Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why a Neurosurgeon and Why Maryland

This past weekend, my dear hubby and I traveled to Washington DC to meet with a neurosurgeon who specializes in treating people with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. We ran into a few snags, but overall had a good trip.  

People have asked why a person with joint issues would need to see a neurosurgeon. Well, Ehlers Danlos doesn't just affect the joints, it affects all parts of the body that have collagen. It can cause all parts of the body to not work the way they should. This can cause issues like Chiari Malformation, cervical cranial instability, atlantoaxial instability, compression on the brain stem and/or spinal cord, syringeomyelia, blocked cerebral spinal fluid and other spine and brain issues. 

Many doctors don't fully understand that Ehlers Danlos can cause so many problems, so finding a specialist is important. The majority of EDS specialists are in Maryland. That means, if I want to get help, I have to travel. (By the way, flying is really hard on me.)

Dear hubby and I traveled to St. Louis in March so that I could have an upright MRI of my brain and cerebral spine taken. These special images were needed because the insides of people with EDS can stretch and hang in abnormal ways when standing or sitting, whereas swhen we are lying down we may appear "normal". 

According to the neurosurgeon, my images looked okay. That's good, but not the end of the story. It doesn't look like I have a Chiari Malformation, but we may need to check the cervical cranial areas again. When I took the test in March, I remember feeling like I couldn't move my head all the way down because the "helmet" got in the way. (The "helmet" is a device used in upright MRI machines to help hold your head in place. It was difficult to flex and extend my neck with it there.) I do have symptoms of this issue, so we'll be talking to the neurosurgeon about that over the phone to see if he would like me to have another upright MRI.

I do have the classical symptoms of atlantoaxial instability or AAI. It's a long phrase that basically means the top two vertebrae in my neck (the atlas and the axis) move more than they should when I rotate my head to look side to side. (There is a special CT Scan that can be done to confirm this, but it's proving difficult to find anyone who knows what the test is or how to do it.) It may not seem like a big deal to be able to over rotate your head, but it can actually cause a lot of health issues. Numbness and tingling in the legs, feet, arms, and hand; blurred vision; black spots; passing out; slurred speech; and more. In severe cases it can cause permanent paralysis. 

We don't have it confirmed that I have either of these conditions; but if they do confirm it, my hubby and I will have to decide whether or not the treatment is right for me and our family. In meantime the doc wants me to wear a hard cervical collar as much as I can tolerate it to keep my neck from rotating too much and causing problems.

This is us doing a little sight seeing after my doctor's appointment. 

So that's why my dear hubby and I traveled all the way to Maryland to see a specialist about my neck, back, headaches, and more. We're back home and enjoying being with our kiddos again. 

A special thanks goes to all those who made this trip possible. Thank you to Miracle Flights, our home church, friends, and family. Your support and help is more appreciated than you know.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dads who are care givers

So, when you read the title of today's blog you probably thought, all dads are care givers, I don't get it. Well, all dads can be care givers. They can bandage boo-boos, read stories, and sing lullabies; but today I'm referring to dads who have children with special needs. The term care giver takes on a different and exceptional meaning to these dads and their families.

Today is Fathers' Day (it's 12:08AM), and I've been thinking about how I want to honor my husband today. I want to make sure I paint a picture that can help others understand and appreciate everything he does, and what so many other dads like him do each day. 

We have a unique family. Not only do all four of our children have unique challenges, but I am physically disabled too. So there is this tremendous pressure put on my dear husband to not only be the sole bread winner for our family, but to be the rock, the strength, the provider of positive thinking, and the burden to stay healthy. It is on his shoulders to remember things and keep it all together, because it's difficult to do that when you have a chronic illness or special needs. He's the one that when we have another doctor's appointment for one of our children, must time right back into work and continue with his day like nothing happened at all, no matter the news we just heard. I can leave and begin to cry or yell as soon we begin driving home, but he has to step right back into talking with people and helping them with there presentations and pretend like everything is fine, even when it isn't. I can't stand it when people tell him how strong he is for not showing emotion during these difficult times, and not letting it get to him. As a care giver, as a parent, it does get to him, and he should be allowed the time to cry, and yell, and mourn. But, there is just so much pressure put on these dads, that they often don't get the chance to let it all out.

