Oct 132017

Sheena Mann with her father, Alex Mann who passed away Feb 21 2017.

By Sheena Mann.

‘The Alex Mann Memorial Event’ will take place on 20 October 2017 in aid of Diabetes UK, to raise awareness of type 2 diabetes.

I am organising the event because my father passed away in February of this year from complications arising from type 2 diabetes.
He was only diagnosed five years before his death, but like most people he unknowingly had it for many years before this.

The complications associated with diabetes are many and symptoms are few if any until the disease reaches a dangerous level. Many people are unaware of how dangerous and deadly a disease this actually is and many are unaware of even having it.

People who are affected or are at risk need to be educated, along with doctors and nurses they need to know what to look out for, they need to know what can happen and the speed in which things can happen when it becomes too late to treat.

Diabetes can lead to heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, weight loss, amputations to name but a few. My father needed an amputation of his lower leg to save his life but he was too ill and frail for such a major operation, he passed away four weeks after being admitted to hospital.

We had his 81st birthday in hospital on the 16th of February and he passed away on the 21st.

The Diabetic Association was set up in 1934 by novelist HG Wells and Dr RD Lawrence – both of whom had diabetes. It became the British Diabetic Association (BDA) in 1954 and Diabetes UK at the turn of the millennium.

Radical from the beginning, the charity aimed to ensure that everyone in the UK could gain access to insulin, whatever their financial situation. Its mission statement was:

“to promote the study, the diffusion of knowledge, and the proper treatment of diabetes in this country.”

The Association campaigned for the creation of the National Health Service and argued that people with diabetes should take an active role in managing their condition. In 1939 the first diabetes voluntary self-support group was set up. There are now over 400 local voluntary groups, providing support and information to people with diabetes across the UK.www.diabetes.org.uk 

The event called ‘The Alex Mann Memorial Event’ will take place at Nigg Bay Golf Course, St Fitticks Road, Aberdeen from 6.30pm, entry is free.

We will have various retailers present including; Usbourne Books, Forever Living Products, Creepy Robot Collectables, Beauty and Jewellery, a reflexologist doing facials, Lily’s Dough pizza van, also Glitter Tattooist Cat on the Moon, a photo booth by Niall Bain Photography and more.

There will also be sideshow games including a tombola with prizes from North Link Ferries, His Majesty’s Theatre, Flash Photography and many more.

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Jan 132017

By Anne Foy.

Doctors have issued a warning published in a British Medical Journal, that grapes are a ‘choking hazard’ to small children after two Scottish children have died choking on the fruit in the last few years.
45 deaths in Scotland in 2015 among people of all ages were due to choking on food.

Parents already know not to give toddlers under three years old, toys with small parts.

Every mum and dad is well versed on the dangers of marbles and tiny building blocks but foods often aren’t given the same consideration. 

Hotdogs, Grapes and Sweets Risk

The top three foods that children choke on are hotdogs, grapes and sweets because they are exactly the right shape to obstruct an immature airway. Not only do sweets cause dental problems, they are a major choking risk to children. Cherry tomatoes are also a problem and if parents don’t slice them into smaller pieces, they can become lodged in the throat. Babies and under 5 year old’s are at much greater risk of choking accidents because their trachea is so small.

Aberdeenshire Boy Dies

Five year old Aberdeenshire boy, Louis Emaho died in 2012 after choking on grapes at an after-school club. Staff at the club attempted to dislodge the fruit when it became apparent that he couldn’t breathe. He was suctioned by ambulance technicians and given CPR but despite their efforts was dead on arrival at the hospital.

17 Month Old Toddler Dies

In another case, a 17 month old boy died died when he was eating lunch with his family after choking on grapes. His parents attempted to clear his airway but were unsuccessful so they dialled for an emergency ambulance. Initial attempts at CPR failed because the fruit was still blocking the airway so paramedics met the ambulance crew on route to the hospital and were able to remove it via laryngoscopy (a telescope that allows the doctor to see into the back of the throat and extract objects). 

Medical staff were unable to revive the little boy.

A Lucky Escape

A third child narrowly escaped death when he began choking on grapes in the park. An ambulance crew was already nearby and were on the scene within minutes. They were able to remove the grape and the child began breathing again, although he had two seizures as a result of the oxygen starvation and signs of brain swelling. After being placed on artificial ventilation for five days. Just six days following the removal of his vent, he was well enough to go home. Miraculously, he showed no signs of any disability.

