TB041 – A Tuberculosis Vaccine Study: #1 Screening Visit

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“Tuberculosis (also known as TB) is a disease which affects more and more people in this country each year and is responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other infectious disease. BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin) is the only vaccine currently in use against TB, but it is not always protective. BCG works well against disease in childhood, but it is not good enough at protecting against disease in adulthood, which leads to the majority of TB deaths.” – University of Oxford

I first heard about clinical trials through a friends boyfriend who regularly participates in cognitive tests and psychology studies at the local university research centres.  He mentioned that they happened to pay quite well – which peaked my interest. After some light googling later that day I had unfortunately not found anything that I was eligible for. However, the internet and all its magic cookies that store data worked in such a way that an add appeared on my facebook feed saying that Oxford University were looking or participants in a trial for a new vaccine. I clicked the link, did some reading and within minutes I was filling out a pre-screening form.

The trial is being held to find a new cure for TB which can be administered to adults that did not receive the pre-existing BCG vaccine (which is not very effective in adults, curing only 30% of cases). I soon received an email and accompanying paperwork saying I was indeed eligible for the trial, and that I needed to book a screening appointment. The paperwork described how the trial will work, which I shall briefly describe:

  1. There will be two groups of participants. Participants will not know which group they are in.
  2. One group is administered a BCG vaccine and a placebo ‘new’ vaccine, where the other is given a placebo BCG and the real ‘new’ vaccine.
  3. From here, more blood tests are done to determine how the ‘new’ vaccine works in adults compared to the existing BCG.
  4. The ‘new’ drug will be tested at more dosages.

So I weighed out the risk of catching TB against the financial compensations that I would receive after 5 visits across 6 months and decided to book myself a screening appointment.

I showed up at the Churchill Hospital this morning on the CCVTM ward (Clinical Centre for Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine) and was greeted by Dr Julia Marshall, the lead doctor of the study. We discussed the trial at length and talked through the risks of everything that could possibly happen. Once I had asked several annoying questions, such as ‘can I die?’ and she said ‘no’ I signed a consent form that called my blood ‘a gift’.

Screening tests themselves are to ensure that I am healthy enough to continue with the study and that there isn’t any problems with my immune system that might cause me to be at a greater risk of developing a bad case of TB. First she took some blood – she filled about 7 3-inch vials. That was not fun. I also did a urine test, to check kidney function and pregnancy (at least I know that nexplanon is working). I also had to do lung function tests, and then I had to go for a full chest X-Ray.

After all these tests we then had to fill out lots of paperwork about my family’s health and my medical history. I was eventually allowed to go home after a very exhausting experience being a lab rat. If my bloodwork gets through and my GP contacts the vaccinology department by the end of the week, I shall be off to receive my vaccinations around April 18th!

I plan to write about each stage of the process in order to keep family and friends updated, and also to share my experience with others who are considering taking part in one of these trials.

Thanks for reading  ❤

 

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TB041 – A Tuberculosis Vaccine Study: #3 Bronchoscopy

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*GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING*

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Although the picture may not be very clear, from it we can see that my trachea is. This photo was taken this afternoon, at 12:24 via a camera that was inserted through my nose. But before I get to that bit, let’s go through what happened earlier on…

Pre-op

I arrived at the CCVTM at 8:30am for my usual tests to make sure I was healthy enough to continue. I had blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and my spirometer done just fine. Then, because I was headed for theatre and would need anesthetic, the vaccinologists decided to insert a cannula, through which they could do my usual blood tests. So I sat up in the ‘blood chair’, by now quite accustomed to the whole blood test thing, ready to have a lovely plastic tube inserted into my inner elbow. However, my inner elbow did not seem to like this, and the doctor gave up squeezing it when she saw the look on my face.

But, I needed this cannula in for the Bronchoscopy, so they looked around for another vein. They couldn’t find one, (apparently because I was cold) so they decided just to do bloods normally, and make the doctors at the JR fit a cannula. So the lovely doctor – who if you remember, missed last time – found a vein that was deep, but he was feeling it so in he went… and missed. That was a painful miss, as it was deep in my arm. I think I screamed, and he pulled it out. By this point I thought I was about to throw up. So the doctors stopped for a breather.

