Summer Survival: CRPS & The Heat. 2019!

Oh lordy, it was hot this summer. So hot that here in Adelaide records were broken. We had a day that was 48.6C (115.9F) freakin degrees. That day was so extreme that it made all following 40C (104F) days seem not so scary. It was Adelaide and any Australian capital cities hottest day recorded. Port Augusta, 300km to the west even hit 49.5C (121.8F). In short, it was crazy hot this summer. So add to that having CRPS to deal with in the heat of this summer, it wasn’t a great one for me.  My house is well insulated and was cool most days, but we did have a few nights where I moved outside and slept on a blow up mattress with my cat and my housemates bunnies so we could all cool down.

Besides the usual CRPS shittiness, anytime the heat gets near 40C my body shuts down and I am basically a vegetable until I can cool down and function again. Also, towards the end of summer and the lead up to my recent round of Ketamine infusions, I spent most of my time sleeping through some shocking fatigue. Just an hour or two of being out of bed and doing something gentle was enough to knock me out for a day and a half to recover. Its such a crappy feeling when you literally sleep through life in general and its suddenly a month later. But lucky it was only a month and I still got to enjoy the rest of summer… Of course though, my month of fatigue just had to coincided with the Adelaide fringe… FML! I did make it in on the very last nigh to celebrate my birthday and I was pumped (ketamine the day before helped) and then bummed because it was over for another year. But one night is better than none.

So here are some of the ways that I coped with summer this year.

1, A FAN. When I was awake, I spent a lot of time on my bed with a fan on me, which isn’t ideal for CRPS and my skin sensitivity. But as long as I could either cover any problem areas like my feet with  a sheet, or point the fan towards the wall near my bed to create air movement without the direct hit, then it was cool… well cooler anyway. lol.

2, A POOL. After talking about it, I was kindly girted a 10ft pool by my amazing landlord after I let people from their bank come in to value the house without warning. I was so grateful for this. On hot days I would go out and sit in the pool to cool down and read. I also put a bag of Magnesium bath salts into the water so I would get some added absorption goodness as well. I’ve talked about the benefits of magnesium a lot on this blog, so have a look here if you haven’t seen it. The cool thing about this pool is it was only $50. It comes with a filter to keep it clean as well. Really any type of pool works if you can handle it. Even a bath or cool shower works. The main thing is to stay cool. In the end, this pool was the best $50 I didn’t have to spend. The water bill on the other hand…

A badly photo shopped picture of the type of pool I have.

3, NETFLX. After not being interested in getting Netflix despite my housemates insistence that I get it because its the best, blah blah blah…. I went in halves with an account with my sister. I’m so glad I did because I was running out of things to watch and I did expect to spend so much time stuck in bed this summer. So even though its not keeping me cool, it’s keeping me from going insane.

4, COLD WATER. If your like me with your CRPS, holding a hot bowl of food or a mug of coffee, you over heat from touching the hot surface. Its so annoying. Well for me, its the same effect with cold water to cool me down. So there are two things I have done this summer that have really helped. I keep chilled water in my fridge and fill my water bottle up with it so I can use it to cool my body down, just by holding it. The other is having a wet face washer or hand towel. by hanging it around my neck or wiping it over my skin, I can use it to keep me cool. I did this on the really hot days and it did help a lot. Its great if you put it in the freezer for a few minutes to get a bit of extra cool happening.

5, PLACES WITH AIR CON. Leaving the house on a hot day really isn’t ideal. But if you have to then do it right. Places like shopping centres, cinemas and museums are always cool options on a hot day. So why not turn a potential crappy day into a good one where you can have an adventure as well. I did this a bit during summer on the rare good days. Mostly it was going to shopping centres and then hanging out as long as I could. I went to the cinema a few times as well. The supermarket over the road from me is always so cool, it actually shocks my body and can be a bit too much for my nerves to cope with. Getting to places was an issue for me as well. I don’t have a car and often walk as much as I can. I do use public transport but its not free so if I have the time and ability, I normally walk to add in some exercise. But, in the heat its worth the cost of a trip to have the air con as well.  If I plan the trip for between 9am and 3pm then the ticket is only 90c for me. I can catch the bus across the road from me, and go to Semaphore for the afternoon. Its a longish trip but the cinema is really cheap ($9) and cool. Plus if I want I can wander the shops, get an ice cream and put my feet in the ocean. Great for days when your able to be adventurous. The dangerous part is the plant shop I walk past (as if I don’t go in. lol.) on my way to the train. Its my favourite plant place in Adelaide. 🙂 Plus they have Parrots, chickens, and an Alpaca hanging out there. Awesome!

