In which I talk about the NHS


Today I spent a majority of my day wandering Lancaster city center. I was going to make black bean soup but by the time I thought to check the hour it was WAY to late for bean soup making. So tomorrow it’ll have to be. My walking trip started off with me dropping some books off at the library. The library here is teeny. So rather than going in sorta knowing what I want I just browse the aisles until something catches my eye. I’m not spoiled for choice at this library because of how small it is but on the other hand I think that will make me more likely to pick up books I normally wouldn’t and try them out. So in a way this might be better.

While I was out today I was passed twice by ambulances with their sirens blaring. This is what made me think of talking about my NHS visits, especially because my grandma wanted me to. Also, the sirens on emergency vehicles here seem so much LOUDER than the ones back home. There has been a number of times where I almost jumped out of my skin when they drove past they are so loud.

My first trip to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) ward here happened after I’d only been here a few weeks. I have had a rather bad gallbladder for a while now and so the attack itself wasn’t a surprise. I was sorta hoping that I would have had the chance to register with the school health center (or I suppose centre since I’m in England) and make an appointment first but such is life, eh?

It was just a normal attack, a bit more painful than normal and I had no more painkillers. I was lucky though as T (he and his wife R are the ones letting me my room here in Lancaster) couldn’t sleep and when he rambled downstairs and saw me in pain, called a taxi. What was even nicer was that he came with me to the A&E and stayed the whole 3-4 hours that I was there. A really nice guy T is.

The nurses, doctors, receptionist, everyone really at the NHS were very nice. I got good care and I didn’t really wait any longer there than I have had to wait at home. I even got some morphine for the pain (my first experience with morphine). I actually wrote a post on facebook about my second visit to the A&E and will copy/paste it here.

From my facebook notes the day I got back from the hospital:

So, I got to go to the A&E (Accident and Emergency) ward last night again. I woke up with a really bad gallbladder attack, again, and took a taxi to A&E. I got in a lot quicker this time though and they ended up giving me 10ml of morphine for the pain. I’ve decided that while morphine is lovely for taking away the pain just about instantaneously, I really really hate how it makes me feel. I get all dzzy and lightheaded, I feel queasy, and it makes my arms feel heavy. Actually it feels like something heavy is pressing down on my whole body. I’m not a fan.

The NHS though? Oh, that’s LOVELY. The doctors and nurses are all extremely nice and helpful. Also, since I’m on an academic program that lasts longer than 6 months I get the NHS for free! Yay!

So, after I got the painkiller the Emergency doctor told me that he would like to admit me to the hospital as this was the second attack in 6 days that has sent me to emergency which is worrying. Also, by admitting me it pushed up the time for me to get an ultrasound. So I stayed in the hospital last night and got an ultrasound this morning. I’ve never been admitted to the hospital before so this was all new for me. The ultrasound showed that I have gallstones (surprise!) and that quite a few of them were rather large apparently. Which may account for why these most recent attacks have been EXTREMELY painful. Like, double me over if I stand up painful. I was in the hospital for a while after the ultrasound because they wanted me to eat lunch and see if the food bothered me at all. I’ve only been back home for about an hour and a half or so.

I’m feeling much better now if a bit exhausted and wrung out. I really miss home and my family and friends. Nothing is worse than sitting in the hospital all by yourself. 

In about six weeks I’ll have an outpatient appointment with the hospital again to discuss surgery for my gallbladder. Which is nice because that means that sometime soon I won’t have to worry about or experience these horribly painful attacks ever again.

As an update I have an appointment with the surgeon on Aug. 23 to talk about removing my gallbladder.

So all in all my experience with the NHS here in England has been lovely. It is nice to know that if I get sick I have somewhere I can go and that I won’t have to pay astronomical hospital bills after.

Next Monday I will be getting a haircut. I’ll be sure to post pictures of how it look ^__^.


And finally an adventure begins

So, I’m living in England now. It has been about a month and boy have things changed since I last posted. I’m no longer going to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine now. The professor I planned to work with found out that he would no longer be funded at the LSTM and got me in contact with someone at Lancaster University. He has also got a new position at Lancaster so I will still be able to work with him.

I am still studying sandflies and Leishmania but will probably be doing field work in Sri Lanka rather than Brazil. The details are not ironed out by any means and I am suppose to be working on a literature review right now but have been procrastinating horribly on it. I do plan to start work on that and at least finish a page or two today.

