When you are afraid of everything

Every once in awhile I emerge from the fog of battling serious, ongoing illness and realize that the way I view the world is not the same as that of others around me. I am often afraid of everything!

Folks are dressing up for special Christmas celebrations and with it comes perfumes, colognes, hair spray, and lots of pretty/smelly stuff. I just practice what I call a “virtual hug” during greetings and keep my distance from any close contact where something might rub off on me. It’s awkward but works better than being triggered.

Venture out to a social gathering and I’ll wonder what particulate matter rests in both the upholstered seat upon which I am sitting or the coat that the person next to me is wearing. The mycotoxins from mold persist forever and easily transfer from one cloth surface to another. How many of us have our winter coats dry cleaned each year or launder them? Our vehicles and outerwear can carry with them the toxins from anywhere we have visited in the past. Some items simply cannot be cleaned of these toxins. And even if they can be cleaned, who else but another “mold avoider” uses anti-fungal agents like we do when washing clothing? Or tosses coats in the dryer under the sanitize cycle before putting them back into the closet or wearing them again? Probably nobody I know!

We brought a nasty scent home with us inside our new-to-us truck, from a recent trip. The sour smell is from a water-damaged building where any contact has the potential to trigger a violent convulsive episode. Maybe this low level of exposure that remains will somehow de-sensitize me to this type of mold? Yeah, right. The portable ozone machine that we really can’t afford right now, came in the mail from Amazon today. I’m going to try to zap that stinky smell out of there soon and hope that the remaining fragrance in there from the dealership goes with it. Cleaning, vacuuming, essential oils, charcoal packs, or baking soda haven’t worked on the latter. Driving with the window slightly open hasn’t been enough to ward off fatigue and the risk of pre-tic symptoms when I am in there. I need to drive to medical appointments. We will fix this soon, Lord willing.

Sharp, loud noises have become an instant trigger again and quite a nuisance. Twice in the past 10 days, my husband initiated an innocent action that resulted in a high-pitched, short, loud “olfactory stimulus.” Immediately I felt my ear drum move inward and a convulsive episode ramped up quickly thereafter. These are really bad. One happened last weekend as I was riding home with my beloved from a sweet date viewing Christmas lights, listening to music on the radio coordinated with each display. I could barely open my eyes for the last display as the head-banging had not yet subsided; my biggest fear was that the hand I struggled to push near my head wouldn’t adequately stabilize the wrenching of my head/neck. Steve fed me a rescue remedy when we got home while I still sat in the frigid air on the passenger seat of our truck. My left leg dragged as he was eventually able to guide me into the house (with me struggling yet determined to try and walk under my own power and not be carried). We removed my outer layers of clothing in case the scent of the truck was on them; I crashed into bed and slept for over four hours. I woke up in the middle of the night very hungry, ate a very late dinner of sorts, and was not able to sleep again until after sunrise. The new day was trashed. We had already cancelled attending the Holiday Pops concert downtown to avoid loud music. But I love Christmas decorations and music! This really sucks man.

Everywhere from public restrooms to the open door of a neighbor’s home exudes air fresheners these days. A package of new neighbor was accidentally delivered to our home so I thought, neat, I’ll take it over and get to meet them. A waif of something fragrant washed over me as soon as the sweet gal opened the door; “c’mon in!” she offered in a friendly tone. A quick, I can’t due to sensitivities nearly killed that friendly encounter. Fortunately the late fall day was a little milder and she didn’t mind chatting on her front entryway outside of her home. Sigh.

I would LOVE to invite all of our new neighbors over to get acquainted later this Winter. We did this very thing with our neighbors before I got sick and it was a sweet time of fellowship. FOUR of the eight homeowners have turned over in our neighborhood court in which we live. Someone needs to organize a get-together and I wish it could be me and my hubby! I simply cannot do that. I’ll have to wait until the warmer weather comes and we can sit outside on our patio. I guess that’s alright too . . . five months from now when the weather thaws and warms.

We still practice a relatively high level of extreme avoidance that is getting OLD after all these years. Perhaps progress on treating a particular type of sinus infection will reduce my sensitivities. Let’s repair that blood-brain barrier already! I am grateful that I can finally treat the chronic MARCoNS infection that is characteristic of biotoxin illness. This makes me hopeful that maybe more than the olfactory cranial nerves will heal as well. Over time, of course. More time. The trigeminal nerve that gives rise to TMJ pain and had triggered episodes has already healed quite a bit with my specialized dental appliances from a craniomandibular specialist.

