The Chips Under the Bed

They should be alright after about a week in the heat, right?  Ugh.

Usually when “the bus driver” and I come home from a camping trip, we empty the travel trailer of all food that very night.  Of course it may be 3 in the morning but it all comes out nonetheless.  Not this time.  This time was very different.  The unopened bags of chips are still in the storage compartment underneath the bed and we have been home for SIX DAYS!  Gratefully the ants on the driveway have not found them yet!

I really don’t know where to begin to tell the story of our attempt to bring a family member here from out of State to visit, to maybe live with us.  This was a huge undertaking for all three of us:  a journey that began over 6 months ago that was actually cancelled the first time around.  Perhaps it will be best to unpack the situation in a few blog posts over time as I begin to recover from what was largely a failure.  But there is good news:  my Aunt is healthier, stronger, more mentally sharp, conversant, happier, and overall functioning significantly better than when my hubby, Steve, and I picked her up in Florida 8 days ago.  As for me, not so much.

Last night was one of the most horrific scenes of recent memory.  After a total of 12 hours finally getting some errands done with a late night Doctor appointment too, I had the most frightening convulsive episode imaginable.  My threshold of reactivity had been plummeting with each passing day that my Aunt was travelling or living with us.  We had taken extreme mold avoidance procedures and she was wearing all new clothing that I had specially prepared for her.  Her belongings from Florida were cleaned and secured in plastic storage bins in our garage; only doubly-freezer-bagged supplements and medication were in the house in a remote closet.  She lived in an inadequately  maintained and moldy living environment laden with the fragrances that most women like.  We took extreme measures with her stuff but never considered the detoxing of her body to be the toxin most noxious to me; her skin scent reflected several different problems beyond hygiene and no amount of bathing or washing of linens/clothing was helping me fast enough.  I crashed fast.  She, on the other hand, (in our very clean and climate-controlled home with exceedingly healthy meals, rest, and loved ones nearby) quickly regained skills and energies she had lost in the past year.

I was unpacking groceries from our local Meier when an odd feeling hit me.  The warning signs that I learned to recognize in the past when at my sickest with this complex/biotoxin illness had changed.  The odd symptoms ramped up so quickly into involuntary full-body shaking episodes that I barely had a time to get to a safe position to prevent injury.  These kinds of episodes are very dangerous!  So I was standing in front of a counter filled with plastic bags of groceries when my eyes drew in to close and all I could do was kind of lean-and-cling to the edge of the refrigerator as the convulsions began.  They went on and on for at least 20 minutes until my husband would discover me and carry me to the bedroom.  The repetitive oscillations injured my spine from one end to the other.  I could not move my body and was terrified of falling.  Trying to relieve the cramp in my right calf triggered a rebound, a worsening of the episode.  I just held on . . .

Things were no better once lying down.  The involuntary shaking traumatized my neck and my body temperature began to drop.  I could not speak when I needed to and breathing was difficult.  Time either stood still or passed along quickly, I have no idea which one.  I couldn’t even cry out my angst until much later.  Then the visual anomalies began of swirling shadowy circles on the ceiling of our bedroom.  Steve left and returned a couple of times as he tried to help figure out just what caused this and more importantly, what to do to make it stop.  He sniffed my clothing and found them to be musty.  That discovery pointed to my hours trying to get special requests for everyone at the grocery store — a water-damaged building that was problematic for me before their remodeling.  I guess it is still a problem!  My Beloved removed my soiled clothing and the amplitude of the shakes lessened.  But by then the weird, demonic-like writhing and vocalizations had already begun.  It is terrifying to endure this hell.  I prayed for the Lord to take me.  I searched for the white lights but did not find any.  Three hours went by before I could function again . . . what was left of me, that is.

