Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Pacemaker Check

Despite not having insurance at the moment, I went to my pacemaker check (priorities) and found that 70% of the time, I am paced and have 7.5 years left on my pacemaker. The bad news is that on July 1st, around 4pm, I went into v tach, which can sometimes lead to cardiac arrest.

The good news is that it was likely a result of having a fever, so we know there was a contributing factor. I went to Wuesthoff Rockledge ER, but as usual was sent away and dismissed. I always tell them I feel it in my heart when I get fevers and because I run low, a high fever for me is 100 and up. Fortunately, I made it to Florida Hospital, who admitted me for two days and put me on two IV antibiotics.

This is why I URGE people who are sick to kindly stay away. My heart cannot handle fevers and when I am sick, I am very high risk for an infection to spread to my heart and would need a heart transplant. Because of this ventricular tachycardia episode, I may have to get a defibrillator. Funny thing is, this is what I told them I needed in the first place, but again… dismissed. As you can see, these are constant frustrations being young(ish) and appearing healthy. I am feeding my emotions with Chipotle and studying for my Psych essay exam, trying not to cry in my salsa. I am thankful that I am here.

Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Health PTSD – Warrior Status

There are some evenings when I can’t help but think about the nights when my heart would struggle to beat. By the end of the day, my blood volume would be so low because I was never educated on my health conditions or how to manage my health and had no idea what was going on. I would go all day without drinking water. I avoided salt because I assumed that’s just what you do, especially with heart issues.

Here is a quick run down about my health history:

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome was just a small fraction of what I had going on. Last January (2017) I was still very in the dark about my health. Even though I already had four cardiac ablations for Supraventricular Tachycardia, caused by being born with an extra electrical pathway in my heart that caused rapid heart rates and extra beats, I still never had a real team of doctors who had my back.

Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome made it very difficult to have a fully successful ablations due to the extra pathways in very difficult and rare spots of my heart. My electrophysiologist often noticed two P Waves on my EKGs. The P Waves are the little squiggly line that shows where the heart beat originates.

After four cardiac ablations, I needed an aortic valve repair. This is done with open heart surgery and cracking open my sternum. My aorta valve was regurgitating blood flow backwards. This caused shortness of breath and other issues.

Having the ablations did not fix my rapid heart rates. It reduced them but I still got them and often. I needed medication to slow down my heart rate but I also had bradycardia (slow heart rate) so I was unable to take medication for about a decade. I would bounce from 45 beats per minute and jump up to 150, all day. I was diagnosed with Neurocardiogenic Syncope and Sick Sinus Syndrome. This means that my heart would randomly plummet, while doing simple tasks, causing me to blackout or set my heart into a scary arrhythmia. I developed a dysfunctional sinus node. The sinus node produces your heart beat, like a natural pacemaker.

Back to 2017… As if nothing mentioned above wasn’t scary enough, including my brief encounter with cancer, January 5th, 2017 was the scariest day of my life. Unbeknownst to me, my blood volume was dangerously low and I was dehydrated and creeping up to pre-diabetic status due to a careless diet and love for sugar. I wasn’t taking care of myself the way my body desperately needed me to. My heart went tachycardia, which wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to, but then the rhythm changed to chaotic. I was going into a potential fatal arrhythmia.

We called 911 and my husband (boyfriend at the time) held me in his arms as my limbs fell to the side, with no blood flow. I was going into circulatory shock. I told him I loved him and to tell my kids I loved them and the blurry lights in the distance arrived closer. Suddenly I felt my heart convert back to a normal (but fast) rhythm and I could breathe again and move my arms. This happened again and again, several times a week, for months.

I was continuously dismissed, labeled with anxiety and even prescribed acid reflux medication for heartburn. I did not have heartburn, I was having chest tightness and pressure but this was just a small example of being disregarded and carelessly misdiagnosed. Eventually, I had a 30 heart monitor on to capture every episode. The monitor was hidden under my shirt and robe. My body would shut down before the doctor’s eyes as he mocked me and stated it was just anxiety and an EKG or heart monitor wasn’t necessary. Despite my history and the fact that I was the happiest I had ever been, I was always sent home or they couldn’t catch an episode.

