Posted in Archive, January 2021

Disabled Parenting: A Learning Curve

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Being a disabled parent is something that three years in I still have not got my head around how to nail. Though does anyone ever nail the toddler years? My children are, at the time of writing, three and 19 months old. Both children are owners of strong, hilarious personalities. Both currently are sound asleep, I know my daughter will wake up in the morning with a rendition of either Baby Shark or Let it go, and my son will wake up just before 6am, delighted that it’s early. I’ll wake up and relocate my knees.

Each day for us is always an unknown to some extent. We try to pace our days by following an activity timetable, which gets switched about at the start of each week. The timetable was introduced not only to help manage with being housebound more due to shielding, but also to encourage subtly paced activities without making it too obvious. The children, know that mummy is disabled and needs to do things differently to daddy, but I do try minimise to some extent how much of that they see.

It is a fine and difficult line to tread. On one hand it is important to me that they understand that everyone is different, some people are disabled and that’s perfectly fine; however my son has a very caring nature, and does worry, so I do try to shield from him some elements that at three he doesn’t need to worry about. For example, right now due to hormones all my joints are loose, this has resulted in multiple subluxes, dislocations, general spasms and fatigue over the day. He’s aware I’m tired today, and slightly sore, but he’s also ‘tickled wrestled’ me, so I know he hasn’t picked up on much.

We made the decision quite a while ago that I would no longer cook with the oven for the family. This was due to a range of issues such as seizure, spasming with a hot pan, or dislocating. My partner does the majority of cooking, and on weeks when he is on late shifts we have carers come in to cook the tea. However I still ‘cook’ I use the phrase very loosely, things using the microwave.Today, was just one of those days that was a dropsy day. Everything I touched seemed to be destined for the floor, which is exactly where the kids porridge ended up after I picked it up to heat it up. My hand spasms were so ridiculous the food had ended up on the floor before I had processed quite what had happened. It reaffirmed to me, that whilst I order the food my place is no longer in the kitchen, and provided the kids with a good few minutes of giggling.

Learning my own hacks to make disabled parenting work for me is something that is a slow learning curve that I am just getting to grips with. For example buying a second seat belt for my wheelchair so I can strap my daughter to me when we go out for a walk. Each day is never the same as we adapt to the needs of my disobedient body and the cheeky duo. The kids never fail to amaze me with how well they cope though. I used to get in a state over the possibility of the fact they had to ‘deal’ with a disabled mum. Whereas now I am so proud of the caring nature the two of them have, along with their inquisitive minds.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

The Test Results Are In

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After spending the last several months in and out of hospital, losing the sight in my eye for an extended period of time and only partially regaining it, losing all sensation in my right leg and experiencing sensory issues in my arms I was once again told it looked like I had MS. Yet the examinations didn’t agree. I was left battling for help as different hospitals and departments seemed to find it impossible to communicate with each other. Well the most recent test results are in! We finally have an answer.

If I am honest I had almost given up on a diagnosis other than unknown complex neurology condition with global sensory loss. None of my Drs were communicating with each other, no one could agree with each other and that was resulting in me receiving no treatment. It has been a period of high stress and extreme emotion.

Today I finally had my Emergency Video Consultation  with the local specialist in Neurology; this was requested back in October. Firstly they are agreed it isn’t MS which is great confirmation. What they are sure of is that is another part of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Apprerently when I’m dislocating my knees the nerves around it are being over stretched and damaged hence the loss in sensation/function. The same thing had happened to my elbows causing the sensation I was getting in my lower arms and hands. This surprised me greatly; mainly as I had in fact asked the doctors this very question when I was on the ward last year and they laughed at me for suggesting it. In regards to my eyes the nerves are not communicating with my brain effectively, but are not damaged like you get in MS.

He’s suggested we get me booked in with my EDS consultant for some advice in the meantime on how to cope with these symptoms as they can last a significant amount of time.

