Something old, something new

Soon I will come up on the seven year anniversary of when serious illness entered my life.  No, I won’t be kayaking in the Cedarville Reservoir to commemorate October 11, 2011!  That’s the day I contracted viral hepatitis and never really recovered.  It’s been a complicated journey since then, trying to get well.

Soon I will meet with my Doctor and see what he thinks about a new treatment with which I have been experimenting.  Recently I wrote about how devastated I was when  some vascular studies revealed no new information about why the convulsive episodes continue.  Over the next week I dwelt at the foot of the Cross of my Savior and He showed me some things I had not considered before:  many of the triggers of episodes have had something to do with my neck.  The CT Angiogram helped me examine this issue more closely and led me back to a comment by an ENT specialist back in January.  He said I should look into vagal nerve seizures and so I did.  That process led me to pursue specialized dental appliances that helped take pressure off of most of the cranial nerves involved in episodes and they started coming down within a day or two.  Adjustments in the appliances helped further then the improvements waxed and waned as time went on.  It is now 7 months later.  They are a pain to wear and look weird.  What else could be going on?

Soon I may have more of an answer to that question as I experiment with specific stimulation of one of the 12 cranial nerves:  the vagus nerve as it travels through my neck area.  A person has to be careful with this as it lies in close proximity, distal to the carotid arteries, thyroid, and parathyroid glands in the front of the neck.  Indeed vagal nerve seizures is a part of some forms of epileptic seizures and is treated with a surgically implanted vagal nerve stimulator.  A person has to have a diagnosis of intractable epilepsy or migraine headaches with treatment failures from trials of two types of medications before it is deemed medically feasible.  For me, no epileptiform activity was ever detected in EEG sleep studies even though numerous convulsive episodes occurred during two different studies in two different clinics.  I now wonder if they should have been watching the heart monitor not the EEG monitor when the episodes spiked.  Changes in heart rate and other vitals can accompany a seizure.  I have experienced this.  Were these factors recorded but missed in my clinical studies?

vagus nerve, vagal nerve seizures, vagal nerve stimulation, non-epileptic seizures, psychogenic seizures

Hopefully soon my experimentation with two different vibrating wands will stop these wretched seizure attacks altogether.  I found 2 very simple devices that I could carry with me, experimented until I figured out which ones work better at a given time of day.  The high-frequency wand makes me sleepy so I use it at night.  The lower frequency wand is more effective during the daytime should I feel the symptoms of a pre-tic episode.  How cool is this?  Yes, I still need to avoid certain head-and-neck positions due to other cervical spine issues, get back into either chiropractic care or physical therapy, and review everything with my primary Doctor.  I will continue wearing my specialized dental appliances.  In the meantime, it sure is nice having a better option than Prednisone (which I can only take in emergency situations!) to bring real relief for daily involuntary head-banging!

Will letcha know really soon, Gentle Reader if this all leads to something GOOD.  In the meantime, I am encouraged.  And grateful.  Thank you Lord, for bringing hope beyond what I can see once again.  JJ

 

But the old friend has no name

My hope went underground when the testing described in my last post revealed nothing of value.  I was crushed.  My beloved hubby had to take part of a day off of work and I had to take two drugs to be able to tolerate the contrast dye.  My doctor sent over new orders to the hospital on the morning of the test, creating further complications.  That new test was not yet authorized by my insurance company.  So would I have to come back and take more drugs, Steve take more time off of work when both tests could be done that day within minutes?  What shall we do?  The radiology staff nor us knew what to do.

We decided that since I do have a secondary insurance, to proceed with both the CT angiogram of the neck and the CT angiogram of the head that day.  The views would be with my head and neck in a neutral position, not in neck extension (which is the position that triggers convulsive episodes).  So I decided to lie on the exam table with my neck partially extended.  True to form, soon after they pushed the iodine contrast dye into my veins a tic then seizure attack erupted!  I couldn’t speak.  Steve let them know the course that these things take so the staff lifted me off the treatment table, onto a gurney, and into an empty room in the adjacent MRI suites.  There we were in the dark until my personal hell decided to stop.  (See here if you haven’t seen it yet.)  Steve helped me to the bathroom via wheelchair, the tech wheeled me out to the exit of the hospital, and we were on our way home.  Somehow I cleaned up once home and got myself to bed to sleep off the drugs for the next 6 hours!  The stress, the drugs in my body diminished thereafter.  All there was left to do was deal with the trauma of what had happened and wait for the test results . . .  No problem, right?

What followed represents the good and the bad of the patient having access to her own test results through the electronic medical record mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  I got my test results 3 WEEKS before the Doctor appointment scheduled to review them! The test was on a Friday and on Tuesday I was reading the radiology reports.  I was crushed.  There were no vascular anomalies that would explain why tipping my head backwards, certain chiropractic adjustments, sleeping on my left side, and a host of other identifiable kinesio/sensory stimuli trigger violent convulsive episodes.   Further, the question remained as to why these episodes are continuing, albeit of less intensity and duration overall, 6 months after treatment with specialized dental appliances?  This treatment brought me an 80% reduction in seizure attacks.  But after chiropractic treatment resumed, that number started to go down:  the episodes had started to increase again.  The “old friend” has returneth but still has no name . . . no cause.

In a future post, I may disclose the profound effect of this dead end in my seven years of battling a serious illness.  Last week after yet another difficult medical process revealed no answers, I really wanted to die.  Within a day that feeling changed and I continued on with my activities of daily living, some volunteer projects, and prepared to attend a women’s retreat within a few more days.  The time away helped some.  I don’t want to die I just don’t know really how to live this way anymore.  There may be some clues in the test results of what to focus on next related to a thyroid condition — or maybe not.  My veracious researching a cause, a cure has come to a screeching halt.  Right now is the time for me to dwell in the eternal space of my Savior, Jesus Christ and lie this illness at the foot of His Cross.  The lies of Satan and his tools of discouragement can go to hell with him, period.