Six months later, I finally found an electrophysiologist who set me up with a pacemaker that I needed ten years ago. My neurologist also looked at the tests and confirmed that what they thought looked like an anxiety attack was my body going into circulatory shock. I can also finally take heart medication to keep the fast rates at bay, now that I have a pacemaker.

Like a thick gloom, blanketing you and swallowing your body, the memories take over. There were times that I literally begged for my life. I could barely breathe and my arms and legs lost color and I couldn’t move. My body would start shaking vigorously as I took small rapid breaths. “Please help” was all I could pathetically mutter to the unconcerned nurses who assumed I was a drug seeker.

Those six months still haunt me, especially at night. No doctor EVER thought to ask, “Why does this young woman have such a unique health history?” No one thought to do genetic testing or to ask questions. They all let me slide through the cracks.

I’m here and I am still fighting. I will always fight, until I can’t anymore. I am here to stand up for others like me. I am here to inspire others to advocate for themselves and to not give up. I am still here.

Even though my story isn’t over, I still continue with sleep apnea and my aortic valve has hypertrophied. I will need open heart surgery once again, with a pig valve and possibly in the near future. I will need a new pacemaker years to come. I don’t have insurance so my sleep apnea is not being treated. I don’t know what to expect in the future but I do know that I will love every moment that I am given.

  • Educate yourself on your health conditions.
  • Get every medical record and keep a file
  • Print information on your rare diseases or disorders to give to your medical professionals
  • Find a support group or therapist
  • Eat healthy and stay hydrated
Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

I Believe You

When your medical team thinks you are just stressed or maybe have a common ailment and never test you for anything out of the norm, it can be frustrating. You feel lost and alone and just want answers. Sometimes this process can last years!

Up to 12 million people are misdiagnosed each year (1 in 20) and medical errors are the THIRD leading cause of death in the US (CDC, 2006) and kill 150,000 people per year. It is also disheartening when friends and family start to question you and think that maybe it is in your head. I have been there!

I am lucky to have a beautiful support system and people who care about me and I have made leaps with my health care, though I still have much more to discover. Advocacy is so important. Though my hands are tied due to finances and lack of health insurance, I still do a ton of research regularly and do what is best for my health and wellbeing with nutrition, detoxing my body, supplements and cutting out emotional toxins. If you are suffering from anything, I got your back. I am on your side. I am always here. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out.

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Sleep Apnea

I remember when I was 16, telling a doctor that I stopped breathing in my sleep. “No. Not at your age. I don’t believe you.”

For the last 5 months, I fought for a sleep study. I was denied because of my age and weight. After making several calls, hours on the phone on different occasions, I finally got approved.

Two days after my test I was called and referred to a pulmonologist. In 4 hours and 13 minutes, I stopped breathing 27 times with an average duration of 49 seconds. The highest duration was 117 seconds!

My point is, don’t ever give up. Keep fighting and I believe you.

It’s a bittersweet sweet moment to get these results back. Part of my is relieved to finally get help, answers and care as well as prove that I wasn’t crazy and to not be dismissed anymore. The other part of me wishes they were right and that I was just a hypochondriac.

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

How To Be There For Someone With A Chronic Illness

Imagine you have two people who are not on the same page, let alone the same book. One struggles with chronic illness and the other is averagely healthy and maybe even deals with a common ailment here and there, but how can they relate when it comes to health? It may not come easy to some when they have never had their health jeopardized. It is important to build a bridge to have a connection with your family or friend.

Invisible Illnesses

Perhaps your friend or loved one has an invisible illness. This means that they look healthy on the outside but on the inside they struggle with an illness like diabetes, lupus, PTSD, POTS, Thyroid diseases, Cardiac and Neurological diseases, to name a few.

We all have our own battles.

It can be tough to look at someone who looks fully capable of living life the way you do but we are all different. Understand that just because you may be healthy and can juggle so many tasks, does not mean it comes easy for others.

It is important to recognize that with all things, there is a spectrum. With chronic illnesses, that spectrum can vary day to day. One morning, we may have so much energy that we can clean the house and go out to get lunch but the next morning we may be bedridden.

Personally, putting on makeup every day is my way of putting on war paint. I hide my dark circles from waking up every hour. I conceal the redness in my face or sometimes add blush to my pale skin. When I look well, I don’t get asked if I am sick or told I look tired. I feel normal and ready to take on the day.

