I’m Shaking at My Knees.

So I did a big thing. Well maybe not so big to you but to me equivalent to climbing a mountain…..

I made this new friend in my Physiology class this year and she is like #FriendGoals. This girl let me just tell you, I look at her and think “Um hello yes, why haven’t you been around my entire life? Why are we just now meeting?!?!” Her name is Julia. And when I say she is goals I don’t just mean like on the outside but side note, this does apply to her too because she is gorgeous, has the best style, and eyebrows I envy (I’ve got a thing for eyebrows and Jules has some great eyebrows!) but I mean on the inside too. She is strong in her faith, she knows who she is, and what she deserves, and well she just has her life together. (She might not agree or see herself as all of these things but when I think of Julia this is what I see.) She’s just #FriendGoals, okay?!?

Any-who when my new Physio BFF asked me if I wanted to do the Drumstick Dash with her (a 5-K on the day of Thanksgiving) I couldn’t say no, because well she’s my new friend, and friends do these types of things with each other…..right?

I’ve never explained the long story to Julia about my accident, I mention it in bits and pieces but I’ve never given her the real low down, low down. So yeah, I did a big thing, and now I am having some real big fears….

-One being that I haven’t ran an actual 5-K since my accident

-Two being that the words ‘Running’ and ‘Merideth’ don’t really go well together anymore. They used to, but not anymore.

-Three being that this Drumstick Dash is in 10 days…..10 DAYS PEOPLE!

Now to most this isn’t a big deal what’s 2+ miles anyway? That’s easy-peasy, that’s a stroll through the neighborhood, that’s a walk through the park! But to me….to me that is a MARATHON. That is a MOUNTAIN. That is HORROR, and FEAR, and OH MY LANTA WHAT DID I AGREE TO????

Where was my brain at when I said “sure!” like it was nothing? CLEARLY IT WASN’T LISTENING RIGHT! Instead did I hear “Do you want to go to target?” Because the answer to that is “sure!”, but to RUNNING, and more than to the mailbox? The answer to that should have been, ‘I’d rather eat the Thanksgiving pie for breakfast’.

So here I am 10 days our from what could potentially be my last day on earth. Okay you’re right that was a little dramatic but bear with me.

I grew up running. In fact I probably came running out of my mother’s womb the day I was born. I am a ‘Need-For-Speed’ kind of girl. I ran 5-K’s in elementary school kids, like we are talking 4th grade Mer, she ran 5-k’s, and no that is not an exaggeration that is an actual fact. My mom was the leader of the ‘Running Club’ in elementary school. I was a runner y’all, I was legit. I used to run for fun. And not around the playground, but like miles, FOR FUN.

And then my accident happened.

Running was no longer fun anymore. Running was hard. For a while Running was IMPOSSIBLE. I could barely walk to the mailbox. I could not run.

I am capable of running now. But I have yet to run a distance farther than a mile since my accident. And it’s not a breezy mile either. It’s a ‘oh crap why did I think this was a good idea’ mile. It’s a ‘my lungs are on fire, my legs are jell-o, I can see the light, I am going to the light’ mile. And it is not the 7.5 minute mile I once had, oh no it is a 15 minute mile, ON A GOOD DAY.

So somebody PLEASE for the love of all things good and holy PLEASE tell me why I said ‘sure!’???

There are not many things in life anymore in which I compare myself to my healthy peers. I am at a point where I am able to do just about anything my peers are able to do.

Except…..RUNNING.

One of the very few things I capability wise do not compare to my peers, I agreed to do.

Now I told myself this morning when I woke up and realized the ‘Dash’ was 10 days away that I needed to be in the gym everyday for the next 10 days or else I either won’t make it to the finish line, or I will make it there and then have a heart attack. I know very well I will not go to the gym every day for the next 10 days. I might go 3 out of the next 10 days and if I’m feeling extra motivated maybe 5 of the next 10 days.

See the funny thing is I’ve been speaking to a lot of college and graduate lecture classes recently on POTS. I usually tell my story and then do an information portion on POTS. Depending on the level of the class I grasp the extent of the medical knowledge and terminology I will use. If it’s a freshman lecture I try to stick to the basics, to explain things in the easiest of ways. However if it’s a graduate class I know I can use more medical terminology and describe things more in depth. Last week I was speaking to a class of primarily freshmen and sophomores. When I’m done speaking i always open up the floor to questions. I got a question I have yet to receive before:

“Do you have to maintain a certain lifestyle in terms of activeness with a diagnosis of POTS?” it was somewhere along those lines. – Basically she asked if I need to be more active in order to stay healthy while living with POTS.

I clenched my teeth, and bit my tongue. I thought of ways to avoid answering the question but still managing to provide her with an answer that would seem to satisfy her question, while also continuing to make me look like a model POTS patient.

And then I opened my mouth and said: “I should, but I don’t.” I went on to explain that in order for patients with POTS to experience the maximum improvement in symptoms and overall well-being it is extremely important they maintain an active lifestyle. Exercising is key to improvement. The less a POTS patient exercises the more physically drained they are going to feel. I explained that it is difficult for POTS patients to exercise because they often feel more fatigued as a result of it or have a harder time doing the activities but that in the long run they are more likely to have an increased stamina and improvement in their overall wellbeing. I then looked into the audience and said, ‘this is an area in my recovery/treatment that I don’t do so well at’, I embarrassingly grinned while I told them that maybe every other month or two I run a mile, and that I tell myself I don’t need to exercise because I lift patients and pull heavy things at work, and then I laughed and told them that really isn’t entirely true because I often leave the heavy lifting to the firefighters on both sides of me, and that with the push of a button I can load my patient into the ambulance all by myself without having to lift a thing.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t take care of myself in all aspects of my treatment. I excel in some areas and am a model POTS patient in some, such as getting adequate rest, and drinking lots of water. But I fail miserably in others, like staying physically active.

We can’t all be model patients, and I know that. I work with the way below model patients everyday, and I usually commend myself for taking good care of myself so that I don’t end up like many of my patients, who for a handful of reasons have not taken the proper care they need to for themselves. I don’t need to be a model patient, but I do need to do better, I should want to do better. I should feel a drive to take better care of myself, so that I am in return able to provide my absolute best care to my patients.

I don’t run, or at least I haven’t run in a long time, but maybe now is the time. Maybe my spur of the moment ‘sure!’ was the universe nudging me in the direction of running, so that I can better myself.

Believe me, I want to love running like I used to, to have it as a weapon to release any emotions I choose. I miss being able to run for miles and miles in whatever direction I choose.

Julia doesn’t know all of the hardships that have brought me to this day. But at the same time I don’t know hers. She might not know all the emotion that crossing the finish line will hold, all the work that has gone into making it possible for me to even run, or in my situation slow jog. But that’s okay. Not everybody has to know, this is my journey, this is my bettering of myself.

I’m thankful for my new friend, and her encouragement to help me do something that may have me shaking at my knees, but what ultimately will mean a better me.

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It Wasn’t a Christmas (Halloween) Miracle.

There are a lot of inconvenient things in life: flat tires, the Flu, traffic, rain, paying rent, the list goes on, oh AND living your life out of pill bottles.

