The Health Activist’s Writers Month Challenge – Day 9 Caregiving


Patients, what advice or tips do you have for caregivers out there – professional or otherwise!

This is a good topic.  It is so good that it is a repeat of one I did last year.  So, I will pretty much repeat what I said in that post.  Also, keep in mind that I am focusing on caregiving to someone with IBD.

First, and this is one of the most important things a caregiver needs to remember, is that the person they are taking care of has the disease, not the caregiver.  The patient is most likely scared because they have an incurable illness.  What they need most of all is love, affection and some sympathy.  They are probably in constant pain and they might not ever feel “normal” again.  It is your job to help them get back to normal as best as THEY can.

Second, listen to your patient.  Don’t ever assume you know what they are going through or what they are feeling.  If they say they have pain, believe them.  Sometimes they may seem alright, but mos of the time there is pain within their gut.  Think about how you feel when you have a sunburn.  Well, Crohn’s is like a sunburn on the inside of the intestines and it is constantly being touched.

Next, don’t try to force feed them.  An appetite is a tricky thing for someone with IBD.  One day they can be nauseous and not want to eat.  Other days, they will want to pig out.  Some of this is caused by the disease, some of it caused by the meds.  Also, they are going to find that there are a bunch of foods that don’t agree with them.  If they want to try a specific diet, let them.  If they say they can’t eat a certain food….believe them.  Don’t try to make them eat something because it is healthy.  Not everything healthy is good for someone with IBD.

Your patient is not going to like the medications that they are on.  If they are taking Prednisone, there is a good chance that they will get some depression.  You should know right now, they will gain weight.  Their face will swell up and this is called a “Moon Face”.  Just let them know that it is normal, they are still beautiful and handsome, and that it is temporary.  One day they will come off the steroid and their weight will come down.  Now, sometimes if they are in a flare, they might lose weight.  Try to give them some supplemental foods like Ensure to help maintain their weight.  Don’t ever mention how skinny  they look.  They know they are losing weight and don’t want to be reminded of it.

My last advice I can give is never ever ever say they are sick.  They have a chronic illness that will be with them their whole life.  They know how they feel and they want to try to look and act normal.  To them, it is something that is now part of their life.  To them, being sick is like catching a cold or a flu.  Having IBD doesn’t mean your life ends…so why should they think they are sick.  Treat them as you would treat anyone else.  Play with them.  Talk with them.  Give them hugs and kisses.  Let them know that their life will move along and that they have nothing to be ashamed of.

And if ever you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask.  Ask a doctor.  Ask the person you are giving care to.  You can ask me.  There is also a huge community or people with their condition online.  Turn on your computer and look for them.  They will accept you and your patient into their family with no questions asked.

You are now about to embark on a great journey.  Enjoy the ride.

The Health Activist’s Writers Month Challenge – Day 7 Sensationalize!


 Share a ludicrous headline or cure. Do a news search and choose a ridiculous headline or proposed cure about your condition and write what you think about it. Can’t find one? Write your own.

 

Bone-marrow transplant cures girl’s inflammatory bowel disease – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/bone-marrow-transplant-cures-girls-inflammatory-bowel-disease/article6177105/

 

This article I found online from The Globe and Mail which is a site based in Toronto Canada.  To quickly sum up the article, a 4-year-old girl was suffering from numerous health issues, with IBD symptoms being one of the problem.  Doctors say she had some form of IBD, but didn’t respond to any treatment.  After doing some test they found that she had a rare mutation of her interleukin 10 receptor which is the body’s off switch for inflammation.  The way to cure this problem was to do a bone marrow transplant.  When they did this, they found that she was cured of her IBD problem.

 

Now, I don’t say this isn’t a true story.  I am sure this little girl is real, was suffering, and is now a lot healthier.  I am happy for that.  But there are things about this article that I have to hold at length.  First, the doctors say she had some sort of IBD but it seems like they don’t know what she had.  My question is why not.  I know we often get misdiagnosed, but the problem is usually a UC diagnosis that changes to CD.  This girl didn’t even get that.  So, I question did she really have a IBD problem or was it more of a body inflammation problem.

My second concern is that only 20 patients have had this procedure done.  For me, that is to little of a group to start saying that this is a cure.  For all we know, this little girl could just be in remission.  But again, if the doctors don’t know what she has, how can they say she is cured.

