"Suffering the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune"

Posts tagged ‘Diamox’

Seizures or Complex Migraine?

Since February 9th, Em has had 75 episodes that are seizure-like. Sometimes she has several a day. Sometimes she goes a few days between episodes.

They look like a seizure but certainly not exactly. Now, it is possible that some of these episodes could be a type of seizure and the upcoming EEG monitoring should help us figure that out. But, I got a suggestion that tipped me off to what I think is a more likely possibility and I am very VERY grateful to Paulette for suggesting it because I suspect it would have been a very long time before the doctors would have figured it out.

Complex Migraine (or Migraine with Aura) is what I am now convinced this is. Apparently, the aura of a migraine can look very much like a seizure or even a stroke. I think we didn’t notice the headache that typically follows the episodes because, let’s be honest, she pretty much always has a headache. Even when she complained that her headache was horrible afterwards – well, not only does she always have a headache, but headaches often follow a seizure, so it seemed to make sense. But, after doing some research, it makes more sense that this is a Migraine with Aura. Furthermore, I am wondering if she is specifically having basilar-type migraines, which would fall under the umbrella of Complex Migraine.

Initially, I was convinced the episodes were triggered by cervical instability – the first episode was in the car while she was wearing her hard collar because her neck was so unstable. She complained of her vision being “weird”, then was unable to move or talk and was in and out of consciousness – I thought she had just fallen asleep. She was barely able to walk once we got home 30 minutes later, then the symptoms resolved completely and she was fine. (Well, not fine, but the point is the symptoms wholly resolved until the next episode.) By the 4th episode, my records show her describing feeling like her head was “sitting on a burning spike”. Another time, she described the pain like her head was “expanding like a balloon when she breathes”. Looking back, she says she almost always had a worse headache after these episodes.

The length of a migraine aura is 5 to 60 minutes, while seizures typically last 2 or 3 minutes. Her episodes tend to last between 5 and 30 minutes – the longest being far too long for a seizure but right in the range of a complex migraine. In the early episodes, she tended to go limp for several minutes. Eventually, the episodes started looking more like a tonic clonic seizure – but not quite as violent. Just a lot of twitching and jerking and twisting stiffly and then going limp, often repeatedly. She often has trouble speaking, swallowing, and breathing during the episodes. Sometimes her eyes are closed, sometimes her eyes are open and  dart back and forth the whole time. She sometimes has a black horizontal line through her visual field that eventually fades.  She often can’t move her legs for several minutes after. Often, she is aware during, but goes in and out of consciousness. She is dazed, confused, and dizzy for 5 to 15 minutes after.

The headache part is hard because she has such layers of headaches. She has been dealing with high pressure headaches, then low pressure after the LP, then bouncing back and forth. So it has been hard to sift through all of that. But, she has been having what we now believe are legit migraines and they mostly follow these episodes, although she has had a few without the aura. They don’t respond to Diamox, she is very sensitive to light and sound, she is nauseated and the headache eventually passes a few hours later. She sometimes has multiple episodes in a day that result in the headache never going away and just getting worse with each episode. The headache is bilateral and originates at the base of her skull and wraps around to her temples. (These points are what makes me suspect a basilar-type migraine. If I am right, then my initial suspicion of brain stem involvement wasn’t entirely wrong.)

I have been keeping detailed records of the episodes but it finally occurred to me to keep track of her headache pain before and after the episodes. Typically, her headache is a 2 or 3 before and a 6 or 7 immediately after, increasing to an 8 or 9 within a few minutes.

These episodes are now mostly triggered by flashing lights: police lights, strobe lights, sunlight flickering through trees while driving, etc. There is one stretch of road on our way to Speech Therapy that is all woods – if it is a sunny day, she is almost guaranteed an episode. Watching TV shows with flashing lights on NetFlix often ends up triggering an episode. One episode was started by police lights that went by our house. (I never, ever realized how many flashing lights are in this world until now. It is ridiculous!) Fluorescent lighting is problematic, although I don’t think she has ever had an episode specifically triggered by it. She can sometimes avoid an episode by avoiding flashing lights: when driving or watching TV, she can avert or close her eyes and not go there. Not fool proof, but she does have some control. Sleep deprivation also seems to trigger them and sometimes they just happen with no obvious trigger.

The concussion from December probably has a lot to do with these episodes, in my opinion. I think the EEG monitoring will help us figure out any actual seizure involvement, hopefully. I do know that it is possible that the episodes that are more seizure-like and not quite fitting into the Complex Migraine symptoms might not be triggered during the monitoring or that epileptic activity might be harder to catch, so we may not have a conclusion on all of this. The important thing is that we get expert eyes on her. Epilepsy experts and hopefully migraine experts who really know the complexity that can exist  and don’t try to slap a psychogenic label on her.

And, yes, there is a bit of irony here. Early in this journey, we were sent to a Headache expert who idiotically insisted Em was having migraines. We *knew* she wasn’t. We suspected high ICP and just wanted to try Diamox. Eventually we found a doctor who did prescribe Diamox and it made all the difference. So, for all these years, I have battled constantly to keep the right focus on her headaches.

But the situation has changed. I believe that damn concussion has radically changed the landscape and now we are dealing with a whole slate of new issues. So, if this is migraines, so be it and let’s address it. For that matter, if it is seizures, so be it and let’s address it.

I am hopeful that if we get the right people looking at this, we can figure it out and get her some relief. THAT is the important issue.

