Part 1… Treatment Update from California

As you know my current predicament with Chronic Lyme Disease has brought me back to California earlier this year (March 2015) and I can’t believe I am still here! Yes thats right, just over 6 months in this sunny side of the world. It is still very surreal and sometimes I literally sit and say out loud ‘I am actually in California’! It has been a long trip, far longer than anticipated and it gets lonely here being thousands of miles from family and friends. I am homesick without question, and feel very much out of my comfort zone, but I have to just take one day at a time and Skype everyone back home ofter to ensure I don’t completely loose the plot!

My body feels massively overwhelmed with its current ‘issues’, and trust me there are a lot, like more issues than Vogue! It is a challenge to treat so many problems at any great speed. Things have to be addressed layer by layer and with such detail. Antibiotic treatment was really making great changes in my body, my energy levels and clarity of thought was improving and both the Doctor and I felt as if progress was consistent and the levels of infections were decreasing. Then bang! Another surprise spanner in the works… A virus! In mid June I had a 3 day bout of extra symptoms on top of my usual ever growing list. At first I was unsure if it was a herxheimer reaction to my medication which was treating the infections or a toxic build up from the die off, as this can be an ongoing problem for me and puts strain on my organs. As the following week passed the Doctor had to take me off my current antibiotic medication as my body needed to change focus to fighting the virus as this was only going to slow treatment down or cause complications if it continued. I felt disheartened at this and it felt like another ‘1 step forward 3 steps back’, a bit like a cha cha cha without the excitement and grace! It is unsure how the virus was transmitted. It could have been through something as simple as taking the bus to the medical clinic as I have such a suppressed immune system, but we now feel it was more likely from a mosquito. I cover myself in insect repellant daily, but obviously I was a tasty target for this particular flying beast. It was a real reminder that things can change in an instance and no matter how vigilant you are sometimes it is just avoidable. Over the 2 months that followed, things started to go down hill. It felt like the virus had really taken hold of my body and this was this causing increased levels of pain throughout, which were escalating rapidly . In addition the reduction of treatment for my other bacterial infections meant that these opportunistic bugs were thriving, not exactly the situation I was hoping for!

In mid August, pain reached new heights and I couldn’t get the level of pain under control. The pressure in my head was unbearable, I had a fluctuating temperature, vomiting, face palsy, tingling and numbness down one side of my body and dizziness. I felt severely exhausted although I was literally continually horizontal, sleeping the hours away! On the 14th August, I had no choice but to make my way to the emergency room, I was sure I couldn’t continue like this over night with symptoms showing no signs of slowing down, tears were strolling down my cheeks.

Waiting it out in the ER with a warm blanket and a sick bucket.

Waiting it out in the ER with a warm blanket and a sick bucket.

I made my way to a local hospital and after a triage assessment, blood tests and a 5 hour wait I was eventually seen my the main consultant doctor on duty. I was immediately put on fluids to rehydrate from all the vomiting and anti-emetics to stop the nausea and sickness. I was given shots of pain medication and within the hour I felt completely wiped out and on another planet! The medication made me feel almost drunk, but without that happy feeling! I spent the next 3 – 4 hours drifting in and out of sleep as the medicine got to work. Later that evening a wonderful friend Katherine, came to be with me in the hospital. She has been a great support since we first met in 2013, and due to her daughter being greatly affected by Lyme Disease, she is a world of knowledge and support. It was so comforting and helpful to have her by my side, especially as I became so drowsy I was struggling to communicate with the doctors and nurses, as well as my family back home. The doctor kept a close eye on me, and his primary concern was that I may have had a mild stroke, due to the droopy eye, face palsy and decreased sensation down my left arm and leg.

Hospital Bed Selfie!

Hospital Bed Selfie!

I was admitted into a ward and repeat bloods were run and a CT scan too. My bloods revealed I had very low levels of potassium, most likely caused by the increased vomiting over the previous few days and potentially the on-going use of antibiotics. Potassium is a mineral found at large inside the cells within the body and if levels reach a dangerously low range it can cause your heart to stop. I was immediatly prescribed potassium and given this every few hours by IV throughout the night and the following morning until my blood levels and electrolytes began to stabilise. I was given the all clear from a potential stroke and the diagnosis was viral encephalitis, inflammation of the brain! I only had to stay in the hospital one night and was gladly discharged within 24 hours. I went back home and continue to sleep, take meds and run fluids through my line. It was all more drama than I needed, but the treatment I received in the hospital helped to control the pain and symptoms.

By Monday I was able to communicate with my Lyme Doctor and begin more specific treatment for the virus. I was put on ‘Byron White A-V drops’, a potent concoction, which even one drop caused a painful reaction. Over the next few weeks I had to gradually increase the drops until I was taking them twice a day. This literally floored me initially, but I knew I had to persevere to treat and reduce the viral load.  Over time my level of toleration to this treatment grew and I started to notice a reduction in the viral symptoms and load. If only that was it! As those symptoms decreased, it then made way for all of the bacterial infections which had been escalating in the background to surface!

Thankyou for stopping by to read this new update.

To ensue this post isn’t text overload it will be continued in ‘Part 2’!

