Jy blaai in die argief vir 2010 April.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes, MacMac falls, Berlin Falls

April 28, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

As promised yesterday, some pics of the weekend. We didn’t have nearly as much rain as Gauteng had over the weekend, so we could manage a bit of sightseeing.

This is what real potholes look like… (Pics taken at Bourkes Luck) By the way, Bourkes Luck is wheelchair friendly, if you ever want to visit it with an elderly or disabled person.) 

Berlin Falls (Not too wheelchair friendly)

MacMac Falls. The official info says the waterfall measures 65m, but from where we stood to ground level was about 100m drop. Not wheelchair friendly at all. When we enquired about this at the gate – my friend’s mom is elderly and walks with difficulty – her sister misspoke and asked the guard at the gate if the place is WHEELBARROW friendly. Of course it became the joke of the weekend. But alas, the walkway is not even fit for a wheelbarrow.

Everything was wet.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes, MacMac falls, Berlin Falls

April 28, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

As promised yesterday, some pics of the weekend. We didn’t have nearly as much rain as Gauteng had over the weekend, so we could manage a bit of sightseeing.

This is what real potholes look like… (Pics taken at Bourkes Luck) By the way, Bourkes Luck is wheelchair friendly, if you ever want to visit it with an elderly or disabled person.) 

Berlin Falls (Not too wheelchair friendly)

MacMac Falls. The official info says the waterfall measures 65m, but from where we stood to ground level was about 100m drop. Not wheelchair friendly at all. When we enquired about this at the gate – my friend’s mom is elderly and walks with difficulty – her sister misspoke and asked the guard at the gate if the place is WHEELBARROW friendly. Of course it became the joke of the weekend. But alas, the walkway is not even fit for a wheelbarrow.

Everything was wet.

Cadeau from the platteland

April 27, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

[kado] masculine ( plural -x) present, gift; faire un cadeau à someone give someone a present or a gift; faire cadeau de something à someone give someone something (as a present or gift) (French Thesaurus)

My weekend turned into one long cadeau. I have a friend whose husband died a horrible death four years ago. He was a keen cyclist, and got hit by a minibus-taxi while getting fit for the Argus. After 67 days in ICU Johan died (very unexpectedly) of septic shock, just as his family were making plans to bring him home.

They were in my church, and although I saw his name on our prayer list week after week, I only got to know his widow Josie six months after his death. We got talking while baking pancakes at the church fete. I don’t recall how exactly everything happened, but after my divorce a few months later we became firm friends. In Decemer Josie asked us to accompany her to their seaside flat, a place she hasn’t visited since Johan’s death. And we had a ball! Remember the pics I posted of our seaside holiday?

Well, it seems we behaved ourselves well enough for her to invite us again. This time to visit her family’s citrusfarm near Ohrigstad in Mpumulanga.

And once again great fun was had by all! We left very early on Saturday morning, and arrived on the farm round about 12h00. Her eldery mother prepared a spread fit for a (very thin) king. The weekend was one long feast of homebaked pies, custard slices, cream puffs, koeksisters, ystervarkies and melktert. Her brother and his wife invited us for pancakes on Sunday night when it rained. On Monday morning her sister baked flapjacks and served it with fresh farm cream and homemade jams. Another brother’s wife invited us for coffee, once more served with the finest snacks you can imagine. Another one braaied for us (always something a single woman appreciates!) For vitamins there were guavas and oranges picked and eaten under the tree… That was the first lot of cadeaus us cityslickers received.

The second string of cadeaus were the beautiful places we saw on Sunday when we decided to go sightseeing: the potholes at Bourkes Luck, the beautiful Berlin Falls, the impressive Mac-Mac falls, God’s Window (which had a curtain of fog making sure we can’t see a thing), the quaint town of Pilgrim’s Rest. Beautiful scenery along the way: forests of pine trees, cycads, tree ferns, wild flowers, waterfalls…  (pics to follow tomorrow)

The best gift of the weekend was the hospitality, the warmth with which people received me and my kids, complete strangers to them. They opened their homes and hearts to us, and for three full days I could bask in being part (albeit unofficial) of their family.

This morning we left with yet more cadeaus: plants and cuttings from their respective gardens, a coolbag full of guavas, a few bags of oranges.  A special early nartjie each. Two branches of the laurel tree for cooking. And almost a kitten or two.

Outside Ohrigstad we stopped at the local cycad nursery (something one of Josie’s brothers arranged for us) for a personal tour of their lovely extended gardens with hundreds of cycads, aloes, aloe trees, kiepersols and other indigenous plants. We left there with some cuttings and armful of peacock feathers for the kids.

