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

Archive for the ‘February 2017’ Category

Rare Disease Day 2017

Today is Rare Disease/Disorder Day 2017; it’s focusing on bringing much needed attention to complex conditions that are sorely in need of more research. I’m not going to to go into much detail about each of my individual conditions as each of their awareness weeks are just around the corner, what I’d like to discuss instead is my experience of day to day life when you have a rare condition.

Living/Mobility aids

When you read the words mobility aids I’m going to bet that the majority of you instantly conjured up an image of a wheelchair, crutch or walking stick. You’re not wrong all three of these are part of my day to day life depending on the condition of my body that day; and just because I perhaps didn’t need a wheelchair first thing that morning, doesn’t guarantee I won’t be completely reliant on it an hour later. In my daily life I have to use compression gloves, splints for my thumbs, wrists, arms and knees, neck brace and ankle stabiliser to try and keep my body in a somewhat functioning capacity. Now that doesn’t mean that I wear them all 24/7, but at any given time I’ll have the majority of them on.

 

A selection of my day to day living aids

Medication

I’ve had to come off the majority of my medication due to pregnancy, but I’ll admit I’m counting down to being able to have my botox injections and anti-inflammatory meds again. Just 5 minutes standing at the moment is enough for my feet, ankles and knees to swell up like balloons and takes a good hour to go back down. If my body is really playing up then just standing up wrong results in a knee slipping out of place. Between the spasms, the subluxations/dislocations and seizures, medication has become a vital part of my everyday routine. This involves being aware of when in the day I have taken them, remembering which ones it’s important to eat beforehand with and which ones I need to avoiding eating before taking, it involves planning in advance to make sure I never go out without my medication on me plus bringing along some spares because you never know just what may happen.

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A selection of the medications and supplements I’m reliant on

Disbelief

It’s been almost 5 years and I’m still not used to the looks and comments I receive. I’ve heard it all, that if I drink enough green tea, lose weight and seek therapy then I’ll be cured. People don’t seem to realise that every suggestion they can throw at me I’ve most likely tried, and that living with a chronic rare condition isn’t like getting over a bad cold. My brain literally doesn’t work in the manner it should, my genetic makeup is faulty which has resulted in a connective tissue disorder that will only get worse, and don’t even get me started on having a treatable chronic infection that the NHS won’t treat as A) They don’t like to admit that Chronic Lyme Disease exists and B) They’ll treat me if I get a positive lumbar puncture but because I have a movement disorder I can’t have a lumbar puncture. Honestly it’s all a bit of a joke.

It can be difficult dealing with general society and medical professionals refusing to accept your explanations. To a degree I don’t blame them, half of my symptoms are crazy and, as they are rare, people aren’t familiar with them and like to brush them under the rug. But doing that doesn’t make it any better, the symptoms don’t magically resolve themselves, if anything they get worse as I’m not receiving the treatment I need.

My Health Varies From Minute to Minute

There’s not much rhyme or reason to my symptoms, which makes it hard to predict what to expect and when, which in turn makes it difficult to manage. One day I may be perfectly capable of getting up, dressed, and having a generally active day. The following morning  I may wake up unable to even roll over in bed. The unpredictable nature means planning in advance is key but also difficult. More often than not plans are cancelled at the last minute due to ill health.

The Reality of Knowing I’ll Never Get Better

This is something that I’ve known since 2012, but with every new diagnosis of yet another rare condition that cannot be cured it gets harder to deal with. I find it hard to picture anything ahead of time simply because I know these illnesses aren’t going anywhere, that pain is always going to be a prominent feature in my life. How do you cope with knowing that? It’s been 5 years and I’m still working on acceptance. What I find hardest is when people say in a well meaning manner “I hope you get better soon”. It’s an automatic social nicety but it brings out the jealous monster in me. I want to be well more than anything, it’s just not a reality for me, and knowing that the one condition I live with that can be cured is unlikely to ever be sufficiently treated due to sheer stupidity inflicted on sufferers by NICE guidelines, well that just takes the biscuit.0bfcffe9889954c60563525d5c66d5c0

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Ignorant Drs

When you’re chronically ill you rather quickly get a feeling for the attitudes/how well informed the Drs in charge of you are on your conditions. IF you’re lucky you get a wonderful open minded Dr who takes the time to listen to you, my neurologist is a perfect example of this and has always fought for me. However, and sadly it seems more frequently, you come across Drs who are either simply not up to date (with everything they have to know this is understandable), or they just seem to enjoy being ignorant on the matter.