So whilst the EDS is generally on a slippery slope currently and it’s all about managing it, keeping on top of my pain and being proactive, I feel that overall it was a very positive chat.

Posted in Archive, Novemeber 2020

Family Planning When Chronically Ill

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Damon and I had always said right from the start of our relationship that we envisaged having three children. We both came from fairly large families, with him being the eldest of three, and myself the eldest of four children, so it seemed natural for us to imagine plenty of tiny feet running around creating havoc in the way only kids can. As my conditions were fairly well controlled when we met, the only issue with our forward planning was the fact that I had been told many years before at the age of 19, that I had severe endometriosis; to the point that they suspect I would be unable to conceive naturally and would need medical assistance to do so.

Common symptoms of Endometriosis

We have been fortunate to have been able to have our son Stefan Elijah, now three, and our daughter Evie Maise, now 18 months, without any assistance. Their existence to me feels miraculous. When we fell pregnant with Evie we discussed frequently trying for our third child shortly after her first birthday. It was exciting, and something I was really quiet fixated on. Physically I had managed to get back to a good place after having Stefan, and it seemed wise to do it close together, before my health started to go downhill. My pregnancy with Evie was a rough one however, and I spent multiple periods as an inpatient in my local hospital. We had hoped that after Evie’s arrival that my body would improve again as it had following Stefan. However, this time round it took months to get back in to the Botox system and once again I ended up in the hospital for over a week needed an NJ, constant fluids, unable to swallow, or really communicate. With each day the idea of a third was slipping further away, I refused to talk about it for awhile. It really affected my mental health.

While I have had periods of better health over the last 18 months, it has generally been a downhill, to the point where I’m now essentially blind in one eye, reliant on an electric wheelchair outside of the house, and being assessed for demyelinating diseases on top of everything else I already had going on. My hands are full to say the least. So Damon and I sat down and agreed that it would be unfair to even consider bringing a third child into the family; he was also concerned if my heart could physically take a third pregnancy as it has struggled with the last two. It was an extremely hard conversation to had. Even though we both knew it be the right choice to make, it didn’t make the biological want for another child any less.

Stefan aged 3
Evie 18 months

I often get asked a mix of questions in relation to children. Sometimes people will ask “So when do you think the next one will come along?” It’s a well meaning question, that I always answer with a light hearted “oh my hands are full enough with two”, but it stirs the emotions, the want for another that is so strong since our daughter started to so much more independent. Other times it’s the slightly harsher “How you can even consider having biological children when you know some of your conditions are genetic?” Generally I don’t answer this question in public, mainly because it catches me of my guard. However it is fair. My Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has around a 50% inheritance rate, its slightly more prevelant in girls than boys. Yet there is every chance that both children have escaped without developing it, there is also a chance that if they do have the condition that it’s not as severe as mine. There is no way to know. It’s also worth bareing in mind that mine is made worse due to other conditions that impact each other. I would say that before you ask anyone about kids really think; if they have a medical condition perhaps stay away from the topic until they bring it up. In can be a sensitive one.

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, August 2017

Redefining Pacing Parameters

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Since my latest flare up began I’ve been taking extra care to make sure I acknowledge my accomplishments no matter how small each day and attempting to redefine my pacing parameters.  This is a key tool for me to keep in mind at all time. Mainly as it enures I acknowledge my further limitations during a flare up and act accordingly, but also as it keeps me focused on the positives and prevents me getting tuck in a emotional rut which often occurs in flare ups.

I had a wonderful opportunity as part of my publishing internship yesterday to direct and film an interview with an author signed to the publishing house. It was a fantastic experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  However like all things it required spoons, and far more than I had anticipated. Despite my lack of spoon saving preparation I got through the day relatively intact and the repercussions didn’t kick in until today.

This is where I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds in handling life with chronic illnesses. I didn’t attempt to struggle through the pain today, or go to the other extreme and do nothing (although sometimes this is needed); instead I decided we would go about our day as planned but I would use my wheelchair the whole time, with baby snug in his sling against me, and Dame pushing me rather than me risking dislocating a joint or three by self propelling.