Advice for Parents

Due to these infrequent but tragic incidents, NHS Health Scotland has updated their childcare guidance and now suggest that parents chop up fruits like cherry tomatoes and grapes into tiny pieces, remove any pips and stones and avoid whole nuts. They also advise that it is safer to cut larger fruits into slices rather than chunks, as this makes them thinner and less likely to get stuck in the throat and they urged that parents supervise their young children when they are eating.

What To Do If Your Child Chokes

  • Check your child’s mouth for blockages and remove any you can see. Don’t poke your fingers down their throat or you could push it down even deeper and make the situation worse.
  • If your child can’t cough due to the blockage, place him face down across your lap and slap him in the middle of his back between his shoulder blades, five times in succession. If he is a baby under one year, make sure you support his head with your other hand.
  • If the blockage isn’t dislodged, begin chest thrusts. In an older child, you can do this by kneeling behind him and putting your arms around his upper waist, under his arms. Make a fist and place it between the ribs and the navel, then place your other hand over your fist and make a forceful inwards and upward thrust. Do this five times and then check your child.
  • Babies need a different type of thrust. If your baby is under one year, you can perform chest thrusts by placing him face up on your lap, along your thighs and put two fingers in the middle of his breastbone. Push sharply five times in succession. 
  • If your child has lost consciousness, dial 999 and use speakerphone so that you can still do back thrusts or CPR until help arrives.


Picture courtesy of Selovekt used under Creative Commons license.

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Jun 172016

By John Wallace.

Teach-The-WorldUsing the Scottish Government’s own figures, 300,000 people in Scotland have been totally ignored in the badly thought out and intrusive named person legislation.

People living with a rare disease and their families face significant social and daily life challenges which affect their autonomy, their dignity and their fundamental human rights.

It is not rare to have a rare disease, there are between 7,500 rare diseases in Scotland, 75% of them affect children and 80% are hereditary.

Integrated care provision in coordination between medical, social and local support services, via multidisciplinary care pathways and innovative care solutions, is a crucial game changer to tackle the unmet social needs of people living with rare diseases and none of this was even considered in coming up with the named person legislation. Nobody asked anyone in the 300,000 strong rare disease community in Scotland.

Families of children with rare diseases represent a motivated group striving to find what is best for their loved one, and the vast majority make the time and find the energy to sift through many thousands of pieces of information to find that one pearl that helps their child turn a corner, no matter how small.

They understandably dedicate their lives to researching their children’s condition. This dedication, in turn, can mean that even as they turn to medical professionals for help, it is those same professionals that in fact look to the parents for guidance.

Parents are accustomed to being the experts; in fact, they are acknowledged to know more than the specialists, even at renowned children’s hospitals worldwide, because while we expect our doctors to be experts in all things medical, the truth is they are not, they often have little knowledge outside the area of their expertise.

Most doctors who treat a rare disease child may never even heard of, much less have any degree of medical expertise in, the disease at hand, including our GP and both pediatric and adult consultants.

My son is eight-years-old and the only child in the UK with Familial Cold Autoinflammatory Syndrome Type 2. It is a gene mutation which makes his autoimmune system stay on when it should have switched off, attacking his body – a lot of his life is in pain and is at times totally unable to walk. My wife has the same hereditary disease.

We have a brilliant working relationship with my son’s school. Whether his attendance is at 50 or 80 per cent (depending on his illness), we all work together to ensure that his education is kept up to date.

The drug is fairly toxic and had massive painful and traumatic side effects

We see medical professionals in Edinburgh on average twice a week, have appointments in London every few months. From the professors down, they tell us that in fact we are the disease’s experts and they take guidance from us.

Even before diagnosis we brought together hospital, school and family to ensure everyone is aware. At present there are five drugs which might help alleviate some of the symptoms. Four of those drugs seriously compromise the immune system and have extremely serious and painful side effects and are trials, used in other conditions, because the condition is so rare.

The least toxic one did no good. The second one caused his condition to seriously deteriorate. The third drug he tried after seven months deliberation, against our gut instinct. The drug is fairly toxic and had massive painful and traumatic side effects. It was our 34 days of hell watching our son going through so much pain and fear, watching his condition get worse, and dealing with his fear of us giving him the daily injections directly into the lesions on his legs.

Thankfully, the consultant agreed with us that enough was enough. My son, to this day a year later, still winces at the mention of the drug’s name.

