Have you ever felt so hot; sweating so profusely and you thought you might spontaneously blow up from the inside out? That is how I feel so much of the time. If the temperature drops and I get just a little bit cold, then I am freezing cold, my lips turn blue and I am shivering. It truly does take my body quite a long time to regulate when there’s a temperature change. Sometimes when I’m at home, I’ll be just sitting and watching T.V., when suddenly, I start to sweat and feel so very hot from the inside out! I feel honestly as though I’m going to burn up, blow up or both! It’s a crazy feeling and it makes me feel so terrible. But it’s not crazy because I have my husband come over and feel the back of my neck and he can see that I’m shiny and “clammy” looking. He has said that he feels the heat coming from my body! Others don’t seem to understand this. No one else seems to understand the fatigue, heart racing, inability to adjust my body temperature, the GI upset,motility issues, the inability to sleep or the pain either. But all together it is called “Dysautonomia”. It happens to someone when their Autonomic Nervous System has gone berzerk! (**The Autonomic Nervous System or ANS is every system in the body that is involuntary. This means the G.I. tract or digestion, Respiratory -breathing, Heart Rate, Pulse, Blood Pressure, Body temperature and other involuntary brain functions as well).
In 2002, I was in a MVA and this is how most everything that is wrong with me began to happen. I started to faint quite frequently. Not only did that happen, but I had problems with all of the bodily functions mentioned above. They also found on an MRI that I have have “Chiari Malformation I”. This is a malformation of the brain. It consists of a downward placement of the cerebellar tonsils through something called the foramen magnum. In plain English it means that the brain stem swells and doesn’t fit very well into the spinal column. It causes great headaches called “Chiari Migraines” in the back of the head. It feels as if I cannot hold my own head up because it is too painful. For me it causes the migraines, fatigue, muscle weakness,slow heart rhythm, Scoliosis and Central sleep apnea. This is another issue or diagnosis that falls under Dysautonomia “Umbrella”. My Chiari was found and seen on the MRI s/p MVA. I suffered a TBI as well, following that car accident. I was in Brain Injury rehabilitation for 3 years. I saw a brain injury specialist, who is a PMR physician. He did so much and helped me quite a lot. This Traumatic brain injury makes it impossible for me to recall from my short term memory. I had trouble finding words and still today cannot read a very long book. Articles are best for me. When writing, as in my blog here, it is very frustrating because I have to read, re-read and read it again. I don’t remember anything unless I am told about 4 times, which is also what showed up in the multiple Neuro-psych testing that I had to do because of it.
I was in a full PT/OT and speech therapy /brain injury program. Many days I was vomiting from the medicines they were trying to force me to take. I wanted to be a “good patient” and I tried some of them, but all of them made me sick in some way or ways. One day I kept telling the Physical Therapist that I was not feeling well and I felt as though I might faint. Nobody would listen to me, because although I was in chronic intractable pain; which is horrible and terrible pain since the MVA, I “looked fine”. So therefore, nobody listened and I was strapped to an exercise bike as they went on talking about their weekends. I felt worse and I called out to them, but no one came. Finally, I fainted! Onto the floor I went, with my pained legs still attached to the bicycle. I awoke to someone taking my blood pressure. They told me to lay still for an ambulance because my BP was only 70/40 and my Heart rate was only 24.
I was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital to get stabilized. They were very kind to me. They said that they did not have the facilities to do any kind of heart surgery or things that I may be needing, such as a Pacemaker; so I waited for a transfer to a bigger hospital. After some time went by, the ambulance with the heart monitors came for me. They took me to the big Hospital and I was admitted, observed overnight and then the Cardiologist came to talk with me in the morning. It was the morning of my birthday, my 41st birthday! They came in and told me that I had something called “Sick Sinus Syndrome”. It is a Cardiac Arrhythmia; it is called a “Brady/Tachy Arrhythmia”. My heart rate could not decide if it wanted to go up to 190 bpm or go down to 24 bpm. It kept going like a roller coaster all night long…Up…down…Up…down. I was told that my heart even stopped several times but restarted on its own. They told me that my Heart was not working or beating properly and that I needed a pacemaker. I also had something called “Prinzmetal Angina”, which they explained was actually “Coronary spasms”. I take nitroglycerin sublingual tablets for the Prinzmetal Angina. I’ve been told that after waiting 5 minutes, and after trying the nitroglycerin tablets 3 times; if it doesn’t help the pain, then I am to go to the Emergency room. From that day on, my fainting spells went away about 80%. I still feel as though I might faint at times, and I have passed out a handful of times, but I don’t actually faint very often any longer. It is a rare occurrence now, very rare.
Within several months, the Brain Injury Rehab center, and my PMR Dr. who specializes in TBI’s or Brain injuries; got me an appointment with the very best Dr. for Dysautonomia in the USA. In fact, this Physician who is the Dept. Head of Cardiology/Vascular, Pediatric Cardiology, EPS (electrophysiology or Heart rhythm disorders) and also the Head of the University of Toledo’s Autonomic Failure Clinic,is Dr. Blair Grubb, M.D.! I was so lucky to be placed in his care. It was one of the very best things that did happen to me s/p that MVA in 2002. My first pacemaker was placed in February 2003. My next Pacemaker was placed in February 2013, exactly 10 years apart. Dr. Grubb hadn’t placed the first one because it was done quickly, here in Michigan. But when he got in there to replace it, he said that the person who’d placed it first; had done so, very deeply, right inside of the Pectoral muscle itself. He told my husband that “it looked like mincemeat” when he went in there. They hadn’t placed it in a mesh bag or anything as they usually do. Dr. Grubb already knew that I had been diagnosed with CRPS in 2007 and that it had spread from my right foot, s/p surgery, to both feet and up to the knees. Lucky for me, he’d researched RSD/CRPS and he found that sometimes if an “internal surgical wash” using Bivupicaine, is done during surgeries that it should “head off” the spread of the RSD/CRPS from the rest of the body. Unfortunately for me it did not work out the way we’d hoped. My RSD/CRPS spread throughout my body. It went Systemic or Full Body and Disseminated. Dr. Grubb came out and told my husband that when he removed my pacemaker, my heart stopped and that I’m dependent totally on my pacemaker now. He explained also that my Pectoral muscle had had to be rebuilt. It turned out to be a long, traumatic surgery instead of a 45 minute Pacemaker replacement.
