Ehlers-Danlos mama trying not to twist things up *too* much!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I've Been Thinking About

Maybe it's something about turning 30, but I have this urge like never before to have a baby. No, not just to have a baby, to have a baby. There, I said it. It doesn't mean I'll actually do anything about that—since that would require a lot of planning, given the sort of relationship I'm in, but I feel it deserves some attention.

Let me back up. When I was first diagnosed, I remember sitting in the office of the esteemed shoulder doctor, my head swirling with questions, hands shaking as they clutched the handwritten lists I'd written but forgotten. My eyes quickly shifted from the brilliant x-rays illuminating my useless bone held together by titanium plates and screws to the surgeon's white coat and kind face to the door. I wanted to run, to escape the future, to forget the words I'd just heard.

“What do I do now?” I stammered.

“There are support groups,” he said. “See a genetics counselor if you want to have a baby. We can talk about what to do if you need more surgery...”

No, no, NO!!

I wanted to scream, to shake him, to tell him that I didn't care about surgery or a baby, that I was 19 and that all I wanted was for him to be wrong. I've been told that my face doesn't mask emotion well, so I'm sure he got it. I know Cam did. We drove the 2 hours home in unusual quiet, occasionally making small talk.

Over the years, Cam and I talked about having a baby, but as my body got worse it seemed obvious that a pregnancy would be hard for me. Not that it would have mattered—since Cam was a little girl, she's wanted to have a baby. She carried the Poodle and her pregnancy was wonderful. I never felt I missed out on anything. Until now.

Cam thinks she might want another baby “in a few years.” Until recently, I was perfectly content, but now I am struggling. It's new. Foreign. We talk about it, but it's painful.

I don't want to give the wrong impression here. Adopting my older children was an amazing journey. I was blessed with four precious beings that I treasure each day. When I think of them, especially of Atiyyah and Miss Puggles, whose birth parents I do not know, I often think there was some sort of mix up that led to their being born into the wrong family and just taking a little longer to get to us. Since I know Old Boy and Monster's biological mother, I feel a little differently—mostly thankful. She gave us the most selfless gift of all, the gift of our boys.

It's not that I don't want to adopt another child, it's just that the internal voice won't relent. That damn maternal instinct (which should be satisfied by parenting four children despite the constant gnaw of pain and pummel of exhaustion) screams, “Time to have a baby!”

And what about that EDS anyway? I may catch some flack for this, but even if the stars were to align and my hips and spine were in good shape to carry a baby and I were off the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, I feel uneasy when I think about knowingly passing this on. Yet I feel just as badly about knowingly saying, “Uh-uh” to the little EDSers-to-be during a potential genetic counseling appointment. What if they had my eyes? My mind? My...? (And this from a staunch defender of reproductive rights. Do you see the mayhem that the big 3-0 has brought to my mind?!)

It's all hypothetical...if that. I will never be able to have a baby. This body barely holds itself together enough to support me, let alone me +1. I've known this for years. I'm fortunate that I have 4 living children. I'm fortunate that I have a partner who could potentially carry another child. I will never be able to have a baby. I've known this—somewhere within myself—for years.

Why then, does typing it bring tears to my eyes?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chief Complaint: Exhaustion...Any Ideas???

When I was younger and yet to be diagnosed, I had my fair share awful encounters with the medical world. Doctors thought I was faking injuries and ailments, self-inflicting them, that my parents or someone around me was hurting me, that I needed to be institutionalized...the list goes on and on.

Thankfully, that's not usually the case anymore. I occasionally encounter doctors and other professionals that don't understand EDS and make insensitive comments or propose treatments that are inappropriate, but as an adult who is able to choose her own providers, I'm quite happy with my team. There is one area of exception, though.

For the past year or so, I've been exhausted. I'm not sure when my energy was zapped, but I am perpetually operating in a state of "tired"--from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep. I remember a time when I wasn't so tired; I just don't remember when it was. This was of concern to my various doctors until all the tests came back "normal." Then quite a few of them settled in to that oh-so-comfortable default position of "blame the patient." Sort of.

My neurologist said it was because I was in pain and depressed and not eating well. My rheumatologist said I didn't seem depressed but also blamed the pain. My psychiatrist agreed that I wasn't depressed and didn't know what to say about the pain. Maybe acupuncture.

