Human Barometer

We often joke in the EDS community that we are the human equivalents of Barometers. Any sudden changes in air pressure and you’ll find us suffering with a myriad of problems such as migraines, excessive joint subluxations (partial dislocations), dislocations, joint and muscle pain. This week I feel like I have had them all.

 

Monday started with a bang, I felt like someone had smashed me in the face with a shovel. This lead to me spending most of the morning lying in a darkened room. Until I suddenly had a brain wave and decided to see if putting a soft neck collar on would help at all. I have always held a deep suspicion that my migraines are triggered by my neck being hypermobile, I get a lot of pain and stiffness in my neck overnight. I always wake up with a migraine, very rarely do they start when I am up and about during the day. Within minutes of putting the collar on my head pain had reduced by half. Within two hours I was pain free but exhausted and still feeling sick. However anything was better than having the head pain.

Tuesday started on waking with a gnawing pain in my coccyx – right between my bum cheeks to be honest, hence why there are no photos! I have had massive problems with my coccyx this year after slipping on the snow and ice back in March. At the time I was much more worried about my head as I managed to crack it on the back door step. The lasting injury has been to my coccyx, which has resulted in me having to buy special cushions to sit on and to lie down in the lounge whenever I can to take the pressure off. I’ve lost 2 ½ stone over the year and you’d think that my joint pain would be getting easier but it isn’t. The coccyx pain is very uncomfortable, Tuesday it joined in with severe lower back pain which lead to me giving up and going to bed a 4pm. Only after applying my Tens machine for 4 hours did I have any notion of relief. It really was exceptionally painful and made me feel sick. No matter what pain medications I took the pain remained causing my buttocks and the backs of my thighs to spasm. I will be honest I really didn’t know what on earth to do with myself. It wasn’t even particularly stormy here yesterday just a bit gusty but obviously the weather and the air pressure were drastically different to the stable weather – but way too hot in the summer.

 

Today (Wednesday) the UK is being battered by another storm and my body feels like it spent the night being battered by a shovel. Since waking various parts of my body have been covered with a hot water bottles, with very little effect other than to make me sweat a lot as despite the fact the weather is very windy outside the temperature is very warm.My body is overheating constantly at the moment which is leading to me dripping with sweat at the drop of a hat. Either that or I have hot the menopause! So what hurts today? Today as most days I have pain in my lower spine and coccyx, my fingers are swollen, stiff and sore. My ribs feel like someone decided to attack me with a baseball bat whilst I slept and the soles of my feet feel like I’ve been hit with a 

with a baseball bat whilst I slept and the soles of my feet feel like I’ve been hit with a piece of 2 by 4 ( wood ). Other than that, I am groggy as hell with the constant waking up last night to take more pain relief. This is not a good day but I have been expecting a run of bad days after having a reasonable week last week. It’s the way it goes plus add in a few storms and my body reacts badly to the change in air pressure.

 

 

I forgot to mention that my shoulders are slipping in and out of  their sockets, making a terrific crunching sound as they do. Today nothing other than just surviving will be done. When I say just surviving I mean lying on the sofa hoping at some point the pain relief I have taken kicks in. There will be no enjoying myself, doing things that I like to do. It will be a case of just riding it out. That’s the way this chronic illness lark works. I may have a run of a few good days but they will be followed by several if not more bad. Which is why when its good ( when I say good I mean better than a bad day) I tend to cram as much in as I can.

I’m sick of this pain, especially when it’s like this and no painkillers touch it. It’s not a pain where you scream and shout it’s a nonstop constant bone gnawing pain that escalates as the day progresses. Sometimes it takes my breath away, it makes me miserable and snappy. I hate the way it can completely change my personality from laid back and kind to nasty and angry at the world. Unfortunately those closest to me bear the brunt of it, with me losing my temper very easily. A technique I have learnt to avoid me lashing out is to just go quiet and not speak. That way I can be horrible to those I love the most.

 

Thursday brings more storms and a trip to see my hospital consultant which is more than an hour away by car. It’s a crack of dawn appointment as well so 90 minutes after this blog post is published I will be on the road. I will have had to get up at around 4am so that I can pace myself whilst getting washed and dressed. I am not looking forward to using my wheelchair as sitting upright at the moment is so painful, added in the 2 hour car journey (there and back) and I will be wracked with pain….again.

I do have a lot to discuss with my consultant, I haven’t seen him since March, it’s a necessary evil – he’s not evil he’s lovely, just the journey is torturous. I have developed numerous issues since I saw him last and I need to get to the bottom of them. One of them is the possibility that I have got Sjogren’s Syndrome ( I have had dry eyes for years but the eye drops are no longer working, my mouth is dry so I am getting numerous cavities and my tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth when I talk). I need this to be looked at as my eyes are just so painful and with my pathological hatred of the Dentist I need the cavities to stop.More information on Sjogrens syndrome here.

This is such a down beat post and for that I am sorry. I had such a lovely week last week seeing friends and managing to make some bits and pieces.

 

The Christmas wreaths had been half made since August so I managed to finish those by adding hanging loops and bows.

 

I also made a number of Travis bags.

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Am I moaning?

