Round and round, up and down. I seem to be moving along in my life but never getting anywhere! When I look a bit closer I am travelling on a merry go round – round and round, up and down, a never ending circle that just doesn’t reach my final destination. Others around me are on the travelator – the kind that you get in the airports or new supermarkets – and seem able to see their destination and even to jump on and off en route.
But my journey continues round and round, up and down as the ride continues relentlessly day in and day out. When I look down I realise that I am not even seated on a brightly coloured galloping horse decorated in golds and silvers like the others accompanying me – yes there are others who seem to be at a stage in their journeys of being on a hamster wheel, unable to reach a destination. Instead I am seated on a zebra – a stunning animal admittedly, and not so dissimilar to the horses around it in shape and size. He has a mane, a tail, hooves and he can gallop at great speed. To hear him coming you might mistake my trusty steed for a horse – but he is not, he has stripes and he is a zebra.
My companion on my life journey is different and I am unable to jump off the merry go round that he is firmly bolted to. I raise my hand at fellow travellers passing by and the others joining me on my ride….every so often another zebra joins us and we continue our journey together. Up and down, round and round.
This is part of Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness – pop over to her site, read the rules, take the prompt “Round” and start writing….then link up!
Why the Zebra?
The Zebra has been adopted by the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome community as traditionally medical student have been taught throughout training that “when you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras” – think of the obvious conditions first, rather than the exotic and rare. Thus in medical circles, the term “zebra” is used to describe a rare disease or condition and we EDSers are referred to as zebras!
OK not quite a film star! I might have mislead you slightly in the title, but I hope it got your attention. Hollywood is not calling any day soon, and I don’t think the beautiful girl is destined for a career directing or behind the camera, but we did laugh whilst doing our bit for “We Are Zebra Strong”! I tried very hard to involve the younger zebras from the PainPals house, but when I suggested appearing in front of the camera the response was along the lines of “in your dreams”!
We are nearing the end of Ehlers Danlos Awareness month – and awareness month for many other chronic illnesses – but for those of us living with these bedfellows the awareness is a daily reality, not just a month rolling around annually.
Chronically Jenni has once again put together some videos sharing lives of fellow zebras – in fact she had so much material this year that she made 5 Youtube features. If you watch closely you might find yours truly in the mix!
Please take a look – bookmark for later – share with friends and family. Just getting the name out there raises awareness for us! Details of fellow zebras can be found on Jenni’s channel.
Find Jenni here:
Thank you for watching!
OBSERVE our stripes – we are rare – we are zebras – we have a genetic connective tissue disorder – we have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome!
This challenge has been started by Tayler @strugglinsmol on Twitter and she would very much like all zebras to take the challenge and help spread awareness!! Please share, tweet and join our #FragilebutUnbreakable challenge!
- Hypermobile EDS
- Officially in 2012 aged 43, unofficially aged 20 as a student nurse orthopaedic surgeon told me I had Marfans syndrome (another connective tissue disorder), also hypermobility & Mum’s and my long limbs/fingers noticed by a GP when aged 7
- POTS, migraine, Raynauds, difficulty regulating body temp, gut motility probs/gastroparesis, chronic back pain & cauda equina syndrome.
- Very….slightly less so now than as a teen!
- Wheelchairs, walking sticks, crutches, motability car
- Spinal cord stimulator implant, heat, drugs, more heat, cushions & stretching, yet more heat
- Mainly all back surgeries – laminectomy, pedicle screw fusion, redo of fusion with extension, spinal cord stimulator implant, x3 c/sections, minor shoulder & knee exploratory
- For surgeries, pain management, gut management
- Normal now is constant back and leg pain due to nerve root damage – managed with spinal cord stimulator, limited mobility, worst POTS symptoms in the morning after breakfast, at least one dislocation per day and generalised background pain, poor stamina, nausea & slow gut, unable to feel when bladder is full
- Flares vary – generally pain is far less predictable & out of control, brain fog/memory problems, fatigue, POTS flare when unable to even sit up without fainting, blood pooling in hands and legs, breathlessness, lack of concentration, visual and smell disturbance (migraine)
- Fab GP, Pain specialists, Cardiologist, Rheumatologist, Orthopaedic surgeon, Gastroenterologist, Urologist……
- In our local small supermarket with hubby – I had walked with a Smart crutch, but as we got to the checkout those familiar POTSy feelings came and I was unable to sit down fast enough. Next thing I knew I was coming round on the floor, shoulder dislocated as arm stuck in my crutch, with a very nice young man at my side rushing for water…..hubby? Well having checked I was safe on the floor, he carried on paying for the shopping telling the bemused cashier “Oh, don’t worry she does this all the time”!!! Her face was a picture.