So here is how I got through this hot hot summer. It wasn’t pretty, but I survived!

How do you get through the hot days?

 

 

 

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ADELAIDE CRPS EVENT: My Speech.

If you read my last post, you will know that I, along side 3 other CRPS sufferers, gave a talk on our experiences living with the condition, during Adelaide’s first Colour The World Orange event on Nov 6, 2017. It was a great event ad by doing this we were able to give the Drs, Researchers and students some insight into living with CPRS.

I decided to participate partly because I felt I needed a challenge because part of having this condition is that it has chipped away at my self-esteem and I felt I needed to push myself somehow to gain some back. I agreed without allowing myself to think about the fact that I would be standing in front of people who knew a lot more about the condition than I do. Add to that my speech became a big issue in the week leading up to the event. Damn you CRPS!!!!!!!

In the end I was so glad I was there and gave my speech. I started out so nervous that I stumbled through the first paragraph and then after that I was fine. After I felt I could do anything, but really what I wanted to do was do it over so I could do a better job of it. lol.

So here is my speech..

Hello, My name is Sarah and I have suffered from CRPS for around 5 years. My CRPS was triggered by a burn incident that left me with second degree burns to my left arm, hand, shoulder and the left side of my face. I was at my parent’s place where my Dad had a fire burning for doing a pre-summer clean up. I didn’t realise that a can of spray paint had accidentally been put into a box of documents that I had the bright idea of throwing onto a fire to get rid of. Unfortunately the care I received at our local Hospital was far from adequate and It was four days before I was sent to the burn unit at the old RAH and by then infection had set in and I was in a bad way.

Despite signs that something was wrong,  it was 4 months before my first pain flare, Suddenly my left hand and arm were swollen, stiffening and loosing movement. I had electric like pain shooting up my arm and down my fingers, as well as a crushing pain in my joints and bones. It was during this time that I started researching online and discovered CRPS as a rare complication of burns. I was diagnosed with CRPS the day before my 30th B’day after I took my findings to my GP.

After my diagnosis the condition took off quickly and within 5 months it had spread into both my legs, and soon after to most of my body from the neck down. My list of other symptoms is pretty long ranging and changes from day to day. These include insomnia, fatigue, forgetfulness, and speech, vision, hearing and motor issues.

Finding other sufferers online and in person locally here in South Australia has also helped me with support and advice that has been invaluable. Alone this is a very isolating condition. Through joining Facebook groups for CRPS, I was able to meet other sufferers in person here in Adelaide and we now have our own group with over 50 statewide sufferers. That’s CRPS South Australia if anyone is interested.

Another turning point was coming under the care of the Royal Adelaide’s Pain Unit. At that point, I was losing strength in my legs, my flares left me bed ridden and I was a general mess. At the pain unit, I soon started having Ketamine infusions for 3 days every 3 months and although the first time the relief was delayed and short lasting, it did quieten down my other symptoms. A friend with CRPS had advised me that it might be this way and to not feel disheartened if change wasn’t immediate. By my third round was having lasting effects and slowly with each infusion I have gotten more control over my condition. Aside from Ketamine, I treat my condition with Lyrica and Tramadol on a daily basis.  

I have also found that gentle daily exercise helps keep my pain and symptoms in check. I walk, use a stationary bike and do a mix of small weights, yoga and Pilates. This year I also started riding a bike, something I previously couldn’t do.

I am also a big fan of adding Magnesium to my bath about once a week. I find it relaxes my muscles and helps calms my pain to a level I can deal with, especially when I have over exerted myself.

