What else could they do?

The glass chamber is designed to match your body temperature while you complete the subtests of the Pulmonary Function Test. Mike did his job. Steve helped where he could. And for me?

The trauma was REAL.

The cardio-pulmonary work-up continued this past week with a carotid ultrasound, beginning of a 7-day EKG event monitor, and the torture chamber otherwise known as a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT). Perhaps the PFT is not designed to create stress but completing it between 5 sets of convulsive episodes was a real bite in the shorts!

I knew the risks for me of the PFT from having completed one about 5 years ago. We were unable to progress to the section administered after bronchodilator medication because of convulsive episodes triggered in the first few subtests. So this time I asked my beloved to drive me to the hospital for the test and brought with me several rescue remedies that sometimes stop the attacks. With assistance to administer them I might get through it all. When Thursday came I was not motivated to head out the door for the hospital and after only 4 1/2 hours of sleep. Looks like it was going to be the same story, different day.

The first part of the test went alright as Respiratory Therapist Mike kept a close eye on me. I had given him the spiel of what can happen if I had a seizure attack, including the request not to call the paramedics if I had an episode! He said he understood and actually stayed calm throughout the entire ordeal. Seizure-like tics began after the 2nd subtest and most of the ones that followed. Steve graciously brought me the ice pack I had in my lunch bag which served to slow each episode once place over my sternum. We continued and eventually got it all done like a good beating on a warm summer day.

The test that required you to breathe against resistance was particularly frightening. When deep breathing or panting re-triggers the episodes, I thought that surely breathing against the mouthpiece where my airway would be blocked cannot be good. On the contrary. It actually calmed me down considerably! Holy cow. Have we found another tool to help control these dang things? Mike said that breathing against resistance stimulated the vagus nerve. Well there you go again. I first started looking into vagus nerve seizures and treatment strategies at the beginning of 2018. This ultimately led me to see a Craniomandibular Specialist and the rest is history. But here we are again. The trigeminal nerve of the TMJ and the vagus are interrelated cranial nerves. Only these 2 of the many vagus nerve stimulation techniques I have tried have proven to be helpful. We shall revisit this topic here again another day for sure.

The test was scheduled for about an hour. We left after 2 hours! Each time there was a trigger of seizure-like tics, we had to stop for me to struggle to pick up the ice pack on the laminate floor of the glass chamber, apply it to my chest, then wait for things to calm down again. The violent shaking wrenched my neck. I longed to lower myself to the floor and curl up in a ball, holding my head and neck. The pain, the pain. At home I struggle (or Steve carries me) to lie down someplace safe where I can grasp my head and neck to prevent whiplash. Not so during the PFT. My right leg banged against the metal frame and glass walls of the chamber a few times; my body tensed with fright as I feared falling off of the narrow stool and onto the hard, linoleum floor. No blanket was anywhere to be found. Mike and Steve just watched in silence each time. What else could they do?

At times like these I am terrified of falling. Gratefully I have never fallen even after thousands of these wretched episodes. But initiating movements of any kind to either speak, break a fall, or otherwise create safety exacerbates the directionality and velocity of the seizing; this in turn creates a high risk to fall or get injured! Too bad that I am awake to remember all of this hell unlike an epileptic seizure where the person is unconscious. (Well it’s probably good so that I don’t have the injuries that can come with falling after passing out.) I guess it’s my own form of grace manifest as survival mode. Trade the tensing of muscles to prevent of a fall for the rebound that gets triggered: increased rapid-fire, uncontrolled shaking of an appendage or two that may bang against whatever is nearby. Metal frames and glass walls. Still can’t speak most of the time. Breathing? Oy vey. Great choice, eh?

It took awhile after the PFT was over to regain enough muscle control to walk out of the chamber of doom to a chair across the room. Perhaps it will be diagnostic for the cardiologist later this month as to why forced-breathing maneuvers triggered such bad episodes? Maybe the test results will show something this time? Everything flooded my mind as I tried to be pleasant to the two men staring at me the whole time who were powerless to do much to help. They were both most kind. I could see it in their eyes above the masks they both wore. (I was the only one allowed to remove mine! Go COVID-19!) Mike and Steve remained standing as I slumped into a hard plastic chair in the opposite corner of the room. One of them asked if I needed anything but I just couldn’t speak very well to respond. Managing the wires from the EKG event monitor, holding the ice pack to my chest, and groping for a snack bar in the lunch bag to revive me was about all I could handle. Steve opened the packaging and helped me get a drink of water. He knows the routine well. Love that man!

