Tag Archives: chronic fatigue

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.

 

 

 

 

9 ways to keep the romance alive when you’re chronically ill

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

So last time we discussed how sometimes people forget that life for the chronically ill person is far more difficult than a carer’s. I briefly touched on how relationships can dwindle from lovers to a carer-patient relationship when your signifiant other is acting as your carer. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some ways you and your partner can keep things romantic even when chronic illness tries to intervene. A lot of the things I’m going to talk about can be applied to any couple that may have let the romance die out a little.

Kiss. 

When you’ve been with someone a long time, sometimes you genuinely forget to kiss-even if you’re not chronically ill.

“Even just a quick touch of the lips.”

When you’re so busy concentrating on your illness and/or family life it can be easy to forget to just stop and have a moment together.

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Do something together at least once a month.

Whether it’s getting in some alcohol free wine/beer, watching a romantic movie or having dinner together-make the time to spend a couple of hours together not talking about family/illness etc. Even a gentle stroll on the beach/ woods while holding hands can be just enough to keep that flame-a-flickering.

Go back to where you first met.

If it’s possible, go back to the place where you first clapped eyes on each other. Try and remember how you felt that day. Recreate your first date. Go to your friends house and help them get you ready.

“Have your partner pick you up or meet you at the place where you had your first dinner/drink together.”

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Do something nice for each other.

It doesn’t have to be a birthday or a special occasion to do something nice for your significant other. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or anything expensive. Write a love letter and leave it somewhere for them to find.  Make a playlist of all their favourite songs or songs that remind you of them. Run a bubble bath, light some candles and let them have some time to themselves.

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Massages

Get some nice oils, light some candles and help get those pesky knots out. PLEASE do be careful if you’re massaging someone with a hyper mobility syndrome-last thing you want on your romantic night is to end up in A&E!

Go on a weekend break/holiday.

If you’re like me and are seriously affected by low pressures and crap weather, you might appreciate getting away to somewhere warm (but not humid).  A nice week away to the Mediterranean can give you and your partner a break from pain and all the other symptoms associated with your condition.

Renew your vows.

You don’t need to recreate your wedding day-unless you want to. You can simply organise to renew your vows with your priest/registrar/humanist. You can do it alone or just invite your close family and friends.

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I love you.

Those three simple words should be said every day. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

“Let your significant other know that they are loved.”

Just like kissing, sometimes it can be easy to forget to say it. Especially when brain fog is a factor of your illness. Set a reminder if you have to!

Sexy time.

If you can do it and want to, go for it. 90% of the time us spoonies don’t feel sexy or attractive. Sometimes you gotta make yourself look good on the outside to help you feel better on the inside. Make yourself feel sexy by having your hair/ make up done. Have a relaxing bath, shave your legs (if you want), get into a nice nighty or PJs. Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself. Sometimes after all that effort-the last thing you want to do is to do the horizontal mambo but if you still have some spoons left and you’re not in too much pain, use that last bit of energy to make lurve. Remember, you don’t have to necessarily have to “go all the way” sometimes some heavy petting can be just as nice.

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Till next time,

Z.M.

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A letter to my fellow chronic illness sufferers.

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

Recently I’ve read posts from fellow chronic illness sufferers about having to endure ignorant comments from strangers and sadly, friends and family about how how hard it must be for those in their life caring for them without their own difficulties being acknowledged. Now, I’m not saying that life for carers isn’t hard. They have it so tough but, what outside observers tend to forget is that there is a vulnerable person, in pain, unable to look after themselves who have feelings of loss, despair, grief and insecurity. Many sufferers are still dealing with the fact that they are not 100% independent. That can be a very difficult pill to swallow.

For those of you who have had to endure such ignorant comments, this letter is for you.

Do you ever have days where you think: “God, I’m such a burden.” or “I need something but I don’t want to ask for help again.”?

I do. All. The. Time.

How many of us have been with friends or family and listen to them go on and on about how wonderful your husband/wife/partner etc is for taking care of you? Most of them will be somewhat diplomatic but, there are times when you are unfortunate enough to endure a conversation with an ignorant friend or stranger.

You know your spouse/partner is wonderful that’s exactly why you are with them in the first place. You don’t need someone to tell you how hard it is for them to put up with your moods that are a result of fatigue, pain and pure unadulterated frustration. You don’t need  them to remind you that you depend on them to help you with tasks that any healthy person could do for themselves.

When someone says: “Isn’t he/she great for looking after you?”