Finally, I just want to say how much I appreciate everyone who reads, comments and shares. Not only is it crucial for all of us to know that we are not alone on our journeys, but we all have knowledge that can help someone else who is struggling. My hope has always been that sharing our experiences here would help someone else but we have been so blessed by hearing about other’s experiences as well. We would be lost without you, truly. 🙂


The Big Appointment

I haven’t posted in regards to the important neurology appointment we had this month. Em had been referred to a neurologist at OSU at my request, so we could try to get a diagnosis – either of CRPS or small fiber neuropathy or something. Then the labs done during her LP in January showed some concerning markers for MS and sarcadosis and her local neuro wanted her to see someone more knowledgeable than him. Since we already had this appointment set up, it could serve both purposes. Then, the seizure-like episodes started and added an additional layer of wackiness.

So, basically we threw a whole lot of crazy at him. EDS, CCI,  MCAD, POTS, possible CRPS or “something”, evaluate for MS, seizures…  Did I leave anything out? Actually, I did: Post Concussion Syndrome. Sigh.

We have learned the hard way not to put too much hope or weight on any single appointment, but I would be lying if we didn’t at least sort of hope deep down that he would be able to give us a diagnosis and a quick solution on the first visit. When he didn’t, it was a little disappointing and overwhelming.

What he did was listen and order a bunch of testing:

  • He ordered an inpatient stay on the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit to try and figure out what is going on with these episodes. (Side note: after a month and a half of them and a helpful hint from a reader, I think we have a direction to go in. Video EEG monitoring is definitely needed, but will only be a start. More about that soon!) He definitely agreed that we need to rule out all the medical possibilities before jumping to the conclusion they are psychogenic. Don’t have this scheduled yet, but hopefully we can get it done soon, figure out what the heck is going on and stop it.


  • He ordered a bunch of labs, including mast cell testing. No one, including the allergists Em has seen has been interested in pushing for an actual diagnosis or any treatment other than Zyrtec and Zantac. It would be nice to have someone actually helping with this.


  • He ordered 3 brain MRIs – one with and without contrast, a MRI Angio and MRI Venogram. I am assuming these will help rule in/ out several things, MS for one. He also was not thrilled with the fact that she has been on Diamox for several years with no evidence and is wanting to make sure there is no structural issue causing her high pressure headaches. He did say he wouldn’t mess with her Diamox but he was clearly skeptical. However, he was shocked that cervical fusions are so common for treating neuro symptoms in EDS. We definitely agreed that it was wise to avoid a fusion if possible so that was a start. Perhaps, with time, I can help him understand the rational of the Driscoll Theory and why we absolutely believe Diamox saved Em’s life. There was just too much to cover in this first visit.


  • He ordered an nerve conduction study. This is definitely looking at CRPS but her exam also showed some very concerning numbness in her legs. I knew she had numbness but it was far worse than we knew. He pricked her all over with a pin. She mostly could not feel it in large areas on her legs. Like, at all. Her feet and hands are numb but her legs in particular have very little feeling. He seemed concerned. I know I was. So, perhaps we are looking at a neuropathy instead of CRPS? She is having increasing difficulty walking and I have to wonder if this is part of the problem. I don’t know but it is more than a little scary.


  • He ordered more autonomic testing – another Tilt Table Test and a sweat test and 24 hour Holter Monitoring. He is concerned that much of her problem is autonomic related and seemed to get caught up in the fact that she hasn’t been diagnosed specifically with POTS by the cardiologist. I am honestly not sure what a name does in this case – the cardiologist is treating her for/ as if she has POTS but has said he didn’t want to label it POTS because it is more complicated. So we have just used the term “Autonomic Dysfunction” this whole time. I am conflicted on this – on one hand, I totally agreed with the Autonomic Dysfunction diagnosis as opposed to POTS. On the other hand, I have felt for a long time that they are not doing much for her at the Syncope Clinic. We go once a year and they say, “Increase your Midodrine; see you next year”. So, maybe this reset is what we need. But… I absolutely dread the idea of another Tilt Table Test for her. He says the one she had several years ago wasn’t good enough, that he needs more information. I am not sure I totally see the point, especially considering she will have to be off ALL her pain meds for 3 days. I can’t even say how awful that will be. We are holding off on scheduling this until we talk to him again. We will need some help, some plan to make this happen – a 2 hour car trip is bad enough on a good day, I cannot even fathom how she would manage that trip without pain meds. If it is not absolutely necessary, I can’t put her through that. Yet, I wonder if maybe, with as dire as the situation is, it is necessary to figure out what is going on.

We liked him well enough, but the whole thing was a little overwhelming – he was very clinical, very data oriented and it was both comforting and annoying. Em was frustrated – exhausted, in more pain than she was in to begin with – because while she couldn’t feel most of the pin pricks, it still caused her pain to spike terribly afterwards – and terrified of having to go off her meds. So, she was not exactly rational about the whole thing, not that I blame her.

I eventually came to the realization that he addressed every single issue we brought up with him. He ignored nothing we said and is looking at everything. He was skeptical about CRPS, because it certainly shouldn’t present quite like she does. So it might be a that she has CRPS but the full body pain might be down to Central Sensitization or neuropathy or something else entirely. He seemed to know a little bit about EDS – certainly he knew the connection between EDS and POTS – so we will have to see what level of knowledge he has as time goes by.

The thing that really got me, was that he wanted to see her back in 4 months. When we actually scheduled that appointment, I realized it will be 2 weeks shy of a year since this all started. A year of this torture and no relief in sight. I know the wheels of medicine turn slowly and that we need time to get all of this testing done before we see him again, but knowing we are at least 4 months from any help was absolutely crushing.

So, we are getting all of this testing scheduled  and completed and just hunkering down and trying to survive.


What a week…

Or two or three or…. whatever. As bad as the last 6 months have been, this past week or so has been especially harrowing.

