Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Five Years, Ten Doctors, Countless Appointments and Tests: The Diagnosis Is POTS

My middle daughter, Lexi has gotten migraines for as long as I can remember. I think they started back when she was in 6th or 7th grade. They've gotten progressively worse over the years in frequency, duration, and intensity. As a sophomore, she missed so much school that I finally withdrew her so she could finish out the year by taking online virtual classes. It's heart-breaking seeing someone you love suffer especially when there's nothing you can do to help her. Sure, I've taken her to a plethora of doctors. She's had a barrage of tests. We've tried several different medications to both help prevent and to treat her headaches. But it's not only the headaches that have plagued her.

As a freshman in high school, she passed out during PE a few times. After the 3rd time, I made an appointment for her with the pediatrician to make sure there wasn't anything serious wrong and it was just the exercise in the intense Florida heat that had caused the fainting. The pediatrician sent us to a cardiologist to rule out any dangerous heart conditions that might have lead to the syncope. After an EKG and an echocardiogram, the doctor determined that nothing was wrong with Lexi's heart and the fainting was likely due to overheating and dehydration. Her recommendation was for Lexi to drink 2 liters of water a day, and to increase her salt intake by drinking Gatorade and snacking on salty foods like pretzels in order to increase her blood volume and therefore help prevent more episodes of fainting.

Because of the migraines, Lexi was seeing a neurologist who ordered an EEG and an MRI of Lexi's brain to make sure nothing scary was causing the headaches. The EEG was normal, and the MRI was basically normal other than a finding of an enlarged pineal gland. The neurologist admitted she didn't really know what that meant, and referred us to an endocrinologist.

The endocrinologist basically looked at us like we were crazy for seeing her, and told us that an enlarged pineal gland didn't mean anything and they dealt with diabetes and actual problems, and we should just leave. Thanks to the neurologist for wasting our time and money there.

Meanwhile, Lexi was still having frequent migraines. On one (of many) trips to the ER for medication to help stop a migraine that had lasted for 3 days with no relief from any of the prescriptions she had on hand, the doctor commented that Lexi was markedly anemic. He suggested taking an iron supplement and consulting with a hematologist right away. We did. After considerable bloodwork, the hematologist diagnosed her with iron deficiency anemia likely due to her heavy and frequent periods, and referred her to a pediatric gynecologist.

The gynecologist suggested getting an IUD placed to help with the anemia. The doctor also theorized that this treatment could help decrease the frequency of Lexi's migraines. So Lexi agreed, despite how uncomfortable she was with the whole idea. Honestly, at this point I think she would've smeared peanut butter on her head and danced with snakes around a fire if there was even the slightest chance it would make her feel better.

As all of this is going on, Lexi started dealing with depression. I suppose it's hard to stay positive when you lose 2-3 days a week because you can't get up and function. It's pretty easy to get down when you deal with a chronic condition that makes you feel like garbage more often than not. So we added a psychiatrist and some antidepressant medication to the mix.

one of Lexi's SFX creations
My daughter who had a bunch of friends, enjoyed going out and doing things, and was a cheerleader, had a hard time getting out of bed and functioning some days. Cheer made her dizzy and gave her headaches. She missed practice and games. She missed school. She missed life. She was in a kind of pain you can't see. That's when she really started practicing her SFX makeup. Instead of cutting herself to somehow show the pain she was feeling, she turned to makeup as an outlet, creating gruesome and painful-looking designs. Plus, she was able to utilize her artistic talent in an activity she could do while sitting or lying on her floor; one that didn't make her heart pound or her head spin.

The neurologist Lexi was seeing for her migraines had come up with a concoction of meds that had significantly cut down on the frequency and duration of the headaches. Lexi still got them, but instead of weekly, they were now maybe twice a month. Having a debilitating headache for 2-3 days twice a month still stinks, but it's better than losing 3 days every week to headache pain.

Then one day, the summer before her junior year, Lexi and I were running errands. She saw a Big Red Bus and asked to stop so she could donate blood for the first time. When the technician assessed her, Lexi's heart rate was over 100 (you must have a heart rate under 100 in order to donate) so she was deferred. Lexi tried to donate blood two more times over the following months and both times she was deferred because her heart rate was too high. The last time, the technician informed her that her heart rate was 154. "A young, fit girl like you shouldn't have a heart rate of 154. No one should have a resting heart rate of 154. You really need to get that checked out."

So we went back to the cardiologist we'd seen a couple years prior. She did another EKG and then the doctor had the nurse take a set of blood pressure and heart rate readings while Lexi was lying down, sitting up, and finally standing. Her heart rate went from 80 to 144 when she stood up. Upon those findings, the doctor ordered another echocardiogram which didn't show any abnormalities. She also equipped Lexi with a Holter monitor which Lexi wore for 24 hours to monitor her heart rate.

