Where facebook comes in handy

Where facebook comes in handy

It’s been an interesting week. To be honest, I’m a wee bit overwhelmed.

My youngest sister graduated her Masters (with distinction we find from facebook- my family have never been one for facts). And then yesterday another sister welcomed her fourth child into the world, a fifteenth grandchild for my parents (also something I found out from facebook).

I’m worried my new lodger is imaginary. She fits in with my world just a little too well to be real. She hasn’t complained about my cooking and is fine with sleeping underneath our boiler, tangential conversations and four children in the house. Having watched A Beautiful Mind, I know to be careful about these things.

Writing wise, I’ve opened an author page on facebook. I am as ever touched by the people who’ve liked it without me begging. My biggest motivation is to protect my friends on my personal account from feeling spammed by blog notifications and professional bragging.

And there are daffodils all over town. I find myself smiling when I see them. A love of daffodils is one of the few superficials I have in common with the ‘heroine’ of my novel. I took these on the school run.




The man who made Caesarean section safe

The man who made Caesarean section safe


For a small country, Scotland has produced more than its fair share of medical pioneers. My article on Murdoch Cameron was published earlier this month in the November/December issue of History Scotland.

Although the first Caesarean section had been carried out in Roman times, the procedure was hardly used anywhere when Cameron first arrived at Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital (the “Rottenrow”). The few women that survived the operating room usually died of infection or ‘ward fever’.

But Rottenrow served the East End of Glasgow, where Ricket’s disease was rife. Womens’ pelvises were often too deformed to deliver a baby safely. Doctors inserted instruments through the cervix to crush the baby and allow vaginal removal. Murdoch Cameron revolutionised childbirth by proving Caesarean section could be used safely in these cases,

The magazine have been kind enough to provide me with a PDF of the article for my portfolio, which is online here.






The Zika Virus in less than 500 words.

What is it?

A virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito.

Why is it in the news?

It is currently spreading rapidly through Central and South America. It is likely that it will continue to do so throughout areas with this particular mosquito (Africa, South and South East Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific).

Although most people have few if any symptoms, researchers think it may cause microcephaly, a fetal defect where the head is abnormally small.The WHO have declared it a “public health emergency of international concern”

So should everyone avoid the affected areas if they can?

Certainly pregnant women and those intending to become pregnant. Those suffering from severe, chronic medical condition, or with weakened immune systems.Affected areas are updated on http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html

Supposing travel is unavoidable? And how can inhabitants protect themselves?

They should:

– wear clothing that covers as much of their body as possible.

– use a good mosquito repellent day and night, particularly during mid-morning and late afternoon/dusk. Repellents that contain DEET, picardin and IR3535 are all safe in pregnant women.

-apply repellent after any sunscreen.

-sleep in a screened or air conditioned room, or under a mosquito net.

The Brazilian Health ministry has suggested women in affected areas avoid pregnancy at the moment.

What’s the chance of catching the virus in the UK?

The Aedes mosquito does not currently survive the UK climate. However Zika cases have occurred in people travelling from affected areas.

I’ve heard it can be sexually transmitted.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can, although there is no conclusive proof. The risk is considered very low, but men returning from an affected area are advised to use a condom for 28 days. Men who have been affected or have had an unexplained rash or fever should use a condom for 6 months.

And kissing?

Although ZIKA virus can be founds in saliva, it is in such small amounts that the risk of catching it through kissing is considered extremely low.

What are the symptoms?

They are usually mild: fever, rash, itching, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, eye pain, conjunctvitis.

Is there a test?

Yes, if the women are currently experiencing symptoms. This involves blood and urine samples being sent to the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory.

With or without symptoms, women who’ve been at risk, should have a fetal ultrasound to measure the head. This can be repeated monthly. If testing for the virus is positive or equivocal, or there is evidence of microcephaly, the woman should be referred to a specialist fetal medicine unit.

References and further reading: