H(5N1)ere we go again….the first Bad News Story from defra, for 2008:
three wild Mute Swans (now definitely silenced) have died of the deadly H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza at the Abbotsbury Swannery near Chesil Beach, Dorset. To find H5N1 in these birds is a worrying development as Mute Swans do not tend to migrate. This latest, dreaded outbreak has occurred in the vicinity of the wonderful bluegrass-&-fossil region of Portland Bill; one of the most stormy, scintillating sanctuaries for wildlife left in the UK. I spent some fascinating time there during 1993-1994 when I was posted to MoD Harrogate, during which time I did some work at the Compass Calibration Centre whose laboratory is situated right at the edge of that totally tempestuous promontary -they certainly needed those sturdy shutters on the windows!
Meanwhile, regarding the Avian Influenza, local restrictions have been imposed; I’m sure every poultry keeper in the UK is now anxiously watching the news & studying their own birds. Thankfully all our brood appear to be enjoying rude health in spite of last night’s gales & torrential rain….indeed since magnificent Myrddin arrived, despite the (‘scuse the pun) ‘fowl’ weather the chickens have resumed their enthusiastic egg-laying activity with renewed gusto; & dear Myrddin has proved delightfully attentive to his happy little flock being a very endearing, sweet-tempered chap – in spite of his frustrating habit of not going to bed when told but insisting on perching atop the (potentially foxily-exposed) Broody Ark. Meanwhile our modest flotilla of ducks & the adorable Dave & Roberta geese(no relation to the NewLandOwner team!) are happily, happy. Whilst we make every exhaustive attempt to directly screen our own fowl from the intrusions of wild birds, it really is nigh-on impossible: especially at this time of year, when cheeky little robins whip in & out of the smallest apertures niched in all our livestock buildings in the hope of snatching any impromptu meal. And who can blame these poor, winter-starving songbirds, after all?
Whilst I’d suffered a sleepless night after Tony’s late, compassionate call I was woken by Silli & Nevada well before light; but I did need to frantically scrabble through some last-minute Welsh language revision before hurrying round the livestock then braving the immensely inclement weather to meet Boo for our first lesson of 2008. The wind buffeted stinging sheets of rain across the windscreen & the roads were flooded; branches were torn from trees & in several places; & telephone lines & electrical cables had been blown down.
Thankfully the lesson was great, our first in Beulah’s village hall. Kathleen gave the eight of us a very, very gentle reintroduction to this fascinatingly rich & complex language (which we all desperately needed, after a few too many festive mince pies & sherries!) – we revised soft mutations & basic pronunciatiations, even going back through the alphabet, much-needed for us all. Relieved, & happy to be back together as a group, we said our farewells with Boo & I returning to Maes Y Derw for a quick cup of Earl Grey tea & some delicious lemon biscuits; before I had to return to the Ffarm to give the goats their lunchtime hay.
Tony called at around 1.30pm, to inform me that the inquest into my sister Melissa’s death had been concluded, & he was about to return home after a somewhat farcical dash across Cornwall when they turned up at the advised location for the inquest – only to discover the paperwork was incorrect & that the inquest was being held some 30 miles away in Truro, although luckily proceedings were postponed to give them time to get there.
And the result, after a year & a half’s agonizing wait? It was, frustratingly but unsurprisingly, an open verdict. Nothing could be proved as apparently blood sugar levels deteriorate very quickly in the body after death & so whilst the possibility of her having had a hypoglycaemic attack could not be ruled out, there was insufficient evidence beyond doubt to prove it was the actual cause of death; although no alternative explanation could be offered as there was nothing else untoward with her health.
Because she died on a Saturday it would appear no samples were taken from her body until the following Monday; by which time there could be no evidence of insulin imbalance for the aforementioned reason. Nor were any of the vials of insulin she had been using checked for imperfection; although I gather she could have in fact been taking the wrong dose of insulin from the outset, having possibly been incorrectly advised by the medical profession.
As her family we know that since switching from porcine-based insulin to the Genetically-Engineered insulin she experienced increasing difficulties with the control of her diabetes & the ability to detect the onset of a low sugar incident, to the point that her hypoglycaemic attacks became so frequent & extreme that she often became unconscious & suffered convulsions, particularly at night. The fact that her partner found her at breakfast time after returning from a dawn sailing trip, dead on the bedroom floor, certainly suggests something was amiss & in our minds – especially with no other logical explanation for her death, there surely must be some connection.
There are several websites questioning the safety & veracity of synthetic insulin, one of which itemises 22 points of concern & advises immediate withdrawal from GE insulin & reinstatement to animal insulin should any be experienced. Of those 22 points of concern, Melissa exhibited 18 but was never offered the opportunity to change back. And a report commissioned by Diabetes UK regarding the adverse effects of human insulin was withdrawn from publication in the British Medical Journal in 1993 on the grounds it was ‘too alarmist’. Surely, if this stuff really can potentially kill people, something should be done – at the very least, some more detailed research?
Sadly however, the ‘Open Verdict’ was to be expected; humulin is manufactured by a very rich & powerful conglomerate – & money, these days, is power so any ‘dumbing down’ of adverse evidence was to be expected. I wonder how these people manage to sleep at night?
One thing Tony has said he’s learned from this: on visiting your GP make sure s/he is clear about the reason for your visit – & that it is recorded, including any peripheral discussions about other conditions; & that you confirm everything has been recorded accurately in the Doctor’s notes. If tragedy strikes it could be the difference between an open verdict & a definitive conclusion; & in these circumstances, all anybody wants, is an answer as to ‘Why?’.