Just because you friend or loved one looks put together and seems young and healthy, doesn’t mean she wasn’t up at 4am with severe back spasms and again at 5am feeling dehydrated and again at 6am in more pain and a numb arm until it is finally time to get up for the day. She probably got dizzy a few different times while her blood pressure dropped, causing nausea and tachycardia. Be grateful she answered the phone or showed up for lunch and she we be grateful for you.

The Spoon Theory

The Spoon Theory is a metaphor to explain the limited energy that someone with an invisible or chronic illness struggles with. Say you get 12 spoons each day and each task costs a spoon or two. Sometimes a shower can cost 2 spoons on a rough day. Going to work can cost a lot of spoons as well. Cleaning the kitchen? That will be 3 spoons! Sometimes if you push yourself too hard, it costs spoons from the next day which will leave you in bed with limited spoons.

We call people “Spoonies” who fit in to the Spoon Theory.

How to be there for a Spoonie:

  • Understanding – The fact that you have read this so far is already a huge deal for your Spoonie. Trying to understand what life is like for your friend or loved one shows a lot of compassion and empathy. This is your biggest step and the most important. For some, we are constantly judged, assumed we are lazy, told it is in our head, called a hypochondriac or just straight up dismissed. Certain medical conditions sometimes take up to a decade or longer to get diagnosed. Often times there are several misdiagnosis’s and even people get left in a grey area where no one knows what to do. We feel alone and lost.
  • Keep Your Ideals To Yourself – We appreciate your concerns, absolutely. I can vouch for myself that I have done plenty of research, am fully aware of my body and what is normal for me, have a strict diet with optimal nutrition and supplements, non drinker, non smoker and always staying positive as well as seeing a therapist. My health is a full time job. You can’t even pronounce what illnesses I have so please don’t try to cure me. Of course, we appreciate advice but keep it simple and keep it at that. Do not try to push your ideals on someone or tell them if they exercise more they will feel better or that they can meditate to a cure. All we want is a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, positive vibes and understanding.
  • If You Are Sick, Stay Away! – Seriously, some of us have compromised immune systems and if you have a cold or flu and bring your germs to anyone, even a healthy person, it is just simply rude. If you bring your germs to someone who is already ill, it is cruel. We don’t fight infections and other illnesses very well and most of the time it makes our other issues worse and for some, it could mean a trip to the hospital.
  • Social Gatherings – There is a good chance we might not make it to your event or night out. I can assure you that we wish we were there but more often than not, our health makes us flakey friends. Please don’t stop inviting us! We will always try, even if the chances are slim. Also, please don’t get upset with us if we don’t make it. We would rather be out having fun with you than stuck in bed.
  • Know That We Are Fighting A Battle – If we seem a little off, let us be a little off. There are countless times when I was hanging out with someone while my vision blurred and I start seeing stars, getting light headed and heart palpitations but I push through because this is my normal life. Something that has always bothered me was when strangers, coworkers or peers say “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” Well, maybe I am struggling with an ocular migraine that day, low blood pressure or didn’t sleep well, so if I have a case of resting bitch face then let it be. I know it could always be worse but I am here, smile or not!
  • My Illness Does Not Define Me – I am a strong warrior. I love art, music, travel, culture, anything vintage, food, nature, giving back and being creative. I can be sensitive but I persevere and I keep my chin up. I have not given up and I won’t. I have bad days but I climb above it and stay positive, even it it is a full time job. I am not my illness. However, it is part of my life, whether big or small. It may affect me but it is not who I am.

Health

Day 5 Postoperative Pacemaker Update 

The past couple of days have been rough.  I have had sugar the last two days when I felt worse so I am hoping eliminating sugar again will help. I usually don’t have sugar in my diet but caved and had some dairy free Ben & Jerry’s almond ice cream. Basically, I have been having PACs, which feel like extra heart beats and bouts of Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia. I have had these issues prior to the pacemaker that I just got on June 8th (2017) but was unable to take medication due to chronic Bradycardia, a slow heart rate. Now that I have the pacemaker as a safety net, I am able to take medication to help with the other issues. At this point, I have to wait 6 weeks to let the pacemaker fully heal and the meds to kick in and then we can re-evaluate the situation and discuss a possible Cardiac Ablation, which would be my 5th. I would then be 100% paced. I am trying to be positive and hope that avoiding sugar will help calm things down and that my heart is just angry and still needs to heal and adjust. In these last two days I have had PACs every single minute, sometimes more, sometimes less and about 5-10 episodes of Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST) each day. The IST will kick in randomly, often when I lie down from sitting up. My heart rate goes from 60s to 140s in seconds and my chest feels tight and constricted while my lips get cold and tingle or go numb. It is VERY uncomfortable and annoying, to say the least. The PACs sometimes will feel so strong that they jolt me out of bed. 

