Thursday, 17 August 2017

I quit........smoking

Mr Myasthenia Kid has managed to pass on his sickness bug to me. He ended up coming home from work on Monday after vomiting twice. He spent the rest of Monday sleeping. I spent last night going from freezing cold to boiling hot, my hair is crazy this morning. I am also horrendously nauseous. So today’s offering will be short and sweet.

On 6th August I packed in smoking tobacco, over the previous couple of months I had slowly been falling out of love with it. It no longer tasted the same, smelt the same, I was smoking more but enjoying less and less. Because I rolled my own cigarettes I was also getting stained fingers which meant several times a week I was having to bleach them to get rid of the tar stains. I knew the time was approaching where I was going to give up. I just didn’t know if I would be able to do it.

At the same time as I was falling out of love with cigarettes, a friend of mine had given up smoking. Something I never thought in a million years would happen. She had bought a vape and literally swapped over from smoking 20 plus a day to none and solely using the vape in a few days. She brought the vape over to show me and a week later I bought myself one. With the intention of slowly reducing the amount of cigarettes I was smoking and using the vape.

I really struggled to get on with the vape, for some reason every time I inhaled I coughed my lungs up. I don’t know what was causing the problem but it was infuriating, why could I inhale cigarette smoke and not inhale from a vape. It took a few days of persevering but I got the hang of it. I was coming to the end of my tobacco and after the first cigarette of the morning on Sunday 6th August I decided that was it. I had enough tobacco for one cigarette but I just put it away in the cupboard. I haven’t smoked since.

A few days after stopping smoking I threw my tobacco tin away, bagged up the papers and filter tips which I bought in bulk and removed the ash trays from the house. We only ever smoked in the kitchen, but the difference in the surfaces keeping clean without me facing a losing battle daily against bits of ash and tobacco was enough to convince me, it was over. Jay took my papers and filter tips into work and gave them to my friends that smoke.

Giving up and switching to the vape has been easy, far easier than I thought it would be. I much prefer it to smoking. Over the last few days I have found that I am using it a lot less than I was initially. I did experience some problems with my blood pressure being quite low for a few days whilst my body sorted itself out. I gave myself a week for it to settle and if it hadn’t I would add a nicotine liquid to my vape to boost my blood pressure. Thankfully the giddiness and feelings of pre-syncope reduced and I managed to not use nicotine liquid.The other issue I have had is really painful sinuses.

I’ve had sinus problems for years. I regularly use a nasal spray as the inside of my nose gets inflamed and causes problems with my eustachian tubes swelling shut. Since stopping smoking I have been in a lot of pain with my sinuses, at some points it has been going into my teeth. I have no idea why giving up smoking would make it worse when I have always been told that it would make it better. It’s still hurting today but it is getting less as the days go on. I am hoping that this will eventually settle down.

I know that I will never be able to take for granted that I no longer smoke. I have stopped for years in the past only to start again. I will need to be constantly vigilant and be honest with myself that whenever I want a cigarette it is the addiction talking. So far it has been much easier than I ever anticipated it would be, I hope it stays that way.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

You heard it here first folks I'm bloody cured!!

It's not often I am stunned into silence but yesterday I pretty much was. Unluckily for you, I seem to have found my voice again. So get comfy, get a hot beverage of your choosing and settle in for a bumpy ride. My long-awaited neurology appointment happened and it turned out the way I had dreaded and worse, if that is even possible. I had been stupid and allowed my hopes to rise only for them to be dashed yet again. I am angry, I am hurt but I am trying to be rational and logical in accepting that I haven’t had an MG diagnosis for the last ten years and now is no different.

I had really hoped that this new neurologist would approach me with an open mind. That all the medical crap that had followed me around in my notes for years wouldn’t be dredged up during this appointment but looking back now with 24 hours to calm down, I can see the decision that I didn’t have MG had been made long before I entered the consulting room.

Yesterday was a long, painful and emotional roller coaster of a day. There is so much to say but so little of it of any real use. The nerve conduction study was painful. The doctor that conducted it tested my hand, wrist, arm, neck and face. I am in a lot of pain from the tests done on my neck. I really wouldn’t have thought that they would have conducted such a test on someone who has only just recovered from a spontaneous CSF leak. Last night with my head throbbing I feared that the leak has started up again. I can only hope that it’s not the case.

