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

 

Torture, water-boarding and more: Part 2

This story began in Part 1 with how I landed at The Balance Center on the last day of the year for the conclusion of my hearing and vestibular system testing.  That was yesterday and I am still recovering . . .

My mood was in a major funk as I was running late for my appointment (struggling to function), trying to hold off any tic attacks whilst still getting ready and out the door.  I am back into a 2-part fractionated sleep schedule to try and manage:  1) an increase in the nightly and morning convulsive episodes and 2) getting enough sleep.  Usually there are at least 2 nights when the number of hours of unconsciousness barely exceeds FOUR; the night before the appointment was one of them!  Eeee gads.  But by the grace of God have I survived to tell the story so let us continue!

A very sweet technician named “M” was assigned to walk me through the procedures to be performed in three rooms, each equipped with various test equipment, computers, and some funny-looking masks.  I’ll include some stock photos here to bring you into my world:

The Balance Center, vestibular, training, testing, dizziness, therapy, light-headed, physical therapy, rehabilitation, audiology, mask

Generally each part of each test was completed three times.  Most of the time “M” warned me about the challenge that was about to happen (except for the water-boarding shock that came later, unfortunately!).  In the first room I stepped barefoot onto a cold, 3-walled compartment in which the floor moved independently of the walls that also moved.  She harnessed me in with the same number of straps usually employed with bungee jumping!  I remembered hearing professional dancers talk about focusing on one object as they spun around doing pirouettes so I decided that would be my strategy all afternoon to avoid up-chucking early in the game.  It helped for a little while and I guess I did o.k. during phase 2 (with phase 1 being the audiology testing in October) although the dizziness, uneasiness, queasiness, and feeling of being lost-in-space began quickly.  She allowed me to rest a short while afterwards and for this I was exceedingly grateful.  My feet eventually started to warm up  . . .

brain testing, balance testing, vestibular, rehabilitation, Balance Center, dizziness, light headedness, physical therapy, audiology, ENTI hobbled to the next room labeled, “Rotational Chair.”  Holy crap.  I was doomed!  I never liked the Merry-Go-Round at the playground as a kid and now was the time to find out why.  You know what happens to the kids too scared to jump off, right?  This is probably why The Balance Center instructs you to eat only oatmeal in the hours before your appointment!  So with fear and trembling I stepped into what looked like the anti-gravity room at the Nassau Space Center.  The walls and chair in the “space capsule” were black, equipped with even more straps that comprised the harness and seat belt configuration.  This time my head was restrained as well with the mask pictured above affixed to my head.  Then she closed the door.  I was all alone in the darkness.

I wondered about trace specks of mold, fragrance, and other irritants from the travelers who had gone before me.  Should I have been wearing my carbon mask all along to avoid trace exposures?  My mind was so overwhelmed with the test procedures that day that I would not pull it out until the dire end.  For now, I was to spin in circles and watch the little red dot ahead of me, make the line straight using the “Play Station” controllers in each hand, and hope that the fraction of light peeking through the hinge of the door would re-orient me enough to go on . . .  My defenses were rapidly breaking down.

balance-testing rotational chair

“M” asked me probably 75 questions total that afternoon, spread throughout all of the test procedures.  Had I ever fallen?  Hit my head?  Gotten dizzy?  What about headaches?  Migraines?  Chemical exposures?  You get the idea.  In the chair of the Black Hole, those questions made it impossible to focus enough to use the ballerina strategy to keep my act together.  The nausea crept up inside me then miraculously never exceeded critical mass to prompt a return of my breakfast.  (I took the nausea medication I had with me later anyways!  It was the least I could do to calm things down!)  I am now getting dizzy and light headed just writing about this experience.

When “M” opened the Magic Door and set me free from my restraint, I slumped forward with my head plunging into my hands.  What the heck was happening to me?  Low grade tic attacks erupted.  I felt listless, unbalanced, disoriented, exhausted, sideways, unsteady even in my seat, like I was struggling to keep breathing (as if someone had pushed the air out of my chest), with increased ringing in my ears and a knife-like sub-occipital headache.  The sinus headache had returned as a bonus.  I asked if I could lie down.  She agreed since there would be supine positioning in the next room and testing anyways.  Great.  I strained to hold myself together long enough to make it to the torture chamber just around the corner . . .

balance testing, vestibular, lights, flashing lights, therapy, audiology, Balance Center, testing, dizziness, light headed, head injury, concussions

The usual nightmare met me on that treatment table.  Violent convulsive episodes displayed their wretched glory with deep vocalizations that I could not control.  On and on with no end in sight they came as I lain face down in the position I have discovered that causes the least amount of trauma to my banging neck and head.  My legs were cold.  My hands were cold.  The room was darkened yet the bright desk lamp next to the technician’s computer was too bright for my eyes just 4 feet away.  I struggled to raise my arm to shield my eyes and held on for dear life.

