23rd January 2015

I had a lovely lazy morning in bed this morning, with good coffee, french patisseries and the Sunday papers.  Bliss.

If only it were like this every morning.  Unfortunately lazy mornings, while restorative, do not pay the bills.

Sadly the world news is as frightening as ever.

There have now been 100,000 Ebola cases since the crisis began in December 2013.  That is a lot of very sick people.  And I bet that isn’t all of them.  At least the 1.4 million that the W.H.O predicted haven’t come to fruition.  Yet.

Nice to see the media taking a pot shot at them.


I really do feel for organisations like WHO.  They provide a global service, are not funded or resourced properly, they have to model scenarios based on what ever data they have at the time, and if they predict too high numbers, they are criticised for creating hysteria and when they predict numbers too low they’re criticised for not ensuring greater urgency.

I just hope the world is not being lulled into a false sense of security, like they did in November when the numbers dropped and international aid workers moved on to other parts of the world.  I would hate to see people get complacent, and take short cuts.  Because short cuts mean mistakes.

I wonder what other instances of complacency there are in history? And how they changed the course of the world?

22nd January 2015

I gave one of the bean recipes a trial run on the stove this evening.  It was quite tasty and so easy to make.  When I get my little gas stove I will try out one of the other recipes, maybe the lentil recipe.  I think though that some of my spices might be a little stale.  I can’t remember the last time I refreshed them, it’s been such a long time since I’ve done any real cooking.  I must pop up to the spice store on the weekend, I might even treat myself to one of their beautiful wooden spice chests.  Maybe that will inspire me to cook more.  Perhaps I could invite…no, no, don’t be ridiculous.

Juliet gets out of quarantine soon.  I’m so looking forward to being able to give her a big hug.  I might see if she wants to come over for dinner, watch some soppy movie and have a spa.  So we can have a proper catch up.

Last night, I talked to my sister for the first time in ages.  She has been so busy with the kids.  Man they are growing up fast!  It seems like only yesterday Ella was born, and now she is three.  Where did the time go?  Poor wee mite hasn’t been well and Grace had to take her to the doctors, which turned out to be a bit of a challenge.  Normally GP’s are pretty quick to prescribe antibiotics or some other form of medication, but yesterday Grace was told to give her lots of water, plenty of vitamin C and ensure got plenty of rest.  When Grace pressed for something similar to what her son was prescribed a month ago, the doctor replied “supplies are being ‘prioritised’ and it’s best for nature to take it’s course.”

While I think that doctors are often loose and free with their prescribing of antibiotics to adults I think sick children need help with their immune systems, especially if they have been suffering with a persistent cough like Ella has.  Definitely need to look into that one.  Maybe it has something to do with what is going on in West Africa.

21st January 2015

My camp cooker arrived to  today.  It is so cute.  I had it sitting on my desk when Richard (from IT) stopped by to talk to me about how my research was going and how we were going to display the data.

He made a comment about my having the gas cooker and how he didn’t think that I would be into ‘that sort of thing’.

The cheek!

I go camping.  Admittedly with running water and flush toilets and slightly more glamorous accommodation than a tent, but I know how to rough it.

He was interested in why I had brought it, so I told him about the scenarios and potential isolation and the need for a camp cooker.  He casually mentions that there is a better one.  One that uses gas, kerosene and auto-unleaded fuel.

Nuts.  I wish I had spoken to him yesterday.

Oh well I guess I will be buying another one today.

After that we got to talking about camping and the outdoors it turns out he spent most of his childhood in the NZ bush with his dad so he’s a bit of a outdoor/camping nut.  And he’s very passionate about environmental issues.  I guess we both were a little surprised today that we had that in common.

Smart and kinda cute.

Stop it Sabine.  You work with him!

20th January 2015

I found the camp gas stove that I was after today online.  I paid a bit extra to have it delivered tomorrow.  I am quite excited about getting it.  I might even get some two minute noodles just to try it out.

I’ve spent all evening online again this evening trawling Jamie’s website for good vegetarian recipes that predominantly use tinned vegetables, tinned fruit or dried beans.

I have to say I have learnt quite a bit.  Between Jamie’s website, Wikipedia and a few other websites I have increased my knowledge of the protein content of beans, pulses and legumes.

