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Thursday, July 20, 2006

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Congenital Heart Defects 101

The ultimate aim of this blog is to make as many people aware of congenital heart disease as possible. Up to now I have held back a little on the awareness side of things and tried to set the scene of my life with congenital heart disease; however, I think that people will be getting bored of me soon enough.

Here begins an increased effort to teach about the ins and outs of congenital heart disease - I am still actively looking for trades and will never give up on that but it may be put on the back burner for a short while.

Today I would like to look at Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). The Ductus Arteriosus is what is known as a shunt - a hole that allows fluid to bypass a particular system. The particular system here is the lungs.

The lungs are filled with fluid when a baby is in the womb and there is no point to more than a trickle of blood being directed there as it is not where the body gets its oxygen supply from. When a baby is born and takes its first breath a peptide called Bradykinin is released; this reduces bloodflow through the shunt and directs the blood the lungs.

The shunt should then close up after around 15 days because it is no longer being used; much like if you don't use an ear piercing. If the shunt does not close then this is known as PDA. The main reason for the shunt not closing is that when an infant takes its first breaths not enough oxygen reaches the lungs to create enough Bradykinin; thus the heart defect can be a cause of external factors or it can be that the baby has trouble breathing - one example of this is that the lungs are not fully developed as in the case of premature babies.

The shunt can be closed surgically and this is the most popular method but for premature babies drugs can be given that help it develop without the need for risky surgery.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

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When I was eight I didn't know very much about football. I liked Liverpool FC but I wasn't really that interested and I played it occasionally but it is difficult when you have been through two major heart operations and I had missed out on playing when I was younger so everyone else was better than me.

One day my Dad phoned me from work and asked to speak to me. He told me that I was going to be mascot for Liverpool FC in the semi-final of the FA Cup. I'm not sure if I got to be mascot because of my heart condition or because my Dad was one of the biggest retailers of Candy merchandise - the sponsors at the time; it could be both. I remember the phone call so vividly, I was excited but at the same time really scared.

These feelings only got worse up to the day. My brother and sister were packed off to a friends house and me and my parents traveled to Birmingham; Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa to be more specific. We stopped on the way and met up with some people from the club who gave me the football kit that I would be wearing on the day; I still have it now and it is tiny.

I had never been to a football match before that and the noise when I arrived at the ground was enormous. I don't remember much about arriving apart from the noise, the next thing I remember is meeting the opposing mascot. Liverpool were playing Crystal Palace that day and he was a proper Cockney, I didn't like him much but he probably thought the same about me.

As I left the changing room I overheard the ball-boys getting shouted at by someone and thanked god that I wasn't one of them. I met my Dad outside the changing room and we gave an interview to the reporter who wanted to know what my name was. He scrawled it on his match programme and then ran off to start filming. The TV camera was turned on in front of me and it was the most blinding light, I'm surprised anyone opens their eyes on television.

Somewhere around this point I was introduced to Alan Hansen, he was really nice with me and said that he would look after me. The next part of the story is kind of a blur in my memory as I walked out in front of 40,000 screaming fans; there were balloons everywhere, and the sights, sounds and smells were just too much for an 8 year-old boy, I was in a dreamworld.

I remember standing in the centre-circle whilst the coin-toss was taken and having my photo taken with the captains and the referees. I also remember having three shots against Bruce Grobelaar, one of the greatest Liverpool keepers of all time. He saved my first two shots easily, mainly because they were easy to save. He then told me to go for his left side because he wasn't as good on his left side so I did and he let it in. I scored against Bruce Grobelaar, woohoo.

I was then taken over to the dugout were I had my picture taken with Kenny Dalgleish and Ronnie Moran. This picture and the one from the centre-circle I still have at home. I then went inside for kickoff and got changed, I came back 15 minutes later to see that Ian Rush, our best player had been taken off injured.

We lost the match in extra time and every goal was scored on Bruce Grobelaar's left side which I blamed myself for for some time after the event. I was then invited to Liverpool's next home game were I had dinner with the players and got my picture taken with the newly won Charity Shield. This was some experience for an 8 year old and I have loved football ever since.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

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Willkommen Germany,

Another country to add to the fast growing list. It is interesting that most of the world's richest countries are now listed as having visited my blog. However, the 25 countries only make up 13% of the all the countries that are out there so I still have a long way to go.

Those 25 countries may only be a small fraction of the number out there but they represent over 2.2 billion people or 34% of the world's population. Perhaps even more interesting they have 70% of the world's money ($31,045,216,000,000) and use 63% of the world's annual electricity supplies (8,991,664,700,000 kWh). That's a hell of an electricity bill.

I think that this shows that the internet is not yet a truly global tool, it will take a long time for that to happen. We've all seen these figures many times over (5% of people control 95% of the money - or something like that) but I had never proved them for myself before. My first argument was that I write in English but if you have a look at the countries in that list of 25 many of them are not English speaking nations.

The internet is already the only way to get a real feel for what is going on in the world in countries where they have government controlled media and it is a product of the countries that have all of the money so we shouldn't knock that too much. I hope that in a few years anybody, anywhere in the world will be able to browse the internet and figures like those in the country list in the side-bar of this page will be more representative of the world's population.

Monday, July 17, 2006

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I got my tattoo yesterday...

It was some experience. I had built it up in my mind to be something very big, with huge needles and lots of pain. I almost fainted because of the anxiousness coupled with the heat of yesterday. But in the end I sat there for 1 hour and 20 minutes as I let some guy I don't know scar me for life. Why the negativity you might ask, mainly because I am very happy about the tattoo and have no regrets, if that makes sense.

I chose the design many weeks ago and had decided that I was going to get a tattoo months ago, my birthday seemed the best time as it was far away, but these things always catch up with you. I had no worries about having a tattoo on my arm, I knew that it was what I wanted but what I didn't want was to have to sit there whilst somebody chiselled away at my arm.

In the end it only hurt for about 5 minutes and the following 1 hour and 15 minutes was like somebody tickling my skin. I have always though that I see pain differently to most people, maybe it is a result of trauma at a time when I was learning basic functions. This may sound weird but I can often see pain, sometimes it will be a red square, sometimes it will be a green circle, often it will be a pointy, yellow arrow. Does this sound strange or this sound normal to you? I have only ever asked one person so I don't know if I am in a minority or not.

Yesterday it was yellow cones, lots of them. It is very rare that pain is 3D, usually it is 2D, but yesterday it was very definitely 3D. I have thought that maybe it is because I was in a lot of pain when I first saw these things as a child; this is my best guess. There are no smells and no sounds just shapes and colours and similar pain has a similar picture in my mind.

Anyway, back to yesterday. I had visited the tattoo place to book my tattoo a couple of weeks before and I knew that I had to find somewhere very clean, what I was secretly hoping for was a room with stainless steel and white paint, but what tattoo artist would want to work in a room like that. What I got was a slightly cluttered and noisy little room above a shop, but this is how it is; the place was amazingly clean to the point of overprecaution. If you have health problems and you want a tattoo then Studio 81 in Picadilly Gradens in Manchester comes highly recommended from me, but speak to your GP/Cardiologist first.

I am very proud of my tattoo and I am off to show people I work with now, I have included a picture of it below but the camera is very poor quality when it takes a close up so the actual tattoo is much more bolder and colourful than the one shown below.

I rediscovered yesterday something that I had almost forgotten, if you are scared to do something then just do it because it is never as bad as you build it up to be.