It’s that time again! (EDS Awareness Month)

Hello lovelies, in case you didn’t know because you live under a rock and you like it down there, May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS) Awareness Month! Now you know. My hope is to make several (possibilities range from 1-30) posts about various aspects of how EDS effects my life and things that I experience that I might not always talk about or might not always be visible (whooooooo!). But since this is the first post I am going to do a brief re-overview of what EDS is (to see last year’s post for more detail click here). I am not going to touch much on the new classifications/criteria mostly because I don’t quite understand it myself (sorry guys). Links will be throughout for more enticing information!!

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes?

       Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS) is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders that effect your body’s ability to produce strong collagen. Collagen is essentially the glue that holds your body together and is the most abundant protein in the body. With EDS, your collagen is weak or faulty. There are different types of collagen and each type forms certain types of tissue, bone, organ, muscle, and joint. The different types of EDS are due to mutations on different types of collagen (mostly joints vs mostly vasculature etc). That being said, if you have Vascular EDS you can still have hypermobility issues, it can get very complicated. EDS is a systemic disorder that is much more than just being bendy! Most types of EDS are rare, but hEDS/hypermobility EDS/type 3 is NOT rare and current estimates place its prevalence at around 1 in every 250. That being said, EDS is rarely diagnosed and rarely understood even in many medical circles. Every case of EDS is different, even when in families which can make it hard to diagnose. As my cardiologist says, “if you can’t connect the issues, think connective tissues”!

How is your life with EDS different than your “typical” peers?

        Probably the major ones would be coping with chronic severe pain, having less energy, and having the schedule of an 80 year old (hospital visits, PT, OT, medications galore, pharmacy trips, naps). When I try and explain it to others some go with the “remember that time you got a bad case of the stomach flu, how you felt? yeah it is like that but we spoonies don’t get better” but I don’t really like that. It does a pretty good job on the comprehension level but it further separates us and points out our differences rather than our similarities. I, too, procrastinate on my schoolwork with Netflix. I, too, laugh at memes. I, too, want to graduate from college and have a job. I am not saying we have to ignore our differences but it can be hard enough to fit in when many of your peer groups activities are out of reach for you (sometimes literally haha). I also don’t talk a lot about my pain with others because I don’t want pity. My illnesses are a part of me but they do not define me.

If they discovered a cure tomorrow would you take it?

      This one is hard to explain but probably not. EDS sucks but it is as much a part of me as having red hair is or speaking a bunch of languages. It has shaped me and my direction and made me tough as nails. That being said, if someone came to me with a viable pain medication we might have a different conversation.
I really do hope to post more later…stay tuned!

Life Hacks: Spoonie Edition

   A friend of mine suggested I write a post about this and I live to please but really not sure how many good ones I can come up with. Eh, should be fun. Life hacks and good products for spoonies in no particular order:

  1. Invest in non-bathing bathing supplies
  • dry shampoo: greasy hair is gross, showering is an olympic sport sometimes and this stuff is the bomb.com. I recommend this brand. Also super great if you’re in the hospital and don’t want to wrap IVs etc
  • wipes: same purpose but for the rest of your body. Also nice to get ones with aloe so you don’t become all dried up. I like these.

2. Keep a to go back stocked in your room/car in case of apocalypse or other unexpected events.

basically if you don’t look like this you
aren’t doing it right
  • change of clothes with warm layered option (don’t forget extra underwear)
  • extra day of meds
  • snack if you eat food
  • flashlight
  • KT tape and medical tape
  • eye mask for sleeping/blocking light
  • wipes
  • long phone charging cord or cord with power bank thingy (can never reach outlets in ERs)
  • carabiners, duct tape and zip ties (1000 uses)
  • water
  • first aid kit

3. Glass water bottles

  • this is kind of a weird one but especially for POTSies, who basically need to constantly drink water to survive, this is a good one
  • why: easier to clean, better for putting ice in, won’t give you cancer or whatever BPA does to you, durable, taste better
  • also recommend getting one with a straw, easier to sip if not upright, and don’t spill as much if you’re a spazz
  • This is the one I have an LOVE! I’ve dropped it hundreds of times and the straw doesn’t require a lot of mouth strength to drink out of (#edsprobs)

4. PillPack

  • Pillpack is a mail order pharmacy that pre sorts and packages all your medications and supplements and ships them directly to you. I have been using them for about a year now and love it!
  • they call your docs for refills for you
  • they accept most major insurance companies
  • pay the same copays as you would for CVS, Walgreens, Safeway etc and that is it
  • great customer support and online portal
  • billing options for credit card automatic/not, FSA/HSA etc
  • medication remind app
  • don’t have to spend time sorting meds (or wrongfully doing so)
  • they do my supplements as well as RX


