Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

I am not convinced

“I’m not convinced.”

Those were the words out of my decade-long relationship with my trusted electrophysiologist. I saw her on and off for 10 years during the moments I had insurance. I had 4 cardiac ablations for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) from a congenital heart disorder called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which is an extra electrical conduction pathway between chambers that cause arrhythmias. My heart rates would go up to 300s and drop down to the 30s. After four cardiac ablations and still having arrhythmias and fast heart rates, I could not take meds to slow down my heart since my rate would drop low too. I spent years in that position… in limbo without treatment and a chaotic heart.

My valves began to deteriorate as well, causing even more issues. I had open heart surgery for an aortic valve repair in 2011 and will need a replacement in the future, requiring open heart surgery again.

My trusted doctor, told me that it sounded like I was dealing with something that was too rare and not likely possible. She wasn’t convinced I could have another rare disorder. She denied me treatment. I was afraid to sleep at night, afraid that I wouldn’t wake up. Did you know you can pass out in your sleep? I finally collected my most recent 50 page heart event monitor report from the VP of the device company (my doctor would not give me the reports) and took it to another doctor. He ordered a Tilt Table Test and induced an episode and found that I had a severe cardioinhibitory response and confirmed that I needed a pacemaker, wondering why it took so long.

Two weeks later, my life changed. My heart rate doesn’t pause, stop or plummet and I can take meds to keep my heart rate from going too high. The pacemaker even kicks in to reduce arrhythmias.

The puzzle pieces all came together after seeing specialists and understanding why I was having a dysfunctional nervous system and irregular heart, chronic pain, chronic fatigue and an array of health issues. Genetic testing, research and being my own advocate helped more than anything. It took my entire life to get answers. I learned that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes many of my health issues on top of WPW Syndrome. Having WPW made is harder to see that something more could be going on because everyone was focused on that.

I never want anyone else to ever have to go through what I have gone through. I never want anyone else to be medically neglected, dismissed or too rare for their doctor to be convinced. There is an entire world of people suffering in the dark. My mission is to change that. I raise awareness for those people that feel alone, lost and ignored while they fear for their lives, praying to wake up the next morning.

Thank you for listening!

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is an inherited heterogeneous group of thirteen subtypes in which abnormal collagen synthesis affects connective tissue: skin, bones, ligaments, blood vessels, organs and tissue. Collagen is a major structural component of the body. Danish dermatologist Edvard Ehlers recognized the condition in 1901. In 1908, a French physician named Henri-Alexandre Danlos suggested the features of the syndrome. Weak and structurally abnormal collagen may result in flexible and loose joints, poor wound healing, fragile blood vessels, ruptured or prolapsed organs, dysautonomia and many other various health conditions.

The inheritance patterns vary based on each subtype. Autosomal dominant inheritance means that just one copy of an altered gene can produce the disorder. For other subtypes, the disorder can be inherited from one affected parent and some even develop new gene mutations that occur with no family history. The gene mutation for COL1A2 can be found on chromosome seven, altering the collagen found in most connective tissue. This particular gene is associated with cardiac-valvular EDS, atypical Marfan Syndrome and Osteogenesis Imperfecta. There currently is no known gene linked to the most common subtype, hEDS; however, recent testing and research has been launched to discover the gene associated.

The launch collaborated with Ehlers-Danlos Society will collect enough data to gain more knowledge of this rarely diagnosed disorder. Different genes are associated with different subtypes and symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. 

For formal diagnosis, a referral to a geneticist is a start. There is test called the Beighton Scale, which has helped assess hypermobility since 1998. Medical history is also important for diagnosis. There is also a list of diagnosis criteria for each subtype that require a patient to meet a certain amount of history and symptoms. Vascular EDS can be potentially fatal, which makes proper diagnosis and subtype classification important.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is not curable but symptoms may be managed with a team of specialists. It is a systemic disorder, meaning that multiple systems may be affected. Many patients see a range of specialists such as pulmonology, electrophysiology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, pain management and so on. Specialists involved depend on the patient’s specific symptomatic issues that are a result of the connective tissue disorder. 