In 2012 I was admitted with worsening Dystonia to a nearby hospital, during my inpatient stay I developed pain triggered non-epileptic seizures. They completely dismissed my Dystonia and told me that it and my seizures were completely psychogenic and that the only treatment I would benefit from would be psychotherapy and that the seizures could not cause me any harm. This diagnosis was based on the fact that in my early teens I’d been physically abused, it didn’t matter in their eyes that I had sought years of counselling, and had put that section of my life far behind me. Months later I met my wonderful neurologist who confirmed my original diagnosis of Dystonia and informed me that my seizures had absolutely nothing to do with my past, but were caused by my body’s inability to cope with the significant levels of pain that I experience.

I have over the last few years been told repeatedly that my seizures cannot cause me any harm. It’s always fun to point out to the Dr at this point that this isn’t true when it happens on the stairs, or from standing, or crossing a road…the list is endless. In recent months, my POTS & EDS consultant has queried whether my seizures are in fact related to my POTS and autonomic dysfunction, but again this falls on deaf ears amongst my current local Drs.

It’s coming up to 5 years since my first run in with this particular hospital and their attitudes have not changed in the slightest. Last night I was taken by ambulance to hospital after having a seizure, I collapsed from standing and gave my head a rather good whack on the loo as I fell. Normally I wouldn’t go to hospital straight away for this, but due to hitting my head and being pregnant the hospital advised me to call an ambulance. This turned out to be a good call as halfway there I had another seizure which negatively impacted my breathing.

I’ve spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital recently due to my faulty body, so have got to know the staff in the wards relevant to me quite well. This also means I now dread every single visit. When the Dr came this morning for the ward round I felt like holding a hand up and saying chill I’ll leave now. He leaves me doubting my own sanity each time. However, I held my tongue and heard him out, just in case he’d actually done some research over night; he had not. Instead he gave me the usual lecture and then threw in that after discussing my case with a consultant, that has never met me before, they were going to refer me for psychotherapy for my seizures.

I’m beyond angry. At the back of my notes, and I inform the staff of this every time I am admitted, there is a letter from my neurologist explaining my seizures, explaining that it’s not just in my head and as clear as day states I need IV muscle relaxants and painkillers during one, and that there is no psychological deeper issue that needs dealing with. However, it’s become apparent that turning to the back of my notes and reading this letter is a far too complicated process.

Having to go through the same frustrating and time wasting process every single time I visit this hospital is exhausting and frankly disheartening.  I know that I did need to go yesterday and get checked over, but coming up against the same walls over and over again leaves me feeling like I would be better off avoiding this hospital at all costs and I can at least self-treat at home to a degree. It’s sad that 5 years on from my first encounter at this hospital, the same issue has yet to be dealt with.a560572834e8e4ffb7ca4d1e3f2e4337

Functional Paralysis = Quality Floor Time

Pain at the moment is my constant companion. After weeks of agonising, seizure inducing pain, and more hospital visits than I care for, I was informed I’d dislocated two ribs. I normally handle dislocation rather well; if my thumbs have popped out, it’s no big deal, I can pop them back in with ease, my jaw causes a fair bit of pain and in some cases I need help relocating it, but the majority of the time I can manipulate it back into place myself. My ribs however are a completely different story, there’s not a lot that can be done about it. I’ve had several medical professionals try and get them as close to where they should be as possible, a tear-jerking process might I add, and every time within hours they are back out of place. Sometime it’s simply because I twisted too fast or I sneezed or, if I’m a real dare devil, I tried to get out of bed. Everyday basic activities cause enough pain for me to be on regular codeine four times a day, and tramadol if I start seizing. The hospital doesn’t know what to do with me at first, they admitted me to: rule out anything more serious such as gallbladder problems; keep a close eye on the baby (who’s coping miraculously well with my faulty body) and keep me on regular doses of paracetamol, codeine and oramorph. Whilst they thankfully didn’t find anything on the scans that needed surgery, they did notice that both my kidneys are distended which won’t be helping my pain.

