01.28.2019

Show up

Every time the thought pops up that I should write more about my story, I push it aside. I do this often now, daily actually. Partly because I do not feel like this season of my life is going to speak life or its even worthy of sharing. But when something is redundant in my life, I take hint that actually God is the one nudging me. God doesn’t want me to worry about the responses I will get or the lack of motivation. He simply just asks me to show up, as I am, and speak/write.  Even if its hard, the truth is always best. 

As summer came to a close, I delve right into getting my clinical hours done to become a certified colon hydrotherapist. I trained under 2 clinics here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and found a good fit for a potential spot as a therapist after training. 

When I fist started training in the field of colon hydrotherapy, I was unsure how I would ever find a job as a colon hydrotherapist, being so young. But I had faith. When I moved to Boulder in 2016, I originally had planned on going to the colon hydrotherapy school out there. To my disappointment, the teacher didn’t think I would get a job in the field, if I wasn’t willing to set up my own business. So those words always clung in my conscience as I progressed through my training this summer. I would frequently worry about finding a position as a therapist, but eventually realized that indeed God would provide. 

After each session with a client, I felt a sense of purpose. I was joyful that God is giving me the strength to help people feel better and heal their bodies naturally. As you know, I am passionate about gut health, so physically helping people cleanse their guts of toxins, is right up my alley. I guess you can say I was made to do this. It was my goal to make people feel calm and comfortable. I was using my hands to carefully massage the stomach during a colonic session and prayed that God would guide my hands to help the gut relax and do its job. 

I remember the day as I drove to the clinic that something was off. I was slightly shaky and pushed through the few appointments I has scheduled. After the sessions as I was cleaning up the room, I noticed my calf muscles were weak and had “the weak knee” feeling. Then the familiar flash in the corner of my eye surfaced. Its the “seeing stars” experience that is all too common with a POTS disorder. Thats funny, I wondered why my body was suddenly showing POTS symptoms once again. I had worked  my way to this point in my life, the fear of watching these symptoms surfaced again really shook me to the core. Its been gradual progress over 2 years of physical therapy and medications to calm my autonomic neuropathy. 

My will is strong and my heart is big. So despite these symptoms which began to surface daily, I continued to make the hour drive each way to go train at the colonic clinic. I did my best to keep my nutrition and fluids up, but unfortunately that didn’t reverse the POTS symptoms. To be honest, I put physical therapy on hold because all my energy and time went into this colonic training. I was driven and love to put my-all into whats in front of me. I thought I was ok enough to not go consistently, but I guess my body was proving me wrong. 

In September, I had some persistent face pain near the parotid gland. I went to see my doctor several times and she was vigilant and we treated it accordingly, knowing I am prone to parotid infections. Even after an ER visit, and several follow up exams, it was unclear what was causing the paranoid pain and swelling. Weeks went by and deep down I had a gut feeling something was wrong. 

On Sept 30, I decided to try out a few brazil nuts, because I was tolerating ground pumpkin seeds and sunflower seed butter fairly well. After 10 min I felt like my blood pressure was dropping very quickly, I was starting to feel like things didn’t make much sense. Should I drink some water? Should I call for help.. nah, I’m probably just tired. As I walked past the mirror, I noticed how pale I had become and how big my lips were getting. The shock was setting in and I felt my throat muscles tightening. Oh my gosh, this is the real deal I thought, this is anaphylactic shock. I called for my mom, she quickly called 911 and then sat with me in the corner of the room as I was slowly suffocating. I was doing this rocking motion, trying to stay alert until the the paramedics came. I didn’t have an epi pen. Thank goodness the hospital is only 5 min away, because a few more min and I would have lost oxygen. They rushed in and my parents explained my simple story. I ate brazil nuts (I have eaten them before and this never happened) and now I am in anaphylactic shock. My bowels were on fire, and I was fighting to hold it in. I asked if I could PLEASE just use the toilet, but they insisted I didn’t have time and they continued to inject medication into my system to stop the reaction. 

As scary as this was,  I survived through it. God is good and He wants me to share even these moments with you. In the depths of pain and suffering, Gods hand is still close by. Actually God is even more near when these moments consume us.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” Psalm 46:1

As I was rushed to the hospital, I am thinking to myself how grateful I am for the past few days. The day before was a dream come true as I had hiked up the bluff with my young adult group and our priest said mass ontop of the bluff. Glorifying God in nature is a beautiful thing. But even now, God was showing up for me. My parents and sister stuck by me, the nurses and doctors worked diligently to get me back to stable. As I tiptoed near the ledge of death, feeling hopeless and scared, I knew God had more planned for me. That thought alone, was all I needed to get me through. 

I spent a day in the hospital suffering the most pain I have yet experience in my life (and I have a high pain threshold. For example: I get my teeth worked on without anesthetic and recently did un medicated endoscopy and colonoscopy). I felt significantly weaker and the pit in my stomach that “something is off” just grew bigger. The nurses and doctors had a feeling something was underlying that caused my immune system to react to a food I have eaten several times before. They advised I get to Mayo yet again to figure out if I had an infection in my face (due to my persistent facial pain). I ended up getting into my ENT at Mayo and she suggested a CT with contrast to see what is wrong. As we waited a few days over the weekend for the results, my body was starting to feel very achy and a bright red rash appeared on my face and was spreading down my neck. I drove myself to the ER and immediately the dr hooked me up with a dose of IV antibiotics because it was cellulitis spreading down my neck, which can be quite dangerous. I was given instructions to follow up with Mayo and continue with oral antibiotics. It was confirmed the next day that my CT didn’t show parotitis like we had thought, but cellulitis. CT scans can see the subcutaneous fat and the infection that was spread in my face, right over the paranoid gland. So the gland was not infected, it was more the skin/fat over it.

The ER dr. actually had remembered me from a visit back in 2013. I had gone to the ER with my mom because my body was swollen and red from reacting to basically everything under the sun. He was the first doctor to really invest and check all and everything he could possibly do. He really took interest in my case and believed something was underlying to cause these physical reactions. So 5 years later and after figuring out all that we have with going to Mayo, I could tell him what I had been diagnosed with and that in fact he was right, I had an underlying condition, autonomic neuropathy. I thanked him for believing me and encouraging me to find the root.

I continued treatment for this persistent infection during month of October and even into November. It took a strong antibiotic and a few rounds to fully stop the spreading rash. I started to notice how extremely tired I started to become and cut down on the days I was working. But I continued to do what I loved doing and helping people get the colons clean.

I was offered a spot, at the clinic I was training at, to work as one of their colon hydrotherapists. I was overjoyed and felt God was gifting me this opportunity I had prepared and worked so hard for. I always knew I wanted to specialize in some form of natural medicine growing up, and it just took little patience to find my place in the natural medicine world, as a colon hydrotherapist. I thank God every day for leading me down this path to get to this point.

My energy was dwindling fast and the eventually the lightheadedness was unavoidable. I began “seeing stars” even sitting down and had to come to the realization that driving was not going to be safe in this condition. My parents and sister helped me on on various days driving around and I am so very thankful for their support. But inside I was fighting a battle of letting go. I did not want to let go of this dream I had worked so hard for. I did not want to be sick and go backwards again. I did not know why this was happening and sadness was creeping in. I eventually had to tell my clients that I needed “a break to focus on my health”. That step took courage, but it was the right thing to do, because right now my body is weaker and needs to be tended to and strengthened.

I had more time to rest and also start searching for more answers. Several conventional doctors strongly advised a strict AIP diet, while focusing on nutrient dense food. My immune system was starving for nutrition and my latest lab tests showed some markers that prompted me to change. I went all in, preparing daily the bone broth soups, probiotic low histamine supplements, and rotating nutrient dense foods. It was very hard to transition my body because cooked meats tend to stick in my already slow digestion. I focused on healthy grass fed animal fats and coconut oil to keep me full. I increased my digestive supplement array and slowly I stated to accept that cooking like this, is the new way of life again. I now enjoy making up soup recipes!

