A Shift in Perspective and the Possibility of MOLD

I have always been a fairly introverted person, never one to push my views on anybody or to state my opinion as fact.  But I would quietly disagree with certain perspectives or think to myself that certain strategies were over-the-top or just plain ridiculous.

Over time, my views about diet and food have certainly changed.  I had horrible cystic acne as a teen and young adult but I felt like I was healthy because I was a very fit athlete.  I could eat whatever I wanted and stay fit.  I probably was more likely to eat the non-fat yet sugary foods.  Now it is my perspective that the sugars and artificial ingredients in many of the foods I ate contributed to my acne problem (and they have likely at least contributed to my current health problems). I ended up taking antibiotics for a while to reduce the acne but, even these days at age 39, if I eat poorly I will get a little break-out.  Over time, the small health problems kind of added up.  In college, I was  diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia.  As a newlywed in graduate school, although I was still really fit, I had gallstones and went through surgery to remove my gallbladder.  Then, after giving birth to my two kids, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is autoimmune hypothyroidism.  Now, I really have to make certain choices when it comes to the food I eat.  I’m not the best at it but I try.

So, while I have (most of my life) felt fairly healthy, I still had these little health incidents going on that were likely pointing to a bigger problem.  My doctor would not test me for the antibodies related to Hashimoto’s even though I asked him on at least three occasions, my identical twin sister had been diagnosed with it, and my TSH was slightly elevated.  He told me it was more-likely lab error or related to my non-allergic rhinitis, allergies (which I was never known to have), or just being a busy mom of two young children while working full time.  He even added “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” to my file without mentioning that to me at all.  (Unfortunately, CFS has long been associated with being more of a mental health issue but I think research is disproving that).  I finally had the nurse practitioner test me and I was positive (had elevated antibodies), which indicated Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  I changed doctors right away and asked my new doctor if she could help me.  The first question is always, “are you depressed?”  Sure, it may look that way when you’re feeling like crap, nobody believes you, your doctor won’t test you, and you can’t hold back tears when you ask the new doctor if she can do something about it!  I was not bedridden and I did not look unhealthy but I was overly exhausted and I could no longer identify with the tired, cranky person I was becoming.  Why would we not be proactive in making sure that my problems didn’t get worse??  I think that’s part of the problem with the medical system today.  That experience was a bit of a foreshadowing of what I would go through with my daughter, but fighting for my daughter has been even more difficult.

Before my thyroid issues and my daughter’s illnesses, I had blind faith in mainstream medicine.  I did not question the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies or medical groups and their tendencies to be profit-driven businesses.  It did not concern me and was not even a thought in my mind.  I know there are many fabulous doctors and healthcare providers out there and they are probably fairly limited in who they work for and how they must do business as directed by the insurance companies.  It doesn’t seem right but I suppose that’s just the way it is.  At least I know I can choose to go a different route when it comes to who is providing the care, especially when specialized care is needed.  I don’t know why–maybe it’s just naivete–but I initially did not know I could go to a different ER to get a second opinion and I didn’t realize I could search out a healthcare provider out-of-network and pay out-of-pocket.  I wish the policies were different, but paying out-of-pocket (and going into more and more credit card debt) to receive specialized care for my daughter has made all the difference and it has definitely been the right choice for us.   I trust a lot more now in functional medicine, integrative medicine, and holistic medicine and I do not scoff at alternative strategies and remedies like I may have in the past.  I do my research of course and I don’t believe everything I read on the internet but I am also more open-minded.

I just have to accept that not everybody else will have this perspective.  My life experience thus far has brought me to my current way of thinking and everybody’s life experience is different so we will always have the “Pro-Vaxxers vs Anti-Vaxxers” (another plight for which I have become more sensitive and open-minded), the “Lymies” and the “Pandas” vs the deniers.  If we had not gone through this, I might be on the other side of argument or, at the least, skeptical.

