I wouldn’t be in the position I am now, if not for the free at the point of use treatment available on the NHS.


Part of why I’m voting yes is because I want to keep the NHS and make it even better. More staff, higher wages, more focus on patient care over financial targets. I don’t want to face a situation of deciding between my health and my financial situation.

 

What I want to discuss next is in some way connected to my experiences with the NHS.


I, like many people was shocked and saddened to read about the passing of Robin Williams. Partly due to the loss of a beloved actor and comedian, I’ve spent the last few days thinking of all the films I’ve seen of his that I loved as a child or as an adult. I’ve also spent a lot of time over the past few days thinking about mental illness and depression. What was the most shocking aspect of Robin Williams’ death was the announcement of it being suicide.


This is another reminder that regardless of situation, wealth, fame or family circumstance depression can affect anyone. Although Robin Williams was very public and open about his mental illness and addiction problems; most fans knew him as a charming, hilarious and happy man. The important thing to take from this is that depression is an illness that can affect everyone not just the person suffering. It can take and destroy lives, and it does it illogically and doesn’t discriminate.


There have been a few, thankfully not many but a few news reports calling his death selfish or cowardly. This is not only insulting to his family and loved ones but to every person who has ever been affected by mental illness.


I hope that the one positive thing to come out of this tragedy, the tragedy of Philip Seymour Hoffman and many others is that people start discussing mental illness and the stigma surrounding it. I hope that people will read about Robin Williams and understand that if they are faced with dark feelings and thought; if they are faced with isolation and loneliness that they are not alone.


There are many wonderful resources out there offering support and help to those who are personally dealing with mental health issues but also for those trying to help and support someone with a mental illness.


In Scotland alone, we have some wonderful groups such as:

See Me: They fight again stigma, discrimination and misrepresentation surrounding mental health.

Well Scotland: They are an organisation set up to provide support for professional organisations and group to learn more about dealing with and understanding mental health issues.

In the rest of the UK organisations such as Mind UK offers support and advice for those suffering with mental illness as well as working with the government and councils on their behalf.


In terms of immediate support there are also wonderful support lines set up across the UK and beyond to provide people with the opportunity to connect, anonymously with others, even just to feel less isolated. Such as:


·         Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 (local rate call). Your call will be confidential and will be taken by a trained volunteer. The phone line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.



·         Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87 (calls from landlines are free of charge; charges may apply to mobile users). If you’re depressed or experiencing low mood, you can speak to a Breathing Space advisor weekdays: Monday to Thursday 6pm-2am and weekends: Friday 6pm to Monday 6am



·         ChildLine: 0800 11 11 (calls are free of charge). ChildLine is the free helpline for children and young people in the UK. You can talk with an adviser about any problem 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


The final thing I want to discuss, relates to the sad news of the passing of Lauren Bacall, announced today.


While she was a screen starlet in the Classical Hollywood era of American Cinema most notable for films such as Casablanca and The Big Sleep, I know that unlike Robin Williams she isn’t as well known by people my age.


The reason I want to talk about her is the cause of death. She suffered a stroke and while it is a lot more common for those of her age (89) to suffer from strokes it is entirely possibly to suffer from one at any other time.


I have, for a long time made it a point to read about the effects of strokes and the treatment along with the causes and symptoms. Given my own medical history I feel it’s important to discuss the risk of stroke.


The most recent campaign launched by the NHS is the ACT F.A.S.T campaign, which gives you quick basic advice for recognising the signs of a stroke but also what to do in that situation.


NHS Act FAST

F.A.S.T stands for:


FACE; ARMS; SPEECH; TIME


This gives you 3 basic signs to look out for and instructions on how to act.

FACE: Has their face fallen on one side? Can they Smile?

ARMS: Can they raise both their arms and keep them there?

SPEECH: Is their speech slurred?

TIME: act quickly and call 999 immediately if any of these 3 symptoms are present.


While these instructions describe what you should do if you see this happening to other people, it is a very good thing to remember if you ever find yourself with any of these symptoms.

If you feel a weakness in your face, look in a mirror or ask someone to see if it has visibly fallen.

Try to speak clearly out loud. Do you notice a difference? Does it feel strange to speak or does your voice sound different?

Can you raise your arms out in front of you?  Can you hold them there straight?

And act as quickly as possible, find someone to call 999 for you or do it yourself if you are able.


Basically the quicker you act the faster you can be treated and the lower the risk of permanent brain damage.


The NHS website also provides links on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing the risks of strokes.

 

I hope you guys have managed to wade through this very long and very serious blog post of mine. I just really felt the need to get things down on paper or on a website.


I’ll be back with a hopefully more cheerful blog soon

Until then,

See you in the future ❤

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