Posted in Archive, Novemeber 2020

Local Anaesthetic and Me

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When I was 17 weeks pregnant with my daughter I underwent surgery to remove a mole on the underneath of my right breast that had early cell changes. Due to the fact I was pregnant and it was a relatively short surgery they didn’t want to give me a general anaesthetic, so decided a local would do. Unfortunately my Ehlers-Danlos means I have no response to local anaesthetic and felt every cut, and every stitch. The whole process was rather traumatic and I’ve worked hard at trying to forget it.

I was admitted to my local hospital a couple of days ago due to worsening symptoms in my eye and leg. Due to this it was decided last night to bring my lumbar puncture forward to that evening. I explained that local anaesthetic does not work in the slightest for me. They decided to give me a double dose in the hope it would work; it didn’t, which I expected, maxfax team has tried injecting several times this amount with no effect previously. Now lumbar punctures are known to be painful anyway, so to know I was having one without effective pain relief was nerve wracking to say the least.

It was one of the most agonising experiences I have ever had. It took multiple attempts to place the needle correctly as they found the spaces inbetween the spinal collum to be be extremely narrow. It’s been just over twenty four hours since and I’ve struggled to move. My whole back is in horrondous pain, taking a deep breath or swallowing liquids really seems to agreviate it. I’ve also lost sensation over my waterworks which is concerning. I’ve spoken to the consultant but everyone’s answer over this is that I need an MRI, which apparently is booked but no can tell me a day or time.

I’m missing my kids loads but I know that being here is where I need to be. If this helps put a piece of the medical jigsaw in place and leads to better management that can only be a good thing. Just got to take everything one moment at a time.

Posted in Archive, Novemeber 2020

Brain Fog

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I’ve sat here and typed out three different blog posts on three entirely different topics. None of them really made much sense. I should have expected as much. Damon has already expressed concern this evening for how much I’m repeating myself, a sign that it’s a bad brain fog evening and most likely a bad brain fog day tomorrow.

Brain Fog

The pain behind my left eye has become rather extreme again so I’m hoping the doctors will have space tomorrow for a chat. I’ve finished my course of steroids now for my optics neuritis, but the pressure pain in this eye has just become increasingly worse and is really getting hard to cope with. I’m lucky that although it’s a small doctors surgery the team there are fabulous, so I have my fingers crossed they will have some ideas.

Hopefully I’ll have a less foggy weekend and I’ll be able to get the posts I was trying to write up for you all.

  • side note this was originally published with no title…thank you brain fog
Posted in September

What Can I Do For YouToday?

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What can I do for you today? It’s the standard greeting I find I’m met with at every doctors appointment, no matter the speciality. Perfectly poliet, open ended so therefore inviting me to dive in to the promblem that has brought me to their office. Expcept lately that is not how that questions makes me feel, it leaves me biting my sarcastic answer off of my tongue. Fix me, take my pain away, how about just stop my constant deterioation please and i’ll make do as I am but please press pause in the meantime. Let me correct myself, it’s not sarcasm, it’s truth, it’s honest words from a scared vulnerable person who wont utter them because I know the reality is the Drs are trying but their isn’t much they can do.

I was diagnosed yesterday with Trigeminal Neuragia, along with being informed they no longer expect the sight I’ve lost (the majority of it) in my left eye to return; I can see blurry outlines but I cannot work out shapes or distance. It was a bit of a hit emotionally as whenever I have had Optic neuritis before my sight has recovered fairly well, however this has been going on for a while now and if anything the pain has gotten worse behind my eye, it is incredibly intense. I’m trying not to dwell on this too much while we await my Evoked Potential results and wait for a date for my lumbar puncture test. Hopefully these tests will shed some light as to what is going on currently.

In the mean time I feel much like this blog; I am all over the place, one minute quite happy dealing with things as they come, the next frustrated that despite almost a decade of chronic illness a level of normality is yet to be reached. I’m still fighting against the current of deteriation. It may be as useless as trying to swim the wrong way around wild rapids but it helps to know that I am trying to do something to counter the every growing pill box.

Stock photo of pillbox

Posted in Archive, November 2018, September

Zebra or a Horse?

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When you hear hoofbeats its’ time to take pause,
Remember your training it’s not a Zebra but a Horse,
Go on throw diagnostic criteria’s out the door,
Something much simpler is bound to be the cause.

Patient not quite fitting those tick boxes on the chart?
Have you ensured you’ve torn their mental health apart?
Depression, trauma, maybe be a life stressor or two,
Cancel their painkillers and make sure to push through,
A psychiatrist referral to review them a new.

