Can We Truly Work With Our Doctors?

Everyone gives the advise to work with your doctor. And don’t forget have them communicate with one another. Except for, it’s not always that easy. Most times, it is not an open conversation with a doctor. They will tell you what they are ordering, you better make an appointment. You can avoid it for a while but if you don’t do a or b they will state you declined medical advise and they are not responsible. Or if you don’t do it they let you go as a patience. I have had so few doctors who sit down with me and openly discuss my illness, treatment, or testing, or daily life.

I am not the typical text book case, actually none of it is black and white. I am a rare case. One may picture that brilliant team of doctors around the sick person discussing how to help them. Sadly, that only happens on television. In real looks more like this: gastro sees patient tells patient tell your cardiologist to do this. *They NEVER speak* Cardiologist ah, doesn’t look normal tell your rehemunatologist to order this test. In the hospital they argue. And in the end all that is accomplished working this way is stressing out the patient.

The healthcare system does not function decently, but rather it is extremely dysfunctional. Advocating for yourself as a patent is not an easy task. Additionally, it is most times just as difficult for a caregiver to advocate. Some don’t think patients know anything and should just follow directions. At times, asking for something that is undoubtedly needed results in someone telling you that you want another problem or someone gets offended that you are telling them what to do. More and more stories surface with the medical community not paying attention and causing devastation.

Once you are established at a medical center switching doctors is not only a hassle but can be dangerous due to not being able to refill medications. Sometimes, it feels like we are taped in the Spoonie world and the medical professionals hold the key to our escape. Without being able to truly work together we as patients suffer greatly.

What types of medical dysfunction have you encountered?

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When A Warrior Passes

Honestly, I have wanted to write this post for a good two months, but it has been difficult to write.

You know once you have transported to the world of chronic illness that one day you will be devasted when someone passes away. However, you are never ready enough for that moment.

I had expected to eventually lose someone in a Facebook support group not someone I went to school with. Two weeks before she passed I ran into her mom while food shopping. I barely remember anyone from high school and it is embarrassing as well as frustrating for me. But when her mom said her name I could picture her sitting next to me in middle school. I had assumed she moved not that she was chronically ill with at least one of my illnesses. I promised her mom I would talk with her and we could hang out. Her mom said they were attempting to get her paired with a service dog. I was so excited at the possibility of having an in person chronically ill friend my age.

I didn’t hesitate finding her on Facebook.I tried to be patient waiting for her to response constantly reminding myself she was flaring. Within hours I found out I was too late and it broke my heart in a new devasting way. I immediately regretted not connecting with her sooner. I know she suffered way too long and things were horribly unfair. She should be going to college and building a life for herself.

Lossing someone who has one of your illnesses or who is chronically ill is extremely different. I have balled my eyes out many of times for a life of a fellow warrior that I barely knew. My heart goes out to the families in a unique way.  I might not have known them well or maybe not at all yet I live a small part of their story. I live the pain, doctors, symptoms… the life of a spoonie.

The grieving seems to be unique to those with chronic illness. There is an element of guilt for living because you know it could have been you. You wonder why it was that person, what if someone listened better, could it have been avoided, or will that be me one day. Frustration with the health care system at times.  Angry with the people who brush us off.

It has been a few months but from time to time she’ll come to my mind. I wish I remembered more about her other than her pretty hair and sweet voice, like an actual conversation. This death has been completely unique in the way it affected me.

Anytime someone passes with a chronic illness around your age it hits home and it is difficult. When you lose someone to chronic illness allow yourself time to grieve. If someone in the chronic illness community you know passes find a special way to say good bye and to pay your respects. When a girl passed with IBD a few weeks back, I found great comfort in leaving her family a message on an online guest book in honor of her.

Regardless of how close you were let yourself cry if you need to.  Give yourself permission to get angry, to feel hopeless, or broken. Emotions are healthy. They are indicators of things going wrong and of heartbreak. However, emotions are not your dictator so once you have allowed yourself to feel you need to slowly move forward. Allow yourself to heal slowly. Seek support from others who are chronically ill, family, and friends. Cherish each moment in life and live them to the fullest as best you can.

