Tag Archives: Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

Friday Feelings with Pain Pals Blog

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

As it is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month, during the course of May, we will be reading the diary entries of EDS sufferers. Each person experiences their illness differently and I think it will be interesting to see these differences throughout the month.

This week I spoke to Claire from Pain Pals Blog. The mum of two previously worked in health care but medically retired nine years ago. She now works in the education system and enjoys Spoonie friendly hobbies.

Claire was diagnosed with hypermobile EDS at 42. She also suffers from migraines; dysautonomia/POTS, chronic nerve pain, gut problems, Raynauds, neurogenic
bladder and reactive depression. You can find Claire on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. 
EDS - Claire pic 

“Hi, I’m Claire. I am a married mum of 2 boys aged 21 and 18, and a girl aged 14 living on borders of South London & Surrey, UK. My career was nursing and I trained and worked in various London hospitals, and then worked as a palliative care nurse in a local hospice – a fantastic, rewarding job that I loved. I was medically retired 9 years ago when my back gave up on me. Now I am kept busy with the family (more needy as young adults than they were as toddlers). 

I am a school governor at a local primary school, and I am about to become Chair of my old school’s friends’ committee. We keep old pupils in touch as well as arranging careers events for current pupils. I love meeting new people and interacting with the pupils at both schools. I love reading and belong to several book clubs, posting reviews on the blog, and when I can get there I love the cinema and streamed theatre live events.”

So now that we know a little about Claire, let’s have a read of her Friday Feelings entry.

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“Dear Diary,

It’s Friday, many people will go out tonight for a few sociable drinks with their friends. On a typical Friday night I will usually be found curled up in my PJs! How much of the evening meal I help with really depends upon what sort of day I have had and how fatigued I am. These days my hubby, Duncan is based at home with me, and in theory the kids can take over the kitchen duties but, it is usually like Piccadilly Circus as they come and go, leaving us to keep pace with who is eating or not! Some weeks I will try to join in with Spoonie Speak – a chat set up on Twitter for those of us who can’t go out, but like a chat in our PJs. Like lots of spoonies Netflix, Amazon & TV play a big part in my life but, this week I am actually going out on Friday for the leaving dinner of the current Chair of the friends committee.

I really want to go but do get a bit anxious about making arrangements in case I have a bad day, can’t go and let others down. Not to mention missing out.

My physical health has really deteriorated recently and since having a spinal cord stimulator implanted for the chronic pain, my POTS symptoms have really gone mad. I feel frustrated, tired and worn down  by the constant pain, fainting, dislocations, drug side effects, losing my independence, the uncertainty of how I will be from hour to hour and struggling to make plans. Something I really struggle with is the fatigue and the subsequent guilt at needing to rest. On a beautiful day I can’t stand not being to jump up and just go for a walk in the park.

Some days I feel like I am constantly saying sorry for needing help to have a shower, for fainting, for being unable to cook, for being pushed in the wheelchair, even for not being able to lift the iron.

I try not to think too hard about the future for me – on bad days I can’t think about living with the pain, particularly the chronic back and leg pain, for another week let alone another 40 years! Sounds dramatic but that is how it feels. I also know that there is very little that can be done for the extreme joint pain – I have been told I need shoulder and hip replacements, but that it isn’t possible because of the dislocations and I’m still too young.

I don’t want to “give in” to the illness any more than I have to. Sometimes this is easier said than done – and at times the future feels uncertain.

But I do tend to do what I can when I can and probably don’t pace. I want to keep as active as I can for as long as I can, but the severity of POTS symptoms this last 6 months has left me feeling really low and really ill. Hopefully the different consultants can sort me enough to get me back on an even keel – but the lack of “shared” care is frustrating; repeating the same story over and over, no one knowing what other specialities are doing!

What does worry me for the future is the kids – the younger two anyway. The 18 year old has bad and frequent migraines, with neck pain, hand and arm pain. The youngest is now subluxating and dislocating, has daily pain in joints, can’t hold a pen in a normal grip, writes slowly and has pain. All 3 are dizzy on standing and lose vision – and all three are overly anxious. Two have had counselling, one self harms, one is on anti depressants, we are well acquainted with CAMHS!

I do accept that hardly anyone will have heard of EDS and have got used to suggestions of having collagen injections but what is tougher is the lack of understanding about what chronic illness means. No, I won’t get better. It is genetic so no there is no cure, not even for the kids! I feel that I have to justify myself for being tired, cancelling plans, etc. I hate having to ask for help and would love it if friends would just remember that I can no longer drive and offer a lift without me having to ask. Some people can’t understand why I use a wheelchair when I can stand and walk – pain is invisible, as are the implants in my back, and damage to my joints, but these are what making standing up and walking a near impossibility some days. I feel that other people’s lives are so busy and that I should be fitting in with them, after all I’m at home all day.

It is frustrating when I’m told how well I look and this happens when I’ve put on some lippie and blusher.

You don’t see me at my worst because I can’t actually get out of the house then! But I would probably rather people think I’m putting best foot forward and being positive – chronic illness doesn’t stop you wanting to look good, go out, have a laugh; even if you can’t always actually do this.”

 A big thank you to Claire for taking part in Friday Feelings and being so open with us. Can you relate to Claire? Do you feel guilty not being able to perform certain tasks? Let us know in the comments below!

 Want to write your own Friday Feeling entry?

Send

A high res photo

A short paragraph about yourself

What illnesses you have

Your diary entry with the following topics in it:

It’s Friday, many people will go out tonight for a few sociable drinks with their friends. What do you do on a typical Friday night?
How are you feeling at this moment about your chronic illness?
How do you feel about the future in regards to your illness?
How do you feel about the way people view your illness?

and links to your blog and social media to evienevin87@yahoo.ie

Be sure to put “Friday Feelings” in the subject bar.

Until Sunday,

Z.M

x

 

Friday Feelings with Hospital Princess

Hey there, hi there, ho there! Apologies for the radio silence and the delay in posting this week’s Friday Feelings guest post. I’ve had a crazy few weeks which I will explain in due course.

As it is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month, during the course of May, we will be reading the diary entries of EDS sufferers. Each person experiences their illness differently and I think it will be interesting to see these differences throughout the month.

This week I spoke to Cheyenne from Hospital Princess. The 20-year-old is currently studying in college. Her goal is to become a Christian counsellor and to specialise in chronic and terminal illnesses. Cheyenne suffers from Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Dysautonomia and Gastroparesis. You can find Cheyenne on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and even on Etsy!

Cheyanne

“My name is Cheyanne. I am 20 years old. South Carolina is my is currently home; however, my heart is native to sunny Florida. I am blessedto do life with my family, wonderful partner of four years, and my red-headed smushed faced cat named Weasley. I am a college student at North Greenville University. 

Chances are, I always have a book or Kindle in my hands. Vegan baking for others, despite being tube fed unable to eat, is another enjoyablepastime. Similar to most, social media, binge watching Netflix or Hulu, and technology all consume a large chunk of my leisure time. And I recently transformed my grandma-like hobbies of knitting and sewing into a mini Etsy business selling handmade items.”

So now that we know a little about Cheyanne, let’s have a read of her Friday Feelings entry.