A few days later, the doctor called us and seemed surprised at the Holtor monitor's results. There were some curious findings that prompted her to refer us to an electrophysiologist. So we met with an electrophysiologist who explained his suspicion that Lexi had an arrhythmia based on the Holter monitor findings. He proclaimed that she would probably require an ablation to fix it, but in the meantime, he put her on beta blockers to help with her tachycardia.

The beta blockers instantly gave her a migraine which continued nonstop for several days until we ended back in the ER (after a year with no ER trips for headaches) to get some relief. We met with the neurologist who confirmed our suspicions that the beta blockers could worsen migraines so I stopped giving them to her. The electrophysiologist argued that beta blockers helped migraines, and we were wrong. Let's see here. Lexi hasn't had to go to the ER in a year. The day she starts a new medication, she develops a migraine that doesn't gone away in a week despite all the recovery meds she's taken. Yep, clearly I'm wrong. I mean, what do I know, right? I'm not the one with the MD after my name.

The electrophysiologist ordered an exercise stress test with pulmonary function. It was normal. He had Lexi wear an event heart monitor for 30 days, and it recorded over 150 incidences where her heart rate went abnormally high. The electrophysiologist who originally talked about an ablation because he thought Lexi had an arrhythmia changed his mind and said she doesn't have an arrhythmia after all. He insisted her heart was fine and suggested her high heart rate was all in her head. 

"But I thought the monitor picked up a bunch of abnormal heartbeats," I asked, confused.
"Yes, but it's probably anxiety causing it."
"Nope. She doesn't have anxiety."
"She should just exercise more. She's out of shape."
"Nope. She's thin, fit, healthy, and  she's been in sports her whole life."
"Her heart itself is fine. You should take her to a psychiatrist."

Her legs turn a mottled purple when she stands up. Her heart races. she has palpitations and chest pain. She gets dizzy and sometimes passes out. She has chronic headaches. She missed 41 days of school this year. FORTY-ONE days. That's 8 weeks. A quarter of the school year. Yep, all in her head.

Even though I knew it wasn't "all in her head," there was a little part of me that began to doubt. Could it just be anxiety? She never sleeps well at night. Could it be anxiety causing all of this? She doesn't seem like an anxious person.

After another trip to the ER because Lexi's heart rate shot up to  213 while roller skating, we got a referral to another cardiologist; this time one at Nemours. We met with him, went through her medical history once more.  I ended with this: :We have seen a pediatrician, a cardiologist, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, a hematologist, an endocrinologist, a gynecologist, and an electrophysiologist. It has now been several years of searching for an answer and some relief. And her diagnosis currently stands as - it's probably in her head.

This new cardiologist answered, "It's not in her head. There is no it's in her head here. We'll figure it out."

He did a tilt table test (they monitored Lexi's heart rate and blood pressure and how it changed when she was maneuvered from lying down to an almost completely upright position.) Based on this one, noninvasive, simple test, he was able to give her a diagnosis - POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.)

Finally, there's a definitive answer! An answer that should not have taken years to obtain! This is why you shouldn't automatically take someone's word, even if that someone has a medical degree. No doctor knows your kid as well as you do. If you feel that something is wrong, keep searching until you find someone who will listen and do what it takes to get an answer.

Now that we have a diagnosis, we can move on to searching for a cause or underlying problems, and treating her symptoms.

Friday, July 6, 2018

My Colectomy - Day Two

I had my partial colectomy yesterday. The nurse in pre-op was very nice. She got me all set up for surgery - pretty gown and matching blue hat, hospital socks, IV, a bunch of medicine. When the anesthesiologist came in, I pleaded with him, "Anesthesia makes me violently ill. Pleeeeeease do whatever you can so I don't get sick. Please. I'll name my first-born kid . . ., oh wait, I'm done having kids. I'll name my first cat after you. I have lofty plans of becoming a cat lady, and if you keep me from throwing up, I'll name my first cat after you."

I knew I was rambling like a crazy person, but I really wanted to impress upon him how scared I was of getting sick from the anesthesia. He promised to load me up with anti-nausea drugs before and during surgery. I got a patch behind my ear and another pill under my tongue before I even went in. Still, I gave him a dubious look and told him I didn't believe him, and I thought I'd still get sick no matter what he said. Then he gave me what he called my "morning cocktail" in my IV. He said it was to relax me, but I'm pretty sure it was to get me to shut up about cats and vomit. I don't remember anything after that. I don't remember being in recovery either, but apparently I was there for an hour. I was groggy all day and didn't really wake up until last night.

But praise the Lord, I did not get sick at all! Now I need to get a cat and name him Vikram.

My surgery took more than 3 hours and I had a breathing tube down my throat the whole time so now I sound like an 80 year old chain smoker. The surgery went well and I have 5 incisions. (The video was right - they went up through my butt to staple the two ends of my intestines together!) My doctor removed about a foot of diseased colon. He said there was a hole in it which confirmed his presumption that it had perforated during my last bout of diverticulitis, and my body had contained it. I'm glad I had this done because it probably would have resulted in an emergency situation when I had my next flare-up.