This is what we hear:

“You’re a burden on your husband. You know that, right? If you didn’t have him you would struggle and probably be alone.”

OK, OK. It might sound a bit dramatic but if it’s what you hear almost every time your illness is discussed it grates on you. Words are funny things. When people are already insecure in themselves they can read into things that may not have any ill intent. Chronic illness eats away at our bodies but it also eats away at our minds and self confidence.

You hear how great your partner is more than you hear how great you are for not getting into bed and never coming out of it no matter how much you want to do that sometimes. But that’s the nature of having a chronic illness, isn’t it? People simply don’t get it. Unless you have a life threatening illness, nobody really listens. Chronic illnesses aren’t “sexy” diseases that can be marketed as well as life threatening ones. People don’t get that your symptoms are for as long as you live-there is no cure and there is no looming death sentence.

Yes, it is really hard for caregivers. Especially for parents and partners of people with chronic illnesses. Caregiving can often be a full time job without the pay. But, imagine how hard it is for the person who is being cared for. Having to be cared for can be downright humiliating. You need help getting off the toilet when your hips are giving you trouble, you need to be lifted out of the bath because you’re dizzy. You need help dressing because your so fatigued after having a shower. You need someone to cook and clean for you because you simply can’t. It takes years for people to come to terms with this-if ever.

You shouldn’t have to be considered “really special” to take care of your significant other, isn’t that the whole point of committing to each other? In sickness and in health etc, etc? Isn’t it part and parcel of choosing to have a child or deciding to spend your life with someone?

I have so many friends who are chronically ill who have their husbands/wives/mothers etc acting as their carers. I know they have had to endure ignorant comments from strangers about whether or not they should have children, that they are a burden on their partner and that their partner is “a really, really great guy that puts up with a lot”. But, I know those same people fight every single day to face their illness and a world that is filled with so much ignorance head on. I also know that these people are so appreciative of everything the people in their support system do to make their lives that bit more bearable. I see them declaring their love and appreciation of their caregiver to the world. But I also know that these same people lay next to their partners on the couch or in bed after a really hard day. They look them in the eye and thank them for everything they have done today to help them endure the pain, the fatigue and all the horrible symptoms they put up with every single day.

Of course you should thank them. They didn’t ask for this life either and yet, they do it anyway and without complaining (well, most of the time anyway). Doing something special for your caregiver every now and then is a nice way to show your appreciation. If your significant other is your carer, sometimes the romance can dwindle and the relationship can go from lover to carer. So it is important to do something together that keeps that passion between you going. Even if it’s snuggling up on the couch and having a kissing and cuddling session. It goes both ways, though. Sometimes those needing to be cared for can feel inferior, childlike, useless,unattractive and yes, a burden. We will explore maintaining romantic relationships next week.

So you, reading this. If you’re chronically ill and have a loved one caring for you remember this; you’re not a burden. You didn’t choose to be sick. You take on the biggest task of all. Surviving.

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Life has given you a pretty crappy hand but you’re still here and that should be applauded. You put up with more things in one week than most people deal with in a lifetime. You are good enough. You are not “lucky” to have a parent/partner caring for you. Sure, there are people who wouldn’t be up to the task of looking after a chronically sick loved one but that doesn’t make you any more “lucky”. Luck has nothing to do with it. You fell in love with a good person and they fell in love with you for the same reason. You are not your illness. It does not define who you are-unless you want it to. Being chronically ill does bring out the not so pleasant side of people but it also embellishes all the wonderful traits of you too. You learn to be more compassionate, more appreciative of the little things in life like a walk on the beach or an hour in the playground with your child. You learn to take opportunities-when you can. You learn that saying no is perfectly fine. If you’re not up to it, you don’t do it. Chronic illness takes so much away but it allows us to see the world in a unique way.

Bottom line is your caregiver is a wonderful person but, so are you.

Till next time,

Z.M

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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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11 Crazy Things People With EDS Have Heard

I spoke with some fellow EDS zebras about some of the down right crazy things they have heard from health care professionals, friends and family about their condition. Comment below if you have anything you’d like to add to the list.

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1. You have EDS because you’re vaccine injured.

No. Just no. A vaccine isn’t going to alter my genes. Shoo! EDS is genetic. GEN-ETIC.

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2. You have EDS because you’re possessed.

Seriously. This came from a chap who works in my local takeaway. Offered to make me herbal blends to cleanse my soul. Thanks, but no thanks, mate. Stick to making pizza, k?