There are things that I have found hard about having this condition. Initially it was hard explaining my situation and seeing the look of doubt or confusion in people I care about, Sadly I also found myself with only a few friends left.

Now after 5 years of CRPS, for me the fatigue that comes with my CRPS is the most debilitating part. I am now working a few hours a week, and to do that I need to plan my week around the rest I need before and after each work day.

Health wise, I have been diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes, an underactive thyroid and high cholesterol since my crps diagnosis.

Mentally the condition has been a struggle with periods of anxiety and depression, I have mourned over the life I have lost and struggled with losing my independence. For a long time I wondered if there was point to life with this horrible condition, especially if it stopped me from living a meaningful life. But in a lot of ways I have also been very lucky.  

Despite the negatives of having this condition, there are positives. Including the fact that I have responded so well to the treatments I have tried, the friendships I have made through this condition and the progress I have made in the past 5 years.

I have benefited from a positive living environment at my parents’ house, in the country where It is quiet; I have my cat and my dog for company and my two horses who get me out of the house each day. I have a veggie garden to potter about in on good days. Plus I am close to the beach.

Having a positive attitude is also essential for getting through this condition

I try to treat the 3 days of my Ketamine infusions as a little holiday from my CRPS where I can rest and catch up on my sleep, as well as being looked after by the wonderful staff at the pain unit. I have also had the opportunity to speak to student doctors touring the ward about my CRPS

Having a team of Doctors, specialists and practitioners who support me is essential to my care and initially that wasn’t easy. I now drive 100km to a GP because I wasn’t the help I needed in my home town because they did not understand the condition. That is why I feel events like tonight are so important.

Thank you all for listening to my story and for educating yourself about CRPS. Good night.

Color The World Orange: ADELAIDE: Nov 6, 2017

November 6th 2017 was the 3rd COLOUR THE WORLD ORANGE day across the globe, Adelaide celebrated by lighting Adelaide Oval, the Torrens Footbridge, the Riverbank Precinct and  the Rundle Lantern in orange for the first time. According to the CTWO website Adelaide joined “Forty-nine buildings, bridges and landmarks in four countries, including Niagara Falls and the fountains in Trafalgar Square in London”

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Adelaide Oval and Torrens Footbridge lit in Orange for the first time.

As well as the lighting up of iconic Adelaide landmarks, Adelaide also hosted the first information event of its kind in Australia with the aim of creating awareness within the medical and research fields. The event was titled…

CRPS Mechanisms & Management:

What’s in fashion now? 

This event was a great opportunity for Members of the medical field to learn what it is like for those of us with CRPS and this was recognised by the organisers. Members of the CRPS South Australia Facebook group were invited to participate in the night by giving a 5 minute talk on what it is like to live with CPRS. I was happy to be one of the five who took on this challenge (It was a big challenge for me). Although only four of us were able to be there in the end, (that’s CRPS for you) we all explored different areas of living with the condition, but there were a lot of similarities.

Of course there were also talks by the Professionals. Prof Lorimer Moseley spoke of the new findings in CRPS research, Dr Velleria Bellan who was the instigator of the event(thank you) spoke of her research in Untangling visual and proprioceptive contributions to hand localisation over time. Also Dr Meredith Craigie spoke of her experience of being both a parent of a child with CRPS and also practising in pain medication and treating CRPS patients such as myself.

Overall the night was a huge success with over 200 people from both research and medical fields, Students and also other sufferers from the CRPS South Australia group. Possibly the best bit of the night was the food and wine supplied and also a GELATO CART!!! Yep that’s right, the event was supplied with a Gelato Cart with all orange colored gelato. YUM!!

A big thank you to the organisers and sponsors of this fantastic event and I look forwards to next years event.

 

 

 

Ketamine, Coffee, Food, Family and Student Doctors!

