Monday, 15 September 2014

Scoliosis - Diagnosis and Brace cast

I've thought long and hard about this blog post.

It's been written for a while and I just haven't got around to completing it. It's not because it's something that I wasn't sure about sharing, it's just that I wanted my girl to be completely comfortable with what is shared.  

A few months ago we started on a bit of a medical journey with Sibs. 

She and I have chatted about keeping some sort of a diary or some documentation about it all. We considered setting up another blog just for us and family and friends, but then it makes a bigger issue about what is essentially just another part of our story. So in the end we decided that we would keep a bit of a record here. So here it is - part 1, it's a bit wordy....

Towards the end of the Summer we noticed that Sibs had a slight difference in the contour of her back when she bent over to pick something up. She was wearing a swimsuit when I noticed it so her back was exposed and there was a definite unevenness between the left and right side. 

She told us there was no pain or discomfort, she was able to move and stretch so we parked it for a while with a promise to keep an eye on it.

A couple of months she mentioned that she had a pain in her neck so I immediately made an appointment with our GP to get it checked.

The GP asked a few questions and got Sibs to stand straight, put her palms together and slowly lean forward pointing her hands to the floor. 

A few measurements later and the GP advised that we needed some x rays to confirm a diagnosis of kypho scoliosis. (Basically, scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. In Sibs's case it presents as an inverted S. Wikipedia can give a detailed description of what scoliosis is - HERE)

A couple of hours later the x rays were done, Sibs was back at school and I was on my way to work. 

Neil was away so I left a message for him - not to alarm him, I just thought that he needed to know how I had spent my Friday morning! When he got an opportunity to call back he told me that as he received my message he had just finished talking to a researcher who was working on a study of spinal deformity in children. How's that for a coincidence? Through this contact he immediately got some reassurances and secondly a recommendation of a local scoliosis consultant/spinal surgeon.

So it was back to the GP who then arranged a referral. Things can move pretty fast here, and within a week  I received a phone call with details of an appointment for more x rays and a consultation. 

The consultation was an examination, a confirmation of diagnosis of idiopathic adolescent scoliosis and a talk through some options. 

Dr A told us that the normal range of curvature of the spine is up to 10% and Sibs has a curve of 37% which he deemed to be moderate to severe. 

He didn't believe that surgery was necessary at this point so recommended a back brace. The idea being that as Sibs continues to grow the brace will prevent the curve progressing. It would not cure the problem, just hopefully stop the degree of curvature. 

At this point I have to say that my girl has just taken all of this in her stride. She has a natural positivity and I have been incredibly proud and inspired by her attitude. 

So next on the list of things to do was to organise to be fitted with a cast for a TLSO brace. ( a thoracolumbosacral orthosis brace) 

The orthopaedic clinic was highly efficient and called me to arrange a convenient time and so Sibs and I headed there one lunchtime. 

We were introduced to Gary who after some chit chat about Sibs's name gave her a number to remember. She was going to be number 6230 - that's how many braces Gary has made in his 45 year career. Impressive....

Next we were taken to a small room and I don't think it had actually changed in 45 years! 

Gary was more than happy for me to take photos, and he kept directing me to where he thought I would get the best shots.  (I had obviously checked with Sibs beforehand that she was ok with this.)

He explained the process - Sibs was to lie balancing on an elastic strap and he was going to wrap her torso in plaster, wait for it to set and cut it off to produce the cast. 

I had expected a rather more state of the art digital something or other, but he obviously knows what he's doing.

When he invited any questions, Sibs asked him what would happen if she fell off the table. I could see that she was weighing up the odds!

In reply, Gary told her that she would be the first to ever do so. I'm not so sure.....

Anyhow, she managed to get herself in position and apart from a small fit of the giggles survived the casting. 

She wore a bandage type body stocking and a thin piece of plastic similar to a ruler was placed under this. The plaster cast was then wrapped around her body. The giggles came as she got a little confused between her torso and her tummy and her pelvis and when Gary was asking her to move she was moving the wrong parts!

She lay there for a short while and then the cast was scored with a knife along the piece of plastic and then cut. After a quick clean up she was done.

So what do you do after such an appointment? Well you head out for a hot chocolate and a little treat whilst Gary sets to work on brace number 6230!

Next on the agenda - an MRI scan.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Last Thursday was a day of days!

In fact, the whole of last week was just 'one of those weeks'  with a few challenges on the work front and the juggling of roles.

