Fighting Dystonia, Chronic Lyme Disease & EDS Type 3… any questions?

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“Pull Yourself Together!”

This week on my personal social media profile I posted a status sharing a positive experience with my new GP. In typical EDS fashion, my belly button had split open along an old surgical scar, whilst my Dr tended to me he not only put me at ease but he made sure to impress on me that not only did he understand how real my symptoms were but also how debilitating they can be. He took the time to discuss my range of conditions and ask what more he could do to help. It was uplifting; naturally, I wanted to share this, as this is not how my appointments usually go.

Now I’m quite used to getting snide remarks off of able-bodied/healthy people and misinformed Doctors who don’t know any better. Over the last 6 years, I’ve learned to let their ignorance bounce off me and to use it as an opportunity to educate. However this week when I posted about my positive trip to the doctors, a fellow member of the spoonie community made a comment which blew me away “pull yourself together, you have got a family to take care of“. Wow.  There were a few choice words I still wish I had responded with, but instead that ‘friend’ was removed. Whilst I know that I don’t need to address what was said, here are just a few toned down thoughts.

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I live with spasms, agonizing subluxations, and dislocations 24/7, and it’s now suspected that I have gastroparesis.  My list of diagnosis builds each year. To me none of that matters; I am a great mum despite my health. I take care of my family and they take care of me. Go eat some chocolate, it will release a bunch of endorphins, and think about why you felt the need to try and shame me for being ill whilst having a family.

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How Many Dislocations Is Too Many?

It has been a little over two weeks since my trip to the hospital where I was subsequently put on a strict liquid-only diet whilst I wait for a referral to see the oral surgeons. The liquid diet has to a degree reduced the overall number of dislocations I’m experiencing on a daily basis which is positive, however, my jaw dislocations are still very frequent. Days such as today I find quite frustrating, I don’t know how best to help myself.

The Dr. I saw who did not believe in Dystonia or have any understanding of EDS was extremely disapproving of the fact that my local hospital had given me a small dose of morphine after the third attempt to relocate my jaw failed. I’d spent over 24 hours dislocated and only had paracetamol throughout, I had not once asked for painkillers until this point. His attitude had left me worried about how to manage my pain at home. I am on my 12th jaw dislocation today. I have broken down in pain multiple times, yet all I have taken to manage it is ibuprofen and paracetamol, alongside applying lavender wheat bags to ease the surrounding muscle spasms that are aggravating it. Normally I would have taken something stronger such as Codeine or Tramadol by now,  which is a treatment plan agreed by both my GP and Neurologist, however I am so aware if on the off chance I have to return to the hospital for help with relocation I will need to inform them of what medications I have taken. I am fed of misinformed and ignorant professionals treating me like a drug seeker. I should not have to deprive myself of the painkillers I need because of one arrogant man.

I feel extremely frustrated. I know that referrals such as these take their time; however, I am concerned that this will just be the start of a very long process. Whatever ‘fix’ they come up with for my jaw, will have to take into account my Dystonia, and that seems like an impossible ask.

26 hours Dislocated

Late Tuesday afternoon whilst curled up on the sofa nattering away to my partner my jaw dislocated. It wasn’t a surprise. It had felt off all day, with pain radiating around the area, and visibly subluxing often so I had stuck to soft foods all day. Being me though I hadn’t considered that talking a bit less might help. I rather excel at talking. It’s quite unusual for me to not to be able to relocate my own jaw but I decided that I’d try and sleep on it and if it was still bad in the morning I’d get checked over. I can almost hear you shaking your head at me, in hindsight I agree that was a silly decision.

So yesterday morning I took myself off to the Walk-In centre where after a quick (and right) lecture on dislocated jaws being an emergency I was whisked off to my local hospital. It was my first time visiting the A&E up here since I’ve moved and I was a tad nervous. But the staff were wonderful. They were rushed off their feet, but they were so kind, it was a breath of fresh air in comparison to what I am used to.

