Updates and Everything Falls In March!

I have been so unwell over the last few months that I have missed and had to reschedule a lot of hospital appointments and now they all seem to have come in March!

I was last admitted to hospital in November last but never got around to writing about it, I was in for a week with another bout of agonizing pain in my right side and gut, all stemming from the Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction/ Gallbladder pain I had been having all along and that already hospitalised me over 4 times in the one year previously. They took real note of my weight loss this time and started me on new calorie drinks, some new meds, as well as doing some further tests, ultrasounds and abdominal X-Rays all leading up to a second ERCP on the 28th of March, of which I will write about below!

Yesterday I had a manual wheelchair assessment with my Occupational Therapist, I have now been measured and fitted for a new manual chair as my current one is loose, rickety and near impossible for himself and myself to push, not to mention that it is far too big for me at a size 18 where I need a size 14 or 15. Yesterday, I was fitted for the new Invacare Action 3NG  (In Ocean Blue!) and have been put on the funding list for it, which means if approved, I will get the chair through the HSE but if not I simply wont get it at all, especially since I was already approved for a new Motorised Wheelchair (Invacare Spectra XTR2 Pictures Below) a few months ago (But is only good for outdoor local use and we do not have a modified car to transport it so I need a manual one to use in the home and transport) There is no guarantee that I will get approval for the manual one, We will just have to wait and see.

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March kicks off with my birthday on the 5th, I have nothing planned only to celebrate with hospital appointments which start on Monday the 6th with a follow up appointment with my doctors who look after my Pots care in UHL. This usually involves looking at the current meds I am on, seeing if they need an update, they ask about my symptoms to date and see if I require another Tilt Table Test or some other tests etc. This will have been my first ‘Pots’ appointment in over a year now so it will be good to catch up and see if any changes are needed.

 

Wednesday of that same week, the 8th, follows with a Urology appointment to check my kidney and bladder function. This Urodynamics Test needs to be done every 6 months or so now that I rely on catheters for painful urinary retention, it can leave you more prone to kidney and bladder infections and kidney dysfunction so that needs to be checked frequently to try and catch infections and Kidney dysfunction as early as possible to prevent any damage.

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Image of a Type 1 Arnold-Chiari Malformation. The cerebellum has descended 7mm and there are herniated cerebellar tonsils into the foramen magnum. – Wikipedia

The next day, Thursday the 9th, I have an MRI of my neck and spine, as ordered by my Pain Specialist, to try and rule out Chiari Malformation or other complications because of the severe pain and headaches I am getting coming from around the base of my skull/ top of my neck area, I already get ‘Occipital Nerve Blocks’, for that and ‘Sacroiliac Joint Nerve Blocks’, for the pain I get in my lower back and hips, but I find these nerve blocks are only helpful for a very short period of time (sometimes, if at all!) and are not advised for long term treatment. I have been getting them on and off for over 3 years now altogether as well as continuously taking two types of Opiates (Fast and slow release), meds for neuropathic pain, anti-inflammatories and also muscle relaxants, daily, even with all of these and the injections there has been no proper ‘cure’, especially for the severe neck and head pain, if anything that has gotten worse, so he wanted to investigate that further. We spoke and he explained that he understands that EDSers usually don’t show any evidence of Chiari during a lying down MRI, it is preferred that an upright MRI is performed for a more honest view, however there is no upright MRI in Ireland, one of the closest being in London. I may not need an upright one at all, we will see what the lie down one shows first but he said he would refer me to London if needs be. I will also be returning to London, (privately as none of this is covered by the HSE!) to see another GI specialist that specialises in EDS very soon and I will also see what that specialist suggests I do because the pain and headaches have me bedbound most days now and have worsened my quality of life, where it was very low to begin with! 😦

The following Wednesday the 15th I am back down to Cork University Hospital to see the new private GI specialist I started seeing in November just gone. I won’t mention Names here but, he was recommended to me by a good few people on the Irish EDS related Facebook Pages stating that he is an excellent GI specialist who is very well read up on EDS (Also having studied and worked with the private GI Consultant who specialises in EDS, in London, that I had already heard about (and spoke about in the previous paragraph) and had planned to go and see.) It was recommended that I see him before going straight to London as he can do (in Cork) a lot of the tests they do in London, so I said I would give him a go, and I am so glad I did.