They injected this numbing  medicine called Exparel all over my abdomen. It's supposed to last for three days so right now I'm getting by on muscle relaxers, nerve blockers and IV Tylenol, which is fantastic because I hate the way narcotics make me feel. Plus narcotics cause constipation which I imagine is less than pleasant when you just had surgery on your bowel. I was told the effects of this numbing agent will start wearing off this evening (and they are) so I may need something stronger for pain tomorrow.

My catheter was taken out this morning so I can pee like a normal person now. I was also given clear liquids to try today. Unfortunately I started pooping blood so I'm back to nothing by mouth again, I'm off blood thinners, and I'm having extra bloodwork to make sure I'm not losing too much blood. Or at least I'm supposed to be having more bloodwork, however 3 different nurses have stuck me in 3 places and missed the veins each time. I'm currently waiting for nurse #4 to come give it a try.

But, on the bright side, I have a lovely view outside. I alternate between the picturesque landscape and The Food Network on TV which is really kind masochistic since I can't eat.

Oh and I have learned that coughing HURTS!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

My Fun-Filled Colectomy

In 2010 I developed abdominal pain and discovered I had diverticulitis. You can read all about that fun-filled ER trip where I had a pelvic exam. By a 20 year old male doctor. In a curtained room in the ER. When I had my period. Yeah, I know, but what can I say? Not everyone is as lucky as me.

Fast-forward to 2018. I've had multiple diverticulitis attacks. I'm tired of being hospitalized at inconvenient times. Or you know, any time. The bout I had last month was especially severe, almost necessitating emergency surgery, so after consulting with two surgeons, I decided it was time for surgery to eliminate the problem before it became a life-threatening emergency.

Here's a quick run-down if you aren't familiar with it. Diverticulosis or diverticular disease is when little bulging pouches form in your colon (large intestine.) According to research, about half of all people over the age of 60 have it and for most, it causes no problems. For some people, however, these pouches can become infected (diverticulitis.) Diverticulitis can usually be cleared up with a clear liquid diet and antibiotics. Sometimes, the infection causes perforation of the colon or other complications that necessitate emergency surgery.

So, to that end, I head to the hospital tomorrow for a laparoscopic bowel resection. I'm super-looking forward to it, and I'll tell you why.

1.  The colonoscopy-like prep involved. Today, the 4th of July will not include a BBQ for me. I'll be partaking of delicious foods like broth and jello instead. There won't be fireworks for me tonight, but never you worry. I will have my own explosives. Out of my butt. Locked in my bathroom all evening. You can read those enchanting details here. Into the Tunnel of Darkness: My Colonoscopy

2.  The weight loss. Not eating for a few days and consuming only clear liquids for a few others should garner me a loss of a couple pounds. It's probably unrealistic to hope that my sigmoid colon weighs 30 pounds, huh? But any loss is a loss, amiright?

3.  No cancer. When I wake up from the anesthesia, I don't have to worry if the doctor was able to get all the cancer like so many people who have this surgery for colon cancer. This is why it's so important to get regular colonoscopy screenings. Just do it!

4.  Being lazy. I can lie in my hospital bed (which is as comfy as a slab of cement or a bed of nails) all day watching SpongeBob without feeling guilty.

5.  The surgery itself. Because I am completely stupid was curious, I watched six one videos of the surgical procedure on YouTube. I understand that they'll make 4 or so incisions to do the laparoscopic surgery. I'm down with that. Once the diseased portion of bowel is removed, they have to attach the two ends of healthy colon together some way. I get that. What I did not know until I was enlightened by this video is that they attach the two ends together by going through your butt. Just another added layer of fun!

6.  The possibility of a poop bag. Although, because this is a scheduled surgery and not an emergency one, the doctor doesn't anticipate me needing a colostomy, he did caution me it was a possibility. Sure, life will go on if I have to empty my bowels into a bag instead of the toilet. This little gem will just be one more reason for single men to line up around the corner for the chance to date me.

7.  The tubes. I was told I'd have a catheter in my bladder that would stay there for a day after surgery. I was also told I'd have a tube down my nose into my stomach that would be removed after surgery, but is oftentimes reinserted because of vomiting. And let's not forgot the IV for fluids and medicine. I'm thinking with all these strings attached, I can pretend to be a marionette. That'll be fun.

7.  The possibility of clots. Because I have a clotting disorder and a history of blood clots in my leg and lung, I'm at greater risk for this complication after surgery. But, I do get to wear super-sexy compression devices that will squeeze my legs as I lie there watching cartoons and reruns of The Office.

8.  The vacation. No kids to care for. No dinners to make. No errands to run. No groceries to buy. No bathrooms to clean. I mean, why do you think I had 6 kids? For the mini hospital vacations, of course! 