Em hit her head last weekend. Again. Not bad but bad enough to bring on more memory loss and very poor balance. And she had been having this weird thing where she felt like her throat was collapsing, which was more than a little freaky. Along with the latest head injury came worsening headaches and a very unstable neck. Just like 5 years ago, she was having all kinds of problems and I started assuming many of them were from cervical instability. And that was not a pleasant thought.

The concussion doc was willing to see her, but we agreed that there was nothing he was going to be able to do – time to heal and protecting her head from further injury is what was needed. So, we will see him at her follow up February 5th and wait and see. He is a phone call away.

We decided that some blood work – particularly to check her CO2 level but also a couple other things – would be a good idea. So I called the Neurologist to ask for that. I was not surprised when the answer I got back was that they were ordering blood work and a lumbar puncture.

For more than 4 years, we have avoided lumbar punctures. Not only was I aware that they might not be completely conclusive regarding high pressure but EDS folks are delicate enough that even this relatively easy procedure should not be done lightly. Once I found the Driscoll Theory, I was 100% comfortable doing a trial of Diamox instead of an LP. If Em responded to Diamox, then it would logically follow that her headache was the result of high pressure. We found one doc who was willing to try and the rest is history. The headache she had had for 2 years was gone in a few hours after that first dose. For almost 4 and a half years, we have managed her headache with Diamox, eventually  having to increase her dose and taking it 3 times a day rather than once, and we have managed her CO2 level (which allows the Diamox to work) with baking soda tablets. We had tried to skate around the issue with new docs, endured some eye rolling when we admitted she was being treated for high pressure but had never been actually tested for it and just generally crossed our fingers hoping no one would push the issue. It was all fine for 4 years.

But now, clearly something had changed. My suspicion was it was the head injuries but she probably had a CSF leak (in her ear) in December before the concussion, so maybe the headache is coincidental or cumulative or something, but the bottom line is what we had been doing was no longer working.

In my mind, there were 3 possibilities: she needed more Diamox to control the high pressure, her CO2 level was low which would mean she needed more baking soda tablets to bring it up so the Diamox would work, or there was something else entirely going on, like cervical instability. At any rate, I knew in my heart the time for an LP had come. So, I agreed but asked for a couple things to hopefully make the procedure easier and more successful. I wanted them to use an atraumatic needle, to minimize damage and leaking. And I asked that they schedule a blood patch to be done immediately after the LP, instead of waiting until she had problems. Because, let’s be real, there was a nearly 100% chance she was going to have problems.

The doctor’s office ordered both without issue, so I was happy.

A nurse from Radiology called to pre-register her for the procedure and asked a ton of questions about EDS and her medical issues. She was awesome. She promised to check into the special needle – she had never heard of such a thing before – and did say she wasn’t sure about doing the blood patch because they normally don’t do them but that she would ask the doctor and if she could do it, she would because Em is clearly a special case. So I was content that I had done everything I could to make the LP as safe and easy as possible. When I heard nothing back, I assumed the blood patch was a go.

Em was not thrilled – anything involving a needle is not her idea of fun – but as we waited for Friday I started thinking it couldn’t come quickly enough. Her headache was a 12 (on a scale of 1-10) when her Diamox wore off and a 9.5 when it was working. Clearly there was a problem: she was miserable. We got the blood work that I asked for done and were able to slide in blood work they needed before the LP at the same time, so we minimized the needles for her. When even a simple blood draw is challenging, is it any wonder we were nervous about a lumbar puncture?

We get there on Friday morning and once she is in the room and has been given some Zanax to help relax her, I find out that they will not be doing the blood patch. LPs are done by Radiology and blood patches are done by Anesthesiology.

“Sorry, I don’t know why you were ever told it was possible. It is our policy to not do them here”,” the nurse said. “If she has problems, you will need to call your Pain Management doctor or go to the ER.”

Now, at this point, I am starting to fume.  No one has called me to tell me this and I was given the impression it was happening. So, when she said that, I just gave her a look. The Look. Which she correctly interpreted. She sheepishly acknowledged that, since it would be over the weekend, we would, in fact, not be able to get a hold of the pain doc and that we would just need to head to the ER. I told her I understood this was not her fault, but that we had specifically asked for the blood patch to avoid almost certain problems that would arise due to EDS, avoid a trip to the ER, avoid being charged for the trip to the ER, avoid causing Emily more pain and suffering, etc.

So then I, huffily, I am sure, asked about the needle. She told me that they didn’t have the atraumatic type and the doctor didn’t think it would make a difference anyway. By this time I am livid…. Halfway tempted to tell them to stop and refer us to somewhere else that can meet Emily’s needs and I told the nurse so. And, that with all due respect, I disagreed with the doctor’s opinion and that I did indeed believe that the atraumatic needle is necessary. I was very unhappy and I wanted to walk away, but, in my heart, I knew she needed this procedure done and that it could wait another week or two to reschedule it.

Then the doctor comes in and introduces herself and tells me she will be using the special needle. I immediately, and understandably, assume that I am being lied to because I have just been told otherwise. But again, I feel trapped – not because it would be an inconvenience to stop the procedure, but by sheer need. And I did not believe I was going to get a straight answer even if I made an issue of being lied to. Then I had to leave my medically complex child on the table with people who I believed were lying to me. This may be the way things are done, but this did not help my mental state.

My hubby popped down (he works at the hospital) to check on us and he found a very unhappy mama fuming in the waiting room. He had to get back to work before she was done so I was alone when the doctor came out to talk to me.