Whoever created the magical concept of medication is a genius. Without it I would be confined to my bed. However, I still hold a grudge to the fact that in order for the medications to work I must take them every day, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

For 2,125 days (approx.) I have lived out of pill bottles. And we aren’t talking take one pill and move on with my day, no, we are talking a handful of pills everyday.

I’ve found routine in it now, just like getting dressed in the morning, I must also take my medication. However, there is still the rare occasion in which I will forget, kind of like the days you walk out of the house and forget your keys. It’s an inconvenience, like getting a flat tire, or the Flu, or being stuck in traffic.

I did this the other day. Halfway to where I was going I realized I had forgotten to take my medication, and I didn’t bring them with me. I made the decision to not turn around. I knew I was going to be gone all day, but I told myself that I would be okay, that I had skipped taking them in the past before and I was fine, this wouldn’t be any different.

And it was true, I was fine.

For a while.

In fact I was fine for so long I started to think that maybe it was a Christmas (Halloween) Miracle. That somehow my brain had healed itself after 5 years. I tried not to think about the possibility for long because I didn’t want to jinx it, but as the hours went by, and I felt fine, I started to wonder more.

And then 5 o’clock hit.

I had been awake and functioning for 12 hours now without the medication when the brain fog started to creep around. Brain Fog is a very strange symptom for those that have never experienced it before. It’s one of the most common symptoms POTS patients experience, and I myself have had my fair share of it over the years. The best way I can describe it is confusion. When it happens I am aware that I am doing something, for example walking, however its hard for my brain to connect the pieces, where I am walking to, why I am walking there, etc. I complete the task, walk where I need to, and do what I need to, but it’s difficult for my brain to process the fact that I am actually doing it. It’s a feeling of confusion.

The brain fog creeped in and I realized that I was no longer fine, I mean I was FINE, I wasn’t dying, but I also wasn’t normal. I could feel the POTS, the symptoms I had once struggled with for so long, and worked so hard to make non-existent, they were creeping back. And not because my POTS was flaring, or because my treatment plan had stopped working, but because I made a choice. I chose to not turn back around. I chose to attempt to ignore something that has been un-ignorable for the last five years.

As I stood in the grocery store staring at all the different styles of canned tomatoes for ten minutes searching for ‘tomato paste’ only to realize I had been staring at it and reading it the entire time right in front of my eyes, I realized that it was not a Christmas (Halloween) Miracle. I had not been miraculously healed. The POTS had not up and left my body somehow. I read through my grocery list five more times before I actually put the pieces together and realized I had everything I needed. I checked out and thought to myself, ‘Merideth, how stubborn are you???’ ‘Did you honestly think a Christmas (Halloween) Miracle would happen 5 years later, and you would magically wake up one day healed???’

My mom was right, she always is.

She told me to turn around that morning, but I told her I would be fine. I rolled my eyes through my phone screen and called her ‘overbearing’ in my head. But she was right, she always is.

I don’t know how many times it will take me to learn this lesson. I am not sure why I repeatedly fall into this exact situation and make the same decision. I choose my plans over my health every time, as if they are more important, as if I am invincible. I am not invincible.

Maybe it’s that I’ve forgotten the pain, I mean I’m sure it is, because that’s the only logical answer. I must forget that even though I was fine for 12 hours, that for the next 12+ hours I’m going to pay for the choice I made.

I am going to regret not turning around.

I woke up the next morning as if everything was back to the way it had been. As if the day before I didn’t stumble aimlessly around the grocery store, or feel as if my brain was going to somehow just fall out of my ear. But it was too good to be true, I should have known I was ultimately going to pay for the decision I had made.

I was sitting in my lab class and I felt the headache begin to form, the ones I used to experience on a daily basis four years ago. The kind that make you feel as if your brain is non-existent because it just hurts to even think about walking. And then as I sat in lecture the nausea I had forgotten the feeling of, reappeared like an old friend. The one that used to accompany me daily four years ago. And not the upset stomach kind, but the kind where your stomach feels completely empty, yet somehow you feel as if you simultaneously are going to vomit everywhere. And as I walked to my friends car I struggled to keep up, because my legs were too weak.

I crawled in bed and wanted to hide under my pillows forever. I lied and told my mom I had a headache from the change in weather. I couldn’t tell her she was right, that I should have turned around the day before. I laid in my bed instead and felt a sense of guilt, and frustration.

Guilty because I knew the moment I realized I forgot to take my medication that I should have turned around. I knew what the right answer was, but I didn’t choose it because it would have been inconvenient. I would have been late to where I was going. I told myself I would be fine. Frustration because I have to live out of pill bottles. Because the Christmas(Halloween) Miracle didn’t happen. When I was younger I used to pray every night that I would wake up and I would be healed. I eventually realized that after three years of praying for healing, that it wasn’t going to happen and I needed to suck it up and learn to deal with it, but I still was frustrated because I thought maybe just maybe it would happen.

I am not healed. The POTS is still there. I still must live out of pill bottles.

It’s inconvenient. The whole situation is inconvenient. There is nothing convenient about not being able to maintain your health and wellbeing on your own. Heck, while we are on the topic of inconvenient things, let me hit you with a big one, falling 10 ft head first onto a solid ground, thats REALLY inconvenient.

The only convenient situation here is that I am not dead, and while I throw my pity party for myself in my bed, I can’t exactly get myself to realize the convenient things in the moment.

There was no miracle the other day. I knew all along there wouldn’t be, but I told myself otherwise.

The fact of the matter is that I have POTS, I still have POTS 5 years later. I live out of pill bottles, and will continue to live out of pill bottles. It’s inconvenient. I don’t know if this will ever change. For every year I get farther out from my accident, the likelihood of me healing increases a tiny bit sure, but not as much as the chances of me having to live with this for the rest of my life increase.

I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t healing, because I AM healing, but slowly, so slowly that it’s basically impossible to understand. Which brings me back to the day I was diagnosed, and the only words that followed after the diagnosis “this is not a sprint, this is a marathon, this is not going to take months to improve, this is going to take years, many many years”.

So maybe the other day when I didn’t turn around, when I forgot the feelings of the payback that would occur, maybe I was just testing the waters. I mean if you ask me it’s been many years. How many years was he talking about when he said many? I’m ready to get this show on the road! But I must be patient, I must learn to pick my health over my plans, which I usually do a great job at, except for the rare occasion in which I’ve decided I am somehow deserving of a Christmas(Halloween) Miracle.

It’s inconvenient to live out of pill bottles, but it’s more convenient than dying, and I do not want to die.

I have this naive idea that the day it is determined I no longer need to live out of pill bottles that I will just wake up, stop taking them, and move on with my life. But this too is another one of those stubborn thoughts. It won’t work that way. The day that I no longer need the medication to survive will be a day full of difficult withdrawal. It will be an entirely new inconvenience right before my eyes. It will be a day, and many months, and many years of training may body once again how to care for itself on its own, without the extra support. It will be inconvenient, because taking the pills would have been easier, and I’m not ready for that yet.

I didn’t get a Christmas(Halloween) Miracle, I got a slap in the face from reality. I got a ‘told ya so’ from my mom, (or at least I will within the next hour after she reads this). I got the ‘oh hey remember me’ from the POTS that still lies inside me.