I have to say first that My Limerick GI Team in UHL are fantastic in that they have tried almost every test they could to see what is causing all my gut trouble. Since starting all the GI investigations in December 2014, up to now, they found out that I have ‘Gut Dysmotility‘ and ‘Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction‘,  but beyond medicating and treating me for those, they do not know what is causing my Nausea, Vomiting, Trouble Swallowing and Severe Gut Pain that has hospalised me more than 4 times in the last year, nor do they know why I have lost over 3.5 stone and continue to lose weight even though I am keeping my calorific intake as high as possible on as many days of the week that I physically can. The team have read up on EDS where they have needed to and continue to educate themselves as we continue to investigate (The tests in Limerick are ongoing, even with another ERCP Operation with Bile Duct Sphincterotomy (where they cut the muscle) at the end of this month) but I feel we are still coming to a dead end, Especially when the symptoms have eased only a little and ultimately continue to cause daily trouble and the head GI specialist of the Limerick Team came to me already and said that it would probably be better if I went to London to see what ‘The EDS Experts’ have to say. So on hearing about the GI doctor in CUH who knew his EDS, I made an appointment and went down to see him and get his advice before I decided to go straight to London.

 

The first Cork appointment came in November and I was pleasantly surprised when I met him. He was very well read with regards to EDS, listened to my full medical history, symptoms, complaints, procedures, tests and operations that I already had. Went through the medications I was on and went through some with me that I had never heard of before but he wanted to do a few tests and X-Rays before changing my medications. When he heard I was interested in going to the GI specialist who he trained under over in London, he was delighted to refer me over and suggested that it was a great idea to get his opinion as he would have the most expertise when it came to treating GI trouble in EDS patients and he thinks this London specialist should be able to help me.

He immediately wrote up a referral letter as I was there as well as booking me in for some new tests in Cork hospital that are not available in Limerick. He said these test appointments would be sent to me in the coming weeks after the appointment and sure enough, they did, they came through very fast, a lot faster than I have experienced in Limerick. I had a Barium Swallow X-Ray done in January and still waiting on the results of that which will probably be given during the clinic appointment I have on Wednesday the 15th of March and I am currently waiting on a Gastric Emptying Test appointment which should arrive, I am told, in the next few weeks. Either way I am very impressed with this Cork based GI Specialist who knows his EDS, I will certainly stick with him, as well as the Limerick team, for now while I wait for my London appointment to come through.

Not finished yet! I have a Gynae appointment in the Maternity Hospital on Monday the 20th. Then that Friday the 24th I have an EEG back at the UHL and finally, The Big One! I have another ERCP operation thingy with a Bile Duct Sphincterotomy the following and last Tuesday of the Month, the 28th.

 

The ERCP and Sphincterotomy is to treat the severe pain, nausea and vomiting I am having because of what the GI doctors in Limerick think is Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction. I have written and You can read about SOD and the ERCP procedures HERE.

I have already had the first ERCP procedure where they injected Botox into the SOD and you can read all about how (Kinda bad, though it inevitably worked!) that went HERE.

and that’s it!! That covers all appointments for March only! Every month there is usually something and it feels like, I only get out for doctors appointments these days! but what can you do?! 🙂

Lette xxx

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This time I ended up in the ICU!

It has been a crazy month, to say the least! A lot has happened, so this is going to be a long one, bear with me, I do these posts to refresh my own memory of everything that goes on too. There is a ‘too long didnt read” at the bottom of this for those of you who don’t want the nitty gritty, This post will include pictures and a short video clip of one of my seizures, so lets go…

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Just after I woke up in resus!!

Once again, on the 15th of July, I ended up having a Nurocardiogenic syncope at home followed by a prolonged seizure that required me to be sedated, intubated and rushed to Accident and Emergency via ambulance.

