At the start of January, I underwent a small surgery. I’d known for several weeks that I had needed it but due to being pregnant my surgeon wanted to wait until I was safely into the second trimester before we risked putting my body through the stress of it. I am by no means a stranger to surgery; due to my varying conditions I’ve had more surgeries than I care to think about. Whilst I was naturally nervous with all of them, this one was by far the worst. With my previous surgeries, it had always been carried out under a general anesthetic, this time, however, as much as I would have far preferred to be knocked out, I was wide awake and able to feel everything.
My surgeon had made it clear to me from the start that if he could have put me to sleep he would have done, but as it was a quick surgery he didn’t want to do so due to the pregnancy. A decision that I fully agreed with. The complication we faced was that I experience no response to the local anesthetic. It doesn’t matter the type or amount you inject me with, it does nothing. This is down to my Classical Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My surgical team and I have a very good relationship, and we talked at length about the possible sedative medications we could use to help me through the procedure; ultimately it transpired that the few medications that were appropriate to use I am severely allergic too. With no other options, I consented to undergo the surgery with no anesthesia or pain relief.
Clambering onto the operating table, staring up at the bright lights above and conversing with the operating surgeon went against everything that felt natural to me. My surgeon cracked joke after joke, trying to keep me focused on anything but the pain that his scalpel inflicted. Having to force yourself to lie steady, and not scream for help whilst someone is cutting into you, to try not to curl up in a ball and cry hysterically is hell. If I hadn’t needed the operation I would not have put myself through it.
I had wrongly presumed that because I can handle dislocations like a pro that this surgery would not be that much harder. Instead, I find myself waking up at night in a cold sweat, gripping my duvet, absolutely consumed with fear. Night after night I go to sleep and dream I am back on the operating table except for this time the pain never stops, the surgeon just keeps cutting bits of me away until there is nothing left.
I am fairly certain that the nightmares are getting worse due to the possibility of needing a c-section in the not so distant future due to a low-lying placenta. Whilst I know if this is the case my team will put me under for the operation, the irrational part of me has still built up a fear of once again being on the table able to feel everything. A position I hope never to be in again.
I first heard the words Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fixed Dystonia back in 2009; I had just been admitted to hospital with unbearable pain, colour changes, temperature fluctuations and a hypersensitivity to touch in my right leg. I would spend the following six months confined to a hospital bed learning to retrain the damaged nerves. It was a hell I would not wish on anyone. I am one of the lucky few, whilst I never achieved full remission, the pain eventually reduced to a tolerable level which only flares up if I lie down on that side of my leg for too long or bash it. Unfortunately I was rediagnosed with CRPS in summer 2015, this time it had manifested in my left shoulder blade and arm. Once again it had been caused by repeated injections to the same site which resulted in damage to the nerves.
CRPS has been a condition I have fought for many years, generally I have a good handle over it. I know what to avoid and how to help myself as much as possible. Yet every now and then I have days and nights like the last 24 hours. It is hard to describe the agony in which I have spent it in. The night before last I simply bumped my thigh whilst getting out of bed. The pain at the time seemed excessive for such a little bump, but I presumed if I lay down and rested for a few minutes it would die down to its usual level of simple discomfort. Instead with each minute that went by the pain intensified as did the spasms.
I made the decision yesterday not to leave the house, I knew I would be fully reliant on my wheelchair and that even the lightest breeze would reduce me to tears. Instead I kept myself fully medicated on Tramadol which dulled the pain slightly but nowhere enough. I needed both my walking sticks to hobble the few steps to the toilet. Each accidental brush from the cat as it went past left me biting back screams and in yet another wave of tears.
The spasms and pain kept me up for the majority of the night. I managed just over three hours sleep in the end. The spasms twisted my leg into positions that resulted in multiple subluxations, and my nerves flaring meant that I could not bare the touch of clothing, the mattress beneath me, or a duvet. It’s hard to explain to someone this type of pain, at the point of time I would have jumped at the opportunity to have the nerves severed. To be honest, even right now at this time of writing when the pain is slightly reduced but still horrific I would beg for it to be done. Let me put in perspective for you, full blown labour is easier to deal with.
Whilst the pain is improved today I am still struggling. I feel as if someone has sliced my leg open multiple times from my thigh down to my soles and has rubbed vinegar into the wounds. The constant spasm in my thigh has left me exhausted and desperate for a relief that seems as if it will never appear.