It has been an adventure getting here and an adventure living here. I have had a bit of homesickness that has made this move difficult along with a lot of other personal turmoil (nothing dire). I think I’m slowly getting use to living here in England. Luckily the weather has been fairly nice here and although I’ve had a few bouts of rain it hasn’t really been excessive. Mostly sunny and somewhat warm. So that is nice because I really love the sun (why I came to a country that supposedly has very little sun most of the year I shall never know).

School has been interesting. I’ve been learning how to work in the lab and where everything is. But in all honesty I hate every second of it and am BORED OUT OF MY MIND. I think this is because what we’re working on now is DNA extraction and PCR which I have done hundreds of. That is basically what I did for my master of entomology. Hence the boredom. Also, I don’t like working with Leishmania parasites. I realize that most of this is probably my homesickness and dissatisfaction with life at the moment leaking into my work life but still. I don’t feel like I’m learning anything. There is also that literature review on Leishmania and sandflies that I am suppose to have been working on but I just can’t seem to get myself focused on that either. It has been two years since I was last in school and I think I’m rusty. I just can’t seem to get myself back into that school groove.

So I thought I should make a list of things I really like here in England to make myself happy:
Haribo’s gummy candies. Especially the sour ones.
I have healthcare now! YAY NHS!
Old stone walls
I live 5 minutes away from a CASTLE
The old priory
Sainbury’s and all their nifty British foods
Squash (basically juice concentrate. Add some squash and water, instant juice!)
Sticky toffee pudding
The “Look right” “look left” painted on the streets
Takeaway stores everywhere (although I can’t really eat at any of them right now. Stupid gallbladder)
How people call you love
Walking everywhere. It’s sorta nice, even when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to walk
Jammie Dodgers (even if I can’t eat them right now. Again, stupid gallbladder!)
Jaffa cakes (same as above. DX)
Soft black licorice
The Guardian
British TV
British Dairy products (oh Rachel’s yogurt how I love thee)
Magpies and swallows EVERYWHERE! They’re so cute ^__^
My roommates T and R who are super nice and good friends

I’m sure I’ll think of more to add later.

My first week in jolly ol’ England (just visiting) pt. 1

So of course I’ve already mentioned that I was taking a trip to England to meet with my new Professors and see the school. I’ve been home over a whole week now and I think it’s about time I got my act together and did a post about my trip. I have a feeling this may take me a few hours and I’ll have to try to remember everything I did, pull out some notes and go day by day through my memories. I may even have to separate this into two post, my time in London and my time in Liverpool. Surely there’s a maximum word count for these posts.

I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare having arrived there 2 and a half hours early. I got through security rather quickly and spent about an hour sitting around and reading while I waited for them to start boarding passengers. I added some P.G Wodehouse books to my Kindle while I still could (I’m a sucker for Wodehouse’s Jeeves, partly because my grandma use to watch the show when I was a child and partly because Jeeves strongly reminds me of Ianto Jones from Torchwood. I strongly believe the resemblance to Ianto is what makes me love these stories so much). We got onto the plane really quickly. Somehow the science of the weather and winds was supposedly going to help us on our flight as the projected time of arrival in England was for a whole hour earlier than originally stated. The plane trip wasn’t so bad as I got to watch Julie and Julia and Ellen. We also did land a whole 40 minutes ahead of schedule, which is always a good thing in my book.

I successfully navigated the Underground Tube (known simply as the Tube) from the London Heathrow terminal to Earl’s Court station using directions sent to me from Dr. Rod Dillon (my new major professor). From there I took a taxi to the Norwegian Y.W.C.A, the hostel I planned to stay at during my time in London.

The people were really nice here. Plus, with food included in with the price of the room, really really cheap. They had upgraded me to the 2 bed room from the 4 bed room. I only had to pay the price for a 4 bed room even though I was staying in a 2 bed room, which was awesome. I spent the first 2 nights there and the last night. Just for future reference, my room was up four flights of stairs from the first floor when you walk in. The dining room is a floor below that so it’s 5 flights of stairs to reach my room then. It was a lot of stairs, especially when carrying bags. My roommate while I was there, Cecilia, was really super nice. She was half Norwegian and half English. She actually lived at the Y.W.C.A as she was going to school in London. She spoke both English and Norwegian. Apparently about a week before I was there she was in the hospital because she had had an appendicitis and just recently gotten out. Crazy. But still, she was really sweet, had an adorable fashion since (very British) and was just cute as a button. I wanted to keep her.

