Willfully Determined

Yesterday I pushed myself to do more and to do different. I decided to be a 22 year old for a few hours, I just ignored the fatigue, took the pain meds, and went to back to back movies (7-11:30pm) with my sister, who didn’t think I could stay out late anymore. It was a gift to both of us to be able to spend that time together, just enjoying doing something that was so out of the norm.

Usually I sleep through 60-80% of movies anywhere we watch them, our basement, my room, the movie theater, other peoples houses… But last night I worked hard to stay awake, and I did a stellar job. My POTS/dysautonomia leaves my body unable to pump blood to my brain when I sit down for too long, so I fall asleep or pass out even if I’m loving a movie or having a great conversation with someone; but usually, if I move around or take a walk I start to feel much more human again and stay awake for at least 10-20 minutes 😉

My family asked me if I really had energy for this, and here is what I told them,

“No, I don’t have the energy, but this isn’t about energy.  This is about desire and determination.”

Sometimes I have to accept my symptoms, accept my situation, and make a choice to push past all of the exhaustion, pain, nausea, and sensitivities so that I can remind myself and those around me that I’m still me, and that there are still things out there, outside of my “safe zone” (aka my house and my room). Watching the world go on without you can be a very strange feeling, it’s like watching from an outside view, looking down on the life I thought would be mine and watching others continue on without me. The world doesn’t wait for anyone.

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of “nothings” from doctors; some literally don’t have anything to say, don’t answer emails or calls or anything, others telling me they can’t take on my case or I’ve exhausted the options they can offer. It’s a lot of “keep you comfortable” and “manage symptoms.”

After so much of the same, I’m so tired of doctors and meds and tests or treatments that no one actually thinks will work. I want to live. I want to experience my youth, I want to really feel alive and I want to cross items off of my bucket list.

I want to travel and see incredible sites and take countless photos. I hope to visit all of the girls who I’ve met online, the ones who have helped me through these years of illness, and I want to meet new people, and fall in love. I want to get rid of these tubes so I can swim with dolphins and scuba dive, get as close to my mermaid dream as possible.

I have a lot of goals, and I may never accomplish all of them, but they make for some happy thinking & I never pass that up. 🙂

 

Must Haves for Tubies: A Guide to All of Your Tubie Essentials

Preparing for your first feeding tube? Or just adjusting to life with tubes? Here are some tips about some tubie essentials!

**always talk to your doctors when changing/adapting any parts of your treatment plan, my posts are strictly personal experience/personal research– I am not a medical expert, aside from my years of illness 😉

Gauze and/or Tubie pads—

Gauze and tubie pads serve the same purpose, they keep the tube site (aka the stoma) clean and dry, soaking up all excess drainage and keeping all outside gunk away! Some tubies have more drainage or granulation tissue while others hardly have any at all after the stoma heals from surgery; if you have a lot of it, continuously, gauze is often (not always) the best option. Tubie pads are much cuter and don’t require tape, making them easier on the skin. Some people use both, many people develop a preference as to which one they use, but either is a solid option for keeping your stoma clean and “happy.”

 

Great places for tubie pads (& great donors for newbie tubies!):

Homemade Tubie Happiness (on Facebook or Etsy)

Tubie Whoobies (Facebook)

Dorky Little Etsy Store (Etsy)

 

Syringes

 You’ll use syringes every day, you have to flush during and after feeds to keep your tube from clogging and many tubies take medications through the tubes, using syringes.

You can get various sizes and types of syringes, anything from a 1-3ml syringe (not used for tubes as much as for central lines), to 10ml, 30ml, and 60ml syringes. Luer lock syringes have smaller tips that can have needles screwed into them; they work best for flushing water/feeds through and the smaller ones can push clogs through. Slip tip/luer slip syringes have longer tips that are better for medications as they allow the dissolved meds pass through easier and leave less behind.

Your home health company should provide syringes, but if they don’t have the kind you like or don’t give you enough, you can buy mass quantities for cheap prices online.

 

Qtips, clean wash clothes, natural soaps

Keeping the tube(s) clean and dry is SO important. Change the gauze multiple times a day and pay attention to the stoma—clean gently with a warm, wet qtip when changing the dressing and wash with a cloth & natural soaps during your showers/baths/etc.