Along with the POTS symptoms and random infection, my digestive system was really acting up. I was constantly bloated, constipated and basically in pain 24/7. I started going to a visceral manipulation specialist to help ease symptoms, but unfortunately it was not bringing relief. It just felt like my intestines were dead weight and things were not moving. I already know I have small intestine dysmotility, but intuitively I knew it was more than that. I tried all the natural remedies and felt like I was exhausting the list. I made a few trips to my family practice dr to get full blood panels done and things were mildly off. My liver enzymes were slightly elevated again, my red blood cell count was low, b12 low, and calcium was off. My bone scan revealed that I have osteopenia due to chronic amenorrhea. I still had 1 band left that is positive for lyme as well. It can get overwhelming with pinpointing “what’s wrong”, but I am thankful to have such a faith filled, detective minded doctor to help me sort through it. We made a plan to work on each imbalance and try to get my body back to balance again (this can be hard in general for someone with autonomic neuropathy). She suggested I find a gastroenterologist as well because I was having so much digestive distress.

As you can guess, I was reaching “medical burnout”. It’s a real thing, just ask any chronically sick person. It when your brain and emotions literally can’t take any more doctors visits, but the pain is so great that you have to keep going and searching. This is where family and friends play a huge role. My family started to step in more and encourage me and hold my hope up when I felt like I was falling deeper and deeper. I could not see a way out of this mess of autonomic, immune, gastrointestinal, etc. etc, problem-spiral. Now you can probably sense why I was reluctant to write this in the first place, because it just seems to be a compounding story of medical problems. Unfortunately I don’t have answers yet and am still searching. But I am fortunate to have faith in a God, who has all of this in the palm ofHhis hand. My life is not a jumbled mess of medical problems to Him. God sees through all my pain and reminds me daily of the hope that He is bringing.

A glimpse of hope happened over Thanksgiving break. I was bed bound for several days due to incredible stomach pain. A good friend who suffers with a digestive disorder herself asked some of her friends for a good gastroenterologist recommendation in the area. She gave me 3 options and I picked the closest one to home. I stepped into the office and candidly explained my symptoms. No sugar coating it, no smile on my face, and desperate for answers. The doctor was calm and collected and understood pretty well what autonomic neuropathy is and how intricately connected it is the digestive system. Let me tell you, that is not easy to find! He wanted to start from scratch with digestive testing and find a better solution than what Mayo could provide for my small intestine dysmotiliy. He too agreed something probably had progressed and was more focused on my colon. He suspected that my autonomic neuropathy could also be in flare up due to my increased POTS symptoms and digestive distress (digestive system is controlled by the autonomic nervous system). He suggested a new medication for motility and wanted me to get an endoscopy and colonoscopy ASAP, to physically see what it looks like inside. God has clearly led me to this doctor and I have a sense of trust and peace that only God provides. God will lead us in the right direction if we are open and let Him lead. It’s called surrender.

My colonoscopy confirmed that I have what’s called an “redundant colon” (shown in the picture) which is basically another loop that forms in the lower end of the colon. This makes the colon extra long and can cause problems. My gastroenterologist was surprised to find no peristalsis movement in the nerves and muscles inside my colon, as he probed around during the un-medicated colonoscopy. This helped confirm that my small intestine dysmotility is now spreading to affect my colon, leaving it with severe dysmotility. I am currently in the process of trying combinations of medications to support my immune system, hormones, nerves, and colon function. I pray it works, and it’s my job to follow this protocol with hope and diligence. I remind myself to be open minded each day.

So I guess I am telling my story because I don’t want to hide the valleys in my life. I want to be honest and maybe just by reading this you realize that you are not alone going through the tough stuff in life. I am right there with you. But we still must have hope and seek out what brings us life each day. Prayer and Gods Word breaths life into my day. My family brings me comfort in unconsolable pain. Focusing on Gods love and how He carries us hourly through these trenches will sustain us. God asks us to endure, sometimes past what we physically think is possible. But He asks of us to hold onto hope and never let go. He asks that we grow deeper in our faith and not run and get angry with what is going on. This may or not make sense to you, but in suffering we can actually find Gods peace. When chaos is swirling around, I find that Gods peace screams so loud and clear and all I need to do is hold on and have faith. God will show up. God is showing up.

My story doesn’t end there. It continues and is continuing every day. I felt God leading me to spend more time at home and focus on continuing my education as a Catholic doula (which is also my passion). Since I can’t actively help people in a clinic setting, I can prepare my mind until God calls me out to serve again. I also invested in several colon books that delve into the research and work of doctors who have particular interest in the colon and its role in the body. I am a true researcher and have great appreciation for all this knowledge that I can share someday.

I also find peace in routine. I love stopping by after errands, to say “hello” to Jesus at the adoration chapel. I remember that Jesus is the Divine Physician, so its important for me to carve out this time each week to pray and just be. Jesus loves us no matter how we come. All He asks, is that we just show up. He will provide the rest.

Little by little I try new things, and check-off-the-list the medical testing that my doctors order each month. Sometimes I feel at a stand-still or just frustration that my disease does not have an easy “cure”. It’s testing my patience as we figure out the right supplements and medications to keep my body functioning as much as it is able. But usually once I surrender and let go of the control that “I can’t fix it” or even “my doctor can’t fix it”, my peace emerges again. I am so very thankful God has given me a brain to retain and apply what I learn each day. I should never hide what God has given me and I believe that my life is a gift. It doesn’t matter if I suffer or thrive from day to day, its all worth sharing. It’s worth it because we are in this life together, lifting each other up and encouraging each other through each moment.

See you around!

 

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08.25.2018

Remedies for Intestinal Dysmotility

Intestinal dysmotility definition

First things first, what exactly is “intestinal dysmotility?” Dysmotility is a condition in which muscles of the digestive system become impaired and changes in the speed, strength or coordination in the digestive organs occurs. In the normal small intestine, liquefied food and secretions including digestive enzymes are pushed onwards by waves of muscular contraction. source

Usually when we get a diagnosis, our next question is, “what is the cure?” But unfortunately, not everything in life is that simple. According to popular medical sourcesUnfortunately, many causes of dysmotility cannot be cured, and symptomatic treatment is offered.”

Personal experience

Last year I was diagnosed with specifically small intestine dysmotility. That is just one type of dysmotility a person can have. There is also dysmotility of the stomach which is called gastroparesis. As well as dysmotility of the large bowel, which usually results in chronic constipation.  If a gastroenterologist thinks you may have slowed intestinal motility, they can do a gastric emptying scan (GES) which involves eating a radioactive meal (usually eggs) and then tracking and measuring the amount of time it takes to empty (4-6 hours is usually measured).

The Mayo clinic came up with an even longer lasting test that included tracking the radioactive isotope pill past 24 hours and tracking through the entire digestive tract. This is very helpful for cases where small intestine dysmotility is suspected. For dysmotility in the colon an anal manometry can also measure the function of the colon muscles. I personally did the long 24 hour GES, and upper endoscopy, and an anal manometry.

There are many reasons why someone could have dysmotility in their digestive tract. I think all of us who suffer from one of these dysmotility conditions, can agree that it can be really uncomfortable and life altering.  Intestinal dysmotility can interfere with daily life and requires trials of diets, medications and therapies. I am no expert, but I have a few tricks that work for me and I continue to search and learn. I’m always willing to try something if it has potential of helping. Sometimes we just can’t settle with a single medication and the words “I’m sorry, there is nothing more you can do.” Those words almost prompt me to search even harder, because I don’t give up!

What treatments are available?

The treatments my local gastroenterologist and Mayo Clinic doctors provided were pretty standard. There are medications that can treat dysmotility of the stomach (example: Reglan or erythromycin) and the colon (example: Linzess or other constipation medications). Small intestine dysmotility has little research because it requires the extra time to track through the small intestine that most clinics don’t have access to do. Unfortunately, not many medical journals are published yet about small intestine dysmotility and it still has yet to make it in the major medical text books. Surprisingly old medical journals still prescribe a dangerous medication that was available in 1998.

