Ambulance Time Once Again!

On August tenth we had to call an ambulance yet again!
I had been in bed for weeks at that stage nursing a savage pain on the right side of my abdomen. This wasn’t the first time it has happened, and probably wont be the last! It got to a stage where I was trying to manage the pain myself at home, trying to avoid going into hospital, but I had to face facts and call it as it got too bad to manage on our own this time.

The Ambulance arrived promptly and began to tend to me. They were a crew of two, Male and female, and were excellent. Friendly, Professional, funny easing the mood when needed and seemed to take a genuine interest in what both Keith and I had to say and contribute.

Unlike the last few ambulance calls, this visit from them wasn’t rushed. It was calm, sedate and gave us time to properly prepare to go into A&E. While they took their time trying to locate a vein on my foot, Keith ran upstairs to the computer, got ready and printed off an A4 sheet with simple information on it about me and my condition, highlighting the main issues I present with, medication I am on and what would be needed when first admitted like fluids, Pain control and Catheterisation, etc.

The reason for this sheet was because through previous experience we have found to be constantly repeating ourselves while giving out my information to different people and yet only parts of the overall story get heard by all different people and nobody has the full story! This time we  said we would try getting this sheet in as a common denominator of information in my files so that everyone will be literally be on the same page regarding my care and see what happens. It was worth a try at least.

After getting a vein in my foot and administering some morphine for pain relief, we were eventually ready to go to the hospital and the ambulance crew were brilliant with everything as well as taking on the information sheet, which they said they thought it was a fantastic idea and wished more people were that organised!

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We quickly made it to the hospital, after getting more Morphine on the Ambulance, I was brought straight into the A&E main area, Thankfully I wasn’t rushed into Resus at any stage this time, it was calm and sedate and a far better visit this time round.

I was delighted to hear back from the Female paramedic that she passed on the sheet Keith had given her, to the triage nurse and that the nurse also commented on what a good idea it was to have all the main things highlighted on one page where everyone can see it. She said she would put it in my file so that all the doctors would see it too. So far so good for our little A4 sheet!

While waiting around for a short while, waiting on the triage nurse to find a place to put me as it was busy in A&E that day, The Paramedics were chatting to me and told me they knew some student and new paramedics who were doing papers based on me for some exam that was due the next week! Morto! I found it funny that they would pick me based on my rare or under diagnosed EDS condition or as I like to call it, ‘my awkwardness!’ :p

I once again had terrible trouble getting veins in me, doctor after nurse after doctor tried and failed and it started getting really sore. The vein the Ambulance crew had gotten was already failing just a few hours after it was put in, my foot swelled up  and they were worried as they really wanted to administer fluids and iv meds so they wanted a vein soon. Throughout the following week while in the hospital, this continued. a vein would be gotten and it would fail almost immediately until in the end the anaesthetics team had to be called and they had no trouble getting a vein and thankfully now a note has been put in my file to say that only anaesthetics are to place a cannula on me and no one else, so hopefully all the prodding and poking will come to an end now.
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After spending no more 24hours in A&E this time around, I was admitted to the surgical ward. While in the A&E I had all the usual tests, xrays, scopes, exams, the usual trouble of about 50 different doctors trying to get a vein after a brief moment of being cocky and saying something like, “Oh I’m good at this, don’t you worry”, or,”Oh really? Bad veins, huh? well, I like a challenge!” and then just end up being unsuccessful anyway! That always provides me with a giggle especially towards the cocky ones who think I wont post a problem, cha! Say that to me after 20 mins of trying hopelessly! :p Being admitted after 24hours was quick though, considering that I have often had to wait over 46hours before.

I always like being admitted to the surgical ward. Not only does everything seem to be more up to date and cleaner, but Compared to the medical wards, The mood on the ward is generally brighter both from the staff and the patients. The Nurses seem to genuinely care, are not as dismissive as others I have encountered on the medical wards. They get upset when you get upset, they don’t like to see you in pain or discomfort and as much as they are able, they won’t keep you in pain for long and will treat you asap when they are asked to, a lot of the time, they don’t even need to be asked, they will notice themselves and will get you what you need to help ease your discomfort. Also, the electric beds are well cool! :p

I saw My Surgical team the next morning bright and early and they took the situation serious when they saw I had lost over 3.5 stone with the nausea, vomiting and general pain and discomfort I have been having with my gut issues.