Don’t leave excess blood or drainage on the skin, it can cause irritations, itching, or pain. Some drainage and blood is normal, though. It’s no reason to panic.

 

Tapes/adhesives

 There are many types of tapes and adhesive bandages, as you go along you’ll figure out which best suits you! Your infusion/home health company should provide you with tape, but if they don’t or you don’t like what they give you, there is tape in any pharmacy or any store that has a health section.

Paper tape, transpore, or medipore tape are two of the easiest on the skin, but paper tape doesn’t last as long or stick as well and it is not water proof. It may take some trial and error, but you will figure out which works best, and if you use tubie pads you won’t need as much tape!

You should get tape from your home health/infusion company, but if not you can find it online or at the pharmacy.

 

Stoma creams/ointments—

Your tube site, aka your stoma, may cause you discomfort on and off even when it has healed. There are a lot of options for ways to try and minimize discomfort. You should ask your doctor before changing any part of your treatment plan, but these are some options to talk about…

Itching? Hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl cream

Pain? Lidocaine ointment

Skin irritation, granulation tissue, or bile burn? Try granulotion, calmoseptine, sudocrem, or any other barrier cream your doctor recommend

All of these items can be found on Amazon, at a pharmacy, or from your doctor…

 

Tubie belts, button covers, and tube clips

Along with tubie pads, you can get tubie belts and button or port covers that are especially helpful for children with feeding tube. Belts and covers help keep the tubes still and in place while being used or while not being used so that kids are less likely to mess with/pull on their tubes and cause harm to their tubes or themselves

The tubie clips help keep the extra tubing from dragging or getting caught on things when you are feeding on the go. These clips work well with backpacks and/or IV poles, whatever suits you. They’re cute and simple but can save you from yanking your tube out by accidentally stepping on it or getting it caught while moving around.

All of these items can be found on Etsy, a few of the best shops to find these?

Tubie clips: Crafting for a Cure Co. (They support Newbie tubies with their sales!)

Belts: Kangarootique (Etsy)

Heating pads

Heating pads help with pain, nausea, bloating, and so much more. You can get electric heating pads or microwavable ones. They come in all shapes, sizes, and patterns and you can get them anywhere– amazon, walmart, any pharmacy, or etsy.

One of my favorite Etsy shops and one of Newbie Tubies largest donors: Divine Comfort Rice Pks

Tubie Awareness Gear:

 Be loud & proud about being a tubie; there is no shame in having a feeding tube. There are so many cute shirts, bags, and accessories that help being a tubie be a little more glamorous. Don’t be afraid to let others know about your tube, awareness and confidence are important, and you never know who else may be out there with a tube hidden under their shirt, too?

A few places to find cute tubie apparel:

Tubie Love Gear: http://feedingtubeawareness.bigcartel.com/

Newbie Tubies: instagram @ newbietubies and/or positivelyrachel.com

 

Hopefully this information was helpful! For more, check out our tips list or visit my good friend, Carolanne’s blog, here for more information on tubie products!

My Opiate Crisis

The opiate crisis. Two words, so much baggage.

I think it’s reasonable to say that most individuals over the age of 15 living in the US today have at least heard something about the opiate crisis. Opiates are bad. Narcotics are addictive. They ruin lives and have a high risk for overdose. Opiates are a gateway drug and lead to use of street drugs & illegal self-medicating. (5th-10th grade health class, yah?) That’s what we learn about the opiate crisis, bad bad bad.

Opiates/narcotics can be dangerous…if used incorrectly or illegally. But for people like me, who are living with multiple chronic pain conditions, this opiate crisis is affecting our treatment plans and more importantly, our quality of life & ability to function.

That said, and all dramatics & sarcasm aside, for those of us living with chronic illnesses, the opiate crisis is not the same crisis that you hear about in the news or in a doctor’s office…

My opioid crisis involves trying to make the very limited quantity of pain medication last the whole month, every month….

and then I have to trek back to the doctor to try to advocate for myself and my needs when a change in dosage or medication is needed– I’m really shy/bad at confrontation and in person advocacy so this is a big stress for me.

My opioid crisis is struggling to make each dose last long enough; dealing with a connective tissue condition and genetics that make my body metabolize pain medications too quickly has made treating my pain very hard, high doses of pain meds are hard to get with all of the new FDA laws that are in place due to recreational users and ODs, which of course have nothing to do with my case, but laws are laws and now it’s been made my crisis, your crisis, and that of every addict or legal pain patient who uses these meds.

