Watching Over Blake. Eyes on Progress. CFIDS/ GWI/TBI/ PTSD

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              “The flight of the owl is slow, silent and solitary”

 If I could give my son anything,  I thought I would give him back the 12 years he lost of his youth. Since I cannot do this, I am determined to give him a future of unlimited possibilities.

When experiencing a chronic illness, it feels as if time stands still. In actuality, time is moving slowly and the flight is silent. Silence envelopes ones life after the combustion of life halts to a stop with a chronic illness.

I have taken the role as an observer in Blake’s’ life. He began independent living in November 2012. Two weeks after the start of his new beginning, Blake was hit by a car in front of the University he attends. The hit was gruesome, yet Blake managed to hobble away with minor injuries.

I watched and slowly waited as he fell into a relapse that amounted to a vast drop in grades, weight and cognitive abilities. I watched as he fought to overcome the slide in order to slowly recover his abilities. It took 8 months to recover fully from the trauma.

Although 8 months seems like a long time, it is a drop in the bucket compared to 12 years of ones life being ripped apart. Especially for a 24-year-old.

This relapse was different on many levels. This relapse was caused by a physical trauma, not a setback from an unknown factor. During this relapse, Blake never missed a day of school as a full-time University student studying Physics/Engineering. Although his weight and grades declined, he used every tool available to him to methodically step back up the ladder to his peak.

Blake has now successfully attended University full-time (without missing one day for illness) for 6 consecutive quarters. He has now achieved perfect attendance for the past 16 months. His classes include upper division mathematics, physics, engineering, chemistry, biology and geology. His GPA before the car trauma was 3.66 per quarter. His GPA today is 3.25 per quarter.

Blake began a mild physical exercise program of walking and lifting weights 14 months ago. He decided to join an Army readiness program and started running 11 months ago. He had to halt running and physical exercise for 2 months while he was hobbling on a sprained ankle after the car trauma. He began running again in February and by June was up to 4 miles, three times per week. He has also participated in vigorous ruck marches and tactical labs in the field under extreme conditions.

Blake was put on Valtrex as a therapy after his Valcyte treatment. Post Valcyte and present Valtex treatment, the opportunistic infections are now gone. The HHV-6 levels are lowered. The EBV are still high. Anti-viral treatment is like good endocrine treatment in that the patient is treated on “how he/she feels” not necessarily on “what the lab values say”.

On a recent check-up with his infectious disease doctor, it was determined that Blake may be eligible for military service in 6 months. Until then, he will be starting an antibiotic for progressive treatment for inflammation in the eyes which is starting to be recognized in patients. The tell sign is red lines in the eyes. I have noticed strata looking lines in Blake’s  eyes and attributed this to the onset of his illness.

Blake was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder in March. He has been on thyroid medication for five months and notices a great improvement. His endocrine values were slightly off. His thyroid ultrasound showed a small goiter and a cyst. His familial history on the Irish side shows he is a 6th generation thyroid patient. Many physicians diagnose thyroid issues on lab values only. It is imperative to find an endocrinologist that diagnoses on;  lab values + ultrasound + familial history + how the patient feels = diagnosis.

At this moment, Blake is at 85% of cognitive and 80% of physical capacity. The goal of his treatment team is to get Blake to 100%. Blake hopes that will happen in the next 6 months. His goal is to join the Military and to serve his Country.

For a long time, I fought and watched over Blake at close range. Now I find myself watching from a greater distance. I wondered if Blake would be able to “catch up” socially and if he could find his way. We had  three prior attempts at independent living. This fourth time has proven to be exciting, yet not without a few hurdles.

Blake has a faith that is strong and complete. He is a strong young man  with  dreams and goals. It is a pleasure to see him play sports with his peers, to participate in ocean and lake activities, to attend social functions and to give to others through community service.

All of this would not be possible without Valcyte treatment. The alternative immune treatments he participated in look to be responsible for stimulating the energy to exercise; but only after primary healing had occurred. The Valtrex (or other long-term anti-viral) is a necessity for treatment to continue fighting the viruses after the heavy hitting Valcyte treatment. Clearing up any opportunistic infections is critical to success. A patient will never attain a moderate level of health if a thyroid illness is present and remains undiagnosed.