The nerve conduction study checks to see if the nerves are carrying messages to the muscles. My test was done using an implement that looked about the size and shape of an old-fashioned electric razor. On the very end of it, it had two prongs, it felt very much like I imagine being poked by a cattle prod would. When the doctor was testing my hand it was jumping around so violently he actually had to hold my hand still. I knew as the test was being done by the way my muscles were twitching that yet again this test would be negative. When he tested the side of my neck, my head jerked uncontrollably from side to side, I also had a searing pain up the side of my face. My neck is very unstable due to EDS and this hasn’t helped one bit. I guess I will only know if any damage has been done over the coming days and weeks. I am hoping the pain I have at the base of my skull and in my neck improves. All I know at the moment is that painkillers aren’t touching it.

My face was also tested but he used a two small needles to do this. One needle was inserted close to my hairline in line with my eyebrow and the other was inserted midway between my eyebrow and my fringe (bangs for those in the USA). This wasn’t as painful but it was exhausting. Both sites bled quite a bit afterwards and where the needle was inserted at the side of my eye still hurts (24 hours later).

The test was all over within 20-30 minutes, although since speaking to people in the know a proper full sfemg looking for MG should take an hour or more. An sfemg / emg is only as good as the person performing it, MG is not common it is considered rare, so the operator also has to have a vast experience of performing this test on those with MG. It is not the gold standard test it is claimed to be and many neurologists around the world are starting to realise this.

After these tests I made my way down to the unit that I was meeting the neurologist in. I needed bloods to be done as the neuro wanted the basic MG blood tests carried out again. No doubt in a few weeks time I will learn that they are negative too. My veins were having none of it as usual, the healthcare assistant made three attempts and couldn’t get a drop despite being in a vein on all three occasions. It wasn’t that surprising to me, it was now gone 2pm and I hadn’t drunk anything since about 9.30am as I didn’t want to constantly need the toilet on the drive to the hospital.

It was decided that I would go in to see the neuro and someone else would do battle with my veins after. On the face of it the neuro seemed nice, polite etc but it became clear within minutes of the consultation starting that with the nerve conduction tests coming back negative that they wouldn’t be entertaining the idea of MG. There was no neurological exam, in all my years of being a professional sick person, I have never met a neurologist, student or otherwise who hasn’t performed a basic neurological examination. Clearly as a patient I wasn’t worth the effort.

Whenever I have seen neurologists in the past they have examined my eyes or the muscles around them. Usually they would get me to do a sustained upwards gaze which would give me ptosis. They would check also for Cogans lid twitch as you can see demonstrated in this video on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8DNc-q12lY. Again that would have been positive for me. There is a whole host of other tests they could have done but chose not to because being positive on them would have left a bit of a conundrum as I am always positive on these. To not even bother with any sort of neurological examination made me feel worthless. It seems with a negative nerve conduction study the patient is simply wasting the neurologists time and effort.

I was told repeatedly with the nerve conduction study coming back normal, I couldn’t possibly have MG. It was suggested at one point I was in the grip of a hemiplegic migraine………..which was dismissed when I pointed out I hadn’t had a migraine in several years. In fact it had been so long since I have had a migraine that I have stopped taking the medication I took daily to prevent them. Obviously now I have said that out loud I am expecting one any day. I haven’t actually had a hemiplegic migraine since the age of 15, when I did have them my face was never involved, I didn’t have ptosis, I was basically paralysed down one side of my body when they happened. Other than that they had no clue what was causing the ptosis and apparently it doesn’t merit any further investigation. They will kindly review me every now and again when I am at the same hospital seeing my PoTs consultant.

Around half way through the appointment they let slip that they had been digging through my notes from ten years ago. They were the same ones that suggested somatization disorder as the root cause of all my problems including the ptosis. So now after being brave enough to stick my head above the parapet and mention MG again I have inadvertently put myself in danger of being written off with that psychological label again. I also found out that they worship at the altar of an idiot doctor I have seen at another hospital. No doubt they’ve had a great laugh at my expense, silly woman convincing herself she has MG. Although I keep telling them I don’t care what it is I just want a name and a treatment plan, it seems that they believe that I am just a patient hellbent on getting a rare diagnosis. Rather than understanding the very human desire of needing answers.

