May Is EDS Awareness Month – 2017

f40ec78d230d1d2c18e460a4e7b96ece

Yes, it’s that time of year once again folks, May is EDS Awareness Month and this year, I update my diagnosis story as it just grows in volume and substance every year since all this started in 2011!! So here I go again, it’s 2017 and my story is in need of a clean up and update, so let’s jump right into it!

So firstly, What is EDS?

Put simply, EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or ‘The Ehlers Danlos Syndromes’, as it is now known since March 2017) is a group of connective tissue disorders. Here is a better explanation according to the EDS Wiki:

” Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a group of genetic connective tissue disorders. Symptoms may include loose joints, stretchy skin, and abnormal scar formation.[1] These are typically noticed at birth or in early childhood.[2] Complications may include aortic dissection, joint dislocations, scoliosis, chronic pain, or early osteoarthritis.[3][1]

EDS is due to a mutation in one of more than a dozen different genes. The specific gene affected determines the type of EDS. Some cases result from a new mutation occurring during early development while others are inherited in an autosomal dominant or recessive manner. This results in defects in the structure or processing of collagen.[1] The diagnosis may be confirmed with genetic testing or a skin biopsy. People may be misdiagnosed with hypochondriasis, depression, or chronic fatigue syndrome.[3]

There is no known cure.[4] Treatment is supportive in nature.[3]Physical therapy and bracing may help strengthen muscles and support joints.[3] While some types have a normal life expectancy, those that affect blood vessels generally have a shorter life expectancy.[4]

EDS affects about 1 in 5,000 people globally.[1] The prognosis depends on the specific type.[3] Excess mobility was first described byHippocrates in 400 BC.[5] The syndrome is named after two physicians, Edvard Ehlers from Denmark and Henri-Alexandre Danlos fromFrance, who described it at the turn of the 20th century.[6]” –

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Wiki

If you would like to know more about EDS types, symptoms and a host of further information then I highly recommend The Ehlers Danlos Society Website for more info.

1655924_284533608363564_239963170_n

My Personal Diagnosis Story.

Though I have had many medical issues throughout my life, my Chronic Illness journey only began properly in 2011.

One Tuesday morning in March, I woke to not feeling very well and as I was exiting the bathroom I called out to my husband who just happened to come and catch me as I passed out in his arms.

I continued to come to and then pass out again every time I straightened my legs. My Heart rate was racing and my Blood Pressure was dropping really low. My husband called the doctor for advice who told him to immediately call an ambulance or take me to A&E. He decided to drive rather than waste more time waiting for an ambulance which would take at least 30 minutes to get to where we lived.

On the way to A&E my husband had to keep shouting at me in the car to try and keep me alert as I kept needing to pass out. We finally arrived at the hospital, I was rushed inside and long story short, many tests and doctors later I was kept in for nearly a month where many further tests were performed, one of which was a Tilt Table Test with which I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (Pots) and Vasovagal Syncope (VVS) or Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS) – they are both the same thing, basically neurological fainting!

 

So where does EDS come into it?

In the 2 years following the diagnosis of Pots, I was hospitalized many times because of the fainting, low blood pressure and other complications. In the process of trying to figure out what caused the Pots, Hypermobility was mentioned a few times by a couple of doctors and physios, however, whenever I mentioned it to my Pots doctor (he is a geriatrician but he is the specialist who looks after me for my Pots), he didn’t seem to think it was anything to be worried about, even though I did have chronic pain and I did feel it was affecting me at the time.

As time went on, the pain became worse and I felt a formal diagnosis of Hypermobility would benefit me, though there are no EDS or Hypermobility specialists anywhere in Ireland, I still felt a diagnosis would help me.

I had heard about a Rheumatologist in Cork who knew about EDS and Hypermobility so I decided to pay him a visit just to see what he thought. Down I went to see him and within a few minutes of him seeing me he had me diagnosed with a ‘classic case of Hypermobility EDS’, with possible Classical EDS overlaps. I was surprised and kinda happy that I had finally confirmed my inkling that I had it.