What if our consultant changed and the new consultant wanted us to try a drug we were not happy giving to our son, or indeed try once again the drug which gave us our 34 days of hell? The legislation allows the consultant to contact the named person and promote said views without even consulting us. This is a fact and it is not open to discussion.

We go out of our way to enable everyone dealing with my son to work together, whether that be professors, consultants, GP, rheumatology nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and all the other medical professionals and the educational professionals in school.

We make the time to ensure that every single minute of my son’s life is as meaningful and fulfilling as it can be. I am the named person and I can do it better than his head teacher or anyone else because I live with it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year I don’t take school holidays nor weekends off. I am with my son whenever and wherever he needs me.

No matter what trials and tribulations I go through with my son’s and wife’s condition, the one thing that keeps me awake at night is worrying about getting a new consultant or a new head teacher who tries to force my family down a path I don’t want to follow for my son’s treatment and I know I am not alone in my thinking.

(Previously published in the Scottish Sunday Express. Reproduced by kind permission of the author.)

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Feb 112016

There is a little-understood, little-known syndrome that strikes 1-2% of the population. Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly, a sufferer, is joining with others around the world to raise awareness of this condition, particularly among health care professionals.

cyclical vomitingImagine an illness that works like this. You can be fine for weeks, months, and then with less than a minute’s notice, you get hit.

If you manage to take a preventative medication at absolutely the right moment, then chances are you’ll be lucky and avoid an episode. And if you’re not lucky?

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome attacks see sufferers vomiting for anything from a few hours to a few days.

In rare cases some people have attacks that stretch to weeks, possibly months.

Looking back, I see that I had very infrequent attacks for at least 20 years; I always put these down to food poisoning. Then they increased in frequency and severity, until for a fortnight, I thought I was dying. I spent a day and a half on my bathroom floor, completely unable to get up except to hunch over and be ill again. The pain was searing; then I threw up bile; then I threw up blood.

I really thought ‘this is it’ and assumed I had some kind of cancer. I was either shaking with cold or burning up, or spending hours wondering if I could manage to get up to get any water, and if so, how long I’d keep it down.

Finally making it back to work a week later, I was straight onto my doctor, then a specialist. Being into research, yet knowing the stupidity of self-diagnosis, I came across this illness called ‘Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome’ – it struck people like me, who used to experience migraine headaches (I had them as a child and they abruptly stopped).

Little was known, there was no cure.

The specialist I went to talked to me for nearly an hour – this was after all the blood work was back and had ruled out any terminal illness.  He determined that it was CVS I had. The medicine I got to prevent attacks is not without potential side effects, but it seemed to work a charm. That is, if my attack was during the daytime. More often than not, this hits me between 2 and 4 am.

My first waking thought then is not to take a pill, and sometimes before I realise what’s happening, it’s too late. (I sleep with the medicine within reach, and have some stashed on me, and virtually every place I spend time).

I’m an extremely lucky person with this condition.

I’ve found a network of others with the illness. Many of them have it far, far worse than I do. I’ve never had to be hospitalised (although with hindsight, there were two attacks that I probably should have gone to the ER with). I’ve never had to be fed by IV. I’ve never had to plead with doctors or nurses for medicine, never been ridiculed, patronised or ignored.

My back teeth aren’t rotting from being ill as frequently as some of the other people I’ve come to know. And as I’m in a country with free health care (and am lucky enough to have additional health cover through my work), I’ve not had to spend thousands of pounds on treatment. And I’ve not had to have permanent feeding tubes put in me, either. And I’m not either a little child or an elderly person going through this. I am extremely lucky.

Being ignored at ER, being told ‘you’re just after drugs’, being sent home only to throw up blood on the way out of the hospital – this is how people are being treated by those in the health care profession who’ve never heard of CVS. My attacks, and most people’s attacks, have nothing to do with: drinking, emotions, stress, diet. One time I was walking down the street, felt a bit sick, and then that was that.

The worst occasion remains a quiet night in doing some work, and being sick for a week. In all of my attacks I’ve not had a care in the world, and oddly, I’ve never been sick when drinking. The worst parts of this illness is just that – no one really understands what sets it off, how to stop an attack, or how to cure CVS.

Here’s what some of the people with CVS say, and why they want to raise awareness.