Throughout our years together, my husband has shown time and time again what it means to be an excellent dad and caregiver to our children and to me. When our BG was little and just beginning  occupational therapy, it was her kind hearted daddy who could see her struggle with the information her body was sensing and would hold her tightly in his arms until her brain could calm down again. He would explain to family, calmly, that she couldn't always wear the clothes picked out the night before, and may even need to try on many different outfits before finding one that felt right so we could leave for church. He would remind others not to demand hugs or touch her without warning, because she was so very sensitive to even the slightest touch. 

 When our oldest needed brain surgery, he took the time to help find people to watch our other kiddos and helped make sure that SuperBoy always had one of us with him in the hospital. He also made sure that I was able to eat at the hospital and at home, even with my special diet. This dear daddy went with the physical therapist and SuperBoy to make sure he could make it up and down the stairs before we brought him home, and made him a bed in the living room until it was safe for Him to sleep in his loft bed again.

This daddy has met me in the emergency department time and again to check on our PG because of an asthma flare-up, continued falling, and other unusual health concerns. He's rushed her there himself because she couldn't stop moving and she was desperate and tired and crying. He's had to pick her up from a fall or carry her up stairs to bed countless times. He makes arrangements and takes precautions so that she can do activities and go on field trips and excursions and doesn't have to stay behind. He makes sure she gets to be a kid and not just a bunch of illnesses piled into one little body.

He reminds our youngest that no matter what, his daddy loves him. Even when he draws on the wall, throws a tantrum, or wets his pants; his daddy loves him. Even when Daddy can't go to the ultrasound or the visit with the kidney doctor, his daddy loves him and wishes he could be there. 

My husband, the care giver, is willing to give up time when he would rather be watching the Royals play or listening to Hamilton to help me get the kids ready for bed because PG has been falling a lot and needs someone with her all the time; or because my knee just dislocated and I can't walk. He gives up time with the guys, and instead takes the time with our oldest guy so they can build a strong relationship of trust and respect. So he can help our teen to grow into a self-sufficient, responsible young man who can make his dreams a reality. He takes the time to make sure each of our children knows how wonderful they are by spending one-on-one time with them and getting to know each of their likes and dislikes. He takes the time to show them that no matter what their struggles are, they can still dream and reach for the stars even from a wheelchair.

This doesn't even address all the time and energy he puts into taking care of a wife whose body is so unpredictable it can go from happy and enjoying life one moment to severe pain and fatigue, or even stoke-like from a rise in body temperature the next. There are all the times when he has to carry me up or down the stairs, wrestle with my wheelchair, help me put braces on, rub my spasming muscles, or simply hold me while I cry. 

All of these things he does after working a full time job, not knowing if he'll need to come home and have to fix dinner because his disabled wife didn't have the energy to do it, or clean up a mess the kids made, or wash a load of laundry; when he would really just like to sit down and chill. It can be difficult and nearly impossible to find a way to relax with the loud yelps and jerks of Tourette, the inflexible nature of OCD causing someone to pace or have an anxiety attack, the crying and meltdowns from overloaded senses, and the rambunctiousness of a preschooler who is almost always mischievous and gets himself hurt and bruised easily; and yet this dad sticks with it. He helps with potty training and showers, making meals and grocery shopping, planning medical trips and one-on-one time with each of our children. He is an amazing dad who puts more love and compassion into one day than many people have to put into a month. He doesn't to it all with a smile, that would be too much to ask of anyone; but he does it because he loves our family and wants what is best for each of us. 

So, the next time you see a dad of a special and unique family similar to ours; instead of telling him how strong he is, tell him he's a good dad and that it's okay to take some time off for himself. It's okay to cry and mourn and become angry for his child/children/wife who can't do all the thing he wants for them. It's okay to be strong in the eyes of the world, but it's equally okay to need help and not do it all yourself. The strength these dads have goes far beyond what society sees, so tell them you appreciate them for the things they do that you know nothing about. Give them a hearty hand shake or even a hug. 