 

 

For When I Am Weak, I Am Powerful: Finding Peace With My Disease

I am honored to introduce to you a beautiful Lupus warrior. Aliccia is sharing an amazing post with us in honor of Lupus awareness month. Please share to help us raise awareness! Who better to tell you more about this courageous warrior than Aliccia herself. A huge thank you to Aliccia for sharing some of her story with us.

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Hi! I’m Aliccia and I’m 24 years old. I love tea, Japanese cars, Netflix, good books and cold weather. I’m a Californian currently living in Texas with one fur baby named Takata. I like smiling, and I am proudly one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m obsessed with galaxies and I like to write on occasion.

 

For When I Am Weak, I Am Powerful: Finding Peace With My Disease

By: Aliccia Rico

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My quest started in late 2015, on a cold November morning. I couldn’t take the pain and discomfort of being in my own body anymore. Selena Gomez had been all over the media talking about how she had a disease called Lupus, and I’d been battling some sort of illness that oddly sounded just like the one she’d been interviewed about. It seemed as though I’d been dropped off in the wilderness and told to make the best of the situation… Even though the joint pain and my hair falling out drove me crazy, almost to the point of a nervous breakdown. I’d joke about being a pro napper, but fourteen-hour stretches wouldn’t even aid the fatigue I felt on a daily basis… Let alone be normal hours of sleep. This wilderness I was in felt isolated from everything I thought I knew about myself, and those around me. Who could I trust with telling about this thing that has been plaguing me? Am I crazy?

I had been seeing a rheumatologist that never took my symptoms seriously. He had me on a Remicade infusion therapy that made me worse than I was before. It took me three infusion sessions and hundreds of dollars out of my own pocket to leave this office… He even laughed in my face when I was diagnosed with pleurisy at an urgent care. I’d fallen into a depression, even when I started seeing my current rheumatologist who diagnosed me as having “Lupus-Like Syndrome”, she doesn’t want to diagnose me with Lupus officially yet. The light at the end of the wilderness I was in got dimmer and dimmer. It felt as though the life was being slowly drained out of me, and I started giving up all hope that I had.

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I found myself months later standing in my restroom, my face wet with tears and red from inflammation. The frustration finally hit its peak the moment I got out of bed. My hands couldn’t open all the way, my hair lay in the sink in chunks. I couldn’t recognize who was staring back at me, the breath gone from my lungs. How did this happen? Why did this happen? I threw all the items on the counter onto the floor, screaming at the top of my lungs. I fell to the floor and started sobbing, trembling from confusion, sadness, and anger. I was angry at my body, angry at how much more my hands and arms hurt from my moment of insanity. All I wanted was for all of this to be over. I looked up to the ceiling, my breath catching in my throat as I try to clear my head. My phone had been ringing for the past five minutes, and I didn’t care.

 

Finally, I grabbed my phone as best as I could, seeing a familiar name across the screen. I unlock the phone, my breathing slowly getting back to a normal pattern. I fixated on the words on the screen, making me cry even more.

I don’t know how it feels,
but we’re in this together.
You’re not alone… I love you.

 

I closed my eyes and started praying. The light at the end of this wilderness had been in front of me all along! Years of frustration, agony, and depression began pouring out of me. I thanked my God, Jehovah, for giving me such an amazing person to help me through this hardship, and for never abandoning me. The more and more I poured my heart out, the more I felt the strength building in my bones. The thing about faith is that it’s based on trust, and trust is what I had to give to my God to endure the obstacles put in front of me. That day, my whole outlook on my disease changed in various ways. I put away the makeup that I would use to hide my skin, I chose to smile and not dwell on the pain or weaknesses that I had now become accustomed to.

 

I refused to stay complacent, depressed and have a “woe is me” attitude. I’d read stories online for support with this disease, but none of them were even remotely positive. The whole goal with living with any type of autoimmune disease is to find positive support and know that you’re not alone. I didn’t and don’t want special treatment, nor do I want to be a walking billboard of the typical “but I don’t look sick” movement. I want people to see me for who I am, not the unfortunate disease I have. Facing each day with a prayer, relying on the support of my spiritual family and friends and telling myself I could face the day helped me personally so much.