However, this diagnosis from the Cork Rheumatologist wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on… with my pots doctor anyway. He never accepted the diagnosis and just ignored it outright so I just had to live with the fact that my Pots was probably caused by the EDS but there was nothing I could do about it.

To help, my Pots doctor did organize for me to see a Rheumatologist in Croom hospital who confirmed my possible hypermobility and organized for me to do Hydrotherapy and physio at their facilities in Croom Hospital. Even that physiotherapist confirmed I had possible hypermobility but she never believed I had EDS. I found the HSE as a whole were fine to say hypermobility but would never confirm EDS (for fear they would have to treat me for it if they confirmed the diagnosis! I have always been paranoid that was the reason anyway… maybe not!)

You Said You Always Had Some Medical Issues?

Yup! I was even breached for a while before birth but thankfully righted myself before being popped out! When I was born then, I was born with a Fissure and a broken Tail Bone and throughout my life I always had gut issues, travel sickness and dysmotility and I was never without a cast, sling, crutch or some other bandage or plaster thanks to stupid injuries and broken bones which, even though broken bones are not symptoms of EDS I put a lot of my past injuries and ailments down to my EDS as you’re born with it, it’s with you from the start and I seemed to have a lot of various symptoms.

img_0429-1

I am currently severely deaf and wear Bi Lateral Hearing Aids, I have and have had since the age of 7, Bi Lateral Sensory Neural hearing loss and Otitis Media with under developed eustachian tubes and auditory canals. My younger life was plagued by ear infections and severe ear pain.

When I hit puberty and teenage years the fainting, feeling really weak, Nausea, Dysmotility and chronic pain got bad with a vengeance and again all the way through school there are photos of me in slings and on crutches, it was crazy! I did do Karate though from the age of 13 and I was constantly breaking bones from it! Baaaaad idea with EDS but sure I never knew and the A&E at the time only ever treated the individual injuries and never looked at everything as a whole!

My teeth and gums gave me problems too. From the age of 13 to 16, I was with an Orthodontist and had braces for the full 3 years. As well as always having gum disease for as long as I can remember, They could never successfully freeze my gums, they had to do lots of injections and finally had to bring in a heavy chrome looking contraption thing to freeze the gums, either way lots of freezing needed. I also had receding gum and bone and every time the braces were removed my teeth would start quickly moving back to where they had been! I now know all these teeth things are problems of EDS.

Things Improved and I Returned To Work

After a little while things slowly began to improve, life from 2011 had been turbulent but in 2013 I decided the time was right for me to return to work. I had been working as self employed while I was running my Media Production Company from 2010 after I had finished my Masters of Science in College and it went very well while I had the energy for it and obviously while I was sick I became unable to deal with 12 hour days traveling all over the country for day long photo and video shoots so I decided something slower paced would suit me better and I found the perfect job working from home for Apple Computers. I absolutely loved the job and because it was from home it was sedate enough for me to deal with some symptoms and still be able to work but just as things had started to go well, about 4 months in I tripped over my Mums dog we were minding and wrecked my hip. Symptoms seemed to crack up from here!

Things Then Got Worse and I Went Into A Wheelchair and Had To Stop Work

Things got worse and worse from here, my hip pain was daily and excruciating, I had to go into hospital for investigations where I was advised to stop work because of my illness and to start using a wheelchair to help my mobility. Of Course, I didn’t want this at all and resisted it at all costs but had to give in, in the end as I simply just needed it and now I am glad I have decided to use a chair as it has given me much freedom in this restricted state.  Work however has stopped and has not restarted since stopping in 2013. It doesn’t look likely that I will ever go back to work as this is a progressive disease.

16524_b

The symptoms continued to get worse and worse, I started having seizures, ended up in the ICU at one stage for a couple of days and I decided that going to a specialist in the UK was the right thing to do. I was hospitalized so many times where the doctors didn’t know what to do with me and didn’t accept my EDS diagnosis from the Rheumatologist in Cork and I was left with very little help or treatment.

IMG_1523

Even my hydrotherapy and physio had stopped early in 2014 as I had fainted in the pool because of my Pots in the hot water and the physiotherapist didn’t want to see me back at the pool or gym until such time as I stop fainting… which is never! So unfortunately I havent been able to get back to that either since it stopped!

