Despite it being the third most common movement disorder Dystonia goes almost unknown to the public. It lingers in the shadowy background letting its brothers, Essential Tremor and Parkinson, take the limelight. By slithering along in the back alleys it can prey on its victims with ease, bringing devastation to those it touches. The medical profession cowers in its presence, refusing to open their eyes and admit what they are seeing, they send you to a psychiatrist instead, not understanding that this just gives the Dystonia more time to make itself at home in your body and wreak havoc when it sees fit.
By the time the Consultant realises it is Dystonia, you have already been suffering for so long. The spasms leave you drained from the pain, and you are desperate for any sort of relief. Then it seems like a miracle has happened, the consultant whips out a tiny bottle that brings promises of relief from the spasms, the pain, the fight. A few injections of this will sort you out, he promises, he tells you it won’t cure you and you will need it again in three months. You are over the moon, such a long period of relief seems too good to be true. The consultant, who seems to hold all the answers you have searched for, does not warn you that one day you may be fighting him.
Five weeks into your pain-free period agony grips your jaw, the spasm pushing it across to the point you’re sure it will dislocate. Emotions run through you: anger, sadness, heartbreak, devastation. No one warned you how hurt you would feel when the Dystonia reared his ugly head agony. You count the weeks on your hands repeatedly, this should not have happened for weeks yet. As the reality sinks in that you still have to wait at least 6 more weeks for more of the injections numbness sweeps through you. You feel so tired. A small part of you wants to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry.
You try desperately to contact your consultant but he ignores your pleas for help. Who do you turn to now? There are many open doors you could run through, but which one holds the key to help? Who will help you now? How many more Consultants are going to abandon you after dangling hope in front of you?
Which open door shall I leap through?
Since Dystonia started affecting me nine months ago, I have often asked what caused it? I have accepted the fact that I have Dystonia, and why it is me that has it is no longer important to me. What does matter to me is what has caused it!!
I understand that Dystonia is caused by a part of the brain called the Basal Ganglia sending out the wrong signals, but what caused it to do that? Is it genetic, do I have a gene mutation, is it due to dopamine, have I fell and landed on my head to many times? It may seem like a trivial thing to dwell on, as after all knowing why/what caused the Dystonia, does not change the fact that I have it, all it may do is change my treatment plan. Yet it remains an important issue to me, I need to know what caused my brain to stop functioning the way it should.
What I cannot understand either is why the Doctors do not want to find out the cause? I had a CT scan done back in August which confirmed that there was nothing structurally wrong with my brain. Knowing that is great, it’s a relief and something that I can strike off as a probable cause. However beyond this scan no other test has been done, so how can they treat me if they do not know the cause? I know in many cases the cause is not always found, however surely the logical thing to do would be to test for gene mutations, trial me on levadopa etc, check that there is no cause which would require a different treatment plan, before trying and the majority of the time failing, to control my symptoms?
I try my best to avoid thinking about what has caused this, as I understand that I am unlikely to get an answer any time soon, but that does not stop me wanting it. All I can do is hope that a doctor will eventually test me for possible causes. Even if an obvious cause can not be found, I would be much happier knowing that they had at least tried!
So for now, I shall cross my fingers and hope that I will one day get the answers that I need. Until then I shall continue to press my doctors to carry out the tests, until they decided to listen to me.
It would seem that ever since the first of January all I seem to do is either fall over due to a leg spasm, or collapse due to a seizure. Yesterday at my support/research group, I had a Non Epileptic Seizure, triggered by pain from my jaw, whilst sitting in my wheelchair. Now I had always thought that if I had a Seizure whilst in my wheelchair I would be fairly safe, as I was in a ‘contained’ environment. Turns out I was wrong. I regained consciousness to find myself on the floor. My seizure had shaken me out of my wheelchair onto the floor. Luckily the people around me acted as quickly as they could to make sure I didn’t do myself any harm, whilst the others fetched my mother to find out what to do. Thankfully other than really bruising my coccyx, and generally being a bit achy, I was fine.