I think I am going through what a lot of people with chronic illness / chronic pain go through where they wonder if they have turned into a bit of a moaner. Obviously a lot of us have pretty reasonable things to moan about but I am started to get paranoid that maybe I have crossed an invisible line from previously what was an acceptable level of moaning to an unacceptable level of moaning, for those whose lives aren’t blighted by chronic illness.

 

I usually say very little about my health on social media, its like my own dirty little secret that most days I am wracked with pain or have ptosis or feeling anxious or whatever the hell is going on that day. When I do post it’s usually because things are much worse than normal. I have posted a lot this summer about my health because things have been the worst they have been for a long time. The heat wave although helping my joint pain no end made my PoTs symptoms absolutely horrific. Every movement kicked off palpitations, my blood pressure was horrendously low in the 80/70 range most days. Leaving me feeling faint and exhausted. I could barely manage to walk some days. Many, many days were spent in bed feeling very sorry for myself. And do you know what? I get very angry  when I feel sorry for myself because I feel weak and vulnerable.

 

Regular readers will also know that my CSF Leak has come back, although it’s not at the level it was in 2016 I have had several days over the last few weeks where I have been unable to leave my bed because the pain is so intense. It makes me want to vomit. I described the pain to someone as feeling like both my eyeballs had been removed and dipped in acid then rammed back in the sockets. Whilst the back of my head feels like I am being beaten to death with a shovel. Now if you were experiencing those levels of pain do you not think, honestly that you may mention it once or twice? Or however many times that you want to. Because believe me when you are dealing with that kind of pain you just don’t care what people think.

 

Along with the pain the CSF leak brings I have also had some additional symptoms like vertigo that only goes away with lying flat. Losing my balance very easily and being unable to bend down / lean forward repeatedly as this is triggering the leak headache. As I say I am lucky it’s not as bad as it was in 2016 but it’s bad enough.

 

In the last few months I have also had my migraines return, I have ended up having to take amitriptyline every night as a migraine preventer. It’s kind of working since taking them at the start of July I have had one migraine. However my migraines have come back as if they are amped up on steroids, I have to lie in a darkened room, vomiting into my bedroom bin because I can’t get up.

 

Bizarrely I have also had my left big toe, nail fall off, out of nowhere. I had an intense amount of pain in my toe. It actually hurt to touch the nail. I lifted up the side of the nail ( I had both sides removed over ten years ago due to repeated ingrowing toenails) and the nail came off in my hand. It hurt but it didn’t hurt anywhere near as badly as it had done just before the nail came off.

 

Have I bored you yet? Because believe me I am bored with it. I feel like I am in a never-ending soap opera where shit keeps happening and I have no control over it. So yes I may have mentioned on social media a few times over the summer how fucking awful I am feeling and to be fair I haven’t even touched on about 50% of the health stuff that’s been going on of late. This is just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head.

 

Admitting you are sick on social media is a dangerous game, post happy cheerful stuff and you are judged to be not as sick as you make out. Post stuff about how fucking awful you feel and you’re moaning. You can’t win. I don’t want my life to revolve around my health conditions but there will be periods of time when it does because all I can do is just keep my head above water.  To feel that I can’t express what is going on in my life, when I can go weeks where the only person I see or talk to in the flesh is my husband, just seems cruel. It’s not that I want someone to talk to – and thank you to all those who have offered me a safe place to vent. It’s just sometimes even I don’t believe what is going on health wise. I don’t think I have ever been completely honest with anyone because there is always more than one thing going on with me. I always just give those closest to me the headline news not the full story.

 

Any way that’s me, I am bored with this subject already and if I am bored with it I have probably sent the rest of you to sleep also. Mr Myasthenia Kid has been on holiday the last two weeks ( well just over ). It’s the longest holiday he has taken in years. We’ve really enjoyed the time we have spent together. We’ve managed to work on a few projects together, which I first touched on in my blog post upcycling.

We had so much paint left that we decided to upcycle our lounge coffee table  taking it from this – those dots on it are from dog drool

To this

 

Jay did the lions share of work because I am just not physically able to. I did a small amount of painting, basically just catching the bits that he missed. We have painted the stripped pine with hard wax oil which means the wood is now water-resistant and has a lovely finish. It took several days to dry and for a while we were concerned that the top of the table felt very rough. However as the hard wax oil has dried its left a silky smooth surface.

 

Jamie’s work also got the thumbs up from John Scott and Jo Carter on the Sewing Quarter. I don’t think I have ever seen Jay so proud as when they both said how lovely the table looked. I am very proud of him as it was no mean feat sanding the table top down.

 

 

 

Not happy with doing  just the bedside cabinets, the lounge coffee table on bank holiday Monday 27th August 2018 he also painted our kitchen chairs. They look fabulous and make such a difference. And we still have paint left from the 750ml of Scotch Mist Frenchic Furniture paint.

 

I also got a shout out on the Sewing Quarter Saturday 25th August – cheers John xx

 

 

My week

 

Over the last week I have been quite unwell, culminating in an emergency appointment at the doctors surgery yesterday. As is usual for me it wasn’t clear what exactly was wrong. I had severe abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant – I’m no stranger to abdominal pain, I have suffered with it for as long as I can remember. I can remember countless home visits by the gp where I was yet again diagnosed with a grumbling appendix.