Whats the root?

Some doctors at Mayo clinic wonder if it could have an autoimmune component. It is common for people with autonomic neuropathy to have digestive complaints or even dysmotility because the gut is an autonomic function of the body. If there is an underlying cause, its also good and necessary to treat that because it’s possible the digestive motility can get better.

Mine has an autonomic neuropathy root and each month as I work on therapies and treatments for this condition, surprisingly my digestive system sees improvement. I share details about my initial diagnosis from Mayo here. When my blood pressure, heart rate and vestibular system started to re-balance, my body got into a better “rest-and-digest” mode instead of overacting like it typically does when my autonomic system flares. Even though I have seen improvements since my initial diagnosis, I still need to routinely keep up with my at home treatments mentioned in this post, to ensure my intestinal tract is moving. Flare ups do happen after a stress like an infection or even a big life change, so that is something I am learning to handle as life goes on.

Infections

Doctors can typically asses for infections in the gut like h. pylori (read my post here), SIBO, candida, etc. Using diet, enzymes, herbals and sometimes medications to eradicate these infections can actually help your gut motility as well. Here is the reasoning behind obtaining infections in a motility disorder: “Small bowel motility disorders also predispose to the development of SIBO, because bacteria may not be effectively swept from the proximal bowel into the colon.” source 

“Normal GI motility involves a complex, tightly coordinated series of events designed to move material through the GI tract. During periods of fasting, a migrating motor complex (MMC) develops approximately every 90-120 minutes to sweep residual debris through the GI tract. Several studies have demonstrated that abnormalities in the MMC may predispose to the development of SIBO.” source

Food choices

My doctors have come up with the idea to target the stomach and colon because there are not yet treatments available specifically to target the small intestine. The small intestine muscles are important because that segment of your gut is responsible for absorbing nutrients. Some people need a feeding tube if their dymotility does not get better, so they can absorb their nutrients and function. Surprisingly, I avoided this intervention but instead tried many things to improve my dysmotility and eat food. There have been times where “liquids only” were the best option and my doctors went back and forth helping me choose between chewing food and nutritional drinks/smoothies. The cleanest supplement drink I have found is from Kate Farms. If you design your own nutritional smoothie, adding easily digestible fats, vitamins and proteins becomes necessary.

Chewing can help kick start peristalsis and facilitates enzyme and saliva production. Choosing foods that empty faster (high water content foods: fruits, vegetables and carbs) can make a big difference in the speed of your motility. Proteins take longer to digest and then fats take the longest. Here is a guide line for the digestion time of each food. Working with a nutritionist or tracking the motility of your food choices is a good idea so you can work out a good long term eating plan without causing problems or leaving you with nutritional deficiencies. Having adequate stores of minerals (like magnesium) and electrolytes is important for nerve connections and muscle functions involved in peristalsis. I suggest nunn tablets, electrolyte powder, natural sea salt for when I need an electrolyte boost. Keeping hydrated is also very important for intestinal motility.

Colon cleaning

Keeping the colon clean is a must for proper motility higher up in the digestive tract (its all connected remember). There have been times where I was constipated and could not keep down food because the pressure system in my intestines was too intense. Exercise can help loosen things up, sometimes isn’t enough or can be hard on the system for someone with autonomic neuropathy so it may not help constipation.

Enemas: Enemas (learn how to do them here) can be an easy at home solution to quickly clean out the lower portion of your bowel. Even though it cannot reach very high up into the intestines, the water stimulates nerves in the rectum and sigmoid, which will signal the colon muscles to contract. Filtered water, an enema kit and a bathroom is all you need! You can choose from a stainless steel bucket, a plastic bucket or a hanging silicone bag.

Colonics: A colonic or “colon hydrotherapy” can efficiently clean out the colon with water to help facilitate motility higher up in the intestines. A colonic can actually irrigate purified water into almost the whole length of large intestine. A trained therapist can use quick light pressure releases and alternate the water temperature, along with abdominal massage to help your body release fecal matter. Colonics are known to tone and retain your colon muscles, which will help your peristalsis contractions. Colonics were a irreplaceable therapy I used over the years to help give my colon proper muscle tone and overtime my peristalsis became stronger and more functional.

Peristeen: If you can get a diagnosis for a “neurologic bowel“, that may open up a new window for a colon irrigation device that can reach higher up into the colon called Peristeen. Similar to an enema, it pushes water into the lower colon and triggers a bowel release. The difference comes in the design of the Peristeen device, because it uses a small FDA grade silicone ballon that you can inflate and deflate. You insert the catheter (a trained Peristeen therapist will determine the right inflation size for you) and then inflate the balloon once it is inside the rectum. This creates a light “seal” that insures the water can slowly build up higher until you need to release the water along with the feces. If you are interested, the company is very knowledgeable and can possibly help you find a doctor to give the initial diagnosis and then training for this take-home therapy.

Medications and herbs

Like I mentioned earlier, medications can be life saving for those of us with intestinal dysmotility. Rgalan and erythromycin loose effectiveness or have bad side affects, so they are best used periodically. Laxative medications are usually better than stool bulking agents, because you want to keep things moving (not make things bigger to move through).

Suppositories can help too soften the stool, but also can signal the colon to contract and start peristalsis movement.  HCL, enzymes, sour foods all have the natural ability to kick start digestion in the mouth or stomach. Herbs like senna, cascara sagrada, cats claw, aleo vera, ginger, or rhubarb can help contipation as well. Smooth move tea is a powerful little tea you can drink that can help ease symptoms too.

Remember that the whole intestinal track is all connected so targeting the stomach and colon will help the small intestine move. Probiotics can help motility if you get the right strain to balance your colon bacteria. For me it has been changing it up over the years and you can see what I have tried on my supplements page. Herbals and diet can be helpful for keeping yeast in check too, which can lead to considerable bloating and inflammation.

Colon massage

One thing I took extra interest in when I went to colonic school, was the techniques used to massage the colon. You really have to know the segments of the intestine to properly massage in the correct direction. It can be pretty simple if you look at a chart and work your way massaging the stomach, by following the natural movement of the colon structure.

Typically you start on the right side (by you illeocecal valve and cecum) and go up the ascending colon, then across the transverse colon and down again (ending on your left side in the sigmoid). Its easiest to use the base of your palm to have enough pressure while massaging the belly along the colon structure. Since your colon is made up of rounded like connecting pouches (called a haustra), its beneficial to massage over the areas that seem “harder” with circular movements pressing down. You can massage over a t-shirt or you can apply a non toxic lotion or food grade oil to get more movement with the massage. An drop of digest oil massaged on the skin can help relax the muscles and tissues as well.

Visceral manipulation

According to the Barral institute “Visceral Manipulation (VM) was developed by world-renowned French Osteopath and Physical Therapist Jean-Pierre Barral. Comparative studies found Visceral Manipulation beneficial for various Digestive DisordersBloating and Constipation, Nausea and Acid Reflux, GERD, Swallowing Dysfunctions.” You can watch this YouTube video for a good easy explanation on Visceral Manipulation.

“In Visceral Manipulation, individual structures are treated with specific techniques to improve mobility around that structure and motility within.” source

I was recently referred by my doctor and a pelvic floor specialist to try visceral manipulation. She found my abdominal muscles have separated slightly to compensate for the digestive ailments I suffer with. I am looking forward to seeing if the manipulation helps my digestive system and motility and will keep you updated.

Pelvic floor therapy was helpful, but due to the nature of my motility problem, I need work higher up in the abdominal region. Pelivic floor therapy is useful for mainly constipation and colon symptoms. Though Visceral manipulation can help this too, and I found a fascinating study about it helping constipation in a woman here.

At home tools

Keeping up with daily at home therapies is essential to keep my intestinal tract moving. I notice if I don’t do at least one of these things daily, my abdominal region gets swollen and things inside get stagnant. Of course everyone has a different body and you will find your own preference to ease symptoms overtime. If I am having a flare up, I make it a point to do several at home therapies during the day to keep ontop of the pain and discomfort.