5. Medical alert bracelets/information

    • I have spent many years searching for the right type and run into the same dilemma often: classic medical alert (chain and metal with star of life) is recognized but limiting due to allergies, lack of engraving space, or constant changing information vs classier ID or EMR (electronic record) system might not be recognized by EMS.
      • NOTE: after many talks with EMS friends countless have said they’re only trained to look at wrists for IDs
    • I have implemented a somewhat overkill system but I think its finally working:

    • I use the MyID system for my EMR/bracelet/wallet card. It can be accessed by anyone with a QR reader, smartphone, computer, or phone. It is paired with an app/website portal that can be updated whenever and offers options to upload files, notify emergency contacts, write explanations of your rare and weird medical conditions and much more. I have found that of all the solutions for bracelets I have tried (flashdrive, traditional, wallet card, necklace), this works best. I also have a MyID wallet card in my wallet, and stickers on my phone case and school ID (like I said, overkill is best)
      • I have this one personalized and on the front is has
        “Medical Alert/ Julie LASTNAME/ “see back ICE for info”
      • Back has the access info, QR code, ID and PIN
    • I also have 3 silicone wristbands that give quick information on the same wrist. I do this because those are important for quick access, they draw attention to the other bracelet, and they paint the picture that I have multiple issues and they should definitely look at my EMR
      • “MAST CELL DISEASE/ I CARRY AN EPI PEN”
      • “LONG QT SYNDROME/ SADS AWARENESS”
      • “MEDICAL ALERT/ EHLERS-DANLOS SYNDROME”
    • BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! At school, I also have a folder taped in plain sight on my dresser next to my bed labelled “EMERGENCY INFO” (useful for EMS, often gets passed to nurses too)
      • In it I have a copy of my
        • MYID info
        • drivers license
        • insurance card
        • any wishes in regards to my care
        • communication instructions (since if EMS are there I often can’t communicate well verbally

6. Mobility devices ≠ giving up ≠ bad

  • I started off using a cane, which I got from a drugstore, standing in line behind an 80 something year old man buying a cane and wanted to qualify my purchase with something like: “its a birthday present for my grandma…?”. It was one of the first times my disability became frequently visible and took a while before I got used to people’s questions, judgements, and my own stigma associated with it. But the cane wasn’t good for me so I moved to forearm smart crutches which people just assumed I had sprained my ankle or something and left me alone. I hobbled on those for about a year before my shoulders gave out. Then I got my rollator which I like too, but is still hard on my body. For me, transitioning to being a part-time wheelchair user was not very hard. It gave me more independence, less pain, got me places faster, and allowed me more options for bad days. It isn’t all magical though, people still judge or make comments, and there are still plenty of times I would rather just be able to walk or not have to worry about accessibility.
  • Most important lesson I learned in that journey was that I needed to do what I needed for my body, lifestyle, and pain levels. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t care what people think or that I’m somehow above it all, but for me the independence and assistance my chair allows me if definitely worth it.

I’m invisible… You can’t see me!

       Lol but actually in case you couldn’t tell by the cheeseball title, I plan to ramble on about invisible disabilities because it’s invisible disabilities week! It’s pretty self explanatory but an invisible disability is any disability that can not be seen and has no major visual manifestations. Examples include: diabetes, depression, EDS, lupus, schizophrenia, anxiety, Lyme etc. Some examples of visible disabilities might include: Down Syndrome, spinal cord injury, amputation, blindness, or muscular dystrophy.

 

It can be hard feeling so sick on the inside and looking “fine” on the outside. You also have to deal with people challenging your right to accessible parking spaces, store scooters, and even medical care. Since there is usually no way to tell the difference between someone with an invisible disability (ID) and a faker, I usually go with,”be kind, everyone you know is fighting their own battle”. One in every 5 Americans has a disability and many disabilities are invisible. Many of us get comments that we are faking being sick, when in reality, most of the time we are faking being well. We put on a smile and continue on with our lives despite the lack of energy, the intense pain, and feelings of hopelessness. To those of you who are close to me, you have seen me with my guard down, but for others you may have no idea I am in pain every day of my life. I don’t mention this for pity or to complain but more so in attempts to open up a dialogue, even if just an internal one. I want take this post and this week to spread awareness, compassion, and answer people’s questions if they have them. The love and support that y’all have given in various ways and modes truly amazes me.

Since I kinda missed EDS awareness in May except a blog post, I’m going to try and make an ID/EDS etc awareness video… Eventually. If I do, I will post the link here.