Repeated biotoxin exposures had lowered my threshold of reactivity.  I was at the lowest point, last night, after doing significantly better these past 5 months.  Looking back it all makes sense:  cumulative exposures began when helping my Aunt for five hours on each of two days to do laundry and then pack for this trip in her moldy State of Florida.  It rains there every day now and she has had water damage in her condo several times without remediation.  I wore a charcoal mask during our time there but the conditions were still unbearable.  (Even Steve agreed and had some symptoms.)  Have you ever had to wear a mask in 90 degree heat and humidity while doing physical and emotionally exhausting work?  I had a stress rash on my chest, at least 12 irritated mosquito bites, soreness from dental adjustments from my Craniomandibular Specialist in town, and to deal with a cognitively impaired and severely anxious family member who still struggles in facing her brain disease.  The process was exceedingly painful, frustrating, exhausting.

In another post I will outline the procedures that we used to attempt to implement extreme mold avoidance to be able to care for a family member in crisis.  We simply could not leave her in Florida any longer.  For today, I am grateful that I did survive last night because I got to see a miracle in action.  No, it’s not only the organic lime corn chips that are alright tonight.  I am completely exhausted yet stable and have not had any episodes since she left our home around 10:00 p.m. (and I cleaned, tossed bed linens and other things out of course).  This is the first time I have been stable in 4 nights.  The miracle is that when I was able to get out of bed at 5:00 p.m., my Aunt’s friend from Michigan had arrived and was sitting with her on our patio outside.  Well hello Dean!  He was offering to drive her back home to Florida.  While I disagree with many aspects of this arrangement, I was in no position to decline a solution that could help stabilize me:  her now former caregiver in crisis.  She left with him after some dinner, some packing, some very sad goodbyes.  Our visit wasn’t supposed to end this way!

Aunt Lori with Dean at Dinner 7.12.18

Looks like the chips and me are going to be fine in a little while (as the bags are still out there in the Camplite in the driveway).  Steve is grateful for the possibility of a full night of sleep.  We shall recover.  I am grieved that things didn’t work out with my family member and for the torture I had to endure trying to care for her.  I am glad that we could give her the gift of renewed health; that I discovered where I am at with this ongoing illness; and that our Lord is there to carry us, to act, to make His presence known no matter how hot things get in our lives.  Please join me in praying for my Aunt.  Dean won’t be staying with her very long and . . . I had to let her go from our care.

JJ

Move freely, heal well my dear

 

dancing

The importance of moving

Cannot be understated

The body not the soul,

One’s frame sans the stuff.

Blood flows, lymph drains

Breath deepens, waste can leave

If only we help it with

A little muscle contraction against gravity.

[So easy for her to say to me today!]

I cried in fear

As physical therapy began

I’d been here before

And knew about the score.

But wretched seizures

Met me by each session’s end

My body erased

The good that had ensued.

It could be different

Now that the beast is tamed

Perhaps give way to healing

And actually doing my home exercises?

Ah what a delight that will be

I do see it coming out there

Can almost reach it, so sweet

This is the beginning of healing!

Just had to mourn

Seven years lost since

The time I moved with ease

When no fear waited in every corner.

[Sigh.]

Today marked a new beginning

This time appears to be for real

Thank you my Jesus, for carrying me through

Time to give in to freedom as the healing is now here!

JJ

 

I gotta change my teeth!

Alright.  It’s a few decades too soon in my life to be fussing over fake teeth in a restaurant but that is exactly where I have landed.  Or an acrylic mouthpiece of sorts, that is.  Then there’s the one with metal wires in it.  Aaaargh!  This is all kinda gross, especially with bits o’ lunch in thar!

It’s not your average bear that carries around a bottle of mouthwash in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag with 2 paper towels, a funny little brush and a clam-shell plastic box with air holes in it with a spare mouthpiece in tow.  Gentle Reader, you knew I was not undergoing a normal treatment plan when I signed up for this next phase in my recovery from a serious illness.  After all, who said that specialized dental appliances would stop almost 7 years of daily seizure attacks?