 

I don’t think what I had yesterday was my appendix – its still sore today ( just not as bad). I think it is actually a cyst on my ovary, the doctors found one in 2015 but as it was only 2cm in size the protocol was not to monitor it. For years every few months I would get a pain in my lower right side. Loads of times I was convinced it was my appendix but after they found the cyst I realised that this made more sense. I started to track when I had the pain, it was always between the 20th to the 28th of each month and would last a few days. However over the last six months every two or so months the pain ramps up. I have a reasonably high pain threshold and it takes a lot to make me go to see the dr, let alone ring them up and demand an appointment. Normally I’m the patient running in the opposite direction.

 

Yesterday I couldn’t stand up straight when it was at its worst and when I was on the phone to the duty doctor I was curled up in a ball on the bed. I didn’t just have pain on the right side but the whole of my insides felt sore and were burning.  Thankfully the duty doctor agreed that I did need to be seen and set an appointment for an hour later. Thankfully Mr Myasthenia Kid was day off so he could drop me down there. I also had a pot to piss in ( ha ha ha ha!) my old gp used to give me a sample pot to use when I suspected I had a UTI. I forgot yesterday to ask for another one to replace it.

 

By the time I got to the doctors appointment the pain was already decreasing. I felt a bit of a fraud to be honest. Whilst I am typing the pain is ramping up again, I’ve taken pain killers so hopefully it will settle it again. I haven’t got a temperature and today I am not feeling unwell. I don’t feel right – I think all of us with a chronic illness or condition know when our bodies aren’t feeling right. Mine hasn’t felt right for a few weeks, initially I put it down to anxiety, stress, then the heat. But I know in my heart of hearts it’s more than that. It’s like the time I kept telling my old hospital consultant that I felt terribly unwell, I didn’t know what it was but he needed to listen to me. The arrogant twat didn’t, he sent me reluctantly for blood tests. Five days later I got a snotty letter telling me all my bloods were normal. Three days after that letter he had to backtrack because my prolactin levels were stupidly high. See I knew that something was wrong, never ignore your instinct about your health.

 

My urine was dipped and nothing was showing. I then had to get up on the couch and be examined. I knew it was coming, I made sure that front and back bottoms were scrupulously clean as I feared gloved fingers could be inserted into either orifice. Luckily I avoided that one! My stomach was palpated, as is usual the doctors always ask about the scar on my stomach. I’ve had a scar on my stomach since I was 3 and a bit. It’s been there so long that unless someone draws my attention to it I don’t remember it’s there. Now that will probably seem strange as it’s a horrific looking thing all thanks to EDS.

 

If I wasn’t such a lard-arse at the moment I may have taken a photo to show you. The scar runs from around an inch above my belly button to the top my pubic bone. It has healed very wide around an inch or more at the worst places and the skin is paper thin. I also have no sensation / feeling at all in my stomach about 2 inches either side of the scar as the nerves were cut ( I have had multiple surgeries). It’s caused me problems in the past due to burns. A few times I have ended up seeking hospital treatment as I have given myself a serious burn injury and not noticed until the skin has gone black. Like I said I have no feeling there.

 

The scar has also tethered at the end near my pubic bone. This means the scar tissue has adhered to the muscle underneath. It causes me no pain but means my stomach is divided into two parts due to the tethering.

 

I showed the doctor on my abdomen where the pain was, she felt it and I had to be peeled off the ceiling. At this point she told me that she wanted to ring the surgical team at the local hospital for advice as she felt it could be my appendix or it could be an ovarian cyst torsion ( meaning the ovary was twisting because of the cyst). Personally I thought with both I’d be in more pain than I was. I declined the call to the surgical team basically because I hate the local hospital. If I had been in severe pain, vomiting etc obviously I would have gone, I’m not an idiot. But I knew what would happen, lots of tests, no sleep, idiot medical professionals and sent home after being made to feel like a time waster. At this point all I wanted was my bed.

 

I made the doctor a solemn promise that should the pain intensify overnight that I would ring 999 and if it was bad tomorrow (now today) I’d ring them. She wasn’t totally happy but she knew I wasn’t going to hospital. I have to add here that even in that severe amount of pain my blood pressure reached the dizzying heights of 115/80 with a pulse of 95, oxygen 98%. When my blood pressure is normal ( doesn’t happen very often these days) when in pain I am normally in the 130/90 territory. So that just goes to show you how low my blood pressure has been of late.

Its not desperately low but I am 5ft 8 tall and not petite. Most doctors take my blood pressure and you can see that they are looking forward to giving me a lecture about my weight and high blood pressure. You can see the disappointment in their eyes when it comes back low! If my blood pressure is below around 115/80 I can be hideously symptomatic, every time I stand up I feel faint. This week I have been drinking expresso’s as it’s the only thing that gives my blood pressure a boost, even if it is only temporarily.

Around 2.30pm the doctor I saw yesterday rang to check how I was. That was really kind of her but I feel guilty for making her worry. It wasn’t a quick call either, she had a huge list of questions to ask to ensure I wasn’t brushing her off and telling her what I thought she wanted to hear. This is why I love the small practice I use as they have the time to care about their patients, it doesn’t feel like a conveyor belt. If you need longer than your allotted time then you get it and none of the other patients mind as they also know they won’t be rushed out the door.