And thats okay, for now, until I forget all of these things, and somehow stubbornly manage to put myself through it all again. Because that’s what it’s like 5 years out from something terrible, you hold onto the tiny tiny bit of hope you have left for improvement, and you pull it out and use it as an excuse when you’re too foolish to admit you need to turn around, to own up to the fact that you live an inconvenient life but must take the necessary steps to make it convenient anyways.

Maybe now that this is in writing I won’t forget. Maybe when I think for a second to keep going, I will remember this post, and I will turn around.

Probably to, because I’m stubborn, but it’s worth a try.

And maybe if it doesn’t remind me to turn around, it will remind you.

 

The Medical System Failed Me, and I Work in it Now. 

I am the product of a failed medical system. The process that was designed to treat those that were ill, allowed me to deteriorate for six months after suffering from a Traumatic Brain Injury, before it began to heal me. I work in a failed medical system now.

You are probably thinking I am crazy, or that my wording is wrong, maybe I meant to say ‘imperfect’, and while that too is a good word to describe the medical system that I was treated in, the word failed also works, because at the end of the day when you lay it all out on the table and you look at it, truly look in depth at all the little bits and pieces, you will see that I was indeed failed by the medical system. Allow me to explain with the cold hard facts, not the opinions, or the emotions involved, just the facts. Let’s walk through this together and then let’s talk about why it happened, and how we can fix it. Not to point fingers, or blame, but to learn, because that’s really what mistakes and failures are all about, how we learn and grow from them.

October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month and one of the greatest ways to raise awareness is by learning from ways in which things went wrong. Learning the small pieces that we once before might have missed. Opening our eyes wider, and becoming more aware, so that next time we are better prepared. So that next time there is no six months of deterioration.

December 7, 2012-

  • At approximately 8 pm I fell 10 ft. out of a cheerleading stunt, and landed on a hard basketball gym floor, head first. I lost consciousness, and can not tell you exactly what occurred leading up to the fall.
  • EMS was called, I was placed into a C Collar, onto a backboard, and transported to the Adult Trauma Center in the city. (I was 13 at the time of the accident)
  • In the ED scans were done, and report was given to my dad when I was discharged only a few hours after being admitted. My diagnosis was that there were no abnormalities noted as far as a brain bleed, or any other fractures. My C-Spine was cleared. I was okay to go home, and rest. I also “most likely had a concussion”. I was sent home with a Neck Brace for comfort and told to avoid any excessive movement of my neck.

A Week After the Accident

  • I was seen by my primary care physician at my Pediatricians office to follow up after my accident. At the time of my accident it was not yet mandated that all high school athletes obtain a baseline concussion test at the start of the athletic season. Due to this I had no baseline test results to compare my current results after the accident to. 
  • A Concussion Test was performed and the results were compared to average results for a female aged 13. It was determined that my results were abnormal compared to the baseline readings of others. I was formally diagnosed with a concussion at this time.

At this time I started to develop symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and trouble focusing. All of these were dismissed as side effects of the concussion. We were reassured that once my brain had healed from the concussion these symptoms would resolve themselves.

2 Months Post-Accident (February 2013)

  • At this time after having repeated the concussion test bi-weekly, 4 times overall. It was determined that my results were most likely back to my baseline, compared to other baseline results from 13 year old females.

Shortly after being told my Concussion was resolved

  • I was still suffering from symptoms of dizziness that had manifested into actual syncopal episodes. The nausea, and brain fog continued, as did the overall weakness I suffered from.

3 Months Post-Accident (March)

  • My mom scheduled an appointment with Cardiology. I was evaluated and it was noted that I had an elevated heart rate.
  •  I was placed on a Heart Monitor for 30 days, and was instructed to record any syncopal episodes.
  • My results came back “normal” and I was diagnosed with most likely suffering from Neurocardiogenic Syncope. This is a blanket term also referred to as “Vasovagal Syncope” according to the National Institute of Health this is a title given to a person that suffers from “unexplained syncope”. This is considered a syndrome that occurs as a result of “triggering of a neural reflex that results in a usually self-limited episode of systemic hypotension characterized by both bradycardia (slow Heart Rate) and peripheral vasodilation.”

April, May, June, July

  • I continued to suffer from increased Syncopal Episodes. What started as 1-2 increased to becoming sometimes upwards of 15 on a bad day.
  • I developed what appeared to present itself as seizures.
  • I continued to end up in and out of the ER from becoming so weak due to the continued syncopal episodes, and the physical toll they had on my body. 
  • I continued to be seen by different specialties. When Cardiology found “nothing wrong” I was passed on to Neurology. Neurology assumed maybe I was suffering from a Chiari Malformation- An excess of fluid build up in the brain stem causing Vertigo. When this came back negative and nothing could be found I was sent to Endocrinology. We weaved in and out of the different health care systems in the state. There are three main health care providers, and we saw just about all of the specialties in each one. I eventually landed in an Allergists office (because that somehow made sense) and my mother was told that it was time to consider a diagnosis of Conversion Disorder- Meaning that although there was nothing physically wrong with my body, I believed there was, therefore I was causing my body to produce symptoms that had no real origin. Basically he told my mother that I was suffering from a Psychiatric Condition and it was time to accept this, and move forward in the steps of treatment for it. 
  • Sometime in July I landed in the ER again, after a work-up that once again showed I was normal we headed back home once again defeated, and in search of answers. My mom was pulled aside by a nurse on our way out who informed my mom that it wasn’t her place to inform my mom of what she was about to, and legally speaking she could get in a lot of trouble for going against the MD’s discharge diagnosis, however she had seen my chart and read up on me and was convinced that I had something called POTS, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. She was certain that this was the answer, and that my mom needed to go home and research it.

My mom did just that, which along with her research she was convinced too that this was the answer. My mom read that there were two places in the country that specialized in POTS treatment, the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. My mom called and made an appointment for me to be seen at the Cleveland Clinic, a 5 hour drive from our home.

August 5,6,and 7th, 2013

  • We made the 5 hour journey to the Cleveland Clinic to meet with the Pediatric Neurology team. After the initial meeting a giant list of tests were explained that would need to be performed to confirm the expected diagnosis of POTS, as well as a handful of other tests to rule out associated disorders and syndromes that often go along with a diagnosis of POTS.
  • The initial one night stay turned into three. Labs were done to test just about every level under the sun. A Tilt Table Test was performed (the true diagnostic test for POTS) a QSART test was performed (also known as a Sweat Test), an EMG was performed.
  • After all the labs came back, and test results it was confirmed that I was a classic case of POTS. All my numbers showed the diagnostic criteria  for the diagnosis, and not only did they meet the criteria they were on the elevated end of the criteria, meaning I had a pretty significant case of POTS.
  • A medication outline was created. The hope was that with an increase in certain electrolytes, and a specific beta-blocker that had been known to help POTS patients, I would begin the road to recovery.

Mid August-October 2013

  • I developed what is documented in research studies as what is one of the worst noted reactions to the Beta Blocker I was placed on. My potassium levels dropped to critically low levels, a possible but very rare side effect of the medication. This caused a handful of hospital stays in itself that required IV Potassium Chloride infusions to bring my levels back from such critically low points. We are talking the 1’s and 2’s, to which normal range is 3.6-5.2.

October 2013-Mid 2015

  • Over the course of the next two years continuous medication changes occurred under the supervision of the Cleveland Clinic until the right combination of medications was reached. This was a very specific, time consuming process that took lots of patience, and tweaking but ultimately lead to a combination that allowed me the freedom of the abilities I once had.