I was actually able to drag myself to the Natural History Museum that first day I was there. I landed at 10:45am and was checked in by 2pm at the hostel. My room wasn’t completely clean yet so I wandered over to Holland Park to find a CarPhone Warehouse where I was able to get my new phone. I did buy the Samsung B3310 but I had the choice between a pink or black phone! Huzzah! I chose black. She looks like this:

I took a shower, hopped on the tube and went off to explore the museum. I didn’t do TOO much exploring as I was already exhausted but I was able to see the new Darwin  Center which was just amazing.

The Natural History Museum was HUGE and they had a ice skating rink right outside, which was just all kinds of awesome. I really liked the place and I hope to be able to spend more time there someday.

After that I grabbed a sandwich (because by adventure at the museum ran into dinner time at the hostel) headed back to the Y.W.C.A and went to bed. My next huge adventure was the next day where I was going to explore as much of London in that one day as I possible could.

I didn’t have to get up too early as breakfast wasn’t until 9am and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to get my free breakfast and make my free paper bag lunch. I had toast with jam and tea for breakfast and then made a cucumber and tomato sandwich with cream cheese for lunch. I then set off to the tube where I went to Oxford Circus because I wanted to see all the cool stores. If I had money I would have gone hog-wild in this place ya’ll because it was that amazing. I wanted SO many things and the clothing in the windows was really cute. Why am I so poor? From there I headed to Leicester square. I ambled along for a while until I came across Trafalgar square and the National Gallery. Ya’ll the National Gallery kicks ass. No kidding. Well, if you like art it does and BOY does it have ART. It was SO cool. I saw an actual van Gogh. I saw his sunflowers and his chair. And others. There was also Monet’s water lilies and few other of his paintings. I saw Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Seurat, Renoir, Raphael, Vermeer, etc. It was amazing. I spent over 2 hours there. For your viewing pleasure:

The National Gallery is on the left and the view in front of the gallery on the right (sorry for the not so great pictures but I had to use my crappy lens and it was sprinkling). Very awesome. I didn’t take pictures inside the gallery as I wasn’t sure if I could.

After that I picked up one of those tour buses as I wanted to see has much as possible in the shortest amount of time. While I was waiting to get on the bus it started to rain pretty heavily. One of the guys that sales the tickets for the bus grabbed my hand and took me over to an area that had a little overhanging roof to get out of the rain. he asked if I was French and I said no, that I was American (although being confused for French isn’t so bad as they have good fashion sense. I guess my clothes looked nice that day. Woot!). He then asked if I spoke French and I said only a little. Apparently he was French and I got to practice a little. He also wanted to meet me later for a drink O.o; Which was very flattering but he was much older, not THAT cute and I didn’t feel comfortable meeting up with a guy for drinks in a country I’ve never been to before. Hard to keep yourself safe when you don’t know all the rules or safe bolt holes to go to.

From there I got on the bus and I got to see Buckingham Palace with the statues in front,

And it was absolutely freezing by this point. I hadn’t dressed as warmly as I had been warm the day before in my jacket. But there were 50mph winds on that day so it was much colder. While I was waiting for the bus again at Buckingham Palace I ambled into a little gift shop which is part of the palace. I bought my grandma Jackie a Christmas ornament. There were really cute things inside the story but they were REALLY expensive. The ornament at least was in my price range.

The bus finally came and I went off to see the London Eye,

the house of parliament,

Big Ben

And of course, Westminster Abbey,

although it was closed for sightseeing for the inside that day. BUT! If you’re willing to sit for the hour long service you were able to go into the church. As I didn’t mind going in (especially because at this point I was freezing) to listen to the service and the choir singing so that’s what I did. Since it was a service you weren’t allowed to take pictures but it is absolutely GORGEOUS inside. I really liked it. There were tons of statues and amazing architecture. Really amazing. And the stained glass windows were beautiful. The singing was fun too.

After that I headed back to the Y.W.C.A, called my grandma, had dinner and went to bed. I had a train to catch the next morning to head off to Liverpool. I’ll talk about that in my next post as this post is getting a bit long.

