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.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

The Test Results Are In

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After spending the last several months in and out of hospital, losing the sight in my eye for an extended period of time and only partially regaining it, losing all sensation in my right leg and experiencing sensory issues in my arms I was once again told it looked like I had MS. Yet the examinations didn’t agree. I was left battling for help as different hospitals and departments seemed to find it impossible to communicate with each other. Well the most recent test results are in! We finally have an answer.

If I am honest I had almost given up on a diagnosis other than unknown complex neurology condition with global sensory loss. None of my Drs were communicating with each other, no one could agree with each other and that was resulting in me receiving no treatment. It has been a period of high stress and extreme emotion.

Today I finally had my Emergency Video Consultation  with the local specialist in Neurology; this was requested back in October. Firstly they are agreed it isn’t MS which is great confirmation. What they are sure of is that is another part of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Apprerently when I’m dislocating my knees the nerves around it are being over stretched and damaged hence the loss in sensation/function. The same thing had happened to my elbows causing the sensation I was getting in my lower arms and hands. This surprised me greatly; mainly as I had in fact asked the doctors this very question when I was on the ward last year and they laughed at me for suggesting it. In regards to my eyes the nerves are not communicating with my brain effectively, but are not damaged like you get in MS.

He’s suggested we get me booked in with my EDS consultant for some advice in the meantime on how to cope with these symptoms as they can last a significant amount of time.

So whilst the EDS is generally on a slippery slope currently and it’s all about managing it, keeping on top of my pain and being proactive, I feel that overall it was a very positive chat.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Improving Routine To Improve Pain Levels

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Health conditions can have both a physical and emotional toll, for example chronic pain; this can impact your sleep, cause more fatigue and leaves you starting the day just as drained as when you went to bed. A routine can change all that.

Now I’m not suggesting you plan out every moment of your day!

However a well thought through routine can empower your day, lowering your pain levels over all as you’ve optimised the way you have used your body.

It’s worth asking yourself when is your pain worse in the day? What activities does that impact? Make a list. From here you can proactively look at your routine and adjust how you manage your day which in turn should lower your pain levels. An example of this is if you struggle more in the mornings, then lay out what you need (or ask someone to help you) in an accessible place. This will save you time and energy in the morning.

Make sure to include time for you in your routine and space out energy consuming tasks over the day. If there is a task you are particular struggling with think about how it can be altered. For example, when chopping vegetables does sitting on a stool help? Would buying pre-chopped vegetables be a more realistic option? Is there someone else who could do this task for you?

Doing to much will result in a Boom and Bust cycle. Pacing is your friend.

I’ll be live tomorrow night with more on the Boom Bust Cycle.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Adjusting to The Impact of Lockdown on Pacing

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I’m sat on my settee staring up at the stairs and I know there is no way I am making it up them tonight. Pacing. It wasn’t even a wild day in the McDowall Tunstall house, yet, here I am, fairly sure that I will not be trying to crawl, or bum bump my way up to bed; not when there’s a comfy alternative already made up here with a lot of blankets, courtesy of a kidney infection, why waste so much energy. Now I bet your thinking what crazy think has she done today to end up not knowing how to get to bed?!

Well for once I actually behaved! Instead I’m pinning the blame on good old lockdown number three. Previously when the UK went into National Lockdown’s Stefan hadn’t actually started school, so we weren’t affected by it, thankfully. This time however, he has to take part in Live Home Learning sessions, and most also get homework finished and emailed into school in between session one and two!

Now to make it an easier adjustment for the children (mainly Stefan) they’ve got a devised timetable for the week, all built around the school day, filled with Live learning, Joe Wicks, crafts, freeplay, our one hour allowed outside time, story time, music etc. This has gone down a hit with the kids, they are happier, calmer, listening better and over all it’s much a more positive day.

Here’s where I got it wrong.

You knew it was coming didn’t you?