Now I type all of this out not to point out mistakes and certain blame on specific medical professionals, if that was my intention I would have named specific providers, etc. But it’s not. Like I said the point of this is education. Now that you have all the cold hard facts in front of you let me walk you through them. Let’s look at what was done, what should have been done, and how we can further improve.

  • I was a thirteen year old. The average age that is deemed acceptable to be seen by an adult trauma center is 15 years of age. I was two years short of this. In the grand scheme of things this is not the biggest error, could thinks possibly have played out different had I been taken to a pediatric trauma center the night of my accident? Maybe. There’s a chance I would have been kept overnight for observation, maybe more would have been done as far as concussion observation, and diagnosis, but that’s really about it. This was a call made by the EMS crew for whatever reason. Maybe the pediatric trauma center was on diversion, who knows but this ultimately was not the biggest problem. Had the on call neuro peds team potentially been more prepared to evaluate an accident like mine? Maybe, but also maybe not. This one is one of the aspects that really could have gone both ways and most likely would have still provided the same outcome.
  • I was discharged within hours after my accident. This is the factor here that is more significant than my being seen at an adult trauma center. I fell ten feet head first onto a solid ground. I lost consciousness. I was still for the most part deemed a “child”. While I was conscious and alert upon my arrival at the trauma center, I was still in severe pain, and had sustained a rather traumatic injury. Being discharged only a few hours later was an amateur mistake. I should have been kept for observation. There is always potential for a brain injury to manifest itself in the hours following the event. I am no medical genius in these instances but I have come to learn quite a lot. The possibility for further swelling, or potential bleeding is still possible. Altered levels of consciousness can also arise, and other potentially dangerous symptoms can appear. I am lucky that none of these things occurred the night I was sent home, but they were all possibilities, and ones that should have more strongly been considered. It is known that the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, I still had 12 years left at that time. Extreme caution should have been taken. It was not. My dad had very little information and instructions given to him at the time of my discharge as far as things to look for and be aware of, and treatment to be used.
  • I had no baseline concussion test. This problem has thankfully been addressed and solved since my accident, however 5 years ago it was not. Had the baseline concussion test been initiated at the time, there most likely would have been more information to be obtained and further aid the understanding of the trauma my brain sustained.
  • The basics were often skipped over upon arrival at ED’s, and appointments. Instead of looking at the cold hard facts, the symptoms were looked at, and how to fix them was investigated. Instead of the thirteen year old female that sustained a traumatic injury to her brain falling 10 ft, I was the teenager that was suffering from unexplained syncope, and dizziness, who happened to have a cheerleading accident in the past (if they even made it that far).
  • Anytime Syncope was heard conclusions were made. There’s a stigma in medicine that unexplained syncope is almost always a product of a psychological problem.

It’s frustrating, and to be honest I’ve opened and worked on this blog post three separate times over the span of three weeks. Every time I get a little bit further in typing out the explanation and then it gets too much and I have to stop and come back to it at a different time.

It’s frustrating because all the explanations were right there in front of the 50+ medical professionals I saw in the span of 6 months and none of them found it. For whatever reason it got looked over. 

I get frustrated typing about it because the truth is it was so simple, it was there in big bold letters, but it got looked over.

I hit my head from a 10 foot fall. When my head landed on the hard surface first it caused my brain to shift inside my skull, causing the concussion. When my brain shifted the trauma affected my autonomic nervous system, located where most of the force centralized in my brain. This caused autonomic distinction, POTS. All of the symptoms: Brain Fog, Syncope, Systematic Overload of Senses, Nausea, etc. the Autonomic Nervous System controls all of this. 

This wasn’t rocket science. This didn’t take a genius to understand. Even myself figured it out and pieced the puzzle together. They could have too, but they opened up my chart and they saw words like conversion disorder, psych case, etc. and I got looked over.

Their diagnosis of ‘psych case’ turned me into a psych case. 

I got so tired of being told that there was nothing wrong with MY OWN BODY. That the feelings I was feeling and the symptoms I was experiencing weren’t true that the though of living became more painful than the thought of dying. 

I used to close my eyes at night and secretly pray to the god I had stopped believing in that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning.

It was physically draining, but the emotional toll it took on my body was so much worse. 

I still have problems to this day emotionally. I have a hard time accepting that it’s okay to feel how I feel. Expressing emotions is even more difficult because I became so used to keeping them in.  

All of this happened because of a failed medical system. You might think that all of what I felt was dramatic but the sad truth is that is just the very condensed version of it.

Those six months were hell.

But I don’t blame the medical professionals. It’s not their fault. Could they have spent more time ruling out every tiny thing, yes they could have but they would have gotten reprimanded, they were taught to treat and send off. There’s always going to be another patient. There isn’t enough time to rule everything out on everyone.

The problem isn’t the medical professionals it’s the medical system. It’s designed to take a patient, strip them of everything that makes them an individual with feelings and a story. To replace all of that with a barcode number and a list of symptoms. You’re no longer Merideth who was involved in a difficult traumatic accident, you’re patient 257 who’s experiencing syncopal episodes.

The problem is that we’ve become accustomed to this. We’ve allowed ourselves to adapt this form of practicing medicine. It’s more efficient which brings in more revenue. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve caught myself practicing medicine this way and I will forever be ashamed of it.

I could speak for days on this topic, I have so much to say. I will leave it at this for now, medical professionals be the change for the better. Go into things with a clear head, listen to your patients, follow your gut, and advocate like hell for them. Don’t throw them into a category they are an individual. Don’t give up on them. And patients, nobody knows your body better than you do. Whatever you do, don’t give up. There is a light at the end.

 

October 1st….

I celebrate three times a year. My Birthday on May 20th, the month of October for Dysautonomia Awareness Month, and December 7th, the anniversary of my accident.

Each of these celebrations brings different feelings, May means I’ve grown a year older, which in my opinion is a good thing since most of my friends tend to be a few years older than me. October is a big, long celebration, but really more so an attempt to do everything I can to educate my peers, and those around me about the different forms of Dysautoomia, the category of Autonomic Disorders in which POTS falls under. And December, to be blatantly honest, I celebrate it because it means another year here on earth, after the day five years ago in which I didn’t die, but most certainly could have.

Today is October 1st, this means that the next 30 days I will try to do everything I can to raise more money for research, speak at a variety of places to bring awareness, and overall share my personal journey, to put a face to POTS.

I decided to update my blog this October as this October marks the fourth October that I have had it, and so much has changed. I realized that as I opened up my blog each time to type I was met with a picture of a girl I struggled to recognize. She was sick, so frail, and in a wheelchair, and somehow she was me. That’s not who I am anymore, I’ve come so far since then! If you’re a frequent visitor I’m sure you’ll realize my header “My Journey with POTS- and a side of salt please” has changed. I did this because I have changed. While I do still have POTS, and very well may for the rest of my life, I have come to the amazing point in the journey where it is no longer something that defines me entirely.

I do still live out of pill bottles to function, and I do still have days where I feel like I’ve woken up and fallen on my head all over again, but for the most part I’m doing well.

Four letters I wasn’t so sure five years ago that I would ever use to describe myself.