We only nipped out for a short while as avoiding over stimulation is key on days when I feel my health is on a downward kilter. So a relaxing jaunt to the local coffee house and then onto Waitrose was our plan. I was quite overjoyed to find a wheelchair friendly trolley. A rare treat, that has quiet made my day.

Posted in Archive, July 2017

Clumsy But Cheery

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Last December at one of my maternity appointments the doctors sat me down and informed me that they believed that the damage occurring to my body throughout the pregnancy would be permanent and that they did not expect me to recover; any minor improvements they said would take at least a year to occur. I left, slightly terrified and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I had been advised to upgrade my manual wheelchair to an electric one.

10 weeks on from the birth of my son and whilst my body hasn’t completely bounced back to its usual faulty self, I’m doing far better than anyone could have expected. I’m getting out everyday and helping prepare meals, making sure we’ve chosen spoonie friendly meals and we cook in bulk to help make flare up days that bit easier.  I’m balancing life as new mum with a home based internship, and couldn’t be happier. Each day I feel like I’m achieving and managing that bit more.

Naturally life never runs smoothly. Three weeks ago I joined Slimming World to help shift some of my pregnancy weight. Being plus size is detrimental to my EDS so I made the decision to make a positive change to help myself. Last night we decided we would treat ourselves to Slimming World Italian Affogato. This involves grating chocolate, something  I figured I would be able to do fine. Instead clumsy as every, I grated my finger, in my usual manner I brushed this off, however after waking up to it still bleeding this morning my GP sent me off to the minor injuries unit to have stitches.

It was worth it!

I have never felt so embarrassed by my sheer clumsiness before. After having the stitches put in I fainted and broke the same finger! I don’t think the Dr could quiet believe it. Yet I left the unit with a spring in my step, this incident highlighted to me just how well I’m coping. Since going back on my medications my spasms have reduced and I’m getting out a bit more everyday. So whilst spending the majority of the day in minor injuries isn’t ideal, for the simple fact I got myself there and back with no issue is a huge achievement.

EDS = clumsiness 

Posted in Archive, February 2017

Wheelchair Outings

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Over the last few weeks several of my consultants have advised me to stick to bedrest and insisted I use my wheelchair if I choose to go out. With most of my recent trips out mainly being hospital appointments, this wasn’t too hard, and so I didn’t get too worked up about it. I will always be the first to admit that I’m not great at being in a wheelchair, it’s not the lack of independence that bothers me (as the whole point of the chair is countering how dependent on others I am), no my issue comes from trusting no-one, including myself, of being in charge of a wheelchair

These issues come from within, and anyone who has paid witness to my attempts to push myself will agree, I am awful. Spatial awareness and coordination are key components when nailing the art of wheelchair driving; skills I am lacking in. I am surprised shopkeepers don’t barricade the doors when they see me coming so as to preserve their stock. The most impressive incident was in New Look around 3 years ago, the domino’s effect I caused in the sale aisles was comedy gold. Due to my interesting wheelchair skills, I tend to presume that those pushing me will be just as awful as myself, resulting in many ‘please don’t kill me’ panicked expressions whenever they dare to venture near a curb! In my opinion wheelchair driving lessons should be part of the deal when being prescribed one.

Yesterday Damon and I moved into our first home together, so decided to take a trip into town this afternoon to pick up the odd household supply. We’re very lucky that the area we live in is rather flat, it couldn’t be more perfect, this means that I’ll be able to get out and about even when my conditions are severe, which is something that previously would have been impossible. Damon’s quite adept with the wheelchair (we’ve yet to crash in to anything), but that didn’t stop me from pulling hilarious terrified expressions repeatedly whilst we were out today.