“I’ve had CVS for 20+ yrs and still to this day get treated like a drug seeker. I’ve been left feeling tortured & in agony for hours laying in an ER bed more times than I can count.”
– Ryan

“Too many to count, not just medical staff, friends and family too! A few years ago, before I was diagnosed, my best friend in the whole world was bringing me to the ER in the middle of an attack and asked me if there is any chance that my symptoms were psychosomatic? It still hurts me to this day that that was a real question from her.”
– Jenna

“A specialist put me through every grueling test and when they were all negative, told me he could do nothing and I was obviously making it up to get sympathy. My daughter actually figured it out by watching Gray’s anatomy! Researched it, took it to my family Dr who researched further and here I am. Can only manage symptoms is what I get.”
– Susan

“I’ve lived in the same area (so, near the same hospital) since 2004. For 12 yrs. here in VA (20-yrs total with CVS), I’ve had to go to the ER only 2-3 times/year, and I’m STILL treated like a drug-seeker, by about 1/3 of the ER docs I’ve seen. When they do refuse my simple (approved & recommended) abort-meds, my cycle does not end. It can go for days. So, I have to return to the ER after having been kicked out 6-12 hours earlier.

“You must go back; dehydration is no joke. I’ve had to call an ambulance for some of these return trips when I’m completely disoriented. I don’t see how a hospital can bill you for the 2nd stay when treatment was REFUSED during the 1st stay. I’ve fought that before & won – I think everyone should contest billing for any repeat-visits that are due to malpractice: neglect of duty.

“They see me coming back, the nurses at least recognize me, and viola(!) the new doc is suddenly ready to take things seriously. I have much less trouble if someone is with me, “vouching” for me. To summarize, I am luckier than some patients who have more frequent episodes. But, only 2-3 trips to the ER per yr & they think I’m drug-seeking?! (Yes, I’m a 3-time-a-year addict. So dumb!)

“I’m a 40 yr old mom, nothing “wild” looking about me at all. (Not that it should matter, but some advice to others: I’m treated like a drug-seeker more often if I look really messy/out of it. I actually prepare an outfit & hair ties, etc. every night before bed in case an episode starts & I have to go to the ER.)

“I had an episode last weekend & encountered a doc I’ve had the misfortune of seeing in the past. He has a line he loves to use, and he YELLS, no, BELLOWS at me:

“I’m not going to distribute narcotics as they are not indicated for CVS!!!!!”

“The nurses stare in horror at HIM. My preventative meds are anti-anxiety meds. At the ER, to abort an episode, I need 2mg (yes, only 2!!) dilaudid, 25-50mg phenergan (over time), & Ativan or similar & at least 1 bag of fluids. Dr. Pain here should be avoided at all cost. I went back the next day with my father, and there was no delay in giving me that exact Rx to stop the episode. I was very dehydrated by then, however, so the IV was extremely hard to establish & left 10+ huge, black/purple bruises all over my arms & hands.

“I’ve had the great honor of emailing with Dr David Fleischer, “The Father of CVS.” He expressed to me in 2010 that my episodes seemed to require very little to abort, & he added that dilaudid is preferred over morphine bc it is not likely to create nausea – like morphine does.

“I was diagnosed by a GI in Manhattan after every test known to man & even gall bladder removal. I was referred by him to a Neuro back here in VA, who then passed me off to a shrink who only did my Med. Mgmt for anti-anxiety meds & then said I should just have my Primary taking care of this. My Primary is pretty lazy about it, though. On occasion the ER has tried to contact her by her emerg svc, but she’s not very forceful in her care of me, her patient. None of them care!!”
– Emily

The aim of the initiative is to raise awareness in the medical profession of the seriousness – and painfulness of this condition.

A support group is there to help. Colleen from CVS Speaks said:

CVS Speaks actively works raising awareness and helps support Facebook support groups. We currently have 14 groups teamed up helping suffers in the day to day struggles. We have groups by age kids thru adults, caregivers to suffered only, men’s groups, women, mothers. You name we probably have a group to fit sufferers diverse needs.

“CVS patients often need safe place to feel validated, accepted and learn from others what helps relieve symptoms. Medical professionals often do not have much experience with CVS. So along with groups like CVSA www.cvsaonline.org, we help get them in touch with the most up to date treatment options and research to talk with their providers about.”

More information can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/CVS.Speaks/

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Feb 272014

With thanks to Gillian McGarthland.

HealthTransport flyer2Many people need advice on how to get to and from their health appointments.  This can add stress to a difficult situation and sometimes lead to missed appointments.  The Transport to Healthcare Information Centre (THInC) can help. The project provides practical transport advice for people who have difficulty getting to and from medical appointments in Grampian.