9.  The visit with my parents. Little do they know this surgery is just a ploy to get them to come visit us!

10.  Vomiting of epic proportions. Anesthesia makes me sick. Let me clarify. Anesthesia makes me so violently ill that I retch from the tips of my toes. You guys know how I feel about throwing up. I mean, I'm sure no one really LIKES to vomit, but I absolutely detest it! I pray fervently whenever I get that stomachache that tells me its contents are about to be evacuated. "Please God, I beg of you, keep me from throwing up! Pleeeeeaaaaassssseeee! I'll do anything! I'll move to Africa and be a missionary. I'll give up chocolate, wine, and guacamole forever! I'll stop yelling at idiot drivers! Just say the word, God!'

Now imagine doing it while you're completely groggy and in pain from abdominal surgery. Of course I'll talk to the anesthesiologist before the surgery. But I know what's going to happen. He'll promise to give me top-of-the-line, heavy-duty, anti-nausea drugs. He'll swear I won't get sick this time. He'll assure me he'll take care of me so I don't get violently ill. In other words, he'll lie. And after my surgery, when I'm forcefully expelling my intestines into the ridiculously small barf tray they give you, he'll ask if he can include me in his article about weird anesthesia reactions.

So there you have it. Honestly, for a good week I was waking up every night, my heart racing with anxiety about the whole thing. But I've been praying and I feel peaceful about it now. There's no reason to worry because God is with me. :)

Still, if you're the praying sort, say a prayer that I don't throw up. I don't care about pain or needing a colostomy. I just don't want to vomit!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Orlando Watersports Complex - Central Florida's Hidden Gem

My family was invited to check out Orlando Watersports Complex. Every time I drive to the airport, I catch glimpses of this place that's situated off 528 in Orlando, but I really didn't know what it was. I could see people on the water and it looked like they were skiing, but I rarely saw boats which led me to the only logical conclusion - the boats were invisible. Or the people had magical powers. As it turns out, they were wakeboarding using a pretty cool cable system.

My kids and I had never been wakeboarding before so we were eager to give it a try. Actually, my kids were very eager. I was a little more scared silly umm, apprehensive what with me being nearly 50, very out of shape, and possessing no discernible athletic ability whatsoever.

My kids had varying degrees of success. Lexi took off and made it halfway around the lake on her first try. Brooklyn face-planted about .8 of a second after taking off. An hour later, however, everyone was doing well. And me? Well, I opted to knee board instead, believing that I'd have an easier time balancing on my knees than attempting to stand on a board. In the water. While it was moving. And I had a blast!

OWC has been here in central Florida since 1999 and not only do they have wakeboarding on their standard cables, but they also offer classes, paddleboarding, advanced cables with jumps, summer camps, and their new Aquapark which just opened earlier this year. The Aquapark features a modular series of interlocking obstacles, a climbing tower, monkey bars, slides, pathways, and more. When we checked in at the Aquapark, there was a birthday party going on, and I thought what a fun place to have a birthday party! I looked up the prices for parties and found affordable options like $15 per kid for a session (50 minutes) for 10-24 participants.

OWC has all sorts of great specials including Ladies Day on Thursdays when ladies 18+ get a FREE 2 hour cable pass, Wednesday Happy Hours where you can take advantage of half-price riding from 4PM to close, and Kids' Day on Mondays where kids 16 and under can ride all day for discounted admission.
If you have your own equipment, bring it! If not, never fear, OWC provides life vests, helmets, and boards to rent. Feel free to pack a lunch and stay all day, or grab a bite at their snack bar when you need to take a break from riding.

My talking about this hidden gem here in central Florida doesn't do it justice so I put together this short 3 minute video from our time at OWC. Check it out. And see proof that I actually did it! And let me tell ya, I discovered something about myself that day. I have the upper body strength of a hamster. Oh my arms! They're still sore today! LOL! But I would totally do it again! It's a pretty cool feeling flying across the surface of the water like that.

If you live in central Florida or if you're planning on visiting, this is a must-see attraction! Take a break from all the theme parks and have a fun relaxing day at Orlando Watersports Complex. And to that end, I have an awesome giveaway courtesy of the folks at OWC. I will be choosing 3 random winners!

The 1st winner will receive 2 Aquapark tickets good for 1 free session each

The 2nd winner will receive 2 all-day cable passes including basic gear rental

The 3rd winner will receive 3 all-day cable passes including basic gear rental

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Make A Splash To Stop Childhood Drowning

I recently wrote a post about 20 ways in which Florida will kill you. Admittedly, it was a little tongue-in-cheek. I mean, a needlefish falling from the sky, thanks to a hawk with anger management issues, probably hasn't actually annihilated anyone. But I maintain that it could happen! In this post, I talked about how Florida is number one in lightning strikes, pedestrians hit, motorcycle fatalities, red lights run, and shark attacks. Well, I learned another disheartening fact today - According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida's drowning death rate among children ages 1–4 is the highest in the nation. Florida has really GOT to stop striving for number 1 in these categories! But in all fairness, it's not just Florida. Child drownings are still the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 14, and the leading cause of preventable death for children ages 1-4 nationwide.