Prof. Rodney Grahame, EDS Extraordinaire in London, was the next port of call.

The Hospital of St. Johns and St. Elizabeth in London

s-l300

I started a Go Fund Me and started fundraising to go to London. So many people generously helped out, Thank you to all, everyone was amazing, even a quiz night was organized and everything, I was blown away! I finally had enough to go and so I did, You can read all about the trip HERE.

IMG_1758

Long story short, we got to London and I got a confirmed clinical diagnosis of EDS Hypermobility Type with secondary GI Issues and possible Classical EDS overlaps, from the Professor himself. He did up a great long letter and treatment plan to send to my doctors that couldn’t be ignored and I have found has helped me hugely since getting it. He referred me to Harold’s Cross which I did in Feb 2016 and you can read all about that time HERE and I find all doctors and nurses take the diagnosis far more seriously than the one from Cork. I have had no more trouble from anyone on believing or disbelieving the diagnosis. He wanted me to return to see Prof. Aziz a Neurogastroenterologist for further tests and treatment and I had hoped to return sooner than I am able to. I will be returning in 10days time (2.5years later) to see him and I am excited!

Why Didn’t You Return To London Before Now?

Simply put, I was too ill to fly. The past 2.5 years have been by far the worst in terms of my symptoms. My Nausea is daily and intractable, my dysmotility causing so much pain and trouble that I have been hospitalized loads of times because of it and what I have been diagnosed with called Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction has been causing severe pain and again I have been hospitalized because of this and other chronic pain. I have also been diagnosed with Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction and have had complications because of that also.

12119196_10204695707743786_735339326102747030_n

My Neck has been giving me huge trouble. I am receiving Occipital and SI Joint Nerve Blocks for severe pain. My pain specialist thinks I have instability in my neck but that cant really be checked without an upright MRI, which I may also need to get, but again there is none in Ireland so this will have to be done in London if it is needed. At the moment he is treating me as though I have instability in my neck with the Nerve blocks and opiate pain meds until such time as I can get it checked properly. He has me in for a lie down regular MRI for which I am waiting to be called but he doubts it will show anything.

12552733_10205055767745061_6682798959552846822_n

My Gastro issues are probably my worst problem. They are what I am hospitalized for the most and they never seem to go away. This is why I decided to visit another specialist in Cork, this time a Gastroenterologist who has studied with Prof. Aziz (the Dr. I am seeing in London for my EDS Gut related issues) I went to see him in Cork and he immediately identified all my problems and symptoms, took note of all the medications I am on and booked me in for a number of tests that may be asked for in London anyway.
In Feb this year I had a Barium Swallow test that showed up all clear which is great. Next Monday I have a Gastric Emptying test to do which is happening just before I go to London to see Prof Aziz. I will be flying out the morning of Sat May 13th. The reason I decided to go to this doctor in Cork was that he understood EDS, I heard great things back about him and the fact that he studied under Prof Aziz all meant that he could possibly help me out and so far I feel he has. He was the one who wrote the referral letter to Prof. Aziz for me and he said he would work with whatever Prof. Aziz says in his treatment plan.

IMG_4113

So, When Are You Off?

All going well with my health (it has been very up and down lately, mostly down) we hope to fly out Sat Morning the 13th May at about 07:30am and landing in London around 09:05am. From here we may grab a bite to eat before heading to the appointment with Prof. Aziz at 12:30pm at The Princess Grace Hospital, where afterward we return to the hotel to rest.

IMG_1702

That’s the plan anyway, lets hope that’s how it works out! I tried a dry run of trying to stay up for 11 hours (sounds easy for some but for me I find it difficult to stay up past 4 hours before needing rest) as 11 hours is the time it takes from being up from about 05:00am that morning until about 4pm which is roughly the time we will make it to the hotel at, thats 11 hours up. I tried that the other day and actually failed at 9 hours and needed to crash so bad! so I am worried I may not be able for this trip but I will persevere and hope for the best. My husband will be with me so at least I wont be alone when I go to London and of course I will update you all when I return. I really hope the good professor can help! 🙂

Lette (Fainting Goat!) xxx

Advertisements

Admitted To Hospital, Possible New Diagnosis

IMG_2984

This was me getting ready to go home so I look a lot happier than when I was admitted first!