Now I know there are more sensational articles and blogs out there.  I chose this one because even though I question some of it…I think that there may be some truth to this and possible a real cure there.  I guess I want to believe that there is real hope for a cure for IBD.  Bone marrow transplants have become pretty common and I can only hope that one day we get it as a treatment and cure for IBD.  The future right now looks a little brighter.

Crohn’s Disease Warrior Patrol: A Charity Is Born


This is a repost from http://www.healthline.com/health-news/crohns-warrior-patrol-charity-sponsors-hospital-visits-031313  The article was written by Jaime Weinstein, a fellow online health activist

 

Crohn's Charity

No matter where you turn these days you see commercials and print ads featuring #Hashtags, links to Facebook and Twitter pages, and QR codes for corporate contests. However, social media isn’t just for advertisers; it’s for patients too.

Social networks are a means for patients living with IBD who are located across the globe to reach out to and communicate with one another. It was also the catalyst for Michael A. Weiss to create the Crohn’s Disease Warrior Patrol (CDWP).

A Beautiful Idea

In the late fall of 2012, Weiss, a lawyer, author, and long-time Crohn’s disease survivor, blogged about the need for patient support from others who understand things that only other IBD patients can. A few weeks later, Weiss was contacted via social media about meeting with a young patient named Damon, his mothers, and his older brother.

Ivy Lindsay of Comfort Ostomy Covers by Ivy was originally contacted by one of Damon’s moms to create personalized ostomy covers for Damon, who was having a hard time coping with not one but two stomas (ports in the abdomen that are used to remove waste from the body). One of Weiss’ blog readers and Facebook friends who also happens to be an IBD advocate, Jeffrey LeVine, told Lindsay to speak with Weiss about her young client.

They talked at length about the young patient and his needs, but something was still missing: another IBD patient with an ostomy whom Damon could relate to. In came Marisa Troy. LeVine introduced Troy into the fold, and few phone calls later, arrangements were made for the trio to embark on their mission to meet Damon and raise his spirits.

“Marisa was amazing with Damon and I was impressed with her ability to make him feel at ease while she was also being so candid about her own experiences,” Weiss said of Troy. You can read more about the CDWP’s inaugural visit with Damon here.

This was the kind of interaction Weiss envisioned when he blogged, “Patients helping patients is the best medicine.”

The Birth of a Non-Profit

After meeting with Damon, Weiss embarked on a quest to expand the CDWP. He wanted to create an organization to connect Crohn’s “warriors” and advocates with hospitalized IDB patients to offer them comfort and a friendly, in-person visit.

Several of Weiss’ social media contacts referred him to Alex Fair, CEO of Medstartr.com, a website that utilizes crowd funding for healthcare start-ups. With the help of Fair, a few lawyer friends, Wall Street financiers, and Foundation executives, Weiss crafted a multi-phase business plan for the CDWP and will file for Tax Exempt Status from the IRS as a Charitable Foundation under section 501(c) 3 within the next few weeks.

The CDWP: Not Just for Crohn’s Patients

The CDWP is not just for Crohn’s patients, it’s for all IBD “warriors.” And through the Medstartr initiative, Weiss is hopeful that CDWP will be embraced by IBD medical practices, psychological practitioners, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies.

If you would like to become an IBD “warrior” helping other patients in your area, you can sign up at: http://crohnsdiseasewarriorpatrol.org/.

 

I was happy to be involved in this meeting with Damon.  I felt like my part wasn’t that big and I was just doing what needed to be done.  My original post about this can be found here https://aguywithcrohns.com/2012/12/31/goodbye-2012-hello-2013/.  

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013


 

As we close the door to another year, I look back to see if I have grown this year.  Of course I don’t mean physically, but mentally and spiritually.  Every year I treat New Years Eve like any other day.  I haven’t made a bid deal about it in years.  This year I have changed inside and I now sit here reflecting on the person I have become.

I went into this year in the biggest flare that I have ever had.  I was depressed, in pain and living in the bathroom.  I was alone with my disease and felt like I had no one to turn to.  I now exit this year in remission, running a blog to help others and feel like I am part of the best community out there.  I am part of a group that no matter how they feel, they will still give all they can to help out others.  It is a very unselfish community and one I am proud to be in.