Turns out she wasn’t lying after all –  she did actually use the atraumatic needle. She said she didn’t like it, it felt weird going in, although it worked fine. I don’t know if the nurse had told her I was mad about it and she decided to use it or if she was planning on using it all along, but… whatever. The nurse later apologized for telling me wrong, implying there was a lack of communication somewhere along the line. I tend to think the doctor changed her plan in light of my anger but I suppose I will never know.

She had to lie flat in recovery for an hour, but, and this is the third EDS specific request I made, I told them she was going to need to be in recovery for longer than normal. No matter how many times I said this, they still started pushing her out the door. At about an hour, they had her sit up – and she found that her head actually felt normal for the first time in a long time. Her head felt better after the LP than it did before. Her back, not so much. In the end, I could not fight both the nurse and Emily who said emphatically, “I am starving. Get me out of here and feed me.”

So we left, I fed her and she went home to lay flat for the rest of the day.

Anyway, after all was said and done, we did fortunately get some valuable information from the LP. You may have already guessed that by her headache being relieved by the LP that she did indeed have some high pressure going on. Her opening pressure was 20.2. The doctor told Emily that normal should be between 10 and 15; I read the range is 7 – 18. Either way, Em had high pressure, although she is on Diamox three times a day. She had taken her morning dose 2 hours before the LP, which means it basically should have been reaching its peak effectiveness when the LP was done.

We have our proof as far as I am concerned. I would be fascinated to know what her pressure would have been without Diamox – not that I am willing to find out, mind you. But, my guess is it would be quite high. In fact, the symptoms that had been plaguing her: headache, unstable neck, blurred vision, light/ sound sensitivity, even that issue with her airway, all improved dramatically when the pressure was relieved. Exactly like it did September 19, 2012 when she took her first dose of Diamox.

Once we knew that there absolutely was high pressure causing the headache, the burning question became: is her pressure high because her dose needs increased or because her CO2 is low, thus making the Diamox ineffective? Hubby was able to call that afternoon and get her CO2 level – 26. It needs to be 21 or higher. This clearly is not the issue. We don’t have all of her bloodwork back yet, but that was the important one at the time.

Oddly, she had what we think might have been another CSF leak Saturday night, in her bad ear. She was laying on the side with the ear that has been problematic for months now and suddenly said that her ear was wet. I declined sticking my finger in her ear like she asked me to but her hair was damp where she had been laying. And she got a tissue and, after laying on it for a while, it was damp. But, it cleared up quickly, we think, and we saw no more signs of a leak.

However, this leak may have added to the problems that were to follow. If that sounds ominous to you, you are on the right track.

Part 2, in which we unsurprisingly and very predictably end up in the ER and have LOADS of fun,  is coming up soon…




Catching Up and Hanging on: Part 2 Concussion

Part 1 can be read here.

As we waited to get to the concussion experts – and fortunately we did not have to wait long – Emily’s concussion symptoms remained concerning. She is having trouble reading and comprehending, she struggled to write – to spell and remember the mechanics of language. As we passed the 3 week mark of her head injury, she was not getting better and, while she was perhaps not getting worse, more deficits were being revealed. I am not sure we even know the extent of her deficits at this point. When she is searching for a specific word, we go through a very entertaining version of verbal charades where she tries to make me understand what she is trying to say, with sometimes hard to follow logic and obscure literary references. Yesterday, she tried to use a story from the Little House on the Prairie books, to get to the word “fraternize”. We got there but, man, it was a circuitous journey! As always, we are still able to laugh at ourselves and the situation.

At the Concussion Clinic, we saw a rehab doctor, a neurologist and a doctor who I believe was a fellow, which is very common in our experience at Children’s. The exam revealed that her short term memory is crap, to put it plainly. She was given 3 words to remember. Maybe 5 minutes later she was able, with some effort, to pull up the first one, “green”. She was eventually able to guess the second word, “liberty” when given a prompt that it was another word for freedom. She could not recall the third, “automobile” even when given a prompt that it was a word for getting around. She guessed “car”, was told it was something like that and guessed “bus”. She remembered the word when he said it. She also took a fair amount of time to be able to say when her birthday is, which is not normal and is something she answers every single time she is at the doctor.

Her balance is off – she struggled to walk a straight line. Her eyes are not right – she either showed nystagmus or saccadic oscillations/ interruptions. (Her eyes were jerky when tracking side to side; I was able to clearly see them from where I was sitting. There was some discussion about this – I was familiar with nystagmus but had to look up “saccadic”. I was able to do so, even though it was a totally unfamiliar word, because we had a funny moment when Emily thought the doctor called her “psychotic”, “saccadic” does sound similar. He laughed and told her he would never call her psychotic to her face. We liked him quite a bit. 🙂 So, I was able to find what they said, I just don’t know the significance of it.)

So, they all agree that she did have a concussion and she has post concussive symptoms. Likely the fact that she (probably) had a CSF leak made her brain extra vulnerable to injury at the time because there was less cushion to protect it. They were concerned with the Diamox contributing to her CSF volume, but she was not taking it at the time of her injury. It was a day or two later that she started taking it again. They have referred us to speech therapy where they will assess her and do cognitive therapy to help get her brain back in shape. We are going to do that at our local hospital and they were fine with that. We will go back in a month and they will do neuropsych testing to further evaluate her, particularly if therapy is not helping as much or as quickly as we would like.

They were understandably concerned with the number of meds she is on. Frankly, they can join the club. Of course we are concerned and, yet, this is what has made her functional and removing any of them seems insane. They didn’t push that and said they would not mess with her meds since she has other docs overseeing them. I was thankful for that. Very thankful. Particularly that they left the Diamox alone.

