Saturday, 23 July 2016

Life Lately: July

If you follow me on me on Twitter, you probably know that June and July have been a bit of a whirlwind for me and my health. I've decided to write this post not for the sympathy of my lovely readers, but as more of a diary entry where I can share my current thoughts and feelings, track my progress, and basically set goals for the future. 

I've not really talked about it on my blog (or anywhere for that matter), but I suffer from Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS) and consequently have a lot of issues with my joints. Occasionally I have flare ups, where joints become painful and I have to take a few days off here and there to get back on track. On the day of the UK referendum (I blame you for all of this Brexit), I woke up with a lot of pain in one of my ankles. At first I thought it was one of my flare ups and decided to rest for a few days. Eventually the pain got so bad that I was having panic attacks and crying for ~75% of the day. I just couldn't cope with the pain and I wasn't even able stand up. Just the weight of even a blanket or a sock made me scream out like a banshee. My mum rang the 111 service to see what she could do, and they recommended I go straight to A&E. I was seen almost immediately and given some prescription-strength painkillers to help reduce the pain, and told to come back in a few days if there were no improvement.

I left another week in the hopes that it would all just go away and I'd be back doing burpees and dancing erratically to Taylor Swift before I knew it, but in the end I had to go back as I was still in unbearable pain. I'd been taking a combination of all the painkillers known to man, with doses big enough to knock me out for a few hours but nothing even touched the pain. I had an X-Ray to see if I'd broken something, but the scan came back fine. The doctor (James the bae), said he was stumped and didn't really know what was causing all the swelling and pain in my ankle. He gave me some more painkillers and sent me home to try and walk on it more and more. He said that the Codeine should numb the pain, however in the 2 weeks I had been taking the Codeine, I'd had every other side effect on the information leaflet (including the rare ones) except the desired pain relief. I felt sick ALL THE TIME, I kept fainting, I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't eating, and I lost over a stone (15lbs/6.8kilos) - ALL IN THE SPACE OF TWO WEEKS. At this point I decided to stop taking the medicine as it was doing way more harm than good. 

The following day I received a letter in the post saying my X-Ray had been reexamined and I needed to go back to the hospital. I got really excited thinking that they'd found a crack or something, and I'd be sent home in a cast and it would heal and all would be fine. But as soon as I saw the doctor I could see it was more serious than I'd thought. After 3 weeks I was given the diagnosis of a Talar Osteochondral Defect. Essentially I had chipped the main bone in my ankle at some point or another and the joint space had been continuously filling with water and God knows what else for quite some time. I had a blood test (complete with the worlds biggest panic attack) and It showed I was perfectly healthy, with zero signs of infection. The doctor decided to refer me to an orthopaedic specialist, gave me some crutches and a walking boot, and sent me home.

Four weeks to the day since the pain started and my orthopaedics appointment rolled around. The doctor (who was an actual psycho btw) started the appointment by shouting at me for being referred to the wrong clinic. He then proceeded to tell me that this was a life-long condition that would never go away. At this point I burst out into tears because I took that he meant I would never be able to walk again, but my mum  later reassured me he simply meant the damage to the bone was permanent (#phew). He told me I would need weekly physiotherapy appointments for the rest of my life and referred me to Radiology to have an MRI scan. On the day I'm writing this (the date of publishing), I have just received my appointment for my MRI scan, and the amount of information that came in the envelope was daunting. I'm not bothered about having the actual scan as I've learnt about them at uni and I know that they are completely painless. I'm more worried about the actual results, because if the scan shows that the bone fragments have collapsed into the joint space, I will need surgery to clean it out otherwise I would go on to develop arthritis in my ankle. My anxiety has been through the roof, and the thought of needing surgery makes me physically sick. I don't cope very well with even dentist checkups, so the idea of being admitted into a hospital makes me want to curl up into a ball and go to sleep forever.

Despite everything that's going on I've remained quite positive with only the occasional emotional breakdown. The pain has reduced dramatically, and I've started my physiotherapy which is making me feel a lot better in myself. I've been given lots of exercises to improve the mobility of my ankle, and the physiotherapist showed me how to walk up and down stairs safely with my crutches so I don't need to crawl as much anymore. Since my first appointment, I've been able to bend my ankle into more of a standing position, bear some weight on it, and even take a few steps. I'm really hoping that I will continue to progress at the same rate as these last couple of days. Before my orthopaedics appointment I was worried that I wouldn't be able to return to university in September, and was thinking through all the worst possible scenarios in my head. At this point I would like to set myself a few goals for the month ahead; by the start of August I plan to be the same as I am now whilst relying on one crutch as opposed to two. By September I hope to be off crutches for the majority of my day, and by the time I go back to university I hope to be able to drive and walk as normal. I'm not expecting to be able to walk long distances, or do all the things that I would usually do - but I am hoping I will be able to at least commute to and from university every day. 

I remain optimistic, although I do realise that my goals may be completely unachievable. My friends and family have been incredibly supportive over the last few weeks, and one of my friends has even offered to let me live-in at her house on the days that I have lectures, so she can help me travel in and it not be as far to get there. It's times like these when you really do realise how much people care for you, and my friends and family would well and truly do anything to make my life even the slightest bit easier. I will probably continue to share little updates of my progress over the coming months, so apologies if you really didn't like this post, but I'd rather it wasn't happening for me to write about too. I promise I won't go into overkill, but the progress I'm starting to make is more exciting than anything else in my life to date. After not being able to stand up for 4 weeks, I see it as being reborn and being able to watch myself grow up and take my first steps in the world.  

Thank you for reading and for your continuous support during this moment in my life. 

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