There was no explanation as to why mestinon / pyridostigmine resolves my ptosis, other than it increases everyone's muscle strength even if they don’t have MG. How true that is I don’t know. But even that contradicts the earlier statement that there was nothing wrong with my muscles. The fact that applying ice to my eye resolves the ptosis was also ignored, because to accept that would mean having to acknowledge that there is a problem at the neuromuscular junction. Anyone without a neuromuscular problem that has ptosis doesn’t get those results. I even took a freezer block with me to demonstrate but that was dismissed out of hand. There was no need they assured me.

I spent the whole time thinking that they just weren’t listening to anything that I said. Which in turn made the fight leave me, I am savvy enough with doctors now to realise when I am on a hiding to nothing. I just wanted to leave, get home, have a cup of tea and a cigarette. I had explained numerous times that I couldn’t see properly when I had ptosis out of the eye that didn’t have ptosis. The suggestion, which has to be one of the all time greats was and I am paraphrasing “that because it upset me the way I look when I have ptosis, to just use the mestinon when I leave the house”. Those of you who know me or follow this blog know I basically leave the house for medical appointments, that’s it. If I did as suggested I would never take it. It also ignores the fact it would leave me with very little sight for hours every day whilst alone for up to 12 hours a day whilst hubby works.

I asked why it was that my oxygen levels plummet why at times I struggle to breathe, why my legs refuse to work on occasion and was met with a shoulder shrug. It was suggested I speak to my gp and have more up to date breathing tests done. My gp isn’t going to do that when MG has been taken off the table. I have had them before and whilst they showed marked desaturation when I was up and moving around, I was accused by the doctor who organised the test (which was basically a pulse oximeter taped to my finger for 24 hours that recorded everything) that I was holding my breath. If I held my breath for as long as I had been accused of doing it, I would be a world champion free diver or dead. However I know now that due to PoTs pulse oximeters aren’t very accurate due to our circulatory issues, at the time of those tests I hadn’t been diagnosed with PoTs.

There is nothing quite like the kick in the teeth you get with a doctor that has already made their mind up about you before meeting them. I can only hope that my PoTs consultant goes on the patient he has met and not the neurologist's opinion of the patient. I really hope that this hasn’t put our working relationship in jeopardy.


The only upside of yesterday was that I bumped into my PoTs consultant, who came over and had a quick chat with me. He was taking the mickey out of the healthcare assistant that couldn’t get my veins to relinquish any blood. I told him off as he has never once tried to cannulate me. I have made student nurse and doctors cry due to my veins being such bastards. He did find that very funny. Thankfully the second person to attempt taking blood did hit the jackpot first time.


I am allowed to continue taking mestinon as “it makes me feel better” - yep completely ignoring the fact that it resolves my ptosis and I can see. Had I been able to just get straight to the car and be alone I would have sobbed and sobbed. They made me feel utterly worthless, not worthy of further investigation because there is nothing wrong with me. You heard it here first folks I’m bloody cured!!!


* * *

Thankfully after a shitty day I came home to these beauties, two baby mugs with the puppies (although they will be 11 this year) names on. To go with their mums mug (Mollie) and their uncles mug (Travis).



Thursday, 3 August 2017

Stressed

This week has been fraught with activity, on the day last week’s blog post was published I had a telephone call offering me an appointment this Friday for nerve conduction studies and to see the neurologist who specialises in movement disorders. Stressful doesn’t seem to cover it. Even though I have been through all of this before, on numerous occasions it never gets any easier.

This isn’t my first rodeo where MG (myasthenia gravis) is concerned. I have had at least 4 nerve conduction studies previously, all came back negative. I will be honest, I really don’t hold out any hope for this one being any different. I have seen several neurologists who on first sight are utterly convinced that I have Myasthenia Gravis but when the tests all come back negative, shrug their shoulders and look no further. I have demonstrated my positive reaction to the ice pack test on more occasions than I have fingers. Yet with all the other tests coming back negative it is ignored despite the fact it conclusively shows I have an issue at the neuromuscular junction.

The fact that I respond to mestinon (pyridostigmine bromide) is also ignored once the tests come back negative. With one doctor suggesting it was merely the placebo effect. It is difficult to feel positive about hospital appointments when you know that you will be ignored if the tests don’t come back with a positive result. There is also the danger that you will be labeled with a having a psychological illness such as somatization disorder and all the medical care you currently have will disappear. The stakes are high, I know how much I stand to lose.