They decided to take bloods from my usual arm (where the cannula had failed to go in) and all was well. We got in a taxi to travel from the Churchill to the JR. The taxi ride was silent and awkward. I got in with another volunteer and politely said “hey, I’m Ellen by the way” to which she did not respond. Fun.

We arrived at the JR, and I was separated from the other volunteers to have a cannula. And you literally couldn’t make this up – the doctor missed. When she eventually found a vein she liked enough, it was right on my wrist in such an awkward position, but by this point I was so ready to just sit in the waiting room for 10 minutes and not get stabbed. Unfortunately for me, I had been bumped down to last on the list, so I had a good 3 and half hour wait.

The Bronchoscopy

I was eventually called by the nurse and taken through to theatre. We went through some consent forms and a round of questioning before the procedure began. The first step was to numb the back of my throat with a spray, and to inject lots of lovely morphine into the cannula. Someone had the bright idea to add banana extract to the spray, so it tasted absolutely awful. Unsurprisingly, I gagged on the tiny plastic tube. Then it came to the actual camera, and I was fitted with a mouth guard. The camera went in – and I forced it straight back out. Anyone that knows me knows my reflex is appalling. After a second failed attempt and lots of apologies from the worst possible bronchoscopy patient ever, the doctor decided it would go in the nose.

I grabbed hold of a nurses hand and did not let go. It wasn’t painful as such, but it was so uncomfortable. I had a look at the screen and watched the little video of the inside of my lungs and I don’t remember much else. I somehow made my way through to recovery, and was awoken by a nurse after I had slept through the advised 1hr recovery time. I was greeted by a lovely print out picture of my throat, so I guess that’s a win.

My next visit will be day 28 (2 weeks) so I will update again then!

Thanks for reading 🙂

TB041 – A Tuberculosis Vaccine Study: #2 ‘Day Zero’

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So today was the actual day when I received the vaccination for Tuberculosis. I arrived at the Churchill Hospital for an 8am start, but as per usual with hospitals they were running behind.

I first saw a nurse who did all the standard tests that I will have done on every visit: blood pressure; lung function; temperature; pregnancy and then blood tests for my organ function. Whilst she was doing this, we discussed what was going to happen throughout the morning and how it would work. I had forgotten to put a t-shirt on under my jumper whilst getting dressed, which lead to a couple of stripping moments in front of more than one nurse, so there’s something to remember when you go for blood tests.

Once my pregnancy test came back negative and my bloods came back positive, I waited in reception whilst I was randomly assigned a group number (as I said in the last post, each group gets one placebo and one real vaccination) and my vaccinations were prepared. If I was to have the placebo injection, it would be a salty water solution, and if I were to have a placebo inhaled vaccine, it would again be salty water. To ensure I couldn’t taste a difference, the real inhaled vaccine would also taste of salt.

I was called back to a consulting room by my Doctor from Tuesday, Dr Julia Marshall. Before we entered the room, we had to put shoe covers on (like those ones you get at the swimming pool, but these were material and not plastic) as well as a hair-net and plastic apron. I sat in a big chair, and the nurse put me in this huge plastic hood that had a small hole in the front. The hood was designed to keep the vaccine in, and away from the nurses so they weren’t exposed to TB multiple times. Through the hole, a small machine (that looked remarkably like a big vape pen) was inserted, which went into my mouth. I then just had to breathe through this tube for a few minutes. The taste was horrendous! It was very salty, and the salt was making my mouth dry, but I couldn’t swallow. They removed the tube, and let me out of the hood prison. I then had to get my shoulder free from my jumper so that I could have the existing BCG (or placebo) vaccination. I was all geared up for this to really hurt and sting as the needle was fairly big, but I felt virtually nothing as she administered it. After she removed the needle, there was this strange bump under my skin. I then had to sit in the room whilst they observed me for 10 minutes to make sure I didn’t faint or have a reaction.

Once they were happy with that, I was told that I would be needed in another 50 minutes for another set of lung function, blood pressure and temperature checks. With that time in mind, my mother and I headed into the main hospital to find some breakfast. My mouth still tasted like salt.

We went back to the CCVTM for my last tests and I was discharged with no problems.

