Posted in Archive, August 2021

Pacing; Using A Wig

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Moments ago I quickly signed off a Facebook live as my partner walked through the front door, home from his evening gym session. Normally during my lives I’m very good at opening up and sharing my concerns but tonight I struggled. They are superficial to say the least.

Yet as Damon sat down I burst into tears. This seems to have become an evening routine. I’m physically struggling at the moment so I’m cutting corners where I can to save energy and reduce pain. This is starting to really bother me. Things like washing my hair is something I do as little as possible as it’s painful, energy drainage, and often leads to a flare in pots, eds and dystonic symptoms. Yet I don’t want to look unclean. The solution I have in mind I’m not to sure of. I don’t know whether to go for a drastic buzz cut and wig wearing while it grows back; the difference being I would follow the no poo method which would result in less physical stress on my body, or just to try to wig wear on days when I’m struggling.

Trying a wig for the first time to explore the idea

I’m still exploring my options. I’m not reaching for the razor on the back of feeling emotional no matter how tempting it may seem. The plan currently is to reach out to hairdresser’s first for advice on the above idea but also on the issue of hair loss which I currently have in certain patches which gets me down. I’d love to hear from anyone whose done similar.

Posted in Archive, August 2021

Freedom; Are The Disabled Included?

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We recently were fortunate enough to spend a chunk of time down south visiting my mum. It was a lovely break away from routine, and the kids were over the moon to get to have a ‘extra long sleepover’ with their Granny. If it weren’t for the newly added hand sanitizers that appeared on every corner one could almost forget about the pandemic for a moment.

On our way home we chose to pull in at a service station to let the kids stretch their legs after hitting the que of another incident. The kids dad took them off to the toilets whilst I popped into the shop. I only needed a couple of items, and instantly looked for a basket as one hand is strapped up at the moment due to scaphoid fracture. There were none.

It may sound dramatic to say that I started to feel anxious at this point but it’s true. I can’t hold things in my fractured hand and my other is occupied with my trusty walking stick. In the end I resorted to cradling the items in the crook of my elbow. I dropped them repeatedly. The staff noticed from behind the counter and did nothing other than stare. Other customers, who were incredibly kind, helped me gather up my shopping as I shuffled about, hunted for a basket and confirmed that due to Covid they’d been taken away.

Eventually, feeling really rather embarrassed at my inability to hold a couple of items, I approached the staff at the tills. When I queried the lack of baskets, I was met with a shrug and a murmured grumble about Covid. I asked about how they expected their disabled customers to cope, after all they had watched me struggle and drop my items several times. In reply he simply offered to scan my shopping and bag it for me, let me pay, then he would watch it so I was free to carry on shopping. It was crystal clear that they had not faced with this situation so far.

Numerous charities and research groups have been saying this through out the pandemic; the disabled community are being left behind. Article after article has stated how disabled people have reported feeling overlooked, forgotten, isolated, ignored. Just today there was a piece on how two York Councillors were not allowed to vote on accessible parking in their area as by being disabled they had a prejudice – madness!

Freedom day has come and gone, yet now things have reopened I’ve found that actually I’m running into more restrictions that affect my disability than prepandemic – for example in the same service station they wouldn’t open up the disabled toilets as they didn’t have a designated staff member free to monitor them. They had a member of staff a few feet away though in the ladies directing women into cubicles.

While it may sound like I’m riled up about not very much it’s not something im going to let slide. I don’t by any means think that the staff in the shop should have magically have transfigured a chocolate bar into a basket but they could have offered a bag for me to go around with or to have walked alongside me and helped. Either way I would have been and out in less than half the time if if id just had a little bit of aid. Which is something I’ll put in my letter when I write to them later this week.

Posted in Archive, July 2021

Acceptable Collaterable Damage for Freedom Day

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With Freedom Day ear marked for July 19th and the majority of restrictions being casually tossed away one would have thought we were turning a corner where the public as a whole could breath a sigh of a relief. But with herd immunity being discussed again, talks of case numbers reaching 100,000 daily, it has to be asked are we offering up our disabled, our elderly and our unvaccinated under 18s as collateral?! Its worth remembering that six in ten people who have died of covid in the UK were disabled. The disabled community have been hard hit throughout this pandemic and failed by our government.

As a household two of us were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and had to shield, perhaps it’s unsurprising that I’m not celebrating freedom day. I am double jabbed and have a degree of protection, but my four year old son who also had to shield, whose school seems to constantly have new cases, he has no protection from a vaccine yet the government suggest classes will no longer have to isolate?! Madness!

The term Freedom Day keeps being tossed around but what freedom is there truly when there is also talks of introducing shielding again for the clinically vulnerable this winter. I’ve spent 14 months shielding already. I understand why people are clammering for to get their normality back, yet surly little and gradual is better than throwing fuel on the fire?

We know so little about Covid-19 and indeed long covid. Can our primary school children/younger generation develop long covid? How will this impact in the long term?

Personally for me I’ll still be wearing a mask in crowded areas/public indoor areas, and keeps a distance from other people. I know people will think I’m over reacting however this is what I believe is best for my family and myself and until covid cases etc are much lower or a vaccine is introduced for children I feel it’s necessary.