I have spent the last week slowly working through my pre-hospital appointment checklist. As I am seeing two different departments on Friday, I need to have two sets of prescription medication lists and the medication allergy list (as there are quite a few that will provoke a nasty reaction). These both needed updated as some of the medication I take is not on my repeat prescription list, some of it on the repeats list I haven’t taken for over a year and I have developed more allergies since last year. At the same time I have put together an Emergency envelope that will sit by the front door. This contains my latest hospital letters (copies of), lists of medication allergies, prescribed medication list and contact numbers for next of kin. I think if you have a chronic illness that may require an emergency hospital admission it is good to have an envelope or file with your relevant medical information in. In an emergency blind panic can set in and you can forget stuff. This way all that I have to do or hubby has to do is handover an envelope and the paramedics have everything pertinent to hand. Plus as my health care is overseen by two different hospitals in two different areas, the electronic notes don’t link up.

I tend to also carry a copy of  the list my prescription medications and medication allergies in my purse, along with a short list of my medical conditions when I leave the house. So that should anything happen car accident, faint etc I have all the information to hand. I know it sounds over prepared but I am horribly allergic to CT contrast dye, I really wouldn’t want to be injected with the stuff unless it was absolutely necessary.

I have lost count of the number of times I have read and re-read the appointment letters from the hospital, my memory is shocking, I wanted to ensure that I have all the correct information with me and that I know where I am supposed to be going. Also with the nerve conduction studies they have asked that I don’t use body lotion etc before the tests as it can interfere with them.

I would normally wear make up for a hospital appointment, so that they can’t toss me into the “depressed” file, I also try to avoid wearing black again to avoid being written off as depressed. Yes they really do use what colour clothes you are wearing and if you are wearing makeup to suggest that you are depressed (if you are a woman). I always ensure if I am wearing black (even if it's just a top or a pair of trousers) I have bright colours somewhere on my outfit. So a great deal of thought has had to go into my hospital outfit, as the neurophysiology appointment asks that you wear a top that can be rolled up above the elbows and with trousers that they can be rolled up above the knee. I need to also add in something that is comfortable and preferably with layers, I have so many problems regulating my temperature, where I can go from cold to way too hot in a matter of seconds, so layers for me are essential.

Then comes personal grooming, something that can fall by the wayside when you feel like shit! I think the last time my legs saw a razor was the end of June, for my last hospital appointment. I am lucky I am not very hairy and it is slow-growing so I can get away with it for the most part. However despite being sick I am incredibly vain and would die of embarrassment should I need to roll up my trouser leg for the nerve conduction studies only to reveal really hairy legs!

I have also included two photographs in my hospital paperwork of my ptosis should sods law strike and I don’t get it that day. It is usually the case when you have a fluctuating condition that it is never at it’s worst when you see the hospital consultant. Over the years I have learnt the hard way, so now I take evidence with me. So if I am complaining of lower than normal blood pressure I take my omron BP monitor with me as it stores the readings. Now with ptosis I take good clear photographs that I have downloaded from my phone. That way it can’t be disputed that it happens. It does pay to be organised as if you are like me, you can get a little flustered when seeing a new doctor. Knowing that I have prepared in advance helps keep me slightly calmer.

I’m still debating on whether or not to take a freezer block with me, in case I should need to demonstrate the ice pack test for the neurologist. I have a nice small cool bag in which to keep it cold, it’s just a case of whether I should or not. In the neurologists letter they have advised me not to take pyridostigmine bromide before the nerve conduction studies but to take it when I have finished the tests. Again I am wondering if I should wait until I am actually in front of the neurologist to take it, so that they can see the extent of my ptosis and muscle weakness. At the moment I think I shall take the meds with me but not take them until after both appointments. What's the point in assessing my muscle weakness if I have taken a medication that will improve my muscle strength?

You can probably tell I am a little wound up about this up and coming appointment. It is already affecting my sleep, as I am waking up at all hours and the immediate thing on my mind is this appointment. So much hangs in the balance. I am honestly not bothered if its MG or not, I just want to know why I am having ptosis / muscle weakness and what can be done about it. Over the last ten years all I have wanted are answers, which I don’t think is too much to ask?