X-rays confirmed that the right side of my jaw was fully dislocated. After using a rather unbelievable amount of tongue depressors failed to relocate it, it was decided to take me round to the resus unit where I could be sedated and they could try and manually relocate it for me. They were so full of confidence, to the point I too was full of confidence, I happily offered them my arm whilst they pushed the sedative through, I can remember giggling as it kicked in…and then I can just remember the pressure as they tried to manipulate it. Two different doctors tried three times. I screamed. My jaw failed to relocate. They were lovely though. At this point the decision was made to phone for an ambulance to take me to a different hospital to see the specialists there.

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Sedated post failed relocation attempt

When the consultant walked through the door I could have broken down; and to be fair I did about five minutes later. I’d seen him previously about 7 years ago and the visit burns in the back of my  mind as a prime example as exactly what a doctor shouldn’t be. Upon entering the room this Dr recognised me instantly. He doesn’t believe in Dystonia. He ignored the fact I have EDS and suffer with frequent jaw dislocations. Whilst I am thankful he relocated my jaw, I cannot express how belittled, put down and worthless he made me feel. Upon leaving the hospital he advised that I start on a liquid diet but gave no further advice on time frame or inteventions in the meantime.

Out of frustration with feeling like I just didn’t know what to do to help myself this morning I went to see my GP, I am lucky to have a wonderful one up here. He was quiet astonished that I had been discharged from the hospital last night as you can see my jaw subluxing still and with my history its only a matter of hours/days until it fully dislocates again. So I’ve been referred to the oral surgeon and on strict orders to maintain a liquid diet until then. Dystonia and EDS are two conditions that really work against each other so here’s hoping there’s a not too drastic treatment plan in the future.

6 Years Neurologically Challenged

Last Tuesday marked the 6 year anniversary since Dystonia made a joint shattering (literally) entrance into my life. Previously I’ve marked this day by reflecting on where my life is in comparison to where I had planned it to be; not a great way to spend it and usually resulted in a lot of tears. This year was remarkably different, for the first time in six years I didn’t spend the day in tears and focused on how truly blessed I am.

The reality of my conditions means that as I age my body gets deteriorates a lot faster than a healthy person would. I already need a double knee replacement but have agreed with the surgeons to delay this until my son is in school full time. I’m told its inevitable that I will end up reliant on power chair in the future. The time frame for this is unknown, so I’m focusing on doing what I can to strengthen my body against the battering it takes from the too frequent dislocations and spasms. I’m starting by shifting the weight, it’s slow progress but I am making progress. I’ve found some local HIIT classes for mums and babies that are happy for me to do what I can whilst my son plays beside me. A month ago I signed up to the body coaches 90 day plan, which unfortunately I’m only just starting as I dislocated both my knee and shoulder and needed to let my body recover. His workouts are harder than my body can cope with right now but I’m adapting them and feeling great.

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6 years ago if you had told me that I would be OK with living with a mile long list of debilitating conditions I would most likely have bit your ear off. Now I can see how my experiences are shaping me, I’ve learnt to grasp every opportunity with open hands and jump feet first. Whilst the idea of a further 6 years living in this pain is not one that I can even start to wrap my head around. I know that I have the strength to battle it and succeed.

Happy 70th Birthday NHS

Today the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday, and with this milestone it is important to acknowledge what a valuable asset it is. With a government that seems to care very little about it, it is more vital than ever before that we shout from the rooftops about the wonders it performs day and night 365 days a year, and make our opinions known when it comes to ensuring that the NHS receives the funds it needs to continue you the amazing work it currently performs.

I am lucky to have experienced both sides of our NHS, as a student midwife I witnessed the strain in staff numbers and how overworked they are; as a patient I honestly doubt whether I would still be alive without them. I’ve had more ambulance trips than I care to count, and spent many months over the years being cared for as an inpatient. Without my neurologist I know that I would have little quality of life; I would not be able to eat, drink, talk, see, or move my limbs. He enables me to live a life that is fulfilling.

To the NHS I say thank you. Without you many lives would be extinguished, and many more would be experiencing incredible suffering. Thank-you for doing your all every day and night all year long. Thank-you for continuing to provide outstanding care despite your own government failing to supply you adequately. Thank-you.