The answer:  no one really.  Persons with Tourettes Syndrome, dystonia, and tics have found relief in addition to persons with severe TMJ or Temporal Mandibular Disorders.  Only one expert mentioned “atypical seizures” and another “movement disorders.”  It was the Lord who led me to  examine my own pattern of symptoms and triggers, led by an observation from an ENT in a recent exam, and extensive research that seemed to indicate that I, too, might benefit from this highly skilled approach within the dentistry profession.  It made sense to me that a Craniomandibular Disorder Specialist would be able to relief pressure on my aching jaw.  If it relieved pressure on cranial nerves in the surrounding tissues as well, then there would be a good chance that many of the episode triggers and the convulsive episodes themselves could go down.  So I interviewed thirteen professionals in the USA  then said, “sign me up!”  My beloved agreed.  Graciously, many wonderful folks helped make it happen.

And I am glad that it did happen.  The convulsive episodes are now EIGHTY PERCENT IMPROVED!!!  Yeah God!  Praise the Lord!  Holy cow!  Cool beans!  Plus every other exclamation of joy I have ever used on this here blog.  Just Julie is going to get well!  I can now lie down and get up from bed most of the time without 30 or more minutes of convulsive episodes.  THIS IS HUGE!  Bonus:  my reactivity to noxious sensory stimuli is also down.  My posture is better.  I am able to eat a few more foods that I have been able to in many, many years without triggering a seizure.  Other symptoms have come and gone yet even the nagging jaw pain is also reduced.  I am looking forward to seeing what will happen over time as the improvements continue . . .

The battle is not yet won, however, as my devices will need adjustments and I’ll possibly need new dental appliances as time goes forward.  This will require significant travel to my Doctor out of State, a leap of faith in the Lord’s provision, and a massive testing of my health status to travel by myself.  Am I up to the challenge?  Absolutely.  We will plan carefully and proceed with caution.  Looks like I am on a good path for recovery at last.  I am humbled and grateful beyond what I can put into words.  Thank you Jesus!

Here are a few pictures from the process from my first week on this new journey.  I look a mess in most of them yet that is because I was very sick going into these appointments.  I had six violent convulsive episodes just trying to do the 5 hours of evaluation and was quite depleted by the time it was over.  Afterwards, my hubby and I were so trashed that we stood in the parking lot late that sunny afternoon and ate every snack and drop of water we had with us!  It took days for me to recover yet somehow I knew that my life was about to change very soon.  Three days later I had another very long appointment to receive my mouth splints.  The changes began within a day and continue three weeks later!  Stay tuned for more good news as this story develops.

Gentle Reader, if you are struggling with serious health issues, I encourage you that the Lord sees your suffering, grieves for you, and promises to be there for you for each and every breath, now and forever.  Call upon His name.  There is “hope beyond” what we can see.  Consider trusting the person of Jesus Christ Who will see you through, carry you this day and always.  I would have never made it this far without Him.  I hope we can share in my joy together someday Gentle Reader.  Our God is good!  JJ

xray, dental, appliances, TMJ, TMD, specialized, dystonia, seizures, atypical, tics, Tourettes, Dr. Ralph Garcia, craniomandibular, disorder, treatment

Assistant Josh took about a dozen x-rays to start the evaluation process.

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Dr. Ralph Garcia takes a detailed history; the smell of acrylics from the lab requires wearing a mask.

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EMG testing of the face and jaw

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Bite evaluation by Dr. Ralph Garcia

207

Assistant Julie takes photos with and without the new dental appliances.

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Multiple impressions are taken with soft polymers that triggered episodes when the material was cold. Trying to stay calm to get the proper fitting was challenging.

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Waiting room in Dr. Ralph Garcia’s office! We definitely are not in Indiana!

Sunset Beach, Florida, Tampa Bay, wife, husband, couple, married, sunset, sunrise

A little shy first time out in public wearing the smaller of the two dental appliances so I could have a snack while watching the sun go down on Sunset Beach. So grateful that my Dentist’s office was in sunny Tampa, Florida!