Today I was invited to a press conference where Olympic swimmers Rowdy Gaines, Cullen Jones, Ryan Lochte, and Caeleb Dressel, ambassadors for Make a Splashspoke about the initiative to raise awareness of the preventable tragedy of childhood drowning. In the 10 years since the program's inception, they've helped 6 million children get swimming lessons! And it's an excellent accomplishment as swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by a whopping 88%!

Rowdy Gaines likened swimming lessons to car safety seats. You wouldn't drive your child around without first strapping them in their car seat because you want to keep them safe. Learning to swim isn't just about having fun, or keeping busy with an activity over summer break; it's about helping to keep your child safe. He stated that there's no such thing as being entirely safe in the water, but swimming lessons make you safER and that's the goal.

At the age of 5, Cullen Jones almost drowned at a water park. It was 30 seconds. Only 30 seconds under water. That's all it takes. He was lucky that his parents and lifeguards were around to pull him out. He joked that after being resuscitated, his first question was, "What ride are we gonna go on next?" His mom got him signed up for swimming lessons after that. And now look - he's one of the fastest swimmers on the planet and he's using his platform to speak out for a cause in which he believes. It doesn't always have such a happy ending. Olympian Bode Miller's 19 month old daughter drown over this past weekend.

Here are some other facts I found interesting. I really had no idea so many people can't swim. I guess I've taken my ability to swim for granted, but now I see that I was fortunate my parents signed me and my sister up for swim lessons every summer.

o       79% of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 have little-to-no swimming ability.
o      64% of African American children in the U.S. have little-to-no swim ability
o 45% of Hispanic children in the U.S. have little-to-no swim ability 
o 40% of Caucasian children in the U.S. have little-to-no swim ability 

Not only does this program strive to bring awareness about the importance of swim lessons, but through the Make a Splash initiative, the USA Swimming Foundation has partnered with learn-to-swim providers in all 50 states, to offer free and reduced swim lessons because learning to be safe around water shouldn't be limited to families with incomes over $50,000. Thankfully my kids know how to swim, but if they didn't, I would be in no position now, as a single mom, to pay for lessons which can be really pricey! ($150 for 8 lessons for preschoolers at the I Drive YMCA, for example.)

To find a provider near you who has partnered with Make a Splash and the USA Swimming Foundation, click HERE and enter your zipcode.

If you're in central Florida and you listen to Z88.3 (our local Christian station), then you know one of the DJs, Ellis has talked about how he never learned how to swim. This year he's decided to take up Rowdy Gaines on his offer of lessons! He'll be at the Oviedo YMCA this Saturday, June 16th if you want to stop by and say hi. Also, the Y is offering adult swim lessons for 50% off if you stop by any Central Florida YMCA to sign up ON Saturday, June 16. This offer is only available on Saturday, June 16.

Please share this because it only takes a few seconds for your life to irreversibly change. Fortunately, through the Make a Splash program, it only takes a few seconds to find affordable swim lessons for your kids also.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

CozyPhones Giveaway

When the folks at CozyPhones asked me if I'd like to review their product, I glanced at Brooklyn who was watching some Disney something-or-other on her phone, and thought - Yeah, I'll review a product that enables me to write in peace without hearing some Good Luck Charlie Bunk'd Bizaardvark show in the background.

CozyPhones are soft, fleece headbands with adjustable, removable speakers that can be customized for a perfect fit. And because they're removable, the headband is washable which is really important with kids because sometimes peanut butter gets in their hair and sometimes they smoosh Playdough on their heads because kids do weird things for no particular reason. 

Your kids can use these when they're allowed technology time. They can watch shows and play games without everyone in earshot hearing. CozyPhones are perfect for waiting rooms, travel, and running errands in the car. For kiddos who like to fall asleep listening to music, or the white noise of ocean waves or rain, for example, these are extremely comfy to wear to bed or while relaxing with no ear buds poking you or a hard plastic band over your head.

And they come in cute characters. If you have any toddlers who are into Paw Patrol, they'll love their new designs including Chase, Skye, and Marshall. And if you have any teenagers, they'll love the kiddie characters too because like toddlers, teens are weird and like to wear kid stuff to be ironic. I have no idea why this is, but trust me. You've seen teens go nuts over little kid character footie pajama onesie things, right? 

I'm going to order one of the plain adult CozyPhones for myself because I have started working out again and the only way I can stick with the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike for more than 2.4 minutes is to watch a movie on my phone so I can temporarily forget about the torture of exercise. But I sweat like a hippo and my ear buds occasionally slide right out of my ears as sweat drips down my head. (I know, I'm super ladylike.) With the comfortable lycra mesh headband, not only will I not have to worry about earbuds sliding out on a river of sweat, but the headband will keep it from dripping in my eyes, and I'll be able to work out until I look like a super-model. Total win!

