Weekly Photo Challenge: Change, MIst Before the Sun

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Change.

Daybreak brings change and with it mist rolling in over the horison.IMG_2033 change 1

The sun soon burns the mist away bringing another change later that morning.IMG_2168 change

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Call Him Tortoise Because He Taught me

“We called him Tortoise because he taught us,” said the Mock Turtle angrily: “really you are very dull!”
― Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

The past two years since my husband died I was indeed very dull. In order to survive, memories of our previous home ( which I loved very much ) became dull and far away. I suppressed thinking of home and life as it was before  because thinking only brought back the picture of “that day” when I found him on the bathroom floor.

Spring is all around us and it awakened the desire to get my hands dirty and feel the wet soil while planting plant new plants in the garden. On Thursday after work I stopped at the local nursery on an impulse. I wandered along meandering pathways lined with flowering shrubs and annuals. Around a corner I came across the succulent section and there he was, sitting amongst the echiverias looking as if he was just about to take a bite of the juicy plants around him.

He was an enormous clay tortoise.

I was immediately transported back to our previous home. As we lived out in the countryside, our property was bordered on the one side by a river and on the other by a nature reserve. During the dry winter months water sources became scarce in  the reserve and we had many interesting visitors looking for water in our garden. My favourite was a big tortoise. Each year at the end of the winter he would push his big body with great determination and perseverence through the electrical fencing, in search of life giving fluids.

His favourite place to find this was my border of echiverias. Many  times I found him there eating his way steadily through the plants untill only the stems remained. he would look at me with sticky juice running down his face as if to say:” Thank you for planting these for me”     

Initially it upset me, for he would ruin a whole year’s worth of growth in a day, but after a few years I found myself waiting for him to appear. Now here he was again in the form of a clay tortoise sitting in the nursery with a price tag on his back. I just had to buy him and take him home with me as he, for the first time in two years, brought back happy memories.

I left the nursery with Tortoise sitting in the back of my car. At home I set out to create a place for him to live. Of course he had to live amongst echiverias.  Now he a has a permanent river of echiverias surrounding him and I a permanent reminder of happy times in a previous life.

Tortoise blog

I will call him Tortoise because he taught me to remember the happy times.

Bitten By An Unknown Tropical Bug

13988482-Illustration-of-an-ugly-virus

My first night in Dar es Salaam.

I was visiting my daughter, her husband and 7 month old grandson .

But …. all was not well. I tossed and turned in the bed trying to find a comfortable position. My back, hip and leg ached and I felt generally unwell. It must be the travelling and unfamiliar bed I thought.The next morning I got out of bed stiffly, feeling a hundred years old. In the shower I noticed “it” for the first time. It was small and looked insignificant, probably an insect bite I thought.

As the day passed I felt strange shooting pains in my back and down my leg. Still blissfully unaware of the truth, I ignored it. After all I don’t often have the chance to visit and play with my adorable grandson. That  night was torture. The pain in my back and leg became worse and I alternated between sleeping in my own bed and a bed in the study. I still thought the softer bed cause the back ache.

The next morning my “bites” were much more and very painfull. My whole leg seemed to burn and was covered with an ugly red rash stretching from the groin to below the knee. I must be allergic to this bug I thought, but decided to give it a few more days.

The day before we were due to return to South Africa, I asked my daughter to take me to the doctor. I reasoned it was better to check this unknown tropical bug out before leaving. After all they might not be familiar with it in South Africa! To my dismay the doctor took one look at the rash and  said “You have shingles” 

Thus my long and painful journey with shingles began.

My first reaction was a need to understand this thing causing me so much pain. I started reading as much as I can. The more I read, the more alarmed I became. I learnt that shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin supplied by the nerve. It is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.  Most people have chickenpox at some stage (usually as a child). After recovery from chickenpox, some virus particles remain inactive in the nerve roots next to the spinal cord. They do no harm there, and cause no symptoms. For reasons that are not clear, the virus may begin to multiply again (reactivate), often years later. The reactivated virus travels along the nerve to the skin to cause shingles.

illustration of the progression of the illness.

shingles illustrated

The following day we travelled back to South Africa.I dressed in a pair of loose fitting soft pants as by this time my leg was so painful that anything touching it was torture. On arrival in Johannesburg I prayed that the fever scan all passengers arriving from African countries have to go through would not pick up anything. I passed the scan and we could at last go home.

By this time the rash had formed blisters and the pain increased to an almost unbearable level. Although the rash was painful, the shooting neuralgic pain in my back leg and hip was much more severe. it felt as if hot knives were stuck repeatedly into these areas. To top this the medication made me feel horrible. Nausea accompanied the pain and general feeling of being unwell.

On Monday I went to see my doctor again. Shock registered on her face for a fleeting moment when she saw my ugly red, inflamed leg. “You have a severe case of shingles” she declared, and gave me a prescription for more medicine.I left armed with anti inflammatory pills, pain pills and the thought that I will soon be a walking chemist taking all this. She also predicted that it would take anything from 6 weeks to 6 months to recover. Not possible I thought.

At the end of the week I was still not feeling better. In fact the neuralgia pain has become so bad that I was given more pain killers. This time a variety designed specifically for  neuralgia pain. I started taking them  and slowly the pain improved.

Three weeks later and I have to go back to work. The rash looks much better but the pain both on the skin and the neuralgia persists. If the leg is not burning and itching, it feels numb to touch, Nights are still filled with fitfull sleep and periods of intense pain. I encourage myself with the fact that I am beginning to feel better, but know that a long journey lies ahead of me while my body  battles this “unknown tropical bug ”  

I wrote  this post hoping to inform someone out there and to encourage all to take the vaccination against shingles.