Posted in Archive, July 2021

Botox Side Effects – facial drooping

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Botox for me is life changing. Without it I would be hospitalised on an NG tube, unable to talk, swallow, eat, or drink. I’ve ended up in that exact situation previously. It’s unpleasant to say the least. I’m fortunate enough to receive Botox from my neurologist every twelve weeks and then a top up at the six week mark in the cycle from my maxofacial team to keep my jaw going.

I am extremely fortunate to experience very little in the way of side effects. Generally speaking I get ‘botox flu’ for a few days after and a flare in my complex regional pain Syndrome symptoms in my arm. This time though my mouth has been weakened slightly by the Botox. It’s not physically painful in anyway at all, it simply means the corners of my mouth are dropping.

At first I didn’t notice it to much, then I was hyper aware. I found myself wanting to be in pictures as little as possible as I knew I’d fixate on the turned down corners of my mouth despite the focused effort to smile. I was finding myself deleting photos of myself and the kids, myself on days out etc, over something as ridiculous as an altered smile.

It’s not as obvious in both photos above, but the fact I’ve kept these picture is a big step forward. I started to think about the example I was setting my children. It was not a healthy one. I do not want them to grow up thinking that we should scrutinize photos for imperfections. Photos have always been for us a treasure trove of memories, to help remind us of the many memories we have made together. Both my kids love getting our photo albums out to look at and this something I hope long continues.

My altered smile, is not permanent, however it is a reminder that I am one of the lucky ones who receives treatment and responds to it. That is something to celebrate not to fixate on. Whether it stays droopy or returns to normal I’ll keep snapping photos of our days out making memories. After all it wasn’t long ago I thought Dystonia meant the life I have now would be impossible. Forever thankful for Botox injections and medication.

Posted in Archive, July 2021

Injection Day and referral thoughts

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Waiting to see my neurologist

Today was botox day up in London with my lovely neurologist. He’s happy that the medication we started on a few months back is keeping me far more stable, which is amazing, so we are keeping that in my treatment plan. I’m currently on a medium dose so we have room to play with should we need to come winter when I typically go down hill due to the cold.

I’ve finally gotten the date for my video fleursoscopy which is the middle of next week. I’m a little nervous but it will be good to shed some light on what’s been going on internally and if there is anything specific that we can do/change to tackle it. This is to tackle the chronic aspiration.

Then it’s on to blood tests. Whilst I don’t mind these particularly, my veins are world class players at hide and seek. No matter how much I drink before hand they like to hide or better yet collapse. I often leave blood tests looking somewhat like a pin cushion. These are being done just to double check there’s nothing being missed and causing any issues whilst we wait for Gyny to see me. They were meant to see me almost a year ago. However they keep rearranging and cancelling my appointments, which my lovely GP is chasing. In the meantime I’m left with regular pain flares that leave me doubled up in pain.

I’m hoping now that more people are vaccinated that appointments/refferals may start going back to normal. Specially orthotics is one appointment I’m looking forward to, my knees and wrists need new splints. It’s not an urgent appointment in anyway but it would make day to day life a bit easier and reduce pain a little more.

In the meantime I’m ticking along. I’m looking forward to the schools breaking up and making the most of the summer holidays before my eldest starts primary school full time.

This made me laugh a lot. Credit to Theraspecs
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 March 2021

Medication Success

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As I have mentioned previously following a discussion with my neurologist I tried a couple of different medications to see if we could get a better handle on my spasms. In particular the spasms around my jaw as these cause me significant issues with pain, dislocations, and make it next to impossible some days to relocate my jaw; I’ve had the joy previously of coming round from an operation to have my jaw relocated under GA, only to dislocate when I wake up due to spasms, and have my surgeon coming running over to put it back in and bandage my jaw up. Not a pleasant experience.

Trihexyphenidyl is the medication we have added into my daily regime and it has made a huge difference. Little things like I can brush my teeth now with an adult sized toothbrush rather than a children’s one are possible, and instead of dislocating my jaw by brushing my teeth, my jaw is just in a small spasm and achy. My son commented the other day on the fact that my face isn’t wonky all the time and asked if my Jaw Dr had fixed my jaw. We had a quick chat about mummy’s silly brain and moved on, but for me that showed just how amazing this medicine has been.

I saw my neurologist the other week and he has suggested increasing the dosage further as I am currently not experiencing any side effects. I’m waiting to receive a copy of his letter to my gp explaining that I have the go ahead to do this at my own pace, so we can see just what improvements we can get.

Right now, thanks to lovely female hormones, I’m sitting here feeling quite sore all over as my body goes downhill each month due to the fluctuating hormonal changes. I’ve had several subluxes today in shoulder which have in turn aggravated neck spasms. Normally I’d be quite grumpy about all of this, and yes I’m not exactly thrilled, but having the Dystonia side of things more controlled doesn’t half make coping with the EDS etc, easier. Everything just feels that little bit more manageable right now, and that’s fantastic.

