Category Archives: Life and Society

Aberdeen nurse working round the clock during Brisbane floods

By Myles Edwards.  Published in the Daily Record 14th January 2011

Sarah at Sydney Harbour Bridge, 2010.

 

SCOTS nurse Sarah Leighton has been working round the clock as a result of Australia’s floods.

The 22-year-old has been stranded in Brisbane’s Wesley hospital where she has been putting in extra hours to treat patients.

Queensland premier Anna Bligh yesterday said the state was reeling from the worst natural disaster in its history and faced a reconstruction effort of “post-war proportions”.

Sarah, who moved from Aberdeen to the Queensland capital in October 2009, revealed she and her colleagues were going the extra mile to help those in need.

She said: “We were called on Tuesday night to say that anyone who could make it in had to come in first thing in the morning, before it was too late.

“The usual route to get into the hospital was flooded and when I eventually made it to the front door, a policeman had to escort me up to the ward.

“I worked a nine-hour shift, followed by a four-hour break and then had to work through the night again until 5am.

“We do not have enough clothes but the hospital bosses have been amazing. We have been given unlimited amounts of food and water and even some fashionable medical scrubs.

“There are four of us nurses staying in the ward, all in a room with two beds and two mattresses on the floor.

“We are unsure when we will get home as it all depends on when other staff can make it in.

“The only access to the hospital now is via a pedestrian railway bridge.

“There are numerous patients who are well enough to be discharged but unable to get home due to the floods.

“We hope to get home on Friday or Saturday but we don’t even know what state our house in Toowong will be in.”

For the first time since she started her epic shift, Sarah and her colleagues were able to venture outside yesterday morning – and were stunned by the impact the flood waters have had on Brisbane.

She said: “Until this walk we had been stuck in a bubble and unaware of what the city was like.

“The streets have an eerie feel to them. What was a lovely, beautiful city is now covered in inches of mud where the water has retreated and it has left an awful smell.

“During our walk we saw a restaurant and half of a car float by us, as well as a dressing table, DVDs and some shoes.”

She revealed her boyfriend, Australian John McCormack, was cut off from her as the surrounding roads at his home were flooded.

The clean-up operation will be a mammoth task but Sarah insisted her immediate focus is on making sure her loved ones are OK.

She added: “The supermarkets are all running low due to everyone stocking up prior to the worst of the floods, so people keep asking us what we will do for food.

“I really don’t care – the main thing is all my friends are safe and well and we will worry about everything else when the situation improves.”

As the deadly floodwaters finally began to recede, officials warned it could be days before people can return to 30,000 homes and businesses damaged in the disaster.

One man died in the city after being sucked into a storm drain by the muddy waters.

The discovery, plus two other bodies found yesterday, brought the death toll to 25 since late November.

At least 61 people are still missing, and the death toll is expected to rise.

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Orange Tuesday blunder produces red faces at mobile phone giant

Photo courtesy of http://www.dialaphone.co.uk

Mobile phone network giant Orange have angered customers today after sending out an e-mail containing thousands of their e-mail addresses.

This breach of Data Protection has prompted a series of angry responses from customers, with one saying:

“Typical Orange, after the way they have treated me recently this is what I have come to expect!”

Other than the substantial number of addresses, the e-mail did not contain anything confidential but could have a potentially detrimental effect on the company’s reputation.  The message from Orange’s customer service team read:

“Hello from Orange

Thank you for your recent email enquiry.  In order to improve our service we would like to take the opportunity to ask you a couple of questions regarding the way in which you have contacted Orange.

In the pursuit of improving service provided to our customers, Orange are intending to update and modify the ‘Contact Us’ section of the Orange website that our customers use to email their queries to our Customer Service Representatives.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could reply to this email with your thoughts on the ‘Contact Us’ section by answering the following questions.

How easy was the ‘Contact Us’ section of the Orange website to navigate?

Was your query included in the options available?

Did you find it easy to locate the ‘Contact Us’ section?

Do you have any suggestions or comments on how we can improve this service?

Your feedback is important to us and will be passed on to our Development Teams, so thank you for taking the time to reply.

Kind regards

Orange Online Services Team.”

In September 2009 Orange had more than 17 million customers in the UK – 16.11 million active mobile customers and approximately 900,000 fixed broadband customers.

This is not likely to do the company’s success much good in the near future as they have already struggled to match some of the deals offered by competitors such as Vodafone.

Myles Edwards

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“Some things never change……some things.”

By Myles Edwards

 
 
Cast your mind back to 1967.  Labour were in power in the United Kingdom.  War in the Middle East was causing conflict in the western world.  Casino Royale was a box office hit.  Mini skirts were the craze.  Ken Barlow was strutting his stuff in one of the nation’s favourite soap operas.  Some things never change……some things.

Mel Edwards is a former British marathon international runner with a personal best time of 2hours 18minutes 24seconds (set in 1967), and is widely regarded as one of the most inspiring, modest and popular coaches in the running fraternity.

