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.

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A Mother’s Perspective: Chronic Illness

I am so excited for today’s post. We have a courageous mother of a daughter with several chronic illnesses. It has been an honor for me to speak with her briefly and to read a bit of their inspiring story. I hope you are encouraged. ~ Victoria

I am Kimberly, a full-time single mother, but more importantly mother of a teenager with chronic illnesses. EDS, POTS, MCAS.
Receiving a diagnosis is not a destination, but more so a journey.
Here is  a brief account of our journey to date:
It seems like yesterday on one hand and a lifetime on another. Three years ago during a rheumatology visit, unexpectedly during examination, the physician began piecing random dislocations, atrophic scars, fatigue, velvet skin, and overall illness into EDS. As he was identifying pieces, he stated this appears like Ehlers Danlos syndrome. I have worked in the medical field as therapist for 20 years and this was new to me. So like most, I instantly googled everything I could sitting there. I recall immediately being referred for blood work, Physical therapy, and cardiology that same day. Upon leaving his office I don’t think I will ever forget the look on his face. It was one of concern, sadness, and unknowing to me an awareness of a journey that was heading our way. As my daughter and I sat in cardiology she jokingly ask “so what do I have”? We proceed to laugh as she said EDS meaning explosive diarrhea syndrome. We laughed and I knew whatever it was we were going to conquer it.
As time progressed with additional falls and dislocations therapy ensued. It suddenly appeared dizziness and nausea were occurring. New referral and now POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) diagnosis added.

Ok, but now what about these strange rashes. Well, that lead to MCAS(Mast cell activation syndrome). A few other diagnosis came along being eosinophilic colitis and pineal brain cyst through testing. Most recently TMJ and cervical compression issues also noted.  If you have been through the diagnosis process you know it’s not so easy as picking up the phone and immediately obtaining a physician appointment. Some list were 3-6 months long with genetics 1 year. Then you add follow-up visits for a wide range of disciplines. It’s overwhelming and difficult to manage a ‘normal life’ whatever that even was.

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In gaining awareness of these disorders and living it daily I have found a new appreciation for anyone experiencing these. I have seen the suffering from physical pain, fatigue, and mental components from anxiety/depression that a teenager should not have to deal with it. Being a teen is hard enough, let alone adding a chronic illness. Yes, it’s a struggle. Do I still feel we  will conquer this….. no. We have accepted at this time there is no cure. We manage symptoms. Do I feel deflated…. yes. As a mother, I like most want to fix my children’s problem. I have found that being supportive and her biggest fan is the best I can do right now. I have listened to her requests to give her more control when she declines testing. I get it when she says “why should I it doesn’t change or fix anything”.
I want others to know it’s challenging as a parent, but it will be ok. You have to be prepared for sudden ER trips that will change your family plans, hoping that loud sound wasn’t a fall or passing out again, keeping a watchful eye for strange rashes, preparing for school IEP meetings, and wow what about that mediset. Goodness, the medications seriously is this all? Expecting a teenager to recall all these and learning to fill set herself…. What happened to driving, boyfriend, and social issues teenage parents have? They are still there, but different. Friends change, the real ones stay, but it does change. No one prepares you for this.
With all the losses you feel, I promise that if you embrace the journey and take the good with the bad it makes life better. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am hoping through advocacy and research more treatment options become available. I know joining a support group locally was one of the best things I did. Talking to people that have been where I am and offered supportive listening. I am forever grateful to them and blessed to have a wonderful family that help. Are there days when I’m mad… yes! I’m angry and scared. What happened to college based on interest, not physically accessible and near physicians in the area!
You as I have learned, having a chronic illness, is life alternating for everyone. I surely wish my daughter didn’t have it. However, she does and I intend to ride this journey with her and advocate to the best of my ability for her and others like her so that there is dignity, respect, and research to aid in hopes of a cure one day. This is my journey and hope for a final destination.
Chronically Hopefully,
Kimberly

Dogs!

This took much longer than I expected to write. Many people on the Chronically Hopeful Facebook page were interested when a service dog post went up about a month ago. Please understand that I have done research to the best to my ability. This is just a general overview. There will be additional service dog posts in the next few months.