Posted in Archive, December 2020

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020

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The theme this year is ‘not all disabilities are visible’. This is stressing the fact that not every condition is immediately visible; according to the WHO report roughly two-thirds of people with a mental or neurological disorder will put off going to a doctor for help largely in part due to stigma, discrimination and neglect. As someone who has very much been on the receiving end of this trio when it comes to living with multiple neurological conditions, this comes as no surprise to me.

Looking at me as I am right now, curled up on the settee trying to not make to much noise so as to not wake the kids, you could be forgiven for not knowing I had a disability; even if your keen eyed and spotted my odd eyes you wouldn’t know that my sight was impacted and would be unlike to think too much about it. However even when you can spot my spasms or a dislocation, you cannot see my brain fog, my sensory loss, the neuropathic nerve pain, no one can see fatigue fight, the pain induced insomnia, the sixty odd dislocations a day and so much more.

Spot the faulty eye

I love talking with young children about my disabilities because they don’t hold back. “How does your chair work?” “Can you get upstairs?” “Do you have to put you your chair in the bath?” The look of fear on the parents faces as they worry that something not deemed politically correct may be asked is what I find disheartening. Without these beautiful minds being curious how can stigmas be fought against, broken down and normalised? This should be praised and encouraged. I appreciate that not everyone will want to be asked, but you’ll be surprised by how many people are more than happy to discuss these things.

Disabled people, whether the condition is visible or not, physical/mental/learning or otherwise are still people. Next time, pause, maybe ask a question, you could be amazed at how it opens your eyes.

Posted in Archive, October 2019

Full Body Dysfunction

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I had really debated whether or not I would post this blog. As you will know over the last 7 years I have strived to share the ups and downs of my journey with you all in a brutally honest fashion. However what I am experiencing right now is something I am finding to be increadibly difficult to deal with and awfully humiliating at times. However as I have found in the past that ripping the metaphorical band aid off and sharing bluntly with you all to be rather helpful I figured I may as well start at the beginning.

I shall try to keep it brief. About three weeks ago after several days struggling with a dislocated jaw and severe spasms to the point I couldnt eat or drink  I collapsed in the kitchen. The resulting head injury leading to an ambulance needing to be phoned. Several seizures later I was whisked off to resus. I dont remember much of the first four or so days in the hospital. Luckily despite being severly ill I had the sense to keep notes of my concerns, for example being denied antisickness and painkillers following several hours of vomitting and seizures.

For some unknown reason that was never communicated to me all of my medications were stopped the whole time I was in the hospital which led to uncontrolled seizures, spasms and pain. My kidneys were found to be damaged, there are changes to my spine and in my brain matter, I have been diagnosed with epilepsy. Twice whilst I was in there I had an NG tube placed and failed. Unfortunately the second time round it took the drs 6 hours to view the xray showing it misplaced. In this time I was quite distressed due to the fact I was violently vomitting blood due to a tear from the ng in the lower eosphaoghes for the better part of the 6 hours all with a dislocated jaw. A rather agonizing experience.

Throughout my 6 days in hospital I was on IV fluids 24 7 due to the fact I currently am having extreme difficulty swallowing and can go days at a time unable to do so. At the point of discharge I had managed a few sips in a 3 hour period and was discharged with no plan of action. Its been a hurrondous time since then with me only getting worse. However I am now also completely bowl incontinent which has left me terrified to leave the house. But being the mum of a 2year old means fear cant win.

Hopefully I’ll have a more optimistic update soon.

Posted in Archive, July 2018, September

6 Years Neurologically Challenged

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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.

Posted in Archive, July 2017

5 Years On

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I can’t believe we’ve reached 5 years since my battle with my Dystonia Alien began.  I wouldn’t say time has flown by but I have certainly survived far better than I had anticipated at the start. In the beginning I struggled to picture a day ahead yet alone 5 years down the line. I was by no means depressed I just couldn’t imagine living with this condition for any length of time. Each hour was filled with pain, each month was taken up with ambulance after ambulance trip to the local resus department. If you had told me in 2012 that in 5 years time I would be typing this sitting next to my partner in our flat with a new baby I would have scoffed. It didn’t seem like a life I would ever be able to have.

Looking back on the first year of Dystonia I find myself thankful that even though I still have my spasms, my wonderful neurologist has found a combination of injections and medications that work for me. Life is in no way easy, pain is still a rather constant companion, but I have far more control over my limbs than I ever expected to have.

My bad days, pictured above, are thankfully better controlled

I’m happy to say I no longer struggle to imagine the next day or year coming, nor do I dread the coming days anymore. Now I find myself excitedly looking forward and making plans for life post university, writing my next book and jumping without worry at any opportunity  presented to me. I acknowledge that I’m always going to have my struggles, but with multiple health conditions that’s to be expected. Despite, and because of my Dystonia, my days are filled with laughter and joy. What more could I want

It’s amazing  I don’t rattle, but all these pills keeping me ticking along.