I would be lying if I told you I remembered what it felt like to wake up each morning in a body that was able to care for itself on its own, because I don’t. I’m not sure I ever will. The routine of waking up each morning, counting out pills, and swallowing them has been my life every morning for the last five years. I have forgotten what it feels like to live entirely off of my own health.

But that is okay.

In life we have to make sacrifices. We have to be willing to give up some things, in order to achieve others. For me if that meant sacrificing the ability to maintain my health solely on my own body doing in order to be able live a life of freedom, unrestrained to a hospital bed, then in my opinion thats worth it.

This October I’m thankful for a continued chance to be able to explore all that life has to offer. If you’re new to this blog well, get cozy and pop some popcorn because there is quite a lot to explore in here, but if you’ve been around a while, thank you. Thank you for continuing to support me. Thank you for listening to my rants, my trials, and most importantly my realizations.

Happy October friends.

I feel Alive.

I’ve always been a City Girl, so when I decided to go to a High School in the city nothing could get better in my world, of course, except for convincing my parents to buy a house downtown, and let us move. When that never happened, I moved downtown by myself four years later. I’ve been in love with this city, that is Indianapolis, for about six years now. When I announced my plans to move to the city, into an apartment on my own, the other Suburban girls didn’t understand. “Are you sure?” they asked, “The city is a scary place!”.

I’ve never seen it that way though, I find comfort in the hustle and bustle, I take peace in knowing everyone has somewhere to go, and lifes’ to live. I find encouragement in the ambulances, as they screech through the city. I see my dreams as I watch the helicopters fly through the sky. I find hope in the hospitals that surround me. I don’t feel scared in this city, I feel alive in this city.

It’s been about a year and a half since I packed up my bags, and moved downtown. In the last year and a half I’ve learned more than I ever have in my entire 19 years of life. And while I’ve never felt scared in this city, I’ve felt quite a few other things. I knew moving downtown from my suburban home, in my suburban neighborhood, surrounded by my suburban neighbors, with their suburban lifestyles, would be quite the adjustment. The four years I spent commuting to my high school helped adjust me to the views of this city, and the people it was home to, but there are some things you just can’t learn or understand by being a visitor.

I knew the day I walked out of my apartment in the dark, early hours of the morning, and without watching where I was walking, which resulted in tripping over a sleeping homeless man, that I was in for quite the ride. This city has kept me humble, forever thankful for what I have, but always reminding me to never once think I am above, and to always give when I can.

This city doesn’t scare me, and maybe it’s because I live here now and am bias, or maybe it’s because after working in EMS, constantly walking into the unknown, that you learn to fear things less, but whatever it be, I don’t leave my apartment for work and feel scared, I don’t drive through the rougher areas and feel scared, I don’t stop at gas stations and feel scared. Instead I see a growing, diverse community, with so much to offer, and teach me. Something I’ve always hoped I could someday contribute to, outside of the suburban neighborhood I grew up in. I longed for cultural diversity, and to be enhanced by my newfound neighbors who also called this city home.

This week I was reminded that the human race is innately good, that the human kind knows no such thing of hatred, or separation from birth. That these are learned traits, they are not born into us.

I had put off getting gas all week, one of my rather not so bright habits, however I’ve never run out of gas yet, so I will probably continue to push my luck. I stopped at my usual gas station on the way to work, as my gas light was on, and I had already driven 10 miles the day before with it on. I like this gas station, the gas prices are always one of the cheapest in town, they have a great selection of energy drinks, and it’s on my way TO and FROM work (imagine that!) However, if I ever took my mom or sister to this gas station they would probably be shocked that I, the tiny college girl, ever got out of my car and pumped  gas here. When I sheepishly admit to gentle giant at midnight, after our twelve hour shift that my car is on E, and I’m going to the gas station, he always sighs knowing the big brother in him will demand to follow me there to make sure I’m safe. I guess we can just say it’s not the nicest one in town, or that’s what some may think.

On Wednesday I stopped at my gas station, and ran inside and got an energy drink to prepare for my twelve hour shift. However, before I made it inside the door I noticed a woman crouched down in between the ice chests. It was a strange place to sit I thought, unlike the bench and the grassy patch on the corner, where the usual regulars reside. In my flashy uniform I was quickly pulled aside by another gas station visitor who noticed my uniform happened to be of the medical field, and asked if I would check on the woman. I did, and she assured me she was okay. I continued on my way, and pumped my gas. As I did though I noticed something; every single person that walked in the door of the gas station stopped to check on the lady. People of all different races, backgrounds, and genders. They all stopped. The people on the corner who didn’t have anything to give, and were asking for themselves, even made their way over. I made my partner drive by later to check on the woman and she had left. I am not sure why she was there, and never will, but I left that day with an odd sense of comfort.

I had that ‘told ya so’ feeling inside. I wanted to call up every suburban girl that has ever asked me if I get scared living in this city, and to tell them no. I wanted to tell them that this city, my city cares. I wanted to tell them that even in some of the most beat down places of my city, they still cared, and I whole heartedly believe they do.

I don’t believe we are born knowing hatred, or fear, or separation. I believe these feelings are learned, they are not innate.

So much talk of separation has occurred lately in the news, and media, and while I type this I know so many will feel compelled to say to me ‘Merideth you are wrong, this city does not care, this city is home to a man that pulled a gun on a police officer, and proceeded to put 11 bullets through his body killing him, for no reason.’ And while you are right this city is home to such a man, I don’t believe it is this city that made him that way, that compelled him to do such an awful thing.

I just recently finished reading ‘Stronger’ by Jeff Bauman, the Boston Bombing victim who became the face off the terrorist attack, when a photo of himself with both of his legs blown off went viral. Jeff was talking about feeling anger towards the bombers, and their motivation to do such a horrendous thing, and he states referencing the bomber, “He needed to stand up, but he blew everything up instead.” and “Setting off a bomb, or shooting up a high school doesn’t make you bigger. It makes you the smallest kind of person on earth. The kind who has to face others, because you can’t face yourself.”

I do believe these people that Bauman speaks of exist in this city, I would be naive to think otherwise. I know that this world houses some cruel people, people that desire to cause pain in the lives of others. People whose hearts and minds have been opened to some of the worst traits existent on this earth, those of separation, hatred, and evil. And inevitably some of them happen to live in my city. However, I don’t believe that this city, my city cultivates such thoughts. But then again, I could be wrong. But the strangers at the gas station, the beggars on the corner, they make me think otherwise, and they give me peace of mind.

I don’t feel scared in this city, I feel alive.

So as you debate whatever it is with your friends on Facebook, and create cyclical arguments I will just leave this here. That in the midst of all the uproar, the social turmoil that is forever existent, there are always glimmers of hope, restoration in the human kind, and peace of mind if you search hard enough, do your part, and spend less time focusing on the separation, and the arguments born from hatred, and more time on the ways we can do our part to create positive environments for all in existence.

I have hope that some day we will all be able to feel alive in our cities, and not scared. Regardless of any difference that may exist in any of us.

I don’t do Feelings, or at least I didn’t.

I’m really bad at feelings. In fact most of the time I tell people “I don’t do feelings.” The irony, I know. After 5 years of dealing with a chronic illness you would think that I have felt so many different things, and I would be a master at them, but the fact is I’m anything but that. Part of that is my fault you’re right, but I do blame a handful of doctors and medical professionals for the other part.