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3. You obviously have Lyme disease. That triggered your EDS.

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Yes, there are some overlaps with EDS and Lyme but the latter isn’t going to cause your collagen to magically turn into a chewing gum like consistency.

4. You have EDS because you’re stressed.

I was told the stress of my wedding caused my EDS. If that’s true then EDS must be far more common! We should all stay single. Job done.

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5. You’re husband is a lucky guy.

*insert pervy wink here* Shockingly, this came from a Doctor!

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This is the extend of my bedroom antics, Doc. Seriously, I’m more likely to pop out a hip than to climax.

6.You’re sick because you’re in a bad relationship

This was in the Doctor’s office and my husband was sitting right next to me. The only bad relationship here is with this Doctor.

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I mean, talk about awkward. If a Doctor was genuinely concerned about the patient, wouldn’t they wait until their patient was alone? Nobody is going to admit they are in a bad relationship in front of the person they are in a relationship with. Anyway, the point is martial issues are never going to cause a person to dislocate a joint.

7. You’re too young to be sick

Yes, because that’s how chronic illness works. You wonder if these health care professionals obtained their degrees from the bottom of a cereal box. Do you even science, bruh?

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I’m too young? Hold on a sec while I tell my body that I’m not actually 90 years old.

8. You’re too short to have EDS

I think you’re confusing my condition with Marfan Syndrome.

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9. A holy man once surrounded my hospital bed with his followers they started to chant and pray.

Well, that’s just creepy.

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Here, while your at it, could you pray for me to win the lottery so I can pay for my very expensive medical treatment? Oh it doesn’t work like that? Silly me.

10. Your son has EDS because you’re a bad parent.

Like, what the actual F?

The child’s mysterious problems are from his mother yelling at him and letting him get away with too much all at the same time. This was said by a paediatric consultant!

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11. Someone assumed because I was in a wheelchair that I was mentally affected.

I was seen in the wheelchair while being pushed by my husband and this old man saw me in the chair and automatically thought I had an intellectual disability. We had our dog with us and looked at me and said (in baby talk voice, no less) “is that your cat? Hah?! Is that your cat? What a lovely cat hah? HAH??!”

 I just looked at him smiled and said nicely “yeah funny looking cat, no?! The poor man looked shocked. He just said, “have a nice day” and skootled off quickly.

What do you do in a situation like that? Laugh? Cry? Both?

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Has any thing like this happened to you? Let me know in the comments!

Share this with your friends and family to help educate them.

Until next time,

ZM

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Our medical trip to London. Part 1

So, I’m sitting on a plane at Heathrow airport. As I stare out the window and listen to the rumblings of the engines preparing to take us back home, I reflect on the last few days.

I have been running on adrenaline, will power and strong cups of coffee to let my family enjoy the experience of everything London has to offer. I know they wouldn’t have gone sight seeing if they knew just how unwell I was. I can’t hide it now though. My pelvis has separated, which it does every few days or with exertion. My wrist popped out and is now painfully bruised. I am emotionally and physically drained.

We arrived in London on Tuesday evening. Weary after our drive from Cork to Dublin, I was looking forward to getting to our hotel in the Premier Inn Earl’s Court and hopping into the bath for a soak. Ollie Pops N’Clicks had other plans..

In addition to inheriting all my wonderful genetic gifts, she also inherited my inability to travel without some form of sickness cropping up. Yup. Right there on the packed tube, close to me in the sling she vomited. And I mean vomited. Like ‘Team America’ vomited. It just kept coming! How could someone so little bring up that much puke?

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The smell. Christ. Just what I needed. I look over at my husband only to see him laughing. Then everybody else in the tube noticed what happened and began to laugh too. Frickin’ hilarious, lads.

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We hopped off the tube so I could clean myself up as much as possible. We eventually made it to the hotel in one piece, just. Ravenous, we dropped off our bags, got washed up and went to the restaurant for a pleasant dinner.

I didn’t sleep so well that night. The next afternoon Bendy Boy and I would be meeting the Professor Grahame. I met him once at a conference in Cork. He was just as sweet and gentle as I had remembered. The Professor knows all too well the struggle Irish zebras face, almost total abandonment from our own Government and healthcare system. No specialists and the majority of tests needed are simply unavailable. We don’t even have an upright MRI machine.