I had no idea that the protein content of chickpeas was 19g (per 100g), or that black bean’s protein content is 22g and the good old broad bean (Fava bean) is a whopping 26g of protein.  And all the recipes that contain the beans look AMAZING!  I was quite nervous about the ‘quality’ (I know, I’m a food snob!) of my meals.  And true I might need to make some minor modifications on dried rather than fresh spices/herbs and the seared tuna may be tuna from a can, but I have to say I am rather impressed.

I’ve also discovered just how important spices are.  Not only do they have culinary value, some of my favourites have medicinal properties.  Turmeric is considered a top anticancer agent, helping to quell the inflammation that contributes to tumour growth; fungi and bacteria, and the occasional vampire are no match for garlic; coriander (anxiety) and ginger is fantastic for the stomach.

Another friend recommended I look into coconut oil and coconut water.  I know there is a lot of hype at the moment about coconut oil, though I’m impressed at the versatility of it.  A solid at room temperature it can be used in baking, used as an oil for cooking, as a body moisturiser.  There is even anecdotal evidence that coconut pulling can help with teeth.  I might just add a jar to my grocery list.

19th January 2015

Damn. Damn. Damn!

I’ve just had a realisation.  There was a power outage in NZ today, due to some fairly inclement weather, what if there is panic in Australia due to Ebola cases and people decide not to go to work.  I might not have electricity.  Which means no fridge and no cooking.

What the hell will I do with all the meat in my freezer?

I know what I will be doing with the ice-cream. hahaha

I need to completely rethink my food options and recipes.

I will have to find recipes that have tinned or dried meat options or some other high protein substitutes like beans and pulses.  I guess I can use cured meats like salamis or beef jerky.  Do I even have recipes that use jerky?

And if I can’t use my stove or the oven.  What on earth am I going to cook on?  I will have to go to the camping store and get one of those portable camping ones with the small gas canisters.  On second thoughts I will just order it on line tomorrow and get it delivered to work, that will save me some time.

So annoyed at myself for not thinking of that sooner.  Come on Sabine, this is what they pay you for at work.  Grrrr.

18th January 2015

All this food research makes me hungry!

And I’ve eaten dinner already.

Jamie’s website has turned out to be a wee treasure trove of recipes and information.  I do like Jamie Oliver, I know that lots of people think he’s an annoying twat, but you can’t fault his genuine enthusiasm and passion for food.  I love his food philosophy, that he started a food revolution, and took on American and British school dinners.  And won.  Hard to believe he was once the dorky chef who burst onto our screens 15 years ago and institutionalised the word “Pukka”.

After a very distracted search (there are some superb recipes on the website) I’ve found several easy recipes that I can make that will last a couple of nights.  Good old Beef Stroganoff.  I’ve not had that in ages.  Not since university.  Jamie’s recipe is definitely a step up from the horrid packet mix and chuck steak we used to make when we were students.

And Kedgeree, Nana’s favourite.  I remember the last time I stayed at her place she made it for me.  It is definitely soul food.

This one sounded interesting too, sausage gnocchi with beans.  I do like a good port sausage.  I will have to get up early on the weekend and head to the market to get those.  While I’m there I might get new herbs for the kitchen garden.

Best of all the supermarket will have all the ingredients I don’t already have.  I only have to get couscous, lemons, passata, and plain yoghurt.

Is it weird that I’m looking forward to cooking while I’m in isolation?

17th January 2015

I’ve spent all day thinking about food.

What would I need?  What recipes would I use?  What else can you do with tinned chickpeas??

I really need to spend some time finding some decent recipes so I can make something half decent with weird tinned vegetables.  The thought of eating vegetables out of a can… Blergh!

Just because I’m in isolation does not mean I have to lower my standards!!

I’m pretty sure Jamie Oliver has some good recipe ideas for people on a budget.  And I know I’ll able to follow the recipe.  It’s almost “Cooking for Dummies” Anyway it might be easier to plan out meals rather than get a whole lot of food and have it all go off in the fridge.

Which reminds me, I must  book a restaurant for dinner on Saturday night…

16th January 2015

I sent the list, for my first aid items, through to Juliet once I’d completed it.  I wanted to make sure that I had thought of everything.  Her initial response was that I was being silly.  Australia is too far away from West Africa to have an outbreak.

