Welcome Ghillie

I can’t believe I have not posted about Ghillie. For the longest time I have wanted to get a dog. I had cocker spaniels as a kid and my grandparents always had dogs and rescue dogs. While working I always thought I would never be able to have a dog as it would just not be fair and I was not one for wanting to either leave the dog at home and someone else walk them or leave them in the car or crate etc. I have read a lot and met a few people who have service dogs and spoken about the various different things they can do. My consultant had also mentioned them as well and he supported me which is great.

Now that I am not working in the hospital and mainly doing research and public speaking plus some writing it seemed like the perfect time to investigate further and see how the best way to get a dog which would then be trained to be a service dog. I feel very strongly that everyone likes to train their dog in their own way. Some charities you get matched with a dog who is pre-trained which is great but I want to have that bond so opted to get a puppy myself, train it and go through the kennel club obedience tests before going on to start working towards assistance training.

A lot of research went into choosing the right breed and breeder. Having had cocker spaniels when I was younger I knew I would be fine with them as they never caused me any issue. I have been lucky with dogs as one the whole I am good with them except the ones that malt all the time. So I thought about a cocker and found some breeders but doing my research I learnt that the nose on a poodle is far more sensitive than of a cocker so it was recommended for my need that a cockapoo would be the best cross breed as it would have the nose  and scent attributes of a poodle but then also the work and gun dog ethic of a cocker.

I sourced a breeder, did some background, went out to see the breeder armed with questions and was surprised when he too was armed with questions for me. I guess because he wants to make sure the puppy goes to the right place. As soon as I met the breeder I knew it was a good fit and he was the right one. I just hoped he thought the same about me! Thankfully he did.

When it came to choosing the pup I stood in the area and let the puppy come to me. This wee guy was the one that came to me so I decided to go with him. Next came the name. He ended up being called Ghillie after a text message was miss read. I had a few others but Ghillie just sort of stuck. I like it and also there is a link to the breeder as he is a ghillie!

This is him at 2 weeks old.

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At weeks old he got to come home with me to start his new life with me. I feel a little bit like a crazy dog lady as keep posting photos but at a time in my life where things have not been that great he has been the much needed distraction and companion. It has been less than 2 weeks but he has had such a big impact already and not just for me but also my mum and youngest brother too as well as nephew and sister in law.

The day I picked him up to bring him home.

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The first week has been busy and hard work but it will pay off in the long run. I have discovered how clever he is. We are doing a lot of house training. Not many hiccups although we have had a few times when it is like he has forgotten everything he has been taught but I think it is more because he gets distracted and hyper excited about anything and everything.

Having Ghillie at home is like a breath of fresh air. He is so dependent on me for everything that it gives me a real purpose and not waste away my days. I cant wait for him to be able to go outside so he can explore the world, see the beach and go up north. He is a little monkey as well and knows when he has been caught doing something he shouldn’t he gives me those puppy dog eyes that butter wouldn’t melt.

Below are a few more photos of him. So many people were asking for photos and asking about how he will become a service dog, I have created an instagram account called @ghillieservicepup where you can see photos but I will also post about his training and becoming my service dog as well as my companion.

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My HealtheVoices19 experience!

Last night I was catching up on reading some blogs and came across one that was written by one of the other people who attended HealtheVoices (HeV) who opened her blog post with my exact thoughts. She had been drafting and redrafting posts about her experiences of HealtheVoices and not knowing quite how to write it. She came down to the point of just getting it out and putting it down in a post. So this is what I am going to do as well because like her I have been going over how to write my experience and then rewriting it and never being happy or knowing quite how to word it.

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So here goes…

Leaving the UK to go to Dallas was a mix of nerves and excitement. The lead up to the HeV event was so positive and the support from everyone was there right from the start so I was feeling at ease but also felt a little is this really going to be like this once I am there too. A small hiccup at the airport but I was soon at the hotel and getting ready to settle in.

There was no real plans for the Thursday night. There was dinner but it was a buffet and you could just go down and eat when you wanted. I am never very good at these things and went downstairs several times with the intention of going in to the dinner room but I kept bottling it so would head back up to my room. I was too nervous, and tired because I was still on UK time and had been up for about 24 hours at this point, but I needed to get over jet lag so I could enjoy the conference without crashing, so I forced myself to go in and join a table. I am so glad I did go down. The slight awkwardness of plating my food and all the time thinking which table should I ask to sit at, who won’t mind if I join them, there was 101 things flying through my head but actually some of those who I had my first meal with in Dallas are also the ones I had my last lunch with as well. I did have that bit of security with me at dinner though- I had my name badge/lable/neck thing so anyone I met knew my name, knew I was speaking but also knew that it was my first time attending the conference.