The current statistics for the more common subtypes are 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 5,000. Some of the rarer types only have a handful of documented cases. However, recent clinical studies show that EDS is more common and not so much rare as it is rarely diagnosed. This makes awareness, education and advocacy so important, in order to better understand and diagnose this disorder. 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

The Ehlers-Danlos Society. What Are The Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes? Retrieved from https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/what-is-eds/

 

National Library of Medicine. (April 2019). Genetics Home Reference: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Retrieved from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/ehlers-danlos-syndrome

 

Health

May is Ehlers-Danlos Awareness Month

May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month. WTF is EDS? I made this graphic to explain more about this congenital connective tissue disorder.

Why are there so many symptoms and complications? Because your body is made of connective tissue, therefore it is a systemic clusterfuckery of the body. “Have you tried changing your diet?” Actually, I have to eat a strict diet to avoid worsening symptoms due to sensitivities, so I already have cut everything out and I even eat kale.

Unfortunately, EDS is not something you can beat or recover from. There is no cure or treatment. You can manage symptoms and usually that requires multiple specialists: cardiologist, pulmonologist, neurologist, gastroenterologist, ALL THE OLOGISTS.

Not all EDSers are alike. With everything, there is a spectrum of various levels of severity. We call ourselves zebras because in the medical field, healthcare providers are trained that if you hear hooves to expect a horse, not a zebra; we are the zebras that are often missed. Awareness is important so that 1 in 5,000 are not dismissed and medically neglected because they “don’t look sick.”

Related blog posts:

The Cycle of Grieving with a Chronic Illness

How To Be There For Someone With a Chronic Illness

Health, mental health

The Invisible Diaries Podcast and Show

I am so excited to announce the upcoming launch of a show with my dear friend Amber, called The Invisible Diaries! The show will be shedding light on invisible illnesses. We are going to interview guests as well.

If you are interested in being on our show, please emails us at theinvisiblediaries@gmail.com and introduce yourself.

Instagram and Facebook Daily Topics

  • Mental Health Monday – Mental health awareness, support and education
  • Teach Me Tuesday – Education, information and learning
  • Words of Wisdom Wednesday – Quotes and inspiration
  • Thankful Thursday – Focusing on the good and finding balance
  • Favorites Friday – Favorite things and product highlights

Stay tuned and follow us on social media for updates on our official launch!

Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Waking Up in Pain

Mornings are hard. When you think of Sundays, you think of sleeping in and waking up to the sun finding it’s way to to you. You think of sitting up, a nice stretch and a moment to admire the open window sharing hints of a beautiful day.

The reality is that you wake up from pain. And you have woken up several times already but you hurt too much to go back to sleep and the sun is up now, so you may as well get out of bed. Lying in bed hurts. It isn’t this relaxing thing where you can leisurely sprawl out in bed and feel like you are on a cloud, melting into your mattress. No, you have to move because one position makes your tailbone go numb and another hurts your collarbone and lying on your stomach makes your back feel broken.

So, now you get up and everything pops back into place. Almost everything. Your left hand and lips are tingling and numb but it only last a few minutes. You walk to the bathroom, holding on to everything you pass for stability so that you don’t fall. Even when you sit down, reaching to wipe is excruciating and demoralizing. It breaks you just glimpsing into the future, wondering if are going to need help wiping your own ass one day. Then, as much as you want to crawl back into bed and melt into your significant other, you quietly walk out of the room so you can find something to do and walk off the pain of sleeping.

Your head is killing you and you are nauseous as if you are hungover. As you walk to the kitchen, everything fades away and you can’t see. Your body starts to feel fuzzy and go numb, just like before you pass out. You don’t typically fully pass out so you know you can just keep walking through it as long as you hold on the way there. You are a pro and have smiled and held conversations while on the brink of passing out but you know it passes and this is your norm.