Posted in may 2021

An Open Letter to Stagecoach & Arriva Bus

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Dear Stagecoach & Arriva Bus,

I’m writing you an open letter as one of your disabled service users, and a frequent customer. I’ve had a few issue traveling before but today took the biscuit. Myself and my two young children were using your service to travel home from a hospital appointment. We flagged a Stagecoach bus down first. The driver pulled over, explained that he had already allowed two prams on, one was in the allocated buggy area and the other in the wheelchair space; neither parent wished to fold their pram down or move and off he went. I was more than slightly shocked as this is against your covid-19 policy which is listed on your site. I’ve screenshot it below, along with a picture taken from another of your buses which points out that it is law for a buggy to be moved from the wheelchair space should one need to board. Yet we were left in the rain.*

Stagecoach Accessibility FAQS
Sign stating the law that wheelchairs have priority

Arriva Bus, it was one of yours that we flagged down next. This time, there was only one pram on board. Inexplicably the parent and pram had placed themselves in the wheelchair area despite the buggy section being free. When your driver asked them to move so we could board, they refused to move and the driver simply shook his head at me said “Sorry, love.” And drove off. This caused quite the stir at the bus stop, with others asking if this was something that happened often. It is quite disappointing to say that this is not the first time that has. Here is a screenshot from your own website Arriva of your policy for wheelchairs and prams.

https://www.arrivabus.co.uk/help/conditions-of-carriageArriva Bus Carriage of Wheelchairs and pushchairs

Considering how much time has passed since Doug Paulley first brought his discrimination case to the supreme court back in 2012 over this matter I really expected this issue to be non-existent/on its way out. However experiencing it twice today within a matter of minutes is beyond a joke. How do you explain it to a four year old that two bus drivers didn’t want to follow the law? “Sorry we are not getting that bus either because the driver didn’t want to point out that it’s actually law for her to move over into the pram space. Despite it being his job.” Its disheartening, upsetting, discriminatory and lazy.

I would ask that both companies refresh your drivers memories on your own policies, and on the law. You may have stuck signs inside the buses but that is pointless if you are not going to act on them!

R. McDowall

*I want to acknowledge the kind stagecoach driver who was coming towards the end of a break and witnessed all of this. After waiting a few minutes and realising it was a while before anymore buses going in our direction would be there, cut his break short and drove over to us to let us on. I couldn’t have been more thankful.

Posted in may 2021

Ambulant Wheelchair Users

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For those who don’t know me personally when they see me coming along me in power chair they naturally presume that I’m wheelchair bound. It’s always an interesting situation when they see me move my legs so I’m more comfortable, or stand up to get in to the house. Sometimes I need the chair full time due to injury or severity of spasms, other times I need it due to length of time we’re out for and my body cannot handle it.

Whilst I’m confident in using it and appreciate how much freedom it provides. I’m not quiet used to the interactions yet with people with nothing nice to say. There’s been a few occasions of people telling me if I lost weight I wouldn’t need the chair, or to stop being lazy and walk. Presumptuous really considering they have no clue why I’m in it but also hurtful. I’ve always been a sensitive soul and I need to learn to toughen up.

I’m currently using my chair full time due to yet another injury thanks to my EDS. I find it odd how many people still are surprised by ambulant chair users. It’s an area that deffinently needs more discussion and awareness. I’ve used wheelchairs on and off for years due to my many conditions, as my EDS has deteriorated the use has increased. It enables me to still function and go about my day to day life independently, something that is very important to me. I couldn’t be more greatful for my chair.

Using my power chair to get home from church.

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, October 2020

New Found Independence

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After discovering recently the wait to be assessed in my area for an electric wheelchair was likely to be several months if not more, we decided to explore what other options were out there. My happy accident after days of searching and getting to the point of really feeling like I was just going to have to accept that I was essentially mainly house bound at the moment, I stumbled across National Mobility Hire, which I have until April 2021; hopefully by then I will have had my assessment but that’s about the current wait time. I only wish I had found them sooner. This morning they dropped my electric wheelchair off and it’s as if they gave me the key to life back.

As soon as Damon had got home from work we set off out with the kids to test drive the chair. It was a complete and utter dream, to be in control was empowering and so uplifting. It gave me such a boost. Since loosing the use of my leg I’ve been unable to take my son to school, such a basic task every parent does and it has devastated me. We weren’t entitled to help from the council as he’s not compulsory school age, my partners hours change every other week so he couldn’t take him, and Covid-19 has limited our options for help as we live in a Tier 3 area. Honestly with each week that was going past it was harder to figure out; this chair completely changes that, it enables me to get him there and back again. Knowing I can do this myself again brought me so much joy.

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, Feb 2019

Three Becomes Four

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As some of you may already be aware of from my other social media channels, we are delighted to announce that we are expecting our second child this summer. I had many concerns at the start of my pregnancy due to my previous poor experience in having my health insufficiently managed whilst I was pregnant with my son. This naturally left me with many worries as it was not an experience that I wish to repeat. My current GP is incredibly supportive and refreshingly up-to-date with his knowledge on my mix of conditions which has meant that so far *touch wood* although the pregnancy is complicated it has gone much smoother than we had expected.

I decided to take a few steps back from my blog in the beginning months. My health was really not great and whilst normally I would process how this was impacting me by writing about my experience here I didn’t want to blog about the pregnancy until we were past the halfway point; nor did I want to write half stories. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting blogs reflecting on the different things I experienced in this time. I’ll be touching on being your own advocate to doctors, the emotional trauma/impact of going through surgery without anesthesia or pain relief, and acceptance when doctors tell you your the worse case they’ve seen but there’s nothing more they can do for you. The last few months have been easier than my first pregnancy yet extremely hard in their own way.

I’m currently awaiting the results of further testing as once again my cardiac problems have reared their ugly head. I spend most days with a resting heart rate of 130+. It’s uncomfortable, to put it mildly. We recently discovered that the type of EDS I was originally diagnosed with was incorrect and that I actually have Classical Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which may explain my current cardiac complications. I have a few more tests to go before we know more.

This has been a very quick overview of the last few months which I apologize for, but there’s a whole series of posts coming soon.

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.