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, 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

Hormones and Chronic illness

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Hormones, they hit us out of the blue in puberty and never stop showing up no matter how much we hope they may just skip a month. Even before my diagnosis of Dystonia my monthly visits from the witch were awful.

During my teen years my periods were unpredictable; sometimes not showing up for months and sometime arriving every two weeks. They would leave me doubled over the toilet in the night throwing up from the cramps, and going through a pad in under an hour over and over again. I spent years visiting my then GP who told me all this was normal and that I needed to learn to deal with these symptoms. It was only then when I was studying for my midwifery course that I had the courage to go to a new gp who recognised my distress and referred me to gyny. One operation later and I was diagnosed with Endometriosis.

Quote from Camran Nrzhat, ND.

Now my periods are worse than before and on average last 72 days. Yes you read that right. They last 72 days. Now normally they’d treat with a hormonal contraception to stop the period. Here’s where my health comes into play. My spasms, now I don’t know whether this is my Dystonia or EDS, but I can’t use any intrauterine device as the spasms physically reject it from my body which is fairly uncomfortable. The pill*/patch/injection all work on giving you progesterone however I am unfortunately one of those rare Ehlers Danlos suffers who can not tolerate this. The increase causes a dramatic increase in dislocations body wide.

*I am aware there are pills that are not just progesterone based however due to the fact I get daily migranes with aura I cannot take these as it increases my stroke risk.

Between the prolonged bleeding which leaves me severely anaemic (currently 3.1), the increase in spasms, dislocations, fatigue, it’s fair to say hormones really screw me over. So gentle hugs to all who also experience this. Remember chocolate always helps!

Posted in Archive, Novemeber 2020

Who to Turn To?

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After a week long stay I was finally discharged from one of our local hospitals yesterday evening. I was admitted due to pain in my left eye which has optic neuritis, it had become overwhelming, to the point I felt I had to apply pressure on my eye to relieve it. I had also lost the sensation in the bottom half of my right leg.

During my time in the hospital they decided to carry out a Lumbar Puncture and MRI knowing that my neuro team wanted to do these anyway. The LP side effects I’m still dealing with, I am still having issues with my bladder, my whole leg now has no sensation, and I have a permanent horrondous headache. Both tests came back clear which left the dr’s there confused. On discharge I was diagnosed with Complex neurological disorders and global sensory loss in the right leg, and told my neuro team would take over figuring out the cause.

Today I had an Opthalmology appointment at another hospital. The opthamologist in charge of my care is wonderful. I sat down, he faced me and said “So you have MS ” he was quiet matter of fact about it. I corrected him and pointed out that my tests had come back clear. He muttered that they were wrong and went on to examine my eyes. After several tests he sat back looked me in the eyes and again said “Rebecca you have M.S”. He was quite insisted that my doctor’s must have missed something on my scans due to the state my eyes were in.

So where do I go from here? Such wildly different view points, everyone agreeing that my local neurology team needs to see me again and review what the different teams have found. However getting hold of them is darn impossible. Both myself and my gp surgery contacted them a few days before I was admitted informing them I was going downhill, and needed input desperately. Neither myself or my gp’s surgery has had a response yet.

Right now I’m very emotional and very stressed. I’m taking things moment by moment and trying to just accept things as they are and get on with it. But I work best with action plans and right now I don’t even know who’s responsible for my care. I feel very lost in the system.

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, march 2020, September

Isolation Week 2

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Although I only received my instructions to isolate myself for the next 12 weeks from the government on Monday, we had infact already been in isolation for a week as both myself and my partner Damon bad been symptomatic. Whilst I’m pretty much symptom free now, Dame is still locked away upstairs as he remains unwell. Whilst he would only be considered a mild case, it’s worrying none the less.

We decided early on that we would follow all instructions to the letter as we know how risky a simple cold to me can be. The symptoms I had last week had me reaching for my inhalers constantly. What hit home in particular for me was our two year old son is also on the shielding list due to his medical issues. Luckiky, as much as he desperately wants to go to the park, he’s quiet happy accepting, that there’s a nasty bug outside, so for now he can’t.

It’s hard however to follow the governments instructions when my partners in isolation. For example I’m not really supposed to be particularly near our children and supposed to be three steps away from everyone. Well with Damon isolated I’m the sole parent, and they are now both sleeping in our room. There’s no alternative. But we’ve got to make the best out of a bad situation.

I’m starting to experience more spasms and pain as my Botox wears off. My next lot is supposedly in London at the end of next Month which I’m expecting to be canacled. I’m hoping an alternative can be arranged at a local hospital in the meantime.

I would love to hear how everyone’s isolation is going. So please in the comments on my Facebook page do let me know. I’m aiming to keep this isolation diary updated daily either with blogs here or VLOGS on the Dystonia and Me page.

Stay inside. Stay Safe. Support our NHS.

Posted in Archive, February 2020

An Anxious But Honest Return

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This morning I was on the phone to my mum when she brought up the fact I hadn’t blogged in a long time. I am rather good at finding excuses for why; too tired, too busy with the kids, don’t know what to say. But none of those are completely true. So bless her, I rambled for quite a while as to the reasons why.

Firstly Ableism. Honestly I’m mad for allowing myself to be beat down enough to feel I didn’t deserve a voice as an activist for people with Dystonia and other invisible illnesses anymore. Up until the last several months I had been having a relatively stable patch which I had been making the most of, and for that simple reason I felt I wasn’t ‘sick’ enough to do this anymore. Which is frankly ridiculous. I have several conditions all of which are chronic, a couple that will continue to deteriorate as I age. My good spells generally never last longer than a Botox cycle, yet because I don’t fit into a nice stereotypical tick box of what disability should look like I felt like I couldn’t blog. I expect myself to be able to do everything that a healthy person can do, because that it is what people, I feel, expect of me from many not so subtle comments for example lose weight your joints won’t hurt as much.

Secondly, was my depression and anxiety. The anxiety and paranoia I experience partially stem from post natal depression but are largely side effects of my medication. I feared hugely that holding my hands up and saying ‘Hey, I’m trying my best but I’m struggling like crazy, I’m terrified by the deterioration I am currently experiencing in my body and I don’t know to do’ that my doctor’s would somehow read this and decide to withdraw the medication that is so vital to me and pack me off for yet more counciling. That may seem ridiculously paranoid to read but when you’ve lived years of doctors gaslighting you, undermining your very real physical symptoms, skirting around the subject of mental health is now habit (though I am on antidepressants now).

I hope that clears things up. I want to blog here more. It helps to write it down and connect with others in the same situation.


So here’s a very late Happy New Year.

Posted in Archive, March 2019

The trauma of Anesthetic Free Surgery

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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.