Posted in may 2021

An Open Letter to Stagecoach & Arriva Bus

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Dear Stagecoach & Arriva Bus,

I’m writing you an open letter as one of your disabled service users, and a frequent customer. I’ve had a few issue traveling before but today took the biscuit. Myself and my two young children were using your service to travel home from a hospital appointment. We flagged a Stagecoach bus down first. The driver pulled over, explained that he had already allowed two prams on, one was in the allocated buggy area and the other in the wheelchair space; neither parent wished to fold their pram down or move and off he went. I was more than slightly shocked as this is against your covid-19 policy which is listed on your site. I’ve screenshot it below, along with a picture taken from another of your buses which points out that it is law for a buggy to be moved from the wheelchair space should one need to board. Yet we were left in the rain.*

Stagecoach Accessibility FAQS
Sign stating the law that wheelchairs have priority

Arriva Bus, it was one of yours that we flagged down next. This time, there was only one pram on board. Inexplicably the parent and pram had placed themselves in the wheelchair area despite the buggy section being free. When your driver asked them to move so we could board, they refused to move and the driver simply shook his head at me said “Sorry, love.” And drove off. This caused quite the stir at the bus stop, with others asking if this was something that happened often. It is quite disappointing to say that this is not the first time that has. Here is a screenshot from your own website Arriva of your policy for wheelchairs and prams.

https://www.arrivabus.co.uk/help/conditions-of-carriageArriva Bus Carriage of Wheelchairs and pushchairs

Considering how much time has passed since Doug Paulley first brought his discrimination case to the supreme court back in 2012 over this matter I really expected this issue to be non-existent/on its way out. However experiencing it twice today within a matter of minutes is beyond a joke. How do you explain it to a four year old that two bus drivers didn’t want to follow the law? “Sorry we are not getting that bus either because the driver didn’t want to point out that it’s actually law for her to move over into the pram space. Despite it being his job.” Its disheartening, upsetting, discriminatory and lazy.

I would ask that both companies refresh your drivers memories on your own policies, and on the law. You may have stuck signs inside the buses but that is pointless if you are not going to act on them!

R. McDowall

*I want to acknowledge the kind stagecoach driver who was coming towards the end of a break and witnessed all of this. After waiting a few minutes and realising it was a while before anymore buses going in our direction would be there, cut his break short and drove over to us to let us on. I couldn’t have been more thankful.

Posted in may 2021

Ambulant Wheelchair Users

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For those who don’t know me personally when they see me coming along me in power chair they naturally presume that I’m wheelchair bound. It’s always an interesting situation when they see me move my legs so I’m more comfortable, or stand up to get in to the house. Sometimes I need the chair full time due to injury or severity of spasms, other times I need it due to length of time we’re out for and my body cannot handle it.

Whilst I’m confident in using it and appreciate how much freedom it provides. I’m not quiet used to the interactions yet with people with nothing nice to say. There’s been a few occasions of people telling me if I lost weight I wouldn’t need the chair, or to stop being lazy and walk. Presumptuous really considering they have no clue why I’m in it but also hurtful. I’ve always been a sensitive soul and I need to learn to toughen up.

I’m currently using my chair full time due to yet another injury thanks to my EDS. I find it odd how many people still are surprised by ambulant chair users. It’s an area that deffinently needs more discussion and awareness. I’ve used wheelchairs on and off for years due to my many conditions, as my EDS has deteriorated the use has increased. It enables me to still function and go about my day to day life independently, something that is very important to me. I couldn’t be more greatful for my chair.

Using my power chair to get home from church.

Posted in may 2021

Looking forward

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Recently I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions. Hence why I didn’t automatically return to blogging following my son’s operation in March. I wasn’t sure where my head was at and needed to work through it. A handful of events had triggered it and I was up and down more than the seesaw at the park.

I’d had an assessment where I need to provide extreme detail of all my conditions right from the start to now. You can imagine how emotionally exhausting that can be, explaining to someone why you had to give up your dream midwifery degree, relieving the rapid decline in health over the years and what I do to cope. I hadn’t anticipated it to affect me so strongly but it did.

It’s taken awhile but my head’s back where it’s stronger. I think during these covid times where we don’t have our usual coping mechanisms it’s quite easy to feel sucked under. Previously I could have rung up my friends and been at the soft play laughing over a fruit shoot, while the kids ran themselves to sleep. Spirits lifted, dark cloud averted.