Born in December 1942, he graduated in Civil Engineering from Cambridge University in 1966 and has since enjoyed a great deal of success in the world of distance running.  In a career which has spanned over 40 years, Mel has endured a roller coaster of ‘injuries’ and success at every level from club competitions to international level.  Detailed and accurate training diaries have been kept, which show he has racked up a total of over 100,000 miles of running!

Mel Edwards at Font Romeu, high altitude training camp 2008

Following receiving his second Cambridge ‘blue’ for his exploits on the track he went on to bigger and better things in 1967.  It was quite literally a record breaking year for Mel.  He impressively broke the Scottish 6 mile record – whilst finishing 2nd to Lachie Stewart, but went one step higher on the podium in the English universities 3 mile race by cracking the previous record.  1967 saw him really flourish as an athlete, most notably in the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.  In his first attempt at the event, Mel ran away from his rivals early on to win the Harlow marathon and climb to 4th in the British rankings.  To cap it all off, he narrowly missed out on the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, by 2 places.

What contributed to this large amount of success in a sport, which, at the time was highly competitive in the UK?  In an answer that was oozing with Mel’s typical, determined attitude, he said:

“It was down to single minded focus on getting the best out of myself, by doing the work and when injured leaving no stone unturned to find the solution.”

Renowned for his training regimes of around 100miles per week, what makes Mel stand out is his positive attitude and dogged determination to get the best possible outcome from everything he does.

In November 2006, aged almost 64, Mel underwent a MRI scan for lower back pain.  45 minutes later he was diagnosed with Myeloma, an incurable but very treatable form of bone marrow cancer.  After numerous treatments and minor disruptions to work, 8 months later he was back to full-time work as a chartered road safety engineer and running over 20 miles per week.  His reaction following the diagnosis typified his personality traits.

“Those are malignancies, cancer”, said Dr. Frank Smith.  Much to the doctor’s amazement, Mel’s immediate reaction was not to be shocked but “I’ve got a big cross country race coming up soon.”

When asked if he felt his attitude and fitness achieved from competitive sport had helped him face cancer head on, Mel’s response was definitive:

“There is no question these elements made fighting myeloma much easier. I would hate to have had to deal with it if I had never had to show determination in my life due to things coming too easily. Certainly fitness means that you have a built-in reserve which can be used to deal with additional stresses.”

It is this attitude which has served Mel so well throughout his life and during the treatment.  An inspiration to many, but what makes this inspirational character tick?

“I am inspired by the opportunities available to do constructive things, such as helping people with their athletics aims and trying to make roads safer in my working capacity. These aims, when carried through, give people a feel-good factor.”

British marathon running was booming in the late 1960s and continued to do so for the best part of the following two decades.  In 1968 there were only 2 countries to have more than 3 runners faster than Mel – Japan and UK, which, looking at today’s standards makes him look rather unlucky at missing out on competing at an Olympic Games.  But it is evident that excuses, simply, aren’t in his nature.

In 1968, 46 UK men broke the 2hours 30 minutes barrier.  In 2007, only 31 men managed to achieve this feat.  With all the advances in footwear, nutrition and training tools, as well as even faster role models, albeit almost all from other countries – why is there such a decline in British marathon running standards?

Mel’s opinion on the decline is, again, filled with absolute clarity:

“It is down to distance runners not putting in the work they did 40 years ago.  You have to be totally dedicated to getting the mileage in and choosing the right races.  Between 1966 and 1984, in Aberdeen alone, there were ten guys faster than 2 hours 20 minutes for the marathon.”

For many people, it is intriguing to find out what gets an athlete through long runs without boredom setting in.  For Mel, it is simple:

“I really enjoy the challenge of distance and time.  The fact that others with an aim to be in the top echelons of marathon or cross country running in the UK, were doing similar training also gave me a desire to be the best.”

A common site in elite marathons. (World record holder Haile Gebrselassie 3rd from right)

The lack of top marathon runners in the UK today is in stark contrast to the likes of Kenya, Ethiopia and America.  For Mel, in the late 60s and 70s you only had to turn up for a local race to compete with or witness elite athletes in action.  Therefore can the lack of male distance running role models in the UK be a factor in the decline of standards?  Perhaps so, but with Mel’s philosophy, it is very likely that all smaller factors would subsequently fall into place.

“More role models would emerge as a result of increased hard work from individual athletes.  To be the best, you must learn from, and work harder than those faster than you.”

His fair, no nonsense attitude spans far wider than himself or anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him.  For those who are not familiar with the name, Oscar Pistorious, he is a South African Paralympic runner, known as the “Blade Runner”.  He is the double amputee world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 metres and runs with the aid of carbon-fibre limbs, attached from the knee down.  In 2007 Pistorious took part in his first international able-bodied competitions.  However, the International Association of Athletics Federations (with their typical Rubix Cube-like mindset) ruled that his lower leg, artificial limbs gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes and subsequently banned him from competing under their rules.  Thankfully this decision has since been reversed and he is eligible to compete in able-bodied Olympic competition.