As well  as my pain team to cover my Occipital and Sacroilliac joint Nerve Blocks which were due once again, They called in a dietician, a tissue viability nurse to talk about any difficulties I may be having with the chair, thankfully theres nothing serious going on there but she wanted to refer me to a Dermatologist for a small bit of irritation caused by the chair that was easily sorted with some long term antibiotics (starting with an 8 week course and if it needs to continue after that it could go up to 16 weeks), will just have to wait and see how it works. Then they wanted to get a serious OT assessment for me as my own local OT never properly assessed me for manual chair or a bed, given my situation, these are the two basic things my surgical team wanted to be covered while I was admitted.

The Dietician was concerned for my weight loss compared to my height and prescribed a high fiber, high calorie diet as well as Fortisip Calorie drinks to take twice a day along with my usual daily food intake to help at least maintain my current weight if not try to increase it. Sshe also prescribed a new tummy med to take with the other ones I am on to try and help with the nausea and vomiting as well as to try and increase appetite. So I have now started these and I was thinking of doing quick video reviews of the different drink flavours on offer, if you are interested that is! Let me know and I will do it if you like 🙂

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Throughout there was non stop testing to find out what was causing the pain in the right side. Xrays, Ultrasounds, CAT and MRI scans, Scopes, blood tests, you name it, it was done.

In the Ultrasound Room!

In the Ultrasound Room!

One outcome is that they have ruled out any Gallbladder issues. There definitely seems to be Sphincter of Oddi, Severe Gut Dysmotility and Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction problems, as well as a large and painful Lymph node on the inside of my right hip which is causing a lot of pain too and is currently under investigation, all these are contributing to the pain as well as the Ehlers Danlos Pain itself, but they have ruled out Gallbladder and Appendix issues, which is good!

I had 2 major cardiac events while I was in, though I had been battling low Bp all week, these events were the opposite, they came out of nowhere in the middle of the night, they were raging high bp and very fast heartrate, the ecg showed some abnormalities but thankfully they didn’t stay long (about 2 or 3 hours) and after they administered some medication to lower my bp and hr, I seemed to return to my regular low bp self, they were scary though as the pain in my chest when it happened was frightening and I was soaked through with a tempreture. The nurses seemed concerned as Long story  events came out of nowhere. Thankfully though after a few hours I returned to normal and could get some sleep.

Long story short, I got to see everyone that was called for me except OT. The final team was the pain team with the good professor who loves to give injections and this time was no different! He administered my usual Occipital and Sacroiliac joint nerve blocks under ultrasound which he did at my ward bed, he had a little portable ultrasound machine or at least that’s what it looked like and he went for it there and then. The pain team in conjunction with the anestetic team said that I may have chronic piritonitis ( information or even tearing of the abdominal lining that holds your organs) this is still being investigated and will continue as an outpatient appointment along with all the other teams I had to meet while I was in.

The surgical team try everything they can and they are so good to want to learn but they still are not sure exactly what is causing the severe pain and weight loss. I had mentioned to them about a Gastroenterologist specialist in Cork university hospital who is very well up on EDS and speaks regularly as well as trained under Prof Aziz over in London whom I hope to see as soon as i am able to travel. They said go to see him, just to see if he can help and my surgical team said they would be delighted to consult with both him and Aziz going forward as they are of the mind that more on the overall team to help me then the better!

In the meantime my team wanted to bring my case up at an EGM (emergency general meeting) where the head consultants and specialists of a department get together and discus special cases at a count table meeting so that other people’s views and suggestions can be taken on board, then once they have news they  will call me for a new outpatient appointment or send me for further tests if required.

 Unfortunately the OT never turned up and there were questions as to wether she would turn up anyway as she usually only sees Stroke and Neurology patients so my surgical team along with the head nurse on the ward rang her boss as well as had to write a letter in order to argue the case as to why they felt I was a special enough case for her to make an exception and come and see me, alas I was left waiting all over the weekend just to see her and she never turned up so my team decided to send me home at this stage with some new meds and a ton of outpatient appointments and they would follow up with her to get me a much needed appointment as my local OT isn’t really doing what she is supposed to do. 

In the meantime I have made a new appointment to see that Gastro specialist in Cork, his name is Akbar and I have heard great things so I really hope he can help. That appointment is on the 20th of this month (September) and of course I’ll fill you in on how that and any subsequent appointments go.