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When I have attended conferences in the past I have felt at ease, and with each conference I attend and speak at I feel more confident but this was different. When I have spoken at conferences I have been there and what I am speaking about is my specialist interest and my experience, I tended to be the patient giving my opinion of essentially being an expert patient. This was a different ball game. Everyone there was like me, we are all experts at living with our own conditions and doing our own thing to raise the profile and difficulties we face trying to live a functional life.

I have never really thought of the work I do with asthma as advocacy, I actually didn’t like the word advocacy but attending HeV I came away feeling that maybe it was and I was an asthma advocate. People often ask me what drives me to do what I do, how do I come up with content, ideas etc. I never really know how to answer because I have never thought about why I do these things. I just do it because I hope that by sharing my story maybe people or even just one person might be able to take something from it and their experience will be a bit easier.

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It sounds cliche but after my initial nerves everyone was so welcoming at the meeting. Wether you were a first timer or had been at all the HeV meetings in the past everyone was on the same level- we were all there for one reason. Everyone there is motivated to help make a change. There was a variety of people who have had a condition all their life, then some with conditions that vary, go into remission or are cured from it but through their experience they are sharing knowledge gained, experiences which were good or bad.

I still really am struggling to put into words all my emotions from the meeting but I think the photos speak for themselves.

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So where do I go from here??

I have a few projects that I would like to pursue the most pressing one is to try and get rid of all the stock images media outlets are using which are subconsciously promoting poor inhaler technique. Almost every day I see a photo being used on a media article which shows a child or adult using a MDI (metered dose inhaler) with no spacer and even though there is no spacer the technique is not good either. In the UK there is an inherent problem with asthma management and self management resulting in high death levels from asthma attacks which can be prevented. One of these preventions is correct inhaler technique.

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And a last disclaimer:

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To my new family and my tribe #HealtheVoices19

Wow where do I start. It takes a lot for me to be left speechless but I am unable to put into words the emotion and feelings from this past weekend. It sounds a bit cringe to say but it has been truly life changing.

I have made so many new friends who I know will be friends for life.

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To all my new friends from HealtheVoices you all have no idea how much I have appreciated this weekend. The main reason for why it was such a big deal was in November I had a near fatal asthma attack. What was different about this asthma attack was that the asthma consultants were basically there right from the start of the attack. Then the ICU consultant told me if we didn’t turn the cornerstone we would be running out of options and I really needed to turn the corner ASAP. Thankfully I did turn the corner but the attack left me traumatised and I still am living in fear from it. I fear I may not be able to fight the next attack, I fear who will be with me if I have another attack and will they be able to cope. I was also terrified that I would not manage the flight. I know my family were really worried about me coming over on my own but I had to do it for me. I needed to be able to prove to myself I can do it.

Before I came out to Dallas I didnt know what I was going to do moving forward.

Asthma has cost me so much in life and it still does but being able to be among people who know what that fear is like and you don’t just pity each other or say “yeah I know what it is like” you answer it with comments about how you over came adversity and give ideas on how I might do the same. I also had to give up my job which I loved but despite this doors have opened and I will be moving on to great things and with the inspiration and motivation I have taken in from this weekend I will not be looking back.

The other great thing is that I know there is life beyond being ill and you can use your condition to better yourself and to better others as well. I may not be able to control my asthma and control my health but I can control what I do with it and use it to help make changes for others.

I feel so included in a very special group of people.

You guys are all my family and my tribe

x

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The uniform that saves me, is it drowning me at the same time?

Since my attack at the end of November/ December I have really struggled mentally and physically. The initial recovery was good, my lung function returned to my normal fairly quickly and my energy stores were up, I was able to get about and get on with my daily routine without much limitation. Reducing steroids was a bit hairy but with the help of my consultant and asthma nurses we managed to keep on top of things although the reduction has only got as far as 30mg but hey its better than 60mg.

