British woman had to go to a private doctor to get an accurate diagnosis of a common but distressing problem
As with so many first-time parents, my husband Charlie and I had a starry-eyed view of how things would be once we had our much wanted baby. So when Alfie arrived, ten days earlier than expected and following a smooth birth, we left hospital within hours, eager to start the perfect family life we anticipated.
That night, after five hours of attempting to breastfeed, rocking, fan off, fan on (it was summer), Moses basket, our bed, with vest, without vest, we all finally fell into a deep sleep at 4am. This was not how it was meant to be; we were in shock.
Over the next four weeks, a worrying pattern developed. After each feed, Alfie would arch his body and throw his head backwards with surprising force. His crying escalated from a few tears to a scared, inconsolable screeching, sometimes to the point of choking.
Well-meaning midwives, health visitors, family, friends and our GP all tried to reassure us it was ‘ just colic – all babies get it’. Over-the-counter remedies which others swore by raised our hopes but did not ease the problem. When we were told it would pass by three months, we were desperate; we did not know how to get through the next three hours.
Racked with self- doubt about our parenting skills, we searched the internet tirelessly and read endless books. Had I eaten something which was affecting the breast milk? Was he feeding in the wrong position? Had we winded him enough? Our stress levels escalated out of control and while I spent a lot of time near to tears, Charlie slipped a disc in his back with tension. In agony, he was forced to stay in bed for weeks. Now I had two patients to care for.
At five weeks, Alfie was losing weight. After two trips to A&E we were prescribed Gaviscon, but were no nearer to a diagnosis. Gaviscon needs to be mixed with milk and, as I was breastfeeding, this involved getting hold of a breast pump. The medication did not work anyway, and it was at this point that Alfie stopped feeding altogether.
Frustrated by what felt like a serious lack of professional support, exhausted and at the end of our tether emotionally, we enlisted the help of a night nurse, a wonderful woman called Sarah, who by night three agreed that there was more to this than colic, whatever everyone else said.
Sarah suggested Alfie had reflux, where stomach acid was coming back up his oesophagus. It’s a condition that can be difficult to detect in infants. We were doubtful because of the absence of the most common symptom of such a condition, vomiting. Alfie had not been sick once.
Friends, both of whose children had suffered from reflux, recommended we consult a private paediatrician. Under normal circumstances, our finances did not run to private health care, but these were not normal circumstances. We would have re-mortgaged the flat if necessary.
It took minutes for us to be given a life-changing diagnosis of silent reflux. I had gone to the consulting room armed with a number of symptoms, but before he had even examined Alfie, the paediatrician mentioned every one on the list.
I welled up with tears of relief and if I’d still had the energy I would have thrown my arms around this saviour of my sanity. We’d done nothing wrong, Alfie was not a ‘tricky’ baby; we were simply one of many families to experience this challenging and largely unrecognised condition.
According to Dr Edward Douek, consultant paediatrician at the Portland Hospital , London, silent reflux is ‘ notoriously underdiagnosed’. It’s extremely common – around 80 per cent of babies are affected, although many will have only mild symptoms.
It occurs when the valve between the stomach and oesophagus is not working properly. Instead of closing after food or liquid enters the stomach, the valve remains relaxed – in children this is usually because the valve is underdeveloped, which is why they often grow out of it.
Until then, when the stomach contracts to force food out through the intestines, the relaxed valve allows the food, now mixed with stomach acid, back up the oesophagus, causing intense pain as the lining becomes more inflamed with each episode.
The contents may come all the way up, resulting in projectile vomiting, or only part way up, which is what happens in silent reflux.
Amazingly, reflux causes suffering in one in five babies, ranging from mild and tolerable to extreme pain and distress, as in Alfie’s case. In some cases, no medical intervention is needed as the infant does not experience any detrimental symptoms, whereas severely affected babies may require hospitalisation if feeding becomes harder and weight loss becomes a concern.