These are only a few of the examples of how chemical sensitivity, mold sensitivity, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) play out in a person’s life. Gene expression gets turned on for persons with particular HLA types for mold illness, contributing to abnormal responses to everyday sensory stimuli. Turning it off or lowering it requires removal and avoidance of triggers, various types of testing (home/work/school environment then specific lab testing), dietary changes, and a hierarchy of expensive treatment protocols. I am grateful that not only am I able to tolerate a complex combination of nasal treatments, there are fewer food triggers of symptoms now than in the past. Some of the labs used to diagnose CIRS have normalized or are only slightly elevated. My local Functional Medicine Doctor versed in these protocols will re-test me for MARCoNs early next year. I am hopeful that I can finally clear this infection; the sinus headaches have already subsided. (This Doc is so very nice to me as well! Love that!) The laundry list of other medical conditions that has come alongside this nightmare are not nearly as disabling as CIRS. I never lose hope that many can get better or even be cured this side of heaven, Lord willing.

When you are afraid of everything, it is really really hard to want to try new things, meet new people, or go to new places. My confidence in virtually every aspect of living has suffered. Expertise, proficiency, and tolerance for the work environment of my profession of occupational therapy have eroded and I am not sure that I will ever be able to get it back (or even tolerate working with all of the potential exposures of a clinical setting). Indeed I have developed new skills during this period of time and you are reading one of them right now. I am grateful to have designed several websites and am the editor/assistant editor of 2 publications. Medical research has become a necessary pursuit. These are worth something I suppose and can be done in the middle of the night when needed. Gardening has sustained me throughout these 8 years of battling a serious illness and 6 of them with biotoxin illness in particular. Sometimes I am taking care of our yard or a public rain garden after dark when I feel better but hey, that’s what flashlights are for, right?

Perhaps I need to re-read John Maxwell’s book entitled, Failing Forward. While this time in my life is not my failure per se, the effect of repeated trials and traumas is very similar. Better pull it out again. In life, the opposite of fear is courage and perseverance is a requirement to succeed thereafter. Somehow I do although this has been one of my greatest challenges when feeling like a beaten puppy. Further, some would say that the opposite of fear is love as in the perfect love that comes only from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For if we truly know His love then nothing in this world can separate us from it, including the powerful tool of fear, fear of failure, fear that things will not change, fear that we are alone to suffer, and so on. The truth is that those in Christ will never again be alone, the same again, or away from the Divine plan and purpose He has for our lives. Knowing this truth brings not only courage to go on but hope. And my Jesus’ love and care has helped me move forward to even get to this day, to think that one day even if it’s in heaven, all will be made new, right, and good. That’s the kind of love in action that obliterates fear.

Sigh. I’m tired tonight. The shingles is healing. Some medical questions are now answered resulting in closing some doors and leaving others precariously open. I’ll need to meditate on these topics some more. Still, I think I have a better perspective, more hope than when I started writing to you, Gentle Reader. Do you deal with fear too? JJ

It wasn’t meant to be

happy place, home, where the heart is, house, Christian, in the arms of Jesus
I placed a special welcome from her favorite store across the country in her room. Did she notice?

Maybe I did too much in my own strength, albeit waning and waxing until the day came.

Maybe instead it was obedience to the Lord that so many details were honored in anticipation of a good result, a finishing well.

Maybe the one that did not get cared for along the way was my own flesh and blood, although I really tried . . .

Maybe our need for firmness and clarity covered my love for her.

Maybe now that I am purging everything I can to clear my mind, my Lord will let me know what happened with this caregiver thingy gone awry.

Maybe there simply was no way this arrangement could succeed no matter how hard we tried.

Maybe there will be restoration one day, maybe not.

For today, I still grieve.

JJ

The Long and Winding Road

Paul McCartney wrote the famous ballad entitled The Long and Winding Road when inspired by the farmlands around his Scottish home.  He wrote it during a time of tension between band members of the Beatles and then it was published in 1970, just after the break up of the band.  I remember being very upset that they were no longer together after changing the popular music scene forever.

This is a sad song.  Tonight I understand the many sentiments expressed within the lyrics that go with this sweet melody:  melancholy to a sense of unmet longing:

When the road goes on too long before you reach your destination or you never really reach the destination you set out to find . . .

Where the twists and turns push you beyond the roadways onto the rough gravel, shaking you up quite a bit . . .