I think the phrase that I’ve seen about Lyme disease sums it up perfectly:  “You won’t get it till you get it.”

MOLD??

This brings me to our current predicament.  My daughter’s specialist had requested for months that we test our house for mold.  There was a mail-order test that would cost a few hundred dollars but, between my husband discouraging me and going further into debt, I kept putting it off.  Plus I was just kind of in denial even though we had a previous leak from the master bath into the kitchen ceiling and cupboards, our dishwasher leaked and lifted the wood floors, and we have four dogs so there are a few areas that have been slightly affected by repeated dog pee.  My husband fixed the leak, we aired out the wood floors, and we always clean up after the dogs but nothing was ever fully inspected or fixed.  So, my daughter’s specialist decided to order some blood work to determine if she might have been exposed.  The reason for testing is that my daughter did test positive for MARCoNS, she becomes congested with post-nasal drip fairly frequently, has frequent bloody noses, and she still has some lingering symptoms after being on treatment for nearly 8 months.  My son (without PANDAS and Lyme) also has frequent bloody noses and, for about two years, he has been having periodic severe pain in his eye(s) accompanied by nausea and vomiting (which we are beginning to suspect are migraines).  He also has a history of asthmatic bronchitis, RSV, and hay fever (which he had before we moved into this house). I would never naturally think to myself that these issues could be related to or exacerbated by mold.  My daughter’s test results came back and she has elevated IgG levels to Stachybotrys (aka the nefarious black mold), plus moderate IgE levels to Cladosporium, which indicates an allergy response to that specific mold.  These are important because, for a person suffering from immune issues (such as Lyme and PANDAS and even asthma and allergies), mold can make matters worse and impede the healing process.

We own our home and we would like to stay here so our options are to test the house, have it remediated, and replace the damaged areas (otherwise sell the house, but having to disclose that we might have a mold problem). Depending on the damage, it can cost thousands to remediate and tens of thousands to replace everything.  I have even heard from others that they walked away from their homes and any porous contents (e.g. clothing, books, mattresses, furniture) entirely.  If that’s not enough to stress people out (on top of all the other crap), I don’t know what is!   Seeing as we are already in debt, we had to delay the mold inspection because he only takes cash (we are opting for the entire house inspection with indoor/outdoor air quality inspection as well for $500.00).  That will be done in a couple of weeks.  We drive up north to see my daughter’s specialist next week.  Then we will talk about refinancing the house (we are lucky to have a decent amount of equity) but with our credit card debt I’m not sure how optimal our credit will be. I just hope we can pull it all off and stay in our home!

For more information on mold, there is a free documentary at moldymovie.com.

I just feel like it never ends and it does stress me out and depress me but life goes on.  We are lucky to be at the point in which we know what’s going on and now we just have to get to work on fixing it!  After all, health is the greatest gift we can ask for.

Keeping up with Awareness

I am excited to say that Dorothy Leland from Lymedisease.org has published a commentary I made on her website.  Please take a look!

https://www.lymedisease.org/jessie-bedrinana/

tiny ticks california

We are receiving some more test results for my daughter after she had to sit for blood draws three days in a row.  Good thing she’s so brave!  We will be making a trip up to San Francisco to see her specialist in July.  Once we pull it all together, I will give an update.

 

 

LymeLight Fundraiser and LYME and PANDAS SLIDESHOW

To donate to LymeLight for our fundraiser please click on this link:  https://goo.gl/rvZyib

I finally had the chance to put together a slideshow of my daughter’s journey with Lyme and PANDAS.  With the visuals, it really gives you a good idea of what she has had to deal with.  I hope you will take the time to watch it and share it!

http://www.kizoa.com/Movie-Video-Slideshow-Maker/d113437837kP496489927o2l1/sophie-lyme-disease

On another note, the documentary about PANDAS/PANS called, “My Kid is Not Crazy: A Search for Hope in the Face of Misdiagnosis,” is now available for sale for $19.99 or for rent on Vimeo for $3.99 (48 hours) at their website:  https://mykidisnotcrazy.com/watch-2 .