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After an examination and a very long chat, the Professor confirmed Bendy Boy’s diagnosis of EDS Hypermobility Type. It was also noted that the six year old shows signs of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. When Bendy Boy stands up, his heart rate rises and his feet pool with blood. I was shocked to learn of the POTS signs as he has never complained of feeling dizzy except when he gets out of the bath. I was surprised I didn’t notice the pooling.

The Professor seemed impressed with my knowledge and understanding of medical terminology. When there are no experts available to you, you have to become your own expert.

Here is an excerpt from my own medical report:

“On examination there is evidence of widespread joint laxity with a hypermobility score of 8/9 on the hypermobility scale. Outside the scale her shoulders and hips (borderline) are also hypermobile, as are her feet which flatten and pronate on weight bearing. There is a non-significant 2° scoliosis on the Bunnell scoliometer, but no other features of a marfanoid habitus. Her skin is soft and silky and semitransparent, and shows increased stretchiness in the phase of taking up slack. There are numerous thin scars from knee scrapes acquired in childhood and similar over her elbows. Striae atrophicae were first noted by her at the age of 18, and she has minimal striae gravidarum despite having had two full-term pregnancies, a pointer to EDS. Gorlin sign, ability to touch the nose with the tip of the tongue is positive, and the lingual frenulum is rudimentary, both pointers to EDS. She scored very highly (25/30) on our checklist of symptoms compatible with autonomic dysfunction, known to be a common feature of EDS. Her blood pressure lying was 124/84, pulse rate 66; standing 124/84, pulse rate 80. This rise of 14bpm on change of posture is suggestive of postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), the most frequently encountered form of dysautonomia seen in patients with EDS. The evident pooling of blood in her toes on standing is further evidence in favour of PoTS.

On the basis of the clinical findings I have formed the conclusion that Yvonne is suffering from a heritable disorder of connective tissue, the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome hypermobility type, a diagnosis that was established by Dr Mulcahy in 2013. I explained the nature of the condition to her, in particular its genetic basis and the vulnerability it confers on soft tissues to the effects of injury and overuse. In her case it has resulted in longstanding widespread joint and spinal pain. Since the time of her first pregnancy she has suffered a secondary chronic pain syndrome, a frequent occurrence in this situation. It is likely that her bowel symptoms represent an EDS-related intestinal dysmotility, and almost certainly she has PoTS.

There is a concern about the possibility that she might have craniocervical instability on the basis of left-sided weakness, headaches, and paraesthesia in her arms and legs. In addition she feels that her head feels too heavy for her neck. With this array of suggestive symptoms I have agreed that we should proceed to an upright MRI examination, and I will be requesting this at the Medserena Upright MRI Unit for her to have one on a future visit.”

And Bendy Boy’s report:

On examination there is evidence of widespread joint laxity with a hypermobility score of 8/9 on the hypermobility scale. Outside the scale his shoulders, cervical spine, hips, fingers and big toes are all hypermobile, as are his feet which flatten and pronate on weight bearing. There is a non-significant 3° scoliosis on the Bunnell scoliometer. Other features of a marfanoid habitus include a pectus excavatum, and hand-height and foot-height ratios both elevated to within the marfanoid range. I interpret these findings as indicating an incomplete marfanoid habitus, which may become more obvious as he completes his adolescent growth spurt. This should not be taken to imply that I feel he has the Marfan syndrome as the habitus is widely distributed throughout the family of heritable disorders of connective tissue. His skin is characteristically soft, silky and semitransparent, and shows increased stretchiness in the phase of taking up slack. There are no paper-thin scars of note. Gorlin sign, ability to touch the nose with the tip of the tongue, is negative. The lingual frenulum is present (normal). He scored moderately highly (12/30) on our checklist of symptoms compatible with autonomic dysfunction, known to be a common feature of EDS. His blood pressure lying was 96/53, pulse rate 75; standing 102/62, pulse rate 85. This rise of 10bpm on change of posture is suggestive of postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), the most frequently encountered form of dysautonomia seen in patients with EDS.

On the basis of the clinical findings I confirm that Alexander shares his mother’s phenotype and diagnosis.”

While I was being examined, Ollie Pop (16 months) decided to stand up on her own for the first time!  And I missed it. Thank You, EDS!