Who comes along with you sometimes wishes they were not there at all then comes around to being alright in your company after all the weary miles together . . .

What you find dashes the dreams you once had, leaving you with emptiness before the Throne of Grace where all roads eventually will arrive anyways . . .

And you shed deeper tears than you ever knew before in your pain and anguish . . .

Such is the song in my broken heart tonight.  All I can say to the God above or beyond is, “I need you now more than ever.  Please lead me back to your door . . . let me know the way.” JJ

So you want to go camping do ya?

Camping is not for the faint of heart, even in the “posh” conditions of a travel trailer! Having a trusty companion or two and the right tools can make the difference between success and failure.  For me that would be the guard dog, handy husband, jugs of water, and very long extension cord.  Gotter done!

Camplite, husband, kayak, Scorpius, rack, roof, outrigger, canoe, man, towing, camper, travel, trailer, home, Nissan, Frontier, camping

I am grateful for our Camplite (aka Tin Can Ranch) that allows me to go places with my hubby and stay in a mobile “clean room,” away from the hazards of hotels and limited choices of restaurant menus.  Preparing for these trips is an incredible amount of work all by itself:  just about the same amount of tasks need to be completed for a week-long vacation as an over-nighter.  I have a sense that we won’t be doing the latter again anytime soon!  Regardless, I rallied the strength and off we went with great expectations to the Illinois Beach State Park north of Chicago, Illinois.  I was to attend the day-long Designs for Health:  A Prescription for Wellness seminar at the beautiful Chicago Botanical Gardens and Steve was to tackle the surf along Lake Michigan.  Later we planned to meet up with some friends for dinner on the north side of the city before heading south around the city and back to NE Indiana into the wee hours of the morning.  Whilst the latter plans were complicated by severe rain and traffic issues for all parties, it turned out to be an “easier” part of our itinerary!

Our wacky adventures began soon after we pulled into the campground along the shores of Lake Michigan.  Up first:  hooking up the electrical.  Not!  For the next several hours we battled a worn breaker system that kept tripping no matter what we did to avert the issue.  Was it the breakers in the trailer that were overloaded?  The eroded contacts in the refrigerator switch plate that requires a few minutes of babysitting to turn on? Figuring this out required much problem-solving with wifey-poo dressed in early Spring/Winter garb, very weary from travelling and following orders from the friendly but not-so-helpful front office staff.  To sort this out, we ran our extension cord to a few adjacent sites to no avail.  Very likely it was the campsite breakers that were worn and not our camper since everything had worked fine at home the day before.  Too bad the real on-site expert had the day off!

Finally my husband figured out two work-a-rounds:  1)  hooking up our battery charger to the battery to run the water pump and 2) running our 100-foot extension cord to a 3rd campsite and through the kitchen area window to run the electric heater.  In the morning I disconnected the heater and attached it to my blow dryer to make some order of the bed head that came with the morning.  What about just taking a shower you ask? Well don’t!  That didn’t happen . . . for me anyways.  The campground did not have water or sewer hook-ups so we had filled our modest, 30-gallon water tank at home thinking it would be enough for bathroom needs with quick “Navy-style” showers.  We were wrong. Steve did get a shower . . . then a paddle in Lake Michigan . . . then another shower in the only open bathroom facilities in the campground.  I made the most of things and had a quick cooooold sponge bath before heading out to the seminar!  Oh well.  I was definitely AWAKE for the day of lectures to follow!

A few other tidbits further enhanced our experience such as Steve gashing his lip on the rusted breaker box in the midst of trying to figure out things!  So glad for our first aid supplies!  Then there was the brand new hot water pot that I had plugged in through the cord dangling in kitchen window to make some hot tea ended up not working; I used an electric frying pan instead!  Additionally I took every remedy that I had with me to ward off noxious symptoms from ongoing illness and to consume before-and-during the seminar (with copious amounts of food-n-bacon, of course).  And guess what?  The seminar was incredible!  Steve had a great time paddling our outrigger canoe 7 miles along the lake shore and the pup got in a few long walks at the beach.  Cool beans.

woman, seminar, Chicago Botanical Gardens, flowers, planter, Designs for Healing, sitting

Forrest Gump logic applies very well to almost all of our camping experiences these past 3 years:  you never know what you are going to get!  This trip was no different.  We are now home and pooped.  Massive loads of laundry and cleaning are now underway to decontaminate everything for our next adventure having something to do with trailer demolishen derby races or something.  With our luck, let’s just hope we don’t end up on the figure-8 track.  Should be fun.  Or maybe not.  I’ll be sure to letcha know.  Eeeeek!