Oh dear! it happened again!

On Monday the 30th March, I was taken to hospital by ambulance after being bed bound and in severe pain with my gallbladder all over the weekend. I held out as long as I could at home because I knew nothing would be done over the weekend if I went into A&E.
On the Monday, things just got a little too much for me and we had to call for me to be taken in.

I am very disappointed with my GP in all of this. I had gone to him a couple of weeks before this happened, with a renewal script for some very strong pain killers that were prescribed to me when I was last admitted to hospital for the same thing in December. My surgeon had prescribed these opiate based drugs for the pain that helped and were needed. When I went to my GP to renew, he said only Cancer patients get these drugs and that he wouldn’t renew my script even though a higher authority than him prescribed me what I needed!

Then, when my Gallbladder pain started up again last week, we called him about getting referred into the Acute Surgical Unit (ASU) in the University Hospital Limerick, as this was said to me the last time I was in, that if I had more pain, not to go through A&E but to be directly referred in. He didn’t come through on this either. When we rang he gave some excuse about not having my files with him in the surgery he was at (His 3 surgeries computer systems are linked, he should have had all my information in front of him!) and when he called the ASU he couldn’t organise a bed for me so when everything got too much, we just called an Ambulance anyway and I had to go through the A&E system like everyone else. Which is fine but it was unfortunate the GP couldn’t come through. He has been very angry lately when we visit him. He is constantly giving out and very bitter about the HSE (Health Service Executive) and he complains to his already sick patients, This is not just coming from me but from other patients of his that I have spoken to. To be honest I am getting sick of his attitude and shortly I will be transferring to a lovely lady doctor who has come highly recommended!

18681_10203557488049005_2119278235132659232_n

My hand reacted strangely to the morphine, the IV line was hardly hanging in my vein too so it didn’t last long!

So I was in the A&E about 10 hours, They did a chest XRAY first, then I was being pumped full of morphine through an IV line that was barely hanging on to one of my tiny veins. The doctor in A&E had tried about 5 times to find a vein and by the time I got to the ward the Line had already failed and they had to call another doctor up to fit a new one. He had some trouble and tried about 8 times before he got one and again it was just about in the vein and he said it may only last a few hours. My veins are useless and over the next week, I had three more doctors try about 18 more times to get veins and each line would fail or they just couldn’t get access, eventually during the week they give up on me and give me oral antibiotics when I am able to take them.

Just as I was in my ward Bed and getting ready to sleep, it was about 2am and they called me for an abdominal XRAY. It was over before I knew it, I was back to bed, Injected with something that helped the pain, popped on a drip and I tried to get comfortable enough to sleep.

Not a single wink was had!

It was quiet and all on the ward but I was sore, the surroundings were different, there were beeps and talking in the background and just everything that home wasn’t!

I was uncomfortable and twisted and turned through the night and into the next morning.

The following morning the surgical team came to see me and discuss my case, The same doctor and team that had me in December. He mentioned that he was happy to see me again but not under these circumstances and he felt by looking at me that I had lost weight. They ordered an ultrasound of the gallbladder so that they could compare it to the one from December when I was in then.

At that time my gallbladder was distended and had fluid around it showing infection. It didn’t respond to the fat test and showed it had dysmotility as well as gut dysmotility.

This time the ultrasound came back normal, no sign of infection in it or in my bloods. They mentioned about the possibility of taking out the gallbladder but as it looked healthy with the worry that my EDS may slow or aggravate healing, they were reluctant, as was I!

The head doctor said to give him some time as he wanted to speak with a colleague, the Dean of the Medical School at University Hospital Limerick, who knew surgeons in the UK who deal with rare cases like me. So now the waiting game begins!

