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

Posts tagged ‘health blog’

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.

 

New Beginnings

At the start of May my degree came to its close. After three years living in Oxfordshire it was time to start making new plans for the future; which is why on the 11th of May we packed up and moved to St. Helens, Merseyside. It’s a long way from my family which is hard but we are surrounded by my in-laws who I love dearly.

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Happy in our new home

Getting to know a new area and work out the most disability friendly routes to places is tiring but so far I am feeling very settled and happy in my new environment. I’m now several hours away from my neurologist which is less than ideal but he has agreed that I can remain on his treatment lists. Whilst moving to a new neuro more local would be easier I don’t feel comfortable leaving his care as he has been my rock for the last six years.

I’m having a couple issues with my jaw spasms and the osteoarthritis at the minute but overall I’m coping well. I’ve introduced a new herbal supplement to see if it helps with pain relief and will be reviewing this soon.

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.

Body Meet Osteoarthritis

This week I found myself sitting in the preop clinic of a knee replacement clinic. On my arrival it didn’t take long to piece together where I was, and even less time to start panicking as to why I was there considering I was expecting to see the Orthotic department not the surgical team.

The Dr I’d been assigned was lovely and surprisingly familiar with the majority of my conditions. I was pleasantly taken aback to discover that they had scheduled all the xrays and scans into the appointment time slot, so I was carted off down to X Ray where my knees, hips and ankles were x-rayed from multiple angles (so far I’ve just had the results for my knees). Having these pictures taken took quite awhile as trying to get my knees and and toes all pointing in the right direction is a rather impossible task. I got the impression the radiographers were not used to my host of conditions as my uncompromising feet proved quite the problem, and by manipulating them into a forewards position my knees subluxed!

So far the x-rays have revealed that I have Osteoarthritis in my knees and that really I need new knees, however due to my EDS that surgery is extremely unlikely to provide any long term relief so my surgeon wants to delay it for as long as possible. So for now the plan is to try to shift as much weight as I can to ease the pressure on my joints and delay the surgery. Whilst the diagnosis is disappointing it explains the pain I’ve been in for the last few years. I’m just keeping my finger crossed the x-rays won’t show it in my hips and ankles too.

Before I sign off, Spoonies it’s cold outside! Please if you find you are affected by the cold spend that extra spoon wrapping up warm or having a longer bath. Practice self care. This time of year can be hard, I know I’m suffering, so be kind to yourselves.

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Fiery Fury of Flare UPs

Being chronically means I live with the knowledge that at some point, someday I will have a flare of one or more of my conditions. I could go months without one and then have several back to back, or they could be fairly regular. Flare ups are unpredictable, sometimes it’s obvious as to what caused them, and other times there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. Managing them is a joke. Other than knocking back the muscle relaxants and painkillers the only thing to do is try and ride it out.

I’m currently in the middle of an Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3 and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome flare up. Agony is not a strong enough word to describe the sheer amount of pain that I am in. I knew my EDS flare up was coming, my pain had been getting dramatically worse over 72 hours and it felt like I had battered every inch of my body. What I wasn’t prepared for however was my CRPS to act up.

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It’s hard to communicate to people who don’t have CRPS exactly what type of hellish pain it is. The only way I can think to describe is this. Imagine you have several vegetable peelers the width of your leg, someone is dragging all of them down every millimetre of your leg with excruciating slowness. Digging the blade in to the point it reaches your bones. This evil being has a partner in crime, who is simultaneously pouring vinegar into your open wounds whilst dropping lit matches on to you. On top of all of this is Benedict the Dystonia Alien who is rejoicing in contorting your leg in every position imaginable heightening the pain further.

This pain is constant. Its at the point were it feels like a miracle if I manage 5 minutes without crying. My oramorph only makes a slightly dent in the pain. Sleep is a distant memory as my leg is ravaged with mind boggling pain.  All I can do is hope and pray that this flare up ends soon and does not once again become a fixture in my day to day life.

5th Blog Birthday

Happy Birthday Dystonia and Me!

