Moving forward with the next big thing

Sure is humbling sharing the nitty gritty of an ugly illness with the world.  Yet I would not be a good steward of the experiences the Lord has allowed in my life for His purposes if I hid them in shame.  So with courage and trust that this will be used for good someday, I share with you my newest video:

Please consider helping us out with our campaign covering us in prayer as we embark on this new treatment adventure for me.   We are hopeful again!

For more details on this amazing story, check out the posts below from this past week.  Thank you to all who have participated already.  We are humbled and exceedingly grateful!  🙂

And Godspeed Gentle Reader.  I appreciate you so!  JJ

The Next Big Thing

Pursuing the Next Big Thing

Julie’s Neuro Treatment

Pursuing The Next Big Thing

Well I gave a detailed rationale in a recent post for me pursuing TMJ/TMD treatment to help alleviate intractable seizure attacks that have plagued me for the past 6 years.  Basically if the cranial nerves that exit the brain at the top of the neck are pinched from tight or misaligned muscles and tissues around the face, neck, and jaw then pain and a myriad of neurological problems can follow.  A physical trauma, especially auto accidents, often starts the problem.  Dental professionals who specialize in this area can provide relief for movement disorders such as Tourettes Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, tics, dystonia, and atypical seizure disorders using various dental appliances and therapies.  My research into this began a few weeks ago after an Ear Nose and Throat Doctor suggested I look into issues related to one of the twelve cranial nerves (vagus); I found that my symptoms involved seem to relate to several of them and require a broader, more functional bio-mechanical perspective.

Sooooo, since TMJ pain began for me after an auto accident in 1996 and worsened with convulsive episodes beginning in 2012, I brought up this topic with my chiropractor and brilliant primary care doctor this week.  Both agreed that specialized dental appliances are a good avenue to pursue.  Both have provided supporting medical documentation to support my case and the latter reviewed the Curriculum Vitae of the Dental Specialist that I have selected (after interviewing 13 dental professionals from around the country!).  My hubby and I are prayerfully preparing to proceed accordingly, with faith and confidence that the treatment will be effective in due time.

Once we made the decision, we had no idea what would happen next.  There are significant unknowns in this process, not the least of which is a significant financial commitment for specialized care out-of-pocket and for out-of-state travel for nearly 3 weeks.  We just knew that I needed a new treatment direction and that these new interventions seemed compelling to address many problem areas (’cause hey, even chewing food can trigger episodes!).  The next steps were for Steve to approach his employer for an extended leave of absence and for me to start scheduling appointments, making campground reservations, contacting family in the area, and so on.  Gentle Reader, it’s only been two days and the following blessings have already come to light:

Steve’s employer granted his request for a leave of absence and will provide a company computer so that he may work remotely while we are away.  Harris’s company headquarters is about 2 1/2 hours away from my new Doctor’s office by car and for the second week of our trip, Steve will be able to share an office there with a former coworker he knows who transferred there 2 years ago.  Awesome!  And guess what?  His employer is located near the Kennedy Space Center where Harris will be launching a ROCKET FROM CAPE CANAVERAL right in the middle of the 4 days we will be staying in the area!  Holy cow!  How cool is all of that?

Just a week ago, I finally was able to get in touch with a best friend from my childhood with whom I have not spoken in around 37 YEARS.  Guess where she, her sister, and her Dad live?  Very close to the same town where I will be having my treatment!  They were a huge part of my growing up years, especially after my parents were divorced when I was barely a teenager.  Tammy and I spent hours playing house or school on her back patio after dragging outside a myriad of furniture and supplies from both of our homes.  Sometimes we had just gotten things set up and her mom would come home from work so we had to put it all away again!  Then there was the backyard carnival we made to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  Her little sister, Patty, dressed up like a gypsy to give words of wisdom in the “fortune telling” pup tent!  Their Dad was so very sweet to me when I would see him working in the yard, carrying tools along the sidewalk between our houses.  His kindness was very comforting at a tender time in my life.  All are good memories indeed.  I look forward to seeing each of them!

Halloween, 1960s, 1967, front porch, Linville, Warren, Michigan, Kids, children, costumes

From right to left: Julie, little brother Rob, Tammy, Tammy’s little sister Patti, and another neighbor at Halloween in 1967 or so!

If that wasn’t enough, we also hope to see an Aunt of mine who has lived in the area for decades.  Steve and I last visited her 5 years ago when I was near the beginning of this illness.  When I talked to her on the phone about maybe seeing her, she disclosed that she is struggling with a serious brain disease and having difficulty functioning.  My heart sank.  She explained quite candidly that her ability to perform activities of daily living has become increasingly compromised over the past year such that she doesn’t want to live alone anymore.  She has not been able to obtain assistance from her medical providers in obtaining the supports she needs.  It is not clear how aware my two cousins are of her condition; I may be the first person to visit her home for many years as all of us live 1,000 miles or more away.  My heart is breaking for her while my mind as a licensed occupational therapist is churning with the possibilities of what this all means.  Steve and I will start to sort this out by going to visit my Aunt with the goal to simply love on her, bring a meal, and visit for awhile.  Lord knows what will follow thereafter, likely some phone calls to my cousins up north . . .

Gee, if all of this has transpired in just 2 days, I wonder what awaits us in the next week?  We are praying continuously about everything mentioned here as we begin to make our travel arrangements.  There are repairs needed on the travel trailer and much to do.  What is certain though, is that our Lord Jesus Christ is already paving the path before us.   He always does, of course, and this time we are in awe as we can see it unfolding as we speak!  Very likely we will need to raise some funds for my care so stay tuned for the details and please pray with us as we embark on this magnificent adventure.  I have been through dark times before and have seen the Lord miraculously “restore the years the locusts had eaten.”  (Joel 2:25)  Sure looks like He is moving again in our lives right now in a big way.  Thank you for coming along side me with each post here, each little tear.  You make a difference just being there reading this, tracking my story.  God bless you for hanging in there with me!

Gentle Reader, I have hope again.  :J

The beat goes on

Looking for some meaning in this holding pattern of life

I find only the dings along the bottom of the barrel, cold and damp.

Went on a little adventure with my love only to land in a world of hurt

The ghastly symptoms embarrass me in front of a friend not yet known.

I really try to find a way out of this hell, I really do

With answers only to wait, check this, measure that as it is not time yet.

If only I had the eternal eyes of my Savior perhaps the angst would be less

The long naps on a sunny day awakened with distress of illness would be no bother.

“When?” would be replaced with patience, “why?” with simple faith and trust,

Pain with appreciation of endurance granted only by my dearest Lord.

Hold me now as it is too late for my strength to carry me any more

As this heart ticks off more moments, let me know that with You I will go on . . .

 

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