This past weekend I was able to contribute to this unselfish community.  An online friend who runs an ostomy cover company alerted a lot of people about a 9 yr old that was in the hospital.  He had 2 ostomies and was having a hard time with them.  Originally I was just going to donate a little bit to help cover the cost of the covers she was making for him.  When I spoke with this friend she mentioned that he was in a hospital fairly close to me.  I thought she wanted me to bring him the covers but she mentioned that maybe I could visit him.  I don’t have an ostomy so I didn’t know how much of a help I could be but I put out a call online.   2 wonderful people stepped up to the plate.  One, Michael A Weiss, is a seasoned hospital patient and is very big on patient advocacy.  The second, Marisa Troy, is an ostomate and would be able to give any information that she could. 

I was hesitant to go when I heard the kid didn’t necessarily have IBD, but after Michael and Marisa still were going, I knew I had to.  It was the right thing to do.  So Sunday, we all met at the hospital and visited one of the bravest 9 yr olds I have ever met.  It went through so much with blockages, septic shock, seizures, surgery and just the mental anguish that goes with this.  When we got there, he was sitting on a couch with his family.  He was very shy but I could see the life in his eyes.  I knew he was going to get through this ordeal.  I could see the fighter in him.  His mom’s told us his whole story and he has not had an easy life. 

After our 90 minute visit, I knew I did the right thing by going.  It felt so good.  He might not have said much and didn’t interact with us but I think we helped out his mom’s a lot.  I think we eased their minds a little and gave them not only some answers but hope.  They said that he felt so alone and now both him and his mom’s will know that no matter what, he is never alone.  There are tons of us out there willing to help….no matter what.

So I sit here looking back and I see that this year I definitely grew.  My heart and mind are bigger now.  I understand the whole “holiday spirit” thing.  Doing good things unconditionally feels great and makes me want to do more.  I ended 2012 on a great note and I hope to continue going into 2013.  I don’t know what this year will bring but I know that I still have room to grow….and I look forward to it.

 

You only get 2 feel #Humanity when U GIVE of urself.  Visit a kid in a #hospital.  http://bit.ly/UhiWFg   #26Acts

Day 21 #NHBPM – Mental Health


Yes I have Crohn’s Disease.  Yes it is a physical ailment.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect our minds though.  When people hear the words mental health, many will think of diseases like schizophrenia.  However, just because we have a problem with our gut, doesn’t mean we can’t also have a problem with our mind and need some mental help.

Within my first year of being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I was seeing a shrink.  I was only 16 and it was not my choice to see one.  My doctor wanted me to see him because he felt that I should be able to go to school and the reason I wasn’t going was mental.  (Nice GI dr I had).

 

Over time I have dealt with a number of issues with my disease one of which is depression.  Many people with IBD will experience depression at least once in their life, some will experience it many times.  I myself have had numerous bouts with it, the last time being the beginning of 2012.  I was so fed up with my disease and didn’t want to go on anymore.  I was spending all day in the bathroom, in constant pain, and had to sight of relief.

My problems were real, but I would soon learn that what I was going through was nothing compared to others.  What about all the people with IBD that have to have surgery for a resection or worse, have part of their intestines removed.  I can’t even start to imagine what goes through someone’s mind when they are told they will have to have an ostomy bag for the rest of their life.

Mental health is overlooked when it comes to IBD but in fact, from experience, it goes hand in hand with our psychical disease.  The problem is many GI’s are not educated on how to help.  Psychologists and psychiatrists get a bad rap, but we need to put our hands in theirs.  We must seek them out and learn to use them as much as we use a GI doctor.

There is no shame it seeing a shrink.  Just because you go to one doesn’t make you bad.  All it means is that you need some help sorting out your feelings.  And really, if it helps us feel better, isn’t it worth it.

Day 20 #NHBPM – Write about alternative treatments / regimens / medicine.


This post will have a double meaning to it.  It will serve as my post for National Health Blog Post Month and it will server as an update on my treatment.  If you follow me, then you know what I am about to write about.

I want to talk a little about an alternative drug treatment for Crohn’s Disease that is growing in popularity.  Now, it isn’t  a supplement that is over the counter or some herbs.  It is a prescriptive medicine but I say it is alternative because currently, it is not an approved treatment for IBD.  I am talking about Low Dose Naltrexone or LDN.

Over the years I have tried every type of medicine for my Crohns.  It started with the sulphur drug Azulfidine and has ended with the biologic Humira.  I have done Prednisone, Dipentum, Azacol, Remicade, Cortiform, Lialda and possible some others that I can’t remember.  None of these meds helped me and in fact I usually got sicker on them and developed other issues.  With Humira I developed a bad case of psoriasis.  After 24 years of traditional therapy, I was open to something new.