I know that in a few days time in all likelihood I will be back down to my usual levels of pain and spasms, but there is a niggling fear at the back of my mind that it won’t reduce further. That fear is more terrifying to me than anything.
Terror. That one word sums up how I felt for 7 hours last night. My face had not been good for most the day, and by the evening my tongue didn’t want to stay inside my mouth and my jaw was slightly deviating. This eventually became rather painful so we resorted to Oramorph and I tried to take a nap in the hope of sleeping the spasm off. However the symptoms I woke up to terrified me to the point of tears.
My brain had disconnected from the lower half of my face leaving me functionally paralysed. This meant I could not open my mouth, talk, eat, drink, swallow, take meds etc. I could do nothing, and I could feel nothing. I was terrified. Now I’ve had a similar thing happen to my legs before but whilst that unnerved me I could deal with it as I could communicate what was going on and they always came back fairly quickly. However this time it took 7 hours to come back and with each passing hour I grew more and more scared. I had no idea what to do.
Doctors have no idea why this happens hence the term functional put in front. My neurologist thinks that for me this is my body’s way of coping with pain. When the pain triggers a response from my flight or fight system, my body chooses to flee by shutting itself down. I have no control over this and it scares me. The medication that can help with it I am unable to take as it interacts with other medications that I rely on.
Last nights 7 hours of facial functional paralysis was a new level of fear. I had no idea what to do. I could not communicate my fear. I tried my best to sleep, in the hope that relaxing and resting would help. However I found it very hard to relax and get to sleep. I managed some sleep but it was very on and off, every time I woke up to discover that it was still paralysed I became more unsettled. Thankfully at 3am my brain reconnected and I quickly took all the pain meds I could and went back to sleep.
This morning everything seems to be working, however I am on the weary side of it all, and still rather nervous. I am only eating very soft foods and trying not to talk to much to try to avoid triggering anything else off. Luckily I have an appointment coming up on the 8th with my neurologist so I can discuss this incident with him and get an idea of what to do should this happen again – hopefully it won’t.
I hope that I shall never experience this disturbing symptom again.
In the post today I had a follow up letter from my neurologist. He is still hoping to get me admitted into my local hospital for treatment, however if the hospital does not want to take me on, he will put on the waiting list to be admitted into the National hospital for Neurology. The waiting list for the National is a year long.
I am in two minds over this. It would be easier for me to be in my local hospital, as it would mean quicker treatment, my family and friends would be able to visit easier, and its an environment that I know well. However if I was admitted into the National I would be on a ward that has treated many people like me, which gives me confidence in their treatment plan, and there is a chance that even if I have treatment at my local hospital, I will end up at the National hospital anyway, so maybe going there first would make sense.
I know that at the end of the day treatment is treatment, and I am so lucky to have seen such an understanding and helpful consultant. However waiting a whole year for treatment scares me, so with that in mind going into my local hospital is very appealing. After all how much more could go wrong in that time? But then again, nothing else may go wrong! On the other hand even if I have treatment at my local hospital, I may still have to wait to be admitted into the National. I know that at the end of the day that I will be happy just to get treatment, but the unknown over which waiting list is shorter is slightly scary.
After spending the last couple of weeks in a wheelchair, I have decided that I am not meant to be in one…EVER! I simple do not trust anyone pushing me. Now I know that no-one was ‘meant’ to be in a wheelchair, but I am honestly a control freak. Every curb, bump, lamp-post, person, etc, that appears sends me into a panic! I find myself constantly saying “please steer further away from the curb” purely because I am terrified of falling out.
I know that whoever is pushing me, is trying their best not to throw me out, or run into anyone/anything, but I panic anyway. I normally end up gripping the sides or leaning away from the curb, despite knowing that these actions will not stop me falling etc. I think most of my panic is because I know that if I was pushing the wheelchair, I would be an awful driver, so in my mind, everyone is automatically a bad driver.
However, I must admit, that despite my irrational fears when in my wheelchair, I have had a few amusing moments in it. Take for example, my mother the other day, deciding to run (whilst pushing me) down an aisle in Tesco singing the James Bond theme tune. It was a moment that had us both in fits of giggles.
My fear of other people pushing me in my wheelchair, has just increased my excitement at my upcoming treatment, if there is anyway they can improve my symptoms so that I am able to walk (even if its only for short distances) would be so amazing! I can only hope and pray for the best!
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