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.
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.
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.
Last Tuesday marked the 6 year anniversary since Dystonia made a joint shattering (literally) entrance into my life. Previously I’ve marked this day by reflecting on where my life is in comparison to where I had planned it to be; not a great way to spend it and usually resulted in a lot of tears. This year was remarkably different, for the first time in six years I didn’t spend the day in tears and focused on how truly blessed I am.
The reality of my conditions means that as I age my body gets deteriorates a lot faster than a healthy person would. I already need a double knee replacement but have agreed with the surgeons to delay this until my son is in school full time. I’m told its inevitable that I will end up reliant on power chair in the future. The time frame for this is unknown, so I’m focusing on doing what I can to strengthen my body against the battering it takes from the too frequent dislocations and spasms. I’m starting by shifting the weight, it’s slow progress but I am making progress. I’ve found some local HIIT classes for mums and babies that are happy for me to do what I can whilst my son plays beside me. A month ago I signed up to the body coaches 90 day plan, which unfortunately I’m only just starting as I dislocated both my knee and shoulder and needed to let my body recover. His workouts are harder than my body can cope with right now but I’m adapting them and feeling great.
6 years ago if you had told me that I would be OK with living with a mile long list of debilitating conditions I would most likely have bit your ear off. Now I can see how my experiences are shaping me, I’ve learnt to grasp every opportunity with open hands and jump feet first. Whilst the idea of a further 6 years living in this pain is not one that I can even start to wrap my head around. I know that I have the strength to battle it and succeed.
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.
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.
Pain at the moment is my constant companion. After weeks of agonising, seizure inducing pain, and more hospital visits than I care for, I was informed I’d dislocated two ribs. I normally handle dislocation rather well; if my thumbs have popped out, it’s no big deal, I can pop them back in with ease, my jaw causes a fair bit of pain and in some cases I need help relocating it, but the majority of the time I can manipulate it back into place myself. My ribs however are a completely different story, there’s not a lot that can be done about it. I’ve had several medical professionals try and get them as close to where they should be as possible, a tear-jerking process might I add, and every time within hours they are back out of place. Sometime it’s simply because I twisted too fast or I sneezed or, if I’m a real dare devil, I tried to get out of bed. Everyday basic activities cause enough pain for me to be on regular codeine four times a day, and tramadol if I start seizing. The hospital doesn’t know what to do with me at first, they admitted me to: rule out anything more serious such as gallbladder problems; keep a close eye on the baby (who’s coping miraculously well with my faulty body) and keep me on regular doses of paracetamol, codeine and oramorph. Whilst they thankfully didn’t find anything on the scans that needed surgery, they did notice that both my kidneys are distended which won’t be helping my pain.
Now I’m back at home and it’s hard to know what to do with myself. There are some brief moments in the day when my pain feels manageable, like earlier today. Foolishly this afternoon, I decided to take advantage of feeling okay and fold some baby whilst clothes sitting on the floor. You would think that this is a job that shouldn’t take too long and isn’t exactly taxing, right? Wrong. The pain quickly got extreme enough, despite codeine, for me to realise if I didn’t lie down flat on the floor asap I was going to risk hurting myself as I knew my ability to stay conscious was fading. Whilst being on the floor was enough to keep me conscious for the majority of the time (I’m pretty sure I had 2 or 3 seizures), it wasn’t enough to stop my brain from going into functional paralysis mode. I spent just over an hour unable to move any part of my body, struggling to get my eyelids to flicker and completely unable to make a sound. I knew I needed help and that my partner was in the next room, but I had zero ways of indicating to him that I was in trouble.
It’s like having your mouth gagged, your eyes taped shut, and your entire body rolled up and bound tightly in a weighted blanket; the entire time even your thought processes become sluggish and it takes effort just to think. There’s so much temptation to just give in to unconsciousness, I can feel it on the horizon, creeping closer and there’s not a lot I can do to keep it at bay. Some days I admit I welcome it; being functionally paralysed terrifies me, I can’t bare being aware of how helpless I am at the moment in time. Other days simply managing to remain conscious feels like the biggest victory I could ever ask for and achieving it is my way of fighting back.
After about an hour on the floor I had regained enough control of my body to make small noises and through the blessing that is voice technology instruct my phone to call my partner. Eventually we got tramadol into me and managed to move me to our bed. I’m exhausted, it sounds bizarre but having your brain cut off from the rest of your body is shattering. I’m now curled up, wrapped in a fluffy blanket, relishing in the slightly duller pain. I’m admittedly scared to even consider moving but the pain killers have enabled me to feel my body and I’m in a safe place which is all I can ask for.