The neurologist, through no fault of her own, should have come with a trigger warning. She was nice enough but she had the same basic advice that we got at the headache clinic at Cincy 4 years ago: eat your vegetables and drink your milk. Once again, her point is absolutely correct, as it was 4 years ago. Eating well and nourishing your body is vital to wellness. Unfortunately, that gets a little complex when one has a handful of medical conditions that make eating/digesting hard. Furthermore, when we mention that Emily is lactose intolerant and that detail is ignored because it goes against their standard protocol, it makes her a little tiny bit furious. That day, she was exhausted, hurting, scared and now this “chick” is telling her to drink milk. That said chick was a little heavy on barking orders and light on (visible) compassion did not help. Em has a, ahem,  less than favorable view of her but, I know she was just doing her job. And we have the same goal – to help Em. Once they left Em let loose about her and didn’t even laugh at my favorite medical joke: How are God and a neurologist different? God doesn’t think he is a neurologist. She did say she wanted to go give her neurologist at home a hug for not being a jerk and taking good care of her. And, presumably not telling her to drink milk.

We were suitably impressed with them over all; I feel like she is in good hands. However, I am not sure they truly understand her complexity. My guess is they don’t see a ton of (diagnosed) EDS patients in their clinic and so would have little reason to be familiar with it. I mean, you can understand the general mechanics of connective tissue and not fully grasp the entirety of what EDS will do to a person or how the simplest thing is a huge challenge.

They knew her shoulder was bad, she was wearing a sling – the MRI report was in her records, but it was like they didn’t quite grasp how unstable it is, how much it hurts and how much the CRPS pain affects her. The Rehab Doc was concerned over the tightness/knots in her neck and shoulders, because that typically is seen with concussions and contributes to the headache. What we were not able to really communicate is that that is not new – that is her baseline. And when we relieve those knots or muscle spasms, the adjoining joints often are unstabilized. Could that tension be contributing to her “concussion headache”? Sure. Is it going to be easily managed? Probably not. He wanted her to do a few stretches, some of which she cannot do because of her shoulder. In the end, he told us to talk to her PT and have him work on addressing it. The PT was incredulous that the doc would have her doing anything with her hypermobile neck and said, “Look, I don’t want to tell you to he is wrong, but don’t do any of that. We have to protect your neck. And you can tell him I said so.”

Once again, we are trying to navigate this ocean of conflicting advice. We just do our own research, try to know what we need to know and make an educated decision. We tend to go with the advice that makes the most sense at any given time and aligns the most with our understanding of all of the pieces of the puzzle. We also tend to go with the advice from the professionals who know her best.

So, the situation is at least as serious as I feared and perhaps more. It was really hard to see her struggle and see the fear and frustration on her face when asked to do a task she couldn’t do. But, concussions can take months to recover from and it is entirely possible that we will see her brain heal spontaneously over the next few weeks. Therapy will help and my husband, as always, has handpicked the best therapist for Em and her situation. We are optimistic and hopeful that she will get better in the near future.



Continued in Part Three: Shoulder…. Because that is a thing. Just not quite as big a thing as her brain.



Never a dull moment…

So… another installment of Em and Beth’s excellent adventures. (Doesn’t quite have the same ring as “Bill and Ted’s” but whatever…)

New Meds

Since I last posted, Em has had to go off the Cymbalta. She has been on several meds that, combined, can cause Serotonin Syndrome, and Cymbalta was one more to add to that list. When she displayed confusion, lethargy, and worsening muscle twitching, we got concerned. The doctor wasn’t – but I was and so I called the pharmacy. The guy I talked to spent a fair amount of time on the phone with me and finally said if it was his kid, she would not take the new med anymore. Which sealed the deal for me. Nucynta is another one that can be a problem, but in a much lesser way than the Cymbalta, so we are hopeful that she can perhaps try it once the Cymbalta is out of her system and maybe it will help. Again, it is a thing that it was helping her pain (although she didn’t actually notice much relief when she had taken it, but rather when it wore off) but she just can’t tolerate it. That gets heartbreaking, to be honest.

I actually haven’t talked to the pain doc about stopping the med – we made an “executive decision” to stop it. He wasn’t a bit concerned when I talked to him about the worrisome symptoms, which is rather concerning to me, if I am honest. I know he is just trying his best to help and sometimes we have to take calculated risks. This just is not one that worked out.

Because he sort of blew off my concerns, I am hesitant to call back and tell him that we decided it best to take her off the med. I don’t think it will be a problem but I just haven’t had the time or inclination to jump back into that fight, for reasons that will be apparent in a moment.

Another Trip to the ER

We are thinking that Em has developed a CSF leak and made a trip to the ER yesterday at the advice of the neurologist. Or, more accurately, the nurses at the neurology office because they didn’t get around to returning my second call until the end of the day when they couldn’t get a hold of the doctors.

It was Dr. Diana that suggested the possibility of a leak – that perhaps the weirdness with her ear was due to a leak. (Thank God for Dr. D, I don’t know where we would be without her.) Now, all of these new and worrisome symptoms were sort of mashed up together, but after she stopped the Cymbalta on Tuesday, she started complaining of a headache that went away when she laid down and quickly got horrible when she is upright. So, she had already been in bed for a few days because the Cymbalta knocked her out. But, starting Monday or Tuesday, every time she sat up, the headache was awful and when she lays down it goes away. So, that seems like a low pressure headache and/ or a leak. Who knows how long it would have taken me to figure it out without a helpful word from Dr. D?

Diamox made it worse, so we pulled back on it and let her miss a dose to see what happened. Her head got a little better, but still, she couldn’t be upright. And, there was the concern of meningitis. So, I called the office late on Wednesday, called back on Thursday when I didn’t hear back and they finally got back to me and they said to go on to the ER.

