Archive for Mai, 2014

Happy Mallorcan days

Next stop Munich

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More than a decade ago (as a fresh-faced 21-year-old) my summer Inter-rail journey ended in the streets of Munich. Getting light-headed from a mass of beer whilst sitting in the sun in the English gardens, visiting the Pinakothek der Moderne, and traipsing through the fairy-tale old town until my feet were sore are experiences engraved in my memory as if it were yesterday.

Now, some 11 years later, I’m facing the prospect of another summer trip to Munich – but this time for an indefinite stay. No part of my 21-year-old self could have ever imagined that I would one day call the city my home and be fluent in a language I spoke no word of. Which got me thinking of all the possibilities which are open in life and how we never really know which way the road will lead. I’m looking forward to getting to know Munich as more than an tourist and more than a frequent visitor. And I can’t help wondering where I will be 11 years from now.

The dying art of cursive writing

images-1Cursive writing appears to be a dying art. The Sunday papers today in Germany report that cursive writing is being taught less and less in schools –  in its place, the more functional print writing is favoured. In facts, it is up to schools to decide if they want to bother to teach it at all. And they mainly now decide for the simpler and often clearer print script.

One of the legacies of my early years in India, is the cursive handwriting which was drilled into me, and for which I am now thankful. My english schoolmates had only just begun to grapple with ‚joined-up writing‘ as I entered primary school life. And from what I can see from current correspondence with my contemporaries, many chose not to adopt it in later life. Judging from the school work that I often see my mother marking at home, cursive writing is nowadays more of an exception than a standard. And apparently, even in India it has long stopped being the norm. Which leads me to conclude that it is a generational change. But not necessarily one that we should be happy about.

Granted, not everyone will agree that my handwriting is at all times legible (just ask a few nurses on my ward), but I would somehow hate to loose the loops and flourishes in my hand. And in my nostalgic moments, when I sift through the stash of old letters from my husband, I gain just as much pleasure from seeing the easy flair of his penmanship as from the words themselves.  

Polio once again a risk

Watching a friend’s 11-month old baby crawling swiftly across the floor recently left me amused, as it reminded me of an army soldier crawling (I’ve since learned that this is in fact a legitimate crawling technique, and is known as ‚the army crawl‘). I must have put a similar crawling technique to use as a baby – but instead of my parents looking on with wonder, they were worried for a few days that I may have been infected with the poliovirus. Poliovirus is a highly infectious virus which begins as a typical virus infection but invades the nervous system leading in some cases  to paralysis and even death. The infection mainly occurs in young children under the age of 5.

This is hard to imagine for us in the modern world. But polio (poliomyelitis) epidemics occurred up until the first half of the 20th century in America and remained endemic in many low-income countries much later on into the 20th century. There is no treatment for the infection, but the production of a vaccine in the mid-50s and its slow distribution throughout the world, together with better sanitation, has led to an eradication of the disease in 80% of the world. India was declared free of polio just in March this year. Polio is still endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The World Health Organisation targets the complete eradication of polio in 2018.

This week, 2 bits of worrying news have been reported. Firstly, that cases of polio have been reported in 10 developing countries around the world this year. Secondly, that there is a shortage of the quadruple virus (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio) in some countries in Europe, meaning that the booster vaccine has not been available for some school-aged children and adults. The vaccination of babies has not been affected.

In my medical life, I see a case of so-called post-polio syndrome – the disability seen in the aftermath of the infection in sufferers of polio – every so often. A gentle reminder of how things used to be. While polio is not a threat to those living in most parts of the world now, having an awareness of the severity of this terrible childhood disease should hopefully remind us to appreciate the vital role of vaccinations in our modern life.

Shortage of doctors on Twitter (2)

The great thing about social media is that it is one big conversation. And talking about things is the best way to change things. I wrote about the lack of doctors in Twitter recently.

And I wasn’t the only one to think so.

A couple of days later though, following the initiative of a sort of ‚celebrity doctor‘  Dr. Johannes, there’s a small (but hopefully growing) community of German doctors on Twitter (Ärzte bei Twitter). It’s as easy as that.

 

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