For now, I’ll just chill and try to recover 🙂

Thank you as always for taking the time to read.

Lette ( the fainting goat!)

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Made The Longlist of The Irish Blog Awards 2016!

 

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WOO!! So not only did the Blog make the long list finalists for Best Health and Lifestyle Blog in The Irish Blog Awards 2016, but also one of my blog posts, ‘The Good, The Bad and the Emergency‘, made it onto the the long list for Best Blog Post!!

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I am delighted and I have you all to thank for adding your entries for the blog! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it 🙂 From here on, as far as I know, The blogs will now be judged by a panel and then those who make it onto the shortlist may need to get votes for the remainder of the judging so if I ever even make it that far, I may be back to ask for some votes! :p

For now, Thank You all once again and I will keep you posted on how everything goes 🙂 ❤

Lette (Fainting Goat)

The Blog Awards Ireland 2016 – Nominations Now Open

Hi all,

I am delighted to say that Irish Dysautonomia Awareness has been entered into this years “Health & Well Being” – Personal Blog – Category in the blog awards nominations and hopefully will make the long list at least, that’s where it got last year so to make that again would be really nice! 🙂

If YOU would (Please) like to Nominate this blog Please click HERE (Give it a minute to load, it can be slow!) or click the image below and follow the instructions. I would greatly appreciate your input, THANK YOU! You need to register with the site but you can do so quickly and easily  by signing in with your Facebook and you can control what information you give them.

Please enter The Title of the blog: Irish Dysautonomia Awareness,
Also pop in the URL of this Blog which is: https://irishdysautonomia.wordpress.com
also please be sure to enter it into the ‘Health & Well Being’ – Personal Blog – Category.
Thank you ever so much!

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Please click here and enter the info to Nominate this blog! – THANK YOU!

This year there is also an entry to nominate your favorite Blog Post from the blog here. In the last number of months the post that has raised most interest seems to be this one:
‘The Good, The Bad & The Emergency – Part 1’

I would also greatly appreciate if you have the time, to maybe nominate that blog post Please and thank you most kindly! as far as I can figure, there’s no harm in trying! 🙂

It is the same process as the first, please click Here:
Hit ‘Nominate a Blog’ – Enter the ‘Blog Post’ Title as: The Good, The Bad & The Emergency – Part 1

The Blog Post link is : https://irishdysautonomia.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/the-good-the-bad-and-the-emergency-part-1/

The Category is ‘Best Blog Post’ – Personal Blog

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Please Click Here and Enter ‘Blog Post’ Details (As I have laid out above) for Nomination – Thank You

Thank you so very much for you time in doing this each and every year, I may be back to you for more support if we make it to the ‘public vote’ part but even if it doesn’t get anywhere, a few more people will view the blog as a result of just entering and further our much needed awareness, even just a teeny bit.

Thank you once again,

Lette – Fainting Goat!

Rare Disease Day – Irish Dysautonomia and Rare Disease Awareness

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Hi, I’m Lette and I have the rare diseases, Dysautonomia, EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), Pots (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), NCS (Neurocardiogenic Syncope) and Gastroparesis.

What are these conditions?

Dysautonomia is the malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates the heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, temperature, urination, and sexual arousal. It is an umbrella term for various forms of ANS malfunction including Pots.

Pots or Orthostatic Intolerance is when you cant regulate your blood pressure and heart rate when you change from a supine or seated position to an upright position. For instance in my case, when I stand or at times sit up, my blood pressure plummets, heart rate increases, my blood pools in my legs and oxygen is reduced to my heart and brain and makes me presyncope if not completely faint a lot of the times. This Fainting is caused by NCS or also called Vasovagal Response/syncope. POTS is often accompanied by vasovagal syncope, with a 25% overlap being reported.[1]

Diagnosis usually requires a Tilt Table Test (TTT) and can show persistent increase in heart rate of at least 30 beats per minute (40 bpm if under 19 years of age) within ten minutes of standing.

Symptoms include:

NCS or Vasovagal Response/Syncope. From the wiki:
“There are different syncope syndromes which all fall under the umbrella of vasovagal syncope. The common element among these conditions is the central mechanism leading to loss of consciousness. The differences among them are in the factors that trigger this mechanism.”

