Around two days after I wrote my last post “Washout” I ended up contacting my doctor and was prescribed antibiotics. I had been running a temperature for around a week and I just wasn’t feeling any better.
My last post was published on the 10th of January when I felt like my whole world had caved in. The last few weeks have been very hard, I miss Frankie and Mollie so much that my heart aches. There has not been a day that has gone by where I haven’t wept with the pain of losing them as suddenly as we did. To lose two dogs in 7 days is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t have got through it without hubby by my side. In fact I would have probably given up completely had he not been here.
Today, Tuesday 11th December was my first physio session, in 4 years. I had no idea so much time had passed since I had been to physio. I really wish that I had kept up with it, even if I just went twice a year as perhaps I wouldn’t be in the mess I am now but life just gets in the way sometimes. Things take priority and then your routine falls by the wayside. Looking at it now I realised that I kept those exercises up for two years until I suffered my spontaneous CSF leak and then it was just too painful to do them.
I back to square minus 100, not one. I have zero core muscle strength. My shoulders are rolling forward and are permanently hunched. I am in pain from the base of my skull to my coccyx. When the doctor suggested physio I knew there was only one I was prepared to see and I was so lucky she was still working there. I use a private physio as she is prepared to listen to me and work with me. Don’t get me wrong I love the NHS, I owe my life to the NHS as without their intervention as a child I would have died from an intussusception. However the NHS isn’t great at treating the growing number of people with chronic illnesses, they want to fix you and then move onto the next patient. With chronic conditions like EDS, PoTs etc there is no fixing, so allotting us a certain amount of physio sessions at 15 minutes a go doesn’t really provide us with much help. Especially if you are working with medical professionals that do not understand your medical condition.
The physio I worked with went away and learnt as much as she could about EDS, then we worked on a plan together. It soon became clear that I wouldn’t be able to do the exercises 4 times a day, I would only be able to do them once a day and that was fine with her, Where as if I had tried to have that conversation with an NHS physio ( and believe me I have) you get made to feel lazy or guilt tripped that you are wasting their time. Seeing her again today, she had already pulled my notes and immediately recognised me in the waiting room. She greeted me like an old friend.
My back is in a mess, I know that and she knows that. We both believe that I suffered a whiplash injury when I fell on the snow and ice back in March and that has probably caused the majority of the problems I have now. Basically my muscles are very tight and tense both sides of my spine with the right side being the worst. My muscles are now guarding me against further injury by being tense and barely allowing me to move. She described it as walking around with a clenched fist permanently. After 30 minutes your hand is going to start aching after a few hours it’s going to be very uncomfortable. After months…well you get to the state I am in where everything hurts constantly.
Today’s session was very gentle before we can even start physiotherapy properly we have to get my inflammation levels down and the muscles to relax a little.I had to lie face down on a couch. My face had to go through this little hole so I could only see the floor although I think I kept my eyes closed for most of it. Now I said the session was gentle but in no way was it pain-free. My nerves are misfiring and have become so sensitized that even the lightest touch is causing me pain. So imagine having someone examining every joint in your back. Some joints were ok, they were sore but it was bearable, others had me levitating off the bed as I yelped and tried to squirm away from the light pressure being applied.
My physio tried to massage some of the muscle knots out but it was so painful she decided to use the ultrasound machine first. It’s so weird you just feel this probe going over your neck, sides and back of your neck and then when she massages them the muscles are much looser and nowhere near as painful. I know that the muscle knots need to be removed but it is a painful process, the feeling after they have gone is sublime as you feel freer and can move more easily.
By the end of the session I could feel the muscles were a lot looser and more relaxed than when I had started the session. However in the hours since the pain has started. It’s not horrific but I do feel battered and bruised. The weirdest thing is I have a lot of rib pain this evening. I am not sure if that’s because I spent a lot of the session lying on my front or if my back muscles are going spasm ( but a much milder version than normal).
I turned up to today’s appointment with my left arm burning with pins and needles in my hands. I left the session with both of those gone and they haven’t returned in the 4 hours since I have been home. To me that is a massive improvement as since July I haven’t had a day without constant pins and needles.
My physio says it’s going to be a few sessions of ultrasound and massage before I can start having more traditional physio. My next session is the 19th December.
I am absolutely shattered after today’s session, I had a busy day yesterday with getting my hair done and seeing a friend. If I could I would have stayed in bed all day. I am just hoping I can sleep tonight rather than what usually happens where the adrenaline starts to flow and I am tired but wired all night!