Receiving the confirmation of EDS HT and the noted symptoms of POTS given by Professor Grahame will hopefully bear weight in accessing services here in Ireland. Although, I won’t hold my breath. My GP was happy to hear that I took the plunge going to the UK and she’s very interested in my case. It took a long time to find a GP that genuinely cares. While a weight has been lifted knowing that I definitely have EDS and haven’t been misdiagnosed for the hundredth time, there is a fear. The idea of having cervical instability or Chiari freaks the sugar out of me. This last trip cost roughly 5,000 Euro. The next trip will be double that again. If Chiari is present and significant it may mean I will have to take a trip to the US to have surgery. We will just have to wait and see.

Coming home to Ireland, it is wet and windy. It’s miserable. The weather here reflects how I feel about Ireland and it’s healthcare system.

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Now that I’m home I don’t have access to the fantastic services and more importantly the compassion I felt in London. I felt so at ease.

I am fundraising to get back to the UK in the new year for further testing. I will give details of these in Part 2 along with the rest of my tale. If you can donate anything at all, just click on the link below. Even sharing our story would be a massive help.

https://www.gofundme.com/2befu24c

So, until next time,

ZM.

x

 

Household Gadgets for Spoonies-Part 1

What’s a “spoonie”? A spoonie is a person who suffers from a Chronic Illness. It is derived from Spoon Theory. When you are ill every. single. day, you need to decide what’s important. Do I shower or clean the bathroom? Although it might be a no brainer that you obviously choose the shower, for many of us, we have to forgo the shower otherwise the house will look something like this:

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Laundry-

When it comes to actually doing the laundry, it can actually be quite tough on the body with all the bending down to grab clothes out of the machine and reaching up to hang them on the washing line. To stop me bending down so much I bought a laundry basket with folding legs. I also bought a device that helps me fold clothes beautifully. I suffer from DCD like symptoms as does my son due to our EDS.

Top tip: Mountains of clothes stacked on chairs around the house? Everytime you do a load of laundry check the sizes, condition and try to remember the last time you wore it. Is it too big or too small? Put it in a bag to pass along to a friend or charity shop. Does it have holes in it? In all honesty, are you going to repair it? Bin it. Have you worn it in the last 6-12 months? If the answer is no, put it in the pass along pile. This will save you doing “the big clear out”.

Cleaning-

This is something everybody hates doing so can you imagine what it’s like for someone who may end up in bed for a week by doing simple cleaning tasks?

Hoovering and mopping the floors is a massive task for spoonies and can often lead to injury. Lugging around hoovers and buckets of water for the mop can often mean I dislocate or pull something. Hence why I don’t do the floors often! We did invest in a steam mop that can also be used to clean surfaces. I do the find the X5 to be a bit heavy so if anyone knows of a lighter model, let me know in the comments! What I particularly like about the steam mop is that you can clean without the use of chemicals.

I haven’t bought one yet but I’m dying to get a cordless hoover from Dyson or a one of those rob hoover/mops. Other spoonies have recommended them to me. Come on, how awesome is this?!

 

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Top tip: Fill one of these guys with 1 part dish soap and 1 part white vinegar. Keep it in the shower and wash down surfaces before you get out of the shower or while you are conditioning your hair. Simples!

If your shower or bath has mould growing around the rubber edges you can soak some cotton pads in bleach and place it on the mouldy areas. Leave them there for a few hours and then wipe clean. The rubber areas will be white again!

Tidying up-

If you have kids and are chronically ill, keeping the house tidy can be a full time job. We live in a two storey house which makes things that bit more difficult. Recently, I bought two little blue baskets. When I am tidying up I go to each room and put things in the basket that don’t belong in that room. Then, as I go from room to room I put the things where they belong. If you have visitors coming around and you need to tidy quickly-just fill up the baskets and leave them to sort later.

Top tip: This one is particularly handy for the little ones. Buy a timer. Each day set it for 5 or 10 minutes-whatever you can manage and for those few minutes do a little cleaning or tidying. It’s amazing what you can get done in such a small amount of time!

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Some other gadgets for cleaning and tidying:

 

Messy in the kitchen? Invest in some stove top protectors 

Dog hair everywhere? Dyson have an attachment you can use to hoover your pet

Slipper mops allow you to clean the floors while you walk to the fridge-or to bed.

A keyboard with storage is handy for extra wires, notes and pens.

I hope some of these tips have been helpful to you. Have any tips/gadgets you want to share? Hit me up in the comments and I’ll add them to Part 2.

Till next time,

Z.M

x

 

Me, the Zebra

Burchell's zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) smiling, Tanzania
Burchell’s zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) smiling, Tanzania

I was asked to start a blog by a few fellow zebras to share my experiences of being a mom with a chronic illness. Well, here I am. Before I get into all that though, it is important that you know my backstory, how I got to this point. I’m sure many of you can relate to my story, my journey to diagnosis.

