Author Archives: mcwoods

About mcwoods

By day I'm a Researcher & Future Internet creator. By night I'm a Mobile, Web and Cloud Developer & owner of http://www.voczie.com. My views are my own, and not that of my employer.

Perfect Mince Pies

Hello Mince Pie Day

And tho it came to be that this day shall ever more be known as Mince Pie Day!

We all have foods we love and for me it is the humble mince pie. The smell of the mincemeat, the stickiness of the substance when it escapes the pastry and caramelises on the outside of the case are all reminders of the most awesome mince pies that my grandmother used to make. They evoke memories of Christmas past and time spent cooking with my Gran.

An abiding memory is the care pack of mince pies that my Grandmother sent to me when I was in my second year of university. A bloody great big box arrived, quite nicely battered by the Royal Mail, and inside where four dozen mince pies. I have to report that there were casualties, of the four dozen at least a dozen had succumbed to “transit torture”. But no matter; with pies these good even the crumbs were delicious! I safely stored then in the student kitchen.

Granny Scregg – The Most Awesome of Students

Now my grandmother was awesome, although she had never been to university herself she seemed to grasp the core essence of the experience. As I bit into my first pie I realised she’d laced it with enough scotch that it was making my mouth feel pickled. It made for the most awesome breakfast treat; screw the American beagle, or the French croissant this was the breakfast of champions; the great British mince pie! – with added fortitude by Granny Scregg.

Just as surely as the sticky insides of a good mince will leak out during the cooking process, news about my seasonal breakfast of alcoholic wonders got out.

The first I heard of this information leak was discovering that supplies of my carefully rationed mince pies had taken an unexpected hit; the box was half full. An inquisition was held and it was discovered that these pies had international appeal! – I knew my granny could cook, but these pies had made it onto the world stage! – Kingsley my Nigerian flat made admitted to enjoying them to.

In the spirit of full international cooperation I did the only logical thing I could, I hid them in my bedroom.

Unfortunately the close proximity of the mince pies to my bed resulted in my careful rationing going out the window and the remaining mince pies lasting just days rather than the projected two weeks.

Do It For the Love of the Pie… Man…

In that particular year, spurred I think by the student competition for the alcoholic mince pies my overall mince pie consumption shot through the roof. After gaining at least 1 stone (14 pounds or roughly 7kg) in weight that Christmas alone I decided that I’d better save the tasty yet modest mince pie for just the Christmas season.  From here Mice Pie Day was born. I embarked on a Mince Pie Fast which lasts from the 1st of January right through the year until Mince Pie Day – the 1st of December. Today I’ll be enjoying the my first Mince Pie of 2015… and the challenge every year is to find (or make) pies that can pickle your mouth like Granny Scregg’s did.

Predict that my twitter feed will feature at least one Mice Pie this lunch time.

Giving a little back

From the initial diagnosis of Matthew’s infantile spasms right through to providing support for his eye rolls post discharge the guys at Temple Street Children’s Hospital have been amazing. The time has come were we can now give a little something back, and perhaps help other children and their families that are suffering from neurological conditions.

It’s happened at least three times since discharge, but Mattie had had the odd eye role. At first we thought he was just messing with us, or perhaps we’d imagined it, and actually he was just playing. However I caught the second one on camera.

We were reading the Gruffalo book, and Mattie being a huge fan was loving every minute of it. His speech had come on fantastically and he was acting all super cute, pointing out the characters and what they were up to. I decided to a video to send to friends and relatives and it was just as I was recording that he had an eye roll. Thankfully I had caught it on camera. I was able to re-watch it with Emma and make sure that it wasn’t me imagining it.

Emma got in touch with the neurology department at temple street, and even though we were discharged they reviewed our footage and got back to us. They diagnosed these new eye rolls as a “benign tonic upgaze” which happens with all children on occasion. So nothing to worry about, although if they increase in frequency, intensity or duration we are to give them a call. It was great to get that support even though Mattie wasn’t actually a patient.

Giving Something Back

We thought it would be great to give something back to the hospital and in particular the neurology department. So Emma has signed up for one of  Ireland’s largest army assault style runs, it’s called Hell and Back. – The clue really is in the name. It would be great if you could consider supporting Emma and Temple Street by sponsoring her via this link here: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/emma_woodss_event/

Alternatively if you just want to watch the obstacles Emma is going to have to under take you can check out the event videos here.

 

TextQuick and the Power of Software

At first I wasn’t too sure what to make of it. An email explaining that a mobile application I’d written had changed someone’s life. But it turned out to be the single best piece of user feedback I’ve ever had and probably the best email I’ve ever received. It all started with an ultimatum from my wife, and a desire to create an app which would “scratch my own itch”….