For the last eight months I have been frequenting the same coffee shop several times a week. If the sofa is available, I curl up in the corner of it whip out my notepad and will scrawl away for hours on end quite happily. It’s my routine, and one that I thoroughly enjoy. Spend enough time in places like this and you easily fall into habitual conversations and friendships with other coffee lovers.
The other day whilst lost in my thoughts, one of the regulars, Mr. Latte we shall call him, came over for our usual chat. Towards the end of our talk he asked if I’d be interested in going on a date and getting to know each other better. It was a lovely offer, and normally I would not hesitate, after all what do I have to lose? This time however I did pause. There have been so many occasions in the last year were I have watched my illnesses blow up a date in seconds; which is fine, it means time is not wasted, but it’s emotionally exhausting. Putting my conditions aside, I could not help but wonder how I would handle it. After the events of the other week the idea of being out with someone I only vaguely knew was not a pleasant one.
I find myself rather irritated by my reaction. When did I start to let my health and fears control me? I have always been the person to say yes and jump on board. This momentary new attitude isn’t the person I am, and is one I refuse to allow to become part of me. My stumbled over “I’ll think about it”, is not something I’ll do again. If I want to do something, then great off I go, if I’d rather not then fine, that is also great. Saying either yes or no is okay, but I shall not be this indecisive person any longer.
I don’t talk about my EDS much, though it’s a painful condition it’s symptoms are by far less noticeable than my Dystonia. This has resulted in me being more than happy to allow it to simmer away in the background. Often people think that the condition means I’m simply just ‘a bit bendy’. The reality is slightly more complicated.
EDS Type Three affects multiple parts of the body. In my case my skin is stretchy but tears and bruises very easily, I have multiple allergies, sublux and dislocate at the slightest thing and have chronic pain. When I talk about my subluxations and dislocations people often presume that I have to have fallen over, or injured myself in some way to cause it. This is not the case; this week I woke up on Wednesday morning to discover I had dislocated my thumb in my sleep. I laughed so much at this because it is frankly a ridiculous situation to find yourself in.
Whilst the EDS and Dystonia are two separate conditions they impact each other. My jaw spasms will often result in a dislocation, this happens more and more frequently. Previously the two conditions acting up at the same time would have been enough to set a seizure off. It’s a worry I have in the back of my mind frequently, there is always a chance that the next dislocation will result in me seizing in an ambulance. However, despite a recent increase in dislocations I am currently just coming up to six months’ seizure free; which has me thrilled to bits.
Receiving post is a very everyday aspect of life. Normally it’s not something that I would get over excited about. Every now and then though there is an exception. I received today three different types of support splints that the hospital had decided to order for me. The team I was under in the hospital witnessed several of my dislocations and noticed general issues in my hands and feet that could be improved with ease.
Three of the four splints arrived this afternoon. Two are designed for my wrists and thumbs. Part of the issue with EDS is that the brain does not always know exactly where the joints are. These splints help provide feedback to the brain along with stabilizing the joints.
The third splint is a gel ankle brace. If there was an Olympic medal for ankles giving away and falling over, I would take the gold every single time. My ability to fall down curbs, over thin air, and up the stairs is impeccable. The gel supports on both sides of this will cushion the joint whilst aiding stabilization. My skin breaks very easily due to the EDS so this design should work wonderfully with my skin.
I am hoping that the splints as a way of treating the EDS, and my upcoming Botox injections, should mean I spend less time hugging the floor.
I am currently an inpatient at The Royal National Orthopedic Hospital Stanmore on a rehabilitation and pain management program. I have just started my second week and so far it has been an interesting learning curve. The program has many components to it which all relate back to pacing. It would seem that after four years of my neurologist stressing to me the need to pace my life I may finally be learning – but don’t celebrate yet, it’a slow change but I’m getting there.
I have been really impressed with the course so far, the staff are fantastic. My assigned physio is fantastic and happily allows me to laugh my way through our sessions. Hydrotherapy has been my favorite therapy so far. The water provides resistance whilst enabling ease of movement in a relatively pain free environment. We had a session on foiling flare ups today, it’s rather reassuring to know that when I am discharged at the end of next week that I shall leave with a plan that shall help give me the tools to cope with it.
Whilst I am overall thrilled with the program and have been impressed with the therapies provided I cannot help but be tickled with the kitchen. So far everyday I have explained that I am allergic to X, Y and Z, and everyday I have been served food that I’m anaphylatic to. Ironically the hospital won an award last week for their catering…