The turn of events that lead to the car accident, several surgeries and all of the chronic intractable pain; at least led me in the right direction and into the hands of the best Dr. ever, for the illnesses that I have been diagnosed with. I’m so lucky to have him for all of my heart and pacemaker issues. I’m also very happy that he is the best and most well known Physician in the Country and outside of our Country for Dysautonomia and Autonomic Failure or ANS failure. As time has gone on, all of my symptoms of Dysautonomia and also POTS (Postural Orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) have gotten worse as time has gone on. I now have been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease stage II, Arnold Chiari Malformation I, Gastroparesis and more. But these are some of the worse symptoms of the disease of Dysautonomia. POTS, is where the Heart rate and blood pressure do opposite of what they should be doing, when you stand up after sitting down. Sometimes you may feel faint as well with this and some people do actually faint from it.
Here let me explain it to you a little better. You see,as I did above, I can tell you how I feel. You won’t be able to grasp it if it has not happened to you. It is not a “hot flash”, like those during Menopause. It is a feeling of literally being so very close to a fire that you can really feel the deep heat from it. Sometimes this feeling will last’s hours and even after I’ve taken a shower it happens and then I need another. Some of this “heat” and feeling of “being on fire from within” is also the Systemic or Full Body CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) along side of the Dysautonomia/POTS etc. Let me explain a little bit better from several of the Dysautonomia websites full of information. I will post the locations of the websites at the end of my post, so you will have them too. But before the next paragraph, before I get to the more technical stuff; just let me tell you in my own words, what I feel and what I do know. I think it helps me sometimes to relate to someone or something, when they are being “real” and telling their story. I told you some of my “story” in the first paragraph or two. But there is so much more information for you to learn and understand about this “invisible illness”. Dysautonomia is like at “Umbrella” as it has many different symptoms and illnesses that it “covers”. For example, many persons with this illness, also have CRPS or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. I am one of those people; and I live with Systemic, Full body CRPS following my 7th surgery s/p the MVA. That foot surgery was in April of 2007 and I was Diagnosed with CRPS at my post-op check up. I couldn’t believe it and didn’t want to and so I got a 2nd opinion from an Orthopedic foot/ankle specialist. The first thing that he said when he saw my foot was “definitely CRPS here is a consultation to a pain clinic”. I also have Gastroparesis now, which is the almost like a “paralysis” of the digestive system to varying degrees. I feel full very quickly, nauseous, bloated and I feel a burning in my lower abdomen. Another issue that goes along with this is “POTS” or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. You guessed it, I have this one also. They all go together like a puzzle and they fit like together because they are all under this “umbrella” of Dysautonomia.
POTS causes feelings of being light headed, fainting, fast heart beat or tachycardia, chest pains, shortness of breath, GI problems/issues, inability to exercise, and sensitivity to heat and cold as I mentioned above as in Dysautonomia. While POTS usually shows up in women who look fine and healthy on the outside, *researchers say that POTS and the issues that come with it are comparable to the disabling complications of COPD and CHF!!*(from Dysautonomia International)
*Over 70 million people worldwide are living with various forms of “Dysautonomia”, which can cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. The Autonomic Nervous System controls the “involuntary or automatic” functions of the body that we do not think about or do consciously. This is things like our: heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and temperature control. People living with various forms of Dysautonomia have trouble regulating their body temperature, body systems etc., which can make them feel lightheaded. Sometimes things occur such as fainting, too high or too low blood pressure, abnormal heart rates (such as bradycardia, tachycardia or both, like I had), malnutrition, and in very severe cases even death can happen.
Please try and remember this or these things when you see someone who appears to look fine or “normal” on the outside. If they take a Handicapped parking spot, they need it and their Dr’s told them so! People don’t have the HC placards for fun. Please don’t be mean or rude. Don’t say something sarcastic or unkind. Id rather that you just ask me if you have a question about my disability status. I’m not required to answer you, but I will because I want people to know. You just never know what is going on inside of someone’s body. I hope this bit of information has helped you to understand POTS and Dysautonomia a little bit better than before. In honor of this 2016 “Invisible Illness week”, I hope that this post taught someone out there something about how this/these illnesses can affect someone’s life. If you have a friend or family member with these illnesses, please give them the benefit of the doubt, when they are not feeling well. If they’re exhausted for what you think is “no good reason”, if they’re tired because they were up several nights in a row, due to their pain, or illnesses; please don’t judge. The worst thing that you can say is “well you were up til wee hours of the morning, so it’s no wonder that you’re tired”. We cannot sleep like you “non ill” persons can sleep. Just please be kind if we are not always at our best and/or if we have to cancel an outing with you.
Some of this information was taken from the “*Dysautonomia International” website and more was from “*Healthline”. But most of this was my own words, feelings and from my own personal experiences that have happened and that are still happening to me every day. (The information from these sources has * near it). Thank you for visiting today. Please come back next time, which will be soon. The next post is going to be something positive and something about CRPS Awareness month, “November”. It’s also called “Nervember” by IPain and “Knowvember” by U.S. Pain Foundation.