You can imagine that this was not well received after our last trip to the ER. Understandably, we were both anxious about how it would go.

Fortunately, this trip was much better. They took her pain and symptoms seriously and treated her well. They started an IV, ran some fluids and gave her some pain medication. It took the edge off of her headache and let her rest a little. They did a CT scan, which found no big leaks, but could not rule out a small leak. They could not do the test to check for a leak at that time of night. I am not sure what he was referring to there, but we will follow up with the neurologist and pursue it further.

He said there was no indication that she has meningitis but the only way to tell for sure would be to do a spinal tap. He did not recommend it and we all agreed. Wholeheartedly. And, he clearly didn’t feel a lumbar puncture was necessary which I was also in wholehearted agreement with.

He felt comfortable sending her home to sleep in her own bed and just follow up with the doctor, saying we can come back if it gets worse. I had packed to stay a few days if necessary (the last time we had a real emergency I didn’t and we ended up staying several days at Riley Children’s after a swift ambulance ride in the middle of the night and an appendectomy) and I was pretty darn glad it was unnecessary! If packing to stay is all it takes to get sent on home, I will do it every time from now on out!

This morning, her head is no better when she is upright. So, I think we are dealing with a low pressure headache. She took a small dose of Diamox yesterday afternoon before we went to the ER, but that is all she has had since Wednesday. She can make the call as to whether she needs it or not. And, we will play it by ear until we can get in to see neurology. I am also hoping that when we see the ENT, he might be able to help us figure out if her ear has anything at all to do with her headache. If it is a leak, with any luck it will heal itself and need no further treatment.

It is more than a little frustrating to have to work so hard to get answers – we spent hours in the ER and came away with no answers. And, yet, I am thankful that it was a positive experience, that they took her pain seriously and treated it, that they were caring and compassionate, and that we were able to rule the big stuff out. Of course, that leaves all the little stuff up for grabs, but that is our life.

When the doctor first examined her, he said he was going to go read her records and see if they could give him more insight into what was going on. When he came back in, a couple hours later, after the pain meds and CT scan, he sat down and said that he had been reading about Em and that it was enough to keep him busy for awhile.

How right he is! Having been kept busy for the last 6 years, I can tell you that truer words were never spoken.


The Newly Revised Driscoll Theory

This post is long overdue (and I apologize for that!) but I said I would post when the updated version of the Driscoll Theory was available so, here goes! (Better late than never!)

You can go to Dr. Diana’s website and purchase the ebook. The $19.99 cost will help fund continuing research (and there is more on the horizon, trust me!)



From Dr. D:
This book is written by doctors and patients who live with EDS/POTS every day.
Revealing the cause of “EDS/POTS” results in a new treatment paradigm.
All proceeds from this book will be used to fund further research.
Gentle hugs to you all…


I was privileged to help out a bit as Diana was working on this revision, as well as to contribute a piece about our experiences with the Driscoll Theory. Our story (Emily’s Story) is in the book (in Chapter 10), as are touching stories from other patients who have been helped by Dr. Diana’s work. In addition, there are chapters from physicians who have both personal and professional knowledge to share. Of course, POTS, intracranial pressure, mast cells, vascular abnormalities and more are explained and discussed.

Pop over to prettyill.com and grab your copy of the new Driscoll Theory. (I have it on my Kindle, for late night references and doctor visits, as well as my computer, so it is always available!)

Feel free to come back here and comment, once you have read it! If you have questions, either comment here or go to the Ask a Question page and comment there. If I can answer your question, I will. If I can’t, I will pass it along to Dr. D and have her answer you.

Having the Driscoll Theory in print once again is the next step to ensuring the paradigm shift that started more than 3 years ago becomes a standard of care for EDSers. So, it is important that we share this with everyone who could benefit!

Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Diana for her work in making her theory available for all of those who desperately need a bit of hope. I think we all sometimes forget that Diana is just like all the other EDSers out there – she has her own medical challenges to face and she has a family to care for – so that makes this project, that she worked so hard on, even more special. Thank You Dr. D!


Now, go get your copy and enjoy it! 🙂

Been awhile since my last rant…

Ok, I have tried to keep the ranting to a minimum – there are better things to offer the world than me being mad about this, that or the other thing. However, I need to vent about this somewhat inconsequential thing because it really rubbed me the wrong way. Still mad a couple weeks later…

Y’all know that Em is on Diamox via the Driscoll Theory. September will mark 3 years on it and it literally changed her life. Y’all also [probably, hopefully] know that Diamox affects the CO2 levels: to combat the level dropping and to ensure that the Diamox will continue working as it is intended, one needs to take baking soda. (Not gonna get into the science of it, but you can look it up.) The easiest way to take baking soda is to just purchase some tablets – you can make your own capsules but it is kind of a pain in the butt.

Sodium Bicarbonate Tablets, AKA Baking Soda Tablets, the non-controlled substance. 

We got Em on baking soda, unfortunately after her CO2 levels dropped instead of being preemptive about it, several months after starting on the Diamox. After struggling with making capsules for a while, I eventually caved and went to Walgreens to procure some. Walked up to the pharmacy counter and said, ‘Do you have baking soda tablets?’ The nice young man hemmed and hawed for a bit, trying to figure out exactly what I needed, then said they did and asked how many I wanted. No prescription needed, obviously.

You can buy the darn things online. Seriously. Sodium Bicarbonate is not exactly a restricted substance.

So, every month or so for the last 2 years, I have popped into Walgreens and bought 200 baking soda tablets without any problem whatsoever.