Yet your patient sits there and loudly declares,
“I’m a Zebra, I’m striped and Lord knows I’m rare,
I’m dislocated, spasming, and bruised black and blue,
Please don’t be yet another Dr that lets me fall through”.

You can stop my medication and hang me out to dry,
Or perhaps just this once you could choose not to turn a blind eye,
My connective tissue is failing and my body’s been wrung through,
My brain sends faulty signals, and I don’t know what to do,

Dystonia, EDS, CRPS, I all but shout,
Should your really ignore the fact my joints are hanging out?
Or what about the psych assessment that states beyond a doubt,
‘Her issues are organic you should promptly check them out’.

It’s become clear that your training needs a change of course
Try “When you hear hoofbeats it could be a Zebra or a Horse”.

Authored by R. McDowall, 2018.

Posted in Archive, October 2016

I’m A Spoonie, Not An Addict

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Over recent months’ painkillers and Drs’ willingness to prescribe certain painkillers has been a hot topic in the news and on social media. Every country has different takes on the matter, but patient’s opinions are largely the same: We’re not addicts, so don’t treat us like we are! Now I’m not trying to deny that there are people out there, that for whatever reason, will say and do pretty much anything in order to get their hands-on prescription painkillers; but it’s sad that a handful of people can have such a dramatic influence on the chronic illness society. The majority of us need these medications.

Over the last few years I have had my meds altered significantly. I have met some Drs who didn’t want to prescribe me anything stronger than paracetamol, and whilst I’m always grateful for anything that makes a dent in the pain, I tend to find that paracetamol doesn’t make a huge difference to the agonizing spasms, or dislocated joints. If you have ever dislocated your jaw and then had spasms and tremors aggravate it for hours/days afterwards, you’d know that paracetamol isn’t going to do the job. Throw in pain triggered seizures and you’re in for one heck of a ride…and oh yeah more pain, on top of the existing pain, it’s a vicious cycle. Some Drs I have been under have been more than happy to have an open discussion about my medication, and then offer me a selection of painkillers that they feel are appropriate. I will always choose to start at the less extreme option.

There is no getting around the fact that painkillers can be addictive, and this is where the problem comes in. I completely understand a medical professional not wanting to provide a long course of pills that have the potential to cause more issues such as addiction and withdrawal. That makes perfect sense. However, there are ways to go about talking through this with patients that are sensitive rather than demeaning. I have lost count of how many times I have been accused of being addicted to pain meds, I’ve had Drs suggest I have counselling for my traumatic past as a replacement for my painkillers. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I fail to see how counselling for previous issues will solve a movement disorder and a genetic connective tissue disorder. I understand that a low mood can cause a patient’s pain tolerance to drop, and that pain in turn can cause low moods, but I still have a major problem with this line of thinking. I’ve given in to Drs on all of these occasions, and have been satisfied in the notes that get sent to them by therapists querying why on earth they thought I needed therapy. Believe it or not I am pretty happy despite being physically flawed.

Patients should not have to worry about admitting to their care provider that they are struggling to handle their pain. They should be sure in the knowledge that their Doctor will examine all the options that are open, be that a change in prescription, a physical therapy referral etc. There are many avenues to dealing with pain that should be explored and there are great patient courses teaching you how to reduce your pain as much as you can without meds. But we shouldn’t be made to feel like criminals for holding our hands up and saying I need help. If I wake up in the morning and I’m in pain then I know that by pacing and with regular breaks in the day that I can minimise the potential exaggeration of pain, however if I wake up with spasms/dislocations or both, then it’s reassuring to know that I can dull that pain to a point where I can function.

There’s no shame in needing help and asking for it.

Posted in Archive, July 2016

Four Years On

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Five years ago I was ordering every midwifery textbook and journal listed on my degree reading list; excitedly absorbing every word each page had to offer. Through that next year I lived and breathed for the job. I am immensely proud and blessed to have had that opportunity and experience.

That year, however was blighted by ill health. I had operation  after operation and frequent trips to the local A&E. Reflecting back on that time I can track the dramatic decline in my health before my Dystonia took root at the end of July 2012 and Benedict my Dystonia Alien became part of daily life.

For the first year I honestly did not cope. People would tell me how well I was doing and silently I would disagree. I was spending the majority of my time holed up in my room desperately searching for any other answer, any other curable illness that could explain my symptoms. I had no idea how to be me anymore. I had built my whole identity around midwifery, the reality that I was, and still am, to ill to practice had me in denial for many years.