Im looking forward now, and focusing on the future. On the post lockdown adventures with my family, with having friends in for a brew and a natter. But also accepting that lockdown has taught me that I don’t need to be on the go and out every day. If my body’s saying no then PJ’s, Disney and baking is it. That’s perfect too.

What are you looking forward to?

Posted in March 2021

Medication Success

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As I have mentioned previously following a discussion with my neurologist I tried a couple of different medications to see if we could get a better handle on my spasms. In particular the spasms around my jaw as these cause me significant issues with pain, dislocations, and make it next to impossible some days to relocate my jaw; I’ve had the joy previously of coming round from an operation to have my jaw relocated under GA, only to dislocate when I wake up due to spasms, and have my surgeon coming running over to put it back in and bandage my jaw up. Not a pleasant experience.

Trihexyphenidyl is the medication we have added into my daily regime and it has made a huge difference. Little things like I can brush my teeth now with an adult sized toothbrush rather than a children’s one are possible, and instead of dislocating my jaw by brushing my teeth, my jaw is just in a small spasm and achy. My son commented the other day on the fact that my face isn’t wonky all the time and asked if my Jaw Dr had fixed my jaw. We had a quick chat about mummy’s silly brain and moved on, but for me that showed just how amazing this medicine has been.

I saw my neurologist the other week and he has suggested increasing the dosage further as I am currently not experiencing any side effects. I’m waiting to receive a copy of his letter to my gp explaining that I have the go ahead to do this at my own pace, so we can see just what improvements we can get.

Right now, thanks to lovely female hormones, I’m sitting here feeling quite sore all over as my body goes downhill each month due to the fluctuating hormonal changes. I’ve had several subluxes today in shoulder which have in turn aggravated neck spasms. Normally I’d be quite grumpy about all of this, and yes I’m not exactly thrilled, but having the Dystonia side of things more controlled doesn’t half make coping with the EDS etc, easier. Everything just feels that little bit more manageable right now, and that’s fantastic.

Posted in Archive, March 2021

Back from Break; Update

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It’s been a few weeks since my last post, as some of you will know from my Facebook page I took time away whilst my son had a major surgery. Now things are settling again the posting schedule will be returning to normal.

So what’s been happening? My neurologist and I have been trialing different medications over the last three months to try and improve my quality of life, bring my pain levels down and reduce the number of Jaw Operations I have. We tried a number of different ones before landing on trihexyphenidyl. This medicine has been life changing. It’s drastically reduced the constant jaw spasms, and whilst they are still there the severity is reduced and manageable. We’re still playing around with the dosage to see how much further we can control my spasms. It’s been amazing.

I’m still waiting for a Barrium Swallow test to confirm my chronic Aspiration and give the dietician an idea of what thickness fluids need to be to help stop this. In the meantime the speech and language therapist is checking in regularly to ensure I’m doing ok.

Currently I’m waiting to see my Gastro Dr as my GI symptoms have returned. It’s extremely painful to eat or drink anything heavier than a cup of tea. I’m pretty much living off sugary tea in the meantime to get by.

On a more positive note I’ve just signed a three ebook deal for my young adult fantasy series which is very exciting. I feel very fortunate that this is something I can do from home while the children are asleep, as given the severity of all my conditions on my body a typical job is out of the question.

Finally I want to say thank you for the support I’ve received over the last few weeks. It’s been extremely touching. Now that this post is up and you are all caught up I’ll be back to posting my usual blogs from tomorrow.

Posted in Archive, covid-19, february 2021

The Positive To Lockdown With Chronic Illness

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Chronic Illness in Lockdown memes

Whilst the multiple national lockdowns have come with there fair share of complications, for example cancelled treatments, the stay at home message has been a blessing in disguise for me. My body has been going through a decline/more frequent dislocations lately, which is less than an ideal. Now prepandemic I would have ignored my bodies pain signals, and ploughed through the day. A bad cycle, and habit that I had formed. Only collapsing in the evening, spoonless, in pain and annoyed at myself. Lockdown has relieved the social pressure to attended multiple groups a week, and be on the go all the time. For my particular lot of chronic illnesses it’s meant I have rested when I have needed to. I’ve had the opportunity to relearn my bodies distress signals.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not literally doing the above meme, though it has its appeals. But it has removed the guilt I felt on slow mornings when we watched a Disney film and had a slow start to the day, rather than rushing about. I still finish the day with no spoons. That is just life with chronic illnesses. However I rarely exhaust myself to the point that I have impacted the next day, which prelockdown was a frequent occurance.