“I’m leavin’ on a jet plane”


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So I’m off to England! I leave today at 5:01pm and I’ll arrive in London Heathrow at 11:35am. From there I’ll head to the Norsk KFUK (aka the Norwegian Y.W.C.A) where I’ll be staying. They only allow women under 30 and Norwegian men with a valid passport. I called them last night to verify my rooms and all is set. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in your stay there so that’s really awesome. It also makes my stay in London much cheaper.

After I’ve dropped off all my things at the YWCA I’ll head off to find a phone. I’m going to get a unlocked cell phone that I can put any networks sim card in to use.

I sorta want to get this phone:

samsung-b3310-aIt will set me back about $168 but I can get an unlocked one and it’s sorta cute. Plus, since I plan to move to England soon I might as well get a phone that works well that I can use when I’m that and that I like. Plus the other unlocked phones are still a bit expensive so I might as well just go for the one I like.

After that I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ll have been on a plan for over 10 hours and I don’t usually sleep too well on a plane so I may just head back to the YWCA and take a nap. Or relax a bit. Or maybe I’ll go exploring! I won’t know until I’m there.

The next day I plan to have breakfast, make my packed lunch and head over to the Natural History museum. According to Dr. Rod Dillon (my potential professor) I HAVE to go see it and the new Darwin centre that they just built. Since I’m a big enough nerd for that to appeal to me I have no problem with that. Apparently he was the head of the entomology department there for many years.

I think I’ll then go to Leicester Square after. According to Cliff Simon (who I got to meet at the Stargate Con. OMG! Heeeeee!) that is the best place to go to see as much of the cool touristy things if you only have a short amount of time. My friend Annica wants me to go to a WHOLE bunch of places but I do not think I’ll have the time.

I leave early in the morning the next day to catch my train to Liverpool. It leaves around 9:30am so I’ll have to get up pretty early to make sure I get there in time. It would suck to miss my train. I should be in Liverpool by 12ish where Rod will pick me up. We’ll probably be seeing some of the sights and then he’ll take me to the nice person named Alvarro who has agreed to put me up for a couple of nights. Monday and Tuesday I will probably view the school and play with the sandfly colony they have there. We’ll probably talk about research ideas when I’m there also.

About noonish on the 18th I have to catch another train back to London. My plane leaves at 10:35am on the 18th so it’s best if I stay the night in London and leave VERY early the next day to catch my plane. It’s generally a good idea to be at the airport 3 hours before your plane leaves if it’s an international flight.

So, those are my plans. I have a lot of things to pack into a relatively short amount of time. But if this trip goes well and the LSTM professors like me that means I’ll be heading off to Liverpool in a few months. Living in another country, amazing.

Start every story at the beginning…


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For those of you who AREN’T interested in the epic tale to follow, here is the reason for this blog in a nutshell:

My grandpa has a Ph.D in entomolgy and has inspired me to follow in the same route. After working at a vector control agency I have become interested in medical entomology. I have applied to the London School of Hygience and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Liverppol School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) as they are the top in the medical entomology field. I’ve dreamed of going to one of those schools since I was a bachelors student at Cal Poly in 2005. In short, I’ve been accepted to LSTM and will be leaving to meet my potential new professors and see the school this Thursday. If all goes well, hopefuly I will be moving to England at the beginning of next year and will be studying Phlebotomine sandflies and leishmaniasis. This blog is to talk about the joys and trials of getting a Ph.D and going to another country to do that. This will be an American student in England sorta deal and if you are interested in that, please, do read on.

And now for the long story:

Since I have to give a bit of background for why I decided to start this blog, this post may get a little long. Sorry about that.

To start at the VERY beginning I’ll have to explain a little about my family and how I grew up. My grandpa is a entomology professor at Cal Poly Pomona. I was raised by my grandparents and spent most of my childhood at various insect fairs and helping to raise our menagerie of reptiles, insects, cats, dogs, mice, etc. Some of my fondest early memories are of working at the insect fair, coaxing people to hold tarantulas, scorpions and so on. My grandma taught me the meaning of the word Diptera when I was very young.

As I grew up I flirted with many other career ideas. As a grade school student I wanted to be a veterinarian, a chef, a ballet dancer, a doctor. By the time I was in high school I thought that I would be a pediatrician. Until that is, I found that I didn’t really care for children and I didn’t really want to go into such a competitive field as medicine. So, basically, that idea died pretty quickly. By the time I was a senior I knew that I would go to Cal Poly to major in Agricultural Biology and from there I would continue on to get my Ph.D in entomology. This, of course, made my grandpa really happy as I was essentially following in his footsteps. I even got to take classes from him at Cal Poly. From my senior year on that goal has not changed (although it wavered a bit when I debated if I really wanted to get a Ph.D. Grad school is HARD).