It really got me thinking about this work - life balance thing.

A bit of a curve ball and all of a sudden it's chaos.

Let me share a little of my day...

Neil and I car shared last Thursday. He was spending most of the day at the Convention Centre near the city and I was back and fore between locations. I was in charge of picking up Sibs from after school care and he planned to get a cab home later on in the evening. We parked up and went our separate ways.

A few hours later I realised that he had the set of keys, or rather I realised that I had forgotten my keys... I tried to contact him and left a message to say I was heading into the city and would try and arrange a meeting point to pick them up.

Work was busy and I sort of forgot about it and set off on the bus to my next appointment.

I was just about to walk into a lecture theatre when my phone buzzed. Not wanting the distraction I decided to ignore it. Off it went again and this time I glanced down to see the words "SCHOOL" flashing back at me.

Cutting a long story short I had the conversation that went along the lines of  'you need to come and pick up your daughter she is injured'.

Oh heck!

I'm in the car is miles away.....(I don't have any keys anyway!!)...I'm now running late for a presentation.....I can't get hold of Neil....I can't get hold of my friend and neighbour....I'm actually walking around in a circle!!

A few minutes later my friend calls me back realising that if I'm ringing in the middle of the day on a work day that something is up. She says all of the right things - reassuring me that she can be at the school in 5 minutes and will call back if she needs to. Sooo grateful.

So off comes the mother hat and back on goes the work hat.

Of course my phone buzzes again about half an hour later!

This time it was Neil responding to my rather curt "answer your phone" text. (There were more words than that in my text, but I won't share them here!)

Once my presentation was over I gathered my things and grabbed a cab to take me to Sibs.

We took a gentle walk around the corner to get home and then of course  I remember that I had no keys to get into the house!

I didn't have to worry as the front door was wide open!

Yes, the perfect ending to a ****** day.

Do I go in or stay outside? Do I call someone? My thoughts were moving at speed and I couldn't really think straight. I ventured in as far as the hallway and had a quick look around - the computer, TV, ipad all seemed to be in place. It would appear that the front door had blown open as the Yale lock hadn't been secured that morning. Phew!

Panic over, I set about making sure that Sibs was OK. Warm bath, drink, hot water bottle, can she have ibuprofen? What's for dinner?

She got to bed and Twmff the cat (bless him) stayed by her side and gave her lots of purring cuddles.

I eventually sat down and that's all I wanted to do was get lost watching something mindless on TV.

No, that wasn't going to happen  - the TV decided that was the day it didn't want to co-operate.
I changed the batteries in the remote control - nothing,
I fiddled about with cables - nothing.
I googled the problem - nothing.

I gave up and went to bed.

A few days later I met up with a couple of mothers from the school who asked me where I was on Thursday night. It was only then that I remembered that I should have been at a meeting that night! One where I had a reasonable input. I didn't send any apologies or report - I just completely, absolutely forgot everything about it!

There were just too many hats to wear that day. Too many balls to juggle.

The tipping point of the scales is so minute when it comes to balancing roles.

 Life is not full of 'perfect moments'. Life is at times challenging and it does go wrong.

I've done the full time worker, I've done the full time mother and I'm currently doing the part time trying to balance everything scenario.

Nothing is perfect. Nothing works all of the time, and everything is temporary.

But I have to remember that one bad day is just that -

So it's almost Thursday again. Sibs is fine, there are checks in place to ensure that I always have my keys, and planned drop offs and pick ups have been worked out for the week.

Just to keep it real - the TV still isn't working - but that's OK. I can manage that one.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Weekend Birthday

Another year..... I won't go on about time going so fast etc, etc (but it really DOES!)

The annual breakfast in bed birthday treat happened here this weekend. She waits for me to stir and get myself out of bed and downstairs to prepare the tray with a small breakfast and a few cards and gifts. She always pretends to be asleep but the smirky smile tells me that she's been so patiently waiting....

Quick rendition of "Penblwydd Hapus" and down to the kitchen to begin a day of celebrating.

The lights are on because it's dark, which means it's early - really early! Way, way too early on a weekend morning...! We had to fit in this birthday breakfast before setting off for a school activity, but we managed - just.

No birthday can pass without cake and this year the request was marble cake. The last time I made marble cake was exactly one year ago.