The service provides a dedicated telephone service offering guidance on accessing suitable transport. 

The centre can provide details of suitable bus or train times, contact telephone numbers and other services such as local dial-a-bus or voluntary car schemes.

The centre is the first of its kind in the UK and is a joint initiative between Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Moray Council, NHS Grampian, The Scottish Ambulance Service, Nestrans and HiTrans and is one initiative being taken forward by partners under the Health and Transport Action Plan.  The project also works closely with transport providers.

The Health and Transport Action Plan (HTAP) is a strategic document which supports the Regional Transport Partnership.  The focus is on ensuring partnership working across Health and Transport sectors with a focus on three keys themes: Active Travel, Transport links to Public Health (air quality, road safety, inactivity) and Access to Health.

The HTAP document is currently being reviewed.

Key issues have included raising awareness of the telephone number but also communicating to the public that it is not the number for booking ambulance transport and does not guarantee a service is available.  One of the aims of the project is to identify gaps in current transport provision.

The longer term aims of the project include developing closer integration between transport and appointment times and acting as a hub for potential future partnership working with transport operators.

Currently a promotional campaign is being carried out to increase awareness of the project. This has included information on appointment letters, emailing relevant professionals, community groups, poster distribution, advertising on prescription bags and use of social media.

HTAP Co-ordinator, Andrew Stewart, said:

“THInC is a good example of what can be achieved when different organisations work together in partnership. Knowing there is a service available to help you plan travel to an appointment will help patients but also the efficiency of the health service through reduced missed appointments.”

Please call THInC on 01343 567839 between 9am-4pm, Monday to Friday. Calls are charged at local rate.

Further information on the Health and Transport Action Plan can be found on the Nestrans website.

Aug 092013

Momentum is an organisation which helps people with brain injuries reach their full potential. Their third Top Hats & Tiaras Grand Ball takes place on 14 September this year at the Aberdeen Hilton Treetops Hotel.  Rhian Johns has benefitted from Momentum’s services, and tells Aberdeen Voice how Momentum helped.

Momentum is a voluntary organisation which offers rehabilitation and training services, empowering people with an acquired brain injury to gain the skills and confidence that they need to live independently and to fulfil their employment goals.

It is a charity close to my heart as in April 2006, at the age of 20, I suffered a brain haemorrhage followed by long-term ventilation and severe lung complications and now epilepsy.
I was in a coma for 5 weeks, Intensive Care for 2 ½ months and another 2 months in the Neurology ward.

Following various intensive therapy sessions to aid my physical recovery and to start learning to read and write again, I was well enough to be able to attend Momentum’s Pathway programme in April 2007, as part of my rehabilitation and recovery and with their incredible help and support I returned to Robert Gordon University in 2008, graduating in 2011 with a BA in Fashion Management.

Since coming out of hospital, it has been the hardest time of my life, but Momentum helped me to get my life back on track.

They helped me to realise and understand exactly what had happened to me and how to cope with it. I really appreciated meeting other people who had suffered brain injuries.  It is a big comfort knowing that there are people who understand what it’s like to have your life turned upside down. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Momentum’s help and support.

It is important to me to thank them by raising funds for their Grampian Brain Injury Centre, based in Aberdeen.

I couldn’t be happier to be holding our third Top Hats & Tiaras Grand Ball on 14 September this year at the Aberdeen Hilton Treetops Hotel in Springfield Road at 7.00pm.

The evening starts with a sparkling drinks reception, followed by a 3-course meal and coffee. Entertainment for the evening is the fantastic Burlesque, the band who aims to get everyone on the dance floor from the first song.  Our auctioneer for the evening is Highland League legend Ian Thain,  helped by our MC for the evening, Rebecca Curran of Northsound 1.

I would love for you all to join us.  More information and tickets can be obtained from Lucy on 07557 853500 or lucy.wilson@momentumfundraising.co.uk.

For information on how Momentum has helped people in the Grampian Brain Injury centre check out: http://momentumskills.org.uk/fundraising/eventsto-hats-tiaras-ball

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Jun 072013

By Trish Healy.

I am tired and thinking about all the things yet to do at home.

I hope tomorrow the bus is on time……..

The stress starts as soon as I ask myself, “shall I take the bus or take the car?”

The bus may or may not turn up on time.  I have stood so many times cursing then calming down with a deep breath or three.