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“Dear Diary,

It’s Friday, many people will go out tonight for a few sociable drinks with their friends. My weekend with chronic illness involves the total opposite of the drunken, wild parties usually experienced by other college twenty-somethings. Alcohol via a J tube is never a practical idea. Instead, my Friday nights are spent with family and close friends playing board games, chatting, binge watching Netflix, or even the odd spur of the moment road trip.

I feel kind of defeated in terms of my illness. Treatment is limited. Since I am already relying on last resort options like tube feedings, TPN (IV Nutrition), and a continuous infusion of IV Benadryl for Mast Cell Disease, it is as if I am perpetually trapped in the ‘what do I do now’ stage. There is hope for better days ahead though.

The future is obscure, clouded with the unknowns of chronic illness.

I have no clue what the future holds, nor will I try to pretend that I do. Any conceivable plan I have had for the future has not resulted in the outcome I ever expected. Overall, I am thankful for each day I have left to continue to pursue God’s will for my life.

Outsiders inevitably have a different perspective towards my illness. The diagnoses are tremendously misunderstood.

Because they are mostly ‘invisible’ illnesses, people neglect to consider how widespread the symptoms actually are.

Only awareness can reduce the stigma and make others recognize the seriousness of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Disease, and the remaining comorbid conditions.”

A big thank you to Cheyenne for taking part in our Friday Feelings blog.

 Want to write your own Friday Feeling entry?

Send

A high res photo

A short paragraph about yourself

What illnesses you have

Your diary entry with the following topics in it:

It’s Friday, many people will go out tonight for a few sociable drinks with their friends. What do you do on a typical Friday night?
How are you feeling at this moment about your chronic illness?
How do you feel about the future in regards to your illness?
How do you feel about the way people view your illness?

and links to your blog and social media to evienevin87@yahoo.ie

Be sure to put “Friday Feelings” in the subject bar.

Until tomorrow,

Z.M

x

How ‘attachment parenting’ helped me with my chronic illness

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

Soon I’ll be back to London for my next round of tests and physiotherapy. The smallies will also be seeing their paediatric physio in the Hypermobility Unit in London. Going abroad with small children can be so stressful and takes up so many of your spoons. I remember with Alex, everywhere we went, even for a short trip to the city we had a truck load of things to bring with us. This time with Olivia it is so much easier because my parenting technique is so different.

Attachment Parenting&Chronic Illness

So what is “Attachment Parenting”?

Well, for me I just call it parenting, it’s the biological norm to raise a child so I hate putting a label on it.

According to parenting science.com:

“Attachment parenting” is an approach to child-rearing intended to forge strong, secure attachments between parents and children.”

Attachment Parenting is often referred to as AP.

But how does AP differ from any other type of parenting?

AP is associated with a number of practices, including:

Baby-carrying or “baby-wearing”
Breastfeeding on cue
Nurturing touch (including skin-to-skin “kangaroo care” for infants)
Being responsive to a baby’s cries
Being sensitive and responsive to a child’s emotions (e.g., by helping her cope with nighttime fears)
Co-sleeping

In addition, attachment parenting advocates often promote “positive parenting,” an approach to discipline that attempts to guide children by emotion coaching, reasoning, and constructive problem solving.

However, proponents of AP–like William and Martha Sears, who coined the term “attachment parenting”–note that there is no checklist of rules that parents must follow to qualify as “attachment parents” (Sears and Sears 2001).

Family circumstances may prevent parents from carrying out every AP practice. What’s really important, argues these authors, is sensitive, responsive parenting-— understanding and addressing your child’s needs in an affectionate way.

Similarly, the founders of Attachment Parenting International argue that that attachment parenting is really about adapting a few general principles–like providing kids with a consistent, loving, primary caregiver–to the particular needs of your family.

This is not the same as being overly-protective. By definition, securely-attached kids are not overly clingy or helpless. They are the kids who feel confident to explore the world on their own. They can do this because they trust that their parents will be there for them (Mercer 2006).

So how has AP practices helped me with my chronic illness?

Babywearing

When I was pregnant my Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome wreaked havoc on my body. I was wheelchair bound by 5 weeks into my pregnancy because I developed severe Symphysis Pubis Disorder (SPD)  and my Autonomic System was all over the place.

I knew that there was a pretty good chance that I would still be affected with the SPD post partum and I was right. Two years on and I still suffer with it. How was I going to push a buggy while in a wheelchair?

Babywearing was my answer. Even on days where I couldn’t wear Ollie for whatever reason, Daddy wore her. It was a lovely way for them to bond. While I liked my ring sling, he was more into the wrap type slings. My coordination couldn’t handle the wrapping at all.

Three months after her birth, I didn’t need the wheelchair as frequently but I still carried her. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to manage lifting and opening up a heavy buggy so just popping my sling into my bag was the easiest option. After the ring sling I opted for the Rock n Rolla Fidella buckle carrier it was badass. Then I switched to a beautiful pink Fidella Mei Tai before going back to a buckle carrier (Nova) as my shoulder became to sore for wrapping. The Nova hasn’t had much use as Ollie likes to walk but I do use it for when I need walk to collect Alex from school or when we are in London. We brought a stroller on holiday once and it went unused, plus it is a pain having to bring it along with the other luggage.

Me sling

In retrospect, I wish I had gone along to a babywearing group to try things out before I bought the Mei Tai. It was only after I rented a Nova from the group that I realised it was exactly what I needed, lightweight, breathable and tidy enough to go in my bag. I would absolutely recommend people to try before they buy.

Babywearing allows you to be hands free as well and baby sleeps contently snuggled into their parents chest.

Marty fence BW

It really is a win/win situation. Baby is happy therefore Mommy is happy.

I can imagine people who are unfamiliar with babywearing wondering how I possibly managed to carry extra weight with weak joints/muscles and pain.

If you’re wearing your baby correctly, you should be well supported and you shouldn’t feel the extra weight bearing down on you.

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Interestingly, I was sent a link to a blog called Babywearing with Disabilities recently. Until I began writing this post, I hadn’t opened it. Imagine my surprise to find out the woman who wrote the blog actually has hEDS too! She offers some very good advice about how to babywear when you’re disabled. Really worth a read. Further reading about the general benefits of babywearing for parent and baby can be found here.

Slings come in so many gorgeous prints and designs. Say goodbye to your shoe/handbag addiction and say hello to telling your other half “Oh I won that on a dip.”

Marty Ollie

Breastfeeding on demand

Sadly due to poor support and advice, Alex was only breastfed for just over two weeks. He had an undiagnosed tongue tie which caused me to be in a lot of pain when feeding him. Yet no healthcare professional said anything bar “it happens”. No. Breastfeeding should not hurt. That’s a different story that you can read about here.

Anyway, I remember being so exhausted when we switched to formula. Having to make up bottles in the middle of the night, dealing with reflux and constipation, the usual drama with formula was just so much hassle. Even with two of us taking turns to get up. I was also pretty annoyed that the weight that had been falling off me for the first two weeks stopped melting off me.

Luckily, armed with evidence based information and a fantastic network of breastfeeding mothers, I was determined that this time it would work out. It’s crazy the amount of misinformation being spread not just by ill informed loved ones but by actual health care professionals too. I actually interviewed one of Ireland’s leading IBCLCs and the world renowned, Dr Jack Newman about breastfeeding myths.