We have no idea what the next year will bring. We are certain that whatever this illness throws at us, we are willing to fly slow and defeat it.

JULIA HUGO RACHEL

VERY LUCKY GIRL ON VALCYTE

Paddling for Will. A Beautiful Soul. CFIDS.

 I have been writing Very Lucky Girl on Valcyte for 3 years and 3 months now. During this time, I have shared our families journey on Valcyte along with some of the lessons we have learned along the way. We have opened our lives to readers in the hopes that some patients will gain more knowledge about their diseases.

Very few  full recovery cases have been documented for CFS/CFIDS. Blake’s’ case is miraculous, yet for 6 years he stood on the edge of a cliff. He stared into the abyss of the unknown. It is for youth that stand on this cliff, that I continue to write and continue to progress towards an agenda seeking political action on behalf of diseases linked with CFIDS/CFS/GWI and PTSD..

I receive many comments on this blog and I respond to each one individually. The comments have been the most rewarding part of writing this blog. I have had the opportunity to speak with parents and youth around the world who are experiencing the same journey as Blake and I have endured. Together, we travel this road. Together, we face our hurdles.

On January 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm I received a comment on the blog from a young man named Will. Will explained that he identified with Blake in many ways. I replied immediately to Will that evening and commended him for seeking medical attention with a well-known doctor. In my heart, I sensed that Will was very much like Blake. They both were runners, they both were good students, they both had lost weight and they both had lost the ability to cognitively understand reading materials. The similarities were haunting and familiar. Will was around 21 years old, Blake was 23 years old.

I did not hear from Will again. Today, he crossed my mind so I went to email him to see how he was doing. The last I heard, he was making a decision on what route to take with his medical treatment. I was curious to see how this was going for him and how he was feeling.

Instead of emailing Will, I decided to Google him. It was a sixth sense judgement call that sprang from pure intuition. As I pushed the “search button” to Google Will the links started to appear. My eyes shut tight, they immediately began to swell as tears flowed down my cheeks and sobs began emulating from my throat. Will passed away on May 17, 2012 after battling this neuro-immune disease for 7 years. He passed away 4 months after writing to me.

I began to read more about Will through the obituary and articles. Will had turned to music as did Blake. I listened to Wills’ awesome tunes.  I re-read his emails and I could feel his resilience and beautiful soul. I watched a Video of the Community Memorial. I watched the faces of Wills family, his friends and his community in the video. This beautiful soul was surrounded by so much love, so much compassion and such positive energy that I felt enlightened to have had a glimpse of Will through simple email messages.

Will wrote to me because he was looking for answers. Now I search for answers from Wills’ life.

I grew up in a beach town, body surfing. Recently, I have gone back to swimming. Every time I paddle out, my heart shall connect with Will. He was an amazing young man and a beautiful soul.

My heart and condolences go out to Wills family and friends and the community who supported this young man.

RIP Will.

JULIA HUGO RACHEL

VERY LUCKY GIRL ON VALCYTE

SEEING RED. VIRAL. GWI/CFIDS/PTSD

“SEEING RED”  for Autism/CFS/GWI and Lyme Patients can be construed in many ways. Red is the warmest of all colors, the color most chosen by extroverts and the Top PICK for Males. Red is known to be a passionate color for romance and is widely recognized in many cultures as having connection with enthusiasm and power.

Red is also known as the color of “anger” and is symbolic of temper and blood. It is no wonder that red is the color of Mars – known as “The God of War”.

Patients with Autism/CFS/GWI and Lyme Diseases are “seeing red” out of anger and frustration that the medical, societal, familial and political realms are overlooking and suppressing their needs for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Doctors that try to help and treat these patients experience similar feelings in that they are pressured, ridiculed and even forced away from assisting patients.

Across the barriers of Autism/CFS/GWI/Lyme there lies a sea of misunderstandings, myths and miscommunications. “Seeing Red” could stand for Seeing Research, Education and Discovery come to fruition for Autism/CFS/GWI and Lyme Disease.