In 2012, I was interning at the Cork Independent newspaper. During my time there I happened to take a liking to writing the health section of the paper. My parents were both nurses and my sister, also worked in healthcare so while I didn’t strictly follow the family tradition, I still had a keen interest in health. That year I decided I was going to enter the European Health Journalism Awards. The theme I chose was rare diseases. So, I contacted the Genetic and Rare Diseases Organisation (GRDO) and asked to be put in touch with a rare disease sufferer. Later that week I interviewed a woman about her disease, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Little did I know that the answers I has been searching for about my own illness had landed right on my lap.

There is an old saying within the medical profession: ‘When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras’. Dr Woodward, an American professor at the University of Maryland would instruct his medical interns to practice as the phrase suggests. You see, horses are common in Maryland, while zebras would have been relatively rare during the 1940s. So, one would assume that, upon hearing the sound of trotting hooves, that a horse would be the most likely explanation. I however, am a zebra.

My symptoms started as a child but got really bad by the time I was 14. Gradually, my knees began to hurt, especially when it was cold. By 16, it was unbearable. A few years later, the pain spread to my hips and ankles. The joints began to make popping and clicking noises. Frustratingly, blood tests for arthritis and x-rays all came up clear. Then I began to have problems with my stomach and experiencing fatigue. In college, I was vomiting almost everyday for a year and napped frequently. The fatigue hasn’t stopped to this day. A colonoscopy and endoscopy came up clear but my GP said it was irritable bowel syndrome. Some days, my abdomen swells so much, that I look pregnant. After my son was born five years ago, I had no choice but to fight the fatigue. I am not anemic, but as the months have turned into years, the tiredness has become overwhelming. The smallest of chores around the house are exhausting for me. Some days, I don’t even have the energy to get dressed and face the world. People commented on this and called me lazy. Without a diagnosis, I couldn’t give them a credible answer as to why I was sitting in my pajamas in the middle of the afternoon.

I was living in constant pain for years, feeling exhausted every single day and life on a day to day basis was unbearable. I felt as though I was going crazy. All tests, scans and x-rays were coming back negative and my doctors came to the conclusion that I was depressed, that my physical pain was a manifestation of something that was purely emotional.

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Yes, pain and sleep disturbances can be symptoms of depression. Of course by that point, I became depressed. These doctors were the experts and who was I to argue? I was put on nearly every single anti depressant available on the Irish market at one point or another. Still, the pain and fatigue continued, so after eight years taking these pills, day after day, I was numb, floating through life. I felt useless as a mother, wife and friend.

Of course, I did have my good days, especially during the summer when the weather was warm and my joints didn’t hurt as much. For the past two years, the joint pain has spread to affect my hands and wrists, my back and neck too. If I move a certain way, a joint may slide out and back in again. But things changed for me in 2012 when I interviewed that girl. For the purpose of anonymity, we will call her Anna.

Anna has a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS is a Connective Tissue Disorder. People with the condition produce faulty collagen, which is the glue that holds the body together. In EDS, this ‘glue’ is more like chewing gum and causes the joints to be loose, often resulting in dislocations. However, collagen is present throughout all areas of the body and therefore EDS is a multi-systemic condition with secondary conditions present in most cases. When Anna explained her symptoms, I wondered did I have something similar? I was so touched by her story and felt connected to this young woman that we kept in touch. In the meantime I was put on a public waiting list to see a rheumatologist. But then, in late 2013, I was speaking on the phone and then everything started to go black; I felt hot, my heart was racing, I felt weak. I ran to the bathroom to lie down on the cool floor. This gave me such a fright that I decided I wasn’t prepared to wait two years to see a public consultant. I had to know what was wrong with me. I was going to get answers.

I organised a private appointment with a physiotherapist who confirmed that I was hypermobile. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together. Then I arranged an appointment with a rheumatologist in Cork, with an interest in EDS and Hypermobility Syndrome. Two weeks later, the doctor confirmed that I had Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I cried with relief that finally I could put a name to what I had. After a decade of tests and scans I had taken the reins myself and finally got my diagnosis with just two appointments. The majority of doctors in Ireland are unfamiliar with EDS and there are no specialists available here in Ireland. If there were more awareness and training, I may have been diagnosed much earlier in my life.