Anyway, unlucky for us, Ollie was also born with a tongue and lip tie. But, this time I was determined to get it sorted as quickly as possible so that we could continue our breastfeeding journey. After exclusively pumping for 3 weeks and then pumping while also    learning the skill of breastfeeding, we were on our way. Ollie is just two weeks shy of two and honestly, feeding her has been one of my greatest achievements as a parent. Breastfeeding is the biological norm but in Ireland where just 2% of babies are fed by 1 year, it’s a pretty big deal to even get to two years.

Breastfeeding forced me to relax and properly recover after the birth which in itself was pretty traumatic. I had to give birth early as my waters had broken. I ended up loosing half of my blood but the consultant managed to stop the bleeding just as they were calling for blood bags. I was very weak and ill after the birth so lying on the couch for the first 2 months while Ollie built up my supply was ideal. I didn’t have to get up in the night to make bottles and the lovely hormones released during feeding time helped me feel content and loved up. Plus with the extra hand it meant Alex could join in on the cuddles.

BF OA

Breastfeeding also meant that I didn’t have to bring a huge bag filled with bottles and powder everywhere we went. You literally just have your breasts and you grab a nappy and off you go. Babywearing while breastfeeding also meant that I could get on with whatever I needed to do while baby was getting everything she desired; being close to mama and her milk. Best part is that my meds are all compatible with breastfeeding as 99% of medications are, again unfortunately that is another piece of information that isn’t well known amongst a lot of healthcare professionals and new mothers.

You can read more about breastfeeding while being chronically ill here.

Cosleeping/Bedsharing

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We intended to have Ollie sleep in a cosleep cot that Daddy made following this hack. FYI total cost was 65 Euro in comparison to the phenomenal amount of money you spend on a store bought cosleeper crib! The new mattress was the most expensive part.

Anyway, so we had the cosleeper cot attached to our bed and by the looks of it, Ollie would fit into it until she was at least four! Well, nope, this happened:

cosleeper

You know what? It worked out for the best because having her closer to me meant she could feed as I drifted back to sleep and it became a place to keep all her clothes and cloth nappies! Now she is able to undress me and help herself while I stay asleep! Research shows that parents who bed share and breastfeed get more sleep than those who don’t.

Once you practice the safety guidelines, there is virtually no risk in bed sharing, in fact a lot of research shows that babies who are exclusively breastfed and bed share with their mothers are actually less likely to die from SIDS. You only have to look at every other species of mammal to see that the dyad sleeping together is a natural part of child rearing. Hey, the Gruffalos cosleep too!

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You can find some evidence based articles about infant sleep and bed sharing here.

As stated before, AP doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can formula feed and babywear, you can breastfeed and use a buggy. I just know from my own experience that following my mammalian instincts has helped me to cope with parenting while having a chronic illness a whole lot easier.

Until next time,

Z.M

x

 

Friday Feelings with The Zebra Mom

Hey there, hi there, ho there,

This week I didn’t have any guest post submitted so, I decided to do a Friday Feelings post myself.

Usually I explain what my guests suffer from and a they tell us a little about themselves but I’m sure anyone who follows my blog is well aware of my conditions and the things I am passionate about. I will take the oppurtunity to plug my social medias though :p You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat (see the snap code in the header)

evie blog

So we will just dive straight into this week’s Friday Feelings post

 

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“Dear Diary,

It’s Friday and for once, I’ve had an excellent night’s sleep and I’m feeling relatively OK. Usually I wake with something wrong but luckily, I have no more pain that the usual aches. I am so happy that I’m feeling well as can be since I am celebrating my 30th birthday tonight with family and friends. It is not often I get to socialise and get dressed up so when it does happen I appreciate it so much. I’ll probably run low on spoons after I finish getting myself ready but I am hoping the adrenaline will kick in and help me enjoy my night. I also have to be weary of certain lighting in pubs as my sensory issues can cause havoc when I do get the chance to go out. My typical Friday nights are usually much more boring. I sit at home and spend my time watching the Gilmore Girls or socialise on Facebook.

Even though I feel OK right now the last few weeks my EDS and Dysautonomia has been acting up a good bit forcing me to use my wheelchair. I hate using it, it makes me feel very self-conscious but I know I would be much worse off if I didn’t use it. Yesterday we went into the city to take our little boy shopping for new party clothes and if I didn’t have my chair, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy our time. It’s a frustrating time for us at the moment as we are currently fundraising to get back to London for treatment. This 5-night trip is costing us 5,000 Euro. Luckily I have some really good friends and family who helped us raise 765 Euro a couple of days ago at our coffee morning. We couldn’t believe that that amount was raised in just a couple of hours! The community really came together to support us. I was truly blown away.

The future is uncertain but I am hopeful that getting treatment in London will give the children and me a fighting chance at some normality. I am having Autonomic tests in London to find out exactly which type of Dysautonomia I have. Here in Ireland I have been diagnosed with Orthostatic Intolerance and Vasovagal Syncope but the experts in London believe I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). They believe Alexander also has PoTS but luckily he isn’t greatly affected. I also see symptoms in Olivia too.

I think as time goes on, people are understanding our conditions better and know that they are invisible illnesses and that some days I need my wheelchair and some days I don’t. I think the fact that we have had to go to the UK and fundraise thousands made people realise the severity of our conditions. It’s a shame that it has had to come down to this but I am content that those nearest and dearest to us take things seriously. I have had negative experiences with the way people has viewed EDS before. One doctor said that people with EDS didn’t suffer from chronic pain (I know, I know) and that I more likely had Fibromyalgia. Now, many experts do believe that most people diagnosed with Fibro have actually been misdiagnosed and that they actually have some form of Connective Tissue Disorder. I told her this and she was most unimpressed to be challenged. Pregnant and wheelchair bound, I left that appointment in tears in pure anger and frustration. A Rheumatologist diagnosed me with hEDS at that point but I saw another one to confirm the diagnosis because I felt the private consultant’s diagnosis wasn’t being taken seriously. I had the diagnosis confirmed by two experts in London so I am pretty confident hEDS is the right fit but I am going to have genetic testing just to be sure as I do fit a couple of the types of EDS too. I think anyone diagnosed with hEDS should have genetic testing to rule out other types and other Connective Tissue Disorders. If the tests come back clear, I’ll be happy sticking with the hEDS diagnosis.

Anyway, better start getting ready for my hair appointment and party. Wish me luck that my EDS or Dysautonomia doesn’t kick off!”

Want to write your own Friday Feeling entry?

Send

A high res photo

A short paragraph about yourself

What illnesses you have

Your diary entry with the following topics in it:

It’s Friday, many people will go out tonight for a few sociable drinks with their friends. What do you do on a typical Friday night?
How are you feeling at this moment about your chronic illness?
How do you feel about the future in regards to your illness?
How do you feel about the way people view your illness?

and links to your blog and social media to evienevin87@yahoo.ie

Be sure to put “Friday Feelings” in the subject bar.

Till Sunday,

Z.M

x

 

 

 

 

My Guide to Dysautonomia featured on Irish Dysautonomia Awareness

dysfordummies

Hey, there, hi there, ho there!

This week I guest blogged on Irish Dysautonomia Awareness with my Guide to Dysautonomia. Go check it out!

I’m putting together an e-book of all my guides of conditions relating to invisible illnesses. Want you illness included? Comment below!