When pain levels are high, your morale is low. Your dreams and ambition slide over to the back burner. Sometimes they even get put away into Tupperware to decay in the back, hidden behind the fruit. Sometimes the sunshine creeping in through the window looks so far away. But you just get through this. You hold on to the idea of your next good day, whenever that may be. You find hope in new remedies and whatever ways you can try to have control over your health. You find hope in the people who support you and your loved ones.

*On the pain scale of 1-10, I have never been under a five. My one is a five. I am not wanting sympathy but what I am wanting is to be honest about how I feel instead of hiding with an autopilot response of “I’m fine.” I want to raise awareness for people like me so they don’t feel alone, and for people without chronic pain so that they can understand their loved one or friend. We live in a world of sucking it up and smiling through the pain. We are suppressed and depressed with a bottled soul. It isn’t right. Be real and let others be real so they they aren’t lost and alone.

Health, Healthy Food

Energy Sprinkles, Healing Sprinkles and My Health Story

Energy Sprinkles are the energizing sprinkle sister of Healing Sprinkles. Healing Sprinkles were created to help replenish essential minerals and vitamins, balance hormones, promote brain and heart health, reduce inflammation and stress. Energy Sprinkles became a reality after customers asked for a product that would help with energy. This blend is alkalizing, full of electrolytes, flushes toxins, boosts energy and improves overall mood.

Both blends are gluten-free, organ and vegan! Read more about Healing Sprinkles here.

My story:

These are blends that I have personally used over the past two years to heal my body. At the beginning of January of 2017, the 5th to be exact, I almost went into cardiac arrest. With a history of cardiac issues and years of medical negligence and misdiagnosis, my body was going into shock and continued to for months. Every day I worried that is was my last. I lost 30 or more pounds without trying, my skin tone was pale and colorless. I was complimented on my new figure but it was so frustrating because I was very scared. I learned about Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and remembered that I was diagnosed with it as a teen. Because I never had a good cardiologist or medical team on my side, I never learned about it or how to manage it. It was my normal and less scary than my other heart issues like Supraventricular Tachycardia and Neurocardiogenic Syncope.

My heart rate would jump from 40bpm to 160bpm within seconds. I was going into circulatory shock because my heart was misfiring signals due to my other complex cardiac issues. Thankfully, I got a pacemaker six month later after several other opinions and searching for the right doctor. Dozens upon dozens of ERs dismissed me with anxiety. After finally getting an event monitor and a Tilt Table Test to prove my “anxiety” was something else, I was able to get the care I needed. I was so malnourished and my bloodwork was all over the place. I was always told to avoid salt because of my heart but the truth is that I needed to be on a high salt diet to expand my blood volume and raise my low blood pressure.

I also did more research, advocating and begged for more testing and finally found out why I have had a lifetime of heart issues (I have already had four cardiac ablations and open heart surgery), digestion issues, chronic migraines, multiple sensitivities, dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system), chronic pain, joint hypermobility and subluxations, and so on. I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I wish more than anything I had the right doctors who were educated and that could have helped me manage my debilitating chronic illnesses much sooner.

It is my mission to help others, to educate and advocate. There are 12 million misdiagnoses per year. My misdiagnosis of anxiety almost killed me multiple times. I am lucky to be here to stand up for our future. I am currently in school to get my prerequisites and finish a degree to get myself into the medical field where I can make the most of my mission.

 

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Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