Mel’s opinion on Oscar Pistorious’ situation not only demonstrates his love of a challenge but also seems to apply common sense to some harsh obstacles which had previously been placed in the path of the young South African’s destiny.

“I believe he should be allowed to compete at the highest level possible.  He is not far off the top able bodied 400m runners and relishes the challenge of competing against them. Why deny him the chance?  He deserves the opportunity to enjoy himself as he wishes and I see this taking precedence over views of others on his actions.”

The British male marathon running scene offers little sign of competing at the front of world class racing.  At 67, Mel Edwards shows less chance of slowing down than Formula 1 cars and even less likelihood of quitting than Ken Barlow:  “I have no reason to stop.  I feel good and it is exciting.”

Some things never change.

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Cancer facing tough opponent

By Myles Edwards                 17 December 2007

November 2006, aged 64, Mel Edwards underwent a MRI scan for lower back pain.  45 minutes later he was diagnosed with Myeloma, an incurable but very treatable form of bone marrow cancer.  After numerous treatments and minor disruptions to work, 8 months later he was back to full-time work as a chartered road safety engineer and running over 20 miles per week.

On one hand, this is just one of many cancer survival stories but what makes Mel stand out is his positive attitude and dogged determination to get the best possible outcome from everything he does.  His reaction following the diagnosis typified these two personality traits.

Following the MRI scan, Dr. Frank Smith of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary asked Mel to view the result with him.  He identified a herniation of the lumbar 3 disc, but what concerned Dr. Smith greatly was the presence of white spots all over Mel’s skeletal frame.  “Those are malignancies, cancer” he said.  Much to Dr. Smith’s amazement, Mel said that his immediate reaction was not to be shocked but “I’ve got a big cross country race coming up soon.”

It is this attitude which has served Mel so well throughout his life and during the treatment.

dad

Mel Edwards

Born in Aberdeen on December 2nd, 1942, Mel graduated in Civil Engineering from Cambridge University and has enjoyed a great deal of success in the world of distance running.  Renowned for his training regimes of around 100miles per week, his Marathon personal best time of 2 hours 18 minutes 25 seconds would place him high up the British rankings of today.  In a running career which has spanned over 40 years, Mel has run over 100,000 miles and is a former Scottish international athlete at distances ranging from 6miles to Marathon.  He now coaches and advises athletes of all abilities.

Mel said: “It has not been too onerous to be fully back at work.  The only disruption was the main treatment in June and July.”

The treatment involved 4 weeks of isolation as high dose chemotherapy was administered to kill off malignant plasma cells in the blood and then transplantation of Mel’s own stem cells which had previously been harvested.

Mel ensured that he remained as physically and mentally active as possible during his stay in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.  He said: “During this time I was determined that I would not allow myself to get bored and succeeded in this although I was very keen to be released.  I returned to work the day after I left hospital.”

Mel’s eagerness to return to ‘normal’ life is evident in his work and running.  “Although running is not that easy (mainly due to Thalidomide drugs used during treatment), I am doing just under 20 miles of running a week.  This keeps fitness and ability to challenge myself physically on board.  As a human I feel 100%, as an athlete I feel 80%.”

Fraser Clyne, a close friend and former rival of Mel’s said: “Mel is so enthusiastic.  He was one of the toughest competitors of his generation, and I believe most of his success to be down to his determination to succeed at everything he encounters.”

Ellen Watters, Myeloma Information Nurse Specialist, Edinburgh, stressed the key role which an active lifestyle plays in terms of ‘prehabilitation’ and recovery.  She said: “Exercise helps to tone muscles which, in turn, support the bones.  This is vital when tackling bone marrow cancer”.

She said: “Athletes are generally more surprised when they hear the diagnosis, but they are typically more driven because of their desire to compete again following treatment.”

Although Mel may not fall into the first of those categories, he certainly epitomises the latter.  Whilst in hospital, he was continually, meticulously planning work, family and social events for after his release.

“By being totally positive I feel it makes things easier for others in their dealings with me.  They are not at all apprehensive about approaching me and discussing how I am doing”, he said.

Myeloma is a form of cancer arising from plasma cells, which are normally found in the bone marrow.  Each year, in the UK, more than 2,400 people die due to myeloma and around 3,800 people are diagnosed with myeloma.

Professor Mike Greaves, Head of the Medical School at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, identified the introduction of Thalidomide as a treatment in having a positive effect on Myeloma sufferers.  He said: “Myeloma one year survival rates have increased to over 85%, a 20% improvement on 2004.”

Myeloma incidence rates are on the rise.  Myeloma survival rates are on the rise.  These trends are most likely down to advances in diagnostics and an overall greater awareness of the disease.

Technology alone is not going to conquer Myeloma, nothing is.  But it is attitudes such as that of Mel Edwards which are going to give the disease the toughest of battles it is likely to ever come up against.

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