Or continue to read the rest of this post over at Medium

 

Missing the Spectrum

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Mattie looking out of the Plane Window, doddie in mouth

World at his feet

I should have updated this blog sooner. It’s been over a month since Mattie was back at Hospital. In late April he returned for what was his final check-up with the Neurology team at Temple Street Hospital.

This check-up had been planned for a while. It’s not often that anyone actually looks forward to a trip to Hospital, but we were. We hadn’t seen any spasms, and developmentally Mattie has come on leaps and bounds.

Both Mattie and his big brother, Ben go to the same crèche. Some of the older boys in Ben’s class will horse around, with a little light pushing and shoving, nothing unusual just typical boy’s behaviour. On occasion it would get a little too much for Ben and he’d start crying. I dropped the two boys off one morning and one of the older boys from Ben’s class walked up to Mattie and pushed him. Rather than getting upset, as his big brother might, Mattie laughed, and then pushed back. It surprised the older boy who took a couple of steps back to recover, but before he could Mattie was toddling up to him to play again, and another push was delivered. Meanwhile Ben looked on in bewilderment. Watching the two brothers play, it would be easy on occasion to assume that Mattie was the older, and Ben the younger.

Ben and Mattie preparing to "Clothes-Line" daddy.. ok, they are actually holding hands

Ben and Mattie preparing to “Clothes-Line” daddy.. ok, they are actually holding hands

Apart from impressing his older brother, Mattie’s speech and coordination have all come along in leaps and bounds. At 2 and a half years he’s starting to string words together to form sentences, just tonight all he wanted to do was “Play Ben”. In fact the relationship between the two brothers has also grown stronger, and they play off each other, Mattie copying Ben, and vice-versa. If Mattie and Ben started coordinating their antics together, and working together more closely then Emma and I would be completely screwed!

Having seen such fantastic progress we were really looking forward to the check-up. Nervous, sure, but quietly positive that his check-up would be good and he’d get the all clear.

Perhaps I have a pessimistic tendency; but it is when everything seems to be going well that I notice things.

“Did I just see that?” – I said it out loud before even thinking about it.
“Yes” said Emma, “it could be just be him messing?” she suggested.
It was Sunday we were sitting at dinner when Mattie suddenly leaned forward, his chest against the table and his eyes rolled back into his head. Less than a second later he was back to normal, and happily eating his meal. – Or at least as happy as a “terrible two” year old can be.

It was worrying, but we’ve not seen it since, and repetition is the key in I.S.

On the day of the check-up Emma took him in to hospital. Emma managed to beat the Dublin traffic and arrived at the hospital before 9 am. However there was a long wait and Mattie, as any two year old would, got a little bored and fed up. However at just after 11:30 am I got a phone call from Emma.

“He’s discharged!” said Emma, “The next time they need to see him, is when he’s 6 years old!”.

They’d given Mattie a battery of developmental progress tests, all of which were positive.

“Your very fortunate. He appears to be one of the lucky ones” our consultant had said.

We are so very lucky indeed. That night we had a “treat tea”; with cake and treats for the two boys. Then once the two boys were safely tucked up in bed Emma and I celebrated with a bottle of sparkling wine.

Mattie has to return to hospital when he’s 6 years old for an eye test. This eye test will tell us if his vision has been impaired by the Sabril he took, we won’t know until then, and ultimately now there is little point in worrying about it. We’re just delighted to have been so very lucky indeed.

From a future that could so very much have been stolen from him, I now feel like he has the world at his feet, and everything to play for. Good luck son, now go get’em – your more than earnt your chance…

Mattie looking out of the Plane Window, doddie in mouth

Mattie looking out of the Plane Window, doddie in mouth

Mattie on the Santa train, eating chocolate with Mummy. Both have just spotted Santa walking down the train.

A Very Different Train Journey; Mattie’s Christmas

12 months ago the whole family enjoyed a Christmas steam train journey. It’s a fantastic trip organised by the Irish Train Preservation Society. Importantly at the end of the trip everyone gets to meet Santa. Last year Ben, our eldest son, had an absolute blast but in the middle of all of the excitement myself and Emma took turns holding Mattie as he shook with spasms. At the time he’d only just started his Sabril, was still bloated from the steroids he’d taken and suffering from conjunctivitis. The future felt very worrying. However, this year’s trip was very different!

Over the last couple of weeks Mattie has been weaned off Sabril, and is now medication and spasm free! At his last EEG on September 23rd there was absolutely no sign of hypsarrhythmia (the EEG signature associated with infantile spasms).

The routine of giving him his medication had become so ingrained in both of us that initially it felt very weird not to dig out the syringe and mix up his drug. A mental itch, like we’d forgotten something.