I think it would be a good video to watch for parents, healthcare professionals, and educators alike.

 

 

 

WAR OF THE WORLDS

I have been so interested in the mechanism of my daughter’s illnesses that I find any books on the topics to be extremely intriguing.  For reviews of books on Lyme Disease, PANDAS/PANS, and Autoimmune Disease click here.  My daughter’s pediatrician (who has now left to start her own practice elsewhere) recommended the book “Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We ‘Catch’ Mental Illness” by Harriet A. Washington.  Another book that took my interest was “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan.

“Infectious Madness” starts with a passage that hooks you.  I had no idea of the facts that she presents and I wonder how many people actually do.  She states, “The earth alone holds five million times more microbes than there are suns in the universe.  It is home to five nonillion infinitesimal beings–that’s a 5 followed by 30 zeros.”  Did you know that five million bacteria and fifty million viruses are present in every teaspoonful of sea water?  It makes you wanna go for a swim in the ocean, right?  Most astonishing, however, is the fact that MICROBES DO NOT JUST INFECT US, “THEY ARE US,” explains Washington.  WE, AS HUMANS, HARBOR MORE MICROBES THAN HUMAN CELLS. Our intestines alone are home to one hundred trillion viruses, fungi, protozoans, and–mostly–bacteria.  “THESE SINGLE-CELLED GUESTS OUTNUMBER YOUR CELLS TEN TO ONE”  Were you aware of that?

Washington goes on to explain how fetal exposure to infection has a correlation with one’s psychiatric fate.  There is a “seasonal” pattern in that children born in the winter months (in which infection is more rampant) have a higher likelihood of developing Schizophrenia or MS later in life.  She describes the connection between Syphilis and Pareses, infection and Schizophrenia, Strep and PANDAS, and even retroviruses and Multiple Sclerosis.  In the author’s search for a causal connection between infection and mental illness, she came across historical evidence.  Patients with syphilis once filled one in every five beds in the mental asylums of New York City.  When scientists discovered that penicillin cured syphilis, they also discovered a cure for the common mental disease of paresis. For those who struggled long with the illness, however, some of the effects were irreversible. Why is it so hard for doctors today to believe that infection and microbial imbalance can cause chronic physical and mental symptoms?  It is a fact that microbes can trigger cancer (e.g. HPV- human papillomavirus); hepatitis (e.g. hepatitis C virus); ulcers (e.g. H. Pylori bacteria); and heart attacks (e.g. Chlamydophila pneumoniae bateria).  Many of my daughter’s symptoms looked like SLE (Systemic Lupus), which is the reason she was misdiagnosed and, in my humble opinion, if we had not caught the lyme and co-infections, she would have continued on the path to severe, chronic autoimmune disease.  And that would be because the doctors told us she had a psychological condition called “Somatoform Disordrer” and the only treatment options were SSRI’s, psychological counseling, and ignoring her complaints.

Scientists are making connections between autoimmune diseases and infections.  For example, an article in the Journal of Translational Immunology describes “The Role of Infections in Autoimmune Disease.”  Another example is in The British Journal of Medical Practitioners titled, “Bacterial Infections and the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Conditions.”  In fact, if you google “infection and autoimmune disease,” tons of health war of the worldsarticles will appear such as these from “Science Daily” and “Everyday Health.”  It’s a real-life War of the Worlds–humans versus microbes.  The ironic parallel is that in the book, “War of the Worlds,” by H.G. Wells, it is the earth’s microbes–those which are of little harm to us and likely a part of our being–that kill the martians in the end.