 

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My Fight For Remission Continues…

It has been 3 months since I arrived in California and began round 2 of magic medicine. I can’t believe I am still here or how quickly time has gone! I had originally booked a return flight for the middle of May, but as time crept up, reality kicked in… I still needed more medicine and this meant time. I was hit with the dilemma of how can I afford to stay in the USA for longer? Fundraising has slowed right down, the hotel was so expensive and I just didn’t have the funds for this as a long term option. The decision to return to the UK may have seemed more affordable, but for treatment this would be detrimental. Leaving California would mean pulling out my PICC line and therefore no more intravenous antibiotics. My infections have progressed to the difficult stages due to the length of time it took for an initial diagnosis and it seems I really don’t respond to the oral medication and therefore this wasn’t really proving an effective option for me. Bearing all this in mind its not surprising I had a full on week of worry and tears trying to work through options and scenarios in my head. Financial and geographical limitations were putting up barriers and the additional stress wasn’t great for my body.  I was then super lucky to find an offer of a room rental in someones house. It came just as I was loosing hope and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. A kitchen I could finally cook in, this seemed like luxury after creating all sorts of interesting dishes in my hotel room, not easy with dietary restrictions and lack facilities! I also craved that home environment, a sense of normality in the midst of a situation which really didn’t seem all that normal! After all I have travelled over 5,000 miles by myself to get medical help, this didn’t shout normal and was definitley never on my 5 year plan!

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I was soon packed up and moved into my new temporary home… I seemed to have double the luggage I arrived with, medicine and IV supplies galore, kilo bags of epsom salts and not to forget the IV pole! I quickly adjusted into the new environment and know how ever hard it was to still be away from home I had to jeep focused, positive and motivated. No one ever said fighting for remission was going to be an easy one, but its definitely a fight I am willing to take a good shot at.

IV Meds in the hammock! Making the most of a 'better' day & the beautiful californian climate.

IV Meds in the hammock! Making the most of a ‘better’ day & the beautiful californian climate.

My medicine has been changed up on a regular basis since I have been here, research suggests that the infections really respond to this pulsing method long term. Un-like other illness’, Lyme is not text book and there really isn’t a ‘one fits all’ protocol. You can be infected with an array of infections from a tick and not only does this vary  from person to person, but also how the body and immune system cope and responds to these bacteria vary significantly. I often have people ask me ‘what medicine do you take, I have a friend with Lyme and she need to start medication?’. The thing is there is no simple answer, one must consult a Lyme literate doctor, have various lab tests done and be treated based on these results and also on a clinical level too based on current symptoms. My symptoms can change on an hourly basis, let alone a daily basis! I may wake with a crushing headache and pains in my feet, then an hour later I may feel really alert but shaking and by the end of the day I might be hugging the porcelain bowl! Its the most unpredicable situation to be in and it doesn’t make it easy to make any plans! I never really know if it will be a good hour or one where I hit foetal position and just rock! I can look so well from the outside but inside I often feel like I am breaking internally in so many different ways… like my body has been hijacked and there really is a monster inside me!  This for me is particularly frustrating, I can’t see or always understand what is going on inside MY body and yet I have to almost accept that ‘it is what it is’ and just deal with it. I am control freak and it makes me feel ridiculously out of control!

The main intravenous antibiotic medication I have been working with this past few months is Rocephin/Ceftriaxone, Azithromycin and Metronidazole/Flagyl. All of which focus on fighting the different persistent bacterial infections which I have. These are administered sometimes multiple times a day and have multiple side effects and interactions. Its often one medication for one problem and then another to reduce or eliminate the side effects!

The other IV medications I take are Phosphatidylcholine, Glutathione, Colloidal Silver and Myers. The latter is a  nutritional cocktail of high dose Vitamin C, various B Vitamins, Calcium, Magnesium etc. All of which have clear roles in detox,  supporting my immune system and helping me bite back against Lyme and the multiple co-infections.

I also take a daily concoction of probiotics, herbal tablets and tinctures which are a natural and vital part of my protocol. With all these pills, potions and drips it soon fills my day as you can imagine! In addition to medication I am also using food as another avenue of healing. I am currently gluten free, sugar free, dairy free and and following the Low Fodmap Diet. This eliminates high fodmap foods which are poorly absorbed into the small intestine and this helps reduce the abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel problems that have been caused by the infections and medicaitons . By eliminating these short-chain carbohydrates such as Lactose and Sucrose, it helps to eradicate this process of malabsorption and in addition to the other dietary restrictions I am hoping long term this will help to re-program and eventually heal my gut.

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I am really careful about keeping a log of all my medication and symptoms as this allows both the doctor and I to have a more accurate view on how things are going, what may be helping and in some instances what could be making things worse. You really begin to see patterns over time and get a much a clear insight into the flare-ups and also the better days too. I have a notebook which I have used to log every day of treatment since all this began. I recommend this for anyone juggling a difficult health problem and a lot of medication, especially if your brain has become a little more on the foggier side!

The trusty notebook... an insight into Lyme life!

The trusty notebook… an insight into Lyme life!