So, to my husband, I love you. I appreciate you. I couldn't walk this road without you, and I don't want to walk it without you. 

 To my husband, to my dad, and all the other dads out there today, thank you for loving your children. Happy Fathers' Day!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Starting again

So, I'm going to try to blog on a more regular basis. There are two main reasons why I think I should do this. 1. It's therapeutic. Life is hard, confusing, and frustrating right now. Blogging will hopefully allow me to get some of my frustration out, and hopefully it will help me look for the positive things in my day. 2. To bring awareness to a rare illness that desperately needs more research and more informed medical professionals. 

My goal for each blog is to share a bit of what is going on in our lives, share a Scripture or song that has touched my heart in some way or speaks to my feelings, and share a positive note from the day.

I hope you'll follow along on this journey. It's not where I ever expected to go with this blog, but hopefully it will benefit someone.

God bless and see you soon!

I'll leave you with this photo I took earlier today of three of my kiddos playing in the water. They had a blast! πŸ˜€

Friday, February 12, 2016


Today began full of EDS pain and gastroparesis nausea complicated by low blood sugar. It was NOT a good morning. My caring husband made me breakfast, and struggled with the desire to stay home to take care of me and the need to go to work. There were tears and stress and even a bag in case my breakfast wouldn't stay down. We decided he should go to work and hope that I would feel better soon. Well, I'm typing this at 10:18AM, and I'm feeling much better.

To go back a little, I got a pretty big surprise earlier this week. A dear friend told me that when they saw me on Sunday morning, they saw anger. I haven't been told that before, but he was right. I.AM.ANGRY! On Sunday I was angry that I was stuck in a wheelchair. I'm angry that I always have to use some sort of walking device to get around. Angry that I am not the mom I always dreamed of being. Angry that I'm not the wife I want to be or that my sweet husband deserves. Then I realized from where all this anger comes.  This anger I have, is deep seeded in fear. Fear that I am not the mother my children deserve. Fear that I am not the wife my husband deserves.  Fear that I am not doing enough, being enough, strong enough...

I have fear of the future and for what it holds. How much sicker will I become? How much more disabled? 

But the fear that causes the most anger, is the uncertainty of my children's future. Each of my children has a 50% of having EDS and one of them has already been diagnosed. I wouldn't trade any of my children or choose not to have them, but it breaks my heart to think they could end up chronically ill. As I was explaining to my children this morning that I wasn't contagious, it's my EDS acting up; my little girl looked at me and asked with fear making her voice tremble, "Is that going to happen to me too?" 

It is my job to teach her how to have courage and faith in the One who DOES see the big picture even though we don't. So I hugged her and held her and told her that I get scared too. 

You see during all the yuckiness this morning, I was on Facebook. On my page I found several reminders to have faith and hope, and above all to not be afraid! I was able to share some of these with her.

This is the video I showed her. http://m.wimp.com/fear-dance-routine-magic-costume-mahomet-seymour/ I don't know how much of this video she'll remember, but even if all she remembers is living in fear is darkness and living in faith with hope and courage brings light; I'll take it!

There is even more that was shared with me this morning, reminding me to not be afraid and thank God for the storm, because our storms (and how we handle them) may be blessing others. God has been sending me a message today, that I wanted to share with you. "Be not afraid!"

Friday, January 1, 2016

Good-bye 2015, Hello 2016

This past year has been one of the most difficult years I have ever had. It was an incredible roller coaster ride that, without my family, friends, and faith in God, I'm not sure that our family would have made it through. Here's my list of the best and worst for my family in 2015 and a few things I'm looking forward to in 2016.

The Worst of 2015
(I'm not sure that I can put these in a particular order. Some were worse than others, but I can't sort them all out right now.)

πŸ’₯ Our daughter (PG) having large spells and tics that would last minutes to hours. She was eventually diagnosed with both Tourrette Syndrome and epilepsy. We're still waiting for her to be six months seizure free so she can be off restriction.