This relationship with microbes is important to human life. It is one reason why probiotics and herbal microbial balancers are so important.  We need to fight the “bad” bacteria with the “good” bacteria.  We also need to re-balance the immune system instead of suppressing it to address the symptoms.  To do this, doctors need to think out of the box.  My daughter’s current long-term treatment plan includes 2 different antibiotics, 1 anti-fungal, 1 anti-parasitic, 1 anti-inflammatory, 2 different probiotics, 3 different herbal tinctures, and 4 different vitamins/supplements.  This is the plan that is, so far, keeping her well and hopefully curing her.  She is doing much better but still has some complaints so her specialist changes things up as needed.

It is interesting to note that modern medicine does have in practice the procedure of “Fecal Transplantation.”    Fecal transplantation (or bacteriotherapy) is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract for the purpose of treating recurrent C. difficile colitis.  I do believe it is being used for other diagnoses as well and it is working!

A fantastic film to watch is the documentary, “Life on Us: A Microscopic Safari,” which you can find on Amazon Prime and on Youtube.  “Just like planet Earth, our body is composed of diverse landscapes and habitats for a surprising array of wildlife. ‘Life On Us’ offers a unique perspective, encountering the creatures that live, thrive, compete, feed, breed, are born or die on or in our bodies.”  This film also discusses fecal transplantation and a host of other topics related to bacteria and chronic illness.

Moving on, to the book by Susannah Cahalan, “Brain on Fire.”  The author was an up-and-coming reporter at the New York Post whose world spiraled out of control leading to her waking up one morning in a hospital room with no memory of how she got there, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak.  It was 2009 and she almost slipped into the darkness of being misdiagnosed with a debilitating and progressive mental illness that was, in reality, caused by an over-active autoimmune response in the brain which had been in response to an infection.  It was fortunate for her that Dr. Souhel Najjar joined the team and tested her and diagnosed her with Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis.  Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is a disease occurring when antibodies produced by the body’s own immune system attack NMDA receptors in the brain. NMDA receptors are proteins that control electrical impulses in the brain. Their functions are critical for judgement, perception of reality, human interaction, the formation and retrieval of memory, and the control of unconscious activities (such as breathing, swallowing, etc), also known as autonomic functions.

I do give credit to the doctors at the children’s hospital for actually testing my daughter for this condition when she was hospitalized.  It was negative of course.   I am dismayed, however, that they did not give the same credence to the Cunningham Panel, which tests for antibodies in the brain as a  response to infection, which causes PANDAS/PANS.  She had a blaring strep infection and ASO titers that continued to go up even with treatment. Six months later, my daughter tested positive on that test.  I look at Susannah’s story as a reflection of what these kids with PANDAS/PANS are going through because the mechanism of the disorder is the same. (Some kids with PANDAS/PANS are actually diagnosed with having post-infectious encephalitis and many wonder if that is actually the correct term for the disorder.  Plus insurance covers treatment for encephalitis but not necessarily for PANDAS/PANS).

An exciting thing about this book is that it is soon to be a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz.  Brain on Firethe movie, will be in theaters this year!

In closing, I have to link to this story that my dad has told me a few times since I was young.  I feel like it is a good analogy of what goes on in the medical community when their belief systems are challenged.  Take the handle off the pump!!

HOT OFF THE PRESS!!

I’m so excited to announce that our local newspaper, “The Signal,” requested to do a story about our race to bring awareness to Lyme and PANDAS and raise funds for LymeLight!  I had written an email to the paper asking for a quote on the price to put our fundraiser into the paper and Signal Staff Writer, Christina Cox, got back to me and said she actually wanted to do a story on us!  She interviewed us in person and I gave her tons of details.  I feel like she pulled it all together pretty well.  Here is a picture of the newspaper article.  Below that I will post a link to the online story which has a link to the fundraiser!Signal Lyme article cropped

Click here for The Signal online article.

You can also go directly to the fundraiser by clicking here:  https://goo.gl/rvZyib

Please consider donating!  Even $5 can make a difference!

THANK YOU!!