Every night I sleep with a heating pad wrapped over my abdominal region. Yes every single night and I don’t go without it. The heat relaxes the muscles and penetrates through to eventually relax the intestines. I like this heating pad because its long enough and wide enough to wrap around my whole abdominal region. Another option is using a hot water bottle and place it over a specific area on your belly. If you want to take it to the next step, you can do a castor oil pack which will increase blood flow to the intestinal region, decrease inflammation and promote lymph flow. Here is the castor oil and wool flannel I use.

Pressure is an important tool when the intestines are struggling to function. I find that an electric massager is one of the best remedies when my abdomen physically hurts due to lack of intestinal motility. It is not only calming, but very efficient and gives the right amount of movement and pressure to get things moving almost every time. I find that a massager works better than self colon massage because you are more focused and relaxed. I also use a weighted blanket, but actually I specifically use a lap pad size, which I simply lay across my abdominal region. I find it calms my anxiousness I typically get when I am in pain, but the pressure also helps my abdomen relax the muscles and prevents subconscious tightening of stomach muscles. The more tense we are, the harder it is for our rest-and-digest mode to kick in. Any little thing helps.

Another tool I use for muscle tightness and pain is an EMS/TENS unit. It’s simple and you can put it on a low pulsating frequency to stimulate the muscles and nerves. The EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) mode is used to help inflammation and swelling in a specific area. The TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) mode can give relief for chronic pain by sending comforting impulses to the nerves to eliminate pain you feel. I place the sticky pads on my abdomen area and let the stimulation do its work.

We can’t forget about posture and breathing! I always try to take full “belly breaths” to calm by body and promote digestion. There is research to support that deep breathing works for digestion. “The “fight or flight” response causes blood to move from the gut to the larger muscles, which interferes with digestion, weakens the immune system and increases inflammation.” It’s also important to understand the gut-brain-connection and how our emotions and stress play a role in our digestion and gut motility. Lastly, focusing on your posture on the potty is essential for your colon to properly align and release the waste you have inside. This is the squatty potty I use.

That’s all I have for now, and I hope you find something that works to help ease your symptoms of intestinal dysmotility.

 

 

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07.21.2018

Where the wind blows

Dreaming and doing

I finally am in a groove of balancing life with health and studying/training. It’s been years in the making but I finally decided to pursue my schooling to be a colon hydrotherapist. I seriously looked into schooling while in Colorado, but the school and teacher were not the right fit. I decided to tuck my dream in the back, knowing God would fulfill it at the right time. I let God lead my life and I go where the wind blows. 

Overcoming the battle

Many of you know the health struggles I have battled for years and even up to this current year with reoccurring infections. I still have some things to work out to get to the root of my predispositions, but overall I am pretty healthy.

To recap, I spent the past 15 months focusing on getting back on me feet. The autonomic neuropathy flared last April 2017 and I couldn’t even sit down without seeing stars and fainting daily. I progressed into winter of 2017 and my entire small intestine function was barley working and we talked about tube feeding. I’ll always remember the fear on my family’s faces seeing me after weeks of out of town doctors appointments. I was thin, gaunt and no spark of life in me. I decided in the worst of that period, of almost starving, to fight for my life.

I decided to fight for my family, for my future and for God.

I had so many dreams I knew God still promised to fulfill in my life and I wanted to see them fully alive. I tried every day and with every effort I had. 

I went to various appointments with a physical therapist, vestibular therapist, chiropractor, sensory processing therapist, frequent colonics, routine ENT checkups, routine blood work and diligently filled my pillbox with supplements and medications to decrease inflammation, stabilize blood pressure and heart rate, balance hormones, fight infections, and promote stomach and colon emptying. 

Life can be beautiful again

It has been a long road, but look where it all led me today. I still need to routinely do some of these things, but now its second nature. I’m no longer living in fear that my life will be a battle. I am living and am happy. Never did I think I would be here a year ago. I fought what doctors told me was almost impossible. With a broken odontoid in my neck, I got my neck mobile enough with therapy and chiropractic work to drive every day. With the help of colonics, multiple gastroenterologists and specialized testing, I was able to decrease the affects of small intestine dysmobility on my intestines. They are more functionable and I am not in constant pain. I still need to monitor what I eat, but I know as the years go on, the nerves will heal more and more. 

I am not saying everything is easy. But my spark for life is back. I know deep down God has a plan for my life and each day I remind myself how far He has brought me. I remember my promise to my family, the people I love and myself to try each day. Because thats all we can do. I try each day simply for love.

A Summer to remember

Summers are always the best here in Minnesota. I have gotten a good amount of sun and a few unexpected sunburns (still trying to figure out the best sunscreen for my fair skin). Overall my energy has been good and swimming and park days make me happy! A few times this summer, I have already conquered my biggest fear or travel and continue to take trips monthly to visit my boyfriend. I still can’t say travel is easy, but the anxiety that goes along with it is much less, especially because I love every second when I get there. I also got to spend much needed time with my niece and sister who lives out of town. Being an aunt is such a wonderful blessing and she challenges me to see life with eyes of laughter and beauty.

Colon Hydrotherapy school/training

In June I took the plunge to start my training to be a colon hydrotherapist. It’s a field of healing I am passionate about because it has been one huge factor in my own healing with intestinal dysmobility. Ultimately the neurologists and gastrointestists said it was incurable, but I guess they didn’t factor into the picture the therapeutic benefits of colonics.  My own therapist encouraged me to look into the training she did many years ago to certify herself as a colon hydrotherapist. She mentioned she could use an extra therapist in her office and I would be a good fit. I honestly didn’t think I was *quite* ready, but life cant be perfect before we try something new. So I built up the courage and went to Phoenix Arizona for the foundational training to be a colon hydrotherapist. I had support from my family, my therapist, my boyfriend and even my priest. So even though I couldn’t believe in myself 100%, I trusted these people who have been placed in my life, and learned to open up to possibility. I am so glad I did now!

My passions and goals

I learned more than I expected and it jumpstarted my passion to continue education and go back to Minnesota to complete my training hours at the colonic clinic. I go weekly to practice and am looking forward to helping others in the future. Who knows, maybe more schooling is in my future! If the wind blows, then I guess I’ll go too.

My goal is to broaden and refresh my memory on colon health this next year. I want to share what I learn along the way and blog about it! Thanks for always coming back to read old articles and posts, it has motivated me to start writing again. I love what everyone contributes and I want to contribute again to help everyone who reads.  

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05.10.2018

A new song in my heart

It’s been a few months since my last post. I have honestly not had much motivation to write, but I think its time I see what I can come up with (because there is always something!) 

Lets go back to my hospital stay. That was hard, and even with the amount of support I had, the recovery after was unexpected. 

Have you ever wondered about the blind man that Jesus heals or the little girl he raises from the dead? What about the woman who reaches out to Jesus seeking healing with faith from the depths of her heart? 

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

~Mark 5:35 

What happens in her life after she is healed initially? How do these people recover after their story goes on, past the pages we can read. What does their life look like between the lines written, as they heal mentally, physically, and emotionally? 

I wondered this myself as I woke up day after day feeling the bone tired feeling that penetrated my body from the strong antibiotics. I wondered who helped those people in the bible? How did they go back to living after they received some healing from Jesus’s helping hand? 

I needed considerable help from family members to drive me to follow up appointments, help me keep up with daily chores, and encourage me that things WILL change. I waited and waited for my energy to come back, but the sun would come up and the relief never came too. 

There were weeks I had motivation and tried my best to push through, but eventually my adrenals couldn’t take the stress and I ended up flat on my back for days. It was a never ending cycle, and I didn’t know how to get out. I had a feeling my autonomic nervous system had started to flare up after all the stress of infections. The POTS symptoms were worse than ever and I would go days with feeling lightheaded. 