Well what a week, I have been super busy making gifts for family and friends for Christmas, whilst battling the crippling neck pain and yesterday having a stomach upset meaning I was racing faster to the bathroom than Usain Bolt. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fun. It took a good 12 hours for my tum to stop cramping. Anyway that is enough bathroom talk for the opening paragraph of my blog post.
On top of all of that I have woken up with a very sore finger on my right hand. Its one of my typing finger’s so this week is going to be a photo blog , the joint has swollen, I’m pretty sure its my arthritis playing up just for a bit of variety. I haven’t shown you any photos for what seems like forever. So here they are.
Last weekend we decided that we would get the Christmas decorations out. It is a little early for us but hubby is out with work this weekend and would have been too delicate to climb the ladder into the loft on Sunday safely. All in all it took 90 minutes which is pretty good going when you think the dresser had to be stripped and cleaned, all the pottery that was coming off wrapped and packed and all the gorgeous Christmas stuff put out.
I’ve been beavering away making lots of gifts and then I decided why not add to my work load and instead of buying gift bags buy a job lot of plain cotton bags (blanks as they are known by embroidery people! I found that out this week) and thought I would embroider them. That way they wouldn’t get thrown away and could used for years rather than one Christmas ( I always try to save gift bags but many of them don’t make it through until Christmas having been bashed about whilst being moved trying to find other things.) I bought myself some variegated thread as well, so did quite a few using that.
Sorry the pictures aren’t brilliant, these were taken immediately after they were done and needed an iron really. Now they are stuffed with presents. Here are some that I did using “normal” thread and much better photographs
I finally managed to complete Mr Myasthenia Kids advent calendar that I bought in August but had been putting off for months as it had box pleats something I have never done before. To be fair it wasn’t too bad. We are still waiting for a dowel to hang it from the lounge door so it’s in its temporary location here.
I fell in love with this fabric range from Makower , I have a table runner using this design. On Black Friday I managed to pick up some more fabric in this Christmas range with plans to make some cushion covers. At the time I thought I may get this done before Christmas then as days passed I did start to wonder if I meant next Christmas as there seemed so much to do ( and I kept adding to it). I managed to knock them up today, which I am chuffed about as I had to use my overlocker to finish the seams to stop them fraying so that they will last and last. I made 4, two of each fabric design
I have two Christmas lap quilts that need bound so that they can replace the current quilts on the sofa. I am hoping I will get these done in the next few days. I will be making a scrappy binding using the off cuts from the cushions and table runner and any other Christmas scraps I can get my hands on. I will get these finished before Christmas, even if it kills me! Which I might do.
Tonight I am shattered, I hope that I manage to get some sleep tonight and stop waking up in a blind panic with all the things I need to do – even though I don’t work I find this time of year very stressful. There is so much pressure for things to be perfect even though in reality nothing is. I do have a few things I need to make for other people and I can’t let them down as it will mess them up for Christmas. I am feeling the pressure.
Next week I start physio, I am really hoping that we can make some difference to my neck issue.
For a while now I have been moaning that my neck is sore / hurts / agony, take your pick. Last week I had blood tests to see if I was suffering from nutritional deficiencies and that is what was causing the numbness / pins and needles in my arms and face. Today I finally got to see a doctor. It was a long wait as with hubby’s hours it is easier if I can book an appointment on his day off, rather than have him come out of work and take me. It was actually getting the appointment to have my bloods taken that took the time to organise. It would appear Tuesday is a popular day. I then had to have the doctor’s appointment a week later. As luck would have it my neck actually wasn’t too sore today, the day I would finally see the doctor.
As this appointment was needed quickly ( although three weeks was three weeks too long really) I decided to take pot luck. I usually try to see the same doctor so there is some continuity of care and they have a basic idea of what is going on. However I was feeling very let down after my appointment in July where my neck pain was put down to stress. Now I was under a great deal of stress at the time mum had been diagnosed with cancer and there were other things going on in the background. So it would be an easy diagnosis to come to but even then I did come away from the appointment thinking I really should have been examined before this was written off as stress. It makes me worry that if I saw that doctor with chest pain that again it would be written off as stress when I could be having a heart attack. It’s not a nice situation to be in when you doubt your doctors clinical judgement. They are supposed to be the experts and be on your side, yet when you get written off as a basket case due to stress, it makes you not want to fight. Which is what I should have done because maybe I wouldn’t be in as much pain as I am now.