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In one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote, “So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in times of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) I take those words to heart because in my weaknesses, I have been the most powerful. While in a flare up, getting out of bed is an accomplishment, making tea is a milestone, getting dressed is a feat. My faith is stronger than my weaknesses and my illness, stronger than the anxiety and depression that I face, my faith gives me the strength to walk when I am so physically tired that I want to collapse, it gets me through each day.

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That day I had my breakdown, I was at my lowest point in the wilderness called Lupus. My faith brought me out of the wilderness to a brighter, clear road that showed me that yes, I do have an autoimmune disease, but I can get through these challenges I face (even as simple as opening a jar) no matter how hard they are. Everyone’s autoimmune disease quest is different, everyone copes with things differently and fights their battles in their own way. I admire those who are enduring chemotherapy, those who are mothers and fathers while having a form of autoimmune disease, those ones who need canes and wheelchairs. Your strength is admirable, and in no way could I ever make light of what others go through. We’re in this together, and we will get through it… Day by day.

 

Remember, when you are weak, you are powerful.

 

Saline Update

I got my second round of Saline at Chronic Care earlier this week. This time I got two liters over about four hours. It was much longer than I had expected. The staff there was fantastic. The doctors have set me up to have someone come in to do a safety check in my house to accommodate things for when I fall and I got another neurology referral.

I was impressed with my results following my first Saline treatment. I was able to shower without feeling dizzy, walk in the store twice, and did not fall for a week. Pretty amazing stuff! It was a 90% improvement with that treatment.

During this infusion of Saline, it was noted that my blood pressure had drop fairly low-mid 90s /60. I do feel a big difference, but some dizziness most likely blood pressure related. The dizzy spells improved about 75- 80% this time which is still excellent.

I have another infusion Monday. Then meet back up with the doctor a week later. It is a very promising treatment at this point in time, which I am hoping to continue.

IV Fluids For POTS

Wow, I guess I don’t do health updates that often. I just noticed that it has been six months since my last POTS update.  I haven’t done many updates on my POTS because little progress has been made. Just an overview my pressure is still on the low side, heart rate most times insanely high, falling, near syncope, tremors/muscle spasms,  headaches, and brain fog. Later in the day is extremely difficult especially the closer I get to my Remicade infusion. I am thankful that I now have a rollator walker. It makes life easier after showers to safely get back to my room.

I have noticed the brain fog affecting me more cognitively lately, which adds to my frustration at times. There are times I have dyslexic tendencies while writing. I will switch or mix up letter. My spelling at times is worse. I tend to file that stuff under POTS.

I have had minimal success with POTS treatment. I have been on a tachycardia medication, but it is not consistently doing its job. Somedays even with the meds my heart rate is 160.  The steroids raise the blood pressure slightly but I sill come in at low 100- 115/ 50-85 ish.

Needless to say, my POTS treatment leaves my doctor frustrated, my family frustrated, and me frustrated. Falling every other day or more just isn’t acceptable anymore. I have been doing it off and on for three years now. My body is exhausted. I have injured a few things. My bones are not in a place that this is remotely safe. I kindly but firmly told my doctor we need to do something, anything at this point. It was a long debate with begging

I kindly but firmly told my doctor we need to do something, anything at this point. It was a long debate with begging laying out several creative options; medication changes, IV fluids, or teach me to accommodate my life. I was extremely respectful and compassionate as I always am with every medical professional (I remain that way even with the nasty ones). I thanked him for all he has done furthermore mentioning I am beyond thankful for the hospital. I find it important in the midsts of frustration to express that I am thankful and I understand I am complex but we need to work together so that I can have a better quality of life. Despite my compassionate response things were left at that point in time unsettled. My doctor wasn’t thrilled with my options. At my next appointment, my mom accompanied me as always and sat silently. My doctor was more compassionate, willing to listen, and was impressed with the research I had presented to him.