I was in resus until my breathing and everything was stable enough for me to be admitted, where then I waited on a trolly in A&E for 34 hours before being given a bed on a ward. 36 hours is the cut off point where a patient HAS to be given a bed, where I presume legal action can be pursued after this point, I don’t know to be honest.

After being admitted into the ER, waiting for a ward bed.

After being admitted into the ER, waiting for a ward bed.

It was 3am in the morning, I had been waiting around drunkards and violent drugged up assholes who had nothing better to be doing than shouting abuse and pulling off their bloody bandages where I could see where they had split their own heads open by falling backwards onto a kerb, probably falling only over their own feet or after starting some fight over something trivial. Either way I was finally given a bed on a ward, in a single room for the night where I really needed to catch up on some much needed sleep!

The following morning I was moved into a 4 bed ward nextdoor where it was quiet, lovely and peaceful, unlike the usual geriatric ward I normally end up on when I go into hospital. Here I caught up on sleep got a little better over a few days, then had another few seizures. Everytime I got medicated for the seizures they seemed to get worse, to the point where one day I had a seizure that made me end up in the HDU (High Dependency Unit)

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Epileptic Seizures are usually treated with drugs called Benzodiazepine’s or Benzos for short. Given in high doses they can cause respiratory depression and can stop breathing to a point where you may need to be ventilated. This happened to me and that’s why I ended up in the HDU so that I could be watched closely by nurses more ready and able to treat me faster than those on the ward. I was only there for a few days until a bed became available on another ward. The geriatric ward I hated so much!

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So, down I went, into the geriatric ward. I was so out of my mind on all sorts of sedative drugs, I don’t know how long I was on that ward before I had another seizure, this time a really serious one. Luckily as it happened, the head Neurologist happened to be in the ward at the time speaking with another patient so he came over and saw the whole thing happen. Over the course of 2 hours and 40 minutes I continued to seize and as usual they treated me with a huge amount of Benzos to try and stop it, but as usual, I seemed to resist, things became worse and I had to have my airway ventilated to the point where they decided to move me to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) as the seizure was so severe and I wasn’t coming around from it and they thought I may need to be ventilated for a further period of time or may need to be given even more serious drugs to help me wake up.

My Husband had been called in as this had obviously gotten serious, he had been called in a few times at this point because of prolonged seizures but even he was surprised to hear about me going to ICU. Keith has been amazingly supportive throughout and is always by my side for everything, I can never thank him enough for his love and support. He called my mum and they both rushed in to be with me.

Thankfully though, I did eventually come around on my own, stoned and confused, I thought I had woken on the Starship Enterprise or something, ICU, I have to say, from a Techy point of view, looked totally cool!!

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I hadn’t a clue where I was, I tried to lift my head to get a better view of my surroundings but the room spun, all I could see was, there was glass everywhere, amazing looking machines and monitors, all connected to the ceiling, giant robotic looking arms and tables with instruments beeping and clicking, where the hell was I? I almost immediately fell back into a sleep of utter stupor from the drugs they had filled me with until I heard a ladies voice…

“Hey you, welcome back to us, we got worried about you there for a while… You are in the ICU, my name is Dr. …”

The ICU?!! being told that even in a drugged up state was quite a bit to take in, she explained what had happened and that they were going to keep me there until they were confident that I was safe enough to be returned to the HDU (High Dependency Unit)

Keith and mum arrived in and it was nice to be awake for them, even if I was still stoned out of my noggin, I slowly came around properly and thankfully there was nothing cognitively impaired from what we could all tell. My heart rate dropped so low at times it set the monitors off a few times but my stats got eventually better, I was allowed to eat a little and have a wash before being returned to the HDU.

In the HDU, I didn’t recover very quickly, I was feeling terrible, slept a lot and refused to eat for a few days as I was so nauseous which in turn made my symptoms worse, my blood sugar dropped very low to the point where my nurse begged me to eat and drink something. I tried and things slowly improved.