 

 

 

 

 

Fundraising for Lyme and PANDAS

Wow!  It sure has been a while since I have posted!  I went back to work in January and my daughter went back to school (woo-hoo)!  I can’t believe it’s already April but life happens.  Work keeps me very busy and my daughter still takes some coaxing to get up and going in the morning and to take her long list of medicine and supplements.  I’m so proud of her because, while she does complain, she still just does it and she has been doing better.  She even won a scholastic award for Social Studies!  We just came back from vacation in Lake Tahoe and she was able to get up on the lift (with lots of coaxing) and go down one run on her snowboard!  I find both of these achievements to be huge victories!!  S snowboarding

Another thing keeping me busy is fundraising.  I contacted LymeLight and I am now collaborating with them to raise money.  My twin sister and I are running a marathon on May 28, 2017and collecting donations that will go straight to raising funds for families who cannot afford treatment as well as to Lyme Disease awareness.  It will also bring awareness to PANDAS indirectly because it is part of our story.  I will be handing out brochures to some businesses but I’m also asking individuals to donate what they can (even $5.00).  Below is the text of my daughter’s story in a nutshell and I will also attach it in a file.  This way, if anybody is willing to go above and beyond and knows of a business that will support the cause, you can print the story and post it at the business site.

Click here for the file:  S fundraiser lyme pandas story

Thanks in advance to everyone giving their time and generosity to read this and to donate!

Please take a few minutes to read this story as it might help you or a loved one from months or even years of pain and suffering.

My daughter was a happy, healthy 9-year-old in the summer of 2015. She made the junior lifeguard team and spent the season swimming and being active all day. Our family camped and hiked all summer long in and around Santa Clarita and Central California. My daughter even had the chance to ride her favorite horse in the Quigley Canyon Open Space on several occasions.

School started up again in August and my daughter was excited to return to see her friends and discover the identity of her 4th-grade teacher. She was a shy but good student and she loved school.

In early September of 2015, everything changed. My daughter had mild flu-like symptoms then started to complain about her knee hurting and feeling twisted to the point that she limped. As time went on, pain migrated around every joint in her body from her toes to her jaw. At times it hurt so badly that she screamed and cried uncontrollably. She also felt weak, fatigued, and had a range of other symptoms such as shooting/stinging pain around her body, headaches, dizziness, stomach aches, and periods of feeling like she could not breathe. The symptoms interfered with school and play. Initially her pediatrician told us it was likely growing pains or maybe psychological but the symptoms continued so he soon ordered blood work. That was the first sign of something wrong. Her ANA levels (anti-nuclear antibodies) were highly elevated, which is a sign of possible autoimmune disease (in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells).

In November of 2015, my daughter came down with strep throat and was given antibiotics. Her symptoms worsened to the point that some of her joints were swelling and, as the pain migrated, it impeded her from walking or raising her arms for long periods of time. One day she woke up with a red itchy rash on the back of her neck and behind her ears. Hours later it had raised into hives and begun migrating randomly around her body. Over the next 3 days we went back to her pediatrician and two different ERs but nothing stopped the hives. Doctors were confident her symptoms were not an allergic reaction to the medicine but nobody knew what was going on or what to do about it. Her pediatrician prescribed Prednisone, which finally started to clear the hives but that was discontinued when a whole new set of symptoms began. My daughter was acting loopy and drunk-like. Her head felt heavy and she seemed unable to control an urge to make funny sounds. She was howling like a wolf, cackling like a witch, and singing in gibberish while shaking her head back and forth. She seemed enraged and spoke to me switching between a deep guttural voice and a sweet little girl voice. Her pediatrician claimed this to be “hyperactivity,” which might be a result of the steroids. He was ready to send her back to school but I, as her mother, knew something was horribly wrong.