I have never heard of such injustices within a patient population as those that have been inflicted onto these four diseases. Predjudice,  malpractice, oppression, suppression, ignorance, negligence, physical abuse, mental abuse and much more has been laid upon the bodies of all of the patients suffering from these four diseases. Never mind we have a Pandemic on our hands; we now have a human rights issue on our hands as well. Blood has been spilled.

Some of the blood that has been spilled has been tipped by our own cups. Groups vying for their positions, views, opinions and beliefs have at some point and time begun digging into trenches and then launching missiles at each other. This is COMMON in grass roots advocacy and may be a common trait in human behavior. Herein lies the Paradigm, yet herein lies the ignition  for “The Paradigm Shift”.

 At some point and time, entities realize that it is absolutely exhausting and futile to re-invent the wheel and to focus on a single tree. Realization sets in that there are millions of trees in a forest and certain wheels have already been invented.

The one thing I love about flying, is gaining new perspective. I love seeing lands, terrain and oceans from an aerial vantage point that I could never have imagined from below. This is both charming and at the same time idealistic. The United States of America was founded on the belief that if you work hard, innovate and unite; anything is possible. I believe this to be true if one remains open to flexibility, change, sustainability and progress.

At some point in time,  Autism/CFS/GWI and Lyme Diseases have all been individually labeled as “impossible” issues to solve on a political level.  With some of our most momentus milestones, a wrench has appeared to be thrown into our wheel of fortune; thereby shutting down our progress. There is now an established need to have a Guardian at the Helm of our Wheel that Protects, Serves and Delivers the Rights of Justice for these Four Diseases.

HHV-6A virus, CMV virus and EBV virus plus pathogens such as Micoplasma ssp., Chlamydia Pn., Coxsackie A & B, Borrelia burgdorferi, Bartonella, C. trachomatis, C. psittachi, Echovirus A & B, plus a plethora of other pathogens infect these patients. Patients have brain impact. Patients have a genetic predisposition. Patients have central nervous system meltdowns.  There are enough published scientific studies showing evidence based proof that patients of these diseases need; A) Virus and Pathogen Testing; B) Specialized MRI Scans; C) Full Endocrine and Rheumatological work-ups; plus more.

Patients need to know what viruses and pathogens they test positive for; patients have the right to testing in order to prevent further spread of these infections. Education needs to begin at the patient level. We can educate the public all day long but at the end of the day, do you know what you test positive for? Do You have infections that can be transmitted? Who are you infecting?

I encourage every patient with Autism/CFS/GWI/Lyme to get tested for HHV-6A, EBV and CMV viruses through Quest/Focus Laboratories ONLY. I encourage all patients to get tested for every pathogen known to exist between Autism/CFS/GWI/Lyme.

Every Pilot knows, “You have to put on your own Oxygen Mask before you can Save anothers Life”.  The time to get tested is now. The time to put on our Oxygen Masks is RIGHT NOW. We have the responsibility and opportunity as patients to slow down the rate of epidemics and pandemics by acting right now. We have been so busy looking at what we “thought” was the Largest Tree in the Forest; we refused to look at the Ecosystem, let alone her Forests, Mountain Ranges and Oceans.

The Paradigm across these four diseases which is about to shift; is the realization that in each disease, we need to treat BOTH the PATHOGENS and the VIRUS. Otherwise, recurrent reactivation cycles will continue to plague the patient, late state disease will occur, disability will continue and the risk for fatality increases. We also need to explore key medicines pertaining to enhancing the immune system in order to supplement and coincide with treating viral and pathogen infections.

Viral Myocarditis, Encephalitis and Epilepsy have all been scientifically linked with HHV-6A. New studies are showing that HHV-6A reactivation in certain subsets causes mania and suicide. We now have strong evidenced based science pointing to HHV-6A being associated with Cancers. There are 20-30 open scientific links associating Autism/CFS/GWI/Lyme with well known and notorious diseases. We are in the same family with many diseases. We are no longer just a group, we are no longer just a name, we’ve now become a family. Viable  scientific studies now provide compelling links and associations that present  a successfull winning  political argument that we are  One Family and have  One  Cause.  THIS IS ONE FIGHT.