We laughed a lot, ate far too much, inhaled wonderful fresh air, saw breathtaking scenery, relaxed and indulged in a spot of slow living for three glorious days… In short, we did everything the doctor recommends (except maybe for all the cake!). No wonder my kids unanimously decided this was the best weekend they EVER had! 

  

Pack of dogs attacking a crocodile (Not for the faint-hearted)

April 21, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

Got this from a friend. Definitely worth a peek!

At times nature can be cruel, but there is also a raw beauty, and even a certain justice manifested within that cruelty.

The crocodile, one of the oldest and ultimate predators, normally considered the ” apex predator ” , can still fall victim to implemented ‘team work’ strategy, made possible due to the tight knit social structure and ” survival of the pack -mentality ” bred into the canines.

See the remarkable photograph below, courtesy of Nature Magazine. Note that the Alpha dog has a muzzle hold on the croc’ preventing it from breathing, while another dog has a hold on the tail to keep it from thrashing. The third dog attacks the soft underbelly of the croc’.

Interesting cricket fact (with tongue firmly in cheek)

April 21, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

Seeing that I’m interviewing the new Proteas coach tomorrow, I thought I’ll read up a bit on cricket. (I’m lying through my nose – not about the interview, but about the reading up bit…)

Came across THIS very interesting fact. (Nah, still lying. It was sent to me by a friend as a joke.)

Did you know? (Tadummmmmmmmmmmmm! Creating a bit of suspense. Almost typed expense…) 

Now for the fact:

The first testicular guard (box) was used in cricket in 1874. And the first cricket helmet only in 1974.

Conclusion: it took men 100 years to realise their brains might be important too….

Don’t touch me on my STUDIO!!

April 20, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

Will the poor guy from e-tv ever live this down? Here are some funnies that has been circulating. Also heard a radio ad today mocking those in “air conditioned offices in Sandton” and “touching studios”… And thus a new national slogan was born! (Well, if we don’t laugh about what’s happening we will have to cry. And I’ll rather be laughing…) 

Funny: how do you know it’s a suicide puttytat?

April 20, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

In Bloemfontein for work for the next three days. Whiling away the time until my next appointment by reading e-mail, and had to smile at this one. I changed the heading to be more PC, though, as I don’t want to be fried…

Tannemys, the blind date and innoculations

April 18, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

The blind date went extremely well, thank ye very much! We met for coffee on Thursday to break the ice before Friday, so come Friday night it was as if going with somebody I know quite well.

I’m happy to report that (in answer to my previoius questions), he has his own hair and teeth, his mother is dead and thus didn’t accompany us on the date, he doesn’t drive a Vespa, he can sit upright at a table and eat with a knife and fork, the crazy ex lives far, far away with a new man (so, she didn’t stalk us) etc, etc.

No, seriously, great fun was had by all. The occasion was the ATKVeertjies, one of the most prestigeous award evenings in the media industry. Achievers in the Afrikaans media are honoured annually by the ATKV with this event, and this year’s function was the best in the five years that I have been attending. Every thing, from flowers to food to the MC’s to the entertainment, were superb. Really an event the ATKV can be very proud of.

As a single mother I really enjoyed a Friday night of talking to grown ups on grown up topics. And dressing up for a function and being escorted by a nice man is also worlds away from what I am used to.

Had myself and the kids innoculated against whooping cough this weekend. For those of you not following health reporting, PLEASE heed the warnings and have yourself innoculated against measles, whooping cough and H1N1-flu, as experts are predicting pandemic outbreaks of these three conditions this winter in SA. Remember, measles can kill, so don’t consider it to be merely a children’s disease. And whooping cought outbreaks started in November last year already around Gauteng, and is on the increase.

Now I’m going to attack today’s newspapers.

Tannemys, the blind date and innoculations

April 18, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

The blind date went extremely well, thank ye very much! We met for coffee on Thursday to break the ice before Friday, so come Friday night it was as if going with somebody I know quite well.

I’m happy to report that (in answer to my previoius questions), he has his own hair and teeth, his mother is dead and thus didn’t accompany us on the date, he doesn’t drive a Vespa, he can sit upright at a table and eat with a knife and fork, the crazy ex lives far, far away with a new man (so, she didn’t stalk us) etc, etc.

No, seriously, great fun was had by all. The occasion was the ATKVeertjies, one of the most prestigeous award evenings in the media industry. Achievers in the Afrikaans media are honoured annually by the ATKV with this event, and this year’s function was the best in the five years that I have been attending. Every thing, from flowers to food to the MC’s to the entertainment, were superb. Really an event the ATKV can be very proud of.

