Inserting my own peripheral IV catheter.

I guess I should say: Warning: Graphic medical procedure!

When I was learning to insert an IV, I couldn’t find many decent tutorials online (I was only allowed one nurse visit to walk me through it and I found watching people do it was even more informative). Since my Mom is visiting, I asked her to make a video in case it could be helpful for others. This angle isn’t the best for a detailed view, but it’s a good first go.

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IV Saline Experiment

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My doctor finally acquiesced to my pleas to try IV saline and see if it helped my symptoms at all. I really wanted to try it last month when I was going through such hell after the tilt table test (I still cannot believe how profound the payback was from what felt like a comparatively benign day of tests), but she wasn’t convinced it was a worthy experiment. It wasn’t until I sent her POTSgrrl’s post (thank you!), that she thought we could give it a try.

I scheduled the appointment for the day my period was due because that is typically when I am most incapacitated by ME symptoms. It was 6 hours from the time we left the house until we returned. I never expected such a long day. We did 2 full bags of saline over a little less than 3 hours (and it took 3 tries to get the IV line in. Twice, the nurse said, “Shoot, I blew the vein.” I didn’t know what “blew the vein” meant and I was lying down and couldn’t see my arm, so I had a panic about what complications would happen, how much blood was everywhere and whether we should continue. Once something is underway ~ a treatment, a plane trip, anything ~ I don’t fret at all, but, during the time when I can change my mind, I always start to second-guess my decision. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked for saline. Everything always goes wrong. Maybe two “blown” veins is the universe telling me this is a bad idea. Maybe I should stop it now and go home. But the nurse went and got a different person to put in the IV and she was quick and confident and, once it was done, my mind was at ease).

The worst part about the treatment was how cold I was. The room was freezing and I spent 4 hours in there covered in blankets, my heated vest (it has a battery pack), my coat, my scarf and gloves, my husband’s coat, a water bottle that my husband filled with hot water from the tap… It was ridiculous.

Below is the email I sent my doctor this morning. I wanted to post it here so I have a record of how this treatment helped. Or didn’t.

Hi Dr. XXX,

My BP was 96/63 originally, somewhat the same after 1 bag of saline and, after 1.5 bags, it had actually gone down to 88/XX. After we were finished, it was back to the 9X/6X range again.

The good repercussions:

  • My heart rate has been so low. WOW! Morning HR on Saturday and Sunday was 53/54 bpm and, sitting watching tv, my HR was mid- to high-50s. That’s about 15 bpm lower than usual. Activities that would normally put my HR above 110 bpms (such as walking up 6 stairs and getting in bed) were only causing me to go into the 80s. The effect lasted all weekend.
  • My BP was higher than normal Friday night (109/67), but went back down the next day.
  • My period came Saturday morning and was definitely easier than it has been in the past few months. Cramps were minimal and I didn’t feel dizzy, however my muscles were still very sore and achy.
  • My energy was not bad over the weekend. I took 1400 steps Saturday and Sunday, which is a lot for me.
  • I was able to wash my cpap on Saturday and go out on my scooter for 45 mins on Sunday, both of which would normally be too much on the first two days of my period.

The bad repercussions:

  • The most prominent difference is, although my HR has been low, my heart feels like it is “tripping” every so often (maybe 4 or 5 times an hour). This is brand new. It feels like a pitter-patter palpitation, like it skips a beat or speeds up for a second… When this happened, my HR was still low.
  • It was a 6-hour total excursion, which, for me, is unheard of. This had to have repercussions.
  • I felt terrible Friday night. Heavy, inflamed, wiped out.
  • My eyes swelled up A LOT after the saline, as did my fingers, my sinuses and what felt like my lungs (my breathing felt laboured).
  • The spot in my throat under my jaw that itches when I am having an allergic reaction has been very itchy since Saturday morning (saline? period? something I ate?).
  • I slept poorly Friday and Saturday nights and woke up too early both days.
  • I woke up this morning (Monday) feeling HORRIFIC. Much worse than any day in the past week. Completely wiped out, in pain, barely able to get out of bed. Feels like the flu (throat, muscles, head), but of course it’s not. I don’t know if it’s payback from the appointment and the weekend or what, but, if there were benefits from the saline, it looks like they are gone now. HR is back to being in the 70s when I’m sitting.

Thank you so much for being willing to try this experiment! I really, REALLY appreciate having someone in my corner.

I’m going back to bed for the day now because I feel worse than I have in weeks. But I’ll leave you with some scenes from my scooter-walk with my husband and pups ~ now the thing that gives me the most joy in my life.

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What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday, I had an extreme reaction to the tiny dose of doxylamine succinate (unisom) that I take to sleep. It is the only drug that has worked and I have been careful to use only 1/4pill at a time and only a few nights at a time. But not careful enough, I guess. My body totally melted down yesterday. There’s no other way to describe it. Pre-syncope doesn’t do it justice. It felt like an antihistamine overdose: very shaky, clammy, headachy, short of breath, heart rate all over the place, blood pressure bottoming out, collapsy, chilled to the bone (mini convulsions of chills), and then swollen and heat drenched…

I really thought I was going to have to go to the hospital and, once I knew I wouldn’t pass out and wouldn’t need paramedics, the fear and depression set in. I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of drugs, eating, not sleeping, talking, walking, not walking, dying alone. This is no way to live. When I asked my husband what he loved about me when he first met me, he said, “You were fearless.” This makes me lament my current brain even more. What I would give to be fearless again!