Cracking jokes has been my way to bring humanity to this hell when someone new comes along for the experience. “Welcome to my nightmare.” “I guess I’ve completed my involuntary exercise program today.” Or something similar are my usual bylines. I let a few fly. Before long we were leaving. I was walking very slowly however.

A full day of several long blocks of sleep eventually followed. Thankfully I had made some food ahead of time and thankfully Steve was willing to bring me a meal later on as I began to recover. My Skype appointment on Friday needed to be cancelled and I declined an additional make-up appointment from a second Provider. I was too weak and shaky. About all I accomplished on Friday was a load of laundry and achieving many levels on a word game app. The pup got lots of scratches too.

Two days later I realized how traumatic all of this was. The dearth of tears busted out after yet another bad episode and eventually I got the story typed out here. Perhaps someday these wretched convulsive episodes will stop. Maybe my beloved Steve and I will actually get a peaceful night of sleep on a regular basis, together. Maybe my life will be about the volunteer stuff I get to do here and there instead of medical appointments every week. Seems like we are getting closer than ever before to the mechanism of action of what triggers and what stops these waking, convulsive episodes; I have a few rescue remedies that keep me out of the emergency room these days. Yay God! Lord willing, I pray and plead, my Jesus will mercifully bring me to complete healing. Maybe someday soon? JJ

King Tut Grass and Cannas @ParkviewHealth
Mandevilla vine, Begonias, Geraniums (right) and Potato Vine (left) @ParkviewHealth

Don’t Wait!*

If ever your skin starts to itch in a mysterious way

Don’t wait to get it evaluated when you have a history of chicken pox or shingles.

The clues I missed were that it was one-sided and itched without pain

Yet it was the re-activated virus of herpes zoster in a new spot but related just the same.

My Doc practically shamed me for waiting so long to get treatment

But hey, another Doc said she couldn’t even see it the week beforehand

But there it lain underneath the skin where I could feel the bumps

Itching day and night, burning some too . . . I guess the stuff of life got in the way.

Anti-virals need to be administered within the first 72 hours

A fact I had forgotten since the last bout earlier this year and in 2016:

Three years ago it was hell on earth, screaming for 6 hours straight

Followed by a 3-day hospitalization, 2 emergency room visits, and a few minor complications too.

Shingles Rescue by Peaceful Mountain and liposomal glutathione help with the lesions

Taking all of the prescribed medication is simply what you must do

Don’t wait by trying this herbal stuff or that supplement unless you like to suffer

I already have had enough of that. Give me drugs already. Shingles is simply no fun.

The stress of life can worsen with the holidays and it did so in a big way for me

I’m only human I guess and so are we all. By the grace of God, we’ll get past it once again.

So press on, Gentle Reader, and find the goodness amidst the itching, pain, or whatever it may be

Joy and happiness will return one day: there is much to be thankful for even in this mess of late!

(*Just a little public service announcement of sorts.)

I need a makeover for sure!

Too many directions are no matter to Him

When the movement forward becomes murky from the treatment that sent me sideways

When the latest result became a scare not for cancer but still not not quell my burning question

When the past perks up and says hello, by the way, can you spend some time over here with me?

When the fog settles all around you, nightmares rob your rest, and things look worse but they really are not

You run to Jesus my friend.

Where did the money go when a gift seemed like it would settle all accounts again and again?

Where do you turn for comfort when isolation has become your friend and this is your normal normal?

Where do the roads lead that seem to have no arrival of merit in space, of substance, in meaning?

Where does the time go when it is no longer measured by the hour but the task of survival sun up to sundown?

It all goes to Jesus my friend.

Why do prayers seem to go no where when surrendered by obedience yet are tethered with strands of the unseen?

Why must suffering continue ad nauseum, day without end, manifesting in new ways over and over again?

Why didn’t I have a happy childhood such that my years reinforced it rather than set the little one inside free?

Why does the Lord delay in making it right for those who groan worse than I ever will?

Because He is Lord my friend.

What a day it will be when we know the answers we seek, when the glory is replete for all to see

What a treasure we will behold when the whys matter less where we put them and there’s perfect peace

What am I doing pining for that day to come if I can choose to dwell in His goodness now?

What witness will I leave until my own days have their end, my talents can no longer shine?

For He’s beyond what you see my friend.

The Sauna I Once Loved

Like an old lover that must fade into the background of new life

My sauna must go forth to its new owner, leaving me FIR behind.