Ah Ketamine. I just love it! Its been two weeks since my trip to Adelaide for my three day infusion. It was a great trip. I went with my second family, Steff, Phil and Amity. It was a great trip even if I did sleep for most of it. We travelled to Adelaide on the Monday afternoon and arrived in time for dinner and had the best Indian food I have ever had from my fave Restaurant Raj on Taj in King William Rd. I have not eaten there in years and it was divine. The next day I had my first day of infusions and I pretty much slept through the whole three days. It went really quickly. Basically my whole trip went much like this… Ketamine, Coffee, Food, Family and Student Doctors!

The weather during this trip was Hot, rainy and humid. It was a shocker and it did raise my pain for the first few days, but by the end of the three days I was feeling good and my pain was at an all time low. It was so nice. Steff even noticed how my presence changed as I came out of the pain. Each morning I was driven to the hospital by Phil who then returned to pick me up that afternoon. The staff in the pain clinic naturally thought that Phil was my Dad and I soon realised that there was no point correcting them. Having fasted each morning and being in need of a good coffee, I introduced Phil to my fave café, Cibo on Rundle St and I got him hooked. Each day we would grab a latte and I would spoil myself with a yummy pastry. If I move to Adelaide I’m scared that I’ll be the size of a house because I love the pastries so much. Yum! After my infusion we would normally relax before going out for dinner and eating fantastic food and I even snuck in a glass of wine when I felt the need. Not sure if that was a good choice but one couldn’t hurt. Lol.

Aside from all the food, two really exciting things happened while I was having my infusions. The first thing being that I got to speak to student doctors about CRPS! On two of the mornings I was asked if I was interested in having a chat with some fifth year student doctors. I was really excited to be able to make around fifteen future doctors aware of CRPS. The average diagnosis of CRPS is made after four years of suffering and most doctors never see or diagnose CPRS so I knew that this was a great opportunity. The students were equally excited to chat about my experience and treatment as well. I decided to be really open with them and the students on the second day really got into my story. It was a smaller group and we were chatting for near an hour and made my infusion run way over. I didn’t mind though. I hope I can have the opportunity to do it again. Hopefully someone will benefit from my sharing my story.

On the last day of my infusion, I was in recovery and chatting with a nurse about the mental strain that CRPS puts of you when she asked if I had seen anyone like a psychologist. I told her about the lack of care I had received from being in a rural area. The next thing I know she is off to ask the clinic psychologist if she could see me while I was in town. The next day she fit me in and it was great. We basically started by chatting about what has happened so far, who I am and how I am coping. Her main concern so far is my lack of sleep and how it is affecting me. I have started on Melaton and will be doing a three month trial to see if it helps. I will now do a phone session every three weeks and meet at the clinic when I have appointments at the hospital. Mostly I’m hoping that I’ll be able to improve my outlook on life and living with CRPS. Already Im looking at what I could be doing to move forwards and not make CRPS my main focus in life. It can’t own me but I have been a little stuck trying to sort it all out on my own. Things are looking up!

Ketamine: Only One Week To Go!

Im sorry for being such a bad blogger, but having CRPS in my left hand and symptoms in the right I feel that I have a pretty good excuse for not wanting to be typing too much. I do think about it and sometimes I even start typing but the pain is too much and I have to stop.

The one thing I hate about the infusion cycle is when is stops working and the pain comes back. Lucky for me Ive only been struggling for the past week or two. Last time it was more like 6 weeks before the next round and it was hell. I only have a week until my next infusion and I cant wait.  The thing about the Ketamine wearing off is that it shocks me at how much the disease progresses underneath the numbing effect of the infusions and then BAM it hits you hard. But Im still lucky because I get lowered pain in between infusions and each one is improving for me. I love my infusions and once the needle is in my vein Im happy. I really hate having the IV put in. Im fine with blood tests though. Go figure!

This time around Im hoping that the shocking fatigue will leave me and Ill be able to do more. It takes me days to get over anything eventful and Im finding it hard to do much at all at the moment. Even sitting up to get out of bed is hard for me at the moment.

I really cant wait for next week. Im going to Adelaide with my “adopted” parents, Steff and Phil. Plus my little Sis, Amity is staying with us for a few nights. I will have my infusions from Tuesday through to Thursday and they will be my “responsible person”. Then Thursday night we will head out to Gawler to stay with Amity, before heading home on Friday. Im also hoping that Ill get to see my darling bestie Casey while im in town. I really do have to make sure I take it easy though and rest up in the afternoons while Im having the infusions. They are my priority after all. lol.