I have a tilt table test scheduled for Monday and, if the horror stories online weren’t enough to terrify me, having this meltdown happen to me yesterday has definitely doused all hopefulness that the test could go well. Today I feel awful – extremely, achy, stiff, sore, and depleted. My eyes are swollen and my head is pounding. I feel just like I did after each of my syncope and anaphylaxis episodes: like I lay all night in a room full of black smoke while MSG dripped into my veins and strong men beat me with baseball bats. So, I’m really going to go get syncope symptoms provoked in a lab on Monday? I can’t take any meds this weekend and no caffeine, food or water the day of the test. That alone could be really bad for me. I’m scared of dehydration and low blood sugar. They are also conducting a sweat test, which I’m told is painful, and they don’t offer IV fluids after the test.

There are other things adding to my current distress:
I missed my physical therapy appointment yesterday. This is the second appointment I’ve missed with a practitioner who is in such high demand it takes months to get in to see him. I’m mortified and guilty.
I wanted to call Z. and Skype with E. (my best friends), both of which must be put on hold for weeks.
I’ve told my sister no the last five times she has offered to come over for a visit.
I was hoping and praying I could go to the cemetery on my scooter with my dogs this weekend, but it’s not going to happen. It has been weeks since I’ve gone there and the weather is meant to be pretty good. This gives it a sense of urgency because it’ll be wet and cold for the next six months.
My brother the pilot has another layover in Seattle two days after the autonomic testing and I don’t think I’ll be up to seeing him.
My appointment with the neurologist to go over my test results is on Halloween at 8am. Most of you know the fear this strikes in me. Up at 6am (after trying to sleep with no drugs) without my three hours of “gather my strength” time in bed in the morning, no food (because I can’t eat that early), trying to talk to a doctor and comprehend that early in the morning…?!
My gallbladder (?) twinge is back with a vengeance and I’m scared all over again about having to get emergency surgery with this sensitive, intolerant, anaphylactic body.
This happened right after I had added back steak and bacon to my diet and right before I was going to challenge eggs, so now I’m left nervous to eat any of those things (I was so looking forward to a day with eggs!).
And, finally, I’m sure I have a mast cell disorder (which I’ll write about one day) and that makes me more scared than my normal ME scared. If I have such a vicious reaction to the drug that is meant to prevent allergic reactions, what hope is there for me? I looked into a low-histamine diet and Jesus! No dried fruit, no black tea, no apples, oranges, pineapple, spinach, chocolate, leftover or processed meat etc. etc. Just give me a pill and fix it, dammit!

Anyway, sorry, my fingers are swollen and I have to stop typing. This was going to be a very short post to let friends and family know that I am going to try my hardest to do NOTHING for the rest of the month. I’ll be out of touch, but will read anything you write and thank you for your support and understanding. Gratitude for the fact that I’m not alone. X
And for the Project Runway finale I get to watch right now! ūüėČ

Tomorrow is International M.E. Awareness Day.

Tomorrow is International M.E. Awareness Day. There are many events happening around the world, both online and in person. You can google your area to see if there is anything going on, but what I ask is something simple:

Please make an effort this month to talk about this disease. Look for opportunities to raise awareness. Don’t worry about being a “downer” or bringing up an awkward, depressing subject. Let people know that there is an illness that stops life in its tracks and has no approved drug treatments and very little funding for research. Explain that this has nothing to do with laziness, depression, tiredness or burn-out. Explain that there are test abnormalities, but doctors aren’t taught about the (possible/probable) etiologies of this disease¬†so most do not recognise it and certainly don’t know what to test for or how to treat it. Make it known that patients languish in their homes ~ or, more likely, a family member’s home ~ are passed from dismissive specialist to thieving¬†charlatan and back again,¬†use up all their resources, and usually reach a point where they are trying to just survive¬†because¬†it is too exhausting to research treatments and search for medical help. Warn people that ME is often accompanied by¬†crippling neurological issues, autonomic dysfunction, new allergies and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), chronic migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia (FM), mast cell problems (MCAD), sleep dysfunction and, of course, the depression and anxiety that would be hard to avoid with a diagnosis like this. These are all debilitating conditions in their own right, so drawing awareness to them is just as valuable.

As with many awareness campaigns, ribbons are worn to show support ‚Äď blue for ME/CFS, purple for FM, and green for MCS. What I like about this is, it might bring up the conversation. Most people recognise the pink ribbon representing breast cancer awareness or the yellow Livestrong wristband which supports cancer survivors, but perhaps you will encounter someone who asks, “What does the blue ribbon stand for?” And then you can launch into your educational lecture. ūüôā

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A few things going on around the world:

Niagara Falls will be illuminated in blue tomorrow, May 12th, from 9:45-10:00pm EST to raise awareness to M.E. From 10:15-10:30pm EST the falls will be purple for fibromyalgia (FM) and from 11:00-11:15pm EST the falls will be green to draw attention to multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). You can watch it on their live webcam. Or try: http://www.earthcam.com/canada/niagarafalls/

In London, there is the ‚ÄúAll Fall Down for M.E.‚ÄĚ protest outside¬†the Houses of Parliament at the Old Palace Yard.

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In Victoria, Australia at Melbourne University, there is an ME/CFS Educational Fun Run.

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Bob Miller is skydiving to promote ME research in Lodi, California.

The Irish ME/CFS Association is hosting four talks by Dr. Ros Vallings from New Zealand next week.

There are  five screenings of Voices from the Shadows across three continents in May.

Read this article by Mark at Phoenix Rising to get all the details about these events and many more.

Finally, consider writing to your local paper to raise awareness. Read this post by the ME/CFS Self-help Guru for inspiration.

Thank you to everyone in my life that has talked about this baffling illness, raising awareness one person at a time. Thanks to my father for talking to his staff about this disease and to my mother for talking to her dog park friends about it and to Z. and E. for explaining my situation to other people I know and to my husband for constantly making excuses for my absence, trying to educate others on what is going on and raging at medical professionals’ and society’s ignorance, allowing me to be angry by proxy since I don’t have the energy for it.

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