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Can you believe it’s been 5 years of blogging already? I can’t quite wrap my head around how quickly this has come around. It feels like just last week, I searched for a webhost desperate to spread awareness of Dystonia after feeling like I was floundering in a sea of uncertainty with little resources to pursue in my quest for answers. Now I confidently tackle my condition head on and happily refer people to resources  I have come  to know and trust.

When I started blogging it was completely in the mindset that it would be purely to raise awareness. Over the last 5 years this has evolved to be a space where I can openly and honestly express myself without fear, safe in the knowledge that someone out in the vast vacuum of the web will be able to relate to what I am going through. My blog has become a site for awareness, expression and connection; I cannot get over how many online friends  I have made. Whilst I am sad that so many of you have to live with this life altering condition, I am thankful for each one of you that has become a vital part of my day to day support network.

Over the last few years this blog has been nominated on several occasions for awards, won one, and even become a resource that several neurologists hand out when diagnosing new patients (this still flatters, astounds and thrills me). I’ve had other sufferers pounce on me with hugs and their stories at hospitals; I love this, it shows me that I am doing something right.

Just a few years ago, reaching this milestone seemed ridiculous. I didn’t know how to live each day let alone 5 years with this hideous condition. Now, several diagnoses later, I have learned to find joy and laughter in my spasms, to treasure every moment that puts a smile on my face and be thankful that drs like my neurologist exist, for without my neuro my world would be darker (literally). So instead of being disheartened that 5 years on I’m still battling, I’m lifting my chin, defying my alien and celebrating each little success.

Here’s to another 5 years.

Redefining Pacing Parameters

Since my latest flare up began I’ve been taking extra care to make sure I acknowledge my accomplishments no matter how small each day and attempting to redefine my pacing parameters.  This is a key tool for me to keep in mind at all time. Mainly as it enures I acknowledge my further limitations during a flare up and act accordingly, but also as it keeps me focused on the positives and prevents me getting tuck in a emotional rut which often occurs in flare ups.

I had a wonderful opportunity as part of my publishing internship yesterday to direct and film an interview with an author signed to the publishing house. It was a fantastic experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  However like all things it required spoons, and far more than I had anticipated. Despite my lack of spoon saving preparation I got through the day relatively intact and the repercussions didn’t kick in until today.

This is where I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds in handling life with chronic illnesses. I didn’t attempt to struggle through the pain today, or go to the other extreme and do nothing (although sometimes this is needed); instead I decided we would go about our day as planned but I would use my wheelchair the whole time, with baby snug in his sling against me, and Dame pushing me rather than me risking dislocating a joint or three by self propelling.

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We only nipped out for a short while as avoiding over stimulation is key on days when I feel my health is on a downward kilter. So a relaxing jaunt to the local coffee house and then onto Waitrose was our plan. I was quite overjoyed to find a wheelchair friendly trolley. A rare treat, that has quiet made my day.

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Oromandibular Dystonia & Communication

 

In 2012 one of the first symptoms I developed was severe Oromandibular Dystonia. This meant that my jaw, mouth and tongue go into painful, and often extreme spasms. On these occasions I struggle to speak; this can be due to several factors such as: my tongue spasming and making it impossible to talk, the jaw spasm itself, especially when dislocated, making it impossible; or it is simply too painful to do so. I often attempt to try and talk through the spasm but this can aggravate it.

Trying to communicate during these episodes is difficult, even if I manage to successfully make a noise, what I am attempting to say may not be clear. In recent weeks, since the birth of my baby, I had been trying to think of ways around this. Writing it down is one option, however, I find physically writing very painful and often dislocate when doing so. Instead my partner and I have decided to learn British Sign Language; we’re incorporating baby sign language into this too so that Stefan, when old enough, will understand as well.

We’re off to a great start and enjoying this venture. I’m finding that I feel far more settled knowing that I’ll be able to communicate clearly, even on bad days. As someone who is quite the chatterbox, this is important to me.Image result for BSL

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