Each evening, I have to conduct my own lung function tests and temperature tests, and record them in an e-diary so that the vaccinology staff can stay up to date with my health. I was also given a card that I have to carry at all times, stating that I am in a clinical trial and that I can’t donate blood. It also has a 24hr phone number in case I get really ill during the trial.

I’m next in on Friday (day 2) and Wednesday (Day 7) and so will update again then!

Thanks for reading ❤

Learning | Discover Challenge

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It’s been a while, but I’ve found a nice Discover Challenge to write about. You can find my other Discover challenges under the category. (pingback)

Learning

We are learning right from the second that we are born into the world. We have to learn how to do virtually everything, from going to the toilet and walking to more complex things, like reading and algebra. Every new situation that you are thrown at is a chance to learn something new. Learning is not always done in the conventional way in a classroom, staring at a white board, but can be done out in the real world too. I personally believe that learning is the best way to spend your time, because with learning comes great knowledge and expertise. Which, in turn, allows you to teach others.

Knowledge is valuable, and I therefore believe it is vital that we never stop learning. We may think we know it all, but there is always going to be someone out there who knows just a little bit more than you do.

Primary schools are often looked at as the easy stage, where the very basics are learnt. But without those basics, we couldn’t continue building on our skills to get to the complicated stuff. At each level of the schooling system, we should be pushed and challenged to learn everything we can. As interesting as micro technology is, the chances of me ever needing that information is slim. We haven’t learnt how to pay our taxes, or apply for a job in school, but we have others around us who can teach. Listening to your parents teach us might not be fun, but we can teach them stuff that they don’t know. I had to help my mother with her work printer the other day; she was trying to print an address onto an envelope but was just putting paper into the printer. She thought it was going to fold into an envelope shape. After telling my Dad this, he laughed with me and said that I shouldn’t moan about helping with technology, because he taught me how to use a spoon.

Each of us have the power to teach those around us, and it’s okay to be the learner and not the teacher.

July Playlist

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Previous playlists can be found here!

Too good Drake

Into You Ariana Grande

Gold Kiiara

This is what you came for Calvin Harris

i hate u, i love u (ft. olivia o’brien) gnash

No Money Galantis

Capsize FRENSHIP

Give me your love Sigala

Toothbrush DNCE

Middle DJ Snake

Ride Twenty One Pilots

Playlist on Spotify: click here (opens in a new tab)

Contraceptive Implant (Nexplanon)

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I know it sounds horrible, but getting the contraceptive implant was one of the best decisions I’ve made. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Nexplanon Implant is a tiny little tube that is inserted on the underside of your upper arm. It’s about the size of a small matchstick, and is invisible – but it can be felt if the arm is squeezed. It releases Etonogestrel (a progestogen) into the bloodstream which prevents a woman from becoming pregnant.

How to get one

When I began thinking about which contraceptives to use, I thought about all of the criteria that I wanted – long term vs short term, can it be stopped immediately, side effects etc. I discovered the implant, and researched into it a lot. I then made an appointment with a contraception nurse at my local doctors. I met with her and we talked about my needs and she decided that the implant was the way to go forward. She booked me in for an appointment in a weeks time.

Getting it inserted

This is the bit I wasn’t looking forward to. I am not good with needles, so the worst part for me was when she used some local anaesthetic to numb my arm. I then looked away as she made a small incision in my arm and pushed in a large tube which delivered the implant to my arm. Whilst it didn’t hurt, I could feel her putting it in, and it was uncomfortable at most. She cleaned it up and put a dressing on it that had to be left on for a few days. It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

How has it worked for me?

Well, I’m not pregnant. Which I at least would expect as the implant is over 99.9% effective. I had seen a couple of horror stories online about women that had a constant period after insertion, and women that periods got worse, but thank God, mine got so much better, since having the implant back in February, I haven’t had a full period – I just get light spotting for 2-3 days a month. I still get period cramps around this time but they are more manageable. Migraines that I used to associate with my period have stopped also. The scar from insertion is absolutely tiny, about 2mm in diameter – which means people don’t know you have it unless you want them to.

Would I recommend it?

100% yes! It has worked a treat for me, but remember that each person is different and may react to it differently. A bonus for me was that the implant lasts three years, so unless you have plans for the next few years, you’re gucci. The implant can be removed anytime after 3 or so months, and you can have another fitted if you want one.