The next big thing

It’s a new year so perhaps it is appropriate that the Lord has shown me some new hope for overcoming the serious illness that I have been battling for the last 6 years.  Prepare for another brain dump!  Are you ready?

cranial nerves, TMJ, vasovagal, seizures, epilepsy, non-epileptic, convulsions, vagal, nerve

An Ears, Nose, and Throat Doctor (ENT) suggested to me that I might look into vagus nerve issues.  He said it might be related to why I had a seizure attack in his office after he put a long-handled mirror down my throat during his examination.  As soon as I stabilized 20 minutes later, I pulled out my smart phone and Googled what I would learn are called “vasovagal seizures.”  Holy cow!  There is a lot written about this topic!

The vagus nerve originates in the medulla oblongata of the brain stem and extends through the neck to the heart, stomach and other organs of the body.  It comprises the “parasympathetic nervous system” which is the opposite of the body’s “fight or flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system.  A vagal nerve stimulator (VNS) can be inserted into the body with an electrode wrapped around a branch of the left vagus nerve in the neck (not the right as that one travels directly to the heart).  The VNS sends tiny, intermittent electrical impulses to the vagus nerve to calm the heart, prevent fainting for persons dealing with syncopal episodes, depression, and even seizures.  A person with vasovagal seizures can place a magnet over the VNS when he or she senses an “aura” or sense of impending doom that an episode is imminent.  (I understand this phemomenon well.) The electrical stimulation, once correctly calibrated for the person, can help prevent this specific type of seizure.  No medication is needed although some patients with vagus nerve dysfunction and fainting spells take beta blockers (or herbal alternatives) to help manage the related cardiac symptoms.  (If accurate and not affected by the shaking, my blood pressure dropped significantly during a severe episode recently.)

Forgive me if I don’t have this exactly right as I am new to this topic!  What fascinates me is that persons with vasovagal seizures can present with some of the same symptoms and triggers that I have experienced:  ringing in the ears plus convulsive episodes after  noxious sensory stimuli and needlesticks.  Gratefully, I do not have fainting episodes; I have suddenly fallen asleep when the episodes occur in bed.   But wait, there’s more!  Because there are at least 2 branches of the upper vagus nerve that run near the jaw line, some dentists have suggested that the vagus nerve plus the trigeminal and other cranial nerves (as shown above) may be affected by dysfunction of the temporal mandibular joint (TMJ).  I have suffered TMJ pain for years after a double whiplash injury when in an auto accident in 1996.  I never was able to work full time thereafter due to my injuries.

The upper branch of the left and right vagus nerve runs along the face to end in a couple of points on each ear, respectively.  It seems plausible to me that I could use touch pressure, cold stimulation or even medical grade magnets to stimulate these points.  (Google vagus nerve stimulation for more ideas.)  It also seems plausible to me that any tight muscles or fascia of the face could press on these nerves contributing to distraction of the TMJ joint or impairing the function of the nerves affected.  “Occulsion” of the TMJ (which also includes disc displacement) can lead to a host of symptoms which I have experienced including headaches, pain, clicking sounds, swallowing and possibly sinus issues.

Wouldn’t you know but there are dental professionals who specialize in TMJ Disorders who have had success using special dental positioning appliances in reducing the tic-like symptoms of persons with movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s or Tourettes Syndrome).  They use ALF and Geld devices for the upper and lower jaws.  Holy cow again!  Who knew that a specially crafted mouth splint, designed to raise, displace, or widen the palette and jaw bones of the TMJ, could affect the brain so profoundly?

Well I kinda did.  I heard about this a few years ago related to TMJ and have been following one prominent dentist in this area of specialty for a couple of years.  My medical doctor/chiropractor referred me to a TMJ specialist out of town a few years ago.  For less money, my husband and I decided to have our local dentist fabricate a TMJ splint for me; later the dentist fabricated an anti-snoring mouth guard.  Both could have helped different aspects of this serious illness but they did not.  I was unable to tolerate wearing either appliance and would choke on them when the seizure attacks came at night.  I gave up.  So sad.  Years passed and nearly a thousand more violent convulsive episodes.