As a Ag. Bio. major it is required that you do an internship. As my grandpa has a Ph.D in entomology and teaches Ag. Bio. he has a lot of contacts in our field. He called up an old friend, Dr. Webb, who ran the Orange County Vector Control District (OCVCD) at the time to see if there were any internships available. This proved to be the first step on the path I chose to be my life.

Vector Control agencies do surveillance and control of insects pests such as mosquitoes and ants. They monitor the disease frequency of arthropod borne diseases such as West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, plague and many more. I fell in love with this type of research and decided then that I would focus on medical entomology for my Ph.D. It was from some of the personnel at OCVCD that I learned about the London and Liverpool schools of tropical medicine and that they were the top school in the world for medical entomoloy research. It was at that point that I vowed that one day I would go to one of these schools. This was back in the summer of 2005.

I continued with that dream for many years, through getting my bachelors and now through my masters. I went to the University of California, Riverside to get my Masters, focusing on mosquitoes as they are vector insects. As I got my masters I never forgot about the London and Liverpool schools and read papers hoping to come up with a good research proposal idea to send them. I wasn’t really sure if I would ever actually make it to those schools and it wasn’t until my major professor offered to help me with the application that I became excited.

And then I realized I still had to come up with an idea. I had thought at first that I would study mosquitoes that were the vectors of malaria. I was, and still am, really interested in malarial mosquitoes and though I think the idea of a vaccine is nice it is still way in the future before that is a viable option. Control measures I needed NOW. Unfortunately malaria is a well researched area.

I was about to despair of ever coming up with a novel idea for a research proposal until fairly recently. In January of 2009 I took a class called Medical and Veterinary Entomology. We were assigned a really interesting paper on the use of zooprophylaxis (as defined by WHO: “the use of wild or domestic animals, which are not the reservoir hosts of a given disease, to divert the blood-seeking mosquito vectors from the human hosts of that disease.”) with Phlebotomine sandflies. I had read some papers that had used zooprophylaxis and pesticides with malarial mosquitoes to not only divert the mosquitoes from people but also reduce the population in the area. I decided I could do something like that with sandflies. And voila! I had a proposal.

Some people might wonder why I would abandon my old passions of researching malarial mosquitoes to go to sandflies. It is true that some people feel that mosquitoes are more important as they are the carriers of much more horrendous diseases like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile, etc. But sandflies and leishmaniasis are a severely underresearched group. Don’t believe me. Go look up leishmaniasis in Google Scholar. And then look up malaria in the same engine. Go ahead. No really. Go! I’ll wait.

So, what did you find? For myself I found 150,000 reserach papers on leishmaniasis listed (this was in November of 2009). That’s a rather respectable number, I’ll admit. What did you find for malaria? As of November 10, 2009 I found that there were 998,000 papers that related to malaria. That is over 6 times more that leishmaniasis. So, the competition in that field is much less than in the malaria field and we have already established that I’m not that fond of too much competition.

So I sent my applications off to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM). After a couple of agonizing months of waiting I got an email from LSHTM. I was excited when I saw it. Ecstatic even! Then I read it and my world was plunged into DARKNESS and DESPAIR. Unfortunately, although my application was strong and I was a good candidate,  there was no one available to take me on as a Ph.D student in my field. I’ll admit I spent a rather large portion of that day sobbing.

As for LSTM, I had not heard from them in over 3 months. I had just about given up hope when I decided to email them and see if anything became of my application. Rebecca Riley, the nice lady in the registry said she would track down what had happened to my application for me and get back to me soon. I then got an email from Dr. Rod Dillon. He was interested in my proposal and application.

We spent the next few weeks chatting through email and had one nice skype conversation with Dr. Philip McCall who is also interested in my research. To sum it all up, they’ve accepted my application.

I’m going to Liverpool. The dream continues! In fact, I leave for Liverpool on Thursday to meet my potential new professors and see the school. Hopefully we all like each other and hopefully, come next year, I shall be a new expat in England.

That’s it for now. I’ll be keeping this up to date on the trials and tribulations of getting a student visa, moving to another country and getting a Ph.D.