Until friday,

Z.M

x

Irish Dysautonomia Awareness

I’m Evie and I come from Cork, Ireland. I’m a 29-year-old mother of two baby zebras. Alex is 7 and Olivia is almost 2. I am diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), Orthostatic Intolerance and Vasovagal Syncope. I first heard of EDS after interviewing a young woman with EDS for the paper I used to work for. Something about this woman’s story stirred something inside me and I became passionate about raising awareness of the condition. A year later I was diagnosed with EDS. When I’m not blogging, looking after my two children or lying in bed ill, I help my husband run our wedding videography business and co-host a radio show on Saturday evenings from 7pm (Irish time) on www.clonlineradio.com.

evie blog

I write about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome an awful lot and with where I am guest posting today, I decided to focus on Dysautonomia. I recently wrote A Simple…

View original post 1,780 more words

Friday Feelings with Irish Dysautonomia Awareness

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

This week I spoke to Lette from Irish Dysautonomia Awareness. Lette suffers from Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) , Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) , Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction (SOD), Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction and Gut Dysmotility, to name but a few of her conditions. You can find Lette on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Lette
Lette and her baby, Boo.

Hi I’m Lette. When I’m am able for it I love to play retro video games, photography, drawing, craft, listen to music. I like to internet hop and watch shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Expanse and Black Sails with my wonderful husband and our little dog Boo.

So now we know a little about Lette, let’s have a read of her Friday Feelings entry.

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“Dear Diary…

It’s another Friday, they have begun to all feel the same these days, days melting into weeks, melting into months that float by me at high speed and I still seem to be stuck here in my bed, in a dark room, feeling putrid!

Motivation seems to have upped and all but disappeared. I think of all the things I have achieved throughout my life before I got very sick and everything went downhill in 2011. I got my art degree, my Masters of science, worked as a fitness instructor, (can you imagine?) as a wedding and events photographer and videographer, as a teacher in adult education and as a lecturer in third level. That was just education and work, when I had the proper use of my legs and body, my husband and I used to just love going hiking through the wild woods and lakes of Killarney with the dog and cameras in toe, I loved to drive and cycle and swim and walk aimlessly through fields for hours with the camera just because I could and I felt immense joy in looking back at and sometimes editing the photos and the memories I had captured while out.

I used to love drawing, animals especially and now it has been so long since I lost myself in any art. I forget what it’s like and I miss it but the energy is never there in recent times for me to act on that longing.

I don’t do any of these things anymore, I find I am spending more and more time in bed as I am just not capable, the majority of the time, of being upright. Either I am in severe pain with my gut issues or severe pain in my hips and shoulder joints, or the worst pain at the moment is coming from the back of my head / base of my skull / top of my neck pain which causes white blinding headaches where I can do nothing but lie in a dark room and moan. No phone, no laptop, no reading, no entertainment. Just darkness and constant pain and nausea or POTS issues where my blood pressure is so low I can hardly turn over in the bed. It wears you down.

The only time I get out these days is not to visit friends or family like I used to regularly do, but instead to go to hospital and consultant appointments and even then I have to reschedule many because I am too ill to go!

I’m getting gloomy but I don’t mean to be, because something different happened yesterday. I had to update the house insurance! What? Bear with me! Honestly, it gave me a sense of purpose, for all of those 15 or so minutes I had something, relatively important, to do and it felt good!

This morning I helped make the breakfast with the husband, put laundry washing on, picked up the Nintendo DS for the first time in ages and played Earthbound and I even had a shower. This may sound utterly silly, but to me, these are huge achievements! The shower is a funny one, I actually have to way up my energy for the day against the effort of a shower and believe me, I may not have the energy for days. It can get a tad funkay in fairness!

So while many friends of mine will be going out on the town later tonight or this weekend and I know a few others who are jetting off on a few days holidays in Europe, all I can achieve is having a freshly washed dressing gown, a nice shower, fresh fluffy socks and a hot cup of tea! Where once I would have drowned my sorrows in that cup of tea, tonight I am smiling because I know its ‘the little things’ that should and do count the most.

I have so much to be happy for. My wonderful husband, our amazing dog, my loving family and friends, the generosity of strangers who have helped with my medical fund, a relatively successful blog and related social media links, my talents have gotten rusty but I can get them back if I just try even one new thing every day.

Anyone can achieve anything if they just try and thats alright with me!”

A big thank you to Lette for taking part in our Friday Feelings blog.

Do you relate to Lette’s entry? Do you find joy in achieving what most people would take for granted in being able to do? Comment below and let us know what you thought of Lette’s entry.

Want to write your own Friday Feeling entry?

Send

A high res photo

A short paragraph about yourself

What illnesses you have

Your diary entry with the following topics in it:

It’s Friday, many people will go out tonight for a few sociable drinks with their friends. What do you do on a typical Friday night?
How are you feeling at this moment about your chronic illness?
How do you feel about the future in regards to your illness?
How do you feel about the way people view your illness?

and links to your blog and social media to evienevin87@yahoo.ie

Be sure to put “Friday Feelings” in the subject bar.

So until Sunday

Z.M

x

 

 

The Zebra Mom’s journey to London.

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

As I’m writing this it’s Rare Disease Day. I have a rare disease called Hypermobile  Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This condition is believed to affect 1-5,000/10,000 people. Although, many experts now believe it may not be rare at all, just rarely diagnosed. The new diagnostic criteria (released on March 15) may lead to a more concrete number.

Anyway, so I said earlier on in the week that I would explain my absence from social media and why my blog was late and it just so happens to fit in nicely with Rare Disease Day.

Taken from the Journal.ie:

The National Rare Disease Plan for Ireland up until 2018 was launched in 2014 by the former Health Minister, James Reilly.

The key recommendations include creating both a Clinical Care Programme and a National Office for Rare Diseases.

The Minister said, “This is a very important plan because we have 8,000 different rare diseases in a small island like ours. It’s very difficult for patients to get a diagnosis and then indeed treatment.

So we had a young man here earlier who had his picture taken who is having is treatment in the UK at the moment for his rare condition.

Reilly explained how this plan has looked at “how to shorten that journey and reduce the frustrations that people experience trying to get a diagnosis, and then indeed organising the treatments.”

The former Health Minister said a designated Clinical Care Programme for rare diseases will improve specialist services and allow for the development of a joined up model of care for patients. While the National Rare Diseases Office will identify Centres of Expertise for various rare diseases, provide a helpline function for patients and families and provide surveillance of national rare diseases.

James Reilly added:
The significance of this plan cannot be overstated because it provides us with a roadmap for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases.
“I fully endorse this plan as the means to positively shape how we look after people with rare diseases in Ireland”.

So at present, there are 8,000 diseases affecting millions of Irish citizens. Although we might be genetically rare, together we are actually very common. 1 in 10 people in the UK have a rare disease.

So three years later has anything changed for rare disease patients? From what I can tell? No. Well at least nothing for anyone with my condition. We still have no Clinical Lead Consultant, no schemes to help us get Treatment Abroad. The current Treatment Abroad scheme only covers referrals to public consultants. All the experts in the Hypermobility Unit I attend are private. There is still a huge lack of awareness amongst medical professionals. The length of time to get diagnosis is still too long or it never happens at all. Approximately 90% of patients I surveyed learned about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome before the diagnosis was confirmed. So it’s the patients that are essentially doing all the work. My own story to diagnosis reflects this.