Never in the history of the United States has a Civilian Group Fought for a Health Issue for The United States Military. Because GWI is so closely linked with CFS/Autism and Lyme Diseases, history is about to be made. GWI research holds great and enormous potential for contributing keys to unlock the mystery for Autism/CFS/Lyme; furthermore, all four diseases combined have the collective knowledge, perserverance and resources to aid each other for not only discovery, but for viable treatment and prevention options.

Reflecting upon the past 12 months and all that has transpired amongst these four diseases, when all four groups unite, their stories look the same. All four diseases experienced: 1) a lack of funding; 2) the lack of rights to testing; 3) epidemics skyrocketed; 4) research studies were cut off; 5) political suppression; 6) patients wait years to see a doctor to get diagnosed; 7) patients are discounted, isolated and devastated economically.

Suicide has skyrocketed in GWI and CFS. Autism is still diagnosed under the Psychiatric Diagnosis Criteria instead of the ICD (International Classification of Diseases). Autism and CFS are being treated as a behavioral syndrome instead of a biological disease. CFS is now costing the United States Economy 80 Billion Dollars per year to treat in medical costs alone. Non deployed active military are now contracting GWI and family members are now presenting with illness. Lyme Disease has recently been declared “a public health crisis” due to the epidemic across the entire State of Massachusetts.

Many people are perplexed by “How to shift from Underdog to Winner” in our situation.  To strategize for this involves a unique understanding of Human Vision. The Tapetum Lucidum is present in the eye of many vertibrate animals. This trait reflects visible light back through the retina and contributes to superior night vision in some animals. “Eyeshine” is something most people have witnessed. When the light hits the eyes of the animal at night, the pupil appears to “glow”.

Although Humans lack the Tapetum Lucidum, we hone our night vision skills through nutrition, training and high tech equipment. We have figured out how to achieve night vision with great precision. Figuring out how to shift from underdog to winner involves Vision, Unity and Political Action.

Blake and I have had to look at this  problem of our illness with respect to;  how to solve our dilemma, against all odds. What we have found, is that this is an EVOLVING medical journey, thus we remain flexible.

 Blakes’ HHV-6A Titers have now dropped from 5x positivity to 3x positivity after 26 months on Valcyte. His EBV Titers still remain too High, although they have reduced. He is going off Valcyte next week and he will be starting Valtrex at 1000mg 2x per day. This second anti-viral treatment approach is based soley on Blakes Individual Medical Profile Needs.  He will also be adding in a new medication to boost his immune system. He is up 30lbs, has grown 2″ and his foot size is nearly back up the 1.5″ it shrunk. He has little to no Orthostatic Intolerance anymore. He rarely has chest pains. He is getting a 3.0 gpa attending college while taking 7 units. He is at 65-75% max on his best days. Considering he was at 5% when he started Valcyte, this is  a  miraculous improvement. He is still intolerant to any form of exercise or mental duress. Pathogens have now surfaced in Blake. Coxsackie, Chlamydia pn., Echovirus 7 and VZV Virus. We suspected pathogens to surface once the legs of the viruses were weakened, thus  we calculated for phase 2 and phase 3 of treatment.

Our greatest gift as patients that we can give to ourselves is the “gift of knowledge”.  Knowledge comes from evidenced based facts, yet we base our decisions on both our knowledge and our intuition. If we loose sight of the fact that we can create anything we want, we loose hope. When we loose hope, we remain the underdog.

The one thing I realize about being an underdog, is to always remind myself to utilize skills, tools and ingenuity in order to soar to an aerial view for a fresh look. Its’ that “fresh look” that gives perspective when one deals with a unique and evolving issue. It is certainly NOT easy as a patient to climb up That Hill for that type of an aerial view; yet one must climb in order to “summit”. Political action for these four diseases is going to take a unique and historic type of unity. Although the landscape of that unique unity remains to be seen; the “summit” is in plain sight.

JULIA HUGO RACHEL

VERY LUCKY GIRL ON VALCYTE