Have a kiddo you think would love a pair of CozyPhones? Enter here for a chance to win your own set! Winner can choose character from over 10 designs. Enter below by leaving a comment on the blog, visiting CozyPhones on Facebook, and/or tweeting a comment. Good luck!

I was given a pair of CozyPhones to review. My opinions are mine alone.

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Update On Lexi

A few people have asked me for an update on Lexi. (In March, I wrote about Lexi's issues with tachycardia. If you missed it, you can get caught up HERE.)

At that time she was going to be having a stress test with pulmonary function, and was going to be wearing a heart monitor for 30 days so the doctor could get a clearer picture of what was going on. The stress test was normal. The heart monitor she wore for 30 days, however recorded over 150 incidences where her heart rate went abnormally high. The electrophysiologist who originally talked about an ablation because he thought Lexi had an arrhythmia changed his mind and said she doesn't have an arrhythmia after all. He insisted her heart was fine and suggested her high heart rate was all in her head. 

"But I thought the monitor picked up a bunch of abnormal heartbeats," I asked, confused.

"Yes, but maybe it's anxiety causing it."

"Nope. She doesn't have anxiety."

"She should just exercise more. She's out of shape."

"Nope. She's thin, fit, healthy, and exercises regularly. She's been in sports her whole life. She doesn't get out of breath or have a hard time exercising. Her heart rate just goes ridiculously high."

"She just needs to drink more water and eat more salt. Her heart itself is fine. She probably just has an autonomic problem."

Okay then. We're done with the cardiologist, but still don't have answers.

A couple weeks ago, Lexi was skating when she developed chest pain and dizziness. Her fitbit showed her heart rate was 213. Half an hour after stopping, she was still crying because her chest hurt so much so I took her to the ER, scared that something bad was going on. 

In the end, she wasn't having a heart attack or anything. Her potassium was a little low so they gave her some. Then they instructed us to follow up with a cardiologist. Yeah, been there, done that.

About a week ago, she had an appointment with the neurologist she sees for her migraines. She pointed us to a cardiologist at Nemours who specializes in POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.)

We'll see. Not holding my breath.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Seventeen: College Goals Giveaway

Bluestreak Books sent me a copy of Seventeen: College Goals AND is providing a prize pack for one of my lucky readers!

Things I didn't think through before having a big family:

1.  The amount of laundry it would entail!

2.  The never-ending "but she started it" battles.

3.  The amount of toilet paper we go through.

4.  Being literally unable to keep enough food in the house.

5.  The need to clone myself in order to be at several different places at the same time.

6.  Homework times 6.

7.  Having to teach 6 kids to drive!

8.  I am never alone. Ever. 

9.  How many times I've heard the phrases, "Wow, are they all yours?" "Do you know how that happens?" and my personal fave, "You sure have your hands full."

10.  Sending 6 kids to college!

Lexi, my daughter who will turn 17 this week is thinking about college. She's planning on doing dual-enrollment for her senior year, and has plans right now to pursue a career in nursing. I say "right now" because we all know that can change. Heck, I'm 48 and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

I think that's why she's really enjoying Seventeen: College Goals. It isn't one of those hard-hitting, packed with information about specific schools kind of a book. It's a stress-free guide—part-planner, part-journal—that will help walk your teen through the step-by-step process of applying to colleges. There are pages filled with practical cheat sheets, handy life hacks, thoughtful tips, fun quizzes, inspiring quotes from your favorite celebs and leaders, and prompts that will push you to self-reflect. (After all, that’s what college essays are all about!) 

Lexi likes that it reads like a cross between a magazine and a journal. She likes being able to record her thoughts about schools and about interests and questions she has. If you have a teen, this is a terrific resource to get them thinking about college (and it's never too early to start planting that seed.) I know that college isn't for everyone and you don't necessarily need a degree to have a fulfilling and lucrative career, but like I always tell my kids and students - college gives you options - options you wouldn't have without that degree!

Peek inside and learn more about the book HERE.
You can purchase the book HERE.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The One In Which I Sweat, Bleed, And Waste Paramedics' Time

I'm on these two diabolical antibiotics for my recent bout of diverticulitis. They make me feel like garbage. I'm dizzy, nauseated, and it perpetually tastes like I've been sucking on a handful of change that's been rolling around in the back of my van. Plus I'm on Coumadin (blood thinners) for life because of my clotting disorder and history of blood clots. And the thing about Coumadin is that everything, everything affects it - medicines you take, food you eat or drink, being sick, everything.

So at school today I got a nosebleed out of nowhere. That indicates to me that my blood may be too thin. It doesn't stop bleeding for some time so I walk to the front office, holding a bloody tissue to my face. The health assistant, the registrar, and the bookkeeper see me, freak out a little, tell me I look like crap, and threaten to call an ambulance. Despite my protests that you don't call an ambulance for a nosebleed, and that antibiotics are the reason I look and feel awful, they continue to beg my permission to call an ambulance so they can ogle the cute paramedics express concern for my well-being. Finally, thinking that maybe the paramedics could check my PT/INR (blood test to check how thin my blood is from the Coumadin), I relent. Well, that and the fact that I was sweating and dizzy and feeling pretty horrible.