I have to say he and his team are excellent. They have a real interest and go to great lengths to diagnose and be careful about removing anything they shouldn’t unless they absolutely have to! They also have an interest in learning more about EDS which is great to see. Unlike some of my other doctors who just don’t seem to care at all.

22700_10203563670443561_6849711333890746206_n

Gadgety Bed!

Most of the time I was trying to sleep on the very comfy gadgety bed that I could move into all sorts of comfy positions or stoned out of it so all I could do was lie there in a sweaty trance trying to ignore pain and wishing sleep would come to me!
My BP was very low as I hadn’t been eating for many days due to horrible nausea and vomiting so I had missed my regular meds for those days. Over the week, once the nausea was controlled I was taken off the fast and put on a light diet, I could hardly eat anyway but getting a tiny bit of nutrition really helped. I was also able to take my regular meds which helped normalise my BP and I began to feel a little human again.

17018_10203580311779584_7471570967823771981_n

Mostly pain meds, an antibiotic and meds to raise my BP

On Friday, as it was coming up to the long weekend I was eager to get home, though still in pain and I had no clue as to what they wanted to do with me, I asked what was the possibility of me going home for the weekend? and they said no problem as long as I was prescribed everything I needed! YEAY!!! I was delighted then everything came together! I was visited by some doctors and got some information, finally!

I was seen by a pain specialist, she was going through my pain meds and what I needed to be comfortable at home until they call me into them next week where they can review everything and make a pain management plan going forward.

Later on, I was visited by a UK Surgeon, The Dean of the Medical school. He told me he trained and studied under Prof. Rodney Grahame (The Prof. in London who officially diagnosed my EDS) and highly respected his opinion. I was delighted to speak with him. He was a gentleman and explained to me what he thought was going on.

They as a surgical team discussed my case and came to the conclusion that the gallbladder may have been masking the true pain that could be coming from a thing called the ‘Sphincter of Oddi

liverpancreas_text

I know right, WHAT? Never heard of that before, but long story short, there is a little valve thingy under your gallbladder that allows bile though it to add to the pancreatic juices that feed into the digestive system to help you break down and digest your food. This sphincter opens and closes but if you have this dysfunction, it remains clamped shut and cramped and causes a back up of bile and severe abdominal pain. It is most common in people who have already had their Gallbladder taken out, I still have mine so it is a strange one!

There is a test to check for it called ERCP, endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography, a procedure that uses an endoscope and looks directly deep inside the duct system while taking pictures and measuring pressure. You have to be sedated as it is way deeper into your system they have to look than a regular esophageal, stomach endoscope or similar.

While they do this, they inject some Botox into the tiny sphincter itself which relaxes it and allows it to open again. If after about 2 weeks your pain is gone, this is a sign you have the dysfunction.

The cure for it? a series of ops where again I will be put to sleep and they have to cut the sphincter to weaken it to the point where it can’t clamp up any more. This should take a few turns because if they do it all at once and cut straight through it, there is serious risk of heavy bleeding with this so they do it in small stages over time to make it safer.

This procedure however, has never been done in the University Hospital Limerick and it is not licensed here. But they are seeing what they can do for me, if it can be done, I will be the first person they will have done this op on! If they cant license it here, I may have to go to The Matter Hospital in Dublin or even as far as the UK if needs be, however because I am being treated publicly, these procedures if done in the UK will be fully covered by the HSE. This is a huge relief!

So in the mean time, He and the surgical team looking after me are going to sit down with some other doctors in a Multi Disciplinary Meeting where they will discuss my case and how to proceed with it and once they have a plan in place they will call me in for the initial test. I feel kinda special! but I can see why this meeting needs to be done. If I do have this thing, those procedures need to be licensed and I am sure that includes some amount of paperwork!

So for now, I am happy to be home with the furry pup and himself, I am comfortable (enough) on the pain medication and I await my appointment for next week to be called back in to the Pain clinic and then the appointment to be followed up by the surgical team.

For now, I will try to relax and recover, it is hard on this medication as it has some nasty side effects, but if it helps the pain I cant complain! HA! could put that on a T-Shirt!

Anyway, that is all for now, I will update again soon 🙂

Lette (Fainting Goat)