Naltrexone has been around for years.  It is mainly used to help drug addicts get off drugs.  It works by blocking the euphoric feelings from opiates.  It was found that it can be used in a small dose, 4.5 mg compared to 50 mg, and still work.  During a study on the drug it was found that by blocking these receptors, it was helping in the body fight off inflammation and heal itself.  So a person can take Naltrexone in a low dose, not get major side effects and have it heal their IBD.

The downside to Naltrexone is that it is an old drug.  It has been around for many years.  This has made the drug very inexpensive.  Because there is no money to be made on the drug, why would the pharmaceutical companies spend millions to research it?  For a month’s supply I pay $15.  I don’t even put it through my insurance. 

So how well does it work you ask.  Well, to start, the beginning is rough.  There are some side effects in the beginning so beware.  For the first 2-3 weeks, you will have insomnia.  The drug works by kicking in your endorphins at night, around 3 in the morning.  It will keep you up when this happens.  You will also have very vivid dreams that seem extremely real.  Don’t worry..this will all pass.  Eventually your body gets used to the endorphin rush and you will sleep.  In fact, Naltrexone helps with producing serotonin so it helps you to sleep better.

As for my use, I have been on LDN for about 2 months now.  Overall I feel great.  I can finally say that I am no longer in a flare, which started in early 2011.  I was having a real rough time and even though going gluten-free helped, it never fully took me out of the flare.  Now, I am feeling normal again.  I go to the bathroom around 3-4 times a day…something I haven’t done in many years.  My best day would be 8-10 times a day.  I have no gut pain, no joint pains, no eye problems.  My psoriasis from Humira is healing and going away.  I am starting to feel like a normal person again. 

On Monday, I saw my GI.  As I have mentioned in the past, I am his first patient to use LDN.  It is an experiment for both of us.  He seemed very happy that I was doing so well.   I am happy that I am well, but I am really happy because if I do real good on it, he might decide to use it as a therapy for other patients.  This really makes me happy because not only does it open up a lot of doors for people who are in my situation, but the fact that I would be able to change a doctor’s mind on treatment options.  I have always liked my GI as I felt he listened well and was open to new ideas.  I wish other doctors would follow his lead.

Day 15 #NHBPM – Why Healthcare Companies (or healthcare professionals) Should Use Social Media


This is an interesting topic because you can look at it from a number of different ways.  Do you want to be friends with your doctor on Facebook, or do you just want him/her to see what the community thinks?  To what extent should they be using social media for?

I currently go to Mount Sinai in NYC to see my GI doctor.  In the past couple of years they have started using a system called MyChart.  It is a system where you can have access to your charts and labs but also, and this is the part I love, you can send a message to your doctor and have him/her respond back.  I have used this a number of times and it is definitely faster than email.  Yes, it isn’t social media, but it is a first step. 

 

So what is social media.  Those words get thrown around a lot, but do you know what it is?  Wikipedia describes it as the following:

Social media employ web- and mobile-based technologies to support interactive dialogue and “introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals.” Social media are social software which mediate human communication. When the technologies are in place, social media is ubiquitously accessible, and enabled by scalable communication techniques. In the year 2012, social media became one of the most powerful sources for news updates through platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.”

Now, should your doctor be accessable on sites like Twitter and Facebook?  Remember your doctor is spending a lot of time treating patients in their practice and then probably spend time in the hospital seeing patients or doing procedures.  Do you want them to spend less time with patients so they can tweet “Going to stick a scope up a bum..Wow..What a view”?  Personally, I don’t mind that I can’t chat with my doctors in chat rooms.  It means that they are working and I like that.  We shouldn’t be pals or friends with them.  The relationship should be kept professional.

 

Now, what about the practice themselves like a hospital or lab or even your doc’s private practice.  Now a days, businesses have Twitter and Facebook accounts to help drive business.    I am not against this.   It would be nice to be able to get information from these sites instead of trying to call.  I remember a couple of years back when I was getting Remicade infusions.  There was a big storm the night before and I didn’t know if anyone would be there to administer the medicine.  It turns out there wasn’t.  I had to rely on the phone though to get this info and getting through was not easy.  It would have been nice to just log on to Twitter and see a tweet..”Big storm, nurses snowed in, no infusions today..please reschedule”  Not only would this save time in contacting everyone but I would know not to bother trying to get in.

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this topic.  I am sure there will be a big debate on this.  Please leave a comment and let’s get the discussion rolling.