As I’ve said my reason for being late with this blog fits in nicely with the reflection of how rare disease patients are treated across the world but particularly in Ireland.

I was called by the wonderful Professor Rodney Grahame Friday two weeks ago. He asked me to come to London the following Wednesday to be examined as I am having some rather bizzare symptoms. Just before I get a migraine/headache one of my eyes bulge, the headache starts shortly after and my nose begins to pour a water-like fluid.

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My eye at the beginning of an episode. Note my right eye (your left) is bigger than the other one. It will get slightly bigger as time goes on.

Professor Grahame had never come across these symptoms before which, for him would be rather rare in itself. He said I should go ahead and have my upright MRI and I only got my appointment times the following Monday. I had to fly to London the following day to be at Professor Grahame’s clinic on Wednesday morning.

The flights were phenomenally expensive and on top of all the stress of sorting out flights and accommodation, I had to leave my daughter for the very first time. She is almost 2 and we had never been apart longer than a few hours, let alone 3 nights and two days. We cosleep and breastfeed so we are very connected. I had to organise getting a breast pump so I wouldn’t get mastitis, plugged ducts or reduce my supply. Luckily, I am apart of a very close knit breastfeeding community so one lovely mummy donated a snazzy electric pump to hold on to as I’ll be over and back from London for the next year at least.

So on Tuesday my Dad and I flew to Heathrow via Cork airport. I brought my wheelchair with me as I was approaching that time of the month which makes me more prone to dislocation and soft tissue injuries. Plus going around London for 2 days was going to be tough on me anyway.

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Me arriving at Earl’s Court Underground

We stayed in Earl’s Court as per usual as it is a handy spot in the centre of everything. We were one tube stop away from the upright MRI clinic, Medserena on Cromwell Road and just 15 minutes from St John’s and St Elizabeth’s in St John’s Wood. Earl’s Court is also only one stop away from Kensington which is where all the big museums are such as the the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

On Wednesday I got to meet the wonderful Jared, Sarah and Annabelle Griffin of Annabelle’s Challenge before my appointment with Professor Grahame. I’m speaking at the Vascular EDS conference Jared is organising in May. We also combined forces and launched the REDS4VEDS campaign worldwide to raise awareness of Vascular EDS.

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From left: Jared, Dad, Me, Annabelle and her friend at St John’s Hospital.

At noon I met with Professor Grahame. I am thrilled that he managed to squeeze me in during his last week of clinic as he is retiring from the Hypermobility Unit. He examined me and looked at the photos of my bulging eye.

He questioned whether I might have a problem with my Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) and we also wondered whether I might have a Chairi Malformation as I have had weakness and other issues linked to Chiari for years.

Luckily Dad was on hand to show him a photo of my eye bulging and gave my medical history as a child specifically mentioning the weakness on my left side and my problem with going anywhere with artificial light and crowds as a child. I know now that it’s sensory processing disorder but nobody has put that down on paper as yet.

The next day we went to Medserena for my upright MRI. Two very dear Zebra friends of mine warned me that this wasn’t going to be as easy as a supine MRI and that both of them had never fully recovered from the scan. I really underestimated their warnings.

Professor Grahame had actually rang the clinic to make sure I was seen the day after my appointment with him. He ordered a scan of my cervical spine and craniocervical junction.

The staff at Medserena was very accommodating and polite, you didn’t feel like a client, you felt a visitor to someone’s home, not a cold and sterile clinic.

I went into the dressing room to put my valuables in the safe. Luckily, I had dressed in a loose top and a pair of leggings so I didn’t need to put on a gown. Just before I went in I took my Tramadol and Midon as suggested by the friends who had undergone this scan before.

Nervous, I found myself thinking about my children and husband. I pictured Olivia crying for mummy’s milk and Alex looking for cuddles in the middle of the night. I should be at home with them tonight, not hundreds of miles away across the ocean.

I sat down in the machine, luckily I got to sit as I was expecting to be standing. The scan wouldn’t have lasted that long if I was to stand because of my Orthostatic Intolerance.

The first position I had to look straight on. Because the scan takes 1.5 hours in total., the radiographer put a film on for me to watch. I had a choice between Skyfall or Tarzan. Didn’t matter to me either way as I didn’t have my glasses on, I could see diddysquat.

So, after the first position it was time to flex my neck downward, then upward and then right. There were a few occasions we needed to repeat scans as my images came out blurry. I had no idea why as I had stayed as still as I could. It’s ridiculous how still you have to be in an upright compared to a supine MRI. You can’t cough, you have to be breathe shallowly and you can not swallow. So you sit there five minutes at a time with saliva pooling in your mouth and your neck flexed in a position for five minutes.

When it came to my last position (neck turned left) I was in agony. After two attempts of this position, we had to give up. I was visibly in pain and it showed in the scans as they were very blurry.

Once I gathered my things in the dressing room, I went back into the reception and burst into tears. Not because of the pain-it’s not often that pain will make me cry now. No, it was my “fight or flight” mode gone into overdrive. I was so overwhelmed with the whole situation. Since the MRI finished at 5.45 (I went in at 3.45) my back, shoulder and neck had been giving me trouble.  Two weeks later the problems persists with swallowing becoming uncomfortable and slightly painful.

The lovely receptionist brought me some juice and chocolate for my shock. I was a mixed bag of emotions. I felt like I had been something very traumatic had just happened to me. For those of you who’ve not gone through this, it might sound dramatic but those who’ve been through this know my feelings are perfectly valid. The radiographer gave me a CD of my scan images and we left.

I’m sure for people without my issues, the MRI isn’t as draining or painful. But with the problems I have with my neck, it was torture.

That night I took a sleeping pill and slept from 9.30 until we had to get up for our flight at 7am. I had a headache like I was hungover, my whole body ached more than usual. This scan really did a number on me. But, I was going home. I’d see my babies and my husband and sleep in my own bed tonight.

The Aer Lingus staff were amazing on the flight home, very pleasant and very accommodating. Even though we were 30 minutes late taking off, we arrived just shortly after our arrival time. I was brought to the front of the queue in my wheelchair for every point in Heathrow and again in Cork, much to Dad’s amusement and delight.

When we came through the arrival doors of the airport the children saw me. Alex came bounding over and it took Olivia a second or two to realise mommy was home. She then came running over. Of course, it didn’t take her long before she climbed on my lap and latched on. Hubby came over with a big bunch of flowers to welcome me home. I have been on many trips before but never had a welcome party like this. My heart swelled.

The journey home was tough as the roads in Cork are abysmal especially after Hurricane Doris had come sweeping through.

I landed myself into my usual spot when I got home, on the couch. I’ve been quite ill since and have only managed to leave the house a couple of times in two weeks.

I received my report from Professor Smith in Medserena last Wednesday. Thankfully no Chiari was noted.

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Images from my upright MRI

The report was very detailed being four pages long. Here’s the Professor’s conclusion:

  1. In the cervical spine there is reversal of the normal cervical lordosis in the neutral position with evidence of instability at the C4-5 and C5-6 levels.
  2. There is no evidence of basilar invagination or of cerebellar tonsillar ectopia.
  3. Whilst the atlas is normally aligned over the axis. There is deviation of the odontoid peg to the left in the presence of intact ligaments of the craniocervical junction ligamentous complex.
  4.  On looking to the right and to the left the odontoid peg moves to the contralateral side indicating an element of laxity of the ligaments.