I just cant wait to have the pain settle and I get to lay back and have a sleep. 🙂

I hope your all doing as well. Ill get back to posting after my infusions. xx

Getting Out And About: pace yourself honey!!!!!1

Ive been in Adelaide for the past week and have been staying with my bestie and having a blast. I have to say that when you are ill and have been almost house bound for the past 18 months and not been anywhere on your own, Because you just cant drive that far. Its really daunting for you to be away for so long. I didnt know how my body would cope and Ihad a shocking flare the day before leaving.

But Im glad I did. Ill be going into it all more later. I just want to say that we need to find ways to get out more and have fun. This past week has been wonderful. Most of our adventures have been dictated by my body, but having an understanding friend and a city that is alive with The Adelaide Fringe Festival has made for a great time.  Im stoked that I left the comforts of home. Perhaps we all need to think of some achievable things that we can do and make ourselves a little more happy. Our lives are so limited but just getting out made all the difference to my head space. Yes, I was in a lot of pain and I had one day in bed with a bad flare and could hardly walk a few other days. I even fell asleep on another friend in a cafe because of my meds and CRPS. Lucky she understands and has it too. With forward planning things are achievable. You just have to be flexible as well. At one point I even had to go back to my car to have a rest and nap after a Drs appointment. lol. I made sure that the parking building was central to the hospital and the cafes and shops that I wandered through. Having that rest did me so much good. So I guess its still about pacing our selves but getting out of the house.

Also Its my Birthday on Friday and I really needed a good time after loosing my 30th last year to a shocking flare. I was also diagnosed the next day. 😦

IN THE MEDIA: Chronic Pain, 7.30 South Australia

“It is a common condition, patients suffer from it, doctors treat it but Medicare doesn’t acknowledge it. It’s chronic pain. But what causes it and why do traditional drugs seem to have little effect?”

pain 730

This is the introduction to a news story that was shown on our state edition of the Current Affairs program 7.40. Its really exciting that this show has done a few stories on Chronic Pain already this year and although not exactly about CRPS, It still relates back to the treatments and the health system that I and many other Australians rely on.

I posted about the first story here. Australia’s Pain Epidemic

This story by Mike Sexton and shown on 7.30 South Australia, on Fri, 21 Feb, 2014.  Duration: 6min 13sec. It starts as stated above and then leads into some horrifying, yet unsurprising statistics that Medicare (Australia) has found that up to 5% of patients in Gp’s clinics are seeking relief from Chronic Pain. It again mentioned that most Australian’s suffering from Chronic Pain wait 2-3 years for a placement in a pain treatment facility. This leads to Gp’s prescribing more and more opioid pain Medications and leads to dependency. Clearly there is a cycle here that must be broken.  I’m hoping that the Website will post a manuscript to this story as it has done in the past so that I can post it.

One exciting thing bit of information that I learnt from the story is of a local research project happening right here in South Australia at the Bionomics Facilities in Hindmarsh, is a focus on Ion channels and their role in Chronic Pain. The story went on to report of an investment of 170 million dollars (Aust)  being made into this study by Merck & Co. That is pretty exciting really. I went onto the Bionomics Website and found the following:

“Bionomics has entered into a collaboration with Merck & Co. to develop a novel oral treatment for chronic pain. Chronic pain is a severely debilitating condition with a large unmet medical need. Current analgesic medications which include anti-epileptics, anti-arrhythmics, opioids, NSAID’s and anti-depressants, are either ineffective, associated with a range of dose limiting side effects or have the potential for abuse and addiction. Our novel treatment which is expected to deliver greater efficacy and safety than existing pain medications is directed towards an undisclosed target that has been strongly linked to chronic pain in humans.”

www.bionomics.com.au/research-development/pipeline/cns-central-nervous-system

Well Im off to investigate further and see what else I can learn about this trial and even if I can participate in any way. 🙂