JJ

Do No Harm They Say

25 I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19)

I was transported from my home via ambulance to the emergency room in the closest hospital on the evening of Tuesday, January 3rd.  My husband, Steven Horney, had called 911 when frightful and unusual writhing movements would not stop.  The emergency personnel lifted me off the floor where I had been in distress for about 30 minutes:  straining to breathe with my body twisting and contorting in positions of postural extension (choreathetoid-like movements that look like a child disabled with severe cerebral palsy), struggling to communicate, unable to keep my eyes open, bumping into kitchen cabinets and floor, pained by the overhead lights and banter of the personnel, and chilled to the bone.  They rolled me out into the wintry air without a coat, shoes, or blanket and with the rain sprinkling down on my exposed skin.  “We will turn the heat on once we get into the ambulance,” the man said.  I hung on for the ride not knowing what lain ahead of me.

I tried to communicate to the paramedics in broken phrases that the episode that they were witnessing began hours earlier after a scheduled dose of Gabapentin (Neurontin). That drug was prescribed for me September 18th at the main hospital when I was admitted for management of the complications of shingles.  Gabapentin was helping reduce the searing nerve pain in my face.   But for some reason starting on Monday, I started to have little tic-like shaking episodes within an hour of taking it.  And for some reason on Tuesday, within 2 hours of taking it, things escalated out of control from episodic tic attacks to non-stop writhing on the floor of our home. I had never had symptoms before like what was happening on that Tuesday evening.  Having an extensive medical education myself, I suspected an adverse reaction to Gabapentin.  Regardless, I was terrified.

This wasn’t my first trip to the Emergency Room in recent years. Another type of shaking episode [diagnosed by Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) as symptom of chronic Lyme disease] has required treatment on an urgent basis with intravenous fluids.  Other medications were sometimes administered in the ER for pain or symptomatic relief only to exacerbate the shaking episodes.  In all of these situations, nothing has helped as much as a minimum of 1,000 ml or more of fluids.  So I was pleased when Dr. P evaluated me in the ER at the local hospital on the night of January 3rd and ordered 2,000 ml of IV fluids.  No labs were drawn. I was not pleased with how he or his staff treated me, however.

How can I possibly describe to you how terrifying it feels to be coherent and aware of one’s surroundings yet unable to communicate fluently or control one’s bodily functions above bowel and bladder? You fear you will stop breathing, have a heart attack, not survive.  Then again for me, I knew that I had survived severe episodes of frightful symptoms in the past and feebly hoped my body could take yet one more massive assault to my weakened frame.  However, when pressured to answer questions over and over again by (condescending) medical personnel doing their periodic “evaluations,” all of this did not come out of me with pretty language.  I am sorry for my swearing and inability to communicate clearly.

Perhaps my clinical presentation didn’t make sense compared to say a classic case of epilepsy or maybe the disorientation that goes with a textbook definition of dehydration? I wonder what things looked like to the emergency personnel who came to our home?  Or the emergency room staff?  The long list of medications, allergies, and diagnoses in my medical records surely confounded things a bit for the Doctor.  At least one of the nurses present that night had seen me in that ER before.  Would he be able to separate out the prior visits with this one?  After all, Gabapentin is used to treat both shingles and seizures, isn’t it?  What if this indeed was an adverse drug reaction to Gabapentin? Were procedures followed to rule out an adverse drug reaction?

All I know is that I was horrified and further frustrated by the scornful treatment of Dr. P and the nursing staff in the Emergency Room of our local hospital on the night of January 3, 2017. Dr. P claimed that I should be able to stop the involuntary movements because I had been able to speak at all.  He claimed that the involuntary movements had stopped when I was able to push out a response to his question albeit with pressured speech.  That simply was not true.  (The involuntary movements never stopped until much later.)  Dr. P argued this point and others with me!  My distress increased.  He finally left the room only to return to pressure me some more.  Eventually the treatment was administered and completed.  Eventually he left the room and did not return.

The involuntary writhing movements did not slow down until nearly ¾ the way through receipt of 1 liter of normal saline via IV. The acute contortions slowed first and were followed by tic attacks:  the various involuntary movements became intermittent, flared again, repeated this pattern a few times then finally stopped for a while.  I finally was able to lie on the gurney motionless.  My dear husband Steve sat nearby.  I was exhausted and I think he was too.  I felt dejected by the staff.  I was afraid to move for fear of retriggering some kind of return of symptoms as this had happened in the past after a neurological event if I tried to move or speak or if the treatment ended too soon.  At some point a nurse started a second liter of fluids.  I nodded and might have muttered a few words.  I needed to use the bathroom and was assisted in the use of a bedside commode.