 I saw the doctor today and am still paced in the 80 percentile and they were surprised to see how often it kicked in. When my heart rate was higher from walking or with activity, it would have dropped and I could have passed out had the pace maker not been there. That is called Neurocardiogenic Syncope, which was confirmed in a Tilt Table Test I had a few weeks back. I am suffering from Dysautonomia but have not found the right doctor to determine why. I am currently trying to find a good rheumatologist to look into a proper diagnosis. Most signs point to Lupus (SLE) but nothing is set in stone. I definitely can tell how beneficial this pacemaker is and a life changer at that, I just really need to get the the bottom of what is causing my body to suffer. 

I guess I just get worried because I also have had open heart surgery in 2011 for severe Aortic Insufficiency. I had my valve repaired and currently all 4 valves have mild insufficiency. I also have thickening on my aortic valve and a thickened heart muscle with slight left ventricular enlargement. With all of this and an undiagnosed auto immune disease, I sometimes have a hard time keeping my chin up. I also have recently discovered that I have multiple complex cysts on my thyroid, which will need to be biopsied for cancer. 

Never take your health for granted. It is really tough being patient and waiting AND WAITING for answers. In the mean time, I am home in bed and away from my salon. I would love to be back to work and travel and run around and feel free again. I am currently trying to get disability so that I can ensure medical coverage (since there will likely be billions of dollars in cuts for Medicaid) and qualify to go to the Mayo Clinic so that I can get the proper care and treatment that I have needed for a decade or so.

I think that is all for now. Rubix cube still being solved. To be continued….

Health

America Hates Me

Soon, the president of the Divided States of America will be cutting almost a trillion dollars for Medicaid cuts. As I often hear about the complaint for our tax dollars being spent on helping people like me, I never hear any disgruntled comments about the rest of our federal tax spending. We are just shuffling money from one area to another, from healthcare to Military and Defense. And state taxes? How dare we pay for those roads that we never drive on or the schools that our children don’t go to? America is not free, is it? 


Guys, only 28% of our taxes go towards healthcare. No one bitches about where the other 62% goes. Why is that? Do we need to educate ourselves more?


We are very privileged and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to bitch about getting the wrong Starbucks order, don’t get me wrong. I know it could be worse. However, I know it could be better. 


Almost 60 countries Have Universal Healthcare and some have mandated this since the early 1900s. Virtually all of Europe, included. The United States refuses to get on board. We can’t get it right in 4-8 years. It takes time… flipping from red to blue, hot to cold every decade is a disaster when we can look at several dozens other countries that have been doing it for decades. And no, don’t tell me I need to leave my country. My point is that there are answers out there but we have no humility and are drowning in pride and so divided that we would rather turn one half of our own country into a third world status than to pay a couple bucks a week in taxes for healthcare. 

Oh, but we will gladly pay it for military. Just not for the environment though. Seriously, all this is, is taking a budget and moving it somewhere else and that is screwing over your neighbor. New York was known as the melting pot. Now we just want corn dogs and apple pie.


Here in America, we feel that we work hard and must earn our right to be medically treated, granted we have a trust fund and come from wealth or were gifted with healthy DNA. Well, guess what? I work my ass off. I have never only had just one job. I do not come from a wealthy family and I was born with a rare disease. I have even gone to work in severe debilitating pain or irregular heart rhythms and just smiled and pulled through because I have a family to feed and a roof to keep over our heads. I have gone to work instead of the ER because I needed the money. I sometimes would spend days recovering from this… Shutting down my phone and crawling into bed, ordering pizza for the kids and hoping that I wake up the next day. Everytime I would get ahead I would get knocked back down and have to start over, scraping by. 