My Basal Ganglia, however, seems determined to inflicted pain on me. I have lost count of how many times I have fallen over because of my leg Dystonia today. My foot flips over and my leg spasms backwards, or sometimes up in the air, and I end up on the ground. This means that who ever is helping me walk also ends up on the ground too. I think my leg has been so bad today in reaction to lasts night collapse. Due to yesterdays collapse and today’s many falls, my body is really rather sore. I feel like I am covered in bruises from head to toe. Tomorrow I plan on resting my body, to give it time to calm down, and to meditate.
Today, when I wasn’t falling over, I wrote a list of a questions for my meeting with my consultant on Tuesday. I want to go as prepared as I can be, so that the situation I have been in with him for the last two months, does not ever happen again.
Back in 2009 I was admitted into my local hospital with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in my right leg. I stayed in hospital for a total of six months and still suffered with the condition for a few months after that. The condition meant that despite the fact that I could see my leg so I knew it was there, I didn’t feel like I was connected to it. It would change temperature, colour and sensations. I could not bear even the touch of clothes, and was not able to move it. As a result I had intensive physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy, which thankfully worked a treat for me. I had to learn to move my toes/leg/walk again and retrain my brain to understand that the floor or clothes etc. were not actually harming me.
Due to what I went through with the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, I can understand how/why my Neurologist has recommend an intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation treatment plan. I completely get how it will hopefully (fingers crossed) help with my symptoms in my arm and leg. What I am curious about is how it will help with my facial spasms and eye spasms!
When I had intensive therapy before, I basically had to bombard my nerves constantly. I was given exercises to do every hour (in the day) if the physiotherapists were not with me. This meant standing and putting my foot on the floor or running brushes up and down my leg etc. They were all extremely painful but it was by forcing myself to do this constantly that my nerves resumed normal activities. I am expecting that my upcoming treatment will be similar, I am presuming that I shall be made to do movements/activities that will bring on a spasm repeatedly in an attempt to retrain my brain. To me this makes sense, however with my facial spasms they tend to be pretty random, though sometimes I feel this has something to do with eating. Again my eye spasms are random and vary between the length of time they last, with the shortest being seconds long and the longest being 15 hours.
I know that I cannot get any answers to my musings until I am there and taking part in the treatment programme, but I am so curious! The whole disorder intrigues me so much. The human body is such an incredible thing, and although we know so much about it, when it comes to the brain we know very little. New things are discovered all the time, and each new discovery allows for more research to be done. We learn more and more each day. I may not even get the answers during my treatment. One small thing could trigger another. I can’t wait to see what my treatment plans does for my dystonia! Its a big unknown but hopefully one with a positive outcome.
Yesterday I went up to London to have my first consultation with my new Neurologist. Despite having read a ton of positive patient reviews of him I was still very nervous. It turned out I had no reason to be nervous!! He was a truly lovely man! He listened to all my explanations, brought on spasms so he could see what they did to me, and was very understanding.
He has decided to get me admitted into hospital were I shall receive intensive physiotherapy and intensive rehabilitation. He believes that with the right treatment there is a good chance I could regain control of the majority of my body. He thinks its all to do with retraining my brain. I have no idea how long I shall be admitted for or when but I don’t care, their is a chance that I could return to being me! If this treatment plan doesn’t get the results my neurologist is hoping for then he plans to put me into a different hospital which he said had a fantastic intensive therapy programme but had a much longer waiting list.
It felt amazing to have a Neurologist who actually cared, who understood how much of an impact the dystonia was having on my life. I left the consultation knowing that no matter what happened from now on the neurologist would be there for me to contact and I know that he will try his best to help relieve me of my symptoms.
I am now more hopeful than ever! I know there is a chance that it may not work, but the belief he had in the treatment programme was very reassuring. I cannot wait for it all to begin! I am rather curious as to how it all works and have a million and one questions to ask now! I cannot wait to throw myself into it!