I remembered to factor in breaks, such as snack time for them. What I didn’t think to was put blocks on their chart saying Mummy recovery time. Which I need. For example, after Joe Wicks, if they are spending 10 minutes watching AlphaBlocks or Magic hands while having a drink and cool down, I can sit with a heat pack behind my back, a pillow under my knees and just allow my body to breath, rest and recover enough for round two.

It is no surprise to me that readjustments needed to be made. Normality is a shadow of what it used to be, and providing a new normal whilst living within four walls is hard and exhausting. This is why we pace. Today I aimed for fun and hit the milky way galaxy, hence spasms, dislocations and extreme fatigue. Adjusting to pacing in lockdown is hard but it’s something that with time we will learn; hopefully sooner rather than later. I’ve learned a lot. I’ll tone it down tomorrow. This lockdown is a beast that throws unwelcome hurdles when we sort of expect it (thank-you newspaper leaks), and we just have to keep on adapting.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Lockdown, Homeschooling and Work

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With the introduction of the new lockdown I had had been planning on getting crafty with the kids again. That idea was snuffed out after an email landed in my email box confirming that nursery would be doing live home lessons followed by tasks to be completed, photographed and emailed to his teachers. All well and good except my partner works shifts and I have an 18 month old whose favourite word is no, also takes no as a yes and will most deffinently try to touch every key on my laptop.

So today was the first home school lesson. After half an hour of technical wrestleling we finally got on to Teams and were met by a chorus of STEFAN. The children were happily mucking around with each other, my daughter was desperately trying to join in and the teacher? Her laptop had the same issues mine had to start with and never made it to the lesson. Round two tomorrow!

Dystonia and Me Holistic Health Coaching is officially up and running which has added a lovely touch to my evenings. I have been thoroughly enjoying chatting with different people with a range of issues and starting them on their journeys with me.

Colourful heart enlarging in further colours being touched by a human figure in blues and purples

I would love to hear if any has had the vaccine yet? From the calculator I predict mine to be late Feb to March at the current injection rates and would be interested to hear your experience in the comments. I personally will be accepting the offer of the jab, I just would like to go in to it eyes open to side effects.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Return To The Gym

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After a lot of discussions with my family and my medical team we decided that it was finally time for my return to the gym. I have not been since my battle with sepsis in January 2020. However if we are being honest there was no way I could have have returned in 2020; I spent a long period bed ridden, my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome progressively worsened and that’s before we factor in Covid. My 2020 health spiral ended with unexpected weight gain of almost two stone in a month. Considering I live on 1, 200kcl a day that comes from perscriped ensure juices, the sudden and extreme gain is disconcerting.

Now while my GP is investigating causes into the gain, I’m also taking a practical approach. I used to have a fair level of fitness and enjoyed going to the gym. Whilst it left me shattered afterwards and with sore joints, I also found I benefited with less extreme spasms after. Today’s reintroduction was a gentle session for the most part, testing what my bodies current capabilities are; I chose a recumbent bike session followed by different weight lifting machines.

First time back in the gym

I certainly don’t feel as energetic as I did this morning; far from it. I’m completely out of spoons and sore. However I am chuffed with how well the session went and am looking forward to the next one.

No spoons

Posted in Archive, December 2020

Genes and Dystonia

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Following on from yesterday’s Facebook live where we touched briefly on genetic causes of Dystonia, I wanted to delve into this a little more. DYT1 gene is the cause of some cases of early onset Dystonia and seems to be the one people are aware of. However there is a number of other genes that can cause Dystonia. Knowing whether it is a genetic cause is worth investigating as treatment can differ. For example I have the GCH1 gene which is the cause of Dopa Responsive Dystonia. I’ve lived with my symptoms for eight years and only recently found this out. I’m now awaiting to start on the appropriate medication for this particular type of Dystonia.

Taken from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0004-282X2015000400350#:~:text=DYT6%20dystonia%20has%20an%20autosomal,no%20sex%20differences%20identified9.