 

My plan is when feeling slightly better that I will make a doctors appointment and ask to have this pain investigated. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if my ovary is stuck to my appendix due to all the adhesions I have.  

 

I’ve been so rough over the last week or so I haven’t done very much in the way of sewing. I tried some hand sewing yesterday but couldn’t concentrate so gave up. Today I finished a Travis bag for one of my Instagram friends. Thankfully that was a quick bit of sewing as I had started it well over a week ago. I can’t put a photo up as she hasn’t received it yet. Jamie will be sending it tomorrow for me. The lovely lady and I have chatted a few times on IG and she asked me if she could send me one of her bags and give her an honest critique of her work, which is a bloody brave thing to do. The bag would be mine to keep. I couldn’t let her just send me a bag, as I knew she had a dog I thought I would send her a Travis bag.

 

This is the bag she sent me,

 

I absolutely love this bag. The quilting is amazing, she’s also used variegated thread so it goes dark and light which emphasises the quilting beautifully. I only wish that I could quilt as accurately as this!

I quit……..smoking

Mr Myasthenia Kid has managed to pass on his sickness bug to me. He ended up coming home from work on Monday after vomiting twice. He spent the rest of Monday sleeping. I spent last night going from freezing cold to boiling hot, my hair is crazy this morning. I am also horrendously nauseous. So today’s offering will be short and sweet.

 

On 6th August I packed in smoking tobacco, over the previous couple of months I had slowly been falling out of love with it. It no longer tasted the same, smelt the same, I was smoking more but enjoying less and less. Because I rolled my own cigarettes I was also getting stained fingers which meant several times a week I was having to bleach them to get rid of the tar stains. I knew the time was approaching where I was going to give up. I just didn’t know if I would be able to do it.

 

At the same time as I was falling out of love with cigarettes, a friend of mine had given up smoking. Something I never thought in a million years would happen. She had bought a vape and literally swapped over from smoking 20 plus a day to none and solely using the vape in a few days. She brought the vape over to show me and a week later I bought myself one. With the intention of slowly reducing the amount of cigarettes I was smoking and using the vape.

 

I really struggled to get on with the vape, for some reason every time I inhaled I coughed my lungs up. I don’t know what was causing the problem but it was infuriating, why could I inhale cigarette smoke and not inhale from a vape. It took a few days of persevering but I got the hang of it. I was coming to the end of my tobacco and after the first cigarette of the morning on Sunday 6th August I decided that was it. I had enough tobacco for one cigarette but I just put it away in the cupboard. I haven’t smoked since.

 

A few days after stopping smoking I threw my tobacco tin away, bagged up the papers and filter tips which I bought in bulk and removed the ash trays from the house. We only ever smoked in the kitchen, but the difference in the surfaces keeping clean without me facing a losing battle daily against bits of ash and tobacco was enough to convince me, it was over. Jay took my papers and filter tips into work and gave them to my friends that smoke.

 

Giving up and switching to the vape has been easy, far easier than I thought it would be. I much prefer it to smoking. Over the last few days I have found that I am using it a lot less than I was initially. I did experience some problems with my blood pressure being quite low for a few days whilst my body sorted itself out. I gave myself a week for it to settle and if it hadn’t I would add a nicotine liquid to my vape to boost my blood pressure. Thankfully the giddiness and feelings of pre-syncope reduced and I managed to not use nicotine liquid.The other issue I have had is really painful sinuses.

 

I’ve had sinus problems for years. I regularly use a nasal spray as the inside of my nose gets inflamed and causes problems with my eustachian tubes swelling shut. Since stopping smoking I have been in a lot of pain with my sinuses, at some points it has been going into my teeth. I have no idea why giving up smoking would make it worse when I have always been told that it would make it better. It’s still hurting today but it is getting less as the days go on. I am hoping that this will eventually settle down.

 

I know that I will never be able to take for granted that I no longer smoke. I have stopped for years in the past only to start again. I will need to be constantly vigilant and be honest with myself that whenever I want a cigarette it is the addiction talking. So far it has been much easier than I ever anticipated it would be, I hope it stays that way.

Stressed

This week has been fraught with activity, on the day last week’s blog post was published I had a telephone call offering me an appointment this Friday for nerve conduction studies and to see the neurologist who specialises in movement disorders. Stressful doesn’t seem to cover it. Even though I have been through all of this before, on numerous occasions it never gets any easier.

 

This isn’t my first rodeo where MG (myasthenia gravis) is concerned. I have had at least 4 nerve conduction studies previously, all came back negative. I will be honest, I really don’t hold out any hope for this one being any different. I have seen several neurologists who on first sight are utterly convinced that I have Myasthenia Gravis but when the tests all come back negative, shrug their shoulders and look no further. I have demonstrated my positive reaction to the ice pack test on more occasions than I have fingers. Yet with all the other tests coming back negative it is ignored despite the fact it conclusively shows I have an issue at the neuromuscular junction.

 

The fact that I respond to mestinon (pyridostigmine bromide) is also ignored once the tests come back negative. With one doctor suggesting it was merely the placebo effect. It is difficult to feel positive about hospital appointments when you know that you will be ignored if the tests don’t come back with a positive result. There is also the danger that you will be labeled with a having a psychological illness such as somatization disorder and all the medical care you currently have will disappear. The stakes are high, I know how much I stand to lose.