You see the thing is that for six months I was told by a handful of medical professionals that the things I was feeling inside MY OWN BODY, the symptoms I was experiencing, they were all in  my head. They weren’t actually real. And I know your response to that is “oh who cares what they said, they were wrong”. But at that time, that’s all I had to go on, and as much as it killed me, I started to believe them, and question if maybe they were actually right. Maybe it really was truly all in my head. Maybe I was causing all of this.

I’m not sure why, but the other day I had a flashback to one of the worst experiences of this entire journey. We were in the E.R. one night, and by we I mean my mom and I, it had become a second home to us really, but not a friendly inviting one. We were dealing with the same stuff over and over, and just hoping that for once maybe this time, we would find the answers. My body was so weak at this point, as we were close to 5 months out from my accident and still hadn’t gotten any solid answers. So as we waited for tests and lab results I needed to use the restroom, which was down the hall. My nurse assisted me, and due to the fact that I was a fall risk had to stand outside the bathroom and watch me to make sure I was okay. (I must preface the next thing by saying that over the course of five months I had become pretty good at understanding my own body, and knowing what the different feelings alluded to, the most common being dizziness. My mom and I had worked out a plan that whenever I felt even the slightest bit dizzy I was to sit down, and then lay on the floor, that way should I pass out I was less likely to hit my head, or at least fall as hard. Of course this wasn’t always convenient, and I often looked crazy, but with no answers we had to figure out a way to do things on our own. Going to the bathroom was always one of the hardest things for me back then because it was a lot of changing in positions in a short amount of time. It meant getting up from where I was, walking, sitting down, standing back up, and walking again. It was extremely common that somewhere along the process I would pass out. I became all too familiar with using the bathroom in the company of someone else, I know right real awkward as a teenage girl.) So nonetheless that night as the nurse took me to the bathroom, I felt the wave of dizziness wash over, and I sat down right there on the bathroom floor. I didn’t make it all the way to laying down before I passed out. I awoke to a nurse that was strongly sternal rubbing me, and then proceeded to tell me to stand up and stop joking around. It was beyond my comprehension how she possibly came to the conclusion that I was joking around and faking. I am not sure how she got me back to my room but I do remember that once she did she proceeded to tell my mom that she watched me fake pass out in the bathroom, and that she watched me sit down on the floor and then lay down there. At this point I couldn’t really control my emotions anymore. I was frustrated and fed up.My mom tried to explain to the nurse who had proceeded to inform the doctor that I was faking, that I was not faking and that this was something we had worked out for my own safety, since nobody else was helping us. I didn’t feel good and I was tired of being disregarded and skipped over. I wanted to go home as nobody there was clearly doing anything to help, nor were they listening. I don’t remember much more of that night other than the fact that my mom ended up signing me out and taking me home.

I don’t do feelings.

And it’s not because I don’t feel them, because I do, stronger than most people probably. But for so long I got used to being told that my feelings were wrong, and that they weren’t real. And even though I have the answers now, and I know that my feelings were valid, and real then, I still struggle.

I struggle with feeling things. My first response is to push things away, to avoid them. And then I have to remind myself that I am human, I am not a robot, and it is okay to feel things. In fact I can feel whatever the heck I want to, and nobody can tell me that I’m wrong, or that my feelings aren’t valid, because I am human. We are all human. It is in our nature to feel things. It is normal, IT IS HUMAN.

Nobody should ever have the authority to tell someone else what they can, or cannot feel with their own body.

I am working on my feelings.

I am learning to remind myself every day that it is okay to feel whatever I am feeling. And for now that usually means me going weeks without crying until I randomly in the middle of nowhere lose it. I keep it in until I can’t keep it in anymore and then I word vomit and all the words, and thoughts, and feelings come out in one giant mess that makes no sense to anybody but me. But I am working on it, I am learning to feel them as they come. But after shoving the feelings aside for so long, and telling myself I was stronger than them, I am proud.

Because I am human.

and

Because I deserve to feel everything I have ever felt.

and

I know that now.

To Build a Desk, is to Ponder Life. 

I’m writing this from the desk I just put together in my apartment. I’m sure that statement is really of no importance to you just yet, but you see give me ten minutes and it will be. I sleep in the bed with the headboard that I sanded down and put together. I close the curtains at night that I somehow figured out how to rig together and hang up. See a trend yet….? If not let me help you, I did it by myself.

I’ve never been one to shout from the top of the mountains and self proclaim as a feminist, but I have always been a firm believer in the fact that females can do anything that males can. And that’s not so much the point I’m trying to make as is the fact that females are capable of doing things ON THEIR OWN without the help of males, or really anyone for that matter.

Growing up as a teenager that was chronically ill, and relied on a wheelchair I became pretty independent. I didn’t ask for help unless I absolutely needed it, and even then I tried to avoid it. I think a majority of this had to do with the fact that being diagnosed with a chronic illness at the age of 13 was kind of a slap in the face when it came to maturing and growing up. I didn’t really get the option to play around, those days were over when the diagnosis left my neurologists mouth. I had to trade in the sleepovers for early morning doctors appointments and clinic days, the sports practices got swapped with physical therapy appointments, and the coffees and energy drinks with prescriptions and electrolyte filled concoctions. It wasn’t a choice or an option, well I guess to some extent it was, it was either you take responsibility of your new life that now has a chronic illness diagnosis attached to it, or you ignore it all and watch your health decline until you can no longer function properly. I think the choice made is pretty obvious.

So I guess in regards to learning to be independent I took a different route than most, but nonetheless I have ended up where all my fellow females are as well, those that are chronically ill and those that are healthy.

 I would like to think that all females have a strong sense of self confidence, that we know our worth and our value. I would like to think that all females realize that they have the capability to do anything they choose with their life. I would like to think that all females understand that they do not need a man, or another woman, or anyone else in their lives to make them whole. I would like to think that all females know that they are worthy, and every feeling they have ever felt in their life is valid. I would like to think that all females felt as if they were enough, and that they have a place in this world. 

But I know it’s not true.

I know that our society has created images and ideas of what is socially deemed necessary to feel whole, or fulfilled in life. Society says that in order to feel fulfilled we need to have an abundance of materialistic items, the best of the best. That we need to have the largest groups of friends, and an agenda filled with plans every evening. That our presence must always be the best, that it is unacceptable to have flaws visible, you need to cover those up. That in order to truly be happy you need to have a significant other. That the dirty work isn’t for females, we aren’t capable of that, that is a mans job, women aren’t meant to be more successful than man.

But that isn’t true either.

You see the thing is, you alone are enough. You alone are capable. You alone can be happy, truly happy. You alone can do things, on your own, and you can do a damn good job at them! You alone can have whatever job or profession you like, you deserve to do what makes you happy. 

It’s so hard for me to see people in life, specifically females that feel as if they aren’t enough on their own. But then I realize that I often find myself thinking or feeling the same thing. Inside I know that I am enough, but society tells me otherwise, and for that I question myself. 

In a profession that is primarily males I often find myself to be the underdog. My petite self gets towered over by the big, buff, and manly Paramedics, Firefighters, and Police Officers I so often find myself working alongside with. A situation that can often be rather intimidating, and at times I feel as if I might just crumble to the ground. But I know that this is where I need to be, this is where I want to be. I may not have the muscles of the hulk as many of my coworkers do, but I am good at my job. I have a sense of understanding and first hand experience that many in my profession do not. This is where I am meant to be. 