Although it is faster with the bus lanes it costs an arm and a leg every day. You cannot really buy return tickets as the bus often does not appear as is scheduled after visits and then the next bus is a different number altogether and won’t accept your ticket.

What if I get the driver that nearly throws you out of your seat with his dodgy driving, I remember the man behind me swearing at him after being thrown forward for the umpteenth time, or the cheeky young driver that tells me ‘there is a bell’ if I want to get off the bus? There are of course many polite, lovely and safe drivers too.

Well what about the car then?  Traffic build up, irate drivers, cost of petrol, environmentally unfriendly, no parking to be found and then when I do find a space about 20 minutes later it is at the maternity unit and I need to be at the other end of the hospital.

By now I am cursing and wish I had taken the bus!

The bus usually wins, only due to the amazing people I get to meet at the bus-stop and the stories they tell. Now, at the hospital, I have a short time before the wards will let me in so I have the choice of waiting outside the ward or in the hospital cafe that sells nothing suitable for a vegan. Well fruit, there is always fruit.

The café staff seems tired, looking forward to the end of their shift. I am not allowed to eat my homemade sandwich that suits my dietary requirements but they cannot make me one similar… stress.

It is a long day when visiting from 8.30am to 5pm on chemotherapy day. Once I am finally on the ward I get to my partners bedside and he is asleep. Ah well, I will sit and relax for a little while, don’t want to wake him. “Don’t sit on the bed…..”  Oops, forgot.

Feeling like a school kid now, never would think I had been a ward sister in my time.

I notice the busyness of the ward and note that the people who make you feel best are the domestic and auxiliary staff who just seem to have more time for you.  The trained staff fly about, undertaking medications and admissions, calling doctors and technicians, not at a lot changed since my days.

I have been there a while now and need to use the toilet but, depending on the ward, I have to go down 3 flights of stairs and walk along a long corridor before I get to them. Note to self… do not drink so much when visiting, even if it is a full day.

My thoughts are always with my partner and how he is coping, treatment burns. Unable to speak, I look back at the 8 hours. My head can be full of so many outcomes, I need to cry but there is nowhere to go where I feel safe. Although there is the small hospital chapel, it is nice there, I like the stillness, but I cannot cry and then visit my partner, it would not be fair. It is not about me after all, it is about him.

He smiles when he wakes up and sees me and my thoughts disappear, I smile and love him back.  The visit passes quickly and then we have to say our goodbyes. A nurse has told me I should have left 5 minutes ago.  Off I go to the lifts which sometimes work and sometimes do not, walk the long corridor to sit an hour’s wait at the bus stop because it has not arrived again.

I am tired and thinking about all the things yet to do at home.

I hope tomorrow the bus is on time……..

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Apr 292013

Local charity and support group Friends of Anchor came up with an ingenious way to raise funds and awareness:  they decided to hold a fashion show with models who survived a cancer diagnosis.  Suzanne Kelly covered this event for Aberdeen Voice and found it one of the most uplifting and inspirational events held in our area for quite some time.

Friends of Anchor decided to put on a fashion show to raise funds – but not just any fashion show.

The women would be community members who had been diagnosed with cancer and overcame it with help from the Anchor Unit.

The call for models received an overwhelming response; it was only a pity that only 24 could be selected.

After months of fittings and rehearsals, these amazing women took to a catwalk erected in The Beach Ballroom.

The ticket demand was beyond organisers’ dreams – all tables sold out quickly, and demand hadn’t abated:  they had to open the balcony for seating without food service for both the afternoon tea and evening dinner shows.  All tickets were taken.

A raffle was held; and a tombola-style ‘tree of indulgence’ was hung with 500 tickets, some linking to fabulous prizes.  The organisers hoped to sell most of the tickets by the time the evening show concluded:  in the end, all these tickets were snapped up at the afternoon show.

The table was laid for afternoon tea in a beautiful style; the food was delicious.  The clothing on show had something to offer every size and age of woman.

Stalls around the room sold a variety of goods.  But all this paled in comparison to the models.

Each gave a brief description of their individual situation in the programme; several were featured in video vignettes showing how they dealt with their problems, how their friends and family were on hand to help, and how the Anchor Unit provided personal, state-of-the art health services geared to the needs of each individual.

There were older women; younger women; a pregnant woman, and one particularly courageous woman, Laura, who was still being treated at the unit.  She first took to the catwalk without wearing a wig (like many if not most, her hair had fallen out during treatment).  She was radiant.