The Invisible Battle of Chronic Illness

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is an umbrella of many ailments that fall beneath it. This genetic disorder manifests in many ways; various joints and organs are affected and there is a large range of severity on each spectrum. None of us EDSers are the same. We call ourselves zebras because most doctors think of horses when they hear hooves, but rarely it can be a zebra. We are the zebras in the medical world. There is no cure for EDS but each symptom can be managed separately. It is tricky because we sometimes have several specialists to manage each symptom, or comorbidity, which can resemble having a full time job. Juggling this health conditions not only takes a toll on our energy but it also takes up most of our time. 
On a regular basis, I see several specialists: cardiologist, electrophysiologist, pulmonologist, cardiothoracic surgeon, rheumatologist, neurologist, otolaryngologist (ENT), endocrinologist, gynecologist, gastroenterologist, and of course my general physician. I also sometimes see a chiropractor for traction and the use of some machines to help build strength in my lower back. I don’t have access, but need to see a geneticist, nephrologist, ophthalmologist and orthopedic specialist. That is about 12-16 specialists every 3-6 months. If I see fourteen doctors four times per year, just as a guess, that is fifty six doctors appointments in a year! I also end up in the ER, on average, about six times per year and usually have one or two hospital admissions… on a good year. This year, I had a few surgeries already and last year I had a pacemaker put in. Last year I probably had close to fifty emergency room visits so we won’t count that year. 
An average day for me is waking up around 2am-4am with lower back pain, thirst and several bathroom breaks. I never truly sleep through the night. I have a dysfunctional nervous system (dysautonomia) and suffer from Neurocardiogenic Syncope, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, sleep apnea and issues with my body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and more. My pain level has NEVER been under a five on the 1-10 scale. Not even for a moment. I usually have to be out of bed by 7-8am because my body is so sore when lying down for a long time. Even if I am sick, I have to get out of bed or the pain is so severe that I can not breathe. This means that I can not sleep for over six hours without a break, or the pain is unbearable. 
I take most of my medications and supplements in the morning. I usually start my day off with a headache, nausea, low blood pressure and a general feeling of being hungover but without the fun tequila shots. As I make it to midday, my entire body aches. Every cell in my body hurts. I feel so fatigued and exhausted, even if I didn’t do much. My head hurts and if I am around strong perfumes, chemicals or exposed to any chemicals in my food, I will have a runny nose, body aches and migraine with aura (visual disturbances). My lips and left hand go numb, simultaneously, about five times a day. No one knows why. My symptoms often mimic a stroke so I fear that one day if I have a stroke, I wouldn’t know the difference. I have chemical sensitivities that are hard to avoid. Wearing a mask and watching what I eat helps. Usually by 5-6pm, I am ready to collapse. Sometimes I make it through, with a smile on my face, because I try to live my life to the fullest. Despite how I feel, I push it to the limit to be the best mother, wife, friend, student and so on. I refuse to give up no matter how hard it gets.
By evening, I have made it through the day and usually my body temperature is low and I am freezing but somehow feel like I am burning up and running a fever. My temperature usually will read 96-97 degrees. It is incredibly uncomfortable to feel hot and cold at the same time. My chest feels heavy at night and if I lie on my back I start to feel fluid in my lungs. On a tough day, I will breathe so shallow while I fall asleep that I jump up gasping for air, with low oxygen and a racing heart. Other nights, I can’t sleep because memories flash back from the past when I was in the back of an ambulance or in the ER with chaotic arrhythmias. I close my eyes and hope to get to the next morning. It all starts over again in the morning. 
Depression can be a struggle for those who suffer with daily pain or frequent traumatic hospital visits. I recently came up with the term “Post Traumatic Health Disorder.” Depression can also be a factor because we feel like we have lost the person we once were and are prisoners to a body that doesn’t feel like it belongs to us. Our friends drop like flies the more we cancel on them, relationships are strained and many physicians don’t take us seriously because oftentimes these symptoms don’t show anything in blood work and we are passed off as a mental case. Many doctors are not familiar with rare, genetic disorders so they typically label us with anxiety or a catch-all diagnosis and send us on our way. We feel alone and like no one understands. It is scary, disheartening and frustrating. Seeing a therapist is important, as well as finding a support group.
Having an invisible illness is a battle and we all think of ourselves as warriors. We are warriors. We battle and fight every damn day. Tears are shed on the battlefield often and we watch our tribe through ups and downs on our online support groups. We have lost some and watched others give up. We keep fighting and supporting each other and raising awareness while we struggle to make it out of bed.
Always be kind to others, as you have no idea what they are battling under all that makeup and forced smile. And to those who are my fellow warriors, I believe you.
Health

What is Banana Bag Oral Solution?