As a single mother I really enjoyed a Friday night of talking to grown ups on grown up topics. And dressing up for a function and being escorted by a nice man is also worlds away from what I am used to.

Had myself and the kids innoculated against whooping cough this weekend. For those of you not following health reporting, PLEASE heed the warnings and have yourself innoculated against measles, whooping cough and H1N1-flu, as experts are predicting pandemic outbreaks of these three conditions this winter in SA. Remember, measles can kill, so don’t consider it to be merely a children’s disease. And whooping cought outbreaks started in November last year already around Gauteng, and is on the increase.

Now I’m going to attack today’s newspapers.

The letter that made my day, and the article behind it

April 15, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

Dear Olivia Rose-Innes and Ilse Salzwedel

On behalf of the Lilly MDR-TB partnership, I teak great pleasure in confirming that your entry “You too could have TB” has won 1st place in the 2010 Lilly MDR-TB/ Red Cross “Speak up to stop TB” Media Award.

The judging panel unanimously agreed that your entry met the various judging criteria which included news value, relevance, ability to stimulate awareness about TB prevention and treatment, significance of the data presented, presentation of new data, research and treatments, clarity and accuracy in describing the science behind the story, effectiveness in communicating the story and creative journalistic approach.

This award recognises outstanding print and online journalism and honours journalists who serve their readers by providing responsible, accurate and timely information on tuberculosis prevention, research, development and treatment. Congratulations to you both on this outstanding achievement.

And a few techical things, amongst others how much money we won.

But hey, the joy of something like this lies both in the honour of winning, as well as the fact that one gets recognised for good work. Being a journalist is a lot of things, but it’s far from glamorous. You slave away behind your PC, hoping that your readers will like what you write. To then know that somebody didn’t only like it, but actually think it was worthy of an award, makes up for all those lonely hours late into the night.

Here’s the article on TB, and, like the title says, you too could have it. DON’T think TB is a poor man’s disease, and remember that it is completely curable if caught in time.

TB: you could have it too

Last updated: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 Print

 

Today, World TB Day, is celebrated around the globe to raise awareness of this devastating yet curable disease.

Before you read the article below to find out how TB can affect you, take a look at this moving photographic essay of TB in SA, check out these famous TB patients, or see how TB develops drug resistance.

Two-thirds of South Africans are already infected with TB. No one is immune.

 

By OLIVIA ROSE-INNES and ILSE SALZWEDEL

 

“If you want to avoid getting TB, don’t breathe!” says Professor Nulda Beyers, director of clinical research at the Desmond Tutu TB Centre in Cape Town.

She says this only partly in jest. These days tuberculosis is so rife in South Africa that it’s almost impossible to avoid exposure. In fact, according to the South African National Tuberculosis Association (Santa), it’s suspected that at least 66% of our population is infected – but in most cases the bacterium is harboured in a dormant state so the carrier is unaware of the infection.

So two-thirds of South Africans have TB infection – that’s double the already staggering global figure (about one-third). And this includes many people from privileged backgrounds. Although the poverty-stricken TB stereotype persists, says Beyers, no one should think they’re immune to this debilitating and potentially fatal disease. Anyone can get it, as these personal testimonies show:

Rob Erasmus, general manager of Cape Town’s Volunteer Wildfire Services, discovered he had TB when his lung ruptured during a SCUBA diving course in the 1980s:

“I’d undergone the necessary medical examination for the course, which included a chest X-ray.

“I was diving with a large group on the wreck of the Mauri between Hout Bay and Llandudo.

“At the end of the dive, I experienced pain in my chest as I was surfacing, and signalled to the dive master that something wasn’t right. He suggested I descend again and try to come up slower. This we did three or four times, but it didn’t work. When my own air ran out, I had to have the half-empty SCUBA tanks brought down to me from those divers who’d finished their dive.”

Eventually all the air tanks were empty, and Rob was forced to surface. This caused his lung to rupture and he had to be emergency airlifted to hospital.

“The tissue tests confirmed the left lung was badly infected with TB. I tried to get my hands on the original X-ray, but between the dive shop and the doctor it had ‘mysteriously’ vanished.

“I was not very happy with the doctor who’d done my diving medical exam. He’s still a respected doctor in the commercial diving world, but I’m afraid he ranks minus 10 in my book.”

Rob was very surprised by the diagnosis, and doesn’t recall having had symptoms: “I was studying at Cape Tech at the time, and living a typical student life. So the late nights and parties resulted in occasionally feeling exhausted – if the TB was kicking in, it was masked by that.”