The other treat for birthdays in this house is that you get to choose where or what we eat. This year it somehow lasted the whole weekend. Sibs opted to stay at home rather than choose a restaurant  and on the birthday eve it was calamari (ewww!), then the request was Cesar salad for lunch and home made ravioli for dinner. Oh, and the request for ravioli fillings? - Spinach and ricotta in some and meat in others! So in between ferrying back and fore from different weekend activities some serious work happened in the kitchen department.

Home made pasta is sooo good, but it's such a fiddle and even though there were no complaints on the taste front I have to say the presentation of the little ravioli parcels was rather questionable! The tomato sauce did its job in hiding the rather strange looking shapes!

A quick clear up and nana, Sibs and I were off out to meet up with Aunty D, Aunty L and a friend for a girls night to the city to the Tina Arena Reset Tour concert.

Sibs was amazed at the lack of screaming.  I suppose when you've experienced One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer anything else will appear subdued!

Of course there had to be the obligatory selfies.

The night was great and it was an extra special treat for Sibs to get together with Tina and the team after the concert. It did mean that it was a very late night, but a lovely ending to a packed birthday weekend.

Happy birthday to my wonderful, wonderful girl.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Relaxing retreat weekend

So last weekend I spent a few days away from it all up the mountains for some serious switch off time. Goodness, how quick the week has gone.      

By the time I picked Sibs up from her ballet class and coaxed her away from the chatting that eleven year old girls are so good at, we set off a bit later that planned.

Now there are two ways of getting to this particular middle of no-where spot that was to be our weekend destination- the 'highway and then a bit of mountain' road, or the 'mountain all the way' road. On Friday night I decided on the highway. I hadn't tried this route to get there before.....

Picture the scene - it's dark, really dark, we're a little hungry and a little impatient to get there....

The sat nav only knows part of the way..... (it really is in the middle if no-where!)

So I take the wrong turn....!

Ok, technically I didn't take the wrong turn, I just didn't take any turn!

In my (slightly weak) defence every lake looks the same in the dark! Then after miraculously avoiding an enormous deer in the middle of the road, the dusty 8km dirt track that leads to the property appeared.

The fire was blazing, the casserole was being kept warm and the relaxing could begin!
We made it!

The Saturday morning started with a quick catch up hello with the animals and after a brief introduction to the new goats, off they trotted for a walk like two obedient little dogs!

The weekend was a get together with family to celebrate two birthdays. Two cousins born almost two weeks apart turning twelve in August. We celebrated their tenth birthdays here and they have loved every visit since. It's a place that they can wander and enjoy being outdoors. Apart from my slight paranoia about snakes, they are safe! Even on this winter weekend the daylight hours are all spent outside just exploring the surroundings.

These alpacas always make me smile. They would win any staring competition without a doubt!

Just as I was snapping away at the alpacas these three were watching the action, so of course they had to be included in the photo shoot too!

One of the highlights of this particular stay was to see two koalas close up. The last few times that I've visited I've managed to spot some in the trees in the distance but this time they were so much closer to the property. It's such a reminder that I'm in Australia and not somewhere back in the Yorkshire Dales!

They were so obliging looking directly at the excited woman taking a hundred photos of them!

On the Saturday afternoon Nana had us all in stitches of laughter when she brought out some old family photos. The kids had a real giggle at the fashions and hairstyles. Laughter is so infectious.

Then as the sun set it was back indoors to light the fire, enjoy another comfort food dinner and then curl up under my new blanket with a book.

Of course it's not a birthday weekend without cake and Aunty D produced this fantastic creation on Sunday afternoon for us all to enjoy. 

Presents were exchanged and Uncle S had the brilliant idea of giving the kids the same book complete with a beautiful little message on the inside cover. 

I think Sibs was very happy with her birthday present!

All too soon if was Sunday afternoon and time to pack up and head back to reality.

Quick goodbye to Stuart Little and Mr Jones the goats.

Thank you Nana and Papa for organising a lovely weekend.
Until next time....

We stayed at The Hollow Log Country Retreat website link  HERE, and Facebook page link HERE

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Friday catch up

It's Friday..... thank flippin' goodness!

It's been a long few weeks ....

Partly as I have been busy putting in a few extra hours here and there with my work and partly self inflicted as I have been staying up way way too late in the evenings working on my crochet blanket and getting totally addicted to the new BBC channel on Foxtel TV!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Foxtel for bring BBC First to Australia. Burton and Taylor was superb!

So what else has been occurring?