Banana Bag Oral Solution is a specially formulated solution for vitamin deficiencies and dehydration. It is a drink mix and can replace the costly IV from an emergency room visit. The term “Banana Bag” is from the medical field, referencing IV fluids. The drink does not taste like bananas. In fact, it has lemon-lime taste to it. I prefer it to sugary sports drinks that are loaded with dyes, preservatives and artificial flavors. It is also gluten-free.

Banana Bag has been a huge hit for those with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and also other Dysautonomia patients. It is beneficial for athletes, hangovers, the chronically ill, people with gut issues causing malabsorption and keeping general health issues at bay that are caused by deficiencies and dehydration.

This reliable solution restores the body with electrolytes and vital nutrients. It has been a crucial staple in managing my health, especially living with the Florida heat.

No sweeteners | No preservatives | No dyes | No artificial ingredients | No artificial flavors | No GMOs | No gluten.

Body and Beauty, Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Unveiling Invisible Illnesses – War Paint

I always try to smooth my hair and conceal my tired eyes. I always dust on a peachy pink blush and a fun lip color, regardless of how I feel. This is the mask of an invisible illness warrior. Occasionally, there are days that I struggle to even lift a limb to put on my war paint. On those days when I bare a naked face and join society, I get told over and over and over again, “You look tired.”

When someone looks exhausted or drained, instead try asking if they need anything or offer help, a compliment or anything positive. I wear makeup to hide when my face goes pale while my blood pressure drops and my body starts going numb, ringing in my ears or the sound of my pulse takes over while my vision starts to sparkle or fade. I wear lipstick to hide the loss of color while I brace myself against the wall or casually sit down and continue to smile and listen to your day.

Every day is a struggle, whether it is big or small. On the really bad days, it is a lonely world and it feels like no one understand. When you try to reach out, no one listens because they think you are young and healthy and perfectly fine. It feels dismissive and disheartening, quiet and empty as you hope for tomorrow to be a better day.

Health

Everything Is Going To Be Fine

Talking to certain friends can be very difficult or even stressful. I have learned that not all friends are cut out for every conversation. Some friends are fun and want to talk about who they have a crush on, silly poop jokes or their current laundry situation. That is always great to have but sometimes it isn’t enough.

I often have stressful news about my health and I used to get resentful and angry that when I would talk to my close friends, they would immediately change the topic and talk about something mundane or random, having nothing to do with what I just said. It made me feel completely dismissed. The following day, sometimes I would think that maybe they would check on me and see how I was doing, but they never did. It was like I never said anything.

Recently, I had a health scare and they all told me, “Everything is going to be fine.” I am a pretty positive person and I appreciate it when I have a positive conversation, but sometimes I just want to talk about real life. Sometimes, everything is not fine. Maybe it will be fine again, and damn… we are going to try, but life can be scary. I don’t think it is always okay to sugar coat, dismiss and repaint a picture. Let’s talk what is real, make a plan, support each other and bitch about the battle. Sometimes people just need to vent. The worst part is that the scare turned into reality and everything was not fine. Their response to that was pretty much the same. “It will be okay!”

I decided to not be upset with my close friends anymore, despite their inattentiveness. I realized they were not the friends I go to when shit hits the fan or if I need them for anything serious. I think I also realized that I am usually the one they go to when they need someone or maybe they just don’t want to believe there is anything wrong with me. That is what I like to tell myself anyway. What I did realize is that I did have some friends who also had health battles and that I could talk to them. I also see a therapist so she is more cut out for the job than those other friends and it helps me to depend on them less.

Joining support groups online or on Facebook has also been beneficial for learning more about your health issues and finding people who understand.

It is important to know that when you are a warrior and constantly battling your health, not everyone has been to war. Not everyone is a soldier and not everyone understands. Find your army, keep your chin up and don’t let those in the sidelines upset you for not knowing how to fight.