I will be the first to admit that yes I have been having some mental health struggles this year due to losing Willow and so many close friends and family in such a short space of time. I also went through a great deal of stress in the summer. I understand completely that mental health issues can manifest as physical issues. Yet the diagnosis of stress or anxiety or depression should only be given after an examination to check that there is nothing mechanically wrong. That didn’t happen during my appointment in July and I am angry about it. I am angry at myself for not asking the doctor why he or she felt that my symptoms of numb hands and neck pain didn’t warrant an examination. I understand that doctors especially gp’s are under enormous pressure, especially with health budgets being slashed, Don’t believe what the government tells you when it says its spending more in real terms its less money and our health service is drowning because of it. Just to make sure if this government stays in power when it suggests privatisation people will believe its the only thing to save our NHS and people like me will have no access to healthcare as we won’t be able to afford the insurance premiums. That’s my political rant over, I don’t do politics very often here but it needs said.
Anyway as usual I went off on a tangent, it makes me really angry when doctors are lazy and use a mental health diagnosis against a patient, which I feel is what happened to me in July. My notes say I am being treated for anxiety and depression, my mother has just been diagnosed with cancer so of course my physical symptoms are a manifestation of that. See how easy it is for a doctor to disregard real symptoms? The sad thing is people with anxiety and depression don’t have the energy to fight that kind of lazy doctoring. That was the position I was in then. I was happy to go along with what the doctor said because I trusted them. I am angry because they disregarded the Hippocratic oath of first do no harm. By brushing off my symptoms of stress they left me open to harm. I could have been suffering from a nutritional deficiency like B12 deficiency, a blood clot, vasculitis a pinched nerve. However that doctor would never know as they were convinced it was stress and an increased dose of amiltriptyline would do the trick.
Today I was dreading my appointment, my mind was racing, was I going to be dismissed again as being stressed? Or would this doctor take the time to examine me? I know doctors make mistakes and they are only human but a friend of mine almost died from meningitis after a doctor didn’t examine him. His wife found him unconscious in their home. If she hadn’t come home early from work he would have been dead. I had worked out through google and the fact that I have an ounce of common sense that the numb / pins and needles in my arms and face were being caused by a pinched nerve. Stress does not disappear when you put on a soft neck collar. Armed with this information plus the discharge notes from 2016 that contain the radiographers report from my MRI which says I have reversed cervical lordosis. I was ready to do battle and push for a diagnosis.
Why is it when you are prepared for a fight you never get one? Is it because you are giving off the don’t fuck with me vibes? I don’t know. This doctor examined me, so thoroughly that I have been in an awful lot of pain for the remainder of the day. I can’t complain about that at least this time I was taken seriously. However something they said really threw me, after they examined me they asked ” and what are your aims for this appointment?”. I have to say this really threw me, looking back now I wish I’d said ” well my aim is that I get a fucking diagnosis, after all you’re the doctor”. But I imagine that wouldn’t have gone down well and I may be looking for another healthcare provider if I had. But seriously what kind of question is that? That’s business speak and that has no place in an NHS doctors appointment. Why ask that question? Had I not had years of experience as a manager I may have found myself at a loss for words. Why do most people go to the doctors? To get help? Support? Advice? A diagnosis perhaps? Did they think I was going to say ” I want you to wave a magic wand and make my pain go away?” Did they think after years of dealing with doctors that I would have unrealistic expectations? I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome I have learnt to expect nothing from a doctor other than a shoulder shrug at best. As you may be able to tell this question ” and what are your aims for this appointment” has really bloody annoyed me.
I was expecting at some point they were going to ask me to complete a PDP ( personal development plan) with SMART objectives Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Targets. Or maybe they would have me complete a Root Cause Analysis so we could get to the bottom of what was triggering my neck pain. You see I did 18 years of bullshit management speak. To my shame I taught this shit to up and coming managers in a previous life. It has no place in the NHS as I am a patient not a customer, it has no place in an appointment because all I expect in an appointment is for the doctor to do their job. I have no idea what you will suggest because I am not a mind reader, I thought perhaps you might say I need an X-ray or an MRI or maybe even physio but all I wanted from you was a plan. I don’t know what your other patients want from you but from this patient to you please stop asking that question or think of something else to say. I get that some patients may come in expecting top-notch state of the art care like they see on Holby City / Greys Anatomy/ any other popular hospital drama and your job is to manage unrealistic expectations. I don’t and that question has really annoyed me ( no shit Rach, I can hear you all saying!).