If I had my health, I would be rich from how damn hard I work and my infinite ambition. I don’t qualify for health insurance and I usually don’t qualify for Medicaid. Seldomly I get access to Medicaid and get the luxury of medical coverage for about 6 months but it is never enough time. 

I am what America hates. Your tax dollars paid for my open heart surgery. I digust you. This year, you win. Your votes will take away my coverage. And when that happens, I hope that you think about my children and the mother that you will take away from them so that you can afford a sweet new car with heated leather seats and Bluetooth and more military whatever. 


I have had some very close calls earlier this year and was often dismissed because I looked healthy. I have spent 32 years of my life looking for answers on my own while being medically neglected, year after year. Even recently, I had my Tilt Table Test and wore my usual light makeup and rosy blush. It is my daily routine. If I don’t cover my fatigued eyes and pale skin then I will be asked if I am sick or tired all day long. The nurse said I looked great and that likely this test would be a breeze for me. “She still has color,” he said seconds before my blood pressure bottomed out and my heart rate plummeted and I felt nauseous and horrible, to say the least. Maybe it’s Maybelline, because suddenly I was head down and being pumped with fluids. Shorty after, I went into hypoperfusion. I was stabilized quickly but despite how horrible I felt, I was relieved to have it all on paper and proof! Each and every ER visit, ambulance ride and hospital stay, dozens in The beginning of the year, my symptoms were dismissed as anxiety and I was prescribed Xanax and Valium and sent home to die because our healthcare is capitalism at it’s finest. It is corupt and unfair because we built it this way and refuse to do anything about it. We are blind. Wake up! For most, they are not poor enough for assisted coverage but not comfortable enough to swing the extra bill for insurance on their own. It is a lose-lose situation. Maybe heart attack statistics would go down if we weren’t stressing about how to afford a doctors visit! 

Despite my 2011 open heart surgery scar and four cardiac ablations, I still was not taken seriously. Hypoperfusion, or Circulatory Shock,  was diagnosed by my neurologist after my clear brain MRI and EEG of my brain waves rules out seizures and any neurological disorders, as well as my recent positive Tilt Table Test, pointing back to cardiac. I went through so many years of tests and no answers but refused to believe that this was anxiety. I was the happiest I had ever been. Finally some progress but time is running out until coverage will end. Life feels like quicksand. 




At one point, I was diagnosed with Acid Reflux, which I do not have and was given medication for that. I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder and given drugs for that. I do not have anxiety. I refuse to take those drugs. Before ruling out seizures, I had debilitating migraines with auras and was given seizure medication. Turns out that all I had to do was cut out preservatives and dairy and my migraines went away. I can’t help but wonder how many people are sent home drugged up to die with a misdiagnosis. How many “young and healthy” looking women were sent home with a new drug dependency while they really just had a deficiency that could have been managed? 



I have children, a business or two, a fiancé and I work very hard every chance I get, when my body allows it. Just because I look fine, does not mean that I don’t feel like shit and have chronic debilitating symptoms. I would be devastated to give up this fight and be home in bed all day, every day. Sometimes I feel like I should be but I have some much to live for and want to see as much of the world as possible,  even if each step hurts and I have to stop often. I will get back up and keep trekking. I am not giving up. 


Fortunately, my patience fizzled and I became an advocate for myself and finally made progress in a diagnosis to get proper management and treatment. My next step is a pacemaker on June 8th but there still needs to be an answer as to what the underlying issue could be. Currently, I am waiting on results for Elhers Danlos Syndrome and Marfan. I recently requested ANA blood work and tested positive, meaning I have one of 120 autoimmune diseases. 


My goal is to help raise awareness to doctors and medical staff about rare diseases and that when you hear hooves, sometimes it could be a zebra. I want to inspire others to get healthy and educate themselves on nutrition and what our bodies need to thrive and learn how to not walk away from doctors without answers. 


I hope that I can still fight this battle or open someone’s eyes to how wrong this government is. I just want to live. I am not ready to go. Please consider people like me before you strip what is left of our medical coverage. Please think abouty soon to be husband and my three children before you ban me from healthcare equality. I am never going to give up but I may die trying. 

If you still feel like reading, I urge you to read Marie Claire’s publication on women’s healthcare.