WARNING: Might just be one long rant…

        Okay… so I wanted to touch on a bunch of different things that don’t have another home. I’m feeling very brain foggy/disorganized so if none of this makes sense… then it’ll probably at least be entertaining.
#1: How long it takes to get anything done in the medical world
Let me preface this with I ABSOLUTELY know this is not all on the medical professionals. There’s shit with insurance, documentation guidelines, hospital rules and regulations, and just overweighted caseload that influence this issue. But seriously, it gets ridiculous.
Some examples:

  • I met with a new GI July 22nd. He seemed on top of his game, familiar with my conditions, and agreed that action needs to be taken to get by nutrition etc back on track. He had lots of medical history, former testing, current summary… everything he needed. He ordered a SmartPill test (camera pill you swallow and it takes pictures and does testing as it goes through your GI tract… pretty cool) and an upper and lower scope (sticking cameras up your arse and down your throat…yum). I had already had a gastric emptying test to diagnose gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), but we had no idea the motility of my intestines or if they absorb any of the nutrients. Fast forward 4 weeks until my scheduled SmartPill test swallow. I had to go off all GI meds for a week (which means not only more of the daily yuck but near constant acid coming up my throat), get a ride to the hospital, fast beforehand, take off work etc etc. I get there and they’re (nurses) doing the pre-procedure checklist. They get to question #3 “do you have any implanted devices?”… “yes… but the doc knows about it… we talked about it”  “Let me give him a call”  *comes back 10 minutes later* “I’m sorry, the implant disqualifies you from doing this test, I have to cancel it… the doctor will give you a call (lol jk)”. Okay, so waste of time. I messaged my doc later (shock and awe… he never called) and asked if we could schedule the only other test one can do to get the same data as the SmartPill. His response: we will talk about it next appointment. So you’re thinking aight… that’s okay. Wrong. Not only is his first available not until mid-November, but his office won’t schedule any follow-up appointment until after I complete, and get the results back from the scope scheduled for September 14. So basically I’m SOL until at least December timeframe…. assuming that visit won’t just mean going over EGD results and him ordering the same test I asked him about months earlier. Don’t worry guys…it’s only nutrition.
  • It took my PT 3 weeks to write and sign a sentence saying “patient needs new custom wheelchair back to maintain posture and for support”.
  • It has taken my doc 5+ weeks (he was on vacation for one but still) to write and sign a prescription, note, and LOMN saying “patient needs custom bilateral AFOS”.
  • I’ve been waiting for records from one doctor for 13 months despite several verbal and written reminders to him and his staff.
#2: My two cents on the Epipen bull:
          As someone who is literally allergic to life (sunlight, heat, cold, stress, talking, meds etc) and must always have Epi on my person and has unfortunately had many uses of the autoinjectors I am pissed. But not just by Mylan (jerk face mcugly butts) jacking up the price of Epipens (500%), but the fact that I have multiple friends who have to make the choice between life-saving medicine, therapy, and treatments and feeding themselves or their kids.
And we aren’t even talking about those without insurance. Most of my friends are lucky enough to have some form of health insurance (even if its crappy) and are still drowning in bills and medical debt. There is not a single day that there isn’t a medical bill arriving at my house and that is just ERs, hospitals, and doctor’s bills. Plus medicine, devices, PT, testing, surgery, and prolotherapy (not covered by any insurance as it is “experimental”). I have been incredibly blessed with kick-ass insurance (although still a PITA) and to be able to stay afloat in the bills. Despite all kinds of preventative and prophylactic treatments, there is still only so much you can do to keep ahead of things and emergencies still happen. Epipens also only are viable for a year. They come in a 2 pack but most need more to keep one at school, one in the car, and one on your person. For most, it is now cheaper to go to the ER for anaphylaxis treatment than to use their Epipens. Honestly, all I got is “fuck you Mylan”. No excuses, epinephrine is cheap, autoinjectors are relatively cheap. Not to mention their tax evasion strategies.
#3: Depression
Since the people who 1) even read this blog and 2) read all the way til now and aren’t asleep from boredom are probably the people who care, I saved this one for last. As some of you have noticed, I’ve been dipping into another depressive phase. Depression and me are buddies now so it’s cool. It is also normal and a big part of chronic illness so don’t go panic on me. So don’t be alarmed if I’m a) super clingy and annoying or b) super avoidant and grumpy gills … that’s kinda just how it goes. See previous post RE: things you can do to help.
Aight. That’s all for now….