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3 (Hypermobility Type) is a group of inherited disorders that affect your collagen which is in practically all elements of your body, skin, hair, nails, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, organs and eyes. As such this condition affects those structures in me causing broken bones, dislocations, subluxations, damage to joints, muscles, skin, organs, easy bruising, bleeding, severe pain, my eyes are affected and I am hard of hearing. I also have gastrointestinal issues including Gastroparesis. EDS also now has me in a wheelchair because of pain and instability in my pelvis, hips and lower legs.

Gastroparesis also called Delayed gastric emptying or Gut Dysmotility is when there may be partial paralysis of the stomach or intestines causing food to stay in the gut for an abnormally long period of time. This causes me chronic nausea, vomiting and at times severe pain.

There is no cure for any of these conditions, they can be managed with medication but flare ups are frequent and the conditions can progressively get worse over time even while being managed with meds.

My Diagnosis and first hand experience of treatment in Ireland

I was diagnosed with Pots in April 2011 after nearly a month in hospital and a ton of tests because of severe low blood pressure and constant fainting on sitting upright or standing. My first doctor after 2 weeks said to “Get out of bed and move around, you’ll be fine”, I was still fainting all over the place so needless to say we asked for a letter (being sure to put it in writing) stating that he as a doctor thought I was fit enough to be released. This letter never materialised and we asked for a second opinion.
The new doctors team did a serious amount of tests over the course of another 2 weeks or so and they found that I did infact have something wrong, an impressive case of a condition called Pots with NCS. I was started on a course of medication and told to research my new ailment and they would check on me with regular outpatient visits.

During this research I noticed that EDS was commonly associated with causing Pots and NCS and it explained a history of symptoms that I had experienced prior to all this. I approached my consultant about this when I next saw him and he was very dismissive. He agreed I had hypermobility but called it benign and that it wouldn’t need treatment, despite my symptoms.

Many hospital admissions later the dismissive nature continued and I quickly found out that there are no EDS Specialists in Ireland. There are no Dysautonomia Specialists either. The first step to seeing if I did have EDS was to meet with a Rheumatologist in Cork who had a special interest in Ehlers Danlos. This was October 2012 and after a consult with him, he had clinically diagnosed EDS Type 3 with possible overlaps of other EDS types, and recommended meeting with Prof. Rodney Graham in London who specialises in EDS and other Hypermobility Syndromes for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.

In and out of hospital a few more times, but start to feel well enough to start back to work in 2013, I absolutely loved it and still had good and bad days but could manage until the pots got worse again and the pain in my hips got so bad that I ended up in a wheelchair and was advised to stop working again within 6 months of starting.

A few more ambulance rides and hospital admissions later, my health was deteriorating and in May 2014 I started having seizures. The drugs I was put on turned out to make everything worse and I ended up in the ICU after having a 2hr 40min series of seizures. I was sent to Beaumont for tests and it turned out I didn’t seem to have epilepsy but that the first seizure may have been a once off due to the lack of oxygen to my brain after one of my faints and then the drugs they treated that seizure with, I ended up having a strange reaction to and they made the seizures worse. It took 3 months in and out of hospital to realize this and now that those drugs have stopped, I am delighted to say haven’t had a seizure since!

During these few months of being in and out of hospital with seizures, I set up a fund to help me get to London to see the Hypermobility specialist as there was no way I could afford to do this on my own. I got an amazing amount of support from family, friends and complete strangers of whom I cant thank enough! I got to meet Prof. Rodney Graham over in London in August 2014 and got a confirmed diagnosis of EDS Type 3. He wrote to all my doctors with the confirmed diagnosis and gave them advice of how my treatment should advance going forward. Advising that I return to London to get help with my Gastro and autonomic problems and referring me to Harolds Cross would be of great value to me. I am currently waiting for a referral for this since August 2014.

If proper systems were in place in this country, there would be no need to have to go to London for a basic diagnosis. But as there are no specialists or centers here and even a steady level of doubt among some doctors as to whether EDS is even a considerable diagnosis, even after being clinically diagnosed by a Rheumatologist. They didn’t seem to realize that there is no genetic test for EDS type 3, it can only be clinically diagnosed but they still doubted it from the rheumatologist in Cork. Once the letter came back from Rodney Graham on the diagnosis however, attitudes seemed to soften a little.