The rheumatologist took us in that day because she heard the worry in my voice and she was deeply concerned about the symptoms. That night she had my daughter admitted to the children’s hospital. After many tests, to include specialist exams, blood draws, EEG, ECG, chest x-ray, MRI and Lumbar Puncture, there was no real answer as to what was happening. After 5 nights, she left the hospital with a simple diagnosis of “arthralgia” (meaning joint pain) and medicine to help with inflammation and itching. At this point, she had also developed dermatographia, a bizarre condition in which one can scratch words or pictures onto the skin and it raises into a welt/hive.

Her symptoms continued and she was referred by her pediatrician back to the rheumatologist. In January of 2016, after more testing, my daughter was diagnosed with SLE (Systemic Lupus), an autoimmune disease that is fairly rare in children. The doctor prescribed strong immunosuppressants to stop the body from attacking itself.

The symptoms continued and my daughter’s neuropsychiatric issues were overwhelming her. She had separation anxiety, low frustration tolerance, emotional lability, emotional regression (e.g. temper tantrums, baby talk), intrusive thoughts (OCD), and rage. She would cry inconsolably for long periods of time without any reason, she head-butted me and attacked her younger brother like a wild animal, and she would repeat through closed lips, “I’m gonna die.” The pain in her arms and legs was consistently at a level of 6 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 and she was experiencing days at a time in which she could not bear weight and walk because the pain in her feet and legs was so excruciating. After 9 weeks on the immunosuppressants, the rheumatologist had her re-admitted to the children’s hospital. This was a 7-night stay and the tests and exams still did not reveal what was going on. The specialists declared that my daughter did not have Lupus (she did not have specific blood markers for this) so they stopped all medications. As of March, 2016, they instead claimed that she had Somatoform Disorder (a psychological disorder in which an internal conflict tricks the body into feeling pain). They explained away the now extremely elevated ANA levels, the other abnormal blood work, and simply ignored her recent medical history (or at least failed to put two and two together).

My daughter’s pediatrician was unwilling to do anything more for her because the issue was “psychological” and he referred her to a psychiatrist. The children’s hospital refused to see her and her original rheumatologist felt conflicted because of the disagreement with the diagnosis and she would no longer see her either. We felt so alone and spent the next months just dealing with the symptoms.

It was May of 2016 when a friend sent me a link to an interview of Alli Hilfiger discussing her new book about her struggle since childhood with Lyme Disease. It rang so many bells it had me up and running to research as much as I could right away. We found an LLMD (Lyme Literate MD) and did some testing. We also found a new pediatrician who was willing to test for a diagnosis that one of the specialists had mentioned back in December—P.A.N.D.A.S. (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep). We paid out-of-pocket for everything. In June of 2016 both tests came back positive! A definitive diagnosis was made for both Lyme Disease and P.A.N.D.A.S. in July of 2016 after a 10-month-long struggle in the fight for my daughter’s life.

The battle is not over. Both diagnoses are controversial and doctors disagree on how to treat them. Even with treatment it is a long road. In the meantime, my daughter’s pain and anxiety led to me taking FMLA leave from my full time job while she went on home hospital study for a semester of school. We found a nurse practitioner who is an expert in both Lyme Disease and P.A.N.D.A.S. and began a long-term treatment regimen. She ran more tests and found that my daughter also has multiple co-infections associated with Lyme, which explains her long list of symptoms.

In January of 2017, I went back to work and my daughter went back to school. I always fear speaking too soon but it is now spring and she is doing much better on her continuing treatment plan 19 months after her mysterious symptoms began. (Many people do not detect a tick and my daughter is one of them). We don’t know what the future holds but we can only live one day at a time…

On May 28th, 2017, my twin sister and I are running the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon to raise awareness of Lyme Disease and P.A.N.D.A.S and to raise funds for the LymeLight Foundation, which helps families pay for treatment (which is typically not covered by insurance due to the controversial nature of the disease and its treatment). To donate, please go to: https://goo.gl/rvZyib

For more information on Lyme Disease and P.A.N.D.A.S. go to www.jessiebweb.wordpress.com

Lyme Fundraiser story in PDF format:

S fundraiser lyme pandas story