Why was I going through all of this anyways?  Would all of this trauma really yield anything useful beyond yet another human version of a “lab rat” experiment to tell me that something was very, very wrong.  NO KIDDING SOMETHING IS WRONG!!!  I asked for my purse and awkwardly donned my face-mask when I could get my hands to work together enough to do so.  Probably 20 minutes passed before the overt symptoms stopped:  the ones you can see, that is!  Inside I was seemingly beyond repair.  This was going to take a long time from which to recover.  I wept.  The more I write about it, the more I experience a slight flashback of symptoms.  I will pause here for a little cry.  More later . . .

Continued in Part 3

 

Torture, water-boarding, and more: Part 1

balance-testing

These 3-part posts are not for the faint of heart.

I wish that I was not writing them.

This was my reality just 24 hours ago and it bears recording for future reference.

A true miracle usually starts with a hell-of-a-story.  So here it is, Part 1:

Many of you gracious, Gentle Readers know that I have been battling a serious illness for just over 4 years.  What began as an acute, viral hepatitis became the introduction of an ongoing drama that has now included (alleged) Chronic Lyme disease, mercury toxicity, poisoning from root-canaled teeth, Stage 2 Candida infection and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) including a biotoxin illness.  The most wretched of the myriad of symptoms continues to be daily convulsive episodes.  And for the last 2 1/2 of these 4 years those episodes range from 2 to 10 hours per day rendering me useless for a bigger chunk of daily living.  (See this video for a sample.)  Currently there is no end in sight.

My toe clips failed and I fell off my bike on August 23rd of this past year causing a Closed Head Injury with Concussion.  While my baseline functioning was only mildly affected, the orthopedic and neurologic impacts were measurable.  I hit my left shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee and side of my head on the pavement.  Within the next few weeks I received chiropractic and physical therapies then was referred to “The Balance Center” to assess ongoing dizziness, lightheadedness, ringing in my ears, etc.  I pleaded with my Doctor to delay the 3 1/2 hour test procedures due to the severity of the convulsive episodes and the fact that the acute symptoms had already diminished.  He agreed and we delayed it one month to allow some additional time to heal.

The Balance Center had to get special permission to schedule the appointment after I mentioned “seizures,” for fear that I would not be able to tolerate the test procedures.  Wise concerns.  My Doctor approved their request to proceed!  When the day got nearer I intervened and delayed it another month to October.  My Doctor understood my reasoning back then and pressed for me to complete the assessment as scheduled this past week.  He stated that there still could be some vestibular issues contributing to the convulsive episodes and lingering symptoms noted above although the latter had improved.

I knew I was doomed.  Having worked in occupational therapy for over 3 decades until disabled by this wretched illness, I knew about vestibular testing and rehabilitation.  I had attended a weekend training for it many years ago and referred my home health patients to this very clinic!  Now it was my turn.  I also knew that test devices with moving parts that cause you to lose your balance, spin you around, prompt you to move your eyes rapidly and the like would be hell for me.  I did not think I would be able to complete most of it.  That is exactly what happened:  the first appointment in October had ended after the audiology test portion: a simple hearing test in a quiet, sound-proof booth!  When the audiologist entered the room to review the results after I had just stopped seizing, her perfume sent me into more violent episodes.  It took a long time to recover from everything as I sat in a cold chair in a long hallway, staff and patients busily walking by . . .

They did the best they could with my atypical “case” perhaps.  However, the room with the sound-proof booth was already booked for the next patient and the schedule, the schedule, THE SCHEDULE must go on don’t you know?  Such is life in modern medicine these days.  It was a very desolate feeling to sit there with my unsupported head banging around with no where to lie down to minimize injury.  Gratefully the technician was very nice as she escorted me to my “recovery chair,” and later offered to reschedule me.  Reluctantly we settled upon the last day of the year:  that was yesterday.

See Part 2 for the rest of the story . . .