Well the Winter has not disappointed with glorious crisp mornings and sunny afternoons. The fire has been lit a few evenings...just for the sight, sound and smell really as to be honest it hasn't been particularly cold.

The Winter school holidays were a bit of a blur as Sibs was involved in a pretty big production of CATS.

When I say pretty big, I mean huge! There were over 500 cats involved with Marina Prior as the star attraction. I did start to write a blog post about it but never quite got to finishing it. I probably should, as it was such an incredible experience for her and it would be good to capture the memories. I was involved back stage and got to witness the excitement and thrill that the young performers experienced. It was pretty magical.

So after that I took Sibs and a friend for a little break up to Noosa to visit Nana and Papa and we did the holiday stuff - meal out, market wandering, walk on the beach, paddle boarding, whale watching on her uncle's boat,  people watching. Just chilling out really - bliss.

The second half of the school year has reminded me how close we are to coming to the end of a childhood milestone - finishing primary school.
Last week Sibs and I went to be fitted out with her high school uniform. Yes, it's a full six months before she starts high school but I got a call to gently let me know that I hadn't booked in a fitting and hey, ho there was a cancellation and could I pretty please get myself organised and be at the school for 7am on a Monday morning!
When Sibs tried on the school blazer I expected to be confronted by the sight of a grown up young lady, instead I saw my little girl looking back at me. It didn't help the emotions that the high school sports fleece was the identical colour to the fleece she had when she first started primary school back in the Yorkshire Dales as a just turned four year old. Talk about flashback with a twist!

So the spare bedroom is full of uniform, bags, hats, textbooks and various school paraphernalia. Sibs keeps going in and trying things on - which I think is a good sign that she's looking forward to the change.

This boy has yet again been in the wars, we reckon he's getting pretty close to his ninth life!

We didn't see him at all last Sunday and he didn't come home that evening for his tea. I eventually heard the cat flap swing open in the early hours of Monday morning and a rather bedraggled looking Twmff appeared. He spent the day sleeping and when I checked on him he had a number of little scratches and cuts. He has since spent the week curled up and hasn't even shown any interest at all in venturing out. Something or someone has definitely spooked him. He's been getting lots of cuddles, 'cwtches' and  'maldod' so I'm sure he'll be right as rain soon.

In more exciting news.... I've finished my stripe blanket - yay!

I've really enjoyed working on this one. It's pretty heavy and warm and is just the right size to drape over two laps on the sofa. Every now and again I would question the riot of colours but when I put a border of three different tones of blue to finish it off, it seemed to work.

I'm pressing pause this weekend and going away up to the mountains for a get away weekend and I'll be taking my blanket with me. It's a place we've been to before. Somewhere to completely switch off. There's no TV, phone reception or internet connection. The only noise is the wildlife - and there's plenty of that.
I've packed two books, my toothbrush, my Ugg boots, some chocolate, my camera,  my crochet bag and not much else!

So let's hope I come back revitalized and refreshed.

Happy weekend,

Monday, 23 June 2014

Channeling my inner Bet Lynch

This weekend has been pretty full on. 

On Friday night it was school disco night, and I was one of the parent helpers.

This was my last year as helper at the school disco as this is Sibs's last year at primary school.

The last few years I have been one of the gatekeepers at the door collecting the money, handing out glow sticks and making sure that there are no escapees during the night. No-body warned me though that the toughest part of the job would be to keep the parents out!

For the safety of the children, school rules state no adults at the disco unless you're a teacher or a volunteer. I have heard all sorts of 'reasons' why a parent should be allowed in....
Now deep down I am a right softie so being bouncer at the door is not a natural role for me! Anyhow there's nothing like challenging your comfort zone.

So after a pretty exhausting day Sibs and I said goodbye to another primary school event.
As I was on duty out the front of the hall all night, I got all the gossipy chat in the car on the way home - and I cherished it.

Saturday is usually lie in time, but not this weekend. I was up with the birds and out of the house before the shops were open.

I had a fancy pants ball to go to on Saturday night.

Now I don't have an abundance of ball appropriate dresses in my wardrobe... so this necessitated a bit of a last minute rush shop.

Oh my word - panic and pressure shopping on a Saturday is not good! Not good at all!

I tried on some beautiful creations. I had to blink a few times to read the price tag on a few. I think I was on the wrong floor in David Jones when I tried those on!

After a couple of hours of shopping, the coffee stop was medicinal.

I sat and watched the Saturday shoppers and rationalised the various options that I had.

