Friends! Again, it has been a few months too long without a blog published. Sorry!
April 28, 2017 has marked the date of a new anniversary. In the last almost five years October 26, 2012 has been the biggest anniversary on my calendar. That date being the day my life literally changed. Who knew one single day could change my entire future? I don’t know how or why, but that’s exactly what happened. For five years that October day has rolled around, leaving me unsure if it should be celebrated as another year survived, or defeated that it was just another year fighting my body so hard. But this time, there is no question that April 28th should be celebrated!
One year ago, I went through living Hell in the emergency room(shocker), and was admitted to the neurology floor of the hospital. At the time, we were frustrated that we would have to spend likely a few days admitted, stuck in the slow moving world within the hospital. Through a few nights with no sleep, and equally as many days without being able to eat, I couldn’t help but feel defeated as my new doctor chose to run some tests before working to stop my attack and fix my locked open jaw. Being given a feeding tube wasn’t something I ever considered needing, and it intimated me, the hospital pro. So many tests were lined up for me that I would get back to my room just to be taken for the next in line. I was very thankful for my portacath as nurses drew enough blood that I questioned if I was going to run out. Physically, I felt like I was at my lowest point, and it seemed that mentally I was close as well. I would soon be proven wrong.
Through the hard work of my doctor, the determination for answers, and prayers, lots of prayers, we could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I had been working with Dr. Cheesy for one week. He had seen me one time. He walked in on the third day with answers…and yes, that is plural. As he told us that my jaw was dislocated I immediately felt a bit of weight lift off of my shoulders. For almost a year, and nearly weekly, no doctor had taken the time to x-ray or look past the surface of my jaw being forcefully locked open or my face swelling for hours and even days. My parents and I shared with the doc that we had been told I was self-harming, my parents told to stop taking me to get medicine and all would be well, and best of all; that the muscles on one side of my face were simply fatter than the other. He chuckled, and admitted some doctors suck. Immediate tears welled in our eyes as The Cheese sat down explaining something called Dystonia. I’d read about a few dystonia cases but didn’t know any details. He told us that Dystonia is a disease of the muscles. It can be a whole disease in itself but is more often a part of a bigger picture. A disease of the muscles easily makes sense being a factor related to Hemiplegic Migraines. I was officially diagnosed with dystonia of the jaw, which causes the muscles in my face and jaw to spasm and pull so hard my jaw gets dislocated. It made us sick to our stomachs that the reason my jaw was locked open so often for a year was because the high doses of medicines were simply getting my jaw to slide partially back into place, never actually relocating it. All it would’ve taken was one x-ray to show the truth. Instead, my jaw joint had gotten destroyed a little more each week. ONE x-ray.
I spent the next 22 days moving between the neurology/surgical ICU and the Progressive Care Unit. The PCU is the step-down unit to ICU. Within 14 of those days my jaw was reset three times. For 15 days I relied 100% on a feeding tube. The general rule after getting your jaw reset is that it will take three months for it to heal, three months before you can eat most foods again. My family was so excited when they could start feeding me limited foods through a syringe. We celebrated that. Near the end of my stay a therapist had to come teach me how I was going to eat. I was 19 and learning how to eat again. I was so embarrassed that I was going to have to eat baby food. I was angry that if I wanted a burger or pizza, really anything good, it would first have to be blended. I never wanted one of those bad enough to eat a junk food smoothie. Instead I lived off of mostly Smoothie King and baked potatoes. 😉
Between jaw issues I was also being aggressively treated for the Dystonia and Hemiplegic Migraines. My doctor was attacking my attacks more within a few weeks of working with him than anyone in the last four years. Because of that I was poked, prodded, tested and medicated constantly. I remember very little of those 22 days and went through days just being out cold. This is when I truly hit mental and physical rock bottom. I could do nothing on my own for myself. Family and friends visited on their lunch breaks or evenings just to take me on walks around the floor because I couldn’t do it on my own. One night after trying so hard to get me to wake up and get with it, my nurse asked my birthday and I couldn’t remember. He asked who was sitting on my bed. I couldn’t tell him it was my dad. Being the biggest daddy’s girl that I am, I couldn’t tell that it was my dad sitting on my bed squeezing my hand. (crying now) I have a foggy memory of that, but it feels like I was an outsider in the room watching it play out, not that it was actually me.
Thinking about all of these cloudy memories brings back the many emotions from those days, feeling just as raw as they did a year ago. However, it makes me almost as emotional reflecting on the past 12 months. As last summer came around life continued, but I was skeptical that there would be any change. By September of this year I had had a total of three seizures, and only been in the hospital two times since May. One of the two ER runs being for kidney stones, I actually appreciated going in for something “normal”. After September I wasn’t admitted to the hospital again until January, spending five more days in ICU, and then in March for only three days. I’m still shocked that I’ve had only four hospital trips in a year, compared to last year when I was making trips nearly weekly.
I haven’t published a blog in awhile partially because life has been a different kind of boring. Who knew boring would be a good thing? I take advantage of my Mondays spent in the infusion center racking up hours of sleep that I’ll miss later in the week, while the medicine necessary for me having a good week is delivered through my port. On top of that I still rely on medications daily and have my fair share of intramuscular shots to take. I continue to try new tricks and treatments of all kinds. Attacking my body with so much medicine isn’t something we’ve ever been huge fans of, but after nearly five years of trying everything, any therapy that ignites change is worth it. And change we have seen. Everything has changed.
Through this whole crazy ride, one lesson I’ve learned is to seriously appreciate and celebrate the little things in life. I know, so cliche. When my brother was a sophomore in high school I was only able to attend two of his basketball games throughout the entire season. This year was his senior season and I only missed two games of the whole season. Thank goodness for ear plugs and special migraine glasses! To make that small win a little sweeter, my dad is also the high school basketball coach. Killing two birds with one stone, I was finally the one traveling always to support them.
I’m still a little bummed that my doctor insists I not take more than a couple credit hours in school, but I’m trying to accept that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to graduate. Eventually I will be a college graduate with a diploma that represents the fight I won to get there. It’s refreshing to think about my future with dreams different than hopes to have enough energy to make it through the week.
I’ve talked before about missing my old self and working so hard to earn that self back. Though many things are different, more and more of that Hadley I missed so much is coming back. I’m back to babysitting on the regular, something I have always loved to do. I have a real job!!! Being able to work a few hours a week is so satisfying. I don’t have to cancel nearly as many plans last second and have greatly appreciated going out with friends, or simply being able to handle life outside of my four walls. A lot can change in 365 days.
I’m proud of myself. I’m happy. I’m winning. I’m thankful for our great God above. He always has a plan.
p.s. If you’re wondering about the best baked potatoes, I’m your girl. 😉
p.p.s Adding a link to my “special migraine glasses”👇🏼