At this point I was weak but beginning to feel some hope. Sometimes voiding helps these kinds of symptoms.  I returned to the gurney.  To my surprise, the primary nurse then notified me that the fluids would stop and I would be discharged.  Approximately 1,500 ml (of the 2,000 ordered) had been infused and they said that 1) since the shaking had stopped and 2) I had voided a large amount, 3) that constituted proof that I was rehydrated.  I still could not speak but may have nodded again.  What became clear to me a day later was that the hydration ended WAY TOO SOON. I still could not function when the fluids were stopped.  And further, I definitely was not yet stable enough to tolerate what followed next.

Several members of the nursing staff came into the room and tried to help me get dressed while the IV was still connected to the pump and tubing was still connected to my arm. I muttered something about this and the gal next to me stopped tugging at my clothing.  The primary nurse (who had brought the commode and each bag of fluids) began RIPPING OFF THE DRESSING from the IV in my arm in one swift motion before I could ask her to go slowly or place my finger over the insertion point to maybe help prevent what would happen next.  Even my husband noted how fast she was ripping off the IV!  The needle/tubing inserted into my forearm became dislodged with the Tegaderm dressing displayed to one side, still stuck to it!  Immediately and violently a searing knife-like pain ratcheted from the back of my right hand to directly to my brain.  Welcome to the increased sensitivity of underlying neurological illness!  Involuntarily, screams of holy terror erupted from my mouth.  Soon Dr. P was standing over me at the foot of the gurney, scolding me some more.  Why?  Just why was he speaking to me this way?  My brain felt like it was on fire.  These sensations and symptoms had become markedly different than those that had brought me to the hospital 3 hours earlier yet were equally severe.  A new type of episode had started. And all the gains I had realized just moments before were erased by that searing pain in my hand.  I was still aware of my surroundings yet powerless to help myself.  The grief in my spirit was great.  I thought I was getting better!

Steve tried to explain the nature of this complex illness to Dr. P outside of the room. I understand that Dr. P spoke graciously to Steve.  That’s nice.  I am glad.  I did not get to experience grace in any form from Dr. P.

The seizing was now a rapid, violent, involuntary tremor. Three nurses insisted that it was time for me to go and started to take off the gown and put on my shirt.  I blurted out that I would do it myself.  I really don’t know what I was thinking when I said that. I do recall being afraid that the sensation of them touching me might add to the hypersensitivity and neurological distress.  Someone brought in a wheelchair.  Another problem surfaced:  my initiation of movement from trying to put on my shirt increased the amplitude of the seizing, violence of the shaking, difficulty pushing out words coherently.  My back arched against my will as screeches of terror erupted from inside me:  half dressed with my bra exposed, crying fiercely, and horrified at the indignity of it all.  (Much later I would wonder if they would have treated me like this if, say, we were working together in home health care earlier that day? I was an occupational therapist for the Network of the main hospital long before I got sick with this wretched illness that no one still completely understands.  Never mind.  No one in that emergency room except Steve appeared to care about me anyways.)

About a half an hour later, I discovered that someone had graciously turned off the lights in the room we were in. Thank you, whoever you are.  And thank you to whomever gave me more time to recover.  We eventually went home.  I felt horrible. Dried tears stained my face.  I was very hungry.  I still had no coat or shoes to wear but hey, my beloved’s car has heated seats and I knew they would warm at least a part of me quickly.  Out into the cold, damp air of night we went.  I was also “shell-shocked.”  I felt traumatized.  Things could have gone so much differently don’t you think?

*********

UPDATE:  It is now about 3 weeks later.  Last weekend an adverse reaction to another medication sent me to a walk-in clinic who sent me to the emergency room of another hospital in another Health Network.  My husband was out of town and dear friends took gracious care of me.  The hospital staff cared well for me.  It now seems like I am finally starting to stabilize, but hey, who really knows what the future holds?  My hope rests in the person of Jesus Christ and His promise to His servant Job who endured far more strife than I can ever imagine.  I end with His words, His promise once again.  Praise be your name and in your name I will trust:  Jesus Christ!

25 I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!  (Job 19)