After my diagnosis, I began weaning off the anti depressants. That was two and a half years ago and I haven’t looked back since.

I was on a high the day I got my diagnosis, but the next I had to face the harsh reality that I have a rare, lifelong and progressive disease. Luckily, my EDS is quite mild compared to some of my friends and hopefully more awareness will mean better treatment for me, and my fellow zebras in years to come. The biggest help for me through all of this has been Facebook and speaking to other people with EDS. They are enormously supportive and there is a real air of solidarity. Everybody is supportive and no matter how trivial I thought my problems were in comparison, the support has been immense. Hopefully, together, we can raise awareness about this debilitating disease and bring about an improvement in the services available especially for our children.

My son AJ is six years old. In 2014 he was diagnosed with Hypermobility EDS. I had him seen by the Rheumatologist that diagnosed me. AJ bruises very easily and I worried that teachers might question whether he was being abused. Sadly, this is not an uncommon fear amongst the EDS community. Children have been known to be removed from the family home as their parents are suspected of abuse. Thankfully, his school has been extremely supportive, even helping us organise an SNA for him. AJs’ EDS is extremely mild at the moment. But, he struggles in school, especially with concentration and writing. This is common with EDS kids. He has sensory issues, which makes it extra hard for him. His pelvis is also unstable so sitting for long periods is impossible for him. A care plan has been put in place for him in school next year. Alex is a happy child though and has never had a severe injury, as of yet, for this, I am thankful.

In 2015, I was diagnosed with Orthostatic Intolerance and Vasovagal Syncope. I still have a long list of referrals to attend to investigate the array of health issues. There is a question mark over MS, Chiari Malformation, Gastroparesis, to name but a few.

The latest addition to our family is our little Olliepop, our 9 month old daughter. Obviously, she hasn’t received any diagnosis yet. But, deep down, I know she has EDS. Her sclera are extremely blue, a sign of EDS. The Public Health Nurse also noticed how flexible Ollie is, so much so, that she has been referred to physiotherapy. She suffered her first dislocation at just 7 months old. I fear for my little girl and what may happen to her. But, having a parent with the same condition will work to her advantage. She will be believed. She will not go decades wondering what the matter is.

Until next time,

Z.M

A letter to my children

 

To my little darlings,

I am here watching you both sleep. It’s 5.06am and I’m awake because I’m in pain. It’s peaceful here with only the sound of you breathing, the cat purring at your feet and the tapping of my fragile fingers on the keyboard.  As I watch over you both, I think of all the things I wish and hope for you and your futures.

I wish that medical professionals will believe you when you tell them there is something wrong. I wish that when you tell your teachers you’re not feeling well, that you will be believed. I wish that when you tell me and your Daddy that you need help, that we can do that and to the best of our ability.

I hope that as you grow up, that we can do everything in our power to prevent you from experiencing the type of pain and anguish that I go through almost every day. I hope that I can be a good enough mom for you both. Most of all, I hope that you won’t grow up to hate me because I was too sick to play or get up out of bed. I hope that you will understand that I didn’t get up out of bed because I was saving my energy to do something fun with you another day.

I pray that you will grow up and live a normal life. I pray you will get the best education, in life and in academia. I pray you will find a job you love but never feel like it is work. I pray you find love, with man or woman and they will accept you with all your flaws and imperfections. I pray that you appreciate them, as I have appreciated your father for loving me, despite the difficult days. I pray they treat you the way your father has so graciously treated me.

slleping zeebra

 

I know that should you experience any of the obstacles that I have faced, you will be far more equipped to deal with them than I ever was. I know you will be strong and determined as you have been in everything you do so far. I know that you will have days where life is just too damn hard, that there seems to be no end to the uphill battle but you will continue on. I know that when you should decide to become parents yourselves that you will know this guilt that I feel now, knowing that it was you who passed on these faulty genes. But, please remember; this is not your fault. You cannot control your genes as I could not control mine.

You begin to stir next to me now. No doubt you are looking for what you affectionately call “mama” as you nuzzle at my chest. And you, my love, at the end of the bed sighing in your sleep as if your dreams are giving you relief.

I want you to know that I love you, deeply and unconditionally. I hope that you know that I’m trying everyday to be the best mom I can and I pray that you will live a healthy, happy life.

All my love,

Mum.

 

 

 

5 must haves for an EDS pregnancy

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This blog post is sort of the reason I started this project in the first place. I was approached by a few EDSers who are thinking of starting a family or expanding their brood. They asked me to share my experience with them. There is some research out there about EDS and pregnancy but not a whole pile.