 πŸ’₯ Our son (SuperBoy) needing multiple MRIs because (as we discovered) sedation doesn't work for him and the doctors needed more images than they originally realized. 

πŸ’₯ SuperBoy was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation and needed more tests to confirm how significant it was.

πŸ’₯ In June, it was determined that, due to the restriction of cerebral-spinal fluid and pressure on the brain stem, our son would need brain surgery to make more space for the brain and allow the fluid to flow the way it should. This was heart breaking news.

πŸ’₯ PG was not able to play with her friends at the park, climb trees, go across the monkey bars, or do anything where she could fall. She would often cry because she couldn't be with her friends and do what they did at the park. (This broke my heart every time and caused some differences in opinions on parenting.)

πŸ’₯ Many, many, many doctors' appointments, tests, and phone calls to specialists at Children's Mercy Hospital.

πŸ’₯ Being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and learning all the complications that can go with it. Also learning that each of our four children has a 50% chance of having it too.

πŸ’₯ Some friends whose daughter had been fighting cancer for nearly her entire 15 years, won her battle by God calling her home. 

πŸ’₯ My kind, incredible, and extremely intelligent brother-in-law was fighting cancer. He was doing better when he took a sudden turn and was taken Home to be with His Savior and his dad who passed earlier in the year.

Some of these were heartbreaking and others exhausting both mentally and physically.  The good didn't outweigh the bad, but it's always good to count your blessings and remember the good with the bad.

The Best of 2015
(Again, these are in no particular order.)

πŸ’₯ Finding the medications and dosages to help PG with her severe tics and seizures.

πŸ’₯ SuperBoy going on a church trip and two camps before having his surgery.

πŸ’₯Everyone who bought bracelets and helped sell bracelets to pay for SuperBoy's camps.

πŸ’₯ SuperBoy's surgery was successful. He only had to stay in the PICU one night and less than a week in the hospital. 

πŸ’₯ Amazing friends and family who were at the hospital during SuperBoy's surgery or helped by watching our other children so both DH and I could be at the hospital. Also those who brought us meals so we didn't have to worry about fixing supper when SuperBoy was at home recovering.

πŸ’₯ Incredible doctors and staff at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics.

πŸ’₯ The Easter and Christmas programs that I directed for our church as well as the children's choir singing beautifully.
πŸ’₯ Birthdays and holidays spent with loved ones. 

πŸ’₯ My niece graduating from high school, joining the Army National Guard and graduating from basic training and AIT training with flying colors!

πŸ’₯ Finally receiving a diagnosis after being chronically ill for 5+ years. 

πŸ’₯KC Royals winning the World Series!

With a year like we had in 2015, 2016 must be better, right? Well I'm choosing to look for the positive and search out God's will and blessings for my family. No matter how 2016 turns out, I know for sure that God will walk with us each step of the way. Here are a few things I'm looking forward to in 2016.

πŸ’₯ Fundraising to pay for medical bills, equipment, and hopefully a more accessible home.

πŸ’₯ Getting appointments with geneticists and specialists to get more health issues figured out.

πŸ’₯ Date nights with my DH. 
πŸ’₯ Family staycation or trip.

πŸ’₯ More birthdays and family celebrations.

πŸ’₯ Watching our children learn and grown as we homeschool. 

This year I'm working on putting the past behind me and looking forward to the future, whatever it may hold. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is why my body hates me. For years my body has given me fits of different kinds, but it all came to a head six years ago. For six years I have been chronically ill and no one could figure out why. They ruled out all kinds of disorders (MS, Lupus, epilepsy, and more), and then the doctors would send me on my way. My PCP fought for me, but didn't know who else to have me see. By the grace of God, a friend of mine mentioned a doctor who was able to help her when she was bedridden. We decided to give this new doctor a try. This doctor practices family medicine but also functional medicine. That was my first exposure to functional medicine, and although the diet didn't heal me as it has others, it has helped me identify foods that body doesn't handle well.

Early in 2015 our oldest was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation that was restricting the cerebral spinal fluid from getting to his brain and was pressing on his brain stem. Scary stuff! He had brain surgery in July and is doing much better. It was through my desire to learn more about his condition and receive support from other parents that I first learned about EDS. 