Until a couple weeks ago, when I came up against the New Sheriff in Walgreens Town (aka the new pharmacist). Who adamantly refused to fill my request because I did not have a prescription. For BAKING SODA TABLETS. My informing her that I had purchased said tablets for over two years at that very pharmacy, not only without a prescription but without EVER being asked for a prescription, made no impact on her stance. She said she could not open the bottle of baking soda tablets without a prescription – it was against regulations. So, either she is full of it or the handful of pharmacists who have filled my order for the last two years were breaking the law. (I will give you three guesses as to my opinion about that!)

She magnanimously offered to call the doctor and get a prescription for it – at 7:45 on a Thursday evening. I more-or-less (possibly less)  politely informed her that I really doubted they would be in to take her call. I told her I was leaving on vacation and my daughter had to have them before I left. She offered to give me enough to get through the night. I refrained from pointing out that she certainly wouldn’t do that if a customer said, ‘golly, I don’t have enough Oxycontin to get me through tonight – can you give me just a few to get me through?” So, if she was going to open the 1,000 count bottle and break the “rules” to give me enough baking soda tablets to “hold me” until I could get a prescription, why on EARTH could she not just give me the 200 I was asking for?


We had priced the tablets at the hospital pharmacy when we first started getting them and found out it was much cheaper to get them at Walgreens, but when the New Sheriff in Walgreens Town refused to provide them, we had to go through the Reid pharmacy. Over $5 for the equivalent of 50 tablets (they only had 325 mg tabs in 100 count bottle), not even enough to get Em through a whole week. And, being half the size meant she got to take 6 pills instead of 3, which she was thrilled about.

All because some crazy lady decided she couldn’t sell me baking soda tablets. Seriously. Makes me want to pull my hair out. Or, purchase a capsule filling kit, take it with me to Walgreens, purchase a box of baking soda at the pharmacy, then open it right on her pharmacy counter and proceed to make a few dozen baking soda capsule in front of her. Pointing out of course, that this is the controlled substance she wouldn’t sell me.

Sometimes, on the journey of living with chronic illness, it is the little things that really get to you. Little things like baking soda tablets become really big things. We juggle so much worry and fear and pain and uncertainty, frankly, with a lot of acceptance and, most of the time, dignity. But, to have to fight and claw over something as small, yet vital, as baking soda tablets is just too much.

We have it worked out now and I know I really should get over it. My mom ordered (without a prescription, mind you) a couple 1,000 count bottles so we won’t have to worry about it for months and that is a nice thing. Walgreens has lost my rather substantial baking soda tablet business, so if they go bankrupt and have to close their doors, you will know why.

But, although I know it is all good and I should let it go, I still have this urge to prove my point to the lady at Walgreens…

I wonder if a baking soda volcano on her pharmacy counter would make an impact?

I picture this, on the pharmacy counter, minus the pan, plus me laughing hysterically.

The Driscoll Theory Updated

Alrighty, folks…Here is a post I have been needing to get up and one that was certainly not put off for lack of interest. Suffice it to say, I am intensely interested in this development and I am sure many of you are as well.

Dr. Diana Driscoll, EDS patient, researcher, (and a very patient researcher, ha ha 🙂 ), and amazing author of the Driscoll Theory, which has been an incredible blessing for so many EDSers, will be releasing an updated and revised version of her theory soon. As usual, she is dealing with her own serious EDS health issues as she moves forward with her much needed research and her hopes to have this big project completed already were derailed by a hospital stay. But, in the midst of her recovery, she is hard at work getting the newest version of the Driscoll Theory ready for publication. The lady never stops!

Going off task for just a moment, I would like to ask for your prayers for Diana – for her health, for her family and for this much needed update of information that will make such an incredible difference for so many people. She doesn’t often say so, but the path she finds herself on is not an easy one: the path less traveled (especially in the medical world) is hard and lonely and draining, in every sense of the word – physically, emotionally, and financially. And that is on top of her own life as wife and mother and daughter and friend and seriously affected patient. Keep her in your prayers, if that is your way, and at least wish her the best, if it is not. 🙂

I know many of you share my deep gratitude for the work Dr. D is doing on behalf of the EDS community – my daughter has a real chance at life because of the Driscoll Theory and she is not the only one by far! Bless Dr. Diana and her amazing work on behalf of EDSers around the world.

Ok, back on task with a message straight from Diana herself:


Updated Driscoll Theory

By popular request, The Driscoll Theory (updated, with numerous experts)
coming soon! We’ll cover information about intracranial pressure, why we
need to move past mast cell activation, what’s up with our vascular
abnormalities, “Diamox Pearls”, inspiring patient stories and more.

Many of us are working hard to get this to you so we can answer
many questions at once. We’ll keep you posted! 😉


As you may know, initially, Dr. D generously shared her theory online, but eventually had to remove it thanks to some unsavory people misusing it for their own benefit and placing EDSers at risk. It was a sad situation that made it more difficult for affected EDSers to get their doctors to consider the theory. So, the updated version will be a welcome development!

It will be an enormous help to have additional information published about the life-altering treatments proposed in the initial version of the theory. It is incredibly frustrating to have these treatments, which could help so many, viewed with derision by the ignorant medical establishment and thus just out of reach for too many EDSers who desperately need them. The upcoming update will move the conversation along and hopefully give the naysayers something to think about.