Yes, I know I’m being a little paranoid, and, while its not likely that there will be an Ebola outbreak here in Australia, there is a possibility that the supply chain will be disrupted and I want to be prepared.  And that includes medical supplies.  After that, Juliet was more forthcoming.

The only two things she told me to add to my list were;

  • disposable thermometers – so you don’t have to remember to sterilise the glass one and;
  • a book on first aid – because if you can’t get to a doctor then you will need to know how to tend to minor injuries.

She was curious as to why I had included the essential oils.  She understood why I would have eucalyptus, nearly every Australian home has a bottle as it’s a great astringent.  I explained that the others are all good at either boosting the immune system, keeping infection at bay, effective against vomiting and diarrhoea or a great disinfectant.

I told her the story of four thieves stealing clothes and jewellery from victims of the bubonic plague.  It’s said that the thieves used a mix of 5 essential oils (clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary and eucalyptus) to avoid getting sick.  Now, you can even buy ‘Thieves’ essential oil.  The Weber State University in Utah carried out research on the properties of the essential oils and found them to have a 99.96% kill rate against airborne bacteria.

I promised to send through some additional information, so that she could have a read while she was in isolation.

15th January 2015

After my phone call with Ethan yesterday I decided I needed to stop and take stock.  I assessed the contents of my first aid kit and realised that it was relatively well stocked with bandages and such like.  A couple of things had passed their use by date; the saline solution and some of the ointments.  All easy to replace.  What I didn’t know was what I might need for self imposed isolation.  Nor how much I might need.  So, I spent the evening researching what you would need in a pandemic survival kit.

Here is my shopping list;

  • Surgical gloves x 1 box 100 pairs
  • Hand sanitisers/wipes
  • Bleach/disinfectants x 2 litre bottles
  • Surgical masks x 2 box of 20 masks (I wonder if I need something more robust?)
  • Disposable chemical suit  (Am I being over the top??)
  • Electrolytes x 40 x 200ml pkts
  • Immunity boosters – e.g. Vitamin C
  • Saline solutions x 10 vials
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Iodine drops
  • Butterfly strips x 1 x 10 pkt
  • Sterile wound dressing
  • Facial tissues
  • Essential Oils (Lemon, clove, cinnamon, peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary

I might check with Juliet tomorrow and see if there is anything on my list that I really don’t need or if there is anything that I’ve missed.

While I was researching I also realised that it’s not just my first aid kit that requires attention.  If I do have to go into isolation, there are other things I need; non perishable food, candles, batteries, water.

Am I being over cautious.  Maybe.

Will people think I’m nuts.  Yes.

To be honest I don’t care.  I’d rather be prepared for the worst than caught short.

14th January 2015

Ethan called me this evening.  I nearly fell off my chair. He hardly ever calls, unless of course he wants something.  Which of course he did.  Money.  He wanted to borrow some money so he could pay the fine from NYE. £2000.  I don’t have that kind of cash lying around.  There is no way he would ring mum and dad for that much money.  He would be in so much trouble.  And besides ‘borrow’ in Ethan’s world is a very loose term.

He was telling me that the big news of the morning in London is that the UK Prime Minister is getting a complete roasting in the media over two nurses testing positive for Ebola.  They had been on duty at the local A&E where three of the 8 Ebola patients were admitted before being transferred to Royal Free Hospital.  (Yay! My brother is finally paying attention).

The PM is now being accused of false promises.  Ethan, then read out bits and pieces from one of the daily rags; “it is likely that contamination may have occurred when the nurses removed their PPE” and one of the nurses is quoted as saying “there were so many false alarms in December, when we put the family in the ambulance, we took off our PPE and went back to our shift.”

I know he’s OK and he’s far enough away from the incidents, still it doesn’t make it any easier.  I might talk to Mum and Dad about sending him a plane ticket and getting him to come home for an extended holiday.  Until this all dies down.

Not long after our phone conversation I got a text from Ethan;


13th January 2015

I caught up with Juliet again this evening.  She sounded much better.  Rested.  There was still a sadness in her voice that was hard to ignore.  She is doing better than I would in her situation with 2.5 weeks left in isolation.  I think I would have gone slightly mad with nothing much to do except read, watch movies, or surf the internet.  And she has a family waiting for her.