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While in the HDU I had to endure feeling sad about having to miss the benefit gig, but I got a massive surprise one day when Keith arrived into me at visiting hours and said, “Someone is here to see you” … when they popped their head around the curtain it took me a minute to register as it was such a surprise, a dear friend came to visit me, all the way from America, just for one night to be at the benefit gig, she is a pilot so she has the freedom to jump a plane where she can and hitch a ride wherever, I couldn’t believe it, we embraced eachother, it was so cool, what an incredible gesture, one I don’t even know where to begin on how to thank her!!

I was in the HDU for 5 days and because the Neurologist on the ward originally saw the bad seizure, he fast tracked a bed for me in Beaumont Hospitals, EMU (Epilepsy Monitoring Unit) in Dublin, for an investigative Video EEG to find out are these seizures Epileptic with electrical activity in the brain or not and caused by something else.

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I was transferred to Beaumont via ambulance where I stayed for 3 days under constant monitoring, 2 cameras, a ton of electrodes glued to my head and 2 seizures later I was seen by their Neurologist.

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The seizures showed no sign of electrical activity in the brain at all so I was delighted to hear that he was confident enough to say I didn’t have Epilepsy, excellent, so, what was causing my seizures?

He said it was one of 3 things, 1 or 3 being the most likely:

1: They could be a symptom of the POTS or EDS, like Dysautonomic Seizures, but as that was not his field, he was unqualified to say and it would be best to speak to Prof. Grahame, whom I will be meeting in 10 days time in London.

2: It was purely psychological, which he wasn’t willing to believe as the seizures were very real and I was most certainly unresponsive with erratic stats during those episodes and have no evidence of past traumas or psychological problems.

3: Which he said was the most likely cause, was that the first seizure I had back in May that started all this may have been a complete once off and that the drugs and Benzos they treated me with and prescribed me with actually exacerbated all my symptoms, didn’t suit me at all and made everything far worse, so he was immediately going to cease all antiepileptics I was on. Which was outstanding news because since May all I have been doing on the new drugs was sleeping and not progressing at all.

Once that was settled, he wrote up his observations for my team of Limerick doctors and on the 3rd day I was returned back down to Limerick via ambulance and was put back into the geriatric ward where it was quite literally like a crazy house in comparison to Beaumont where everything seemed to run so smoothly by comparison!

A night goes by on the ward, old people moaning, crying out, the smell of poop and vomit… I needed out and fast, but I did notice one thing. Other than tremoring a little from coming down off the amount of Benzos they gave me, I hadn’t had a single seizure since they took me off the antiepileptics!! That was 3 days seizure free! I was feeling a little brighter and not a sniff of a seizure type headache, I was delighted and as it was the Friday prior to the long August weekend, I felt I didn’t need to be sitting, wasting a bed on the ward until the following Tuesday and I was eager to get home to Keith and the pup, it had been nearly 3 weeks in at this stage.

My medical team came to see me, asked me about how Dublin went, go through my charts, recognize that I am to be removed completely from all antiepileptics and if I am to have another seizure I am not to be given Benzos as they simply make matters worse. They will monitor my progress off the drugs until they see me next time and see how I do.

As part of their diagnostics and to rule absolutely everything out they want me to speak to a Neuropsych anyway just cover all angles, which I have no problem doing, we are all pretty confident I am sound, it is just another diagnostic. They completely recognize the fact that it could have been a once off dysautonomic seizure that was treated with medication that didn’t suit me.

Considering I have been out of hospital 15 days now and not a single seizure in sight, I am pretty delighted that is most likely the case. I am brighter, healthier, need less naps and have less symptoms in general since coming off the antiepileptics, that in itself is a wonderful outcome.

All that is left to do now is meet Prof. Grahame in 10 days time in London and hopefully he may be able to shed even more light on my prognosis.

Too Long Didn’t Read?
Had severe seizures, ended up back in hospital, longest seizure 2 hours 40mins which landed me in the ICU, was transferred to Dublin for tests which confirmed I didn’t have Epilepsy, turns out the first seizure may have been a once off dysautonomic seizure and it was the antiepileptic drugs they had me on that made matters worse, off them now and not a seizure since, WOO!!! 10 days till my trip to London to see Prof. Rodney Grahame.

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