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I was confident this speed of return was due to the new treatment I am on but now I am not sure. I think a lot of it probably was at a basic level. The treatment helped me get back to my baseline to function quickly but Im not sure it got me to the baseline for work. I was excited to get back to work but I wonder now if it was too quick and the timing didn’t help. Looking back now despite reduced hours apart from the first week I was never able to get away on time because there were patients who needed to be seen and I was the only one about. I already arrive 30 mins early for work (this is my choice) because I have worked out that this is when there are the least number of people smoking outside the doors mainly due to breakfast and drug round on the wards! Many say that I can get the ward to see the patients etc but being a patient and having had this done to be it breaks the patient nurse relationship and you lose confidence in them so for me it is not an option.

But i now need to put my own health first. I keep going round in circles with it and I love my job and love working with the patients etc but then I get my body into such a state and I often don’t realise it until I am told. Last week I noticed patients commenting on how awful I looked and should I be in work, the people I was in the lift with would ask if I was ok because I was so wheezy, the finally after spending a weekend in bed and thinking I felt better I went into work to be sent home by one of the other charge nurses because I felt so awful and sounded it.

Part of living with a chronic illness is that you don’t often know how bad you are feeling until your on your knees. I know a lot of patients have said the same that they didnt realise how unwell they were until we got them on a treatment and it is once they are established on this that they really see how unwell they were. I think is how I feel that things just decline slowly and it takes a huge attack or event to stop the downward spiral and start getting better again.

Going back to the title of this post. I love putting on my uniform, I worked hard to be able to get it and then be able to keep wearing it. It is also the uniform the nurses who look after me wear as they get me back on my feet and my lungs working a bit better. But then I also wonder if my drive and love of work is also what is causing me to not get to my full potential of wellness. I am really torn with what I should be doing and need to stop and evaluate what is important to me and what is in my best interests.

I have an appointment with my consultant this afternoon where I am going to ask his opinion as I really cant continue as I am. I am back to the point of living to work and that is it. I love my job but need to have more to life than work.

I wish my lungs felt as good as these ones do!!!!

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Are you your illness/ condition?

Recently in a lot of groups, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram there have been various projects or statement about not being your illness/ condition and not letting it define you. So many people have been jumping on this and saying how they are not their condition, or that their condition is part of them but not who they are.

I’m not sure I agree with this. Asthma has dominated my life and dominated it even more so for the last 11 years. If I was to say I am not my condition or my condition does not define me would be a blatant lie.

I am my asthma and asthma is me. I will never be able to get away from it or have some memory of asthma around me everyday. As terrifying as having asthma is, as life limiting it is I am embracing have it. There are some really rough days where I wish I didnt have asthma. Those days where it is a fight to get every breath and just drinking is a mammoth effort I do wish I didnt have asthma. Then there are the days when having asthma doesn’t inhibit my ability to do anything as long as I take my inhalers, tablets and nebulisers. Those days are great. With the good days come the bad too.

Wishing for a cure is something I do everyday. To have a cure would mean my body is not crippled by side effects from taking prednisilone, my heart rate would drop below 100, I wouldn’t have a constant tremor from relying on short acting beta agonists, going outside I wouldn’t have to worry about what may happen which could provoke an attack, i wouldn’t need to plan my day around medication, I wouldn’t be on first name terms with my pharmacist, I wouldn’t know all the nurses in various respiratory wards around the UK. These are all things I wouldn’t have to do if a cure was found for asthma.

BUT

A cure is not going to come in the near future as nice as it wold be so until then I embrace having asthma. It is me, it is a massive part of my life. I hate it but at the same time having asthma has given me so much to live for. Just by having severe asthma I have done so many things I never would have thought about doing. My life is now defined by having severe asthma. My work was chosen based on my asthma, my volunteering is based on having asthma, my work with the research centre I would not do if I dint have asthma, my involvement in my lacrosse club would not be what it is if I didnt have asthma. I have no idea what my life would be like, Im sure it would be very different but would it be different in a good or bad way? Its a question I can never answer and I don’t want to know the answer.

The only thing I do want just now is to not have so many life threatening attacks which land me in the resus room and weeks in hospital. Those are fights I could do without. I would also love for my consultant to be able to over me different treatments to try and not need to take my case to a group of experts to try and find some kind of treatment to give me some life back.

In all I am my condition. To say Im not would be a lie. But I am proud to be defined by my asthma. Not having asthma I wouldn’t have done all I have. It would be nice for it to be a bit better controlled but in the future it will be.

What I want to say is all those who don’t want to be defined by their condition think about what you have done because you have it which you wouldn’t have done otherwise? Our conditions are part of us. They make us who we are. The stigma around having them is hard but when you embrace it mentally you can deal with it so much better!