I am awaiting a call from one of my consultants to discuss the results and a course of treatment for my issues.

I return to London on April 9th this time for Autonomic Tests and physiotherapy. The children will be coming with me this time to be assessed by their physio too.

It’s downright criminal that we need to disrupt our lives even more and travel abroad to access experts and have these tests. They are nothing overly complicated and could easily be done here in Ireland but nobody does them. There are physiotherapists in Dublin who could look after the children but it is actually more hassle travelling 3 hours to Dublin than it is flying 45 minutes to London. At least we know the children are in safe hands there.

rare disease

I came across this image a few days ago while writing this blog and it really does ring true. This statement does not ring true to the doctors who look after us in the UK, of course but to the medical professionals who have no urge to learn or help those of us with Ehlers Danlos.

The theme of my talk at the Vascular EDS conference is about this very topic. Patients become the real experts when it comes to their condition. We know more about it than doctors who have trained for a decade or more.

I am the driving force behind my own medical care. For years I let doctors fob me off and dismiss my issues as nothing more than depression.

Luckily I have a great GP now who listens and does exactly what I ask her to do. I’m in charge of my own referrals, meds and treatments. She trusts my gut and knowledge. I am so grateful to have her, I know so many others who are not quite as lucky.

As I said, we are back in London in April and this visit is going to cost us 5,000 Euro.

I have friends helping to fundraise through coffee mornings and the likes.

My GoFundMe has been our main source of treatment money so far and I’ve been blown away by people’s genorosity.

Until Friday,

Z.M

x

 

 

Dear Minister Harris- aren’t you forgetting someone?

In 2016 the Dáil has passed a bill to make cannabis available in Ireland for medicinal use, after the Government said it would not oppose the legislation. People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, the bill seeks to legalise and regulate cannabis products, which are used for medical purposes. Mr Kenny said his bill intended to make cannabis available to those with chronic pain, epilepsy, cancer, MS, Fibromyalgia and, under a doctor’s recommendation, would help to alleviate symptoms of illness.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris said that although he has concerns about some elements of the bill, he will not oppose its progression to Committee Stage. Mr Harris asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to advise him on the scientific and clinical value of cannabis as a medicine. He said he wants to receive that advice from the agency before progressing the legislation any further.

The Minister also indicated that amendments would have to be made to the proposed bill to avoid the unintended effect of making cannabis legal for recreational use.

Minister Harris said he strongly believes that Ireland needs to take a look at policy in relation to medicinal cannabis, saying a number of countries have already taken the steps to make it available. He said he has met a number of patients and patient groups over the last few months who have highlighted their belief that it could relieve pain.

After the HPRA released their report, Mr Harris then released a statement about how things will most likely go ahead in regards to the use of Medical Cannabis. Check out this extract:

“The report stated that patients accessing cannabis through the programme should be under the care of a medical consultant
Medicinal cannabis will be made available to patients in the Republic of Ireland with certain types conditions. I’ve asked my officials now to outline to me how quickly I can put a compassionate access programme in place.
The minister thanked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the members of the Expert Review Group for their work on the report which he described as a “milestone” in the development of policy on medicinal cannabis.

“This report marks a significant milestone in developing policy in this area. This is something I am eager to progress but I am also obligated to proceed on the basis of the best clinical advice. The report notes that this is ultimately a societal and policy decision and I have decided to proceed with the advice of the HPRA and establish an access programme for cannabis-based treatments for certain conditions, where patients have not responded to other treatments and there is some evidence that cannabis may be effective,” Mr Harris said.

The HPRA report advised that, if a policy decision is taken to permit cannabis under an access programme, it should be for the treatment of patients with:

Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis resistant to all standard therapies and interventions whilst under expert medical supervision.
Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, despite the use of standard anti-emetic regimes whilst under expert medical supervision.
Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy that has failed to respond to standard anticonvulsant medications whilst under expert medical supervision.

Now, I am delighted that those suffering from the conditions mentioned above will get relief by using Cannabis but, I have a very big concern. What about those of us with chronic pain? What happened that we have become excluded from the list?

In his letter published on chronicpain.ie, Professor David P. Finn, PhD states:

“We now know from thousands of peer-reviewed scientific publications that the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in regulating physiological processes including pain, stress/anxiety, appetite, learning, memory and cell development.

Multiple laboratory and clinical studies support the effectiveness of cannabinoids for the treatment of a wide range of disorders, including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and others. Further randomised, double-blind controlled clinical trials looking at larger patient numbers and over longer time frames would certainly be welcome.

Evidence to date suggests that the adverse side-effects of cannabinoids used in a clinical context are mostly mild, and not overtly serious or life-threatening.

We should also remember that cannabis plants can vary considerably, with different strains containing very different contents of THC (the constituent responsible for the ‘high’), and with over 100 different cannabinoids present in varying amounts across different strains, many of which do not have abuse potential but may still have significant therapeutic potential (e.g. cannabidiol)

There is no strong rationale for treating cannabinoids any differently than, for example, opioid drugs such as codeine or morphine, both of which are derived from a plant (the opium poppy), have been mainstays in modern medicine for decades, have abuse potential, and whose adverse effects, dependence liability and potential for harm are in fact significantly greater than those of cannabinoids.”

Professor Finn PhD is Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics in the National University of Ireland Galway and President of the Irish Pain Society.

I take 5,000 pills a year for my pain. 5,000. Let’s say I continue on these doses and I live to the ripe old age of 80. That’s 250,000 pills. A quarter of a million pills. In comparison to some of my friends, that’s a very low figure.

What happens to our bodies when we are on opiates long term?

Long term opiate use can cause veins to collapse

Can cause sedation

Can slow the digestive system (Gastroparesis)

Can cause greater sensitivity to pain (Hyperalgesia)

Can cause muscle rigidity

Can make the immune system weak

Can cause respiratory depression

Can cause twitching of the muscles (Myoclonus)

Can cause Hormonal Dysfunction

Can increase the risk of depression

the list goes on and on. I can’t imagine taking 250,000 pills for the next 50 years is going to do my liver any favours either!

Essential oil made from medicinal cannabis

What about Medicinal Cannabis?

Marijuana does have any proven side effects. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors, which are concentrated in areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception. The effects of marijuana can interfere with attention, judgment and balance. Some studies have produced conflicting results on whether smoking marijuana carries a significant cancer risk but there’s nothing concrete. There is also conflicting evidence on whether long term use of Cannabis effects one’s mental health but again, nothing concrete. Scientists say that it may increase the risk of psychosis but, those studies seemed to focus on the use of Cannabis in teens and young adults recreationally, not medicinally. If someone has evidence to state otherwise, please do let me know so I can amend this.

There is a plethora of evidence that shows Medical Cannabis can be very beneficial for patients with chronic pain. Many of us would opt for Cannabis as it is diverse and doesn’t need to be smoked. It’s also natural so we could cut way back on the manufactured pain meds. Surely it would be much cheaper for the HSE to supply chronic pain patients (who have medical cards) with something that can be grown in abundance than to pay for trillions of pills each year?