I hope this was helpful to anyone thinking about getting one, make sure you look into it and research lots before you decide to do it!

May Playlist

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Ayyyyy another playist! I missed last month, but I’m back again. There’s not much new music I’m listening to at the minute, but I’ve compiled a small list. If you haven’t seen the previous playlists you can find them here.

Cheap thrills (ft. Sean Paul) Sia (Lyric Video)

Takin’ It Back Dutty Moonshine (Audio)

Goes Off (ft. Mista Silva) KSI (Thank-you video)

Criticize Alexander O’Neal (Music Video) ❤

Best Song Ever One Direction (Music Video)

Top Boy (ft. P Money) Blacks (Audio)

Flow of the year (ft. JME) Kano (Music Video)

How do we measure self worth?

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Having a good view on yourself and a positive mental attitude is very important. But recently, I have noticed that most people judge themselves compared to others, or according to how others see them. There are many ways that people measure themselves, but whether this is a good thing or not depends greatly.

Personally, I try to avoid thinking about what others think of me and how they see me. I say try because obviously, it is difficult not to be knocked down by others, but their opinions don’t always matter. The amount of likes you get does not reflect your true personality. I tend to value my self worth on what I have recently accomplished – if I am successful in what I a doing, I will be happier with myself. But at the same time, it is important that I do not let my failures drag me down, but help me learn.

I wouldn’t say I measured myself against it, but when I tell a joke or make a funny comment and someone else laughs, it makes me feel good about myself – even if the joke is about me. However, there are people who feel the need to fish for compliments in order to feel good about themselves, which is not very healthy at all. Receiving compliments is lovely, but I would hate to make others feel bad simply to build myself up again.

However it is that you value your self worth, it is important to remember the effects that you are having on those around you, and that no matter what, you are fabulous!

Obstacles | Discover Challenge

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Another Discover Challenge post because my last one went down really well with readers! Hopefully I’ll do these more often in the future! (pingback)

Obstacles

Obstacles can mean different things to different people. Google defines an obstacle as “a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress” – which I interpret not only as a physical blockage, but also a mental obstacle.

In my life, I feel that I am both lucky and unlucky that I have not been faced with a major obstacle that I had to work around. I feel lucky because to an extent, it must have made my life easier, even if I hadn’t acknowledged it. On the other hand, I feel unlucky about this situation too. I feel that when overcoming an obstacle, you learn things – whether that be about life, or simply the situation. Without an obstacle in my life, it could be seen that I have been denied a learning opportunity – and for someone who values knowledge as one of the world’s greatest assets, this is clearly less than ideal. Although, probability suggests that because I am only 16 years old, my obstacle will come later in life, at a time where I possess more knowledge.

Due to aforementioned reasons, I personally believe that obstacles are a positive thing that can happen to you, even if they’re completely tiny or massive. I try to adopt the view that everything can be learnt from, and obstacles are a major part of that. Take a minute to think about what obstacles have faced you, and how you overcame them. What did you learn? How did it change you or your perspective?

Convoy For Heroes 2016

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I can almost guarantee that you have never heard of Convoy For Heroes. But, you will have heard of Help For Heroes and you will have heard of Land Rovers. Convoy is basically a convoy (yeah I know, how didn’t you see that coming?) of Land Rovers, with the aim of raising money for Help for Heroes.

We hold one every year, and I have attended every single one from 2011, but wasn’t on the Event Team until 2012. It’s usually held over Easter weekend, but this year was on St. George’s Day.

The main convoy is on the Sunday, and everyone competes for the best bonnet decoIMG_4289ration and the best use of flags on the vehicle.

As a special bonus this year, I got to ride in my truck – yes, my truck. I can’t actually drive yet so a friend of my Dad’s drove it 🙂 It’s a green Defender 90, and her name is Miss Money Penny. I cannot wait to drive her myself!

Since 2011, we’ve made thousands of pounds for H4H and are a recognised charity – members from their team visit us each year. One year we made over £14,000.

Hopefully the event will continue next year (it’s currently being carefully thought about by the directors) so I can drive my own truck in the convoy! If any of you lot own a Landy, I suggest you take a look at the Convoy4Heroes website or facebook page 😉