In September, a fellow mom in the Facebook support group posted a LOT of links about EDS. That day I decided that I should finally read about this disorder. I was shocked and amazed! I had numerous symptoms, so many that after sharing the links with my hubby we decided to share the information with my doctor. (The one who is a family doctor who studies functional medicine.) Because she believes in continuing to learn and putting her patients first, we were sure she would read the material. We were right! She told us at my visit that she was amazed at how many of the symptoms I have. She did the proper exams (the Brighton scale and the stretchy skin test) and gave me the clinical diagnosis of Hypermobile EDS. 


EDS is a connective tissue disorder that effects the collagen in the body. Collagen is found in every part of our bodies except the nerves. It is the glue that holds everything together. There are different types of EDS and depending on which kind you have depends on which part/s of your body are more severely effected. (I plan to address the other types in a future post.) For the hypermobile type, the joints are very flexible causing the joints to subluxate and dislocate on a daily basis (for many people, multiple times a day). It also causes pain in the joints as well as the muscles that are having to help hold our joints in place. We can use physical therapy to strengthen our muscles, but if the wrong kinds of exercises are done, or in the wrong order, it can cause injury (we injure more easily too) and cause even more problems. So finding a PT who knows about connective tissue disorders and hypermobility is a must. It's also important to find a PT who understands chronic fatigue (which we often have since our joints and muscles tire easily from having to work so hard just to walk, write, type, cook,  do all kinds of typical activities). If we work our bodies too hard it can land us in bed for days or cause joint injury. 

There are many health issues that are associated with EDS, but more research needs to be done to prove that EDS is a cause. It makes sense though because connective tissue is found throughout the body, every body system can be affected. People with Hypermobile EDS may also have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), mitro valve issues with the heart, gastroparesis (slow gastric emptying) IBS, very sensitive skin and stretchy skin that is difficult to suture, mast cell activation disease, vision issues, dysautonomia (which causes all kinds of other issues) Chiari malformation, cervical instability and more. It can be very difficult to be diagnosed with these associated issues because education about EDS typically begins and ends with a short paragraph in a Med school textbook. Because it is deemed a "rare disorder", most doctors don't even think of it as a possibility and there are very few specialists who know much about it as well. Insurance companies can be difficult to work with too in getting the proper tests completed. So, many people with EDS (EDSers) have to travel to be seen by doctors who actually know about the condition and understand the MANY, MANY underlying factors that go into treating someone with Ehlers-Danlos. 

It makes daily life a chore sometimes. Something as simple as getting out of bed, eating a meal, taking a shower, or going to sleep can be significantly difficult. My energy level and pain levels change throughout the day. I may seem fine and I'm able to go up and down the stairs and cook and clean perfectly well in the morning, but in the afternoon I can barely move, or my body makes me sick to my stomach or so tired that I have no choice but to lie down. Lying down is a pain too, literally. If I sleep in the wrong position or my bed or pillow don't give me the proper support, or if my joints are just hurting, lying down can cause a tremendous amount of pain; making it nearly impossible to rest or sleep. 

Why am I telling you all this? Well, it's not for attention or sympathy. It's for education. EDS is thought of as a rare disease, but the hypermobile type is likely not rare but more likely underdiagnosed. The more people that find out they have this disorder and get diagnosed, the better chance for more research we have. Not everyone ends up disabled or feeling ill all the time. There are different severities, and it hits people at different ages. The treatments that are available, aren't that great. The medications they offer are very strong and for some people cause side effects that are just as bad as the pain they have. And the government is trying to limit our ability to even get those medications anymore. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are great avenues to explore, but they don't work for everyone. And like I stated earlier, you have to have the right kind of physical therapy or else you could get hurt. This is a genetic disorder. Without question each of my children could have it. I want to give my children the opportunity to have a better and brighter future. Getting them diagnosed early on is one good thing that I can give them, but it would be even better if I could give them better treatments and possibly even a cure! 

