Monday, September 27, 2010

HOT, Hot, hot!

It was 109 degrees in beautiful Southern California today! I have been dreading this weather all year. I thought maybe the wonderfully cool summer was a prequel to an autumn closer to that of the autumn felt by the North Eastern US. But I was W-R-O-N-G wrong!!! I had already switched my boring summer wardrobe with my delightful winter clothes. Hello soft cashmere, leather boots and turtlenecks, good bye drab cotton t-shirts and leggings. I had my heart set for savory soups and delicious stews and roasts, enough with the fish, chicken and rabbit food!

I knew the heat was coming. One of the symptoms of POTS is temperature intolerance. I've often described the way I feel in the heat, to the scene in Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets, when Harry takes Pollyjuice Potion and his body goes through a very uncomfortable transformation. I feel like my blood is bubbling, a strange fatigue and tingling sensation takes over my limbs, my heart rate rises, I get very dizzy, my temperature rises a couple degrees and I feel very panicky. When I feel that way, I need to find a cool place and cool off immediately. If I don't I end up on the ground and my body shuts down. This is always followed by a trip to the hospital. Oxygen, an IV and a day or two in bed will usually get me back to my old self. But this is obviously something I want to avoid. Nothing like a public display in front of my students, parents and colleagues to make me look incompetent.

I'm very blessed to have an air conditioned classroom. But there are other hurdles to jump outside the classroom, and that was what I dreaded most. Usually I'm a worrier, but I'm finally learning that worrying gets me nowhere, and I need to trust that God has this all under control, even if it ends up being my worse case scenario. I'm also learning to look ahead and plan for the things that might cause me trouble. Finally I'm learning it's OK to ask for help.

One of my concerns was patriotic observance. It's a wonderful time where the whole school assembles together to pledge the flag, sing a patriotic song, make school announcements and say the school pledge. It's a very moving and special time of the school day. It usually lasts ten to fifteen minutes. On a hot day, it's one of my most difficult times. I'm very fortunate to have the support of the first grade team, who have offered to help me out if I ever need it. So I felt confident that this time of the day would be covered, and sure enough my kindergarten team mate took over my class during that time.

I was also concerned about lunch time, picking up my students after lunch means walking in the heat. It doesn't sound so difficult until you consider that walking with five year olds is and adventure in itself! The chances of at least one student falling down is very high, add a pushing or poking student to the mix, along with someone taking cuts, and a simple two minute walk turns into a stressful ten minute escapade! I asked my kindergarten team mate to give me a hand again, and she was kind enough to help. I followed lunch with indoor P.E., and my students were very well behaved!

I finished the day indoors in the wonderfully air conditioned classroom. It's time to go home, nothing dangerous there, WRONG! Walking to my car in 110 degrees can feel like a walk through the Sahara Desert without water. Then try getting into a car that has been sitting in the the hot sun all day, and it's as bad as it can get. I've had to pull over because my symptoms became too dangerous to drive with. I knew my drive was going to be tough, so I was fortunate enough that my daughter agreed to come to my rescue. She gets to my car ten minutes before I leave, and cools off the car before I get there. The only problem I had was that the longer cooler route to my car was hotter than I expected, and my ice vest was completely melted and warm by the time I got to my car.

A little preplanning along with some help from those around me, and living with POTS isn't so bad!


Psalm 139:17-18
How precious also are Your thoughts to me O God! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I am awake, I am still with You.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Normal" sick leads to coughing, barf fest and a side bar of piddle pup!

OK, so I was wrong to be excited about being "normal" sick! How could I have possibly thought that being "normal" sick wouldn't trigger my POTS symptoms. You would have thought that with the experiences of having a type 1 diabetic daughter, that I would have known better. I guess getting caught up in having some degree of a "normal" illness must have caused a short episode of brain fog.

Well the novelty of being "normal" sick wore off within 12 hours. "Normal sick" entails abnormal amounts of bodily fluid excreting from almost every part of the head that has holes, which unfortunately triggered some part of my stomach to rebel without warning the first night. There's nothing like the shock of waking up to a barf fest in the middle of the night. Then the wonderful realization that I can't get out of bed because of the extreme dizziness of POTS. For some reason my sense of humor seems to always kick in at times like these, and I had to giggle at the thought that just 12 hours ago I was actually joyful over having this "normal" illness! My body found it's payback for laughing at something I should have treated with a little more dread and respect! Well the adrenaline rush from being sick and the loss of my sleeping meds makes the evening a wash.