So the paramedics arrive, and much to the delight of my co-workers, they're both attractive guys. Fabulous. I explain that I was in the hospital last week and that the antibiotics I'm on are the reason I feel like a shriveled sausage casing filled with the muck that clogs your shower drain.

The one medic agrees that yes, Flagyl is of the devil and will make you feel awful. The other guy gets to work checking my blood sugar, strapping a blood pressure cuff around my arm, and applying stickers to my legs, arms, stomach, chest, face, scalp, and big toe. I'm mortified as he's sticking these leads to my skin because I'm sweating like crazy. My back is stuck to the chair with sweat. Through my shirt. Super classy.


In the end, it was determined that I was sweaty and disgusting, but I'd live. I started heading back to my classroom as the health assistant came to the determination that she must play matchmaker. 

"What's your number, Dawn? I'm going to give it to that paramedic."
"Come on. I'm going out there," she said as she grabbed a sticky note and a pen.
"Um still no."
"I'm giving him your number," she trailed off as she headed toward the door.
"What is wrong with you?! No!"

I like to think she's a good-hearted person who just suffers from mental illness.

She actually walked out the door toward the ambulance, so I turned on my heel and headed to my class, confident that she didn't actually have my number. I was wrong. So there's a random paramedic in Orlando who probably thinks that the old, fat, sweaty woman who can't handle antibiotics actually asked the health assistant to give him her number.


I thought about throat-punching her, but my school has this thing where they frown upon physical violence in the workplace. Plus, if I crushed her trachea, they'd probably call the ambulance back and well, I think I suffered enough embarrassment for one day.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Riding Down A River Of Questions

My phone has been acting all wonky lately and I figure it's only a matter of time until it completely dies so tonight I downloaded over 4000 pictures to my computer. As I was going through and deleting some of them, I ran across the screen shots I took of this conversation between my kids right before spring break. 

[Handy information:  Savannah worked at a water park called Volcano Bay at the time. Austin works at Publix (a grocery store.) Jackson works at a BBQ place. The hand emoji is Austin raising his hand to ask a stupid question. And lastly, they're all insane.]

In the end, we all did get to go to Volcano Bay and Austin did not, in fact wear a Speedo.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The One With The Pain, The Stupid Doctor, And The Beans

Tuesday night I went to bed with some pain in my abdomen, thinking it was just a little gas. Every time I began to doze, the pain awakened me. By the time my alarm went off in the morning, I was wide awake, in horrible pain, running a fever, and fully aware that I was suffering from another bout of diverticulitis. My sixth bout of diverticulitis.

Still, I like to live in complete denial of medical issues so I waited a few hours, convinced that, through sheer willpower, I could stave off an infection. My rising temperature and my inability to stand up straight said otherwise, so around 1:00, I headed to the hospital. Because I believe the medical care down here will kill you is subpar like I wrote in my blog post HERE, I debated where to go. There's only one hospital in Central Florida that I've visited and have not hated with a burning passion, so one would think that I would go to that hospital. But I did not.

Now, I have a reason for this! A perfectly good reason! And that reason makes total sense! Hear me out! I didn't go to the not-horrible good hospital because the emergency department in Winter Garden doesn't have any rooms; it's just an emergency facility. So I came up with the brilliant plan of going there because I knew they couldn't admit me; they'd have to send me on my merry way with a couple prescriptions for antibiotics! That idea was foolproof! Only I didn't take into account the possibility that they'd transfer me to another Florida Hospital.


A white cell count over 20,000, a fever, and a CT scan showing extensive inflammation earned me a fun little ambulance ride to a larger hospital. The paramedics who transported me were all nice and friendly, but none of them looked like this:

When the hospital sends me a survey about my experience, I have some things to say about that.

A surgeon was called in for consultation. His assessment is that I will continue to have attacks and if I do nothing, it's just a game of Russian roulette until my intestines explode and I need emergency surgery. Although they could have done the surgery while I was in the hospital, the surgeon said I'd be better off waiting 4 to 6 weeks until the infection and inflammation were under control. By waiting, according the surgeon, there's less of a chance of needing a colostomy. I thought that was a great suggestion because it combines two things I love: procrastinating and not pooping in a bag.

I will say that everyone, from the ladies who registered me to the nurses and the CT tech, in the Florida Hospital in Winter Garden was nice. They were concerned with keeping my pain and nausea controlled, and making sure I was comfortable. The doctor was friendly, compassionate, had a sense of humor, and checked on me more than once while I waited.  And I will say that the Florida Hospital in Apopka where I was transferred was nice. My room was big and clean. But seriously, with all the advances in hospitals, you'd think they would've realized the beds suck! You'd think that maybe they could've come up with something a little more comfortable. Like a slab of concrete. Or a bed of nails. But the nurses who cared for me were nice and compassionate. They always asked if there was anything they could do for me.