There is a substantial difference between a service dog and a pet dog in the eyes of the law and social norms. Let’s begin with the basics. A service dog is for an individual with a physical disability.  These dogs are allowed to go anywhere and everywhere their human goes.Assistance Dogs International elaborates on this, “Service Dogs assist people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. With special training, these dogs can help mitigate many different types of disabilities. They can be trained to work with people who use power or manual wheelchairs, have balance issues, have various types of autism, need seizure alert or response, need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar, or have psychiatric disabilities. These specially trained dogs can help by retrieving objects that are out of their person’s reach, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to indicate that help is needed, finding another person and leading the person to the handler, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance, providing deep pressure, and many other individual tasks as needed by a person with a disability.” There are many tasks a service dog can be trained to do. Additionally, service dogs can be paired with humans for autism and hearing.

Your pet dog is not allowed to accompany you in public without a specific reason. Many view a service dog as medical assistance or even medical equipment.

Service Dog Central provides some clarification on the differences between psychiatric service dogs and therapy dogs. “A therapy dog is an individual’s pet which has been trained, tested, registered and insured to work in a hospital, nursing home, school, or other institutional settings. The therapy dog and his partner visit to cheer patients, to educate the community, to counter grief and stress, and generally be good canine ambassadors within the community. Most therapy dog partners are volunteers, but some states recognize professional therapy dogs partnered with therapists and other mental health professionals.”

Psychiatric Service Dogs are generally for people with a mental impairment (these words are chosen to line up with the laws that are in place). A mental impairment in the case would include mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD would fit under emotional/mental illness. They can be granted access in public places.

A partial listing of therapy dog organizations:
The Delta Society http://deltasociety.org
Therapy Dogs International http://tdi-dog.org
Therapy Dogs Incorporated http://therapydogs.com

On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access.

On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access. Emotional support animals provide compassion, support, and friendship to his or her owner. These animals have an irreplaceable role in their human life. Not only do these animals assist their humans emotionally but also improve physical health. Many studies support that animals lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride, reduced stress levels, reduced feelings of loneliness, and increased activity. Currently, my cats are emotional support animals. I have a special bond with each. Furthermore, they can sense when I am going to pass out, fall, or shake. Even so, they are not allowed in public. I wouldn’t bring them out in public either because that would provoke anxiety.

A multitude of agencies is out there. My first recommendation is to speak with your vet if you have one. Each agency is different. However, most share that the waiting list is long. Comparing agencies is vital. Furthermore, get as much information as possible on each one. Due to this reason, some people also find training agencies. Either your current pet dog (if he or she is qualified) or adopting a dog than the trained works with you both.

Some additional agencies include but are not limited to:

NEADS

NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans), is a non-profit organization and is based in Princeton, Massachusetts. Our Service Dogs become an extension of their handlers and bring freedom, physical autonomy, and relief from social isolation to their human partners who are deaf or have a disability.

Accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices, NEADS offers a wide spectrum of Assistance Dog services, including: Deaf & Hearing Loss, Combat Veterans, Physical Disability Classroom, Therapy & Ministry, Children with a Disability Children on the Autism Spectrum, Deaf & Hearing Loss, Veterans, Physical Disability and more.

Assistance Dog’s International can help you find a program closer to you. They have a variety of resources.

Service Dog Trainers A list of trainers across America.

I hope this information is helpful. Please share your pet’s name in the comments!

 

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.

College Chatter #Liberty

Stability. It is something most people crave. A schedule to glide through day after day it might sound boring yet there is comfort in the familiar. When one has stability he or she can  plan to do things.

This is one of those things you don’t realize how comforting it was until it vanished. Stability takes on different meanings for a healthy person compared to someone who is chronically ill. Stability is one thing I currently do not have enough of.

This past May I was able to complete my Associates Degree at my local community college. I had been the first student to complete a degree online. By the way, if a school does not have an established online program I do not recommend going that route. By God’s amazing grace, I was able to thrive, however, there were times of extreme frustration that could have been easily avoided.

I had been hoping that my health would be more stable than it is currently. I am still struggling with abnormal POTS symptoms such as tremors, collapsing, and slurred speech. And of course, battling my immune system.

I am beyond thrilled to be continuing my education through Liberty University’s Online Program. There is a wealth of resources such as touring and an online library . The online program is split into different terms in each semester. There are eight weeks of two or three classes than eight weeks of a different set of classes. I am entering into week two of developmental psychology and contemporary worldviews.