The next day feels like a normal sick day with the added bonus of worsening POTS symptoms from losing my POTS meds the night before. That night I head for bed with hopes and prayers to have a night that doesn't resemble the night before. My prayers are answered LOL, this night is definitely different from the night before. I wake up coughing, the kind of cough that feels like hairy little creatures are running along my air passages. The coughing gets out of control, and next thing I know I'm peeing like a puppy who's excited to see its owner, hmmm, no wonder I can relate so well to my kindergartners! So I head for the bathroom to change clothes and finish what I started. I'm all cleaned up, I head for the kitchen looking for something safe I can take to relieve my cough, when a second coughing jag begins. The room begins to spin, and a second set of clothing has just bit the dust. Now I'm really mad! There shouldn't be an ounce of fluid to create this problem 30 seconds after leaving the restroom, come on! I realize that it's just my body's sense of humor reminding me that it's in control, and until I crown it as my master, it will continue to torment and remind me that it is the boss of me! So I surrender control back to my body, and I promise never to take lightly any medical condition that crosses my path.

I know I'm not the only girl around who has "lost it", I do have friends who have confidentially shared (I promise I won't rat you out!). But I have to know, are girls the only ones with this problem, do guys suffer from this too? I'm sure I'll never get an answer to that question (who would admit to something as humbling as tinkling in your pants, oh yah, I just did lol), but then again, maybe they paid their dews during puberty! Well,it's kegel time!

Humbled and learning,

Job 2:10
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Lesson: All month God has blessed me with help in my room every single day! I will accept adversity in the same manner as the blessings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Experiencing "Normal"

I woke up yesterday morning with a runny nose and a sore throat. I actually smiled at the thought of being ill with something "normal". Since I work every day with the symptoms of POTS, I figured a cold or allergies would be a breeze! The beginning of the day went pretty much as usual, with just the added nose blowing. Though it would have been much harder without the help of my teacher friend Karen and a parent volunteer. But by the end of the day my body let me know that it was done,fever and fatigue set in. I would definitely need a substitute for the next day. So I went to the office to request a sub, which on this particular day I felt like Oliver begging for some gruel. Or in my words, "Oh please, amazing, wonderful person in charge of all the critical workings of our school, would you please in all your magnificence call a sub for me". My hands quivering as I give her my sub request. I get the look, then I hand her my paperwork and scuffle out of there as quickly as possible. I go back to my room and write my sub plans, which is almost as much work as going in to work myself. Two hours later my sub plans are completed. I'm not sure how understandable they are, but hopefully the sub will make it through the day in one piece!

I get home and cancel my plans for the prayer group that usually comes to my home on Monday nights, and I cheerfully explain to my friends that I think I have a cold. My friend Lisa complements me on my positive attitude about being ill, and I try to explain that it's the first time I think I've had a "normal" illness since my POTS diagnosis. She wishes me a speedy recovery, and I head for bed.

After I hung up the phone I pondered over why having a cold would actually make me happy. What I realized is that having a cold is something everyone can relate to. When you tell someone you have a cold they can go to their memory banks and connect with the typical symptoms of a cold (fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat), and they know it will probably last around a week. I get no quizzical looks from telling people I have a cold, instead I'm told to get some rest, and wishes for a quick recovery.

When I tell people I'm having a bad day with my symptoms of POTS, I usually get a blank stare, and well wishes. There isn't a single person in my daily life who has any idea of what POTS is like. My friends can't go into their lifetime of experiences and relate to what I have. It really is hard to understand an illness that encompasses a system no-one thinks about. No-one thinks about the fact that when they stand up something in their body tells the heart to pump more blood to their head, until that system doesn't work and you stand up and get so dizzy you almost faint. No-one thinks, hey I just ate dinner, I need to send extra blood to the stomach to aide in the digestive process. Not too many people can relate to waking up feeling like you've been chased by a mountain lion, all because your freaky body decided to have an adrenaline rush in the middle of the night for no reason. The average person expects to open their eyes every day and see clearly (unless you have typical vision problems that glasses can correct), blood still needs to be pumped to the eyes so you can see, on a bad POTS day I'm in a blur. No-one thinks to send blood to hands and feet, or what it's like when blood pools to those body parts and they look and feel like stuffed sausages, or the lack of blood flow feels like frost bite. There are no famous people like Michael J. Fox or Annette Funicello to bring a face to this syndrome,and so far I haven't seen epic or a Hallmark movie about POTS either! House has mentioned POTS once in an episode and there was an episode of Mystery Diagnosis that had a POTS patient, but again both shows specialize in rare and unknown disorders. It's funny, because when I was first hospitalized and I didn't know what I had, having so many tests, and the quizzical looks on the doctors faces gave me the feeling of being on an episode of House.

Now add the fact that many in the medical field have never heard of dysautonomia or POTS, can be frustrating. Imagine being in the ER feeling dizzy, heart rate in the 30's and short of breath trying to educate a doctor on your illness. I do carry a computer printout explaining POTS, and the medications I'm on, along with the best way to treat my symptoms if hospitalized. It is a bit odd to walk into an emergency room and tell the doctor to hook you up to an IV and oxygen, and if the symptoms don't improve after an hour to call my neurologist.

I have a cold, my nose runneth over,and I gladly embrace my softie box of tissue. Much better than my POTSy nemesis my porcelain lover.