I put together my desk tonight, and it reminded me that I am capable of doing things on my own. That the person I asked to come help me build my desk, I didn’t need, because I can do it on my own. I’ve never used a desk as a metaphor for life but I did tonight.

And as I screwed things together, and then unscrewed them because I originally screwed them into the wrong hole, with the wrong screw (don’t worry I got it eventually, also I blame the poor directions) I reminded myself that I can do this. Even though I might not always get it right the first time, and that at times it can be frustrating, and I more than likely will want to quit, I am capable. I have everything I need in my life to be successful, to feel happy, and to be fulfilled.

And I guess if it took a desk to figure that out, then my advice to you is to go buy a desk and put it together. But preferably not one off amazon that will wobble if you start to type fiercely on because you’ve gotten in your feels.

“Let her sleep, for when she awakes she will move mountains.”…….or build desks.

 

 

My Momma……

I’m not sure what my mom dreamed I would one day turn out to be while she was pregnant with me. Maybe she dreamed I would do ballet, and join the choir, or play an instrument. Maybe as I got older I would become a math genius, or maybe even follow in her path and become an artist? I’m sure of one thing though, she probably never imagined that at the age of 14, I would suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury that would end up altering the rest of my decisions in life.

What I can also guarantee is that she probably never imagined she would raise a daughter that would grow up to be an adrenaline junkie, would despise the color pink, own a wardrobe that consists of only black, navy blue and army green. A daughter that has the mouth of a sailor and has to bite her tongue because she grew up around the firefighters and well she just can’t help it. A daughter that dreams of flying in helicopters, and fighting fires. A daughter that is too stubborn to consider her own feelings, but let it be someone else’s and she’s there. A daughter that can listen to you explain how to do something over, and over again, but until you put it in front of her and let her do it she just won’t understand. A daughter that talks way too much about just about anything, and even though she knows it, she still can’t keep her mouth shut. A daughter who’s mind runs a thousand miles a minute, and is always ten steps ahead of herself. A daughter who can’t say no, and somehow ends up with 10,000 projects on her plate. A daughter who can’t remember the name of the person she met yesterday, but can tell you in detail the most valued theory of the changes that occur inside a serial killers brain. A daughter who finds interest in the absolute strangest things, has an abnormally large collection of autobiographies and non-fiction books on a plethora of medical related things, and still somehow can never find time to read. A daughter that could survive on Indian food if her life depended on it. A daughter that………..

I don’t know what she dreamed I would turn out to be but I sure do hope I’ve made her proud somewhere in between all of that craziness. Usually when people meet my mom they start off by something like “bless your soul”, or “you poor thing”, and boy are they right. This woman deserves a medal because from day one I’ve caused chaos. If it wasn’t the day I informed the nun at the preschool introductions that the easter bunny brought my dad a really big beer, or the call from the school nurse that I had managed to get a tick stuck on the back of my neck and she would need to come pick me up from school to deal with it, only for the tick to eventually get lost in her car, then it had to have been the day I fell ten feet head first.

After my accident I gained an entire new perspective on motherhood. After seeing my mom spend so many countless nights on a tiny couch or chair in my hospital room I realized what the meaning of true love is. Nobody wishes for their child to be sick, in general, but to live 14 years healthy, and then to have such a tragic accident occur, well this woman she handled it with grace. I found my mom and I discussing the other day how a patients mom reacted, and my mom reminded me that she probably used to be like that.

My mom quite basically went to war with the medial system for me. She didn’t give up on me when so many other doctors did. She spent nights researching, and piecing things together. She drove me five hours away from home in search of someone that could possibly provide the answers. And five years later she still drives me five hours there and back twice a year.

When I explain to people that my mom is my best friend they kind of laugh and say “oh that’s cool”, or “me too!”. But what they don’t realize is that for five years my mom was my only constant in my life (along with my sister and dad, whom I also owe the world to).  She was always there, and when I say always I mean the woman dressed me, and helped me bathe as a teenager. She helped me to grow and be the young woman I was 5 years ago, and then after my accident happened she helped pick up all of those pieces, and helped put them back together.

She listened to me cry  when I told her I couldn’t take it any longer, and told me that she knew who I was, and that giving up wasn’t an option. She instilled the courage, and the drive. The determination to be more, to love more, to provide more, to listen more, to stop and smell the roses more, that was all her.

My mom is not only my mother, and my best friend, but she is also my hero. She is the woman I owe everything I have become, and am to.

I hope that somewhere underneath all of the 10,000 tiny heart attacks I have probably caused her in my lifetime, there is a tiny bit of pride that I am hers.

I am probably not the woman she dreamed I would grow up to be, but I can only hope that who I have become is a woman she is proud to have carried through life.

My sweet momma,

All of my Love.

Heartache In Our Homeland, and the Ultimate Sacrifice.

In the span of 24 hours, a deputy police officer took his last breath, after attempting to clear debris from the road and getting hit. An officer took his last breath after being shot in the line of duty. A high school senior was tragically killed in a car accident. Three people were shot. And, we welcomed home the body of an American hero who lost his life while serving our country. All at different times, all in different places. And the city still buzzed, life continued.

To those that aren’t connected first hand with someone that is a first responder, works in law enforcement, is a volunteer responder, etc. this news may mean nothing. But to the families of the badge this is everything. You hear about line of duty deaths all the time on the news, but until it hits home in your own city, where you work, you often don’t realize just how possible the reality of it is.

For me this day brings chills up and down the back of my spine. I still refer to myself as a baby first responder as many of my co-workers and fellow first responders have far more years under their belt than I do. It makes the hair stick up on my arms just thinking about it. I know that everyday that I put on my uniform brings with it a higher possibility of being injured/taken from this earth but it’s not something I usually think about.

As I lace up my boots, grab my stethoscope, and put my shears on my belt I instead think about what the day will bring, in terms of those who I will possibly help. Thankfully most days I’m not put in a situation where I must consider the safety of my life, but those days do come. You never truly know what you’re walking into when you step foot into someone’s home, or you pull up on to the scene of the accident.

In school they always teach you that your safety is your first priority, but I know myself, and I know my coworkers. We are stubborn when it comes to these things. We see a patient, and we feel a need to help. I’m not saying that we ignore safety procedures and precautions but I do know that we will do everything we possibly can to save someone.

I don’t believe that we go into the job preparing to die. And maybe this is just my perspective. I believe we always know in the back of our heads that it is a possibility, but that drive to save a life in that moment is so much stronger than anything else.

I can’t speak on behalf of officers, or firefighters, but I do know that in that moment on the scene, or in the back of the truck nothing else matters in my life more than the life in front of me. Everything else for that time being gets put on hold, and you work your absolute hardest to keep that person alive, to get them where they need to be.

In the last year I’ve witnessed things that have made me question life more than once. I’ve left a shift, and the only word I’ve been able to formulate out of my mouth is “why”, and sometimes that doesn’t even make it out.

You see this job, it’s so much more than just “fixing”, most of the time we don’t even fix the problem, we just try to manage it. You rarely ever have just one patient, because even when only one person is sick or injured they still have a family. And more likely than not you will need to deal with the family as well. Often times this can be even more stressful than dealing with the patient. And at the end of the day I understand.