“I don’t know where I could’ve got it. I was in the employ of Cape Nature Conservation, and the previous year I’d been in contact with some sick wild animals as part of my work, so I might have picked it up then.

“It was awkward putting family, friends and classmates through the inconvenience of having to go to the clinic for a check. The good news is that no one else in my circle picked it up.”

Apart from this, Rob says he’s always been open about having had the disease. “I’m not embarrassed about it at all – maybe because I’ve been able to do a lot post-TB.”

Rob went on to become a commercial diver and diving instructor, and became skilled in a range of other outdoor activities, from sailing to firefighting. “I’m now primarily in an operations management role with Volunteer Wildfire Services, but I spent a good six seasons fighting fires and don’t think my medical history had any negative impact on my ability.”

Bronwyn Thompson works as a medical technologist in a pathology lab, but again, it’s difficult to determine if that’s where she contracted TB. As she points out: “You can be standing in a supermarket queue and someone coughs, and that might be enough to get infected.”

Bronwyn, in her early twenties and athletic, also didn’t seem “the type” to get TB. She continued to push herself, despite months of respiratory infections and other clues that something was wrong. “It was increasingly difficult to do full exercise routines. My lungs would burn and my legs would feel like lead.”

“My boyfriend Tarren suggested I get tested for TB, but I had the ‘I can’t get it’ mindset. Also I’ve had asthma from childhood, so chest infections didn’t seem that unusual. I didn’t have typical symptoms like weight loss, and my cough was fairly mild. But you don’t realise how long you’ve been coughing. In my case, it was easily six months.”

The 2006 Aerobics-Gymnastics National Championships, in which Bronwyn took part, required lung function tests to prove to the Institute for Drug-Free Sports that she legitimately needed asthma medication. The results showed that her lung function was down – an indication of various respiratory conditions, including TB.

Eventually, after her doctors had tried changing her asthma pumps, and courses of antibiotics and hydrocortisone, they did a TB culture and chest X-ray – really, says Bronwyn, just to eliminate it as a possibility.

“When the doctor called with the news – fairly advanced TB, mostly in the left lung – I burst into tears. I was distraught, but also ridiculously ashamed.

“I had to tell my family and the group of interns I’d been working with. I was sure Tarren was infected (he wasn’t) – just before the diagnosis we’d gone camping and spent days together in a tent! In the beginning I was really anxious I’d infect people, and did things like putting bars of disinfectant soap around the house.

“But I was never once made to feel rejected or isolated: when I told people they literally just put their arms around me.

“It’s hard to stick with the treatment. The side effects get you down, as well as the fact of having to take all these drugs; my room looked like a pharmacy. At first you feel like everyone’s staring at you at the clinic, when you head to the – clearly marked – TB section with your sputum bottle. But you get over that!

“These days I’m happy to talk about it – it’s vital to get the word out. It’s so unnecessary people die from what is essentially a curable disease, purely through stigma and lack of knowledge.”

How do you catch TB?
When an infectious person coughs, sneezes, talks, laughs or spits, droplets containing Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the bacterium that causes TB), spray into the air. People nearby may inhale these bacteria and become infected.

But despite the fact that TB is mainly spread through the very air we breathe, transmission usually only occurs after substantial exposure to someone with active TB. In other words, infectious patients are much more likely to pass the bugs to family members, colleagues or people they interact with daily, than strangers or those they only see occasionally.

After inhaled TB bacteria have settled in your lungs, one of two things can happen:

Either your immune system manages to contain the bacteria and keep them in an inactive state, or they multiply, leading to the development of TB disease.

The bugs versus the body
Most infected people never actually develop active TB. They don’t get sick, aren’t infectious and may not even realise they’re carrying the bacteria.

This is because the immune system controls the infection by forming “walls” around the bacteria: this is called inactive, dormant or latent TB.

But latent TB doesn’t always stay that way. Ten in 100 people with latent TB will develop active TB in their lifetimes – most likely within the first two years of infection.

Active TB can also occur directly after infection if the bacteria overcome the body’s immune defences and multiply. Some people develop TB disease within weeks of becoming infected, because their immune systems are simply too weak to stop the bacterial growth.

Other people with latent TB get sick later, when their immune systems become weakened through, for example, diseases or behaviours that cause immune suppression (most notably HIV, chemotherapy, poor nutrition or drug abuse).

Beyers says that there can also sometimes be a grey area between infection and disease. “Some people get infected and then only develop a very mild form of the disease – often with flu-like symptoms. So they may be unaware that they ever had it.”