(So if you saw a woman nursing a large coffee and a chocolate bar and muttering to herself on Saturday morning - that was me!)

My little black dress that was ancient but classic was going to have to do.

So I decided that I would spend a fraction of the money on accessories.

I splashed out on some bling, various 'suck you in' undergarments... and some new shoes.

The first pair that I decided on were  black and well, probably a little boring. The shop assistant was a little more enthusiastic about the ball than me so she kept suggesting more and more outrageous styles.

I tried to tell her that I would have trouble just breathing in my new undies so I definitely didn't need the extra worry of being able to walk!

We sort of compromised and I came away with leopard print. Yes, from plain black to leopard print in one move!

What I usually wear on a Saturday night to what I wore this Saturday!

Whilst at the queue for the ladies on Saturday night I engaged in some chatting to the girls around me.

One of them complimented my shoes and I replied - 

"Thank you. They're a bit 'Bet Lynch' aren't they?"

Hmm, lots of blank faces....

These were Australian girls in their thirties - of course they had not the foggiest idea about Bet Lynch!

I tried to explain... One of them thought that she had heard of Coronation Street, so we were getting close! The next thing, out comes a phone, onto Google and we had a chuckle over the Bet Lynch images.

(Click HERE if you don't know who she is, and if you do then just google Bet Lynch images and be prepared for the memories)

Bet is on the left!!

On a more serious note, the cash that I saved by not buying a new dress I took to the 'fancy do' that was raising money for clinical research at The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. 
The hospital is involved in some incredible research and one of its major centres is the Burns, Trauma and Critical Care. 

A special guest on Saturday has experienced the amazing care from this centre.  She came to tell her story and moved each and every one of us with her courage and positivity. 

Last year seventeen year old Paris Turkington suffered horrific burns to 60% of her body. She is still recovering, but her progress so far has been inspiring. She is truly a remarkable young woman.

Along with her doctor Professor Jeffrey Lipman she encouraged us to support the RBWH Foundation and through the auctions and raffles and entry tickets I hope a substantial amount of money was raised on the night.

To finish the weekend off, on Sunday we invited some neighbours and friends for a roast dinner. At the end of a full blown meal - (yes there were Yorkshire Puddings and every vegetable you can think of, we even finished with bread and butter pudding and custard!) I happily sought some quiet time with a new crochet project. However, Modlen the cat decided that she wanted some company so I kicked off my comfy shoes and shared my corner of the sofa with my little friend.

 And so it's back to Monday. 

The glamour of the weekend is replaced by washing and house chores. Dinner tonight will be leftovers... and I'll see if I can get to bed before the early hours.

Here's to a good week,

Monday, 16 June 2014

Wonderful Winter

It's Winter in Brisbane (at last!)

Brilliant blue skies, crisp mornings, warm afternoons and cosy evenings.

The Ugg boats have re-appeared and the cardigans are out.

My first ever visit to Australia was for a month during August. I never really noticed that it was Winter. It was just glorious. I remember walking on the beach one morning and feeling a little chill in the air, but it was still Summery to me.

Now as June approaches I'm desperate to feel the drop in temperature. By July I can't wait to light a fire! Yes, I've definitely acclimatised.

The sun becomes a real show off during the Winter months here. The next photo was taken on a drive to work the other morning. I had just dropped Sibs off on the other side of town and had to take a different route to work alongside the river. The glare of the sun was spectacular creating lovely shadows of the city and reflections on the water.

 It's equally as pretty during dusk. Although you have to be quick as it can change from light to dark in minutes - seriously.   This was taken in those 3 minutes when the sun was just hitting the high rises  in the city. It was already dark in the spot where I was. The photo doesn't really capture it as I only had my phone.

With the cooler months comes more opportunity to get outside. I have signed up again this year to complete the Global Corporate Challenge. This is a sixteen week workplace team challenge that promotes physical activity. Armed with my pedometer I have a daily target of 10,000 steps. At the end of each day I upload my activity and this is plotted with the rest of my team to produce some competitive stats.
Some of the money that you pay to register with the GCC enables a partnership with Unicef to help support communities around the world as well as conducting research into the well being of the participants.
My girl Sibs is also unofficially following the challenge and we compare steps each evening. I have to say that she manages to outperform me almost daily. I put that down to her having shorter legs!

So on that note, time to get moving... 

It's on days like this I need a dog!

Happy Monday,
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