Since 2013 I’ve rediscovered how to live and enjoy life no matter the severity of my symptoms. It does not matter if I am reliant on a wheelchair/stick/splint or if my body is spasming to the point of distortion and dislocation, there is always something positive to latch on to.

Now that’s not to say down days don’t occur,  they do but on a far less frequent basis than previously. Generally these are only after baffling drs or a new diagnosis being added to the growing list.

Living life with a goal oriented focus has been a huge help for me. It doesn’t matter how big or small the aim in mind, the motivation it provides is key. This mindset has enabled me to qualify as a Reflexologist, complete an AS in creative writing, start a new degree that I adore and now focus on getting my novel to publication.

Aiming and achieving my goals enables me to feel as if I am defeating Benedict. I know he’s never going away but it makes living with him easier. When I first got diagnosed I could barely imagine the next week let alone year. The idea of living with my conditions for any length of time was to painful and deeply upsetting. Four years on I can look to the future with the knowledge that my body will never function as it should but excited as to what new milestones I can achieve next.

Posted in Archive, September 2015

Another Referrel

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Sitting back in the upright, green leather chair, I stare straight ahead at the wall with my left eye covered up, where supposedly I should be able to see two rows of letters. I can’t see a thing. Not even there outline. I can see a white blurry box on the wall but that’s about it. The optician is quite frankly horrified at the deterioration of sight in my right eye. It has only been eight months since my last appointment, this dramatic result shocks us both. I thought my glasses prescription just needed a slight tweak. As it turns out new glasses cannot fix this issue. By the end of the examination she murmurs a simple sentence that chills me. “I need to refer you to the hospital, the muscles in your eye are not working properly”. What?! This was meant to be a routine appointment.

I questioned whether it could be my Dystonia, and while it was a possibility, she was not convinced it was. She explained the three different medical specialists I would most likely see at the hospital, the last being a neurologist. It always seems to end up there.Can I just have a new brain? As it always goes with these things it shall most likely be a wait before I am seen. In the meantime the possibility of another intruder controlling my body, my sight, hangs in the air. If it turns out to be Dystonia then other than piling me with more medication there is very little they can do, as they are unable to inject these particular muscles.

Over the years I have always been told that my left eye has compensated for my right. Its doing this now more than ever. With both uncovered I can see, things get blurry now and then but generally I’m okay. Cover up my left eye and the words in front of me are blurry, I cannot even focus on my own hands! It’s times like these that I want to take the faulty parts of my body out, line them up and just yell at them. Realistically I know it’s not going to get me anywhere, I’ve also banned myself from googling my symptoms, I know it will just tell me I’m  going to die, it’s one of the things google does best! I’d rather wait for hopefully a much more optimistic diagnosis from a Doctor.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s not the Dystonia, and that it is a condition that they can easily treat! It would make a nice change.

Posted in Archive, June 2015

Judging When To Get Checked Out

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Saturday evening, after a drizzly but fantastic day spent at Ascot racecourse, I found myself lying on my side in the living room in a fair degree of pain after my hip gave way. After a quick feel I was certain that it hadn’t dislocated and the fact I had remained conscious and had not slipped straight into one of my seizures reassured me that nothing too untoward was at play. However my hip, when not spasming, has never been the reason for me falling before, so the fact I was not seizing I felt could not be 100% relied upon. Perhaps my brain had functionally paralyzed that part of my body? Even momentarily, would have been enough, after all my hip had caused me increasing amounts of pain all day.

I still don’t know why this happened. After spending a couple of hours on the floor we eventually got me to my room, and I spent the following day, on bed rest, taking plenty of regular painkillers and ant-inflammatory’s. It is only now on Tuesday that I am walking around without as much discomfort, though I’m still taking regular anti-inflammatory’s. One of the issues I often find with my myriad of medical conditions is judging when to get arising issues checked out. With my bones I usually go by whether the complaint is swollen or not, this is on the advice of a plastic consultant, due to my EDS. However when it comes to the rest of my conditions it can be pretty hit or miss.

When I end up in Accident & Emergency, or when I’m at my GP’s, I often feel like I’m wasting their time because of how often I’m there. The best they can do is patch up the new issue; like sticking a fabric plaster on a cut before getting in a bath. It’s almost pointless because you’re just going to have to stick another one on when you get out, but for the mean time it’ll do. The reasonable part of me knows this isn’t the case, that I need their help and I’m extremely thankful for it. But whilst I’m there I can’t deny that’s how I’m feeling, especially when a lot of appointments involve me battling to receive treatment I need.

