Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rare disease day... the perfect date!

Today (Feb 28th) is Rare Disease Day - it also happens to be exactly 6 years ago since I had my scapular muscle reattachment surgery (very rare! I was the 270th person in the world to have the surgery, performed by the surgeon who created it & was the only surgeon performing it in 2012). It was the first step on what is still a long journey of rehab & recovery.

(N.B. I will try to fix these photos at some point, my photo editing programme on my tablet kept stopping; they do show my dimmed screen.... explained below. Not deliberate!)

'Shoulder stuff'

I write this as I am infusing IV antibiotics into the PICC line I've now had for 9 months to treat Lyme Disease - another rare disease... or under-diagnosed, even Google is a bit confused here: 


Newest Lyme treatment - hard-going, but I think I am slowly...
tentatively... making some good progress

In the past 6 years, following my shoulder surgery, as we 'peeled back the layers of the onion'; I've seen many doctors, surgeons, physiotherapists &  other medical practitioners. I've been given various other rare diagnoses including Thoracic Outlet Syndrome & Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/ RSD).  All from a simple slip on the stairs, 'saving myself' as my body weight hung and torqued from one arm - my once-strong arms, wrecked by several years of severe illness, combined with still-hyperflexible shoulders was a bad combination. On my list of identified injuries (suspected incomplete), some chronic or ongoing, others transient: 'inferior shoulder dislocation' (0.5% of shoulder dislocations) - my arm stuck up in the air, still holding the railing about 3 inches higher than I can actually reach. One physiotherapist summed it up best: "if you didn't have skin, you'd have ripped your arm off."  Some other injuries that occurred in that split second: brachial plexopathy & 'overstretching' injuries to my entire upper right side nerve network; various muscle tears, pulls & strains; other soft tissue damage, including damage to my fascia; & bone injuries, including a scapular fracture (they account for <5% of fractures, just FYI). So dear every doctor I may see in my life - if you hear hooves, think freaking unicorn!!

Photo excuse: sometimes being ill means being stuck in bed.
(I did not seek this out for this post!! I did play with silly Facebook filters. 😜)

Just to reinforce this point, in case it needed it, I've started to sweat in colour... neon yellow and light orange, specifically. I'm pretty sure it's linked with my nerve injury, which can cause very localized sweating; although initially I guessed it was perhaps linked to medication - nope! When I eventually decided to ask another crazy question neither my mum (in her professional capacity), my doctor, nor my PT had ever heard of it.  Although the response now is 'of course you probably have it... if it's a thing' ... And guess what?! It is. It has a name: 'chromhydrosis'  (the linguist in me would like another vowel in there).  I hadn't even turned to Google, it seemed so ridiculous; a PT student searched for it and my PT laughed (maybe with kind exasperation?!) as he read "very rare, incidence unknown". So, UNICORN!!

Added to the messy shoulder + Lyme mix has been post-concussion syndrome (/'minor traumatic brain injury' - 'minor' refers only to the amount of time spent unconscious /disoriented); a delayed diagnosis, but caused by my car accident 2+ years ago when my tyre blew out at 70mph and my car did an actual side somersault. Isn't my karma fantastic?! Urgh!  I haven't really talked much about that. I don't think I've written about it on here at all.  It's hard to think about, honestly; but getting some answers I didn't know I was looking for, and realising things I didn't know I'd been thinking (/worried) about has taken up a large part of the past few months.  Essentially I spent almost 2 years just trying to 'power through' a brain injury.  The post-concussion treatment I just started last November has been incredibly challenging, but it made me realise I have many head injury symptoms I hadn't even realised were symptoms - and they've been really severely affecting my life. Knowing they can be treated, and seeing some good improvements in some areas already has actually brought me a lot of relief. Not recognising symptoms in yourself is actually a symptom - I think that is a perfect definition of 'headfuck' - in every way!

It's one (huge) reason I've struggled to blog much... or to read, write, or use my laptop - my 'screentime' has been limited to a smaller tablet screen, dimmed, with an app that removes blue light to prevent my headaches hitting the highest intensity. I'm seeing little signs of improvement, so hopefully I can keep that going and get back to writing again.

 Additionally, the accident sparked my major Lyme relapse (not unusual); this really blurred the lines a lot between head injury symptoms, and fatigue & headaches that Lyme disease causes.  There is a lot I need to untangle - physically and figuratively.

Ultimately, I am making progress. I'm extremely grateful for the help & support I have, and access to treatment that is working. I'm grateful for the doctors & medics who think outside the box and look for the crazy things when nothing else makes sense. Progress seems slow, but when I think of how things were a year ago, 2 years ago, 6 years ago... I am still moving forward, I am still working hard, and that is all anyone can ever do.

Real progress!
Working a lot on flexibility,  lower body strength,
and increasing my shoulder & arm movements with supported movement 

There are many types of 'rare disease' & they suffer from reduced funding & awareness because they are rare. Diagnosis takes longer, and treatment is often trial and error - I am well aware!  The majority of illnesses are 'invisible illnesses' (or can be hidden); please, where you can, be kind, choose to listen to someone & believe them, even if they 'don't look ill'; support is sometimes the best thing you can offer a friend.

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