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Most days I’m a 6. Currently I’m a 9.

Now I’m back at home and it’s hard to know what to do with myself. There are some brief moments in the day when my pain feels manageable, like earlier today. Foolishly this afternoon, I decided to take advantage of feeling okay and fold some baby whilst clothes sitting on the floor. You would think that this is a job that shouldn’t take too long and isn’t exactly taxing, right? Wrong. The pain quickly got extreme enough, despite codeine, for me to realise if I didn’t lie down flat on the floor asap I was going to risk hurting myself as I knew my ability to stay conscious was fading. Whilst being on the floor was enough to keep me conscious for the majority of the time (I’m pretty sure I had 2 or 3 seizures), it wasn’t enough to stop my brain from going into functional paralysis mode. I spent just over an hour unable to move any part of my body, struggling to get my eyelids to flicker and completely unable to make a sound. I knew I needed help and that my partner was in the next room, but I had zero ways of indicating to him that I was in trouble.

It’s like having your mouth gagged, your eyes taped shut, and your entire body rolled up and bound tightly in a weighted blanket; the entire time even your thought processes become sluggish and it takes effort just to think. There’s so much temptation to just give in to unconsciousness, I can feel it on the horizon, creeping closer and there’s not a lot I can do to keep it at bay. Some days I admit I welcome it; being functionally paralysed terrifies me, I can’t bare being aware of how helpless I am at the moment in time. Other days simply managing to remain conscious feels like the biggest victory I could ever ask for and achieving it is my way of fighting back.

After about an hour on the floor I had regained enough control of my body to make small noises and through the blessing that is voice technology instruct my phone to call my partner. Eventually we got tramadol into me and managed to move me to our bed. I’m exhausted, it sounds bizarre but having your brain cut off from the rest of your body is shattering. I’m now curled up, wrapped in a fluffy blanket, relishing in the slightly duller pain. I’m admittedly scared to even consider moving but the pain killers have enabled me to feel my body and I’m in a safe place which is all I can ask for.

Wheelchair Outings

Over the last few weeks several of my consultants have advised me to stick to bedrest and insisted I use my wheelchair if I choose to go out. With most of my recent trips out mainly being hospital appointments, this wasn’t too hard, and so I didn’t get too worked up about it. I will always be the first to admit that I’m not great at being in a wheelchair, it’s not the lack of independence that bothers me (as the whole point of the chair is countering how dependent on others I am), no my issue comes from trusting no-one, including myself, of being in charge of a wheelchair

These issues come from within, and anyone who has paid witness to my attempts to push myself will agree, I am awful. Spatial awareness and coordination are key components when nailing the art of wheelchair driving; skills I am lacking in. I am surprised shopkeepers don’t barricade the doors when they see me coming so as to preserve their stock. The most impressive incident was in New Look around 3 years ago, the domino’s effect I caused in the sale aisles was comedy gold. Due to my interesting wheelchair skills, I tend to presume that those pushing me will be just as awful as myself, resulting in many ‘please don’t kill me’ panicked expressions whenever they dare to venture near a curb! In my opinion wheelchair driving lessons should be part of the deal when being prescribed one.

Yesterday Damon and I moved into our first home together, so decided to take a trip into town this afternoon to pick up the odd household supply. We’re very lucky that the area we live in is rather flat, it couldn’t be more perfect, this means that I’ll be able to get out and about even when my conditions are severe, which is something that previously would have been impossible. Damon’s quite adept with the wheelchair (we’ve yet to crash in to anything), but that didn’t stop me from pulling hilarious terrified expressions repeatedly whilst we were out today.

 

Happily away from any curbs…reenactment of curb fears

When I was first prescribed my chair, although it provided me with freedom, I found accepting that I needed it hard. In my eyes, it was a reminder of what I was unable to do. Now when I look at it I automatically smile, my fear of it always provides so much laughter, and it enables me to do every day activities, something that I’m extremely grateful for.

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