Posted in April 2017, Archive

Dystonia Awareness Week 2017

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It’s currently the 2017 Dystonia Awareness Week in the United Kingdom. Usually I would have kicked off awareness week on time (yesterday) with a blog post, and as has become tradition, would have been sporting some lovely green streaks in my hair.  Instead I’m currently in the hospital due to a flare up of my Dystonia; at least the timing is appropriate and they’ve given me some sexy green slipper socks (so I’m squeezing the go green awareness campaign in).

Currently The Dystonia Society UK estimates that around 70,000 people are affected by the condition, making it the third most common movement disorder in the UK, however it’s thought that the affected number of people affected may be far higher due to a lack of knowledge within the profession affecting levels of correct diagnosis. Dystonia presents in a vast amount of varying ways across all age groups which adds to the complications when it comes to diagnosing patients.

Only a few decades ago it was thought that Dystonia was caused by psychogenic roots, thankfully through giant leaps forwards in research we now know that this isn’t the case; many people will never know what triggered their condition, whilst others now know that their Dystonia is caused by either a genetic mutation or brain trauma. Sadly despite the leaps in understanding of the condition many medical professionals still mistake this as psychogenic condition and therefore do not treat the patient appropriately. 

This is one of the reasons that awareness week is so vital,  without awareness and fund rasing events research into causes and treatment options comes to a halt. At this moment in time there is no known cure for Dystonia,  but treatment can have a significant impact in a sufferers quality of life. 

Though out awareness week I’m aiming to blog daily, however this may alter depending on how well I am.

Posted in Archive, January 2017

Dystonia and Pregnancy So Far

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Each of my conditions have reacted differently to my pregnancy and some new complications with my body have also arisen. So I’ve decided to incorporate these experiences into my blog with each condition being addressed in its own post as they are all unique and confusing in their own way.

At four weeks, pregnant my neurologist told me I needed to come off all of my medication due to the risks they presented to the baby as he developed. At that time, I was having six weekly Botox injections to my eyes, jaw, neck, and left shoulder, and I was on a range of oral medications including Gabapentin, Tramadol, Cetirizine, Topiramate, Dantrolene and more. My dosage for each of these medications were not particularly low which meant coming off them was a bit a of worry, luckily only the Gabapentin caused withdrawal symptoms (something I knew to expect after having the dosage adjusted several times over the years). I’m not sure if you’ve experienced withdrawal from Gabapentin, so picture uncontrollable weepiness because a cloud looks so beautiful, paranoia to the point you’re convinced that the shadow of the tree you just walked past is going to murder you and hideous night sweats. It’s not a walk in the park by any means but thankfully these symptoms didn’t last too long.

My main concern was how I would cope without Botox and my muscle relaxant Dantrolene. Over the last four and a half years I have been reliant on my six weekly Botox to keep me resembling an almost functional person, and Dantrolene was the only muscle relaxant that I found effective and can stay awake on for more than 5 minutes at a time. After expressing my concerns to my neuro he reassured me that I may not find these 9 months as terrifying as I expected, as some women reported experiencing an improvement in their symptoms in pregnancy. I wanted to believe him badly, any improvement I would take in a heartbeat, but at the same time I found it extremely hard to believe that something as natural as pregnancy could offer me an improvement that medication was unable to provide. Now I bow down to the wonder that is pregnancy, I’m currently almost 6 months’ pregnant and unbelievably my Dystonia isn’t too bad.

For the first 12ish weeks I only had minor symptoms, which was a relief as my severe morning sickness (I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum) meant that I wasn’t by any means well enough to cope with any severe spasms. By week 14 however I was admitted to hospital after spending 24 hours with my jaw dislocated and in spasm, unable to eat or drink. In the end, I was in the hospital for a week whilst they attempted to figure out what to do with me; without fail several times a day a Dr would look at me and be shocked that my jaw was still dislocated. I think my let’s laugh through the pain attitude confused them further. Eventually, after my midwife got involved and advocated on my behalf (amazing woman!) my neuro agreed to administer botox to my jaw and restart me on a small dose of Gabapentin, which has allowed me to remain fairly normal with the exception of the odd spasm; but I’ll take the odd daily spasm over an agonising spasm that refuses completely to go away.

Late November, day 5 in the hospital after being moved to maternity high dependency unit

Whilst my Dystonia is without a doubt very much present still, as it likes to remind me by leaving me functionally blind or distorting my jaw, I’m coping far better than I had ever imagined. I had truly expected to spend my pregnancy bed bound in hospital stuck on a feeding tube with irritable limbs, the fact that this hasn’t (touch wood) materialised feels like a miracle, especially as a feeding tube was at the start debated. If it could just stay like this for the remainder of the pregnancy I’ll thank my lucky stars.