Can’t say much more than that right now.  Tomorrow I need to be up and energetic at an event I thought I could volunteer at in preparation for another project of greater interest to me.  We’ll see how it goes.  My alarm is set.  But the get up and go, the drive in my heart is more asleep than I am at the moment.

Maybe something good will happen soon?  I’ll letcha know if it does, Gentle Reader.  You are always on my heart and the first to know as usual, k?  JJ

The times inbetween

Tis a time for more resting than doing

And it is unusual for me to give into the slower pace

But give in I must.

The rain garden project awaits an instructor’s touch

While our own landscape decides if bushes or an Amilsh “mini garage”

Will grace the outer banks of our bedroom.

Shall I attempt to rip out the red twig dogwoods,

My fav in garden beds here and the ‘burbs of Chicago

That don’t really like their sunny home but delight the view out the bedroom window til late summer?

The dog days of hot weather have sapped my zest for projects, most anything green

Or maybe it’s from having to stay home when hubby got to go without me

To his National paddling competition afar; yeah I was too tired to even go.

Yeah, I’m kinda down about all the failures these past 2 months —

Alas the Lord spoke to my heart; now maybe they shall give rise to something better for me?

The times in between the hills n valleys can bring a fresh new look

If I but heed the call to slow things down a bit, to rest

There are but a few tic zips here and there so I do believe something is going right at last!

Thank you Lord for seeing me through to this day

For allowing me to pass through the fiery tests, the times of despair, and hopelessness too

I may even get to go paddle locally tomorrow with my beloved River Bear.  Now won’t that just be saweet if I do?  JJ

I’m still here

A brief update:

A second trip is now behind me to see my Craniomandibular Specialist in a southern state and the problems plaguing me for 6 1/2 long years are significantly less and yet my progress has plateaued.  Maybe it’s still the fatigue of travelling alone for the first time in 11 years?  Holy cow, I did it!  And ugh too.  It was hard.   Regrouping and resting now, changing up a few things, and I am noticing that those changes are already helping, for example, to  reduce the daily headaches to a trace level.  Amazing!

I am tempted to be discouraged about the plateau in progress and some setbacks but I will choose not to be so.  Both happen in the jagged line of recovery from serious illness.

Life goes on and the care of a family member in that same southern state began before the first medical trip.  Looks like the Lord had more planned than we originally thought when my hubby and I took a leap of faith to seek treatment 1,000 miles away from Indiana!  We are now preparing to welcome my Aunt into our home for 2 months this summer after many hours of preparation, work, and communication with multiple parties.  There is much to do!

Seems that the Lord wants me to keep moving forward as he has created a new role for me with increasing responsibilities:  caregiver.  I never thought that it would be harder to care for one tiny lady than the TWENTY I served in a day in my professional role as an Occupational Therapist.  Right now it is!

My Doctor’s office cancelling 7 medical appointments already this year due to chaotic scheduling issues confirmed my pursuit of a new integrative medicine specialist.  My Doc is upset and I am proceeding to transition some of my care to her anyways.  The change is refreshing and creates hope in some areas not addressed of late.

Steve and I have several decisions to make should my family member decide to move in with us later this year after her summer visit.  Some parts of our life could accommodate her easily, others not so much.  We will have some financial decisions to make involving vehicles, housing, and several lifestyle choices.  Could be good?  We are exploring many options and leaning on the Lord as we go . . .

I am a bit overwhelmed with the new modalities that have come since pursuing specialized Temporal Mandibular Disorder treatment, from application of a TENS unit to switching out dental appliances every time I eat or sleep.  Wonder where I have been instead of writing updates on the Hope Beyond blog?  I am still here, flossing my teeth 4 times per day!  Spitting mouthwash into a baggie in my truck after eating between appointments when away from home is not that unusual for me now . . . from the back of the parking lot where no one can see me of course!  Oh my!

The biggest change of late is having a bit more energy and mental capacity to do a little more a few days per week.  I am exceedingly grateful for this.  Thank you Lord!  We anticipate a lot of changes, projects, and the need for both physical and mental stamina this coming year and looks like it is coming little by little.   I hope the finances for everything will follow as my Go Fund Me campaign has also plateaued!  We will figure it out, so no worries.  The first of the two medical trips is now covered, gratefully.  God is good and the Great Provider has always cared for our needs.  I can see a possibility of working some within a year a so depending upon the needs of our “new” family member; she may move in with us permanently or choose to live closer to her adult children in Michigan.  Just not sure yet.

I am tired.  Healing takes sooooo much energy from healthy food and rest, good supplements, time with the Lord, and restoration activities with my beloved Stevers.  Sunday was my birthday so we did that last one.  A simple day was a great gift with my bestest buddy.  I love him so much.  I am so very glad that you are still here too.  I could never have made it today without you Babe.  Thank you Jesus for Steve.  Please bless him this week and encourage him as he works so hard for both of us.  Infuse him with your Spirit to lead us through this maze of life in which we bumble along.  Help me to love him, respect him better and better too.

woman, birthday cake, birthday, carrot cake, celebration, lunch, with husband, Christian, woman kissing cake, table by the window, lake view

Carrot cake was my birthday treat at the Oakwood Resort on Lake Wauwasee

I know that the Lord has gone before me and been with me, drawing me to Himself and bringing me to the moments He planned for me yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  I lay everything named here in your mighty hands as I prepare to go to sleep.  I know that You are still here too.

And on that promise all of us here may rest.  You too.  Godspeed Gentle Reader, 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

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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!