For a while I didn’t really know what to talk about, so we talked for a long time about silly, everyday things like whether or not I had a boyfriend, the weather, the kids, work.  After a while our conversation drifted to Sierra Leone.  Not the horror of all the death, it was still too raw.  Too fresh. Instead we talked about the local health care workers.  Their courage in dealing with people from their communities.  Their unfailing support of victims.  Watching exhausted as everyday more people succumbed to the virus.  Juliet was impassioned about the disparity of treatment between international aid workers and them.

International aid workers are evacuated to Europe or the US.  Local health care workers are treated locally, sometimes in facilities purpose built by the US and the EU.  For a long time there was nothing.  And while lessons have been learnt and shared about the care of patients (electrolytes and intravenous hydration) the death rate of local workers is still higher.

It seemed to me, after reading the papers yesterday, that without the guarantee of evacuation, the flow of much needed international volunteers would stop.  Doctors and nurses would choose not to go.  I’m not sure that even if there was the option for the locals to be evacuated that they would take it.  In their shoes I would want to stay somewhere that I was familiar with, where by my family was close by.  So given the choice, I’m not sure I would want to be evacuated.

12th January 2015

Richard, the IT guy, was back at work today.  I caught up with him this afternoon to run through the research I’m doing on the ebola crisis and how I want to display the data when I present to the leadership team.  He was very helpful with ideas and also suggested I use the design team for the graphics.

He had so many questions about the crisis – what had been happening?  How many were dead?  Had it spread further than West Africa?  He didn’t even know about the man dying yesterday, despite it being front page news.

Has he been living under a rock??

After I gave him an update, we had an interesting discussion about the aftermath of the death of the US aid worker and the wave of volunteer cancellations.  In order to stem flow and assure doctors, nurses and aid workers, both the EU and the US have taken action: the US by committing 6 military planes and crew to evacuate any US volunteers; and the EU confirming via a formal statement, that 4 more aircraft will be dedicated to evacuate EU and Australian volunteers.

It will be interesting to see if that makes a difference to the number of volunteers.

11pm I’ve just seen this via my news feed;

The UK Prime Minister made a public statement today: “in the wake of the two Ebola patients admitted to Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary in December and the subsequent healthcare worker infections, we have learnt hard lessons.  We want to assure the public that new protocols have been put in place at Royal Free Hospital and we are carefully monitoring all possible contacts for the eight new London cases.”

11th January 2015

First American Aid Worker Dies in Liberian Clinic.

That was the headline that greeted me this morning while I drank my morning cup of coffee.  It was the on the front page of every major Sydney newspaper.

“The aid worker had arrived in Liberia in late December to provide relief to those already on the ground.  It is not yet clear how he contracted the virus.”

That poor man.  I wonder what happens in situations like this with the body?  Does he have to be buried/cremated in Liberia?  Or can the body be shipped home?  His family must be distraught.

The article goes on to say, that “He was the third US healthcare worker to have been treated in the clinic.  He is the only US worker so far to have died.  Attempts were made to evacuate the worker but all dedicated aircraft were already deployed evacuating other patients.  Aid agencies are now reporting a wave of cancellations from US volunteers scheduled to depart for West Africa.  One volunteer in Liberia commented she now ‘just wants to get out of there.’”

Another doctor was more explicit.

“We doctors feel the pull. But each of us has reasons to stay back, reasons that get bigger as we age: children, partners, parents, grants.  The yellow medical armor may not suffice, even when donned on our shores in the best facilities.  And the possibility now exists of quarantine when we return — no “Welcome back, our hero” signs at the airport, but straight to house arrest.  Employers are gently pointing out that if we choose to volunteer, that is admirable, but we’re effectively on our own, not covered by our health insurance.  If we fall sick in Africa, there is no guarantee of being evacuated, no promise that even our bodies would be flown back.  I fear that volunteers who get any fever out there will be quarantined with others who might be infected, waiting on the test.  And if it is Ebola, they will be moved to the infected tent — no I.C.U., just confinement.  From there, who knows.” New York Times

It must be such a tough decision for people.  To want to go to the aid of all those in need and yet have uncertainty about what will happen to you should you fall ill.  I’m glad that’s not a choice I have to make.