Being diagnosed with Dystonia for the majority of people is a long road, and more complicated still if you don’t know the medical history of your parents, grandparents etc. I haven’t had contact with my father for years but I know from my mum that he had hand tremors and was often called shakey. Now this could be caused by anything and that’s important to remember but based on the fact that my hands also spasm and tremor it’s a significant point.

When I was on the initial road chasing for a diagnosis only one doctor recommended genetic testing and this was never followed up on. I then spent years fighting against the label of functional Dystonia, which seemed to being applied purely based on my previous traumas. It became a frequent sticking point, one in which I often pointed out that fighting for treatment and belief was by far more traumatic at the time than issues I’d already worked through with therapists.

It was only after resorting to private genetic testing that we discovered that I had a genetic cause; I’d been blaming it on a horse riding accident for years purely because my neck spasms started shortly afterwards.

So does having a genetic cause change anything? Yes! Some types of Dystonia are far more likely to respond to Deep Brain stimulation, while others respond to specific medications better.

It is important to remember however that not all Dystonia causing genes are known yet. This is one of the reasons family history is so important. I only went digging into my genes after my maxfax surgon mentioned that their appears to be a link between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Dopa Responsive Dystonia.

Other causes can be medication induced (tardive dyskinesia), brain injury, as a symptom of another condition etc. If you have concerns over the root cause of your condition please speak to your neurology team.

Posted in Archive, December 2020

Treatment Day

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Currently I’m sat in the rush hour traffic on my way home from seeing my neurologist in London. It’s been a long day which upon arrival I soon expected to end in despair. Despite email confirmation of my appointment, my slot had not been added on the system. I’m a big believer in to be early is to be on time, and this slightly over anxious side of me always shows itself before appointments; being extra early was something I was extremely relieved about this time as it meant that they had time to order up the injections.

Watching the lights go past.

Thankfully I was seen and as usual I left feeling ever grateful that I’m under my neurologists care. He’s been a rock for me these last 8 years and continues to be. He’s agreed with maxfax recommendations to start me on Sinemet and recommended an alternative to try if this one doesn’t have the hoped for impact. Maxfaxs theory is that there are a small number of EDS (I’m CEDS) who also have dopa responsive dystonia and that I may fall into this category. I’ve not tried any of these medications before so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for some sort of dent in symptoms.

I’m planning on resting most the journey home as the injection site in shoulder always aggreviates my complex regional pain syndrome. More on this tomorrow.

Posted in Archive, December 2020

What’s In Your Flare Box

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The concept of a flare box is one that I didn’t properly venture into untill I attended the Stanmore Inpatient Pain Management course back in early 2016. It was really impressed on me that this was something that could impact my pain management. As soon as I got home I set about setting it up. Almost five years on and I still use these! In fact I have one in my bedroom and a second one by my desk downstairs so that they’ll always be accessible when needed.

A flare is generally considered to be a worsening of symptoms over a fair length of time e.g a week to a month or so. This is in comparison to just having a bad day or two of symptoms, then reducing to your normal levels.

My two boxes differ slightly and reflect the area of the house I’m in. My upstairs box contains several TENs units and chargers, multiple wheat heat packs, a symptom diary and pen so I can write down anything that I think may be important to remember to tell my drs, some volterol cream, neck brace and various other splints for dislocations, earphones, lavender pillow spray, and some books.

My downstairs box has all of the above but it also has some cue cards for if I’ve struggling to physically talk, so I can just flash these up instead; these have my most used phrases on e.g please can you fill up my flask? Please can you reheat my wheat pack? It also contains some electrolyte water soluble tablets for if it’s my POTS is also worsened.

Everyone’s flare kits differ depending on what they feel they need in the flare, and my deffinently have evolved over time. For example right now both have spare socks added to them as I know cold feet induces spasms for me. So in winter some extra warming bits are a must. Plus five years ago I wasnt a mum, so there also contained a notepad with a list of easy binging Netflix show, a stash of free from chocolate and anything else that cheered me up.

Let me know in the comments if you use one!