- This has to go to be shared by 2 physios, 20 odd years apart…..the first told me as a 21 year old student nurse that “You nurses are all the same. It is in your head”…..despite my footdrop, no reflexes, and double incontinence – corda equina syndrome!!! Following my second spinal fusion and discovering I had nerve root damage & thus permanent pain, my rehab physio decided she would be able to “cure” me. During my second visit she told me that I needed to work harder to get some movement into my lower spine…..erm, I don’t think so! There are enough screws and filler in there to hold up a kitchen cupboard – IT ISN’T SUPPOSED TO MOVE, WOMAN! We agreed to part company.
- I have been so lucky – but my pain specialist at St Thomas’s actually believed me and has made life bearable AND my cardiologist who also believed me and knew about EDS & POTS (I was so convinced my tilt table wouldn’t show anything)
I will save you from more wittering today and publish the second half later this week!
#FragileButUnbreakable #EhlersDanlosAwarenessMonth #ZebraStrong
Not even doing the full bend here – don’t do this at home!
I warned you yesterday that I will be going totally overboard with the EDS awareness posts and zebra pictures this month.
To kick us off here is a quick explanation of “Why the Zebra?”
Medical students/junior doctors have always traditionally been taught to look for the simplest explanation when diagnosing a patient in order to prevent misdiagnosis of rare conditions. If it looks like a horse and it sounds like a horse……if you hear hooves, think horse…..etc!
In medicine the term zebra is used to describe a rare disease/illness/condition, but often it can feel that medics forget that whilst rare, zebras do exist and can struggle to get a diagnosis and treatment. This is frequently the case for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome patients, and so we have become known as medical zebras. This has been adopted by the worldwide community now as the identity for EDS and through the use of social media helps to unite us.
Tomorrow I go back to St Thomas’ hospital, London to the Pain clinic and it struck me that this is where my new life as a blogger began. Three years ago I was first seen in the Pain clinic for the start of physical and psychological interviews to assess my suitability for a spinal cord stimulator trial. Just over two years ago I became the recipient of an implant. So much has changed in this time.
The last time that I was seen – approx 20 months ago – I walked into the clinic and was able to report that the scs had made a huge difference to my pain but we made a decision not to try to link it in to my neuropathic bladder damage. Tomorrow the clinical nurse specialists might be surprised to see me enter in my wheelchair, albeit a smart burgundy number, rather than on my sparkly walking stick. They might be shocked to learn that my autonomic nervous system has become increasingly worse since the implant onto my spinal cord – merely coincidence, I couldn’t really say – causing me to regularly have severe dizzy spells, faints and difficulty controlling my body temperature. I did dislocate several joints whilst I was on the residential 2 week pain course so this wouldn’t be new, but the fact that my right shoulder is out of place more than it is in and the faints generally knock a few body parts out of alignment might raise eyebrows.
All in all I think we can safely conclude that the body is behaving more like that of an eighty something, rather than a forty something (no, my own kids….I have not yet hit half a century!). So it feels like time for a tune up……last week it was the cardiologist – heart still ticking, although the pipework could be in better nick! Saggy vessels were the delicate descriptors for the network carrying the blood of yours truly. Yesterday it was the turn of a new consultant – the upper gastro intestinal – to cast an eye upon this beauty. She deemed a camera necessary to check out the fuel pipes and investigate the pains and possible paralysis of the stomach. Something to look forward to. Next week there is a trip to the bone man – yes Mr Orthopaedic Shoulder Specialist is going to look at the dodgy joints, check the scan which will show a classic dislocation and hopefully come up with a solution to glue the arm permanently in place and all with minimum pain. I think there may be a visit to the rheumatologist on the cards sometime soon, but don’t want to be greedy.
So tomorrow I hope that I can have a tune up – maybe the frequency and bandwave of the stimulation increased and widened to cover my right hip and leg too. At the moment it covers the chronic, constant nerve pain in my back, left leg and foot – the result of nerve root damage in the lumbar spine. The pain in my hips is different and is caused by a mix of arthritis, recurrent dislocations and stretched ligaments/soft tissue. But the whole host of chronic pain types are all as a result of my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, literally a pain in the neck that has gradually overtaken life, but no use whinging as my kids remind me daily! So when the nurses express surprise to see me so altered, it won’t be because the scs isn’t working – would I have it done again? In a heartbeat as it has given me a way to manage some of the pain.
But I am hoping that with their little box of tricks, that looks very like a mechanics electronics box for tuning a modern car, the nurse might be able to switch on a couple more electrodes, alter the band width, tune in some good music and drown out some of this other bl**dy pain. They might not be able to get rid of the rust, but will report back when I am wired for sound!
… or at least I hope it will. Yesterday, brought some very exciting news that my last post had been featured on The Mighty – the online disability magazine. Cue several hours of not sleeping because I was excitedly clapping on twitter about this, then rich tea biscuits. Because, well, Twitter. Today, continues in this […]
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