She needs it to arrest the cancer in her own body and that of her Mom,

Imagine that: a generational curse that threatens the life between them.

I am happy to pass to them this box of promise, of hope

Bringing them much relief as the toxins melt away with the wavelengths of light.

As for me I am melancholy this day, this night

For I thought I would fare better for the investment therein.

The last of my inheritance was spent the year the Sunlighten entered our home

Hopeful with the promise of a cure from what all ailed me at the time: at first, it was great.

The warmth was undeniable especially on cold Indiana nights

When nothing else would do . . . no nothing else at all.

But did it help purge the alleged chronic Lyme embedded deep within

The bacterium, the viruses, the fungal creatures claimed on imperfect tests?

I may never know as the onslaught hath continued from the rigors of this life

From living in a fallen world hell-bent on our demise, our redemption one day for us all.

Just don’t see how this tool that I once loved, held so much promise

Is worth holding onto longer when all it collects is dust in our living room now.

So onto the next thing I shall be: from the consult of last week to the specialist to come

When in the meantime I know it’s the Lord that is my Great Physician and yours:

The object of my greatest love indeed.

SOLD!!!

A new answer to another question I did not ask

Life never ceases to be an adventure if that is the perspective you choose.

Perhaps an underlying theme of the Hope Beyond blog when it began would have been, “the plot thickens.” Or “deadens.” Flash forward about 7 years since my first blog in August of 2012. At my current stage of recovery from serious illness and a turn for the better-but-not-done-yet, I’m going to attempt the theme of “a new adventure awaits.” How is that for positive thinking?

A little trellis project almost 11 years in the making gets completed this weekend! Yay God!

I haven’t written in awhile. Since March of 2019, there are more moments of functioning better each week and I am taking advantage of them. There are also more very long naps of which I am forced to take advantage as well! The the new direction in my healthcare of getting off of thyroid medication created some problems then had an unexpected turn when parathyroid issues were discovered. My labs in both and related camps are all over the place, making for a Peter Faulk’s, Columbo-style of in-depth investigation raise more than one eyebrow of intrigue. Could there be another causative factor to consider in the convulsive episodes, requiring its own investigation? Yes, it appears so. Sure could be possible that the thyroid nodules, albeit shrinking, hid parathyroid tumors that are additional culprits in serious illness. Both hyper/hypothyroidism AND hyperparathyroidism can explain my clinical presentation. It appears that I am dealing with both. Who knew?

Well the Lord knew all along, the factors and their purpose for a nearly 8-year derailment in life as I once knew it. I am beginning to see that everything I have learned to date has NOT been wasted. I would not be able to respond as quickly to new information if there were still dozens and dozens of other medical conditions to rule out or address. I would not have a deep compassion for those suffering chronic illness today. My faith would be weaker and very likely my marriage. I could go on.

Very few folks have had as many medical tests that I have had, even in the community of persons dealing with chronic illness. Some folks stop after medical professionals label you with depression or anxiety. And if a person persists with extensive testing, very likely it’s peppered with questionable, even dangerous energy techniques akin to quackery. Thank the Lord that I didn’t spend very much time with energy medicine. He let me see the demonic influences and/or lack of science then helped me get away quickly thereafter (e.g. Rife treatment using sound and light frequencies hurt me badly.) Other times my Jesus simply closed the door to a promising yet deceitful avenue even before I was tempted to get near it (e.g. tai chi and yoga). This was very difficult at times when I felt desperate in my personal hell or conversely, when the testing and treatments were recommended by my brothers and sisters in Christ. I simply had to decline with blind faith even if that decision appeared to prolong my suffering in their eyes. Very tough road indeed.

Today I welcome the new answers with more of a sense of adventure than fear. Will I need neck surgery if a parathyroid adenoma is discovered? We are not sure yet. My labs don’t fit the typical profile and I have been in that camp dozens of times before. But when 1) both cardiovascular AND osteoporosis can be related to both thyroid and parathyroid anomalies and 2) calcium trafficking/dis-regulation problems can contribute to neurological symptoms, then it seems logical that both would need to be addressed. Incredible. Separate body processes in which anomalies can be the root cause of disease in the 2 different organ systems. And to think that this new adventure would have never happened if I had not gone to Mayo Clinic in February looking for answers about autoimmune disease. But there is no AD. Maybe not even a Functional Movement Disorder. Just another new answer to a question I did not ask. Holy cow! JJ

Psalm 34:8 New International Version (NIV)
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.