 

I have spent the last week slowly working through my pre-hospital appointment checklist. As I am seeing two different departments on Friday, I need to have two sets of prescription medication lists and the medication allergy list (as there are quite a few that will provoke a nasty reaction). These both needed updated as some of the medication I take is not on my repeat prescription list, some of it on the repeats list I haven’t taken for over a year and I have developed more allergies since last year. At the same time I have put together an Emergency envelope that will sit by the front door. This contains my latest hospital letters (copies of), lists of medication allergies, prescribed medication list and contact numbers for next of kin. I think if you have a chronic illness that may require an emergency hospital admission it is good to have an envelope or file with your relevant medical information in. In an emergency blind panic can set in and you can forget stuff. This way all that I have to do or hubby has to do is handover an envelope and the paramedics have everything pertinent to hand. Plus as my health care is overseen by two different hospitals in two different areas, the electronic notes don’t link up.

 

I tend to also carry a copy of  the list my prescription medications and medication allergies in my purse, along with a short list of my medical conditions when I leave the house. So that should anything happen car accident, faint etc I have all the information to hand. I know it sounds over prepared but I am horribly allergic to CT contrast dye, I really wouldn’t want to be injected with the stuff unless it was absolutely necessary.

 

I have lost count of the number of times I have read and re-read the appointment letters from the hospital, my memory is shocking, I wanted to ensure that I have all the correct information with me and that I know where I am supposed to be going. Also with the nerve conduction studies they have asked that I don’t use body lotion etc before the tests as it can interfere with them.

 

I would normally wear make up for a hospital appointment, so that they can’t toss me into the “depressed” file, I also try to avoid wearing black again to avoid being written off as depressed. Yes they really do use what colour clothes you are wearing and if you are wearing makeup to suggest that you are depressed (if you are a woman). I always ensure if I am wearing black (even if it’s just a top or a pair of trousers) I have bright colours somewhere on my outfit. So a great deal of thought has had to go into my hospital outfit, as the neurophysiology appointment asks that you wear a top that can be rolled up above the elbows and with trousers that they can be rolled up above the knee. I need to also add in something that is comfortable and preferably with layers, I have so many problems regulating my temperature, where I can go from cold to way too hot in a matter of seconds, so layers for me are essential.

 

Then comes personal grooming, something that can fall by the wayside when you feel like shit! I think the last time my legs saw a razor was the end of June, for my last hospital appointment. I am lucky I am not very hairy and it is slow-growing so I can get away with it for the most part. However despite being sick I am incredibly vain and would die of embarrassment should I need to roll up my trouser leg for the nerve conduction studies only to reveal really hairy legs!

 

I have also included two photographs in my hospital paperwork of my ptosis should sods law strike and I don’t get it that day. It is usually the case when you have a fluctuating condition that it is never at it’s worst when you see the hospital consultant. Over the years I have learnt the hard way, so now I take evidence with me. So if I am complaining of lower than normal blood pressure I take my omron BP monitor with me as it stores the readings. Now with ptosis I take good clear photographs that I have downloaded from my phone. That way it can’t be disputed that it happens. It does pay to be organised as if you are like me, you can get a little flustered when seeing a new doctor. Knowing that I have prepared in advance helps keep me slightly calmer.

 

I’m still debating on whether or not to take a freezer block with me, in case I should need to demonstrate the ice pack test for the neurologist. I have a nice small cool bag in which to keep it cold, it’s just a case of whether I should or not. In the neurologists letter they have advised me not to take pyridostigmine bromide before the nerve conduction studies but to take it when I have finished the tests. Again I am wondering if I should wait until I am actually in front of the neurologist to take it, so that they can see the extent of my ptosis and muscle weakness. At the moment I think I shall take the meds with me but not take them until after both appointments. What’s the point in assessing my muscle weakness if I have taken a medication that will improve my muscle strength?

 

You can probably tell I am a little wound up about this up and coming appointment. It is already affecting my sleep, as I am waking up at all hours and the immediate thing on my mind is this appointment. So much hangs in the balance. I am honestly not bothered if its MG or not, I just want to know why I am having ptosis / muscle weakness and what can be done about it. Over the last ten years all I have wanted are answers, which I don’t think is too much to ask?

Side effects

Last week was a bit manic by my standards, a gp appointment followed by a trip to hospital for my caffeine infusion. Add in visits from friends and a surveyor to look at the damage a water leak had caused (thankfully none but there is cosmetic damage as part of a wall had to be removed) it was too much for me. Most of these events occurred before Thursday’s trip to hospital, so when I wasn’t feeling well on Thursday I put it down to doing too much.

hole-from-leak-repair

The caffeine infusion was a bit of a nightmare as my veins were not playing ball. If I am tired and cold my veins tend to hide and I knew that my blood pressure was low, so I was constantly drinking to try to give it a boost. After nearly a litre of oral fluids I managed to raise it to 112/83, I have no idea what the starting point was but I would hazard a guess of between 90/60 – 100/70 both of these readings although considered in the normal range make me feel rank, I feel better the closer I get to 120/80. By the time the infusion had finished it was reading 125/85.