 

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CRPS & Dystonia

I first heard the words Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fixed Dystonia back in 2009; I had just been admitted to hospital with unbearable pain, colour changes, temperature fluctuations and a hypersensitivity to touch in my right leg. I would spend the following six months confined to a hospital bed learning to retrain the damaged nerves. It was a hell I would not wish on anyone. I am one of the lucky few, whilst I never achieved full remission, the pain eventually reduced to a tolerable level which only flares up if I lie down on that side of my leg for too long or bash it. Unfortunately I was rediagnosed with CRPS in summer 2015, this time it had manifested in my left shoulder blade and arm. Once again it had been caused by repeated injections to the same site which resulted in damage to the nerves.

CRPS has been a condition I have fought for many years, generally I have a good handle over it. I know what to avoid and how to help myself as much as possible. Yet every now and then I have days and nights like the last 24 hours. It is hard to describe the agony in which I have spent it in. The night before last I simply bumped my thigh whilst getting out of bed. The pain at the time seemed excessive for such a little bump, but I presumed if I lay down and rested for a few minutes it would die down to its usual level of simple discomfort. Instead with each minute that went by the pain intensified as did the spasms.

I made the decision yesterday not to leave the house, I knew I would be fully reliant on my wheelchair and that even the lightest breeze would reduce me to tears. Instead I kept myself fully medicated on Tramadol which dulled the pain slightly but nowhere enough. I needed both my walking sticks to hobble the few steps to the toilet. Each accidental brush from the cat as it went past left me biting back screams and in yet another wave of tears.

The spasms and pain kept me up for the majority of the night. I managed just over three hours sleep in the end.  The spasms twisted my leg into positions that resulted in multiple subluxations, and my nerves flaring meant that I could not bare the touch of clothing, the mattress beneath me, or a duvet. It’s hard to explain to someone this type of pain, at the point of time I would have jumped at the opportunity to have the nerves severed. To be honest, even right now at this time of writing when the pain is slightly reduced but still horrific I would beg for it to be done. Let me put in perspective for you,  full blown labour is easier to deal with.

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Whilst the pain is improved today I am still struggling. I feel as if someone has sliced my leg open multiple times from my thigh down to my soles and has rubbed vinegar into the wounds. The constant spasm in my thigh has left me exhausted and desperate for a relief that seems as if it will never appear.

I know that in a few days time in all likelihood I will be back down to my usual levels of pain and spasms, but there is a niggling fear at the back of my mind that it won’t reduce further. That fear is more terrifying to me than anything.

What Next?

Three years ago I announced to you all that I was off to Oxford Brookes University to commence my studies in BA Publishing Media. It was an unexpected decision.  I had attended an open day as a prospective student with the mindset of applying for the 2016 intake; a chat with one of the lecturers about my writing and editing experience and I had a place for the 2015 intake. It was out of the blue, a whirlwind of excitement and fear, yet exactly what I needed.

The past three years have been full of highs and lows. I’ve had multiple conditions diagnosed and added to my ever growing list, I spent the better part of my second year studying from my hospital bed, my debut novel was published in the middle of my studies, and whilst in my third year my wonderful son accompanied me to the majority of my lectures. I had the support of the uni through every moment, they celebrated my successes and they raised me up in my lowest moments. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it has now come to a close.

Yesterday, 19th June 2018, I graduated with a 2:1 with honours in BA Publishing Media. Receiving my degree was a moment that at many points over the last three years I doubted very much that I would ever reach. Yet I did it. I conquered every challenge thrown my way.

So what’s next for me? Well my first children’s book, Cheeky Dragons, is currently in the editing process after being signed to Nightingale, I’m working on the prequel and Sequel to Regan Snatcher of Souls, and finally several months ago I opened my own publishing house Little Goblin’s Books focusing on children’s picture books and young adult titles. My company, and my writing projects are keeping me busy and I’m thoroughly enjoying  them. The idea of pursuing my Masters’ degree in Publishing is one that very much appeals to me, but for now a little break from essays is very much welcome.

 

Wonky But Happy

“Hmmm that’ a nasty dislocation to have long term, take some morphine.”

“When you next see your neurologist, if I were you I would discuss having your botox more regularly. This degree of deviation, pain and dislocation on a regular basis is not good for you.”

“Wow. Ehlers-Danlos, and Dystonia. You couldn’t have asked for a worse combination of conditions there.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to go the hospital? I’m sure the A&E department will listen to you this time. I’ll even write you a note.”