Now some of you may think that I am over reacting to this innocent question but to me it was a loaded question. I don’t doubt that this doctor had my best interests at heart, they after all discovered that I have altered sensation in my left arm and areas of complete numbness, they also have given the diagnosis of a pinched nerve in my neck. Which was the same conclusion I had come to. To me the question could be one asked by someone trying to figure out what the bare minimum is that they will get away with providing . Call me cynical but after having to do battle with numerous doctors over the years I know that cost is coming into clinical decisions more and more. It can’t be helped when the purse strings have been tightened so much that even targets for patients with cancer are being missed by the majority of NHS hospitals. If my aim was to have my pain reduced that’s a quick win as they could give me a prescription for pain meds, if I wanted a referral to a spinal surgeon then my expectations would have to be managed and ( as I know) physio would have to be tried first. As it is I want to avoid surgery on my neck at all costs. To me the risk are just too high, that unless I am completely incapacitated by pain, it’s not an option I want to go for.
Having seen a spinal surgeon before I know they like you to try all options before you go for surgery and I am happy with that. Physio treatment in 2014 or 2015 meant I avoided a spinal fusion. I know that without having jumped through that hoop any referral to see a surgeon would be rejected by the hospital because all non surgical routes had not been explored.
I have declined using the NHS physio team as unfortunately they are utterly useless when it comes to dealing with people with EDS. The last NHS physio I saw was supposed to be an expert on the condition and I could have written what she knew about EDS could have been written on the back of a postage stamp. She became totally fixated on my wheelchair, so none of the exercises were there to help the problem I was seeing her for but more to get me walking rather than using a wheelchair. I use a wheelchair due to the fact I faint without warning which leave me at a serious risk for a head injury, I also dislocate my knees, hips, ankles and spine when I walk more than a few metres. I also develop bursitis in my hips if I walk too much ( too much being more than a few metres). I had to give up walking my dogs in 2008 as I kept waking up on Woodbury common bleeding not knowing what had happened to me and the dogs wandering down the path in front of me. Thankfully the doctor I saw today was horrified at this physios dangerous fixation and agreed with me that preventing head injury and pain was imperative. Someone who was supposed to be an expert in EDS and PoTs should have known that. Hence why I am incredibly sceptical as to who gave this physio the title of an EDS expert because I have more knowledge than they do.
So I am going back to the private physio I saw in 2014 and had fantastic results with. It is incredibly expensive but I am hopeful if anyone can help me avoid spinal surgery Jane will. I hate using private instead of the NHS but I am afraid NHS appointments are too rushed. I need longer than 15 minutes, I need someone who will work with me and will admit that they know nothing about the condition rather than pretend they are an expert. It also means I wont have to travel 30 minutes to an appointment which will exhaust me before I even get there. Or the unrealistic expectation that I can go three times a week, when I don’t have a driving licence and can’t manage public transport alone as my wheelchair is attendant pushed how am I supposed to get there? Because I am a paying customer there I am treated in a much better way and they understand that there us a life outside of the health service something which some NHS staff struggle to understand. I am incredibly lucky that I am in the position where currently I can afford to pay for private treatment but it will still put a strain on my finances.
So I wonder what will be the next go to question at any future gp’s appointment? As long as it isn’t “and what do you want me to do about it?” I think I’ll cope!
In last weeks blog post I told you all about my new toy, my embroidery machine. I’ve had it for 9 days (Tuesday) and I was very well-behaved last week. I had a quick play on Tuesday and then knuckled down to finishing off a whole heap of half-finished projects. I really dislike having incomplete work loitering and taking up space. Last week I had part made soft toys hanging around – the body parts of 15 toys to be exact and some part made Christmas stockings, along with three gnomes. I did have a really good crack at them and managed to clear all the owls, gnomes, Christmas stockings and two foxes. However one of the foxes still has his brains *stuffing* exposed as my hands have been too painful to attempt to close the turning gap. My hands are so sore this evening I am having to write my blog post using my speech to text function, which is fun!
Well I turn 45 today! Yes 1st November and it’s the exact day of the week that I was born. Which is bizarre! And something stranger it’s Mr Myasthenia Kids birthday tomorrow. So we have two days of celebrations, eating things we shouldn’t and having a few glasses of pop.
This week has been odd as I started getting pins and needles really badly in my wrists, hands, fingers, legs and face. It’s so bad on my left wrist that I just can’t wear a watch because this seems to irritate the nerve. Annoying as I love my watch. Jay bought it for my 41st birthday and I really do love it.