The symptoms to watch for are persistent crying, arching of the back and vomiting.
Once diagnosed, Alfie was prescribed Ranitidine, a stronger antacid medication which, unlike Gaviscon, is syringed directly into the mouth, which made a significant difference to both his and our lives within three days.
There were times when he was still uncomfortable, usually around 4pm, and administering the medicine through an oral syringe was not something either he or we relished.
Other changes also helped – we were advised never to lie Alfie flat to discourage the stomach acid from travelling upwards. He was fed at a more upright angle and kept more or less in that position for at least 20 minutes after each feed.
We propped up one end of the cot so he lay with his head slightly higher than his body. Winding had to be very painstaking and gentle as patting the baby only exacerbates reflux – unlike with colic where you pat more vigorously. (I think of the amount of time we paced the flat patting and jiggling the poor little mite without the knowledge we were only making matters worse).
Most surprising of all, though, was the paediatrician’s advice that we use a dummy [pacifier]. Dummies encourage saliva to pass down the oesophagus which helps to neutralise the stomach acid and soothe the burning. We withdrew the dummy after seven months so that he did not become attached to it, but it did seem to help.
As a nutritionist, I know only too well that dairy products have been associated with symptoms of reflux in both adults and in infants, so while breastfeeding I eliminated all dairy from my diet and boosted my calcium intake with nuts, green leafy vegetables and goat’s milk and cheese (goat’s milk and its products are less acidic and low in the offending protein lactose, heavily present in cow’s milk).
After I stopped breastfeeding, Alfie went on to a lactose-free formula, Nutramigen, which suited him very well and was worth its weight in gold.
By the time an infant is sitting up and the oesophageal valve is stronger, symptoms can subside or stop completely. Now aged two, Alfie has been symptom and medication-free for 18 months, and as far as we can tell there has been no lasting damage.
However, as new parents our experience had the ability to physically and emotionally disable both of us and there were times when we felt we were unable to cope for much longer.
I now know we were not alone in those feelings. Looking back, we count our lucky stars we found such a knowledgeable paediatrician at a relatively early stage. I now know of others who have experienced reflux in their children without any support or diagnosis for months, even longer.
There is help out there, but it seems you need to know about the existence of reflux in order to ask for it. Most importantly, you need the confidence to trust your instinct when you feel something isn’t right.
Our experience with Alfie prepared us to do just that with our second little boy, Ned, now eight weeks old. Showing signs of silent reflux at two weeks, we swiftly took him to the same paediatrician, resulting in an easier and less fraught start to his life for both him and us.
New British PM Abandons Labour’s Green Spending Spree
DAVID Cameron is to slash spending on green technology but pour hundreds of millions of pounds into charities, voluntary groups and churches, the News of the World can reveal.
The Prime Minister’s first pledge after taking over as Conservative Party leader was to slash greenhouse gasses and promote eco-friendly energy.
But he has shelved a £1 billion fund to invest in new British companies using green technology.
The money was supposed to be used by a Green Investment Bank which would plough cash into firms building offshore wind and wave farms, green power stations and other ambitious projects. It would have come from the sale of assets such as the Channel Tunnel rail link and the Port of Dover. Now any cash from any asset sell-offs will go back into government coffers to pay off debts.
Instead, Mr Cameron – whose party’s logo is a green tree – will tomorrow reveal plans for a “Big Society Bank”. In a speech in the North West, he will say that more than £350million sitting in unused or dormant bank accounts across the country will be used to fund the new ethical bank. The cash will then be handed out in low interest loans to start up community schemes. The Big Society Bank will be up and running within a year.
Mr Cameron’s idea involves transferring power away from the state and giving individuals more responsibility.
He wants to cut state spending to help slash Britain’s massive deficit. But he will promise these new schemes will ensure vital local projects which have depended on the government for cash will have MORE money to play with.
However, to do that, the PM has had to shelve plans to invest in firms setting up “green jobs.” His Labour predecessor Gordon Brown promised to create a million jobs by investing in new green companies. But the money was never there because government borrowing had got so high.