These four word-for-word quotes from different health professionals give you an insight into the last week and a half of my life. My botox has worn off a couple of weeks ahead of schedule around my jaw, the rest is still working well, so overall I’m pretty happy. However this does mean I’ve been experiencing regular extreme spasms and dislocations in my jaw again, which in turn has an impact on my ability to talk, eat and drink.

Whilst my ability to communicate using British Sign Language is steadily improving, I took a trip to the doctors to get a prescription for some painkillers and muscle relaxants, as I’d like to eat, drink and talk in as little pain as possible. Whilst I have access to oramorph this is my last resort medication, and not something I am willing to take around my son unless it is an emergency. The doctor couldn’t quite believe the predicament I was in, let alone get his head around the fact that I did not fancy sitting for a couple of hours in my local A&E at a hospital that has repeatedly provided the wrong treatment despite direct instruction from my neurologist. I stated to him that as I don’t respond to local anaesthetic I would much rather take the painkillers and muscle relaxants at home and relocate my jaw myself when the spasm eased off. At this point I think he would have dragged me to the hospital if he could have.

We discussed at length (well I scribbled out for him what I was attempting to convey) my botox arrangement with my neurologist. It stunned him that I was willing to put up with these spasms for a further two and a half weeks. The moment was an odd one, with me not really in a great place with my distorted face, twisted neck and dislocated jaw to protest that actually I was doing great, but then he didn’t know me six years ago when I was bed bound, he didn’t even know me a week beforehand when my botox was working well, so I can see where his concern comes from.

At the time the above four quotes drove me nutty. But I know I’m easily wound up when in pain, so I can’t say that I am surprised. In reflection, whilst my jaw still is causing me significant pain from my current dislocation I can see my progress in pain management and self-care; which is an element I am proud to have improved on.

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February Update

I’m truly ashamed of how long it’s been since I last posted on here, that one blog post a week goal went out the window! But I’m still here ticking along desperately trying to find a moment in the day to sit down and share with you all where I’m at. The joy of being in my final 9 weeks of university, along with having a 9 month old baby & another book to write however means I really don’t seem to have enough hours in the day anymore and unfortunately regular updates have had to be postponed. I do intended to get back to a weekly format asap.

So what’s going on with me?

My Dystonia alien is being regularly forced into submission thanks to good old Dysport injections. I’m currently exploring how different exercises can be used to help in the management of the condition so please feel free to contact me with any articles you recommend or if you want to share what’s worked for you.

My optic neuritis has finally improved and I am waiting to see my lovely neurologist in April to discuss the results of a new MRI and Evoked Visual Potential tests. I’m hoping for the usual “nothing obvious to see, but we expect that with Dystonia” response.

My Tourette’s like symptoms have been slightly more prominent lately and I would love to hear from any spoonies with this/symptoms similar to this. The word ‘lemons’ escapes me far more often than I care for in a day and whilst this is manageable I’d still like to hear from others about any ways of calming it. Naturally this will be another little chat with the neurologist in april.

I’d like to take a quick moment to thank the many people who emailed me their thoughts/prayers etc after I shared my diagnosis of postnatal depression the other month. My PND I feel was the result of extremely poor and traumatic antenatal care*, after several hard months I feel like I am turning a corner. I cannot express enough how much hearing from so many of you who wished to share with me how you navigated PND helped me to feel less alone during a time where my emotions and anxiety where crippling me. Thank-you.

*Some elements of my antenatal care were perfectly fine however overall without going into detail it was a traumatic experience which need not of been so. Complaints were logged with the trust at the time.

Here we go again

I don’t even know where to begin. My head is all over the place and honestly I feel more than a little bit miffed with my body. Here we are at the start of another year and I’m already waiting tests results for yet another diagnosis. Yup you read that right ANOTHER diagnosis, not an alternative or differential diagnosis but another brand spanking in all its inconvenient glory. In 4 to 8 weeks I’ll have my answer and until then I am meant to carry on as normal.

Usually that’s doable but right now I feel pretty defeated. I know this feeling will pass and that I will cope just like I always do however what I am currently experiencing is consuming, depressing and suffocating.

So here we go again. Distraction techniques in full swing and disney soundtrack blasting.

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