 

The department was exceptionally busy and this wasn’t the day for a cannula insertion to take longer than the IV caffeine takes to administer (2 hours). The staff that have experienced my veins before now tend to run away, which means it takes ages trying to convince someone else to give them a go. What was more irritating was the nurse that had the second go, wouldn’t listen to me. She was one of those nurses who just ignores what the patient tells them and carries on regardless. Three failed attempts later she decided that a glove filled with hot water might be a good idea. In the end I had five different people attempt to gain IV access, it was a naval doctor who got a vein on his first attempt. However by then he was discussing with me why I hadn’t got a port to make life easier for them and me.

 

I had already discussed this with my neurologist, whilst he was performing the occipital nerve block injections (GONIs). He isn’t actually my doctor anymore having moved departments but is often in the unit where my infusions take place. So when I know when my next infusion will be I email him so that he can do my injections. The headache nurse that did them before doesn’t do them the way he does and I find his are much more effective. The upshot of the port conversation was that I wasn’t having the infusions regularly enough, the risk of infection and the fact that they hadn’t called down the vascular access team. Believe me that is only going to be a matter of time.

 

I did manage to run into my PoTs consultant as we were leaving the unit and I asked him about the possibility of starting melatonin due to my sleeping problems. As it was just a quick check on me to see how I was doing he asked me to email him to remind him. There are such good doctors at the hospital, who have no problems with patients emailing them when they have concerns. He is the doctor that writes the prescription for the caffeine infusion each month. I email him the week before to remind him and he emails me to let me know he has done it.

 

The day after a caffeine infusion are always a bust, I need to rest all day due to the travel involved and all the stimulation from the lights and noise. Friday I spent the day lying on the sofa, I put down not feeling great to the caffeine infusion and the explosive diarrhoea I had experienced at 1am (for over an hour). Initially I put the shits down to a stomach bug but having thought about it, the caffeine infusion can act as a bit of a laxative and maybe it was that as after the one hour-long bout I didn’t go again.

 

Saturday I was floored by vertigo and my heart kept doing funny beats, where it goes slow and then returns to normal speed. I felt so ill that all I did was lie on the sofa under my heated throw. I took some stugeron (travel sickness tablets) and that did ease it quite a bit but I was very limited with only being able to lie down, using my chromebook or phone was difficult. My blood pressure was also feeling low, I didn’t measure it, I rarely do now as I know what my symptoms are, plus it was upstairs and there was no way I would manage to get it. I ended up crawling into bed at around 6pm because the stugeron had worn off and the room was spinning. I looked ghastly, white as a sheet with big black rings under my eyes.

 

Sunday followed the same pattern, woke up feeling rough despite sleeping like a log. Now along with the low blood pressure, vertigo, funny heart beats and generally feeling like crap I had developed wheals on my face. I also felt extremely low like I could burst into tears at any moment. I put being low down to feeling so awful. It wasn’t until the late afternoon I put the pieces of the puzzle together.

 

When I saw my gp on Wednesday I had told him that I hadn’t had a proper nights sleep since the end of November. I had either not been able to get to sleep at all or slept for one or two hours and then spent the rest of the night awake. This sleeping problem was then triggering anxiety, an increase in pain levels and being bad-tempered. When I don’t sleep I find that my normal aches and pains are amplified by a factor of 100. This then makes me anxious and then continual levels of high anxiety can send me spiralling into depression. Having been severely depressed previously I didn’t want to go back there.

 

For about a year I have been taking the antidepressant mirtazapine (15mg) to help me get to sleep. Initially it worked wonders but over the course of a few months it was no longer working. My gp agreed with me to increase it for a month to help me get some sleep. I started taking the increased dose on Wednesday night, it worked beautifully I was falling asleep and staying asleep. However the start of me feeling really rough coincided with increasing the medication. After a quick search on Google it was obvious that the mirtazapine was what was causing the problems. Side effects listed included

  • Vertigo
  • Low blood pressure
  • Palpitations
  • Rash
  • Changes in mood

 

And they were just a few of the side effects as there were many listed. So I dropped the dose back down to my normal 15mg on Sunday night to see what would happen. If I still had vertigo etc on Monday then I would contact my gp and see about stopping the mirtazapine altogether.

 

Monday morning however I woke up with my eyes very swollen

 

allergic-reaction

 

allergic-reaction-2

In these photos the swelling has come down considerably. My under eye area had been very itchy since Thursday which I had put down to dry eyes which is something I suffer from anyway. Monday morning I really had to stop myself from scratching as I would have scratched until I bled. I dosed myself up with antihistamines and then waited to see if the vertigo started again. The vertigo had been coming on 3-4 hours after waking up, so I bided my time before pronouncing a vertigo free zone. Thankfully the vertigo hasn’t come back since dropping the dose back to 15mg, my blood pressure is back to its low but normal state.

 

My gp rang me by chance on Monday and I managed to miss the call. He let a voicemail saying he had received an email from my PoTs consultant about starting melatonin and had written me a prescription for it. I rang the surgery back to pass on the message I had dropped the mizatrapine back down to 15mg due to the side effects I was suffering.

 

Tuesday morning there was no swollen eyelids which was fab and I had slept well due to the Melatonin I had taken the night before. I have been sleeping all night and feel more rested than I have done in a very long time. I still have fatigue but it’s no longer at the level it was when I wasn’t sleeping. I don’t know now if the mizatrapine caused the swollen eyes or if it’s something I have eaten. It could be anything at all as I can react to stuff and then the next time I have it there is no reaction.