Did I tell you that another trigger was to simply eat food?  I thought it was a reaction to the food that I was eating, paid for allergy-type testing and retesting, changed my diet many times to try and end the episodes that often started at the kitchen table.  Many times my hubby had to carry me to the sectional or bed when I could not walk on my own or had  collapsed.  Whoa.  What if it was the very action of chewing that was triggering them?

The vagus nerve and the TMJ issues appear to me to be related.  The video above gives a profound example of how changing the positioning of the jaw can affect neurological symptoms of tics.  This is big news.  What I will do with this information is still unclear.  I favor starting with low-tech mouth appliances before the vagal nerve stimulator surgery, if indicated.  I have begun researching the literature, interviewing Dentists and Oral Surgeons in this field, joined a few discussion groups online, prayed, and talked things over with Steve.  For the VNS I would need to find yet another neurologist to see me.  Proceeding with formal assessments and treatment for the dental appliance will require regular travel to offices out-of-State and thousands of dollars in expenses.  Very likely, insurance will not cover most of the costs; not sure aboit the VNS.  But what if it is a functional, positional issue causing the daily episodes? A VNS would moss the root cause.  Something good seems possible.  I have hope again!

There is much to consider.  In the meantime, there are simple TMJ tests and exercises in addition to vagus nerve stimulation techniques that I found online that I have already started experimenting with at home.  The results are promising.  Yeah God for YouTube videos!  I am so grateful to have resources when I am searching for them in the middle of the night . . . with things to try when the seizure attacks are worse.

Yeah, I am up again late at night once again.  By the way, the parasite treatments appear to have helped some with the exception of getting blindsided by significant triggers (like having a blood draw about 2 weeks ago that triggered 4 hours of non-stop seizures, resulting in another trip to the emergency room and sigmificant increase in head and neck pain, tinnitus, ugh!).  One expert has suggested that improving the alignment of the facial/cranial/neck structures can help overall head and neck drainage; this could include everything from sinus mucous to lymph, blood flow, and cerebral spinal fluid.  Better drainage would surely help my detox protocols work better that and perhaps prevent or resolve the multiple infections I battle that may be affecting my brain, my central nervous system.

We have really got to figure this out folks.  Lord, is your hand in this next big thing for me or not-so-much?  I am hanging on . . . hanging on to you.  Will you graciously lead Steve and me as to whether or not we should proceed?  We need you now sweet Jesus.

I’ll let you know, Gentle Reader, the answer as it unfolds.  I know that my Lord will lead us!

JJ

 

When He is All You Have

My beloved is the best . . . but he is asleep as I bemoan my sorry lot.

He holds me close . . . until I react to some scent on his manly body.

It should have a wonderful effect . . . but it does not anymore, sadly.

Such are the ravages of severe illness . . . the kind that makes everything hay-wired.

If I could explain it to you . . . then it would be from understanding myself,

And I cannot dear friend . . . so woe are my words, this night, once again.

But not forever, all night, or after a little while . . .

For He speaks into my heart song . . .

And makes all kinda nice.

My Jesus understands for he hung on a wooden cross . . .

With nails in his hands and feet, a spear thrust in his side.

I could never endure imagine that kind of pain, even if my head banged all night . . .

Let’s just say my Lord knows suffering so His tears comfort me alright.

Even if this Doc or that hath not have the medication right for me . . .

My beloved says healing will still come and my own fasting indicates so.

I shall do what I gotta do to manage this chaos . . . even if I never leave the table by the window at the café of the health food store

Because I can’t think straight and seizures are pushing up from within:  unsafe to make my way home until I stabilize.

“Cmon my Jesus, drive me home

It’s dark already and you are all that I have tonight.”

And so He did when He was all I had.

Goodnight again.

JJ