Former Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said: “This development shows that the coalition is abandoning Labour’s strategy of backing green industries to create the jobs of the future. “Failing to press ahead with the Green Investment Bank damages our chances of leading the world in the green economy of the future. The short-termist, anti-industry mindset of the 1980s is back.”
Crime is an act of choice – and rehabilitation is a fantasy
Let me first of all try to deal with the persistent postings of Mr Storke, who has referred me to a paper by Professor David James on the treatment of mentally ill people in prison. Let us remember that Mr Storke’s original disagreement with me was about my view that rehabilitation is a fantasy, that crime is an act of choice and that more people will avoid it if they fear severe and deterrent punishment.
Mr Storke has been relying quite heavily on the professor’s paper in his argument. I am at a loss to see why, since it’s a report on mental health in prisons, an issue on which I haven’t specially pronounced (except to agree with the oft-made point that the prisons nowadays house many people who would once have been in mental hospitals, when we still had them. This is beyond dispute. I favour the rebuilding of our lost mental hospitals to deal with it, as I have said).
He appears to believe that in some way it ‘disproves’ my contention that the threat of punishment is an effective deterrent of criminal behaviour.
I cannot see how. It seems to me to have almost nothing to do with the subject under discussion, and if it contains the claims he appears to attribute to it (about miracle crime cures in Switzerland and Denmark) I confess that I am unable to locate them here. Perhaps these references are in another document, which he meant to refer me to. Or perhaps I have just missed them, in which case a page reference would be appreciated.
Professor James’s report appears to have nothing whatever to do with my point, which is that if prisons were properly and systematically punitive, instead of chaotic warehouses run largely by their inmates, responsible persons would make much greater efforts to avoid being sent to them. I suspect that Mr Storke has little idea of what my opinions actually are, having assumed that I defend the current state of the prisons when I deplore it, that I am some sort of Michael Howard ‘prison works’ person, or that my views are identical to those of (say) Richard Littlejohn. They are not, as regular readers here well know. To retain this view he has therefore ignored anything I have written which might suggest that this is not so.
The report, to the extent that it is relevant, indulges in the usual confusion and vagueness about what ‘mental illness’ may be – unsurprising in an area of subjective pseudo-science in which there is a great deal of opinion, and very little measurable fact. Then it piles vagueness upon vagueness. It speaks of an ‘estimate’ (p iii) that 70% of prisoners have two or more diagnosed mental illnesses. Whose is this estimate? It doesn’t say, at least not anywhere near where it makes this claim. Why not? And then, why, if these alleged illnesses are ‘diagnosed’, does this have to be an estimate anyway? Surely there would be an actual figure. Later it suggests (p.7) that 90% of prisoners have ‘common mental health problems’ which it then lists as ‘anxiety, depression or neuroses’. Once again, we are dealing in subjectivity. I have no doubt that many people in prison, or awaiting sentence after conviction, might find it useful to assert that they were ‘suffering’ from such indefinable complaints, as this might lessen their sentences and would also indulge their sense of self-pitying grievance, and aid them in avoiding the ever-unwelcome conclusion that they are answerable for their own actions.
The authorities might equally find it useful to agree with them as it would help them to reduce the pressure on prison places by giving them lesser sentences, and allow them to dose them with tranquillising or pacifying drugs, while they are detained.
Also, one thing pretty certain to lead to genuine, objective mental disorder, through interference with or damage to the physical brain which (while not being the same thing as the mind) is the physical seat of the mind, is the taking of illegal drugs. (I’d say that many legal drugs now in existence might have this effect too.) And since illegal drug-taking and criminality are practically synonymous in modern Britain, it would be likely that some sort of disturbance or malfunction would be likely.
So these declarations are pretty much tautologies.