So, hang in there until Dr. D is ready to run with this – it won’t be long. I can’t predict the timeline with much accuracy, but I think the goal is to have this ready in the next couple months. If you can, share this information so we get the word out. If you are on Facebook, here is a post from Dr. D that you can share:

The Assertive Method


In my post, Diamox Pointers, I refer to using the ‘Assertive Method’ to help you get the treatment you want to try but didn’t give much information at all about it – just a vague, unhelpful reference. I have seen this method mentioned in a conversation on Inspire (the EDNF message board) and, unfortunately, still cannot find the original post I saw it in. But, now, a couple years after I wrote the post about Diamox, I have decided to try and clarify what I was referring to. I have received several emails recently from folks who are desperately trying to find a doctor who will let them try Diamox, so I feel this is a timely post – if more than 2 years late!

The Assertive Method is effective in many situations but is well suited for use by chronic illness patients when interacting with doctors. It gives the patient a way to get what is wanted or needed without resorting to methods that may be overly emotional or combative and which would be viewed negatively. Certainly, it is not a foolproof method- there are some situations that there are no easy answers. But, it can be very effective in the kinds of situations patients find themselves in and empowering for a person struggling to be heard.

The Assertive Method

This method consists of four statements, delivered in one concise sentence each:

  1. This is the situation
  2. This is how I feel about it
  3. This is what I want you to do
  4. What do you think?

Once you have made your 4 statements, you say nothing until the other person finishes speaking.

Possible Outcomes and Your Responses:

  • If you get what you asked for, wonderful. Be polite and express your genuine appreciation.
  • If you get an acceptable alternative, show your willingness to cooperate and say “That seems reasonable, I’m willing to try it.”
  • If the result is unclear or you feel avoids your request, ask for further explanation and/or repeat steps 3 and 4.
  • If you don’t get your original request or an acceptable alternative say, “I understand, but [this is what I want you to do].” Do not argue, just restate steps 3 and 4 until you get the result you are asking for.
  • If you are offered an option that you must refuse, briefly say no and why: “No, I can’t/won’t do that because it will (hurt me, conflicts with other treatments/advice, etc.)”. If pressed, repeat your statement again, “I understand, but I can’t/won’t do that because it will (hurt me, conflicts with other treatments/advice, etc.)” And then restate steps 3 and 4 again.

Things to Consider

  • If it seems that the other person is unclear on steps  1 or 2, go ahead and restate them at any point you feel it necessary.
  • Sometimes silence is golden. If there is a pregnant pause or silence while the other person thinks, let it work for you and don’t be tempted to fill the void too soon. If there is a pregnant pause after YOU finish speaking, stand your ground and let it stretch out. Your objective is not to argue, but to make your 4 statements until you get a response. Your statements simply place the ball in the other person’s court, so to speak
  • If you feel you need to check that the other person understands your requests, ask something like, “Am I explaining myself?” or   “Am I being clear about the situation?”. I like to ask ‘Does that make sense?” in a genuine tone.  These kinds of statements are not as in-your-face  as asking “Do you understand?” or “Are you listening?”.
  • You can practice this ahead of time if you need to. You can role play with a friend or loved one until you feel comfortable – it could be helpful if they can throw out possible responses or even crazy ones, just to give you practice staying on script.  Or you can just rehearse mentally until you are confident you know the steps and can follow your script.
  • You can and should adapt this to the situation and your own personality. You can soften the script, to be less confrontational, as long as you remember that you are there to get results. You can be very straight shooting, to be more pointed, as long as you remember that you are not there to fight. Make it your own and be willing to shift to a question asking or discussion phase when appropriate.
  • Remember, what you ask for is key. If you want a doctor to consider letting you try Diamox, per the Driscoll Theory, you might make step 3 something like: “I want you to read  the Driscoll Theory (best if you have copies of articles or something to hand him) and consider prescribing Diamox, because I believe it could help me.” You don’t have to  (nor would it be wise) to say, “I want you to prescribe Diamox.” What you really want is for the doctor to get on board and consider your research, so phrase it accordingly.
  • This is not the only method or even the best method to use in all situations. Sometimes, you will want a sincere back and forth with your physician or, another time, you may need his specific advice on treatment. You do not need or want to always go in with an agenda. BUT, for situations like asking for a specific medication or treatment from a doctor who is reluctant or where you need to assess his willingness to listen to you, this can be an effective method.

Continue the 4 steps until you achieve a satisfactory outcome or until you see no point in continuing the conversation. The point is to a) be very specific in communicating your needs b) to communicate in such a way that does not burn bridges or cause offense and c) give you a script to use in difficult situations.

We all have found ourselves in situations that cause us to get so flustered or intimidated that we are at a loss for words. Considering how long we often have to wait to see a specialist and how important a visit to the doctor can be, this method may be a way for you to politely get your point across in a composed and assertive way, avoiding displays of emotion that undermine your goals or blanking completely, wasting the visit and going home dissatisfied.

If you use this, let me know how it goes – for good or ill!



A Very Big Deal

2 1/2 years ago, at her lowest point and most ill, Em sat in a wheelchair with Dr. Tinkle and said emphatically that she wanted out of the wheelchair and to be able to be in a production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat that was being done at the theatre that summer.

He acknowledged her hopes and very gently told her the truth: that she probably would not be better in time to be in Joseph. But, that he would do everything he could to help her get better so she could be in a play when the time came.  Well, sadly Dr. T has moved on and isn’t around to see the transformation he promised.

But, yesterday we were able to tell the geneticist who now handles her case, Dr. Neilson, that Em is in a musical right now.  He understood what a Very Big Deal that is. He never saw her at her worst; he has only seen the new and improved Em (the post-Diamox Em), but he has heard our description of where she has been and knows enough to know what this means to her.

He said they are always wowed when they have someone come in and tell them that they are out of a wheel chair or doing something that was out of the question previously. For so long, I didn’t believe that there was any way that Em could be one of the success stories – there seemed to be so little hope at our lowest point.

It was a really precious moment after a few very long, very dark years.

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