There were casual outfits, wedding and evening clothes.  The women were given the warmest of welcomes from the crowd, which seemed to clap nonstop.  Their attitudes to their medical problems marked them out as extraordinary people; it was really an honour to have been there.

Speeches were made by charity patron Jimmy Milne of Balmoral Group and the Lord Provost.  Sarah-Jane Milne and Sandra McIntosh of Total were also speakers; it was announced that the afternoon event had made £39,000+ – the target for afternoon and evening events, with all proceeds going directly to the charity with no overheads to pay.

The models were:  Ashlea Corvelle, Christina Farquhar, Dawn Laird, Erica Matthew, Fiona Vass, Gail Roberts, Joan Cordier, Joanna Strathdee, Judith Logan, Judy Alexander, Julia Riddoch, Kathleen Haw, Katrina Farquhar, Kay Sowerby, Laura Atkinson, Laura Brackenridge, Lesley Anne Yeates, Llynda Johnston, Mary McLean, Nikki Dunn, Norma Ben Tebr, Patricia Beckett, Rebecca Grant, and Tricia Howden.

For the finale, all the models came out and joined the audience. Moments later everyone was up and dancing and/or congratulating the models on a brilliant show.  This event was a huge and happy success story, and hopefully will become an annual event.

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Mar 072013

Voice’s Andrew Watson writes about some of his very unusual and disturbing past experiences which warranted  intervention from mental health services.

I thought I got www.MxTabs.net hauled off the web, in June 2006, because I made an entry about what had – just – happened to me.  I really want to elaborate, partly because I never really talk about it/get the opportunity:

By all accounts, it was, in comparison to a second episode, a minor psychotic episode.

I was on Beta Blockers, and my mum, to aid my sleep, got herbal remedy sleeping pills, which apparently don’t mix.

I’ve been obsessed with aliens ever since I watched a disturbing documentary on the Discovery Channel, when I was a kid. The one image etched upon my brain, seemingly, was that of a stained glass window (Scientology?!) of a man holding an alien (Grey) baby.

Put it this way, I saw/heard things that didn’t seem possible, through the blinds in my bedroom, looking out onto the back garden. I never saw anything (Grey) eye to eye, and I was relatively brave, but I dared not fucking contemplate going in that back garden.

It started with, basically, my room being untidy.  I wonder if, and I fully embrace both literal/lateral-cum-of-the-brain/of-the-mind, this was the catalyst.  Distress, or whatever.   I’m normally very tidy, and when I went for counselling as an outpatient at Aberdeen’s psychiatric hospital not long after (surprise, surprise.  I felt sorry for my parents, though), I narrowly avoided being diagnosed with OCD!

The bed was strewn with magazines, ‘Record Collector’ and ‘Leopard’ (which I love) and other titles that mean nothing to me, these days!  Anyway, I thought I’d, somehow, get this mess sorted in the morning; and just sleep on the floor.  So I got my sleeping bag out my wardrobe.

Basically, my white coat morphed into a Grey.  It seemed unreal and like a mirage, but unsettled me big time.  One thing led to another, and I found myself glued to my swivel chair.  Not through paralysis, which I would experience years later, but just fear.  I could’ve fought it, conceivably, but didn’t.

I had bamboo wick blinds, or whatever your call them.  The gaps probably cover up just under 75% of all you see outside.  Suddenly the tree I was staring at, a bare one with many twigs, seemed to spring to life.  I later developed a distinct hatred of that tree, and would always tell my parents I wanted to clip it – from the top!

Many nights converge into one at this point.

This is because an antennae-esque thing appeared to fly from outwith my peripheral vision and into plain sight.  It nestled on top of the dainty twig on top, probably the main ‘vein’ of the tree’s root, if you like.

I suppose it was a bush more than anything else, but it was quite tall.

It seemed like a ‘drone’, and I cannot shake, albeit a vague feeling that that’s exactly what it was.  It went on to project Game Boy-esque graphics, largely derivative of ‘Donkey Kong’ (Mario before ‘Super Mario Brothers’).

I traded telekinetic thoughts.  I say ‘thoughts’ because it wasn’t a typical schizophrenic experience with voices – just thought patterns that seemed ‘external’.  There’s no other way I can put it.

Many nights converge into one at this point.  I can’t remember if the stampeding feet – no voices – were heard before or after that night.  There was a low-slung mist right through the house when I eventually plucked up the courage to go upstairs, to my parents’ bedroom.