And, I repeat again, they have nothing to with the point. I entirely agree with those who say that there are too many people in prison who are actually insane. I have seen them there, in Wormwood Scrubs, incoherent and raving in their cells, their minds overthrown. Nobody is keener than I on the restoration of proper mental hospitals in which such people could be better and more kindly kept. But to confuse these sad persons with self-indulgent users of illegal drugs, or with excuse-making thieves and brutes, is to do truth a disservice. I urge Mr Storke to read my ‘Brief History of Crime’, especially the chapter in which I discuss my visit to Wormwood Scrubs Prison.
The celebrity tattoos that have sparked a Latin craze among British schoolchildren
Celebrity Latin tattoos may be fuelling a revival of the ancient language in schools, it emerged today. Pupils are increasingly demanding to study the subject, according to an exam board, as tattooed celebrities such as David Beckham and Angelina Jolie enhance Latin’s profile.
The OCR exam board today launched a new Latin qualification aimed at teenagers as secondary schools increasingly offer the subject, either during the curriculum or after-hours.
But examiners urged pupils not to emulate model Danielle Lloyd, whose Latin tattoo is riddled with errors. While Beckham and Jolie’s Latin inscriptions are grammatically correct, Lloyd’s is meaningless, they said. Her tattoo, ‘Quis attero mihi tantum planto mihi validus’, which is etched on to her shoulder, is intended to translate as ‘To diminish me will only make me stronger’. But experts say the words in fact translate into something more akin to ‘Who I wear away for me only for me strong’.
Beckham, on the other hand, gets full marks for his two Latin tattoos. The footballer has ‘Ut Amem Et Foveam’ (meaning ‘So that I love and cherish’) inscribed on his left forearm and ‘Perfectio In Spiritu’ (meaning ‘Perfection in spirit’) on his right.
Meanwhile Jolie chose ‘Quod me nutrit me destruit’, which means ‘What nourishes me also destroys me’.
Other celebrities embracing the trend include actor Colin Farrell, who has ‘Carpe Diem’ or ‘Seize the day’ inscribed on his left forearm.
The OCR exam board said schools and youngsters were aware of the continuing influence of Latin and had expressed an interest in a qualification to recognise basic achievement in the subject.
The new ‘Entry Level Certificate in Latin’ is a qualification in its own right or could be taken as a precursor to a GCSE or A-level in Latin. It is likely to be taken by 13 to 17-year-olds.
It follows a surge in the number of secondary schools offering Latin over the past decade. Surveys suggest that one in five secondaries now teaches the subject, including several hundred comprehensives. A computer-based Latin course backed by Cambridge University is said to have made it easier for schools to offer Latin. The team behind the project say schools are held back by a lack of access to Latin, rather than a lack of interest in it.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and a long-standing advocate of Latin, said: ‘I’m delighted that OCR are introducing the first ever Entry Level Qualification in Latin. ‘It proves how much demand there is for this great subject and will provide the perfect platform for the next generation of classicists.’
Students will be introduced to the Latin language, including a list of 100 Latin words. They will also study aspects of Roman culture.
OCR said the continuing influence of Latin in day-to-day life could be seen in baby naming. It said three of the four top girls’ names have Latin origins – Olivia (from Latin ‘Oliva’ meaning Olive), Emily (from the Latin ‘Aemilianus’, a Latin family name) and the Grace (from Latin ‘Gratia’, meaning goodwill or kindness).
Paul Dodd, qualifications manager for languages and literature at OCR, said: ‘Latin vocabulary has had a rich and lasting influence on English, as well as being the foundation for modern day Spanish, French and Italian. ‘Latin language and culture have played a major part in shaping our own intellectual, literary, artistic and political traditions.
‘Many schools already teach Latin alongside other subjects but have no way of formally recognising their learners’ achievements below GCSE. ‘Our new Entry Level qualification provides a good bridge to further attainment as well as providing a way of recognising the skills learned.’