For more information about EDS go to http://ednf.org/node/11

When my neck is hurting a lot or too weak to hold my head up, I wear a neck brace to relieve my muscles and joints for a bit. I'm not a fan, so I try to keep up with the little things that help me feel "normal" even when I'm not feeling "normal" at all. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dysfunction Junction (a book review)

Last week I finished a terrific book, Dysfunction Junction by April Erwin. This is April's second book and is a fun and engaging novel that reminds young women that true beauty is found within and not to give up on God's plans. 

Here is a short synopsis of Dysfunction Junction.

“I’m twenty-six and I’ve never been kissed.” Staring into the bathroom mirror while making this brilliant comment is supposed to make it feel real. It doesn’t.

Finding true love these days feels impossible to Kianna Ravencamp, only dysfunction surrounds her. Her sister’s married to an abusive husband and marriages she’s admired for years are falling apart. Maybe relationships like her parent’s don’t exist anymore. She dreams of true love and a family, but she’s never even been kissed.

For her birthday, her best friend gives her a journal and dares her to follow her dream of songwriting and vocal lessons quickly follow. Kianna’s finally dared to dream big… if the three men in her life don’t get in her way.

Nick Steele, her new vocal partner is flirtatious and charming. Derek Simpson, the new vocal coach is asking her out for coffee. Even Jason Payne, a childhood friend is acting odd. For the first time in her life, she will have to navigate dating and flirtation. Will her inexperience be her downfall? How will these relationships affect her songwriting career? 

Letting go and trusting God is the only answer that brings the path to real love and success.

I am doing my best to give a detailed review without divulging too much information, but there may be a few spoilers.

Genre: Christian Chick-lit
I would agree completely that Dysfunction Junction is Christian Chick-lit. It is great for young women wondering just what God's plans are, especially when it seems her own plans are falling apart. Young men may enjoy reading this book, but it's intended audience is definitely female.

Age range: 21 years and older
Due to some more mature content.

God/Christianity: Throughout
Our main characters are regularly praying and talking about God and His will in their lives. Scriptures are mentioned as well. They also attend church regularly.

Drug and/or alcohol content: Some
Even though the heroine does not consume alcoholic beverages, she does put herself in situations where alcohol is served and she is interacting with people who are or have been drinking. This is spoken about in the book and clearly shown that our heroine and her friends and roommate do not drink alcohol and do not approve of alcohol consumption.

Cigarettes are also smoked at a few places that Kianna visits.

Cursing/Off-color Language: Very little
There is mention of a four letter word being said, but the word is not actually written in the book.

There is a joke at the beginning of the book where men are compared to parking spaces. Some may find the comparison offensive.

Violence: Moderate
As mentioned in the synopsis, our heroine's sister is in an abusive marriage. Dysfunction Junction explores this and we are able to see some of the abuse as it happens to both Kianna's sister and niece. (This part of the story line is intense and may be difficult for some readers.)

Sexual Content: Mild
Kianna and her friends talk about dating, kissing, and not putting themselves in a position that could compromise their beliefs or reputation. It is not explicitly stated, but implied that our main characters believe in waiting to be married before engaging in sexual intimacy. Despite her beliefs, Kianna does find herself compromising her standards and allowing herself to be in a questionable situation in her apartment all in the name of letting her walls down and allowing herself to fall in love.

There is a humorous story shared at a girls' night that mentions undergarments and an inconvenient position in which one of Kianna's friends finds herself.

Kianna's friends take her shopping, and she has bra fitting where she must take off her blouse and bra. 

There is also a humorous situation involving Kianna becoming stuck while getting dressed.

The descriptions of sexy and hot are used.

Marriage and Divorce: Throughout
One of the main topics of this book is marriage and how so many people are finding themselves in unhappy marriages or getting divorced. Kianna is overwhelmed by it all and begins to question if happy marriages can truly exist outside of her parents'. 

Although working through differences and attending marriage counseling is spoken about, the author also shares beliefs that abuse is an acceptable reason to seek a divorce. 

I very much enjoyed this book. It was difficult to put it down. I connected deeply to the characters and wanted Kianna to see herself the way others do. I highly recommend this book, especially to young women just out of college.