However . . .

Late Wednesday night they took me for an MRI. I asked why they needed it since the CT scan had shown them what they needed to know. I was told, "Just to get a better look." Okay. As it turns out, I learned the next day, they wanted a better look at a mass they'd seen on my liver in the CT. If anyone had bothered to tell me this, I could've let them know that I was already aware of the mass and had already had an MRI like a year ago, and already knew it was a benign hemangioma. But thanks for bumping up my bill, guys. Appreciate it.

On Thursday evening, I was allowed some clear liquids. The surgeon takes a look at the clear liquid diet sitting mostly untouched on my tray and says that I shouldn't be eating or drinking anything at all for another couple days. Okay. TMI alert - Infection in your colon + strong antibiotics = massive diarrhea. Or well, I guess not massive exactly if you haven't eaten for 2 days, but still. In the middle of the night I had a little um, accident. (It takes a while to get out of bed when you're hooked up to a heart monitor and an IV!) I cleaned up and was changing into a new pair of underwear when a male tech walked in. Yeah. I have super-lucky timing that way. He was concerned my heart monitor had come off, so in the dark, before I had even finished pulling up my undies with one hand because my other hand had a death grip on my IV pole so I didn't fall over from overwhelming dizziness, he grabbed my hospital gown, pulling it out from my neck as he messed around with the leads on my chest. Awkward. He didn't even buy me dinner. 

On Friday, the PA from surgery told me I could try a liquid diet. About 2 seconds after she left my room, someone came in with a tray of spaghetti and meatballs, grapes, and milk. I told her I couldn't eat that because I was on clear liquids. She argued with me that no, I'm on a regular diet. Ummm no. I literally just talked to the doctor! She didn't believe me, but agreed to bring me a new tray with vegetable broth and tea anyway. No sooner did she bring me a new tray than the nurse came in telling me I'm on a regular diet and I'm ready to be discharged.


Then a person, who I can only surmise was Frank Abagnale Jr. impersonating a doctor, came in and told me I couldn't leave until I could eat a regular diet. When I asked him, "Why?" he didn't have an answer. Since he had apparently never encountered someone with diverticulitis, even though it's a very common problem, I enlightened him a bit. "Listen buddy! I have had this SIX times. And EVERY time, I have been discharged from the hospital on a clear liquid or perhaps a bland brat diet. I will not be able to eat SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS for some time!" (There is much debate on what kind of diet can prevent diverticular disease and/or flare-ups of diverticulitis, but everyone agrees that when you're healing from an infection, you need a bland, low-fiber diet for a couple weeks.)

He left and I burst into tears because that's what I do. I missed Clay's band concert on Thursday night and I was stuck there missing his 8th grade dance. I felt awful that my Littles had been left to their own devices for what felt like a week and a half. I felt sorry for myself because being a single mom when you're sick sucks. No one to take care of me. No one to take care of my kids. But I've got to say that Lexi is the awesomest! She took care of Clay and Brooklyn. She bought them dinner and made them go to bed before 2:00AM. She brought me clothes and toiletries and came to visit me every day. I'm so grateful for her help!

Anyway, while I was bawling, the nurse supervisor person came in and talked to me. I expressed my frustration that no one seemed to be on the same page, and I just want to go home. I shouldn't be expected to eat a regular diet in order to leave. I asked why on earth would they bring me spaghetti and meatballs. Why not just plain noodles or mashed potatoes or white rice or a piece of bread? She was sympathetic and said she'd do her best to get me discharged that night. She came back in with some mashed potatoes and said if I tolerated my dinner I could go home. Those were the best mashed potatoes ever!

Want to know what they brought me for dinner?

Corn. And black beans. Because everyone knows how easy it is to digest corn and beans. The perfect food for a person healing from a vicious intestinal infection.


I didn't eat it, of course. I left anyway. (Thank you Austin and Codi for picking me up!) I'm home and the pain is much, much better, however the nausea and dizziness from the evil antibiotics is in full force. And I guess I'll be scheduling surgery for this summer which is good timing since I won't have to take time off from the school at least. But I'm still not looking forward to it for oh, so many reasons, not the least of which is the colonoscopy-like prep.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

I Made Healthline's 2018 List of Best Single Mom Blogs!

I got this email yesterday while I was in the hospital. It definitely brought a little cheer to me!

Hi Dawn, 

Healthline would like to congratulate you on making our list of Best Single Mom Blogs for 2018!  

We carefully selected each blog based on the quality of content, the frequency of posts, and a connection to their community. We feel Because I Said So! And other tales (Mom2My6Pack) specifically earned this accolade by using your wit and humor to build not only a fantastic and authentic parenting resource but a hilarious read as well. 

We’re excited to showcase Because I Said So! And other tales (Mom2My6Pack) on Healthline and help empower users with Single Mom. Keep up your amazing work! 

In health, 

Check out the whole list here!

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