I can’t go into too much detail about my second major episode because it was far more convoluted than the above.  I ended up, because the first period left no lasting effect (‘affectation’?!), being heavily medicated for my problems.   I had a massive ‘Word’ file, upwards of about 69,000 words detailing all this, but conveniently lost it.  No conspiracy, mind.  I categorically do NOT say that ‘sarcastically’, rather more in a forlorn manner.

The thought patterns, prompted by footsteps and ticking clocks, etc have persisted, as I say, but have been suppressed in the long run.  It’s now jibberish and random, rather than posing any sort of intimidation or threat.

It took THREE changes of medication, during which I attempted suicide TWICE, before things were resolved.  Thinking about it, I’m furious I took an overdose then subsequently tried to hang myself.  Not because I think it’s selfish.  You think you’re doing people (my family, primarily) a massive favour; but you aren’t, in reality.

I’m annoyed at the incompetence and irresponsibility of professional people, many – but not all, I hasten to add – earning salaries upwards of £50,000.

I’m up in the early hours writing this – and I’m a tad scared

The overall word I would use to describe how I felt throughout that time would be DREAD.  It’s a horrible fucking feeling that not many people know the definition of; and I can’t say I’m proud to know its meaning, either.

The thing is, and I apologise profusely if I sound like a horror writer (Whitley Strieber and his ‘Communion’, anyone?) but I’m up in the early hours writing this – and I’m a tad scared.  More so half an hour ago, though.  I say this because my sister now sleeps in the bedroom downstairs, which used to be mine.

Though I just jumped when, most likely/literally/’brainy’ I heard a noise, earlier on, I was thinking about ‘me’, not my sister.  If anything were to happen, at the very least I’d probably end up in Cornhill, again.  I’ve been there three times, once as outpatient twice as inpatient.  I’ve got no fucking intention of going back, any time soon.  My faculties are in order; I just get restless and find it hard to sleep, sometimes.

*MxTabs was actually shut down for copyright issues; though I do sometimes wonder, to be honest.*

Mar 152012

Self-outed, unfit men of a certain age with a higher-than-is-strictly-good-for-you Body Mass Index have been gathering at all SPL clubs and Hamilton Accies to take part in a health and fitness programme allied to research being carried out by the Medical Research Council and universities. A participating Voice contributor reports, between gulps of oxygen and mouthfuls of bananas.

It’s voluntary, it’s not particularly strenuous and it’s good fun.

About fifteen of us gather every Tuesday at Pittodrie with community coaches Jason and Scott, weigh ourselves, discuss topics such as food intake, mild exercising and the downsides of booze. Everyone has a pedometer with weekly targets on step count.

Last week, following the previous session’s discussions on calorie intake and fat-burning, the pre-session chat was like an edition of ‘Loose Women’ as hairy men discussed the relative merits of low-fat yoghurt and M&M addiction.

Said one participant:

“Of course, I’ll go home and tell the wife that we spent the time talking about last week’s Dons game”

We all knew what he meant.

There’s a superb atmosphere of mutual support for our shared pursuit. Each participant knows what 5% and 10% weight losses will mean personally. Hard work goes on between weekly sessions to reach and exceed step count targets, to avoid industrial estate cheeseburger vans and to reduce the five pints/steak pie matchday ritual.

The track around The Hallowed Turf is ours for the evening to increase that step count. That’s also a time to chat to new friends about our efforts in the previous week and make obscene gestures to the empty away section on each circuit. Old habits die hard.

In the concourse of the Richard Donald Stand, Jason and Scott introduce us to simple exercises to aid fitness and increase strength and suppleness. Rudimentary football drills also feature, but Craig Brown has yet to pop his head round the door and say,

“You’re just what I’m looking for son, you’re partnering Verno upfront on Saturday”.

We’re nearly halfway through the programme, the second that has been run by the Dons Community Department this season. The previous group still meets on a Monday evening to exercise and play mildly strenuous 5-a-side. Some from the current programme have joined them and have been made welcome.

The encouragement and enthusiasm is phenomenal, the laughs many and the dedication remarkable considering we all have day jobs, family commitments and the temptation to lounge on the settee watching Corrie when we really should be strolling around the suburbs overdriving the pedometer.

All results are confidential to the participants and the researchers, but of course we all share our step count and our weight loss, if any.

The current programme completes at the end of April. You’ll hear from me again then.