Post-lockdown this is something I need to remember; that it is perfectly fine to acknowledge if my body is saying no not today. We can watch films, craft and bake in the house instead and have a lovely day. Just being kind to my body more often will allow more days out and in the long run that’s what works.

Posted in Archive, covid-19, february 2021

Covid-19 Vaccine with Chronic Conditions

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Covid-19 Vaccines have been rolling out for several weeks now. I am fortunate enough to have had my first vaccine, Pfizer, administered last Saturday. The uptake the vaccines for Covid-19 has been fantastic to see. However I am aware from the questions that have popped up on my facebook page, and private messages that there some concerns out there on how safe these injections are for people with chronic health conditions. A worry I completely understand. I have a history of anaphylaxis myself to certain foods, and a have had psychotic reaction to two different medications previously, it has left me very wary of trying any medication that I’ve not previously had. But I’d much rather trust in the figures that say its going to be ok, than risk catching Covid-19. I’ve put together information gathered from a few of the charities/societies that this represent the conditions this blog covers, in the hope that it will provide those of you who want some information with what you need, and reliable resources to turn to (all the sections are hyperlinked so you can link through to them).

Covid-19 Vaccines| Dystonia UK

Dystonia UK put the safety of the vaccinations to their three medical advisors, all three agreed that it was safe for Dystonia patients to receive (including those receiving botox injections). It was suggested that if you have not already heard from your dr/gp in regards to your vaccination appointment and your breathing is affected by your Dystonia then it may be worth chasing this up.

Covid-19 Vaccines| Ehlers-Danlos Society

For those with Ehlers-Danlos who are wanting to talk to their Dr I recommend going to the Ehlers-Danlos Society website where there is a link for advice for clinicians on the matter. The site currently states that they are note aware of any studies that have specifically examined EDS or HSD with covid-19 injections. However those who have chronic conditions that could be made worse if they were to develop covid (including potentially Long Covid) the benefits of protection from the vaccine outweighs the risks associated with the infection on vaccination side effects.

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Covid-19| PoTSUK

For those of you with PoTs/Autonomic Dysfunction/MCAS who are specifically interested in the vaccines ingrediants list then click here. This will take you to the PoTS UK page dedicated to information on Covid-19 vaccine info, where you can find a full ingrediants list for both the Pfizer and Oxford injection.

The recommendation that PoTS UK are giving so far is that for PoTs patients, if your condition is uncomplicated then it is not a contraindication for the vaccine. If you have MCAS and experience very severe allergies, you need to discuss whether you are suitable for the vaccine with your allergy specialist.

Further information can be found on the link given above.

Personal Experience

I had my Pfizer vaccine jab 7 days ago. I was invited to book after being deemed extremely clinically vulnerable throughout the pandemic. The set up was simple, our local rugby stadium has been converted into a vaccination centre. Volunteers split us up as people arrived, those who were there via the mass vaccination scheme to one room, those for the GPs vaccination, like myself, into another. After confirming who I was, and being given some literature to read through on the jab for afterwards, it was done. Personally found it less painful than the flu jab, and far less painful than botox injections! It was then off for a 15 min sit in a chair to ensure that there were no unwanted side effects before being allowed to leave.

Side effects wise they have not been to bad, my arm has been a bit achy and I felt very low energy for maybe 36 hours. Quite similar, but not as bad, as to how I react to the flu jab. The provided information leaflet, did warn that the second jab could provide slightly more side effects, however I’ll take a couple days side effects any day in exchange for proctection.

Overall nothing to be concerned about. Relatively quick, very easy, fairly painless.

Posted in Archive, february 2021

Cancard UK; Fantastic leap for Chronic Conditions in 2021

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What is Cancard UK?

The Cancard UK is a fantastic leap forwards for pain patients and people with qualifying* chronic conditions in the UK. Essentially it is a card issued by Cancard LTD to its membership that provides evidence to the Police that the holder has a qualifying medical condition for which medical cannabis may be prescribed. This card indicates to the the police that the holder is therefore in possession of cannabis for medical reasons and that that they should confident in using discretion when they encounter a Cancard holder providing they are in possession of small quantities.

*You can find a list of qualifying conditions of their site, upon application you be asked to either provide a summary of care or have your GP sign to prove that you meet application criteria.

Why is the Cancard necessary?

Currently there is a short list of qualifying conditions for that entitle you to a private prescription of cannabis in the UK. However these are extremely expensive; An initial appointment* costs around £150, a follow up appointment which is required every couple of month £65, each prescription at least £30 per month. *Pricing examples taken from The Medical Cannabis Clinics.