I was back into hospital in November and December 2014 with Gallbladder dysmotility and Gastroparesis. The level of care under this new surgical team of doctors was amazing and they were very willing to learn more about EDS and how it affects everything.

Today I take 18 tablets a day, need injections, pain management, physio, occupational therapy, have a full time carer (My amazing husband), I continue to faint and sometimes do so without breathing for long periods of time, I rely on a manual wheelchair but require a motorized chair, but I have been waiting for that for over a year now. Thankfully, though there are a few negatives through all these diagnosis, I have met phenomenal nurses and carers, amazing doctors and consultants willing to learn but the shortfalls are evident to any of us who are a patient or carer, we can clearly see that the health system needs a serious reform. So too do the social welfare systems, there are huge difficulties getting access to certain things which people are entitled to. The dietary supplement, Mobility allowance, mortgage interest supplement for example has been cut to new applicants, however those who are already getting these payments can continue to do so. The carers respite grant has been reduced and there are huge limits and difficulties in getting access to things like Housing Adaptation grants and the Drivers and Passengers with Disabilities Tax Relief Scheme. You can read more about that here.

Thankfully the Rare Disease Plan 2014 to 2018 Plans this major reform of the health service and the supports currently in place delivering better access to high quality service and care for both patients and their carers. You can read all about this proposed plan Here. However there has been no recent updates as to when it will be actively pursued and implemented while all of us currently with rare diseases have to wait in a system with no specialists, no treatment, no care. We have to travel to London when things like the Travel Abroad Scheme (TAS) is there within the HSE to send people abroad for treatment but it is not being offered or is being refused the majority of times to those who apply for it saying their care can be fulfilled here in Ireland when it can not!

In the meantime online communities like EDS Awareness Ireland and Irish EDS and HMS are pushing to appeal for awareness, support, recognition, specialist treatment and care and funding for our rare diseases.

We are Fainting goats, we are Zebras, we bend but we are not broken, we have invisible illnesses but there is always hope and the will to spread awareness of these conditions and difficulties. Lets make our voices heard.

Thank you for reading.
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Follow Irish Dysautonomia Awareness on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube & Spreadshirt and if you would like to support Lette to help her get back to London for proper treatment, you may find her Fund Here, Thank you.

 

 

Show Your Stripes for Rare Disease Day! – Guest Post

11016369_10205031264693934_216013319_nIn 2012, Yvonne Evans interviewed a woman from Kinsale about her disease, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Little did she know that the answers she has been searching for about her own illness had landed right on her lap.

There is an old saying within the medical profession: ‘When you hear hoof beats, 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.

11039423_10205031264493929_1594412320_nMy symptoms started as a child but and really got 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 anaemic, 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. 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. But, while my joints were feeling ok, I was feeling dizzy and faint, more fatigued and irritable. Cold hurt me, heat made me faint, there was no relief.

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 a young woman who had connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). When she explained her symptoms, I wondered did I have something similar? I thought no more of it, and we kept in touch. In the meantime I was put on a public waiting list to see a rheumatologist. But then, one day in 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 Hypermobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I was also diagnosed with Dysautonomia but unfortunately; I am still awaiting a proper diagnosis and treatment for that.

There is a good chance I will need to travel to London for autonomic testing. 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. 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 in comparison to many of my peers 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 the ‘EDS Awareness Ireland Support Group‘ and ‘Irish Dysautonomia Awareness’ on Facebook and speaking to other people with EDS and the secondary conditions that go with it. Both groups are enormously supportive and concerned. Many of them have EDS and Dysautonomia that affects them so much they are in and out of hospital. Yet, everybody is equal in the group 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. For more information about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, go to ‘EDS Awareness Ireland,’ on Facebook. Please also give ‘Irish Dysautonomia Awareness’ your support and like them on Facebook too. 😉

Rare Disease Day Ireland 28th Feb 2015

IDA FB HeaderRareDDayIf you would like to submit your story, an image or anything you like to raise awareness for Saturday’s Rare Disease Day please email irishpotsies@gmail.com and I will run it on the Facebook page and blog, it can be anonymous if you prefer.

I left all of this a bit late but will attempt to do a blog update highlighting the shortfalls in the Irish Health System relating to the treatment of rare diseases and I hope to do a video.

I have been feeling pretty rough lately so I will do my best 😉