Eventually I got in touch with my Mayo Clinic neurologist and diligently requested a new neurologist who was willing to treat my POTS and help me rehabilitate (instead of the current situation where my neurologist said there is nothing that can be done if my insurance has denied IVIG). That answer didn’t set well with me, so I had hope and persevered for more. 

It was a waiting game and not much progress in my strength was possible. I used to run triathlons but somehow I couldn’t get over almost passing out every time I walked around my neighborhood. So I waited and waited alittle longer. One day I got a call and I was scheduled to see the top POTS neurologist at Mayo clinic for March! Praise God. 

But it was only January and I had to seriously reach down deep inside and find the courage to simply wait. I took it as a signal to prepare like the saints did in times of weakness. I wanted God to truly direct my will to match His. I wanted my heart to truly transform and an space open for what God places next in my life. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

~2 Corinthians 12:9 

The winter was a symbol of the state of my body. I felt frozen. Frozen in fear of the next infection. Frozen because I didn’t know what to do next to recover and rehabilitate. My laughter started to become quiet and my eyes became weary from pain that would not leave. I know antibiotics can wreck havoc for weeks and months after treatment and I knew this was partly the case. I had been on antibiotics on and off for various infections since September (5 months). 

I wanted to not only hope with my heart, but see a glimmer of hope with my own eyes. It would have been nice to have seen a steady increase after the hospital, but that was not the case. I didn’t get worse either, so the daily rest and recovery was keeping me stable. Too much activity or stress (even good kinds) would set my body backwards. On those days of overdoing it, my body temp would drop, my digestive system revolt and my thinking become clouded with a migraine. There were days I felt half alive. There were many days I felt like I was going nowhere. 

But you know what, I still had the choice placed in front of me daily to hope. I wasn’t going to let my innermost being be quenched by despair. I had feelings like “this will last forever” “I’ll never get back to my normal self”. At times like this, I ran to Jesus. I knew He could restore the fire in my heart and the strength in my soul. I spoke to friends and family and together we exchanged struggles and helped each other. I never kept it inside for feelings to fester, but instead let the light of God win me over, time and time again. Speaking light on anything we struggle with inside can immediately change our perspective and attitude. Opening up and sharing, lets God into our life, for the healing to begin. 

“I was full of fear and prone to wander,

Lost & lonely till the day you won me over,

I was halfway gone and going nowhere,

Half alive until the day you won me over,

You won me over.”

~Audrey Assad “Won Me Over” 

In February we lost our priest who had always been there as long as I remember. He was full of a contagious energy the endured both pain and joy to the fullest. He had died of cancer, but his spirit still was living and his presence in the church was a comfort to my soul. My soul because restless not knowing my “mission” in life. Though, this priest had mentioned to always offer up my pain and suffering for souls in purgatory. So this is what I did and accepted this as my “mission” in life. This gave me great joy to take on this mission to pray for souls. I had daily pain, and it never went to waste, but instead offered up. 

Around the same time, my niece was born early and as much as I wanted to visit her and my sister a.s.a.p., I had to wait until my strength came back to travel far. I was waiting patiently until the baptism day, so I could celebrate with her in the spring and be healthy enough for the baby’s special day. (This picture below is the day I got to meet my niece in April).

My birthday came and went without warning and I was soon 24 years old. I never knew that at this year in my life, I would be experiencing the hardships I currently was. Though many saints had their hardest years in their early 20’s so maybe these are special years where God really works on our souls. All I know is that each day, I continually wanted my heart and soul open and waiting for what God has planned. I was grateful for everything in the present and I took the time of recovery serious. I let the rest sink deep in my bones. I was finally learning to accept help (which is hard for someone with a strong will). But most importantly, I was praying God would place a new song in my heart. I trusted He would. 

I am very grateful because God  has blessed me abundantly with blessings. I’m going to be honest though, my life was not what I thought it would be at age 24. I tried to just be happy and ok with everything. But that would not be honest, because I did struggle at times. I felt my knees burning like an 80 year old and my head and heart throbbing for relief. I prayed to God without a breath in between some nights, begging He would hear my prayers.

“And you lost your fire

And your flame’s gone out

And your down on your knees

Cause your life is not what you thought it would be

No, 

Lift up your head

Help is on the way

And it won’t pass you by

You just gotta reach out your hand

Lift up your eyes

Love is on the way

And it won’t pass you by”

~Audrey Assad “Breaking You”

I knew Gods love was enough for me. I really did, but I wanted to believe it and have it become part of who I was, rain or shine. I didn’t want life to pass me by, and I wanted to see beauty again. With support, encouragement and continued perseverance, I finally was able to lift my eyes and understand the great adventure God has laid out for me. God never promised this life to be easy, but its our choice to trust Him with all our heart. Its our choice to find the blessings and beauty. 

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

~Matthew 19:26 

I took time to regroup with myself and decided to focus on the mold God carved out for my life. I was not going to fit anyone else’s mold, so it was time to get to know my own. Comparing ourselves is a destructive thing, when it leads is to doubting ourselves. I didn’t want to doubt that Gods creation of me was a mistake. That was far from the truth and I set out to fill the mold only God intended for me. 

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

~Catherine of Siena

I could feel in my heart, God molding and changing me. He wanted me to feel the peace and freedom in life I so longed for. I trusted Gods promise that He would surely place a new song in my heart. I didnt know when, but my faith was strong and I was willing to wait.

I actively waited and focused my energy on things that needed work in my life. Some were internal realizations and others included mending relationships and friendship that were lost. Digging up things that we stuff down because of past hurt isn’t fun, but it’s important to do it in Gods time. It’s important so we can move forward and forgive sincerely. I sought counsel from  priests, doctors, friends, family and slowly the old pieces surfaced, and could be dealt with. For the first time, my confidence in life was blooming and I was ready to take the next step. I was open to be filled with the new things God would give. 

There was no more running. No more building of walls around my life and heart. Even with weaker health, I was the happiest I have been and peace was taking root from a place that only God can plant. But I continuance asked God, now what’s next for me? Was it discerning if I should be a consecrated nun (I never fully explored this route and I wanted to know fully if this was Gods path). I read about my favorite saints and juggled around ideas “if I were to be a nun… what order would I be?” Deep down I was having a hard time fully grasping this vocation for myself because I truly admire family life and children. That has always been my dream for life. I believe God gives us dreams for a reason too. 

So I ultimately decided it would be a better step to start with 3rd order Carmelites, if God was willing. I did some reading and research and connected to a few people in my life about the process. At the same time (with the help and persistent encouragement from one of my best friends, Mariah, joined back on a catholic dating site (Catholic Match). 

Lent was beginning and I felt God asking me to try something new and get my feet wet in either a consecrated life or dating. So I prayed God would lead me down the right path to pursue. I had equal information and steps taken on each side. I had appointments set with a spiritual director in a few weeks and started a novena the day before I joined the Catholic Match site. 

I woke up on Feb 19 and was inspired that St. Joseph was the saint to pray to, specifically for the men in my life and courage for each of them (father, brother, brother in law, grandparents, priests, and any future man). I started praying this novena and gave God my full faith that He will direct my path in life (whatever that may be). I prayed for a new song to begin in my life. I prayed for Gods will.

“Waiting in the night for you. Burning in the sky for you,

There’s an aching in my body,

This web of bones around my heart is coming undone. 

I need a new, I need a new

I sing a new song

All I have is what I need and this I know.”

~Audrey Assad “New Song”

After talking with my friend and sister, I decided to only get to know people on Catholic match in my area. Though I ended up clicking around and was led to a guy with the Divine Mercy image for his background picture. I love Divine Mercy and St. Faustina has always been my role model. I even started reading her diary a month ago. It was because of St. Faustina that I was beginning to consider the life of a nun, she made it so incredibly beautiful. I found her image of Divine Mercy a sign from heaven that someone can love Jesus and their faith just as much if they are a nun or in a relationship. My heart sank alittle when I noticed more clearly that he was in illinois. I decided to still message this guy because I really did love the Divine Mercy picture and wanted to let him know. Of course I wanted to have the chance of getting to know this guy too, but if nothing more, now he knows I liked Divine Mercy too. 