 

Happily away from any curbs…reenactment of curb fears

When I was first prescribed my chair, although it provided me with freedom, I found accepting that I needed it hard. In my eyes, it was a reminder of what I was unable to do. Now when I look at it I automatically smile, my fear of it always provides so much laughter, and it enables me to do every day activities, something that I’m extremely grateful for.

Posted in Archive, January 2017

Accepting Limitations

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Yesterday was a hard day physically & emotionally. I was struggling to sit up without my heart rate shooting through the roof, experiencing extreme dizziness, fatigue and high pain levels. This is my new normal though, and it’s exhausting. Late morning I had a phone meeting with my university disability advisor. She enquired about my symptoms and their impact on day to day life, along with what advice I had been given from the Drs; this was so that a plan could be put in place for me to safely complete the next semester of my degree. Admitting that I was fainting 20-30 times a day on average, had been advised to be on bed rest and use my wheelchair if I had to go out (which results in dislocations if I self-propel) was not something I found easy to vocalise. The little stubborn voice in the back of my head was protesting that I was perfectly well enough to physically attend my lectures. However not being able to guarantee I’ll remain conscious, being unable to eat without fainting, and with tachycardia developing just by sitting up a decision was made that I could not safely attend uni without putting myself at risk. Normally I’d argue against this, and I wanted to, but I have to remember that it’s not just myself I would be putting at risk. Now this doesn’t mean I’ll be putting off the semester till next year, it just means I’ll have to complete it from home which is perfectly doable.

Despite the fact that I know this plan of action is reasonable and realistic I couldn’t help but feel defeated. I know I’m not well enough to attend class, but to me that’s not acceptable I feel as if I should be trying harder; it’s a ridiculous attitude to have, but it’s there nonetheless.

Late last night I found myself feeling deflated and quite sorry for myself. I know this is pain related, I haven’t had so many bad pain days in a row for some time, so when periods of pain flare ups occur it impacts my view of things. Normally I’d just increase my meds, count down till my botox injections, knowing that in a matter of days I’ll be enjoying a good spell again. The fact that (unless an emergency spasm occurs ) there is no botox, no muscle relaxants, and limited pain relief options available until after the baby is here is hard. This is mainly due to having to accept my limitations once again.

Talking through how your feeling is something that I feel is undeniably important in enabling a person to help themselves. It’s the main reason I’m composing this post, so that I’ve expressed myself and can start focusing on being proactive rather than moping about.  I spent a good chunk of time talking to my mum about this turn of events yesterday afternoon. Looking back now I can already laugh at the number of times I uttered the phrase “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know what to do”. The reality is I understand perfectly well why I’m not able to go to class, I have a crystal-clear understanding of the fact all of my chronic illnesses can get worse during pregnancy (and the majority of them have) however this is a temporary change, I also understand it’s okay to feel this way.

There’s really not a whole lot I can do to change the situation, unless anyone can point me in the direction of a fairy godmother? I can manage my pain the best I can but other than that focusing on the positives that surround me is the best way to keep smiling; when I look at what’s already happening this year (moving to a new flat, expecting our son, still being able to complete the academic year, and a publisher agreeing to take on my novel) I have to admit I have more than enough to be smiling about.

Posted in Archive, July 2016

Would You Apologize For Shivering? Didn’t think so!

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Every now and then I receive wonderful comments/emails/tweets from people expressing how reassuring it is to see me post pictures of my spasms. These messages often include phrasing such as “I don’t know how you do it, it’s very brave” and “I wish I had your confidence”. I don’t talk about this much, but when it comes to my spasms my normal confident self generally disappears. The stares in the streets, the whispers of “look at her face!” and people’s general ignorant remarks “Could you please stop or do it elsewhere” (usually in reference to my arm spasms) have caused me countless hours of upset. I don’t believe in wasting hours on being tearful over something I have no control over though, I hope the pictures below show that while hard, life as a spoonie can be fun.

               Does this splint blend in?  Laughter; the key to making the most of the spasm free moments!