Taken from Irish Health, ‘Long Waiting Times for Chronic Pain Patients’, Jan 2016

“Chronic pain affects around 13% of the Irish population, however those affected have to wait an average of two years before seeing a doctor specialising in this area. According to Dr Dominic Hegarty, a consultant in pain management at Cork University Hospital, chronic pain ‘presents a major challenge to the citizens and the economy of Europe’.

Most people affected experience their pain for more than two years and some are affected for 20 years or longer. Chronic pain patients make an average of seven visits to healthcare providers every year, with 22% making more than 10 visits.”

Imagine how these stats would change if medical cannabis was prescribed to chronic pain patients? If cannabis is as effective as the experts say for chronic pain patients, it could mean waiting times drastically reducing as many patients wouldn’t need to see as many specialists.

There is so many things wrong with our health system here in Ireland. Waiting times are abysmal across the board. Many of us finally get to see the specialists, get prescribed a cocktail of meds, exhaust all options for it not to work. The patients are loosing out. What does the Government have to loose by allowing those who have exhausted all options to try medicinal cannabis?

Let me leave you with this, dear Minister. People with chronic pain are three times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders according to Harvard University. So, not only are the Government and HSE footing the bill for pain treatment but for psychiatric treatment also. Three times more likely to develop conditions such as depression and anxiety, is it any wonder why there is such high rates of suicide amongst the chronic pain community?

Please think about the implications of excluding those of us with chronic pain. By allowing us to give medicinal cannabis a try, you’re potentially giving a piece of a person’s life back or saving one.

Sincerely,

A sufferer of chronic pain, a mother of two children with chronic pain disorders and of course, a citizen of Ireland.

 

 

 

 

Being Chronically Ill means..

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

Hope everyone had a nice break over the holiday period and that you’ve recovered from all the travelling, cooking, early mornings and late nights.

In latest news I’m very excited to announce I have been asked to speak at a medical conference in Manchester this coming May. The conference is to educate and raise awareness of Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I am truly honoured to have been asked to address medical professionals from all over the world. It’s a massive responsibility to represent the EDS community and I will do my best to explain the struggles we all face.

Anyway,  I just wrote this piece for a bit of a laugh. I’m not trying to be a negative ninny (in case somebody doesn’t pick up on my sarcastic tone), I will get around to writing part two of my trip to London shortly. I know some of you were eager to read about prices and places to stay etc.

Hope you enjoy my latest blog!

One day of fun=several days of a flare up.

You’ve taken your meds, you’re feeling as well as can be. You put on your glad rags and you make it into the car. Even doing that much your energy levels start to drop and your pain levels start to rise but God damn it, your going to this party. You’ve been staring at the same four walls for weeks now. Even if you have to walk in with a cane or arrive in your wheelchair, you are going to spread your wings and be a social butterfly for one evening.

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You manage to spend an hour or so catching up with friends while listening to how “you look great and you’d never know you were sick by looking at you” when all you wanted to do was forget you were sick for one night. But getting out is worth being someone’s inspiration porn.

You go home and fall into bed. This is where you stay for the next few days only crawling out to use the toilet or to grab a packet of crackers to stop yourself from starving to death.

You have more sets of PJs than actual clothes.

You spend more time at home than you do outside so it’s only natural you’d spend a lot of time in what you’re most comfortable in. While many of us would prefer to get dressed and glammed up to make ourselves feel normal, others just don’t want to waste energy on putting on clothes and make up. A lot of the time you choose between getting dressed or putting on a load of laundry or ya know, eating?

Hey! If these dudes can walk around in their house all day in their PJs, why can’t I?

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Your bed is your best friend and your enemy.

When you’re ill a lot of the time your bedroom becomes your place to escape so that you can rest and recover. Unfortunately you do end up spending a lot of time in bed and sometimes it can be for several days. You can often end up resenting your bed. While the majority of society love their beds, people who are chronically ill associate it with being in pain.

You often develop a less than desirable odour.

When you’ve been in bed for a day or so, you develop a very specific smell. It’s a mix of sweat, anguish and food that you’ve spilled on yourself. Getting up for a shower can be very tough on our bodies. Again, it’s about picking and choosing what you spend your energy on. Bathing or making dinner. The kids have to eat. The smell won’t kill em but starvation probably will.

When you do get round to washing  yourself you feel somewhat human again. But then you have to go lie down.

If someone were to shake you, you’d probably rattle.

You can never just have one chronic illness. No, no, no. There’s always a domino affect. Your main illness causes all sorts of weird and wonderful sub conditions. Consequently you take a whole lotta pills to keep yourself functioning. You’ve got one cupboard in your house that looks like a pharmacy, you have to brace yourself when you open it as more often than not, something falls out. People are always shocked to see it and know that if they get a headache while in your home you’ll have an array of pills to kick that sucker’s ass.

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A successful day for you is getting dressed and actually leaving the house.

Just grabbing whatever has been tossed at the end of your bed and leaving the house to buy food or collect the kids is enough to gush about when your significant comes home from work. Victory is yours!

You get annoyed listening to people crib about having a cold, going to work or having to go to out socialising with their friends even though they are so00 tired.

Many of us can’t work or leave the house when we want so don’t complain and tell us “I know how you feel” because you have a cold. Difference is you’re going to get better. Oh no! You have to go to a Christmas party? My heart bleeds for you.

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You have watched anything worth watching already.

Netflix and chill doesn’t mean the same thing to us. It literally means to binge watch shows while doped up to our eye balls on pain meds. Many of us will tell you we have spent many a day watching OITNB while curled into the foetal position because said meds aren’t working.

Till next time,

Z.M

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A Simple Guide to The Ehlers Danlos Syndromes

UPDATE: On March 15 2017, criteria and classifications of The Ehlers Danlos Syndromes were updated for the first time in 20 years. In light of this, I will update my guide (with the new information made available) to highlight new diagnostic criteria and classifications. You can read more about the changes here.

Because there are now 13 types of EDS, I have only covered Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (vEDS) and Classical Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (cEDS). If you would like me to do another guide to the rarer types, please comment below or email me. I would be more than happy to oblige!

“You’re suffering from Fibromyalgia!” “You’re depressed!” “You’re imagining it!”

“You’re malingering!” “You’re attention seeking!-”

“No I’m not – I have an Ehlers Danlos Syndrome!”

 The Ehlers Danlos Syndromes (EDS) are a group of conditions that are poorly understood, even by many in the medical professions. It is essentially a defect in the production of collagen, an essential component of connective tissue.

Many articles about EDS contain medical terminology that can be difficult to understand. The purpose of this guide is to put the medical terminology in plain language and help non-affected family and friends understand exactly how EDS affects people and their day-to-day lives. The medical terminology is included in italics. Links to web pages are included throughout the article if you want to conduct your own research.

Why are they called The Ehlers Danlos Syndromes (EDS)?

The name of the condition itself is quite a mouthful! Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Eylerz-Dan loss Sin-drome) is named after the two physicians, Dr Ehlers and Dr Danlos, who first described this group of connective tissue disorders.

What is EDS?

People with a type of EDS will produce faulty collagen. Collagen is essential for healthy connective tissue, which is found throughout the body supporting and connecting the different types of tissues and organs, including tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, internal organs, bones, the blood and skin.