My opioid crisis involves choosing between being able to function during the day or being able to sleep at night. I’m an artist and a writer, but I can’t paint or write because of the pain in my hands, wrists, and arms. I can’t stand too long, sit still, or lay down without having severe pain in my back and hips. When does the pain end? What is more important, sleep or being productive and (semi)functional during the day?

My crisis means facing the consequences of others’ actions; I don’t abuse drugs nor do I purchase them illegally or without a prescription. I use pain meds because I am unable to really live without having a way to try to manage the pain, no different than how I work to manage my nausea or my migraines, any of my symptoms that can affect my quality of life.

My opioid crisis may not be “normal,” but it’s real. I know so many other girls going through these trials, we are lucky to have each other, but the stress and the guilt and the disappointment from disappointing doctors and failed treatments or lack of access to medications can be overwhelming. There are no words to explain how deeply the system can affect us– and not just because of opiates.

I would love to find something aside from narcotics that would relieve my pain effectively. I want to paint for hours with no shooting pains in my arms, hands, or back, and I want to type without my wrists feeling like they’re black and blue with bruises every time they hit the laptop/keyboard. I want to sleep all night and run a full bag of tube feeds without waking up in too much pain to sit up.

I don’t want to be on narcotics. I have so many goals, and none of them include narcotics, but they also don’t include severe, widespread joint and nerve pain. I also understand why there are strict rules on medications like narcotics. I wouldn’t want them to be easily available to everyone. But that doesn’t mean that those who are truly, legitimately suffering– whether it be acute (post op, injury, car wreck) or chronic (fibromyalgia, arthritis, ehlers danlos syndrome, CRPS, etc.)– should have to continue to suffer when there are actually medications that could make a difference!

Not all of my conditions have treatments. Not all of my symptoms can be managed. So if I find something that helps, and I have doctors saying it makes sense, why does it have to be so damn hard to get a hold of these medications? This system is just mind boggling sometimes.

I want to be a person, not a patient, not a statistic in a research study, just Rachel.

That’s a glimpse at my opiate crisis.

 

Tips for Tubies: A Tubie’s Guide To Success Vol. 1

 

  1. The doctors work for YOU. Not the other way around. If a doctor (or a nurse, tech, or anyone else in the medical system) treats you with any less respect or dignity than you deserve, consider finding a new specialist.
  2. No question is a bad question. There are awkward questions and there can be a boatload of questions, but all of them are important. Ask until you’re satisfied, even if the doctor is acting rushed or distracted. Your health and confidence is more important than anything else.
  3. Some surgeons aren’t big talkers – they like to get the job done; make a list of questions and concerns and make sure to ask them the first time you see them pre-op/post-op or during your follow ups, it could be the only time you see them!
  4. Recovery can be even more challenging than surgery itself. Have people who will be around to help you or at least set up some people to come visit and check on you each day. Before surgery, set up a place by your bed or couch where you can keep some essential items so you won’t have to get up and down every time you need something.
  5. Don’t push yourself! There are no “shoulds” with chronic illnesses or tube feeding. If recovery is taking longer than planned, take some time off from school or work if you are able to! Learn that it is okay to say no when your friends want to go out to eat or get drinks late on a Friday night, if you feel cruddy or just don’t want to be around food, it’s okay to stay in or suggest a different plan. No guilt.
  6. Learn to advocate for yourself. It can be hard to really get doctors to understand what you truly feel and then to get what you need to be comfortable. Be persistent and thorough in explaining symptoms and how it affects your life. If you aren’t good at being forward, take a parent, spouse, relative, or friend who can help make sure everything gets covered.

 

These are just a few of the major tips for getting started with “tube life,” but they’re applicable throughout the journey with feeding tubes and really with any chronic illness. Learning to manage your case, advocate for yourself, and stay on top of appointments/doctors, questions, and treatments both past and present can be a big task, but staying organized and figuring out early on what methods work best for you to manage it all is really beneficial in the long run.

Keep your eyes out for more tips, the next round will be more tubie-specific regarding tube care and what to look out for vs what not to get freaked out over! 🙂

Thanks for reading and  I hope it was helpful! If you have questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to comment or message me!