I knew that I wanted a relationship, in which each person would take their role seriously. That is, ultimately leading each other to heaven. I love God and my first priority was that any guy I end up dating, needs to love God first and foremost. I want him to know God and have a connection and faith that is unbreakable. 

You probably know where this story is going, but I‘ll share alittle more on the inside. Deep inside I was struggling because I felt my illness had taken so much of the confidence I once had. I didn’t know if it was even possible to go on a “normal date” (aka dinner, movie, long walks, etc.) without having to eventually admit I had a illness that limits my abilities. My mind swarmed with “what if’s” and I wasn’t sure how ready I felt to share a part of me, I still don’t fully understand. 

Dating someone is a vulnerable task, and can be a nerve wracking thing for people, even if they are healthy of sick. Everyone should get a fair chance and not be afraid what the other person will think. God has created each of us with a beauty that the world needs. Each of us is a blessing to the people around us. God will also not give us more than we can handle and He will bless us beyond measure. 

More than likely, the person on the other side has pieces of their life that are hard to share too. But its the joy you find in eachother and the bond of sharing experiences, that make the little sacrifices worth it. So I knew if I found the right someone, he would surely understand I cannot do everything. I prayed for someone patient and willing to pray with me during the hard times. 

I decided I wasn’t going to miss out on life and a dream I had planted in my heart because I was afraid of fumbling. I was honestly afraid of letting someone cross to my side and see the world through my lense. Would they like what they see? Would it be too hard? Would it be fun? These questions I could not answer myself, but simply had to reach out my hand and live life. 

I was finally willing to let my fear turn into wonder. And this exactly what happened. 

I knew I had joy to share with anyone I met. God gives us each certain gifts that He expects us to share. I wanted that someone to experience how beautiful life is, no matter how deep the valleys seem. There is always someone willing to pull us out and always a God to look to as our Father. I knew God wanted the joy I have for life, to make an appearance, and not turn back. I was going to be ok with what the futures holds, because my hope and faith are in God. And He is a good, kind, loving God. 

On a certain day, I remembered this guy with the Divine Mercy image, pointed out “I’m different “ and that got me thinking. I came to the conclusion that if I never had these health challenges over the many years, I wouldn’t even be close to the person I am today, not even close. It was time to let myself be ok with who I am (sick or healthy) and let the new song inside start to sing, detached of fear. 

Its hard to accept the reality of an illness and at the same time, not let it take control of everything, but instead look at it as an opportunity for growth. Ultimately giving God the credit for all the changes and praying to stay strong and true to yourself through it all, is what’s going to keep the life inside flowing. An illness is humbling and I didn’t want my insecurities and pride to get in the way of Gods plan. 

As I shared my story with this guy and the things I have went through, it actually helped me process and accept these hard things. Amazingly I was seeing life in a whole new way. I could finally pray for someone, be honest and in turn help them become their fullest self too. Giving and receiving is such a gift. I pray each night for us to be transparent so the light can shine through to both sides. Everyone deals with insecurities and battles within. It’s accepting a person for everything God created within them, that helps them shine. Never underestimate the simplicity of acceptance. 

Its easy to write more, but I need to live in the present and experience what God has placed into my life. One thing I will add, is that prayer together, keeps God always in the middle. Its easy to get caught up in distractions and worries, but ultimately, focusing on what God is healing and how He is guiding our hearts. I want this song of life inside to keep on singing. I know from experience, that when God places something in our life, to never just pass it by. Stoping, listening and showing some love can enkindle the song of life in someone else’s heart too. The only way to know, is just try and live life with an open heart. 

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01.05.2018

Blessed is she who has believed

Blessed.

It has been on my heart to write. To get out the jumbled words, the fierce memory of pain, the rawness of life. This sort of pain only comes with a tear half fallen. The kind that wants to hold back, but can’t, because life needs to go on.

Only hope can swaddle this pain and make it precious again. Only love can breath belief into her shattered heart. Her dreams will never fall if she reaches out and believes in this Love.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45

This verse struck me still as I glanced intently at my favorite priest, all snuggled in his big green nursing home chair.

An “old soul” is a lovely thing. I cherish the moments I spend with those who simply understand the wonders, depths, valleys of tears and joys of life. Its a connection where age doesn’t seem to matter. For myself, sometimes it takes great effort to understand others deep logical thoughts. But I know that just being and staying present in the moment can be just as important.
I recently visited my old priest, who has finally transitioned to a lovely nursing home. Coincidently our stories had a few similarities God wanted to point out to me.

The pretty baby pink wallpaper, the crucifixes on the wall, and the countless prayer cards pasted in the halls, were the first simple reminders of the familiar memories at St. Marys hospital in Mayo Clinic (Where I had spent the past 2 weeks) . Then there was that routine syringe injection which I didn’t mind watching, but again a flashback to the past two weeks. As I propped up his pillows, I was in reversed mode, because a week ago I was the one being propped up. We discussed pills, sleep, and daily raw frustrations. In-between silences, I listened to the softness of his breathing. I found myself slowly accepting my struggles instead of letting them strangle me like they had in the past. I saw he was content and human and not running or hiding from his illness.

Embrace now and heal

Internally I try to brush off tough stuff, saying to myself “it’s just part of life…right?” Yes of course life will be tough at times, but that also means we need to allow ourselves space to heal after. More importantly though, we need to live in the present and accept these crosse. Then “moving on in life” comes at a pace we don’t always expect. Our body needs to heal and our hearts and memories need to heal. Pain can do funny things to the brain. I feel like it can imprint deeper and harder into our memory.
I wanted to be free of fear- though I didn’t know how. I was being torn between trying to mourn the sick valley I plummeted into these past 3 months and mustering up sheer willpower to continue on. I was slipping on ice and felt like anywhere I tried to grip, I fell, I failed, I let others and myself down. What was God teaching me? God is teaching me patience and faith that the good is coming. Just like the verse “…the Lord would fulfill His promises for her”.

A timer is set 3x a day (aka beep until it drives me more crazy than the thought of taking the meds) to remind me to take the wicked nausea provoking antibiotics the hospital sent me home with. Its embarrassing to tell people I need to stay close to home.. because yep…I need a close running ground to the nearest evacuating site. I feel at times lonely and ill and unable to sometimes even muster up a morsel to say a peep to my brother in the other room. Words just escape me and my gland swells with fluid making the words feel like 1000 pins and needles stabbing my face. I never knew how words could be so special- the sound of voice and expressing of thoughts whenever and wherever is a gift. Seriously- don’t for a second take your words and ability to talk for granted.

Many times when sickness ails the whole body, talking becomes less and the person becomes more withdrawn. Company becomes more important than conversation. I have learned to simply enjoy people’s company- without words, without the muffles of lifes-going-on’s. Things became more simple. This is a gift because after all the words are stripped away, what is left is true raw love. It takes love to sit and be with a person you care about, but they cant lift their lips to say it in return. Love will accept this, say “ok these shortcomings wont define you”, and look deeply into their eyes and heart and reach them there . Its a silent Love. Its sort of like the saying ..” you know you are comfortable around someone if you don’t have to talk, but can just be”. Its all because acceptance and love has grown and words are not a necessity anymore.

The unseen pain:

I was a gradual process, but after my 2nd sinus surgery at the end of September at Mayo Clinic, I started to decline. First it was fatigue, then excessive nausea, then increased head pain/pressure. I was unable to keep up my routine and even reading got tough. Fevers every other day became the normal and it took effort to get up to eat/shower/etc. I struggled big time accepting that I needed help with tasks I loved to do just previous months before. I constantly asked myself- what is going on?
We guessed it was due to lacking treatment for my small intestine dysmobility. Or possibly my POTS symptoms were causing extra stress on my body. Or was it that I was exhausted after my Cleaveland trip?