In many ways I’m your stereotypical 23 year old, I take way to many selfies, own far too many shoes and grew up head over heels in love with books; a passion that has resulted in me wondering where to put them all now I’ve run out of shelves! I have all the insecurities that is normal of somebody my age: I am overweight, I do not care enough about fashion as I’d rather be comfy, and don’t even get me started on my complexion. It’s tiny insecurities that are perfectly normal but when combined with my spasms often results in self-deprecation. There are days when I can walk about not particularly worried about some of the smaller spasms I experience, and then there are days when I’m hyper aware and embarrassed when in public, not just because I need an aid such as my wheelchair or stick, but because my eyes are spasming causing functional blindness, and my jaw is contorting to the point of dislocation; this is all whilst my left arm is casually attacking anything in range.

When confronted by people asking me to refrain from spasms, I try to politely explain that it’s nothing I can control and apologize. But why should I. Should you apologize for shivering when cold? It’s a natural reaction that you would never dream of uttering apologies for. So why then should I issue out apologies for something that is just as natural. Sure, everybody and their friend may not experience it, but it’s my brain firing off incorrect signals that are just as natural as your shiver or yawn.

I live in pain every day and never know what to expect from my body. Yet people judge me for this. If all I manage to accomplish that day is a shower and pulling on a clean pair of pyjamas then who cares, all that matters is that I achieved it, other days I am capable of so much more. But just because I have had the energy and ability to carry out a task at that point in time, does not mean I will be capable of performing the same task five minutes later, let alone the next day.

I try to live every day ignoring the sideways glances and stage whispers, enjoying everything I am fortunate enough to experience. These days I try to capture my spasms on camera, as after all they are just as much a part of me as the functioning parts of my body. So when you are say I’m brave and ask how I cope the answer is quite simple. I’m not brave, I am stubborn, Dystonia and my host of other conditions will not stop me from living life. Coping is a different matter altogether. Some days it’s as easy as breathing, and laughing feels like the answer to everything. Other days curling up in my bed escaping into books where the words provide comfort and distraction is all I can do.

Rocking my wheelchair!

Posted in Archive, March 2016, September

An Exciting Month!

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This month is full of opportunities that I never expected to experience. Towards the end of the month I’m going to Amsterdam for a few days with the university, followed by three weeks as an inpatient in the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore. It is an exciting time to say the least.

The publishing trip to Amsterdam shall not only be an insightful opportunity for my course, but shall also allow me to explore how my body will react to travelling. Visiting other countries was a luxury, that when I first became ill in 2012, I thought would have to be swept under the carpet and not thought about again. However, in comparison to four years ago my bundle of conditions are extremely well controlled, instilling me with the confidence to explore this opportunity further. To help ensure that I am as safe as can be my neurologist agreed to administer my Botox a week early to knock unwanted spasms on the head.

Back in 2013 this was me; reliant on a wheelchair with monthly ambulance trips to A&E.

Three years on I’m incredibly lucky to have a regime of medication and injections that enables me to live life to the full. I still need my wheelchair every now and then, but it is no longer a necessity for daily life.

Less than a week after I return from the trip it is off to RNOH I go for three weeks of intensive rehabilitation for my EDS Type Three. I have been on the waiting list for this stint for almost a year and a half, so I’m a bag of excitement and nerves in anticipation for my admission. My time there should enable me to carry on life with better habits when it comes to using my joints, hopefully that will mean less over extending, and help strengthen the weaker muscles and ligaments.

During my interview for the treatment we discussed what I would like to focus on strengthening, my first answer out of the several I was allowed to give, was my jaw. The combination of EDS and Dystonia means that my jaw comes out of place extremely easily, which inflicts a severe amount of pain. Knowing that jaw physiotherapy will be possible is huge news for me, as this issue is the main factor behind my seizures. Anything that will decrease the amount of subluxations and dislocations for my jaw has the potential to make an incredible difference to my life.

Needless to say I’m counting down the days to go!