Judging when to get checked out is a minefield. So often I leave things until they have reached a point where I probably have made it worse for myself. This seems to be a common issue among people with chronic health conditions. Many of us have accepted that we are chronically ill and that we will have falls or spasms etc., we just don’t want to make a nuisance of ourselves or accept another symptom or injury.

Posted in Archive, June 2015

Mind and Body: Opposite Ends Of The Spectrum

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The difference between my mental and physical capabilities is vast. Dystonia has meant that my health has changed frequently and I have to constantly remind myself that just because I think I can do something doesn’t necessarily mean I can. Those who know me well, know that I tend to think well I’ll give it a go and if I spasm, then I’ll learn from it. Trouble is, my thought pattern then alters to well body, you may have spasmed last time, but if I do it again perhaps you will learn. It is not a smart way to deal with the condition; my neurologist really is a saint for putting up with me.

Mentally I feel no different to how I did before I became ill. If anything I am more determined to do things, to attempt to try to retrain my brain. It may sound slightly out there, but if you can desensitize nerves, then why not reteach the brain movements? I’m determined to get it through to my Dystonia alien, that twitching and throwing things just isn’t polite.

Over the last two weeks I have been far more active than usual. With my exams over and done with, and no revision needing to be done, I have filled my spare time with constant activities.  Part of me is aware of my neuros six weekly reminders to not overdo it. I know that eventually my body will crash and spasm far more than usual, putting me at risk of seizing. It would be far more sensible to pace myself, to do an allotted amount each day. To do this would make my Drs happy, but I doubt it would reassure anyone that I was any safer; friends and family would still be concerned about me. I would still be ‘ill’.

To live my life by allotted sensible slots wouldn’t make me happy. Burning out now and then hurts like mad and I always say that I’ll take more care next time…followed by a laugh because I know I don’t mean this. I love to be as busy as I can. I will never overload myself completely; don’t get me wrong I allow for plenty of down time, chilling with a good DVD, recuperating. But slowing down isn’t for me, I know I’m ill, my body gives me a daily reminder (when the Botox is wearing off) with all the walls I hit, the jaw spasms and mad blinking but I have a lot of living to catch up on. I plan to do just that.

Posted in Archive, November 2013

Unpredictable but Not Alone.

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Dystonia is an unpredictable condition. It tends to progress slowly and the severity of a person’s symptoms can vary from one day to another“, NHS Choices. This quote sums up Dystonia quite nice and simply I think. It is extremely unpredictable, which makes it hard to work out what you are capable of doing one day to the next, if you guess wrong the games over for the day. In my case guessing wrong would result in me putting my spasming body to bed and hoping that a long nap will help calm my symptoms down…but thats providing the spasms don’t stop me from getting to sleep. I always try to make the most out of each day, to accomplish as much as I can incase the next day results in being unable to move from my bed. However trying this can often backfire on me and ensures that I spend the next day in bed, but sometimes if I’m really lucky I get away with it for a day or two. These are the days I love, as on these days I am beating my Dystonia – not permanently, but even an hour of winning is a huge achievement.

Dystonia symptoms and it’s impact varies from person to person. A quick glance at the Dystonia Society’s list of type of Dystonia and their symptoms gives you an idea of just how wide a range http://www.dystonia.org.uk/index.php/about-dystonia/types-of-dystonia . Due to this it does not surprise me that Doctors understand so little about the condition, why patients have little choice but to fight tooth and nail to find a treatment that works for them, to find a doctor who will listen. Through the power of the internet I have slowly got in touch with more and more sufferers, and even a handful of curious doctors. The sufferers amaze me. I hear the stories, and count myself lucky that I have a good support network, something many do not have. We all band together to raise our voices to get Dystonia out there, and it’s working. Slowly but it’s working. The emails I get from Doctors around the world prove that.

Yesterday at Choir we were practicing Christmas songs, which got me thinking of all the things I was thankful for. As much as I wish nobody had to suffer from this hideous condition, I am so extremely thankful that there are others out there. That those of us lucky to have found each other can support one another, give advice and a listening ear. Without being in contact with these amazing people, I honestly wonder how I would cope. I am also thankful to those of you who read this blog, and often share it with others. Since becoming ill I have become determined to become an advocate for Dystonia, to make my voice heard, and bring awareness to the condition and what it is like to live with it. Looking at the comments you lovely people leave me, the shares, likes and statistics  brings me such happiness, as it shows me just how far my voice is being heard and assures me I am on the right path.

On one last note, I promised a while ago to upload photos of the amazing women who raised money to buy me a bath lift. I have attached them underneath. I feel incredibly lucky to have met such generous and caring women.