Despite my compassionate response things were left at that point in time unsettled. My doctor wasn’t thrilled with my options. At my next appointment, my mom accompanied me as always and sat silently. My doctor was more compassionate, willing to listen, and was impressed with the research I had presented to him. Even so, I could tell he was not sold on the idea of using IV fluids to treat my POTS, however, we had tried everything else. It seems too simple. Too basic. Thankfully, he allowed me to try which is all I could ask for.

You, need to learn how to be your own advocate. Speaking up doesn’t mean throwing a fit or being nasty. Speaking up can be done compassionately and with respect. It gives you a voice, an active part in your health, and respects your body. Never be afraid to ask questions or say no.

Today I got my first round of IV fluids. I also had my Remicade infusion, which I will do a separate post on. I was at the infusion center for four hours total and a four-hour round trip. I am expecting to notice a difference tomorrow.

So for anyone who is wondering, how can simple saline help POTS, I will gladly share. More research is needed, but the results to me are amazing and worth trying if your POTS doesn’t comply with normal treatment. Most of us are very dehydrated this, of course, helps with hydration. Additionally, it can help blood pressure, heart rate, decrease passing out or near passing out episodes, help the person stay upright, and possibly more. In my case, the hope is to also decrease shaking, improve brain fog, decrease infections (that could be related to dehydration), and decrease kidney stones.

Today I got about a litter and a half. Furthermore, I was told to keep up all fluids by mouth. Very rough estimation 50-60 ounces by mouth which are a slight decrease from a normal day. I will have two additional tiral runs of fluids next week at a center called Chronic Care. I am extremly hopeful with this treatment.

Dysautonomia Awareness

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October is slipping by fairly quickly because of school and pyelonephritis. I truly wish I had more time to devote to  Dysautonomia awareness month. Millions of people are affected by  Dysautonomia worldwide. Sadly, like with many illnesses, there is not enough research or enough treatment plans. “Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe several different medical conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. The Autonomic Nervous System controls the “automatic” functions of the body that we do not consciously think about.” In addition, I strongly encourage you to take a look at this video from the Dysautonomia foundation.

POTS Awareness Video

The beginning of my POTS symptoms is unclear. I had adapted to my peculiar symptoms. Then I landed in the cardiac unit from an allergic reaction to Reclast about two years ago. My nurse had woke me up a handful of times because of tachycardia. Then I overheard some medical professionals discussing my case and mentioned that I might have POTS. Of course, I did the tilt table a few weeks later with extremely positive results.

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POTS impacts my life daily. Some daily symptoms include Tachycardia , low blood pressure, dizzy spells, not absorbing things properly, brain fog, fatigue, and dehydration. In addition, I collapse, shake, and pass out. Currently, my treatment plan isn’t excellent. My doctor refuses to order saline. My only POTS specific medication is tachycardia medication. I do not have additional treatment options at this point in time due to my overlapping illnesses and treatment plan overall.

Accommodating myself is a challenge, to say the least. Hydration is a struggle, especially due to the fact that I cannot absorb fluids properly at times with Ulcerative Colitis.  Gatorade, water, tea, and drip drop are some ways I attempt to fight dehydration at home. At times, my cats can sense when I am going to pass out or have a POTS flare. In addition, I do minor diet modifications. Compression stockings are a must, though I wish they helped a bit more. Whenever I go food shopping I use a wheelchair.  If I am on my feet I clench the muscles in my legs and back to assist blood flow. I never lock my legs. I elevate my legs frequently as well.

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Education of POTS is lacking majorly in the medical field. I recently came a crossed a doctor that believed that POTS is purely a psychiatric disorder. Needless to say, I was irritated with the conversation. POTS is a health condition. It is complex. There are no cookie cutter patients. New research suggests that it might be an autoimmune disorder.

The Foundation page has some excellent resources for living with POTS. I hope you learned something from this post! If you live with Dysautonomia share what type and how it impacts your life in the comments. Lastly, if you aren’t in a support group find one. There are a wealth of in-person as well as online support groups.