But as weeks went by, my neck got very stiff and my jaw was in alot of pain. I got a mouthguard made because I was clenching my teeth so fiercely. Still God had me wait for answers, I continued to do my best with what was in front of me. But I was getting frustrated because I knew something was up! Eventually my family practice doctor and surgeon concluded it was due to a sinus infection and chronic fungal infection from my surgery. My eye started to become chronically swollen and a red peeling rash spread across my face. So another round of antibiotics was the treatment. My physical therapist was noticing a decrease in my neck mobility and I too was getting so uncomfortable that driving became too hard to do. She agreed it seemed like an infection and made a comment that stuck with me “maybe you just need a power dose of something to reach the infection..has anyone ever considered iv antibiotics?”

I was not up for seeing my ENT surgeon at Mayo Clinic (its a 2 hour drive), so I was referred to a local ENT dr. She was very smart and thoroughly scoped through my sinuses. It was not clear that I had an infection but my consistent fevers, rash and swelling were red flags. She was worried about the possibility of meningitis because I had neck stiffness and a chronic headache. She actually suggested that I go to the ER because my symptoms looked pretty bad and she didn’t want to play around. Again another comment that struck me was “you know.. Mayo Clinic has an ER and its attached to their hospital (who has all your records), this would be the best place to go.”
I wanted to pull my hair out because I was thoroughly exhausted and had just canceled my appointment with my ENT surgeon there. Though its not the first time someone has mentioned that if I ever needed an ER, Mayo Clinic was the place to go. Logically it never made sense to me because it was a 2 hour drive…but something struck a cord inside and a voice was whispering “go, it will be ok this time, trust the people around you.”

As I walked out if that appointment ready to pull my hair out, I decided now was the time to have courage and listen. I walked into the waiting room where my mom was actually sleeping and remembered all the times doctors told me to “just try out the Mayo clinic ER”. I was afraid they would send me away because a sinus infection isn’t life threatening. But something felt much worse and my bones were begging for relief. So after contemplating my thoughts for a good 5 min next to my sleeping mom, I woke her up. She quickly asked “how did it go?” and I calmly said “I think it’s finally time to try out the Mayo Clinic ER”.

God prepares us in amazing ways. The sheer instinct to let my mom nap, the openness of my heart to accept a hard task, and the gentle words placed in the mouths of wise medical professionals was all His doing. My moms response was like a hug that became words. She knew my fear of possibly being sent home even if we go to Mayo ER, but I think her instinct from God was the same. “Go and go now”. She offered to take us home to pack a bag incase, but I said “If I go home, I may change my mind, so its best we go now”. And off we went driving to the Mayo Clinic ER.

When we got to the waiting room, we needed something to eat and drink, so my mom dropped me of to wait. The waiting room was packed full and I waited for 4 long hours. I befriended a family there and shared a few hospital blankets and benches to use for resting. I was dosing off in sleep and exhaustion most of the time on the bench that was just a foot too small. My mom was again listening to Gods instinct grocery shopping for various foods and even went to walgreens to pick up overnight necessities and a discount clothing store for pjs.

The ER #1

Finally I was called back and placed in a pediatric ER room. The ER is connected to the bottom of the St. Marys hospital (this is the hospital Mayo clinic uses when their patients need procedures). They did various scans and tests and called in a specialist ENT doctor. Everyone was so incredibly kind there and we both had tremendous peace and confidence we were in the right place. We waited eagerly and intently through the wee hours of the morning.

I glanced through my watery eyes at my mom sleeping in the chair next to bed. She was beautiful sleeping there, such courage and patience. It was a dreadful wait thinking we would need to drive home at 4am in the morning with no sleep if they discharged me from the ER. The thought of it made me silently cry. It wasn’t until a nurse walks in with 2 syringes of fluid and a full iv bag. She looked me in the eye and apologized for the wait but the radiologist and ENT medical team were carefully examining my case and CT scan that was taken hours ago. She explained they saw what looked like a parotid infection (its the biggest saliva gland located in the cheek). It was swollen and inflamed and they decided its best I start on iv antibiotics. Actually my sinuses were healing quite well and its no wonder doctors have been confused with my symptoms. A wave of relief washed over me and it felt like God had finally answered my plee for help and relief from pain in my head from these past 3 months. So she started the 2 iv injections of antibiotics and they bundled me up (my temperature was teetering on 94 degrees) to wheel me upstairs to the hospital rooms.

The hospital stay #1

We got a private hospital room so my mom could stay on a cot overnight in the room
as well. It was so comforting to know she would be there understanding the process as I have never been admitted into a hospital overnight before. It was about 5:00am and we honestly just wanted to sleep at least an hour, so thats exactly what we did until we were awoken from the nurse to get my vitals. My mom decided it was best to get a few things from the car for herself and I, and while she was away, the first medical doctor came in to take a overall exam.

 

I was assigned a whole medical “team 1”, which is common at Mayo clinic (when minds work together-awesome things happen!) They continued to poke and take vitals and ask every question under the sun. Every day 3 nurses rotated shifts so there were a lot of personalities to interact with. Though everyone was incredibly nice. I never slept more than 1 hour at a time that Tuesday, but continued to follow the hospital schedule. I knew it was hard, but in the end this would lead to recovering from the deep parotid infection. Tuesday afternoon rolled by and my mom showers me with gifts that the local church gave me. A St. Therese rosary, 2 books, prayer cards, lots of prayers, and a mass offered in my intention from our dear priest.

Throughout the day I texted my family a few updates but was so exhausted, I was counting down the hours until I could sleep and be left alone. We slept Tuesday night and on Wednesday I finally realized that the antibiotics were working. The pressure was decreasing and even though I still was in pain, I started to have hope that indeed this was getting to the root. Wed afternoon my medical team again came in to talk about my treatment and discharging me from the hospital. I thought inside it seemed a little soon since I just started to feel inklings of feeling better, but they seemed assured the oral antibiotics they would send me home with would cover it. And so by 4:00 on Wed we got to go home!

Going home?

I was feeling more alive than I had in months so it wasn’t even an option to skip the John Paul 2 relics at my home church that evening. With the same clothes on our back from Monday, we walked in that church and prayed with the nuns as we touched the blood that once belonged to Saint John Paul 2. What a wonderful life long dream this was. He is my favorite saint and I felt as I touched his relic that God whispered into my soul “all is well”.

A few days into the oral antibiotic, I started to feel that bone tired fatigue, but chaulked it up to catching up on sleep. It wasn’t until Sunday evening that my temperature went to 99.5 degrees (thats high for me) and my face started to swell up red again. I knew something was wrong and cried as I slowly got dressed and tiptoed downstairs to ask my family to drive me to the local ER. I was devastated but I knew the oral antibiotic they sent me home with was not working (it was completely different from the 2 that they used in my ivs at the hospital). Typically a parotid infection can be caused by step or staph and its generally not necessarily to take a biopsy, so doctors treat one or the other.

Again, not thinking I would be more than a few hours at the ER to change the antibiotic, I slipped on my pjs and headed for the door, eagar to get the correct medication and relief. Though I suddenly walked backwards, grabbed my vitamins, an extra shirt, toothbrush and a few random overnight necessities. This was probably my guardian angel tapping me on the shoulder saying “this may not turn out like you are expecting”.

The ER take #2

And so once again I walk into our local ER and explained I was just in the hospital and probably needed someone to reassess my symptoms and possibly medication. The doctor agreed that the infection looked like it was not being treated properly and suggested we take another CT to compare to the one done a week ago. It was going to be the best diagnostic tool to see the infection. I did decline the IV injection which is typically used to highlight the infection, because I have neurological side affects from IV contrast. Sometimes you have to speak up, even if a nurse is giving you a hard time *lesson learned *. My brother and dad and mom sat in a row of folding chairs next to my ER bed. They made me smile and pass-by the time. My brother had brought 1 thing. His bible. Gosh, I love him to pieces, and he knows how to trust God with all his heart! We told each other our favorite bible stories and it was probably the best family bonding time we have had in a long time.