Initially I scared myself stupid by consulting Dr Google, what came up was a mixture of M.S and anxiety. Yes I am stressed but I was anxious or hyperventilating. So that left M.S but having calmed down a little I actually think the problem is stemming from my neck. I have lost the curve in my neck – to be honest I don’t think I have ever had one. A chiropractor I consulted due to back problems when I was around 16 took x-rays of my neck and said he had never seen such a straight neck. He said it was swan like. Me being vain took that as a compliment, not realising that a straight neck is a major problem and will provide you with no end of painful problems, which I have suffered with on and off since the age of 16 when I pulled a roll cage onto the shop floor at work that was way too heavy for me. I felt compelled to do it as the checkout manager ( a real nasty piece of work and a bully) stood shouting at me until I moved it. Excuse the language but my neck has been fucked up ever since.
It didn’t help that two years later my car broke down whilst I was driving in the pissing down rain, my dad ever the bloody gentleman made me get out and push it whilst he steered it into a safer location. With the road being wet I slipped and managed to sprain my neck. It was absolutely superb timing literally days before my A-level exams took place ( the exams we need to take in England and Wales to get into University, in Scotland they take Highers). I ended up having to sit through 3 hour exams with a neck brace on high as a kite on painkillers. I was given a desk at the back of the room so that I could get up and move around if I needed to. I never did, it was embarrassing enough that I had to wear a neck brace let alone draw attention to myself by moving around in a silent exam room.
A few years later and I am university and guess what? Yep my neck is causing me an enormous amount of pain. I was diagnosed with “student neck” probably now known as Text neck. Its caused by looking down and in my case reading mountains of set texts, these days it’s caused by looking down at a mobile phone (cell phone) or a computer screen. I paid out a load of money to have my neck manipulated to ease the pain.
And that is how life was for years, the last really bad period with my neck was back in 2000 around a month after our wedding and possibly a few years after that. I know I have had to attend work on quite a few occasions wearing a soft collar.
In 2016 I had an MRI to see if they could “see” my CSF leak. On the radiographers report it stated I had reversed cervical lordosis – what this means is that it now bend in my neck is bending the wrong way This link has a great x-ray image that shows a neck with the bend going the wrong way – here .
The problem is the neck is probably the worst designed load bearing area of the body. The head weighs up to around 10lbs so the vertebrae, muscles and ligaments have to spend every waking hour keeping a bowling ball up against the force of gravity. Also the neck contains the spinal cord and at the very base of the skull your brainstem is encased. So anything that messes with your neck can leave you in serious hot water. A break which impacts the spinal cord at this level could mean you end up totally paralysed and unable to breathe for yourself. You’d think something so vitally important would have been designed just a little better.
I saw my gp in July and told her that I was getting increasing amounts of pins and needles in my hands and arms. I also told her I was getting an increasing amount of pain in my neck and base of my skull. As my mum had just been diagnosed with “probably” cancer, I was informed by the gp that the pain and numbness was stress. This diagnosis was reached without any physical examination. Had they bothered to examine me they would have noted that I have pain from the base of my skull down to between my shoulder blades. This pain limits me doing anything sat down at a table, using my arms . Anything at all where my head maybe held in a tilted down position.
I ended up having to have a break from sewing as the minute I sat at my machine the pain in my shoulder-blade would start. I started using a tens machine on a regular basis. I got the pain under control. As long as I took a break every 15 minutes and checked my posture I could manage the pain.
Then as the pain had gone away I started sewing again, in fact quite a bit more, when I was able to. Now as soon as I sit down at my machine the pain starts. If I hold my mobile phone (cell) the pain starts. On Sunday I was chatting with a friend, nowhere near my sewing machine or mobile phone and I started to get a burning pain in my left wrist and fingers. I knew it was nerve pain and I assumed ( wrongly it was due to being deficient in B12). After she left I dosed myself up on B12 and hoped that the pain would be gone by the following day. It wasn’t. It was now down both arms and in my face. I was so frightened by it that I rang the duty dr at my gp surgery.
I must have blood tests and go in and see them towards the end of November. The doctor thinks it maybe a nutritional deficiency, thyroid or electrolyte imbalance. After having a good think about it for the past 24 hours I am pretty sure its my neck. I get some relief when wearing a neck collar.
So today my birthday will be quite a quiet affair. Spent with hubby and friends. Alcohol will be consumed mainly as a muscle relaxant in the hope I can spend the day without being in constant pain and the nerve pain in my left wrist not driving me mad!