How does active TB manifest?
TB usually attacks the lungs and can destroy parts of the tissue, making it difficult to breathe. Less commonly, the bacteria spread to other parts of the body, including the digestive and urogenital tracts, bones, joints, nervous system, lymph nodes and skin.

It can even attack the brain as a deadly form of meningitis, or break down vertebrae, causing sufferers to become humpbacked. A rare form of TB has also been known to disfigure the soft tissue of the face.

Tests, treatments and deterrents
The standard initial diagnostic test for TB infection is the tuberculin skin test: a small amount of testing fluid, called tuberculin, is injected under the skin of the arm and a small lump at the injection site usually indicates TB infection. Diagnosis of TB disease requires further tests such as a chest X-rays and sputum culture.

But TB is a complicated disease that’s often shrouded in shame. One of the biggest myths is that infected people need to be avoided or isolated for months. The result is that many people are afraid to get tested or make their diagnosis known.

“Some people hide their TB status because they think they’ll lose their jobs if they come clean,” says Professor Umesh Lalloo, head of the respiratory unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Nkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

“But if treatment is carried out correctly, a person with active TB will be non-infectious two weeks after starting treatment.”

Yes, TB is a highly dangerous disease, but it can be treated effectively. One caveat: the drug regimen (typically a six- to nine-month course) must be strictly adhered to. Many people stop taking their medication because they start feeling better or experience unpleasant side effects.

Tragically, this results in the development of drug-resistant strains of TB, which are making the epidemic much harder to control.

TB gets extreme
South Africans were shocked to learn of a frightening form of TB called XDR-(extreme drug-resistant) TB. Prof. Lalloo identified the XDR strain through research in the Tugela Ferry area. Further investigation has shown that XDR is cropping up all over South Africa and across the globe.

What makes XDR so virulent? “If you’re extremely resistant to TB drugs, there are very few treatment options,” says Lalloo. “And if someone is HIV-positive as well there’s an almost 100% mortality rate.”

Lalloo says South Africa’s TB infection rate has almost doubled in the last eight years: “In 2000 we reported about 500 new cases in every 100 000 people. This has grown to about 1 000 new cases per 100 000. Even more worrying is the fact that SA’s statistics don’t compare well with those of neighbouring countries, even though we are – on paper at least – one of the best resourced countries in Africa.”

Ideally, Lalloo says, there should be systems in place to identify at least 80% of TB infections. “Of that 80%, we must be able to cure at least 80% of cases if we want to prevent the spread of XDR-TB.”

Should you get tested?
A TB test is strongly recommended in any of the following cases:

  • You’ve spent time recently (i.e. in the last two years) with someone who has TB or you work in an environment where rates of infectious TB are very high (e.g. large healthcare institutions).
  • You are HIV-positive, or have another condition that causes immune suppression. If someone with latent TB contracts HIV, the risk of developing active TB rises from 10% during his or her lifetime to 10% a year.
  • You develop symptoms that suggest TB – such as a persistent cough, coughing up sputum or blood, chest pain, fatigue, unexplained loss of weight or appetite, chills and fever, night sweats and shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Other less common symptoms include joint pain, diarrhoea, loss of hearing, a persistent lump or lesion and swollen fingers or toes.
  • If you are due to undergo chemotherapy, your doctors may advise a TB test, and treatment for latent TB if you test positive.
  • Children under five are at high risk of developing TB disease once they have been infected. For example, if your child’s teacher or childminder has been diagnosed with TB, it’s a good idea to have your child tested for TB.

In all of these high-risk cases, a positive TB test will require treatment. Even if your diagnosis is latent TB, you should still take a prophylactic course of drugs to prevent the development of active TB.

Testing and treatment for latent TB is not considered necessary for people who do not fall into the risk categories mentioned here.

As always, prevention is better than cure
To help protect yourself from contracting TB you need to follow a healthy lifestyle and support your immune system with good nutrition, regular exercise and sufficient rest. To further improve your chances: know your HIV status and don’t smoke.

Tobacco smoke increases the risk of becoming infected in the first place, of latent TB becoming TB disease, and of TB being fatal. To make matters worse, second-hand smoke is also linked to an increased risk of infection in children.

Can you protect your child against TB?
It’s essential that babies receive the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination, because it prevents serious types of TB such as TB meningitis or disseminated TB (which spreads to other organs and limbs) in children under two, says Professor Willem Hanekom, laboratory director of the South African TB Vaccine Initiative at the University of Cape Town.

“This vaccine is 80% successful and is one of the safest vaccines.” Currently BCG is the only TB vaccine in the world for the prevention of the disease.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work for adults, Hanekom says. “It’s also not effective against pulmonary TB, the most common type of TB.”