Imagine a healthy person’s connective tissue as being like regular household glue. People with EDS have collagen that is more like chewing gum; stretchy and not very good at keeping things in place.

What causes EDS?

There are a number of different genes responsible for making collagen and connective tissue, so there are different types of EDS depending on which genes are faulty. There are 13 types of The Ehlers Danlos Syndromes

How did I get a faulty gene?

It is possible that the faulty gene may have been inherited from one parent, or both parents, or not inherited at all. It may be that the defect has occurred in that person for the first time. This happens in 25% of cases.

 How I explained it to my 7-year old son.

A carpenter makes a wooden chair. Instead of using wood glue to place the joints of the chair together, he uses chewing gum. Once finished, the chair looks fine. But, as time goes by and the chair is used, the chewing gum doesn’t work very well at keeping the joints together. Without proper glue the chair can begin to get wobbly. I went on to explain that with proper exercise he could help to strengthen his muscles so that they acted like binding around the joints to help support them.

What does EDS feel like?

Having an EDS feels different from person to person, depending on their type, but many describe it as having a lifelong flu. Have you ever had the flu? Do you remember how painful it was having those aches and pains in the joints and muscles? Do you remember how tired and run down you felt? That’s what it’s like for people with EDS only worse and it never goes away. In addition to the daily aches and pains people with EDS also have to deal with very painful headaches, gut issues and then of course there’s the issue of dislocation. Many EDSers can’t go a day without a joint popping out. It can happen simply by stepping off a footpath or picking up a pot when cooking. A lot of people with EDS are also affected by the weather. When it is damp or when the air pressure changes their pain can increase.

How does EDS affect people?

Because collagen is everywhere in the body, there are hundreds of ways EDS can affect people. Any two people with EDS may have very different signs and symptoms, this includes people with the same type. In som,e the condition is quite mild. For others it can be disabling. Some of the rare severe types can be life-threatening.

One of the problems with diagnosing EDS is that many diseases share the same symptoms. As a result, EDS can be easily confused with other conditions and it may be difficult for doctors to recognise. But there are ways to tell if someone may be affected by EDS and need more thorough investigation. Some of the investigations available are listed later.

The most common symptoms of EDS (hEDS and cEDS) are:

  • “Double jointed” – Hypermobility: joints that are more flexible than normal.
  • Loose, unstable joints that dislocate easily.
  • Clicking joints.
  • Joint and muscle pain

In addition there may be

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness).
  • Injuring easily.
  • Fragile skin that bruises and tears easily. The skin may also be stretchy.
  • Digestive problems
  • Dizziness and an increased heart rate after standing up. (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or simply POTS for short)
  • Incontinence of urine in women

Digestion.

If food in the stomach doesn’t move through the body to make its way out it may just sits in the intestines and can cause a feeling of fullness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, to name just a few symptoms. This condition is known as Gastroparesis. (gas-tro par-eesis).

Nervous System

Another condition than often affects people with EDS is a fault with that part of the nervous system controlling the “automatic” functions of the body; things like blood pressure, breathing, heartbeat, digestion, how hot or cold you feel and the way your organs work and so on. This is called the Autonomic Nervous System. When it doesn’t operate as it should the conditions is called Dysautonomia (Dis-auto-no-me-a). Common symptoms of this are trouble with digestion, dizziness and fainting.

Dysautonomia affecting the heart.

The most common type of Dysautonomia causes dizziness and an increased heart rate after standing up. This condition is called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or simply, POTS for short.

Some sufferers have fairly mild symptoms and can continue with normal work, school, social and recreational activities. For others, symptoms may be so severe that normal life things like bathing, housework, eating, sitting upright, walking or standing can be very difficult. They may feel dizzy or even faint from doing these things.

What are the symptoms for POTS?

People with POTS experience fatigue (extreme tiredness), headaches, lightheadedness (feeling dizzy), heart palpitations (when their heart beats so hard you can hear and feel it), exercise intolerance (feel ill when exercising), nausea (feeling sick), diminished concentration (hard to concentrate), tremulousness (shaking), syncope (fainting), coldness or pain in the arms, legs, fingers and toes, chest pain and shortness of breath. People with POTS can develop a reddish purple colour in the legs when standing; this is believed to be caused by blood falling down in the body because of weak veins. The colour change subsides upon returning to sitting or lying position.

Can you tell someone has EDS just by looking at them?

The short answer is no. Some may have typically blue sclera (whites of the eyes), they may have translucent skin (see through) and you may even notice how bendy they are. But some people may have some of these things and not have EDS.

Many people with the type of EDS that affects blood vessels (Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or simply, vEDS) do have some facial characteristics. Notice in the picture below that the people have big eyes, thin nose and lips.

veds_type_poster3_2

Can EDS kill people?

Some people think it can’t but actually, EDS has led to the untimely death of people all over the world. vEDS is considered the most serious form of EDS due to the possibility of the heart or organs tearing.

Many EDSers live a life of constant pain. This pain and misunderstanding from their medical teams, families and friends can make a person feel very sad and alone which can lead to depression and even suicide.

What treatments are available for people with EDS?

Because EDS is considered “rare” there are not many doctors willing to learn about it. Types such as hEDS and cEDS can be somewhat managed through specialised physiotherapy. Joints with weak connective tissue are more likely to dislocate. Exercises to strengthen the muscles around a joint can help stabilize the joint. Your physical therapist might also recommend specific braces to help prevent joint dislocations. Occupational therapy is also useful to help manage everyday life. Pain relief is very important for people with EDS.

EDSers should also be under the care of a Rheumatologist (a doctor who looks after bones and joints), a Cardiologist (heart doctor). There may also be a need for more specialised doctors such as Neurologists (doctors who look after the nervous system) or all of the above plus many, many more. Sometimes operations are required to repair joints that have dislocated frequently and haven’t healed properly.

Do all people with EDS need wheelchairs?

Not everyone will experience EDS the same way, some people can live normal lives and manage very well with physiotherapy and pain relief. Others may need to use wheelchairs or walking sticks to help them get around. Some people with EDS also have Gastroparesis which we discussed earlier and may need to be fed using a tube. Others may only have mild tummy problems. Some people with EDS may have to go to hospital a lot while some may only go to their GP every few months. But, just because one person can live their lives fairly normally, it doesn’t mean they don’t have EDS or that their pain shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Can you catch EDS, POTS or Gastroparesis?

No. EDS and other sub conditions are not contagious. If you know somebody with EDS, don’t be afraid, you’re not going to catch anything from them. So, if you’re avoiding someone with EDS, go make friends with them.

 How can I help someone with EDS?

Be there to listen if they want to talk about it. Some people are afraid to tell you how they feel because they think friends and family don’t want to hear them complain. Ask them how they are and if you can do anything to help them. Doing shopping or household chores can be a huge help and it would be most appreciated. If you’re friend or family member has EDS and can’t access appropriate treatment like here in Ireland, write to your local representatives to tell them about EDS and the lack of care that is available. Help raise awareness in the public by sharing articles or pictures about EDS. Experts believe that EDS is not rare, just rarely diagnosed.

I will update the Diagnostic Criteria for cEDS, hEDS and vEDS in the coming days.

*Special thanks to my Dad who helped me edit this guide.*

Do you think anything else about EDS needs to be explained? Let me know in the comments!

Z.M

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