But You Are So Young…

          But you are so young… words that pierce a hole right through my sternum. Yes, I am young but unfortunately chronic illnesses don’t ask for ID. Yes, I am young but I know kids, young adults, adults, and seniors with chronic illnesses. Nobody tells a diabetic kid they can’t be sick because they’re too young! Yet we (spoonies of various illnesses) get it all the time. My passport and birth certificate concur that I am 21. I am young but anyone who has heard the snaps and cracks of putting my joints back in place before I get out of bed each morning would swear that I am 80. I am young but take more medication and supplements than my grandparents. I am young but I wake up each morning to face a monster that knows my name, my fears, and my limits. I am young but my calendar is that of a retiree: volunteering with doctors appointments and physical therapy to fill in the gaps. I am young but I have friends my age and younger fighting for their lives and few that lost their battle already. I may not look sick, or I may, but I feel sick. I feel these disease nestle into every nook and cranny of my body. I put on a smile to mask the pain and refuse to slow down for the fear that I will be eaten whole by the flames. As Plato said, “be kind, everyone you know is fighting a hard battle”. While many of these comments aren’t said with ill intent, they can be destructive to someone not quite back up on their feet. I suggest going with a complement not related to pain, illness, or weight for the general population. My heart broke the other day when a fellow friend with gastroparesis (stomach paralysis) told me (after losing a lot of weight do to sickness and malnourishment) her mom had told her she looks better “lighter” after she had just been talking to her mom about how she’s really struggling with her GP. Pro-tip: Try crawling around in our bodies in your mind. If you were in constant pain and feeling defeated, would you want someone to tell you “you don’t look sick!”? Even if with good intentions the answer would probably be no. You can always ask instead how we are doing or if we have seen any good movies recently (chances are if it is a spoonie the answer is YES…we watch a lot of Netflix… 😉 ).

Harper Lee

 

May is EDS Awareness Month

Alright, it would be silly if I didn’t post something EDS Awareness related because it is awareness month so here goes.
Here are some FAQ about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

    • What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)?
      • EDS is a group of genetic connective tissue disorders (CTD) that affect your bodies ability to produce collagen. Collagen is a protein in connective tissues that acts as a glue for your body. People with EDS produce weak, faulty collagen which affects our joints, organs, blood vessels, ligaments, tendons, you get the jist. There are different subtypes based on which type of collagen the mutation is on. All types share joint laxity, easy bruising, and soft skin. There are currently six different types of EDS (newly revised): Classical, Hypermobility, Vascular, Kyphoscoliosis, Arthrochalasia, Dermatosparaxis, and Other. It is possible to have crossover, AKA more than one type (lucky duck…).
    • How is EDS diagnosed?
    • Excellent question self, EDS is a clinical diagnosis that can be confirmed with genetic testing in all but the hypermobility type. The clinical diagnosis comes in two components: the Beighton Score (asses joint hypermobility), and the newer Brighton score. (I know, it’s stupidly similar names)
BRIGHTON CRITERIA
BEIGHTON SCORE (out of 9)
    • Is there a cure?
      • Major womp here. Not yet. But, in Baltimore they started the first EVER EDS Clinic and Research Center out of GBMC!
    • What are some conditions that are comorbid (related to and commonly occur together) with EDS ?

    • The zebra is the mascot for rare diseases based off an old medical saying from the 1940’s Dr. Theodore Woodward, “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras“. This saying is used to remind medical students that it is often not a rare diagnosis. The problem is that medical zebras do exist, and it can be hard to remember that at times. The average time from start of symptoms to correct EDS diagnosis is 8-15 years.
Some Facts About EDS!

  1. 50% of EDSers can touch their tongue to their nose!
  2. EDS is currently estimated to effect 1 in every 5000 births world wide.
  3. It is likely that most contortionist have EDS or another connective tissue disorder.
  4. Professor Rodney Grahame, a British Rheumatologist in the field, says, “no other disease in the history of modern medicine, has been neglected in such as way as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
  5. Characteristics of EDS were first described in 400 BC by Hippocrates, but the syndrome was named after Edvard Ehlers of Denmark in 1901 and Henri-Alexandre Danlos of France in 1908.
  6. EDS is considered an invisible illness, even though it can have visible manifestations (extreme bruising, atrophic scarring, joint hypermobility, etc).
  7. Due to the lack of resources, research, and awareness there is no cure, few treatment options and is largely based on palliative care.
  8. Actress Cherylee Houston has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
  9. Some breeds of cats, dogs, and horses can have EDS.
  10. Gary “Stretch” Turner, the man with the world’s stretchiest skin has EDS. (likely did many contortionists and circus performers)
Congrats! That’s all for today folks, feel free to comment if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them!
Jkjk…I hope 🙂

 

The EDS Bible

Finally it’s back in stock! This book is really the EDS Bible. It is written by Dr. Brad Tinkle who is largely considered one of the fathers of EDS and is very well respected in the EDS community.

http://www.amazon.com/Hypermobility-Handbook–Management-Ehlers-Danlos-Syndrome/dp/098257715X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458184415&sr=8-1&keywords=joint+hypermobility+handbook

I have been waiting for months for the book to come back in stock (no idea why) and it is finally here! I did my first breeze through it and it looks amazing. It not only details EDS, the many conditions that are comorbid (come along with), and research but also treatment plans, PT options, medication and supplement suggestions and much more! Highly recommend for EDSers and caregivers as well as medical persons who want to learn more about EDS. I will post again later once I have read more.