After awhile my brother and dad left to sleep, and once again it was my mom and I dosing off into the late hours of the night. At around 12:00 the doctor walks in very concerned. She explains my neck is fractured. I told her, yes I knew this and Mayo clinic did a full workup and determined its old from falling out of a tree at 2 years old and it’s stable. But she insisted the scan their radiologist read had a new fracture possibly life threatening and wanted to know if I had a hard fall in the past week. “No I had not!” I was a little surprised but didn’t panic and asked about the gland “does that look any different from last week? Is it still infected?” She said it looks about the same (swollen/infection) but decided that since my neck was “in-stable” and my infection had not resolved, I needed to go back to Mayo clinic. This time I was placed in a neck brace because they were not going to take any chances and they put an emergency code on the ambulance to get me down to Mayo asap! What usually takes 2 hours to get there, took 50 min by ambulance. Yes I did get to ride in an ambulance with sirens on and everything (secretly I always wanted a speeding ambulance ride and felt like Madeline).

 

I rode in the ambulance by myself and arrived straight into the St. Marys ER. They were quick to help me and the neurosurgeon soon walked in. He said that my scan looked the same and the radiologist was just being safe. Though actually the fracture is indeed old and I can take off the brace! Whew, glad that was cleared up fast. But that chaos sure got me down to Mayo and the care I needed asap to finally resolve the infection once again. Again I felt in such good care at Mayo and they had access to all my records and everyone thoroughly knew my case since I had so much documentation.

A young doctor walked in and determined that the infection was possibly a staph strain due to the nature of a parotid infection and how my skin looked. My mom finally met us in the room and the doctor explained that I would again need to be admitted into the hospital for more IV antibiotics and this time to treat it more thoroughly.

The hospital stay #2

So again I was bundled up and wheeled to a hospital room on the second floor- Francis floor 2 (named after st. Francis). We passed by various Catholic paintings and crosses as I was wheeled through the hallway at 4:00am in the morning. The Catholic influence in this hospital is amazing and so comforting. My room had a nice window view of downtown Rochester and of course a cross hanging on the simple pastel colored wall. This time we didn’t get a private room so my mom pulled up a lounge chair to make into a bed. I definitely felt this was a little bit of de-ja vu from last week, almost funny in a way. We made the most of the stay, despite still being in pain. I knew the ins and out of hospital life so I was more comfortable and confident as to what to do and expect.

The routine injections, the hourly doses of iv antibiotics, the nausea- it all was familiar. I drank a considerable amount of lime water to promote saliva flow to heal the infection. They were so impressed that I didn’t need the iv saline bag like last time. Though this time around, eating anything was particularly difficult and I remember on the second day when we transferred rooms (they had to eventually give me a private room because I was at high risk for MRSA) the movement made me so nauseous I darted for the bathroom and the nurse became genuinely concerned. The day-nurse I had for this stay stayed consistent for each day, which I found very nice and less questions were asked because he knew me better.

The priest

On this stay I was offered a visit with the hospital priest by the hospital Chaplin. The priest patiently waited for the doctor to finish his consult with me and then walked up to the side of my hospital bed. He was a littler guy but had a big sincere heart. He was a Franciscan Priest, so the rest of his “work” involves serving in his Franciscan community. Once a week he comes to Mayo Clinic and visits the patients. Today he offered confession to me, which I happily accepted. Afterwards he gave me a healing blessing with some oil that smelled of cinnamon and spices!

The time he gifted me was priceless. He could see my struggling spirt, having dealt with illness and pain for so long. Though he also knew deep down that I have what it takes to move on, to carry on, and to fight with the God given strength and endurance that God has given me. He said it perfectly when he mentioned “do you best, and leave the rest to God.” He instructed me that I am to try at every task even though I may fail. I was to simply try with my best ability and not be scared of failure. Its like he knew I was afraid of recovery- of the body I was living in- and how it’s different from months ago when I was more vibrant and healthy. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. To face reality that I had to take more rest days, to space out activities and take life at a slower pace. He knew this heartache was painful but he put faith in the Almighty God and that ahe will bless me and do great things with me.

The priest said I have a mission, one of serving, one of Love. Its a different kind though, because I’m not always physically up for service activities. Its a service of self. Of a smile, a handshake, a hug. Its the way I can be present and care genuinely for those around me. Its the words I speak that are filled with Gods love and the stories I tell that fill others with hope. Its these blog posts, my way of sharing of Gods love and Mercy for everyone. Its how I believe that YES God is healing me and I choose to let him bless me. “Blessed is she who has believed.” These words are true and powerful. Believing in something better and something unseen. This something is God and all of his goodness. I choose to cling to hope and confidence that God is healing me, despite unusual infections, hospital stays and diagnosis’s.

Heart and Soul

Have you ever asked a sick person about their heart and soul? Their body may look weary and worn, but their soul may possibly be healthy and strong because Gods healing has touched the most important aspect of them. Its all up to God and his timing.

 

She knows the Lord.
She hears his voice.
She will not fear.
She chooses joy
…and carries on.

And so the little priest left through the same door he came in. But he left me with a gift, one of renewed confidence in Jesus and healing. Soon after, the nurse came back to finish moving me to a room across the hall because I possibly had MRSA which put me under an “infection code” and yellow protection gowns were needed. At least we got a private room and my mom could sleep on a cot this night. (I didn’t end up having MRSA but it was still a necessity precaution).

Tuesday rolled around and I actually started to feel slightly better despite the strong hourly iv antibiotics pumping through my system. It was still unsure why I got this parotid infection and I was soon going to rule out Sojourns syndrome on Wed. If I continue to have symptoms and by the end of Dec have no relief with the oral treatment, a cheek biopsy may be needed. The main internal medicine doctor was very kind, though and compassionate. He worked closely with the infectious disease department to determine exactly the course of oral antibiotics I needed to treat this over the next few weeks. It is not going to be an infection that clears us quickly, due to how inflamed my parotid gland looked. But he assured me that I can call anytime once I’m home and the Mayo Clinic team will get to the bottom of whatever is causing these reoccurring infections in my face (sinus, ear, and parotid). The possibilities could be an immune system disorder or even a genetic disorder, which will need further testing.

Really going home

Tuesday afternoon I felt more confident with my Mayo Clinic’s team plan. Even though I had a good month or two of healing from this infection at home, I was not in a dangerous situation with a spreading infection. On Tuesday I even got a visit from one of our good friends at our home parish who coincidently had an appointment at Mayo herself and she so thoughtfully stopped by my hospital room. Again during this stay, I had good friends and family praying for me back at home. Knowing this was so reassuring that God would hear our prayers, and had this whole situation in control. There is always room in suffering for God to make a greater good of it, if we submit to His will. I felt renewed hope in my body and spirit that God has a mission for me.

Thank you God for getting the infection under control this time! Amen.

I got discharged from the hospital at around 5:00 after my last 2 doses of the IV antibiotics. My mom and I stayed overnight at an air bnb blocks away from the hospital so we could easily get to my 7:30 am blood draw before my rheumatology appointment in the Mayo clinic physicians building (The hospital is separate from the doctors offices, they are down the road from each other in Rochester MN.) The Rheumatologist ruled out sjogren’s syndrome and said that my reoccurring face infections would need immunology, ENT and genetic work ups. So its definitely not the end to solving this, but I feel confident in Mayo Clinics care and plan for my health. Feeling worn out from having very little sleep and food, my mom and I booked it home for the 2 hour car ride. I think I cried when I got home and saw my own bed. Inside I was little defeated that I didn’t have solid answers, but I knew in my heart that I had to trust and believe in God’s promises for me. In the scilence of my prayers God is leading me and preparing me for something beautiful. He guides me to explore life with eyes of hope. I know I have a mission and even though I don’t have a clear answer, I will continue to live one day at a time loving others like Jesus did.

 

The top print from etsy

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