 

So now I am back to my normal level of crappy health after four days of feeling truly awful and almost being confined completely to my bed due to the vertigo. At least however (touch wood) so far there seems to be no issues with the melatonin.

Eventful

On Thursday 1st December I had my 6th Caffeine infusion. To say it was eventful would be an understatement. What has previously gone ahead pretty smoothly other than being unable to cannulate me without multiple attempts was littered with potentially dangerous errors. I am still in shock to be honest.

Over the few days leading up to the infusion my head was letting me know it was long overdue. By the time Thursday came around my head pain (from a csf leak) was reaching a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale within seconds of getting upright. By the time I reached the ward I was dry heaving, which happens when the pain gets to a certain level. I had felt sick before leaving the house and had taken my anti-sickness medication hours earlier but they had done nothing. All I was relying on to prevent me from blowing chunks were deep breaths and they were becoming ineffective.

On arriving at the unit I advised them of the fact I wanted to be sick, several times. My request for anti sickness medications went unanswered so I demanded a bowl as I didn’t want to puke all over myself when I didn’t have a change of clothes with me. In every other hospital situation I have been in when I have told staff I needed to be sick they have sprung into action. Here I was asked by one member of staff if I had a hangover, I don’t drink, well it’s easier to say I rarely drink. I had drunk two bottles of Budweiser the night before as my head was bad and it was a last resort but it wasn’t enough to give me a hangover. I calmly explained to the member of staff, the same member of staff I have been seeing since June (every month) that when my head is bad I will be sick. He knows who I am as he then asked me how my birthday had gone and laughed about the fact Mr Morris had booked me a dentist appointment on my birthday. So he could remember that but not the issue that I come in and see them for every month.

This time it was on my notes that I had to have an ECG, whilst wiring me up I was given a sick bowl. The battery was out on the machine so the nurse had to get a new one. Whilst she was gone I dry heaved into the bowl, bringing up no more than a couple of teaspoons worth of saliva. The dry heaving was automatic, I had no control over it, yet when the nurse came back she demanded I lie still so that she could do the ECG. Believe me it gets worse. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would have sorted out anti-sickness medication so that I didn’t want to dry heave during the ECG but no she was getting the ECG done and I wasn’t to interrupt with anything so petty as throwing up.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity I was presented with two tablets in a paper cup. I looked at them and I don’t know what happened but I asked the nurse what it was. A lot of the time I wouldn’t do this, many patients don’t and just assume what they are being given is correct. So let this be a lesson to you, accept no medication without asking what it is. Nurses / doctors are only human and make mistakes. The nurse told me it was ondansetron, a medication that I have suffered a hideous allergic reaction to when given via IV in 2014. Now this nurse (same one as the ECG nurse) had just put my red wrist band on, the one that alerts staff to the fact the patient has allergies so they must check their notes before issuing medication.

Red wrist band

Red wrist band

 

I carry with me at all times a mini medical file which contains the latest letters from my consultants, my prescription list (I can print off from the doctor’s surgery) and a list of my drug allergies as I have quite a few. Every time I arrive at this unit they ask if I have allergies, I give them the list, they scan it and the same receptionist tells me every time that I won’t need to bring it with me next time. On Thursday she just asked if I had allergies and printed off a red wrist band. I assumed that the allergy list was in my notes. After I pointed out I couldn’t be given ondansetron she checked my notes and surprise, surprise my allergy list wasn’t contained within the file. So my hospital buddy Sharon found it in my bag and gave it to her. Sharon was sat in shock that potentially this nurse had nearly just killed me. Sharon is a veteran of hospitals and said “I never ask what they are giving me, I just assume it’s right”. I told her over the months of me coming to the unit I had heard them give patients ondansetron as the anti-sickness medication of choice. It is probably the cheapest and I don’t blame them for that but not everyone can take them and before issuing a patient wearing a red wristband it might be an idea to check their allergies. If they don’t ask you demand to know what medication they are trying to give you. I don’t want to sound melodramatic but I might not be alive today if I hadn’t have asked the question on Thursday.

As I couldn’t take ondansetron, I was given cyclizine a medication I have taken numerous times before with no issue. In their wisdom they gave it to me in tablet form despite me telling them I wouldn’t keep it down. I had stopped drinking at this point despite my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth as I was so dry. When I tell you that I am not going to be able to keep a medication down I am not pissing about or trying to be difficult. They ignored me, so I took the tablet and promptly threw it up much to the nursing staffs surprise.

I won’t lie I had come into hospital on Thursday fully expecting a fight with a nurse I shall refer to as Dick. Dick seems to have a problem with my wheelchair and will move it away from my bed and put it in the next room claiming it’s in the way. As my chair will cost £2,500 to replace I have an issue with it being left unattended. He even has a problem with my old wheelchair insisting it is folded up and moved away from the bed. He also won’t provide my hospital buddy with a chair let alone my husband so they always use my wheelchair.