Nobody wants to get a call hearing that their loved one has been injured. I sometimes forget that when I pick up a phone of a patient, I am about to deliver some of the worst news the person on the other end of the phone could hear. My job is showing up to people’s worst nightmares. Again, and again. There will always be another call, there will always be another patient in need.

There isn’t a stack of paperwork, that when you get to the bottom of it that job is done. Someone will always be in need of our help. And if it’s not in my city, it’s in someone else’s.

Trauma and illness knows no boundaries, it doesn’t discriminate, it happens when you least expect it. It’s ugly, and it’s hard, it hurts, and it haunts. But we show up, because that is our job. That is the why.

We all have our own ways of coping, for some it’s going home to a family, or a pet, for others it’s exercising, or traveling. Someway or another we find an escape. But there are bound to be the calls that no matter how hard you try to put them out of your mind they will continue to haunt you.

Yesterday our city experienced a multitude of those calls. The first responders witnessed images that will forever be stuck with them. The departments suffered an unimaginable loss. But the families, the families will experience the ultimate tragedy, as they will forever be missing a piece to their puzzle.

As they reach milestones in their lives they will look for their father, their husband, their brother, their cousin to share the memory with, but he is no longer here. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, he gave his life.

“Greater love hath no man than this, than a man that lay down his life for his friends.”

Lieutenant Aaron Allen, thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your dedication to this city. You paid the ultimate price for someone’s foolish decision. You gave your life for 20 years to our country, you returned home and continued to serve, and our city was honored to have you.

Deputy Chief James Walters, thank you for your service, and your dedication to our city. You served for 30 years, and lost your life trying to protect our motorists. We will forever be grateful for your commitment to safety.

Ryan Lohrey, thank you for your commitment to protecting our country. You did what many citizens of this country don’t have the courage to do. You defended our citizens in one of the greatest ways known to man.

Men, may you rest easy now. Your job is done, we will take it from here. You will never be forgotten, and your legacy will always live on. We will support your families, and your children for as long as we may live. You are heroes, to not only this city but this country. May we live courageously in pursuit of the safety and wellbeing of our neighbors as you have.

And may we never forget that this world is far greater than our self. We are a minuscule piece of this puzzle. We are mere flecks of life in a giant atmosphere.

It is our duty to leave this earth better than we found it, and these three men did just that.

“How are you doing?”……

I think this sort of post is long overdue so here we go……this is a long read. A VERY LONG READ.

“Merideth how are you feeling?”

“Well, okay I guess!”

And really it’s true. My first year of college is almost completely wrapped up, summer classes are almost done, and in a few weeks I will start my second year. I can’t say that this last year was necessarily easy, but I definitely learned SO much. So let’s do a little recap, and then I’ll fill ya in on all the “deets”……….

I packed up my room at home and moved 30 minutes away to the city to live in an apartment.

I started college classes.

I caught a lot of colds.

I also got a lot of sinus infections.

I had surgery.

I started an awesome job!

I moved apartments. (Girls are high maintenance.)

I got the flu, and then I got a Spinal Tap. (LOL)

I met some amazing new friends/roommates!

I worked A LOT.

I passed my classes.

I started summer classes.

I got a second job.

I adventured.

I learned.

As you can see this past year has been – WOW. So much has happened and so much has been left out in the above list, those seem to be the big major things that took place. This year academically was very difficult. I knew going into this that it was going to be a huge life adjustment. I was going to have to learn how to completely depend on myself, and that was something I had never done before. When I first got sick I had to learn how to rely on those around me to help me, so going from depending on others, and having them around to help and then transitioning to being completely on my own was hard.

My senior year of high school I was lucky and had a really pretty healthy year. I didn’t have too many difficulties with my POTS, except for when I caught a cold or what not. (If you aren’t familiar with how my crazy body works, I tend to have a weaker immune system so I catch colds a whole lot easier, and when I do get “normal people sick” it makes my POTS symptoms flare) however I was pretty lucky. So honestly I didn’t think anything about transitioning when it came to college. If anything I thought it would be easier because I would be living in my own apartment with my own bathroom. Well I was WRONG. First semester was quite a mess. A few weeks in I caught a sinus infection that I never really got completely rid of until I ended up having to have surgery in November. Thankfully that took care of that problem, and knock on wood I haven’t had any sinus infections since. However, that first semester really took a toll on me. I was having a hard time taking care of myself because I was so weak, which was causing me to miss classes, which didn’t help my grades. It honestly put me back in a place that reminded me of what my sophomore and junior year of high school were like. Thankfully though the surgery took care of things, and I am SO thankful!

I was off to a great new start for second semester until I caught the flu! Right? Just my luck! The best part is that I even got TWO flu shots! I can testify that Influenza is every bit as terrible as it sounds, and once again with my luck it ended up with two ER visits, and a spinal tap. Boy am I glad I made it through that one! Talk about flashbacks to the old days when I was bedridden, that two weeks definitely reminded me of those times!

Overall this year didn’t;t quite pan out health wise how I would have probably liked but if I look back at it all there is a positive in it all, these were all “normal people things” and I didn’t ever have any major setbacks caused by my POTS. These were just life things, and I got through them.

When it comes to my POTS, I have to say that the human body amazes me every day. I have a very hard time remembering much of my freshman and sophomore years of high school – the years in which my health was at its very worst. I think that most of this is due to me trying to block out the memories, because of how painful they were.

I now currently only take 8 pills a day, only in the morning. This is a HUGE accomplishment compared to the some 30 pills I was on over a time span of three different points throughout the day. The body really is amazing, and I am so very lucky that my brain is healing. I remind myself often of the words Dr. Moodley first told me with my diagnosis “This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. This is going to take years not months.” I am not patient, but I have somehow learned to let my body do its  thing, and slowly but surely it is.

I find comfort in knowing that I am able to do more every day. I once could only walk to the mail box before having to sit down, and couldn’t even run. Today I can go to the gym when I please, and while I might not be as fast as everyone else, I can run. I can work 12 hour shifts, when I used to have a hard time even standing on my feet for five minutes. I can eat food, whatever I please (almost) without having to worry about m stomach not being able to properly digest it. I can drive my ambulance with lights and sirens and not flinch. I am healing.

While I did have a reminder this month that I am still recovering, most days now I am able to “forget” that I am different from others when it comes to health. Every year the fourth of July brings problems my way. This holiday is just not for me. The monotone bang that fireworks make cause my head so many problems. While I have definitely come a long way and do not seize through a firework show, they definitely leave me with quite the migraine. This year brought me some sadness, as I was hopeful I would be able to enjoy them, but I quickly learned that would not be the case and spent my night in the shower. But I did it, on my own. And nothing happened. And that is a HUGE accomplishment.

I am healing, every day.

I have big goals, and dreams. Plans that I am determined to achieve.

Sometimes I try to move at fast paces like my peers, or even faster. I like to try to shove as much onto my plate as I can, but I often have to remind myself to slow down. I tire quicker than others, and I am in no hurry. I have all the time in the world to accomplish my dreams, so there’s no need to spoil them trying to get there in a hurry.

So that’s where I am. Just chugging along. Just me and my ambulances, and I couldn’t be happier.