On the train this year both Emma and I were stretched trying to keep tracks on both boys. I think Ben believed he was on the Polar Express – we were just worried he would try to ski down the length of the train! – of course Mattie wanted to do everything his big brother was doing too! … Fingers in this, trying to eat that, stealing toys off his big brother…

Mattie had a blast with the on board carol singers. They walked the length of train bringing Christmas joy, and in between mouthfuls of chocolate and treats Mattie would try to join in, singing in only the way a nearly two year old can!

It was such a change from last year, and so much fun.

Mattie has come a long way this year and we are all delighted – he has achieved all of the things we were unsure he would; walking, talking and such a strong and funny wee personality. It is the best Christmas present we could have asked for.

We’re also hopeful that he will have escaped the worst of the Sabril side effects; vision loss. There is defiantly no sign he has any, but we won’t know until he’s much older but even if there is some the trade-off will have certainly been worth it. In the meantime the four of us have so much to look forward to.

Next year, Mattie will have one more check-up with neurology in April. Assuming he stays spasm and hypsarrhythmia free the hospital will discharge him. So far it’s looking good!

As you can probably tell from the older blog posts when Mattie was first diagnosed both Emma and I were shocked, a bit dazed, confused, and I think it’s fair to say a little scared. During the nights sitting beside Mattie in the hospital Emma and I would do what the neurology nurses recommended we didn’t; we checked the Internet.

“Whatever you do” said the nurses, “don’t google it. The Internet is full of all the bad cases, no one likes to write about the positive outcomes.” They warned.

Perhaps maybe, in April this blog will help counter balance the current weighting on the internet. I can only hope that in the future another parent, sitting beside their little one in the middle of the night, will stumble across this blog. I hope they know that they are not alone and the blog can help allay their worries a little.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Mixing Sabril with a Flavour

Top 3 tips on Mixing Sabril (Vigabatrin)

Myself and Emma have seen a number of people mention that their children are rejecting Sabril when it is mixed with water; they’ve ask about mixing Sabril with other drinks, and if this is possible. We thought we would share our experiences and the top 3 tips we learnt.

Tip 1 : Worrying about this is normal

In hindsight I’d like to tell you that freaking out is ok. We did it. It’s impossible not to worry. The fact that you are worrying means that you are concerned about the right things.

The basic tips I have on mixing Sabril will sound like common sense, but I remember how absolutely terrified I was when we brought Mattie back from the hospital. At the time both Emma and I were worried about the seemingly ever increasing cocktail of drugs we were giving a 6 month old. At one point we were giving Mattie one drug simply to combat the side effects of another. Then in the midst of all of this he started rejecting his medication, by rejecting I mean spitting it across anyone who tried to give it to him.

It was around 8pm one evening when Mattie had managed to spray Emma with his bed time dose of drugs when we decided to call the Neuro team and ask for advice. – We panicked, we’d only just got him home and the last thing we wanted was to see him return to hospital because we couldn’t give him his medication.

Tip 2 : A Spoon Full of Sugar Helps the Medicine go Down

It must taste awful. I’m guessing of course as I haven’t actually taken Sabril (Vigabatrin) myself. The Neuro explained that we could mix it with something else to take the taste of the Sabril away. As Sabril needs to be dissolved in water she suggested using a very dilute fresh fruit juice; we used a small drop of fresh orange juice and a lot of water. The Neuro also suggested using cordial or squash, but she warned that these can have a very high sugar content and if we did use it, we should mix it with a lot of water.

How we mixed it

  1. Pour a little juice into an espresso cup / or egg cup. Really just a little drop.
  2. Add water to juice. Make it as dilute as you feel you can.
  3. Using a syringe extract the required amount of liquid you require to then mix with Sabril as normal

The fresh orange juice worked a charm, Mattie loved the mix of orange juice and water. We had weeks of success! – Until he started reject that too.

Tip 3 : Change of Flavour

Mattie started rejecting the dilute orange juice mixture. We spoke to the Neuro about it and she pointed out, the kids – *all* kids eventually get board of a taste. Swapping and changing the fruit flavour will help. And it has. We swapped from orange juice to apple and Mattie was back in business consuming the Sabril without issue – and on occasions actually sucking it directly from the syringe before I’d actually depressed the plunger!

So far we’ve mixed most fresh fruit flavours, and when we’ve run out we’ve used cordial and have, on the odd time, just used plain water. All taken without complaint (so far).

I hope these tips help, and I’ve your tried other ways to dilute Sabril, let me know. I hope that if any other parents are struggling with getting their child to take Sabril that these three tips help.

Email.. what?

Ok. So if you follow me on Twitter, or we are friends on Facebook, your probably wondering what all my posts about email etiquette are all about. – Well let me explain.. it all started with an idea, which popped into existence, as all good ideas do, while suffering from a hangover.

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Mattie Playing in Hospital

Mattie Update OT and Physio Report

It’s been a long time since we wrote about how Mattie has been getting on. A couple of weeks ago Mattie had Physio, and Occupational Therapy check-ups. Both went really well.

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