For most people these prices are just not affordable, especially not long term. However it is known, and more evidence is coming out in support of this, that for certain conditions cannabis can provide significant relief, reduce pain, and help manage symptoms.

Does this make it legal?

No the law has not changed, however all police forces in the UK have been briefed on the the card. It has been co-designed and is backed by senior members of the police force, and guidance has been issued by them stressing that officers should feel confident in using their discretion in cases of possession when the holder is also in possession of a Cancard. It does, however, prove that you are legally entitled to a cannabis prescription which is a huge step forwards.

Cancard UK

If you are interested and want to know more I would highly recommend spending some time on their website and also on their social media. Not only can you apply for the card through the site which is an easy process, but it is also full of great resources such guides to self medication, how to handle being stopped by the police, the different components in cannabis and how each one affects different conditions such as epilepsy, spasms, pain etc. The Cancard UK is a great tool to utilise as well, one of the most recent videos was a tutorial demonstrating how to make it into a oil, which for those who prefer not to smoke is a very handy guide.

Next Steps

Currently the card does not cover growing your own plant at home, and pharmacies are still not selling to card holders. However, they are working on expanding so that growing is covered and therefore reduces the risks taken by the user.

Posted in Archive, february 2021, poems

Dislocations; Smashed Avocado Toast

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It’s the breath stealing, heart racing moments.

Nostrils flared, knuckles white with a fierce grip.

Head back, focused. Can’t swear.

Sausages. Bananas. Smashed Avocado on freaking toast.

Hospital? No. What can they do.

I’ll only spasm and dislocate again at one, then again at two.

Pass me Olaf, he needs his teeth done.

Sausages. Bananas. Smashed Avocado on freaking toast.

Fifth Knee dislocation of the day.

The spasms. Just. Wont. Stay. Away.

Still need to be a Floogal Rescue Machine.

Sausages. Bananas. Smashed Avocado on freaking toast.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Disabled Parenting: A Learning Curve

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Being a disabled parent is something that three years in I still have not got my head around how to nail. Though does anyone ever nail the toddler years? My children are, at the time of writing, three and 19 months old. Both children are owners of strong, hilarious personalities. Both currently are sound asleep, I know my daughter will wake up in the morning with a rendition of either Baby Shark or Let it go, and my son will wake up just before 6am, delighted that it’s early. I’ll wake up and relocate my knees.

Each day for us is always an unknown to some extent. We try to pace our days by following an activity timetable, which gets switched about at the start of each week. The timetable was introduced not only to help manage with being housebound more due to shielding, but also to encourage subtly paced activities without making it too obvious. The children, know that mummy is disabled and needs to do things differently to daddy, but I do try minimise to some extent how much of that they see.

It is a fine and difficult line to tread. On one hand it is important to me that they understand that everyone is different, some people are disabled and that’s perfectly fine; however my son has a very caring nature, and does worry, so I do try to shield from him some elements that at three he doesn’t need to worry about. For example, right now due to hormones all my joints are loose, this has resulted in multiple subluxes, dislocations, general spasms and fatigue over the day. He’s aware I’m tired today, and slightly sore, but he’s also ‘tickled wrestled’ me, so I know he hasn’t picked up on much.

We made the decision quite a while ago that I would no longer cook with the oven for the family. This was due to a range of issues such as seizure, spasming with a hot pan, or dislocating. My partner does the majority of cooking, and on weeks when he is on late shifts we have carers come in to cook the tea. However I still ‘cook’ I use the phrase very loosely, things using the microwave.Today, was just one of those days that was a dropsy day. Everything I touched seemed to be destined for the floor, which is exactly where the kids porridge ended up after I picked it up to heat it up. My hand spasms were so ridiculous the food had ended up on the floor before I had processed quite what had happened. It reaffirmed to me, that whilst I order the food my place is no longer in the kitchen, and provided the kids with a good few minutes of giggling.

Learning my own hacks to make disabled parenting work for me is something that is a slow learning curve that I am just getting to grips with. For example buying a second seat belt for my wheelchair so I can strap my daughter to me when we go out for a walk. Each day is never the same as we adapt to the needs of my disobedient body and the cheeky duo. The kids never fail to amaze me with how well they cope though. I used to get in a state over the possibility of the fact they had to ‘deal’ with a disabled mum. Whereas now I am so proud of the caring nature the two of them have, along with their inquisitive minds.