Firstly, before you begin trying to conceive, talk to your doctor.

Contrary to what many people believe, EDSers suffering from the hypermobility can experience very normal pregnancies. There are cases of course where labour may spontaneously start before the estimated birth date. It is the vascular type of EDS that causes the real concern amongst doctors. In my case, I developed symphysis pubis dysfunction (spd) very early on in my pregnancy which up until 12 weeks ago, put me in a wheelchair and caused me to use my smart crutches. SPD is fairly common in pregnancies in the general population but because of laxity in the joints already, EDS may produce a severe case.

Anyway, my pregnancy was quite difficult purely because of the pain. The baby and myself were generally in good health up until the day I was induced, but I’ll explain that another time.

So here are the main things that got me through my pregnancy and what I would also suggest to anyone planning on starting a family

1.Get as fit and healthy as possible

We had been trying to conceive for about 6 months when I fell pregnant. During that time I was actively loosing weight. I had put on lots of weight in the previous 8 years, and to take some pressure off my joints, I decided enough was enough. I lost almost 2 stone and I really think that made a huge difference to my fertility. I had also been getting more active, making the effort not to throw myself into bed at the first sign of pain and fatigue. Research also shows that the fitter you are in pregnancy, the easier your labour will be, should you have a straightforward vaginal birth.

2.Support, support and support.

The first and last trimester is tough for a lot of women, never mind anyone with additional issues such as gastroparesis or dysautonomia. It is vital you have a good support system in place, especially if this is a subsequent pregnancy and you have other children to care for. Luckily, my husband is at home full time so I could rest when I needed to. I know not everyone can afford a situation like ours.
If you have family or friends who are willing to help out by cooking, cleaning or looking after other children, take their help. Grab any offers with both hands and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Make sure you have support from your health care professionals too. Both your GP and obstetrician should be made aware of your conditions and any meds you might be on. You should also talk to your GP about Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy to help you cope during pregnancy if you don’t already have therapists in place.

It’s funny, some women with EDS greatly improve during pregnancy while others’ symptoms get worse. Pregnancy can increase laxity and therefore the incidence of injury may increase. Investing in some supports or mobility aids can make day to day life a little easier. It can often mean the difference between getting out of the house or looking at the same four walls for days on end. My smart crutches and wheelchair were a Godsend. I also had a belt to support my pelvis, it made the area feel more stable.

3. Relaxation and rest

Pregnancy is hard on the body, fatigue has been one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from other women with EDS. The tiniest chore may mean spending the rest of the day in bed. While it is important to stay active as much as possible, it is also important, particularly for EDSers to get plenty of rest. Listen to your body! Cleaning the kitchen cupboards might sound like a great idea to a nesting mom but will it be worth spending the next few days in bed? Save your spoons for your doctors appointment or lunch with your friends.

Your friends might want to throw you a baby shower but if you’re having a particularly bad episode of fatigue or a pain flare up, being the centre of attention may not be your thing. Suggest a chill out girly day at home, binging on Netflix and sweets or a spa day. My Dad’s girlfriend took me to a spa during my pregnancy. It was my first time having a massage (I’m 28) so you can imagine how much I looked forward to it. Although it was very relaxing, it did require spoons. I slept a lot the next day.

4. Creature comforts

Pyjamas, Netflix subscription, a good book. There will be bed days, it’s inevitable, so be prepared. I have the Netflix app on my tablet and my phone so entertainment was always at hand. Of course no bed day is complete without a pair of super comfy pyjamas. I don’t know if it is an EDS thing, but all my clothes, including my PJs always feel tight come the end of the day. No-I have not put on 3 lbs during the day, it just happens. So when I was pregnant I always bought jammies a size too big – for maximum comfort. Don’t buy anything fleecy! If your in bed all day, you’ll just end up feeling hot and bothered – and not in the good way!

5.Have faith

As I write this piece I am nursing my little girl. Every time I look at her, I think how she was worth every second of pain, every hip pop, every day stuck in bed, the scary situation were in just before and after birth was worth having her in my life. During the pregnancy, there were days I panicked and thought, this is a mistake, why did I do this? But having Ollie pop here with us has made life so much better! I feel better too, I’m out and about so much more now. I’ve kicked my physio up a notch – her birth gave me an extra push to work hard to make myself as well as possible.

I wish you health and happiness.

Z.M