In addition, to the stellar academic program and access to online chapel Liberty also offers an online hangout for online students to interact with one another. It is meant to be a cafe type setting. It  might not be ideal, but I will take what I can get at this point, which I am sure any spoonie would understand, as many feel like they are starving for social interaction.

As a new academic school year arises, I want to remind you, there is hope for every student, there is hope for everyone, even you. “People do their best making plans for their lives, but the Eternal guides each step.” Proverbs 16:9 The Voice In general, we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for. A little encouragement goes a lot farther than imagined and baby steps are actually giant leaps. 

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I am an expert at passing out, it’s a skill that not many people have. Then again most people do not need this skill. I can recall the seconds leading up to each time I passed out vividly. I have passed out well over a dozen times.  I know when it is going to happen. The warning sings are always the same first I feel dizzy, then my hearing fades, weakness increases steadily, then the vision leaves, and boom I pass out. Once the passing out shuffle begins I spring into action. Either telling whoever is around or by getting to the floor as quickly as possible. Usually someone says my name a few times and I’m back. No biggie. Extremely tiring but not tragic.

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October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month.  Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is a form of Dysautonomia. What in the world is it? “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, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of the pupils of the eye, kidney function, and temperature control. People living with various forms of dysautonomia have trouble regulating these systems, which can result in lightheadedness, fainting, unstable blood pressure, abnormal heart rates, malnutrition, and in severe cases, death.” Dysautonomia is not rare, at all, it is just rarely diagnosed. Many people live undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

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The tilt table test is used to diagnosis POTS. Web MD gives this explination of the test: “The test involves lying quietly on a bed and being tilted at different angles (30 to 60 degrees) for a period of time while various machines monitor your blood pressure, electrical impulses in your heart, and your oxygen level.

The head-up tilt table test usually takes one to two hours to complete. However, that may vary depending on the changes observed in your blood pressure and heart rate and the symptoms you experience during the test. Before the test begins, a nurse will help you get ready. The nurse will start an IV (intravenous) line. This is so the doctors and nurses may give you medications and fluids during the procedure if necessary.You will be awake during the test. You will be asked to lie quietly and keep your legs still.”

From my experience the tilt table test made me sick but did not increase my pain. Overall I found the test extremely boring. I was only up a few minutes before I began passing out. They laid me down and pumped me up with saline with extra sodium. The tilt table test does need to be done in the morning.

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The most common types of Dysautonomia are: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Neurally Mediated Syncope, and Multiple System Atrophy.  POTS can develop in the adolescent years and some out grow it. In other cases it is a secondary illness and is a chronic condition. Some POTS patients are misdiagnosed with an anxiety disorder. POTS is not an anxiety disorder nor is it cause by one. The role anxiety plays is a symptom. I received my POTS diagnosis almost a year ago. The possibility of me having POTS was mentioned during my Reclast hospital vacation. I had heard of the syndrome, however my knowledge was extremely limited. Of course I researched POTS before my diagnosis was set in stone. Once I learned more about POTS I knew I had it. It was something I lived with, I just had to get the doctors as usual to see what I already knew. My doctor ran the tilt table test. My POTS presents many obstacles daily. It is an incontinence illness.

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Though I like the doctor who is in charge of managing my POTS, most times he is unsure how to help. POTS can be challenging to treat. There is nothing my doctor can currently do other then prescribe a beta blocker for high heart rate. Of course, he advises the normal things such as eat sodium, wear compression stockings, pace yourself, ect…

It has almost been a year sense my official diagnosis. My POTS has improved greatly. This is mostly because of Prednisone. One of the biggest challenges I live with currently due to POTS is various organs not getting enough blood. Again, no one really knows how to help this issue in my body. My balance is off still. Right now it’s great I only fall into walls instead of completely collapsing. Collapsing out of no where is inconvenient and unsafe.

Normal activities are challenging for people with POTS. Being up right, being on their feet for a few minutes, and showering are difficult and sometimes dangerous things.

I watched something on POTS where a doctor recommended anyone with  POTS to wear a helmet in the shower. Comical. And impractical. How would you propose washing your hair with a helmet. Yes, falling in the shower is unsafe but a helmet is not the best solution.

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A lot more research needs to be done in order for patients to receive better treatments. That is one reason raising awareness for POTS and other chronic illnesses is essential. Thank you for reading about my POTS journey. I hope it can help someone or that someone can learn something from this post.

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