Sharon had witnessed this nurse’s behaviour during my last caffeine infusion. She knew from our conversations over the last month that I wasn’t going to accept this from him this time. To me it seemed to be disability discrimination, he also has a problem with the walking stick I bring to help me transfer from my wheelchair to the bed. I was fully ready to get PALs involved if he kicked off this time. Much to our disappointment  Dick wasn’t on the ward when Sharon moved me through into the unit so by the time he came back from his break, she was fully ensconced in it, at the foot of my bed using it as a chair. We were pissing ourselves as we could see he was seething that we had got it past him. This entertained us greatly whilst we were there and the junior doctor we spoke to who managed to cannulate me first time whilst I was waiting for the cyclizine to come. Although he didn’t say it in so many words he also thought Dick was being a dick about the wheelchair.

The room in which I receive the infusions is pretty small, it has six beds and then a desk by the door where the nurses and doctors do their admin work. I don’t know which doctor it was that had to do the prescription for IV cyclizine but he was kicking off that they hadn’t done it IV to begin with when I was telling them I wouldn’t keep the tablet form down. So someone in there does have some common sense. I also heard the same doctor getting excited about my ECG asking the nurses who was in with sinus tachycardia, the nurse dealing with me told him “she’s always like that and we aren’t treating her for that”. Poor lamb had only wanted to help and was asking the question as to why my heart was racing whilst I was lying down still during an ECG, now we will never know as PoTs is only supposed to occur with changes of posture, I hadn’t moved for ages at the time the ECG was done.

Finally after what seemed like forever I was given IV Cyclizine. Within a few seconds of the injection being finished I really didn’t feel very well. I must’ve turned a funny colour too as Sharon told me I wasn’t looking very well. I suddenly felt very panicky and was worried that the nurse had just given me Iv Ondansetron. I just about managed to tell Sharon that my chest was tight and I felt woozy. Within seconds I was battling to remain conscious, my eyes were rolling in their sockets, unfortunately no one could see this as I had my large very dark glasses on as I become very light-sensitive when my head pain is bad. I felt myself falling as I slumped to the right hand side of the chair. For the briefest of moments I blacked out only coming around as Sharon was screaming my name and shaking my leg trying to rouse me. I couldn’t respond as I was still fighting to stay awake, I couldn’t focus on anything as my eyes just kept wanting to disappear into the back of my head.

Eventually the nurse realised something was wrong and whacked the bed back so that I was flat and then took my blood pressure. By the time she got her reading 109/73 I was feeling more or less with it again. She was trying to excuse herself for not noticing the fact I had passed out by telling Sharon and I it was because I was wearing makeup and sunglasses. I think the biggest clue was I wasn’t responding to Sharon and had slumped to one side. She did tell us that Cyclizine can crash your blood pressure which was obviously what it had just done. What she failed to tell me was that it would repeatedly crash my blood pressure for the remainder of my time in the unit. You’d think that she would have monitored me regularly after that episode but she only took my vitals once more and that was just before I left, nearly three hours after the faint.

I have faced some scary times when in hospital but that has to be one of the most frightening because I was shit scared the nurse had killed me by giving me IV Ondansetron and who can blame me with her laissez-faire attitude towards protocol.

I spent the rest of the infusion time trying very hard not to faint. Throughout the infusion despite the extra fluids going in, I kept feeling like I was going to pass out. I kept feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. I knew if I fainted again there was a high probability of me not being allowed home, so I drank loads and kept being completely upright to an absolute minimum.

I only let Sharon know how bad I was feeling so that she could place herself in front of me should I try to face plant.

Despite how awful I felt I did have a good time during the infusion, it’s always great to catch up with Sharon, we always have something to say. Plus I got to catch up with a doctor who I thought I had lost forever to the acute stroke ward. He knew I had been to Bath the week before (it wasn’t a great appointment and all they will do for me is write a strongly worded letter to tell the hospital to get on with the blood patch as there is no increased medical risk) and we talked about the clinical trial that he wants me to be a part of. Its called a Sphenopalatine ganglion Block, it’s basically a small catheter type device placed up your nose, which they then use to squirt a dose of local anesthetic up. It works on a group of nerves at the back of the nose and has good results in conditions like chronic migraines, trigeminal neuralgia and facial pain. This doctor and my neurologist want to trial it to see if it is effective for pain caused by a CSF Leak and I am more than happy to give it a go if it has a chance of stopping my pain completely.

I let this doctor know that last month’s occipital neuralgia nerve block injections had been ineffective. I told him although the nurse that does them maybe highly qualified she doesn’t do it the same way he does, which is multiple small injections along the occipital nerve. He agreed due to the fact the last lot hadn’t worked he would repeat them for me, if he came back from his meeting before I left the unit. Thankfully I was still there on his return and the injections he gave me have worked beautifully.

I have very little memory of the rest of Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday as my blood pressure wouldn’t settle and kept crashing after the cyclizine injection. I have had to piece the events together from Sharon and my husband. I don’t think I have ever been made so sick from a trip to hospital.

Due to the incident with the nurse ignoring my red wrist band and attempting to give me a medication I am allergic to, I have had to report the incident to the hospital. I have wrestled my conscience and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if another patient ended up being given the wrong medication due to protocols not being adhered to. It could make things very difficult for me in the unit but I couldn’t live with the thought that  by not making a complaint it contributed to someone else coming to harm.

So last week’s Caffeine infusion was eventful to say the least.