Green Britain faces blackouts
BRITAIN faces years of blackouts and soaring electricity bills because of the drive toward green power, a leading energy expert warned last night. A growing obsession with global warming and “renewable” sources threatens the stability of our supply.
Derek Birkett, a former Grid Control Engineer who has a lifetime’s experience in electricity supply throughout Britain, warned that the cost of the crisis could match that of the recent banking collapse.
And he claimed that renewable energy expectations were now nothing more than “dangerous illusions” which would hit consumers hard in the pocket. “We are going to pay a very heavy price for the fact there has been a catalogue of neglect by the former Government which has focused on renewable energy sources,” Mr Birkett said.
“We need a mix of sources and this takes time. Renewables have the problem of being intermittent, particularly wind, and we need more back-up capacity. By having all our sources in one basket we are risking disruption.
“There is a lot of over-enthusiasm by governments to push global warming, which makes me very suspicious.” Less than five per cent of our energy comes from renewable sources but the “disproportionate” cost of implementing green technology runs into many millions of pounds, he said.
In a new book, When Will the Lights Go Out, published this month, Mr Birkett claims things will only get worse. He said the “lavish incentives” being offered to developers of green energy are being passed on to customers as the UK struggles to meet EU directives on carbon emissions.
He also warned that a growing reliance on renewable energy is creating widespread uncertainty in the electricity supply chain.
With many nuclear power stations and coal plants ending their lives and being taken out of service we “can’t rule out” people being left without power. The real problem is the cost of making sure this does not happen, and Britain’s lights “do not go out”, he warned.
“The country is going to have to make a choice whether to go along with green ideas of renewable generation or go back to coal and nuclear power.”
Even the New Scientist says that the climategate inquiries were an unconvincing whitewash
Is Climategate finally over? It ought to be, with the publication of the third UK report into the emails leaked from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). Incredibly, none looked at the quality of the science itself.
The MPs’ inquiry – rushed out before the UK general election on 6 May – ducked the science because the university said it was setting up an “independent scientific assessment panel” chaired by geologist Ron Oxburgh.
After publishing his five-page epistle, Oxburgh declared “the science was not the subject of our study”. Finally, last week came former civil servant Muir Russell’s 150-page report. Like the others, he lambasted the CRU for its secrecy but upheld its integrity – despite declaring his study “was not about… the content or quality of [CRU’s] scientific work”.
Though the case for action to cut greenhouse gases remains strong, this omission matters. How can we know whether CRU researchers were properly exercising their judgement? Without dipping his toes into the science, how could Russell tell whether they were misusing their power as peer reviewers to reject papers critical of their own research, or keep sceptical research out of reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?
Russell’s report was much tougher on data secrecy, finding a “consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness”. Key data on matters of public importance – like CRU’s assembly of 160 years of global thermometer data – cannot be regarded as private property. Even so, he ought to have joined Oxburgh in calling for greater documentation of the “judgmental decisions” that turned raw data into the graphs of global average temperatures. Data manipulation is the stuff of science, but that manipulation has to be as open and transparent as the data itself.
Russell’s team left other stones unturned. They decided against detailed analysis of all the emails in the public domain. They examined just three instances of possible abuse of peer review, and just two cases when CRU researchers may have abused their roles as authors of IPCC reports. There were others. They have not studied hundreds of thousands more unpublished emails from the CRU. Surely openness would require their release.
All this, plus the failure to investigate whether emails were deleted to prevent their release under freedom of information laws, makes it harder to accept Russell’s conclusion that the “rigour and honesty” of the scientists concerned “are not in doubt”.
Some will argue it is time to leave Climategate behind. But it is difficult to justify the conclusion of Edward Acton, University of East Anglia vice-chancellor, that the CRU has been “completely exonerated”. Openness in sharing data, even with your critics, is a legal requirement.
But what happened to intellectual candour – especially in conceding the shortcomings of these inquiries and discussing the way that science is done. Without candour, public trust in climate science cannot be restored, nor should it be.
Commentary on the above doubts here