Ok. I understand that chronic pain can cause depression, which can fatigue. I'm really not depressed, though. And on top of the constant fatigue, I also have crushing "attacks" where I suddenly feel completely exhausted and out-of-it, as though I've been awake for days. When these come on, [which is more likely mid-morning, late-afternoon or after being in the sun] I can barely keep my eyes open. (I think this is due to a weird ocular sensation, but it's hard to explain.) When Cam witnesses these, she can see a physical change, although she's not certain the change would be obvious to people who don't know me, besides my seeming tired.

My internist was concerned about narcolepsy, so I had a sleep study. Of course, I couldn't sleep that night--go figure. What the study did show was a complete absence of REM sleep and mildly reduced sleep efficiency. The physician reviewer attributed the lack of REM to my Fentanyl & Dilaudid and still considered the study fairly normal. I do need to have another one, including the MSLT now that I'm out of my cast.

Has anyone experienced this? What do you think? I'd love some opinions, answers and treatment suggestions...this exhaustion is what cripples me more than the pain, fusions, GERD and all other symptoms combined, if that says anything.

Thanks in advance.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When A Doc Gets It

Of course it's been nearly 2 months since my last entry...what else is new?!

In my defense, my computer was virus-stricken during that 2 month period. It just returned to me, thanks to my Ninja-Warrior Brother-in-Law who also happens to be a PC repairman. Here's some unsolicited advice (this is my blog, after all): Back up your files, especially pictures and videos of your loved ones. I managed to recover most of what I lost, but it was no easy feat.

When I last wrote, I was not-so-patiently waiting for that darn cast to come off. I'm happy to report that it was removed as scheduled and that I've been hobbling on two feet, assisted by my trusty walking boot and forearm crutch/es for some time now. Even better, at my 2 month follow up, my ankle appeared to be solidly fused. That was great news, as solid union wasn't really expected until about 4 months. I'm all for speedy healing.

I had a milestone birthday this year (complete with a fabulous surprise party), but I'm not too broken up about it. I don't feel any older than I did last year, and despite being a mama and hobbling around like an 85 year old great-grandma, I still have difficulty seeing myself as a real adult. (College students just seem younger each year—what gives? And high schoolers—don't even get me started!) So getting older didn't bother me too much. What did bother me that day was the news Cam brought home from the hospital about my orthopedic surgeon—that he was leaving the practice and moving out of state.

I spent the rest of the day with a lump in the back of my throat. Ortho-Doc has been my only specialist up until this year. I started seeing him the year after he joined the practice here, right after he finished his fellowship. In the beginning, he was very eager to fix me, to do for my right shoulder what no one had been able to do for the left. And while he always respected my wishes when it came to treatment, to surgery, it wasn't until my first (or maybe second) right shoulder surgery failed that he began to truly understand how I ended up with a left shoulder fusion at the ripe old age of 19. Since then, he's let me make all the decisions. When I want to go the surgical route, we come up with a procedure. When I want to try injections or pain management or physical therapy, he facilitates that. In a most un-surgeonly way, he actually listens and involves me in my own treatment. The thought of having to find someone else to deal with me (especially when many surgeons don't want to touch an EDSer with a 10 foot pole) was most unsettling, especially since I'm still in need of more work on my shoulder.

Turns out all is not yet lost. When I actually went in to see Ortho-Doc, he confirmed that he is leaving the practice, but he'll only be about 2 hours away. While I've been quite spoiled over the past few years by being able to roll out of bed ½ hour before my ortho appointments, I'll take the drive if it means not having to deal with someone new! Thankfully my new insurance covers out-of-state specialists. I'm angry and eternally grateful all at once...grateful that I have doctors who are actually willing to [try to] figure me out, treat my pain, and treat me with dignity. STILL, I am angry that this disorder and the thought of losing one of the members of my “team” reduces me to an anxious mess (on my birthday, no less) and that the anxiety isn't unwarranted!

Every doctor should be like Ortho-Doc. Every doctor should “get” it, should treat patients well, involve them in their own care. I'm finding that more and more doctors are at least minimally informed about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and are eager to learn. I've had fewer “Oh, so you're a circus freak,” remarks recently. I think we're getting there. Still, I'm going to hold on to the good ones I have!

Be well!